Lionel Messi headlines the final three for the Puskas Award, given to the scorer of the best goal of the season.

A panel of FIFA and external football experts selected 10 goals to put to a public vote and three of those remain in the running after seven were cut on Monday.

Barcelona icon Messi is the big name still in the hunt, while Juan Fernando Quintero of River Plate and Colombia and Hungarian rookie Daniel Zsori join him.

The winner will be announced on September 23 at The Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony and we have the lowdown on each of the three still in with a chance…

Lionel Messi (Barcelona) v Real Betis – March 17, 2019

We have become so accustomed to Messi's brilliance that he makes the extraordinary seem normal, but his hat-trick clincher in March's 4-1 win at Betis was pure genius. After receiving a cut-back from Ivan Rakitic, he caressed a first-time chipped effort over Pau Lopez and in off the crossbar from about 18 yards when shooting through a crowded penalty area looked an impossibility.

 

Juan Fernando Quintero (River Plate) v Racing Club – February 10, 2019

A former so-called 'wonderkid' who went off the boil before enjoying a resurgence, Quintero has had a fine couple of years. A playmaker with an eye for the spectacular, his free-kick against Racing in the 2-0 Superliga win in February was quintessential Quintero – from about 35 yards out on the right flank, his left-footed strike bent inside the top-right corner in a remarkable display of accuracy.

 

Daniel Zsori (Debrecen) v Ferencvaros – February 16, 2019

Eighteen-year-old Zsori announced himself to Hungarian football in astonishing fashion in February. On his league debut, the attacker met a cross from deep with an overhead-kick just inside the area, picking out the top-far corner in stoppage time to secure a 2-1 win.

Time is running out for clubs across Europe to finalise last-ditch deals but multiple big moves could yet go through.

Paris Saint-Germain are bound to be active players as Monday's transfer deadline forces heavyweights in France, Italy, Spain and Germany to make tough decisions on squad strengths and weaknesses.

Bundesliga teams have until 18:00 local time (17:00 BST) to conduct their business, while the window shuts at 20:00 local time (19:00 BST) for Juventus, AC Milan, Inter and the rest of Serie A.

All close-season movements across Europe's top five leagues will be then finalised when the deadline for LaLiga and Ligue 1 sides is reached at midnight local time (23:00 BST).


Mauro Icardi (Inter)

The Inter outcast, stripped of the captaincy earlier this year, seems set to escape to PSG, but not before another twist in his San Siro soap opera.

Reports in France and Italy suggest the striker will agree a new deal with the Nerazzurri - to prevent him from leaving on a free in 2021 - before linking up with Thomas Tuchel's team on a season-long loan.

That could be become a permanent move if, as is expected, the Ligue 1 champions negotiate an option to buy.

Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas is preparing to join Icardi at Parc des Princes, with Alphonse Areola headed in the opposite direction.


Bruno Fernandes (Sporting CP)

Frustrated in their attempts to sign Paul Pogba from Manchester United and seemingly unconvinced by Tottenham Christian Eriksen, Madrid might finally have settled on a midfield target.

Portugal international Fernandes was linked to Manchester United and Tottenham before Zinedine Zidane zeroed in on the 24-year-old, a highly technical player with goalscoring ability.


Neymar (PSG)

The fallout that would come from the forward finally rejoining Barcelona in the remaining hours makes it a deal too important to ignore, even if it is now highly improbable.

Neymar is said to have resigned himself to another season in France but, with Icardi to be added to what is already a star-studded attack, PSG might just relax one or two of their demands.

Tuchel, certainly, could do without a full campaign of massaging the Brazilian's ego.


Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona)

Barca's late business is more likely to be focused on what to do with Croatia midfielder Rakitic, who has made no starts and a solitary substitute appearance in LaLiga this season.

Juventus are understood be keen on taking him to Turin and could even discuss a swap deal involving Daniele Rugani, though captain Giorgio Chiellini's long-term knee injury has made centre-backs a valued commodity for Maurizio Sarri.

Rakitic, usurped by Frenkie De Jong at Camp Nou, has been replaced in the Croatia squad, so does that mean he's on the move?

Ante Rebic (Eintracht Frankfurt)

AC Milan are very close to the capture of a player also admired by city rivals Inter.

Rebic is due to move to the Rossoneri on an initial loan deal that will see Andre Silva head for Frankfurt.

Eintracht sporting director Fredi Bobic and the attacker himself have already confirmed an agreement is in place, meaning only the formalities are to be completed.

Competing at the scene of her traumatic maiden grand slam triumph in front of a crowd predictably and passionately backing a star American opponent, it would have been easy for Naomi Osaka to crumble in the third round of the US Open.

The defending champion and world number one had all the pressure on her shoulders in Saturday's blockbuster clash with 15-year-old Coco Gauff, who comparatively had nothing to lose after again capturing the sporting world's imagination with two thrilling wins.

Rather than wilting at the venue where she had been left in tears 12 months ago, Osaka rose to the occasion in stunning style, delivering a show of class on and off the court that should secure her place as a favourite in the hearts and minds of fans, as well as a frontrunner for the title.

From the start, Osaka played with confidence and ruthlessness, racing into a 3-0 lead. Rather than being overawed by the stage, she rose to it with the enthusiasm of a player with two major titles to her name.

Gauff threatened a comeback as the teenager found her footing, but she was never able to locate the consistency needed to restore parity against a player operating at Osaka's level.

After clinching the opening set, Osaka was relentless, refusing to let up as she condemned Gauff to a bagel in the second.

Osaka got 91 per cent of returns in play, converted six of her seven break points and hit 24 winners to Gauff's eight.

Pirouetting as she won one point to set up a break chance, Osaka operated with more freedom as Gauff faded and the gulf in experience and quality became more telling.

Yet nothing Osaka produced on the court could top what she did after the match, as she persuaded a tearful Gauff into staying behind to be interviewed alongside her in front of the packed crowd.

Both players ended up reduced to tears, but those shed will be remembered as part of one of the indelible moments of US Open history. A marked contrast to those Osaka wept last year as Serena Williams' row with umpire Carlos Ramos overshadowed what should have been the greatest night of the Japanese's career.

Gauff could not have been more appreciative of the gesture, and summed up Osaka's evening on and off the court perfectly.

"For me the definition of an athlete is someone who on the court treats you like your worst enemy but off the