The dust is settling on a typically fast and furious start to NFL free agency.

While the new league year is still in its infancy, most of the major players on the open market have found new homes or opted to stay put.

A string of blockbuster trades have also changed the landscape of the league.

Here we look at the winners and losers from free agency.


WINNER: Indianapolis Colts

The Colts have been aggressive in addressing their needs in response to a disappointing 7-9 season in 2019, with the signing of Philip Rivers and the acquisition of DeForest Buckner in a trade from the San Francisco 49ers the headline moves.

Rivers comes across from the Los Angeles Chargers following 16 seasons with that franchise. He threw 591 times last season and was intercepted on 20 of those attempts.

A Colts running game led by the dynamic Marlon Mack that finished seventh in the NFL last year along with a bruising offensive line should ensure Rivers does not have to chance his arm as much in Indianapolis.

Rivers also has great familiarity with Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni from his time as the Chargers quarterback coach. The fit could hardly be better.

The Colts gave up a first-round pick (13th overall) to land defensive tackle Buckner and then pay him $21million a year. If he delivers the same kind of performances he produced for San Francisco – he had 28.5 sacks and 74 quarterback hits in four seasons for the 49ers – the Colts defense will be significantly improved in 2020.

LOSER: Houston Texans

The NFL universe is collectively still trying to wrap its head around the Texans' decision to trade DeAndre Hopkins, one of the league's premier receivers, and a late-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals for just a second-round pick and running back David Johnson.

Hopkins' departure means quarterback Deshaun Watson loses his most reliable weapon in the passing game. Johnson's arrival hardly upgrades the running attack, as he was an afterthought for the Cardinals last year.

Houston also lost defensive tackle D.J. Reader, who signed with the Cincinnati Bengals, and overpaid for veteran wide receiver Randall Cobb, giving him a three-year deal worth $27m.

Head coach Bill O'Brien's presence as the de-facto general manager looks more ludicrous by the day.

WINNER: Teddy Bridgewater

Bridgewater's career appeared in jeopardy when he suffered a gruesome knee injury prior to the start of the 2016 season.

However, after making an emotional return to the field for the Minnesota Vikings, he has revived his career with the New Orleans Saints – going 5-0 during Drew Brees' spell on the sideline last season – and his comeback story reached his peak when he received a reported three-year, $63m deal from the Carolina Panthers to be their starting quarterback.

Expectations will be low with the Panthers in rebuild mode under Matt Rhule. Bridgewater, though, still has arguably the league's best running back in Christian McCaffrey and worked with Carolina offensive coordinator Joe Brady in his time in New Orleans.

Don't be surprised if he lives up to a deal some believed was too rich for the former first-round pick.

LOSER: Nick Foles

The author of the most remarkable comeback story in recent league history will get another chance to earn a starting job after a short-lived spell with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

However, in being dealt to the Chicago Bears, Foles is not landing in a situation where he can succeed.

The Bears took a step back on both sides of the ball last year and on offense Foles will find limited options at the offensive skill positions beyond Allen Robinson.

Chicago overpaid a declining tight end in Jimmy Graham who is unlikely to help the Bears improve their production on offense.

Even if he eventually takes the quarterback job from Mitchell Trubisky, Foles will have an uphill battle to guide the Bears to supremacy in a division also featuring Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Kirk Cousins.

WINNER: Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have not yet managed to reach a long-term deal with quarterback Dak Prescott, instead using the franchise tag on him, and lost cornerback Byron Jones, who signed with the Miami Dolphins.

Defensive tackle Maliek Collins and pass rusher Robert Quinn were further departures, but the Cowboys were able to sign wide receiver Amari Cooper to a lucrative five-year deal and replaced Collins with a superior player in Gerald McCoy. HaHa Clinton-Dix's signing gives the Cowboys a reliable starter at safety, too.

The Cowboys still have a strong roster with which to contend in the NFC, and they should be in the mix for years to come if they can eventually come to a more concrete arrangement with Prescott.

LOSER: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs' signing of Brady from the Patriots was unsurprisingly met with tremendous excitement from the Tampa Bay fanbase, while there have been reports of free agents showing desire to sign with them following the six-time Super Bowl-champion's arrival.

Yet it is debatable whether Brady will improve the Bucs' offense, which led the league in passing yardage with Jameis Winston at the helm but was undermined by the former first-overall pick's tendency to commit crushing turnovers.

The 42-year-old has the velocity to excel on the downfield throws that are a pivotal part of Bruce Arians' passing attack, but Brady lacks Winston's ability to escape pressure that helped mask the deficiencies of the Bucs' offensive line.

If Tampa Bay cannot improve up front, it could be a painful few years in Florida for Brady. For all the buzz around his signing, the Bucs would have been better served investing in a more mobile free-agent quarterback and looking to the draft for a long-term answer.

Luckless Liverpool are in limbo as they bid to become champions of England for the first time in 30 years.

The Reds are 25 points clear at the top of the Premier League, needing only two more wins to clinch the title, yet the season has been suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Jurgen Klopp's dominant side should have been sealing silverware on Saturday in their match against Crystal Palace but now instead must wait to see if the campaign can be completed at all.

Liverpool supporters might well feel they are cursed, and former goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar agreed last year as he splashed urine on the Anfield goalposts in an attempt to lift an apparent hex.

Such hoodoos are relatively commonplace in sport, though. We take a look at some notable examples.
 

LIVERPOOL (1990-present)

It seemed inconceivable when Liverpool won their 18th title in 1990 – an 11th in 18 seasons – that number 19 would not swiftly follow. But when Reds supporters mocked rivals Manchester United after their eighth success in 1993, with a banner that read, 'Come back when you've won 18', they were made to eat their words.

The Old Trafford club had 20 championships by the time manager Alex Ferguson departed, a 2009 United banner teasing: 'You told us to come back when we've won 18 – we are back'.

Indeed, Liverpool were runners-up to United in 2008-09, as Rafael Benitez infamously went public with criticism of Ferguson. Even when the Scot retired and United slumped in 2013-14, Liverpool collapsed on the home straight and were pipped by Manchester City, who denied them again last season.

This is surely now their year – as long as the campaign does indeed resume.

BOSTON RED SOX (1918-2004)

Liverpool might find some comfort in the knowledge their owner has experience in ending curses for sporting giants.

John W Henry took over the Boston Red Sox in 2002 with the aim of finally ending the Curse of the Bambino, which stemmed from the team's sale of star player Babe Ruth to rivals the New York Yankees some 83 years earlier.

Ruth had featured in three of Boston's five World Series triumphs and went on to win four more with the Yankees. Meanwhile, the Red Sox remarkably did not claim baseball's greatest prize again until 2004.

That miserable run was finally ended under Henry, though, after Boston had overturned a 3-0 deficit against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
 

ATLANTA, GEORGIA (1995-2018)

The city of Boston could at least be comforted by titles for the Patriots, the Celtics or the Bruins. Atlanta's distress crossed several sports in increasingly spectacular fashion.

The Atlanta Braves won the World Series just once in 1995 within a stretch that returned 15 straight division titles. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons lost two Super Bowls, including a record-breaking collapse against Tom Brady's New England Patriots after leading 28-3. Even the University of Georgia ceded a big advantage to lose the College Football Playoff National Championship.

Atlanta United finally provided some respite with MLS Cup glory in 2018, and president Darren Eales told Stats Perform: "It was great to break the curse.

"It's been a long time since 1995 when the Braves won a championship. I'd heard so much in the week up to the game about Atlanta's curse in sport. I didn't get too excited until the referee blew his whistle."
 

DRAKE (2013-2019)

One of the more bizarre apparent curses of recent years related not to a team or a city but to a sole individual: Drake.

The Canadian rapper found an awful knack for backing athletes before big defeats. Serena Williams suffered a huge upset against Roberta Vinci at the US Open, where she had his support, while Anthony Joshua was pictured with Drake prior to his shock loss to Andy Ruiz Jr.

The Toronto Raptors fan came up with a solution for the 2019 NBA playoffs, however. Drake turned out in Philadelphia 76ers shorts as they dramatically lost to the Raptors, seemingly reversing the curse, before Toronto went on to beat the Golden State Warriors in the Finals.
 

BENFICA (1962-present)

Liverpool's is not the only ongoing 'curse' – and Benfica's is not set to end for another 42 years!

Head coach Bela Guttmann led the Portuguese giants to back-to-back European Cup successes in 1961 and 1962 but then left the club after reportedly asking for a pay rise. It is alleged he declared "not in a hundred years from now will Benfica ever be European champion".

So it has proven, as Benfica lost European Cup finals in 1963, 1965, 1968, 1988 and 1990 and then came up short in successive Europa League finals in 2013 and 2014.

Has there ever been a football player you've loved watching so much that you could be confident of writing down a long list of reasons for your adoration?

For me, that player is Ronaldinho, and seeing as the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year and 2005 Ballon d'Or recipient turns 40 on Saturday, I wanted to pay tribute.

The former World Cup winner will celebrate his birthday in a maximum-security Paraguayan prison after being accused of entering the country on a fake passport – and he apparently continues to rack up goals and assists in kickabouts behind bars. Only Ronaldinho.

In honour of the legendary Brazilian on this landmark day, here are the 40 reasons why I love him.

 

1. Within three minutes of kick-off in a Paris Saint-Germain versus Marseille game I recorded on VHS in March 2003, he flicked the ball over the heads of two players and won a free-kick when dribbling away. When he scored with a dink over the keeper later in that game, a love affair was born.

2. He was the master of the no-look pass. And it didn't even need to be necessary.

3. Whether you call it an elastico or a flip-flap, Ronaldinho loved them. It was the trick I was most beguiled by as a teenager and, to my endless frustration, could never get right myself.

4. He marked his debut for Barcelona with a stunning 30-yard drive that crashed in off the underside of the crossbar. It was gone 01:00 local time!

5. Ronaldinho had arrived in Catalonia with the reputation of a party lover firmly established. Who can blame him – if you were that good, wouldn't you just want to constantly celebrate?

6. That goal against Chelsea.

7. He assisted Ludovic Giuly in a 3-0 win over Osasuna in October 2005 using his back. I mean, who does that?!

8. He picked Barcelona over Manchester United. Nothing against the Red Devils, but it would have been tough to watch him play for a Premier League team that wasn't mine.

9. That samba shuffle celebration and the thumb-and-little-finger hand gesture.

10. He got a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu – as a Barcelona player.

11. Those cascading locks and gummy smile.

12. He scored directly from a corner for Flamengo during a 3-2 defeat to Avai in 2011. Anyone with a 'gol olimpico' on their resume gets the utmost kudos.

13. As a keen follower of Brazilian football, I was delighted when Ronaldinho signed for Fluminense – the team I'd chosen to support during a three-month stay in Rio de Janeiro. It was somehow even better when he terminated his 18-month contract after just nine appearances.

14. Alongside former Everton striker Jo and current Everton winger Bernard, he helped Atletico Mineiro win their first Copa Libertadores title in 2013.

15. He always seemed to be playing with a smile on his face, or at least not far away from it.

16. Ronaldinho may have been in decline and far from his twinkling best when he rocked up at Liga MX side Queretaro, but a double against Club America earned him a standing ovation at the iconic Estadio Azteca.

17. He posed for a photo with me in Barcelona. OK, it was via a green screen, all right?!

18. That was during an October 2003 visit to the city that included going to watch Barca take on Real Murcia. Ronaldinho made sure to treat me to a goal in a 3-0 win.

19. He made England's elimination from the 2002 World Cup a little less painful with the most outrageous of goals. (I reckon he meant it, too.)

20. For starring in Nike's iconic 'The Cage' and 'Ole' adverts.

21. Somehow, he scored from behind the goal during a training session with Flamengo. It was the kind of sorcery most can only dream of.

22. Before going viral was a thing, Ronaldinho went viral. Footage of him juggling the ball and volleying it against the crossbar FOUR times in succession without it hitting the ground wrote him into folklore. I still don't know whether it was real or not…

23. When Ronaldinho dribbled, he did it at electric pace and with startling agility, and although he often took several knocks he did his utmost to stay on his feet.

24. It was a Champions League semi-final against Milan: chest control, the ball lifted over Gennaro Gattuso's head, flicked past Andrea Pirlo with two more touches, and when Alessandro Nesta deigned to get in his way, Ronaldinho stretched a leg out behind him and used his heel to square to Samuel Eto'o.

25. In the days before Ousmane Dembele and Martin Braithwaite struggled with freestyle tricks at Barcelona presentations, Ronaldinho was balancing the ball on his head, rolling it forward to give it a little kiss, then sending it back to rest on his forehead. That's how you do it.

26. He made great use of his shoulder; either to deftly bring the ball down or flick it on to a team-mate.

27. His 360-degree spin to get between two Werder Bremen players. It doesn't even matter that he was tackled by the next defender.

28. He did not join Manchester City after leaving Barcelona. (See point eight.)

29. For filling countless hours of my time at university with his YouTube highlights.

30. Ronaldinho was able to baffle defenders without even touching the ball.

31. Because he scored one of the most jarring chips during his time at Atletico. From 16 yards out on the left side of the box, with the Arsenal de Sarandi goalkeeper seemingly in a good position, Ronaldinho clipped a beautiful effort into the top-left corner.

32. Most of the greats excel from free-kicks. The sight of Ronaldinho stepping up to one in a central area from a 90-degree angle to the goal was a thing of beauty.

33. Because he did not retire straight away after leaving Fluminense. He said he wanted to continue playing (but only after Rio's famous carnival, of course) and ended up going on tour, playing in exhibition games for whoever would pay him.

34. For teeing up Lionel Messi's first senior goal for Barcelona, and doing it with a scoop pass.

35. Against Villarreal at Camp Nou in the 2006-07 season came one of his most memorable strikes. After controlling Xavi's cross with his chest, he span 180 degrees and sent a bicycle kick back across goal. *chef's kiss*

36. For scoring under-the-wall free-kicks at Barcelona, Flamengo and Atletico.

37. His 'water bottle trick' when Atletico took on Sao Paulo. Go and look it up. He showed zero shame in punishing Rogerio Ceni's goodwill.

38. Throughout his career Ronaldinho kept trying to score by stealing the ball away from goalkeepers as they took a drop kick.

39. Another El Clasico moment from April 2004. This time it was an outrageous scoop in behind for Xavi to lift beyond Iker Casillas in the 86th minute and secure a 2-1 win.

40. Because in my lifetime, no other player has made watching football as enjoyable as he did.

With the majority of world sports postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have time to look back at some famous - and perhaps forgotten - exploits and broaden our knowledge.

Regardless of how much we think we know, there is always more that can be learned. A trip down memory lane often proves worthwhile.

With that in mind, we looked back at what occurred on March 21 in years gone by to bring you the best bits.

 

1953 – An NBA record that still stands

When the Boston Celtics hosted the Syracuse Nationals in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals it was a game that went down in history.

The teams combined for an incredible 106 personal fouls in a quadruple-overtime battle that saw 12 players foul out, with neither team having enough personnel left to make substitutions in the final two OT periods.

Police were also required to get fans and players off the floor following Dolph Schayes and Bob Brannum getting into a fight that saw both ejected.

Red Rocha and Paul Seymour played 67 minutes each in a slug fest that ended with the Celtics triumphing 111-105.

 

1971 – Gavaskar gets going

Sunil Gavaskar is undoubtedly one of the greatest openers in Test cricket history.

In just his second match in the longest format for India, he scored the first of his 34 centuries.

It came in the third Test against West Indies in Georgetown, Guyana, and he made 116 in his first innings of what ended up a drawn match.

 

1982 – Pate at the Players

The 1982 Players Championship was the first on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass and Jerry Pate ensured it lived long in the memory.

After sending his ball into the water at the par-four 18th in round three, Pate thought victory had slipped from his grasp.

However, in round for he posted gains on the island-green 17th and the final hole to defeat his brother-in-law Bruce Lietzke and Scott Simpson by two shots.

To celebrate, he took a famous dip in the water hazard at the last.

 

1987 – Record-breaking Gullit agrees Milan move

Silvio Berlusconi made Ruud Gullit the most expensive player in the world when he signed him from PSV.

The powerful midfielder won the 1987 Ballon d'Or and went on to win three Serie A titles and back-to-back European Cups during his time in Milan.

Gullit now has a permanent place in the Rossoneri's Hall of Fame.

In a rush to venerate Pele, the relaunched New York Cosmos announced in 2013 they would be retiring the team's number 10 shirt.

The only trouble with such a tribute was that in 1977 they had already retired the jersey, so the bootlicking gesture fell rather flat.

When it comes to Brazil, for whom Pele also wore number 10, there has never been a question of standing down that number.

Rather than ceremonially wave goodbye to such an historic emblem, the 10 emblazoned across the back of yellow and green speaks of supreme South American cachet.

Ronaldinho, who turns 40 on Saturday, wore those colours and often that number with distinction across an international career that spanned almost 15 years.

Here is an attempt to rank Brazil's greatest number 10 heroes.

1. Pele

When it comes to iconic figures in Brazil, you start at Pele and work down. Pele before Ronaldo, Pele before Ayrton Senna, Pele before even Rio's Christ the Redeemer statue. A three-time World Cup winner, Pele scored over 1,000 goals across his career - a haul that to this day sparks fiery debate. There is often the argument that a player cannot be bigger than his club, yet in the case of Pele and Santos that theory can be debunked. John Lennon once claimed The Beatles were bigger than Jesus, but Pele was bigger still than The Beatles. He joined the Cosmos in the twilight of his career and was feted in the United States, where football previously held little sway.

2. Zico

Alex Ferguson once described Wayne Rooney as "the white Pele", but that description better suits Zico, talisman of the Brazil team that flirted with greatness but fell agonisingly short. The Rio-born attacking midfielder is held in reverence by those that remember him weaving his magic for the Selecao and particularly Flamengo at club level, for whom he scored over 400 goals. A free-kick master, Zico also had successful spells at Udinese and Kashima Antlers and featured consistently highly in a string of polls assessing the best players of the 21st century. He deserved a World Cup triumph but never got one.

3. Rivaldo

Rivaldo forever tainted his legacy with shameful play-acting against Turkey at the 2002 World Cup. To "do a Rivaldo" ought to mean accomplishing a spectacular piece of skill, yet to a certain generation it will always mean flinging oneself down and feigning injury. Still, what a player he was. Better with Barcelona than with his national team, it might be argued, after five dazzling years at Camp Nou. Rivaldo was outshone by Ronaldo during Brazil's 2002 World Cup triumph, and he had perhaps just hit the downward slope of his career at that point. But watch his 2001 hat-trick for Barcelona against Valencia that earned his team a Champions League place and be wowed, and 35 goals from 74 Brazil caps isn't half bad.

4. Ronaldinho

Happy birthday fella. Back in the days when his quick feet were a passport to wealth and glory, and long before his passport was a passport to prison yard kickabouts, Ronaldinho was a whirligig of a footballer, a player for whom slow-mo replays might have been designed. His trickery could be deceptive on the eye, but they knew at Paris Saint-Germain and they knew at Barcelona that a genius lurked in their midst. He shone at the 2002 World Cup – number 11 back then to Rivaldo's number 10 – and was twice a FIFA World Player of the Year. He loved partying, maybe a little too much, but Ronaldinho was never one for restraint, on or off the pitch.

5. Jair

If that name sounds familiar, it might be because Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro was named after this star of a long-bygone Brazilian era. Jair, an outstanding inside-forward of the day, had not only the number 10 on the back of his shirt in the 1950 World Cup title decider, but the weight of a nation's expectations too. The tournament format was unusual that year, but it came down to a round-robin finale between hosts Brazil and South American rivals Uruguay, who defied all expectation to snatch a 2-1 win. Jair reputedly said: "I'll take that loss to my grave." He scored bundles of goals for the likes of Vasco da Gama, Flamengo, Palmeiras and Santos, and died aged 84 in 2005.

6. Neymar

Neymar stands every chance of climbing this list. The Paris Saint-Germain and former Barcelona forward has over 100 caps and 61 goals for his country, and the 28-year-old perhaps suffers from comparisons to the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Greatness beckons and is within touching distance.

7. Rivelino

Diego Maradona once described Rivelino as "one of the best ever", and the Brazilian's influence on Argentina's greatest player has always been clear. A left-footed attacking midfielder, Rivelino had magnetic close control and found routes to slalom through defences that looked impassible. He is widely credited with perfecting, if not inventing, the 'flip flap' motion designed to wrong-foot and leave defenders standing, Rivelino's mastery of that technique a clear influence of future Brazil greats including Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. He was Brazil's number 11 at the 1970 World Cup – Pele being the 10 – but then had the shirt every samba star would want for the '74 and '78 finals.

8. Marta

Sorry, who's this guy? If the name is unfamiliar, then now is enlightenment time. Marta finished ahead of Mia Hamm in a 2016 Guardian poll of experts to judge the greatest female footballer of all time. A sumptuously gifted forward, she has scored a record 17 World Cup goals and been voted FIFA's best female player six times. Her dribbling is a delight, her finishing nerveless.

9. Kaka

Last seen playing five-a-side as a publicity stunt in London, Kaka's star shone brightest in his Milan years, with a six-year San Siro spell from 2003 to 2009 seeing the attacking midfielder dazzle in Serie A and the Champions League. Four years at Real Madrid followed and he had spells towards the end of his playing life with Sao Paulo, also turning out for Orlando City in MLS. The deeply religious player won 92 caps for Brazil, scoring 29 times, and was a World Cup winner in 2002, albeit playing just 25 minutes against Costa Rica. That was in the infancy of his Brazil career, and despite his blossoming in later years, being far more involved in the 2006 and 2010 tournaments, it was his lone World Cup triumph.

10. Rai

Not the Italian public broadcaster but the former Paris Saint-Germain star, who pipped the likes of Leonardo and Juninho to make this list. Rai was a fine player who nevertheless would have been forgiven for having mixed emotions when Brazil won the 1994 World Cup. He began the tournament as captain but handed the armband over to Dunga midway through after being dropped. He was benched for the final and stayed there, with Dunga the man who lifted the trophy. In a Guardian interview in 2008, Rai reflected: "It wasn't my best moment, but the win was beautiful – Brazil's first for 24 years. It was very important for us as a people."

As the world continues to battle against the coronavirus pandemic, football fans across the globe face another weekend scratching around for something to fill the void.

The domestic calendar in England was halted last week in a bid to reduce social gatherings and the Football Association confirmed its leagues would not return until at least the end of April.

While we cannot say for sure how this weekend's Premier League fixtures would have gone, our friends at Opta have come up with a system to predict the outcomes.

What chance would your team have had? Take a look below.

 

Predictor explainer:

The Opta Predictor estimates the probability of each match outcome (win, draw or loss) given each team's attacking and defensive quality. The team's attacking and defensive qualities are based on four years of historic results, with more weighting given to their most recent results. The model will take into account the quality of the opposition that a team scores or concedes against and reward them accordingly.


 

BURNLEY v WATFORD

Home win: 49 per cent
Draw: 26 per cent
Away win: 25 per cent

Watford may have handed Liverpool their first defeat of the Premier League season, but with just one victory in their past three visits to Turf Moor it is Burnley who are expected to win by the predictor. Sean Dyche's side have gone unbeaten in seven top-flight matches to move into a more comfortable position in the middle of the table.

CHELSEA v MANCHESTER CITY

Home win: 30 per cent
Draw: 24 per cent
Away win: 46 per cent

Manchester City are the pick to prevail at Stamford Bridge, a ground where Pep Guardiola has lost on two of his three Premier League visits. Kevin De Bruyne's winner in September 2017 fired City's charge to a 100-point title romp but goals from N'Golo Kante and David Luiz saw the Blues hand Guardiola's men the first league defeat of their triumphant 2018-19 campaign. Kante and De Bruyne were both on target when the sides met at the Etihad Stadium back in November, before Riyad Mahrez sealed a 2-1 comeback win for the hosts.

LEICESTER CITY v BRIGHTON

Home win: 62 per cent
Draw: 22 per cent
Away win: 16 per cent

Brighton won at Arsenal back in December, but that was just one of two away victories for the Seagulls so far in the Premier League this season, so their prospects at Leicester were inevitably looking bleak. After a worrying slump, Leicester looked to have rediscovered their mojo by the time the league ground to a halt, with Jamie Vardy back on the goal trail following a drought. Leicester’s nine wins at the King Power Stadium this term looked highly likely to become 10.

LIVERPOOL v CRYSTAL PALACE

Home win: 76 per cent win
Draw: 16 per cent
Away win: 8 per cent

A predicted triumph for Liverpool at Anfield is by no means a surprise given they are on a top-flight record of 22 straight home wins. With just an eight per cent chance of winning, Palace had the lowest chance of victory in this round of fixtures. However, with City predicted to come out on top against Chelsea, the Reds' wait to clinch the Premier League title would have continued.

MANCHESTER UNITED v SHEFFIELD UNITED

Home win: 48 per cent
Draw: 30 per cent
Away win: 22 per cent

The halt in football action came at a bad time for Manchester United, who were on a magnificent roll - 11 matches unbeaten with eight victories. The Opta predictor backed the hosts to continue that run, but at 48 per cent, a home win was seen as far from a certainty. Amid an amazing season, Sheffield United are just two points behind Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men and at 30 per cent, it is the most likely contest on the matchday to end in a draw. That was also the outcome in a thrilling 3-3 draw at Bramall Lane in November.

NEWCASTLE UNITED v ASTON VILLA

Home win: 54 per cent
Draw: 24 per cent
Away win: 22 per cent

The predicted win for Newcastle is something Aston Villa – second from bottom and 10 points shy of Steve Bruce's men – could ill afford in reality. Newcastle are unbeaten in five matches at St James' Park, although that run includes three consecutive 0-0 draws. Villa have lost four in succession in the Premier League and only won three times in the top flight since beating the Magpies 2-0 in the corresponding fixture on November 25.

NORWICH CITY v EVERTON

Home win: 28 per cent
Draw: 26 per cent
Away win: 46 per cent

Norwich prop up the Premier League table and the predictor reflects as such, with Everton having a greater chance of victory on the road. The Toffees' last win at Carrow Road came in 2004, though, and Everton were beaten 2-0 at home by Daniel Farke's side back in November, Todd Cantwell and Dennis Srbeny with the goals at Goodison Park.

SOUTHAMPTON v ARSENAL

Home win: 28 per cent
Draw: 24 per cent
Away win: 48 per cent

Southampton’s resurgence during December and January had given way to a worrying patch of form over February and early March. Ralph Hasenhuttl's men did beat Aston Villa at home, but this Arsenal side under Mikel Arteta’s leadership are a different prospect to the team Saints held 2-2 in north London back in November. The Gunners are unbeaten in the Premier League in 2020, and they would have fancied claiming all three points on offer at St Mary's.

TOTTENHAM v WEST HAM

Home win: 70 per cent
Draw: 17 per cent
Away win: 13 per cent

The Hammers were not predicted to fare particularly well at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but they did defy the odds with a 1-0 win at the same venue in April 2019, Michail Antonio scoring the winner. Tottenham were the victors in the reverse fixture this season, a 3-2 triumph in Jose Mourinho's first match in charge.

WOLVES V BOURNEMOUTH

Home win: 58 per cent
Draw: 23 per cent
Away win: 19 per cent

Wolves are unbeaten in all three of their Premier League matches against Bournemouth, including a 2-1 win in the reverse fixture, and the predictor has them as the more likely winners on this matchday. That would come as a welcome relief to Wolves, who have won just one of their last five home top-flight matches, while Eddie Howe's men would be primed for a seventh consecutive away loss.

Despite events having to take place behind closed doors and restrictions on travel outside the country, Australia's major sporting leagues continue to plough on manfully amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Football, rugby league and Australian rules football are all vying for centre stage this weekend.

A look further afield means we've also got all you cricket and boxing fans covered.

Western Sydney Wanderers v Sydney FC – A-League

Normally one of the feistiest fixtures on the A-League calendar, the empty stands of Bankwest Stadium will feel particularly incongruous for the latest instalment of this local argument.

Sydney are sitting pretty at the top of the standings – seven points clear of Melbourne City and with three games in hand – but their only two A-League defeats this season have come courtesy of a pair of 1-0 defeats to the Wanderers, with Mitchell Duke the matchwinner on both occasions.

Roosters v Sea Eagles, Sharks v Storm – NRL

It's week two in the NRL and correcting false starts will largely be the order of the day on Saturday.

Sydney Roosters were beaten 20-14 by Penrith Panthers and will hope to make amends at home to Manly Sea Eagles, themselves dispatched 18-4 by Melbourne Storm.

It means the Storm travel with a spring in their steps to face Cronulla Sharks, who fell short in a 22-18 thriller against South Sydney Rabbitohs last time out.

New Zealand Warriors, who have remained in Australia due to travel restrictions back home, are also in action against Canberra Raiders.

Melbourne City v Sydney FC – W-League

Melbourne City were the dominant force in the W-League this term, topping the table undefeated, and head into Saturday's Grand Final as strong favourites to win their fourth title in the past five seasons.

City earned the right to host the match by demolishing Western Sydney Wanderers 5-1 in their semi-final, while there was a certain symmetry to Sydney FC progressing via a 1-0 win against Melbourne Victory.

Greater Western Sydney v Geelong - AFL

The first round of action in the AFL sees last season's beaten Grand Finalists Greater Western Sydney host Geelong – the 2019 minor premiers.

Elsewhere Essendon entertain Freemantle, Sydney Swans travel to Adelaide Crows and Gold Coast Suns take on Port Adelaide.

Tibo Monabesa v Toto Landero – WBC International light-flyweight title

The coronavirus outbreak has led to the vast majority of elite boxing action in the United Kingdom and the United States being cancelled, but there is an international contest of some intrigue in Indonesia.

Monabesa (20 wins, one defeat, two draws) is seeking to get back in world title contention having won successive bouts on the back of his sole career loss to Japan's undefeated WBC light-flyweight king Hiroto Kyoguchi.

Jakarta's home favourite will have game Filipino Landero (11-4-2) for company in the squared circle.

Rangers v Mountaineers, Matabeleland Tuskers v Mid West Rhinos – Logan Cup

Mountaineers can draw level with Mashonaland Eagles at the top of Zimbabwe's first-class cricket competition if they can see off a Rangers side languishing in last place and winless in six matches this season.

It's also day one of four when Mid West Rhinos travel to face Matabeleland Tuskers. Rhinos all-rounder Neville Madziva is the top run-scorer in the Logan Cup this season – his total of 361 including a maiden red-ball century.  

The coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread disruption with the global sporting schedule, but you can still get your fix if you know where to look.

Whether you are in self-isolation or practicing social distancing, in a way it has become easier than ever to watch sport as you pass the time.

Some of the biggest leagues and governing bodies have reacted to the global crisis by providing free access to a back catalogue of content.

We run down the best places to look if you're missing sport.

 

FIFA OPENS UP ARCHIVES

From Saturday, FIFA are making full match replays of over 30 games from World Cup and Women's World Cup history available.

The matches appear set to be available until football is back up and running in most countries.

 

A SWISH OFFER FROM THE NBA

Basketball fans rejoice. The wait for the playoffs may go on longer than anticipated, but the NBA is offering free access to the premium League Pass subscription service until April 22.

You can view full replays and highlights from all games played in the 2019-20 season, as well as classic matches.

 

NO LONGER BEHIND GRIDIRON BARS

If the NFL is more your thing, then why not use their Game Pass until the end of May?

You can watch full-length games or condensed versions, while the 'Hard Knocks' and 'A Football Life' series are available on demand, too.

 

MORE FROM THE STATES

Maybe ice hockey is what you are missing most. If so, the NHL.tv is free to all until April 30.

There is also the MLB Vault YouTube channel, which will provide you with hours of classic baseball games.

 

MISSING MESSI?

If you are in Europe, there is the option to watch Rakuten TV's 'Matchday - Inside FC Barcelona' and 'MessiCirque' documentaries without charge. (They also have over 150 films available on a free channel.)

Until the Premier League returns, Manchester City has opened the doors to the CITY+ subscription service. All you need to do is sign up for long-form, in-house content, historic games and full match replays.

 

FOR THE GAMERS OUT THERE...

If re-runs don't sate your appetite to help fill the hours, you can try out the full version of the Football Manager 2020 computer game via the Steam app until 15:00 GMT on March 25.

For the first time in two decades, New England Patriots fans will not be able to watch Tom Brady run onto the field as their quarterback when the new NFL season gets under way.

Brady on Tuesday announced his 20-season spell with the Patriots would be coming to an end.

He will take his talents to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with whom Brady will hope to add to the six Super Bowl titles he won in an unprecedented spell of dominance in New England.

The Patriots enter a new era with the identity of their new starting quarterback very much a mystery.

How will head coach Bill Belichick replace Brady? We look at the potential avenues to filling the void left by the greatest quarterback of all time.


Promote Jarrett Stidham

Probably the least popular option among Patriots fans. New England drafted Stidham in the fourth round last year and the Pats are reported to have high hopes for his future with the team.

Stidham, who played for Baylor and Auburn in college, possesses an NFL-level arm but looked a long way from ready in the limited action he saw as a rookie.

He threw four passes in 2019, only two were completed and one was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

If the Patriots decide to hand the reins to Stidham, they will need to sign a veteran backup as an insurance policy in case that limited sample size from his first year proves a harbinger of sustained struggle for the 23-year-old.

Sign a free agent

The pickings on the free-agent market are growing increasingly slim.

Philip Rivers and Teddy Bridgewater agreed to deals with the Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers respectively, and Marcus Mariota is off to Las Vegas to link up with Jon Gruden and the Raiders.

That leaves Brady's predecessor in Tampa, Jameis Winston, as the most viable unsigned option.

Winston's penchant for baffling interceptions makes him an awkward fit with Belichick, who may find developing Stidham a more intriguing project than trying to turn the former number one overall pick into the astute decision-maker he has never shown signs of becoming.

Draft a rookie

With the 23rd pick in the first round at the disposal, the Patriots have no shot at either of Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa, each expected to be selected in the top five.

Oregon's Justin Herbert and Utah State's Jordan Love are also likely to be beyond their reach.

However, Washington's Jacob Eason, Georgia's Jake Fromm and Oklahoma's Jalen Hurts could all still be on the board by the time the Patriots make their pick.

Of that trio, it is Hurts who may be of most interest to Belichick.

A National Championship winner who transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma after losing his starting job to Tagovailoa, Hurts was a Heisman Trophy finalist last year and is a genuine dual-threat at quarterback with his abilities as a runner and a thrower.

There has arguably never been a coach better at exploiting the weaknesses and minimising the strengths of opponents than Belichick. He would be able to use Hurts' mobility to do that in a way that was never open to him with Brady.

Strike a trade

If the Patriots want an established quality starter to assume the mantle from Brady, then they may need to give up some draft capital to do so.

Andy Dalton is available, with the Cincinnati Bengals set to draft Burrow first overall. He would not set pulses racing in New England but is talented enough to keep them in the postseason mix.

Yet the Patriots could land a quarterback many consider an upgrade on veteran Brady by making a deal for Cam Newton.

Newton has been made available by the Panthers and has proven he can be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL when healthy.

The league MVP in 2015, Newton can devastate opposing defenses with his arm and his legs, and Belichick and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels are ideally qualified to help him rediscover his best after two successive injury-plagued seasons.

Signing New England Patriots icon Tom Brady changes everything for a Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise who will now look to make history.

The Bucs have not reached the NFL playoffs since 2007 and ended last season very much in the middle of the pack.

But now they are against the clock to claim glory with star quarterback Brady, who will turn 43 before the 2020 season and ended his 20-year stay with the Patriots on Tuesday.

Amid speculation about Brady's future ever since the Pats' Wild Card round playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans in January, the Bucs were not always top of the list of his cited potential destinations.

But it is they who will pair the six-time Super Bowl winner with head coach Bruce Arians, ending former number one overall pick Jameis Winston's role as the team's starting QB.

Fans of the Bucs are already dreaming big, with season ticket enquiries surging in the aftermath of the reports Brady was poised to join, while there has been talk of high-profile players offering up their services.

It is their Raymond James Stadium will play host to Super Bowl LV and no team has ever reached the biggest stage when it has been played at their own stadium. 

But with a proven winner on board, how realistic is a historic championship run for the Bucs?
 

Receiving corps will excite Brady

Brady was not blessed with star receiving talent in his final years with the Patriots.

Last year, an aging Julian Edelman carried the load as Josh Gordon departed, first-round draft pick N'Keal Harry underwhelmed and a mid-season trade for Mohamed Sanu failed to pan out. Antonio Brown was supposed to be the answer, but the saga around the former Pittsburgh Steelers star is one the team will quickly want to forget.

Role players Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers were left to fill gaps and the Pats' tight end depth chart was one of the worst in the NFL after Rob Gronkowski's retirement.

Brady has few such concerns with the Bucs, whose number one receiver Mike Evans has recorded six consecutive seasons with more than 1,000 yards receiving, those remarkable numbers coming despite some questionable quarterback play.

Chris Godwin (1,333 yards in 2019) has emerged as an extremely impressive complement to Evans, while two talented TE options in O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate provide added firepower.

Brady played behind a strong offensive line in New England but Tampa, despite some issues at the two tackle spots, had a similarly solid 2019 unit, with Ryan Jensen and Ali Marpet standouts who ensured the Bucs' OL, like that of the Pats, was graded in the top 10 by Pro Football Focus.

Arians' risk-taking, downfield scheme may not be a perfect fit for Brady, but the Bucs coach has the experience and expertise to compromise. He leans heavily on his passing attack and has a proven track record in getting the most out of his QBs.

Winston led the league in 2019 passing yards (5,109), but saw his 33 touchdowns coupled with 30 picks.

Brady, despite his slight decline in recent seasons, is still a clear upgrade on Winston. With a dramatic drop in turnovers likely to follow, the Bucs should continue to be one of the league's most productive offenses without the wild swings we have seen before.
 

Defense: A step forward could prove crucial

The Patriots' offensive inefficiencies last year were made up for by a superb defense that led the NFL in points-per-game and yards allowed.

Brady will not have quite the same support system at his new home.

When Dirk Koetter lost his job after the 2018 season, a failing defense had played a key part in his demise. 

Last season, there was some improvement from the Bucs, particularly towards the end of the year, as they finished 7-9.

But the Bucs were 29th out of 32 teams in points allowed and while that improved to 15th in yards-per-game, they were near the bottom of the pack against the pass.

There are pieces to work with, as NFL sack leader Shaquil Barrett has received the franchise tag, while Jason Pierre-Paul has re-signed. 

Young cornerbacks Jamel Dean, Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting have all displayed signs of promise and the Bucs will need them to kick on, showing more consistency.

They used the number five overall pick on linebacker Devin White last season and will be counting on a second-season improvement from him alongside impressive veteran Lavonte David.

If the offense is firing with Brady, the Bucs may only need a middle-of-the-road defense to be competitive, so they will eye a couple of valuable additions in the draft.

Due to their offensive strength, the Kansas City Chiefs went all the way in 2019 with a defense that was far from perfect but contained playmakers and a similar unit could be on the cards in Florida.
 

NFC South among challenges

The Pats have completely dominated the AFC East, winning it 16 times in the last 17 attempts, and have expertly translated those victories into deep postseason runs.

A winning culture shaped by Brady and Bill Belichick led to a dynasty that may never be replicated, with the QB's leadership now key as he enters a new locker room.

As the Cleveland Browns showed last season, establishing a star-studded roster is no guarantee of success and Brady joins a franchise with only one Super Bowl victory in their history, amid a long playoff drought.

Brady's task is made more difficult as he enters an extremely competitive NFC South.

The New Orleans Saints have won the division for three straight seasons, have one of the NFL's best all-round rosters and veteran QB Drew Brees is back for the next two years.

There is quality elsewhere too, as the Atlanta Falcons, boasting the likes of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones, have a score to settle with Brady, while the Carolina Panthers start a new era with Teddy Bridgewater.

With Brady, Arians and an impressive supporting cast, the Bucs are among a group of six to eight Super Bowl candidates, but it would be a leap to place them alongside the top favourites just yet.

Having made a seismic signing, their next moves will be watched with greater scrutiny than ever before as a fascinating offseason continues.

Not many, if any, expected Tom Brady to swap the New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

A fairytale swansong with hometown team the San Francisco 49ers had been touted, while the Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos were also reportedly in the mix.

However, Tampa Bay will become veteran quarterback Brady's new home after 20 incredible seasons in Foxborough.

From six Super Bowl titles to a team without a playoff appearance since 2007, Brady will reportedly earn $30million per season on a two-year contract with Bruce Arians' Bucs.

But why did the Buccaneers turn their backs on former number one pick Jameis Winston for a 42-year-old quarterback? Well the writing was on the wall…

 

October 13, 2019 – Arians on Winston: He has a habit of trying to be Superman

Now an unrestricted free agent and with starting options running out, Winston frustrated Bucs head coach Arians throughout the 2019 campaign.

After throwing five interceptions and managing two fumbles in a 37-26 loss to the Carolina Panthers in London, Arians had some words for the 2015 number one draft pick.

"Throw the damn ball away. He had avoided one [turnover after losing the ball], you might have avoided two, but you aren't throwing it anywhere to a receiver. Throw it away," Arians told the media after the game. "He has a habit of trying to be Superman. That's been a problem in the past. 

"The fumbles haven't occurred this year until today. But, again, trying to make something out of nothing. It's just a matter of knowing when to quit on a play."

 

December 4, 2019 – Arians not ready to decide on Winston's future

Arians was noncommittal on Winston being Tampa Bay's quarterback after 2019.

Amid a difficult season, Arians was asked if he would throw his support behind Winston if quizzed by the Bucs' hierarchy and he told reporters: "I'm gonna pass on that one. I'm gonna wait until the end of December."

"There's been really, really, really good and there's been some really, really bad," Arians added. "I'm gonna pass until it's over and then we'll make a decision."

 

December 21, 2019 – Winston throws four picks

Winston threw four interceptions as the Houston Texans recorded a 23-20 road win over the Buccaneers to seal the AFC South title.

Quarterback Winston completed 25 of his 48 passing attempts for 335 yards, throwing one touchdown with his four picks.

On the day when it was reported the team had decided to retain his services for next season, Winston made the worst possible start by throwing a pick-six to Texans cornerback Bradley Roby on his first attempt and it did not get much better from there.

December 29, 2019 – Winston backs himself despite making unwanted NFL history

Winston insisted "I'm going to be the best" despite making unwanted NFL history against the Atlanta Falcons.

Winston became the first player to throw for at least 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in a season as the Buccaneers ended their campaign with a 28-22 overtime loss.

He joined the dubious 30-30 club after he was pick-sixed by Falcons linebacker Deion Jones on the first play of overtime in Tampa.

Winston – who became the eighth quarterback in league history to throw for 5,000 yards in a season – said: "I'm focused on how I can get better. I know if I eliminate those, I'm going to be the best. Bar none. You'd better check your sheet.

"If you look at the numbers, I'm balling. I've got to stop giving the ball to the other team. It's not a trick question. I know if I eliminate those [interceptions], I'm going to be the best, bar none."

Arians added: "You look at it and there's so much good and so much outright terrible. We got to weigh that and see what happens."

 

December 30, 2019 – Arians says Bucs can win without Winston

"[If] we can win with this one, we can definitely win with another one too," Arians told reporters. "We're going to have this defense."

Pressed on Winston's future heading into the offseason, Arians said: "It will be a while. I would think in a few weeks we will have a decision on which way we want to head. Will we let it out? Probably not. Because you lose your leverage on that one too. So it's 'stay tuned.'"

"Well, free agency, who's available?" Arians added. "What's behind door number two? That's the first question. Then as you evaluate for the draft, that's another question. Are they better than what you have? Then you evaluate and that's when you make your decisions."

 

February 26, 2019 – Arians names Brady as option

Speaking at the NFL scouting combine, Arians said: "As a head coach, you have to decide. Is there a better option?"

Pressed on free agency, Arians reeled off some names to reporters.

"Tom Brady. Philip [Rivers] is another guy. We'll see," he said.

"When those dominoes start falling, other guys are going to be on the market. I don't want to drag it out very long. It's one thing I want to get done soon."

 

March 16, 2020 – Bucs pass on tagging Winston

After throwing for 5,109 yards in 2019, the Buccaneers opted against using the franchise tag on Winston.

Instead, Tampa Bay used it to keep Shaquil Barrett from becoming a free agent.

 

March 17, 2020 – Brady announces Patriots exit

"I don't know what my football future holds but it is time for me to open a new stage for my life and career. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I will always love you and what we have shared - a lifetime full of fun memories," Brady wrote in part via Twitter as he bid farewell to the Pats.

March 20, 2020 - Bucs arrival announced by Brady

Brady confirmed he would be continuing his career with Bucs. In an Instagram post, he wrote: "Excited, humble and hungry ...if there is one thing I have learned about football, it's that nobody cares what you did last year or the year before that...you earn the trust and respect of those around through your commitment every single day. 

"I'm starting a new football journey and thankful for the Buccaneers for giving me an opportunity to do what I love to do. I look forward to meeting all my new team-mates and coaches and proving to them that they can believe and trust in me...

"I have always believed that well done is better than well said, so I'm gonna not gonna say much more - I'm just gonna get to work!"

The coronavirus pandemic continues to leave little in the way of live action on the sporting calendar.

Most events have been put on hold or cancelled across the world due to the spread of COVID-19.

There are still some competitions going ahead on Friday, though, and here are five of the best to look forward to.


Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne City - A-League

Australia's top football division continues, albeit with a reduced schedule and games being staged behind closed doors - including both of Friday's matches.

The Mariners will be out to avoid unwanted club history as they host Melbourne City. Alen Stajcic's team are on a nine-match losing run, just one short of their previous worst streak of 10 in a row.

 

Dundalk - horse racing

Horse racing has been suspended in the United Kingdom until the end of April, but Horse Racing Ireland has opted to carry on racing after implementing stringent controls.

Friday's sole meeting will take place at Dundalk, where Cautious Approach, Juliet Rose and Sebs Star are all in action.

Cage Warriors 113 - MMA

Friday's blockbuster will now be held in Manchester after moving from London and is another event being held without spectators in attendance.

Darren Stewart and Bartosz Fabinski meet in the headline fight, while Mason Jones and Joe McColgan will battle it out for the vacant lightweight title.

Brisbane Broncos v South Sydney Rabbitohs - NRL

The NRL has introduced a self-isolation programme for its players in a desperate attempt to keep games on.

And that means plenty of focus will be on the grudge match between the Broncos and the Rabbitohs, who will both be looking to maintain winning starts to the season.

 

Western Bulldogs v Collingwood - AFL

Aussie Rules football got under way at an empty MCG on Thursday and the action continues with Western Bulldogs taking on Collingwood Magpies.

The Magpies begin their assault for a record-equalling 16th title - and a first in a decade - against their Melbourne rivals at Docklands Stadium.

Live sport is proving difficult to come by amid the coronavirus pandemic, so we looked back through sporting history to identify major events or news to occur on this day.

March 19 certainly wasn't short of options, though we managed to nail it down to five occasions that were particularly notable.

They include the indictment of one former baseball player and another returning to the basketball court where he made his name.

Below, take yourself on a trip down memory lane… Or just get a little sporting education.

 

1978 – Nicklaus wins his third Players Championship

Jack Nicklaus enjoyed many a famous victory during his sparkling golfing career, but his win at the 1978 Players Championship was a peculiar one. In demanding weather conditions, with wind wreaking havoc, Nicklaus won his third Players title, beating Lou Graham by a single shot. No one finished the tournament below par, with Nicklaus' one-over 289 incredibly enough to secure him the title.

1984 – Former MLB pitcher McLain indicted

Regarded as a great during his time as a professional pitcher in baseball, Denny McLain's life away from the sport was rather more chaotic. Having gone off the rails after his career ran its course, McLain was charged with racketeering and narcotics violations on March 19, 1984, before being sentenced to 23 years in prison. He served two-and-a-half years, before an appeals court threw out the verdict and set McLain free. He went back to prison in 1996 on charges of embezzlement, money laundering, mail fraud and conspiracy.

1991 – Phoenix stripped of 1993 Super Bowl

The 1993 Super Bowl was due to be held in Phoenix, Arizona. However, the state's lack of recognition for Martin Luther King Jr. Day saw them stripped of the event. President Ronald Reagan had declared Martin Luther King Jr. Day a national holiday eight years earlier and, at the time, Arizona adhered to the legislature. It wasn't until 1987 when Republican governor Evan Mecham took office that the MLK celebration was cancelled. The holiday returned to Arizona in 1993 following a vote the year before.

1995 – Michael Jordan returns

After 17 months away from basketball, during which time he had a spell in baseball, Michael Jordan was back on this day in 1995. Twenty-four hours after Jordan had announced "I'm back", he was playing once again for his beloved Chicago Bulls, scoring 19 points in an overtime 103-96 defeat to the Indiana Pacers.

2019 – Harden makes NBA history

Just last year, Houston Rockets guard James Harden made history when he became the first NBA player to score at least 30 points against every opponent in the league. He accomplished the feat with a haul of 31 in a win over the Atlanta Hawks. Just the game before, Harden had seen his 32-game streak of scoring 30 points or more end – that remains the second-longest such run in NBA history.

Michael Jordan stunned the world with two simple words 25 years ago.

In an era before innovative social media announcements were the norm, Jordan released a statement through his management company "in response to questions about his future career plans" on March 18, 1995.

His response of "I'm back" signalled the return to basketball of one of the all-time greats.

Here, to mark the anniversary of that press release being issued, we look at Jordan and other greats who performed retirement U-turns.

 

MICHAEL JORDAN

Whether you are an ardent NBA fan or have simply seen Space Jam, you know the story. Chicago Bulls star Jordan retired in 1993 after his team three-peated and shortly after his father's death, stating that "the desire is just not there any more".

For the next year, Jordan turned to baseball as a minor league player as he pursued a dream his father had of his son making it in the MLB. Then, amid rumours he was heading back to the NBA, came that Jordan utterance: "I'm back". 

The Bulls, led by perhaps the greatest ever, would win three successive championships again between 1996 and 1998 at which point Jordan retired once more. He then came back for a two-year stint with the Washington Wizards before finally calling it a day once and for all in 2003.

 

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER

Seven-time Formula One champion Schumacher was 37 when he announced the 2006 season - when he was pipped to the title by Fernando Alonso - would be his last.

However, he remained around F1 as an advisor for Ferrari and returned for Mercedes to race in 2010 saying: "I have the energy back."

He would appear on the podium just once across three seasons, though, and he retired again in 2012, a year before he suffered severe head injuries in a skiing accident.

 

KIM CLIJSTERS

A former world number one and the 2005 US Open champion, Clijsters retired at the age of 23 due to a series of punishing injuries.

Clijsters got married and gave birth in her time away from sport, and then after appearing in an exhibition match held at Wimbledon in 2009, the Belgian returned to the WTA Tour. In just her third tournament back, Clijsters won the US Open, becoming the first unseeded woman to win the tournament in the Open era and the first mother to win a grand slam since 1980.

She triumphed at Flushing Meadows again in 2010 and won the Australian Open in 2011, recently returning to tennis for a third time after a seven-year hiatus.

LANCE ARMSTRONG

American Armstrong retired as a seven-time Tour de France champion in 2005. But the story, of course, didn't end there.

Dogged by doping allegations during his career, Armstrong faced questions again when he returned, aged 37, in 2009 and finished third in that year's Tour.

Armstrong retired once more in 2011 while he was the subject of a federal investigation into doping allegations. Another probe from the United States Anti-Doping Agency led to charges which resulted in Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour titles in 2012, with the cyclist publicly coming clean on his doping the following year.

 

GEORGE FOREMAN

There was a full decade between Foreman's 47th and 48th fights.

He lost on points to Jimmy Young in 1977, falling ill in the dressing room after the bout and suffering what he said was a near-death experience, leading him to find God.

A born-again Christian, Foreman returned at 38. Despite defeats to Evander Holyfield and Tommy Morrison in title bouts, Foreman would become heavyweight champion of the world again in 1994 - at the grand old age of 45 - by stopping Michael Moorer.

BRETT FAVRE

Long-time Green Bay Packers quarterback Favre, the king of indecision, bowed out from the NFL in March 2008, passing the baton to a certain Aaron Rodgers. However, he had a change of heart four months later. The Packers, who wanted to move on with Rodgers, traded Favre to the New York Jets.

After one season with Gang Green, Favre retired again. And then he performed another U-turn, paving the way for him to join the Minnesota Vikings, one of Green Bay's arch-rivals.

He enjoyed by far the best year of his career with the Vikings in terms of quarterback rating (107.2) but Minnesota lost the NFC Championship Game. More indecision followed after that, though 2010 would prove to be the final year of a Hall of Fame career.

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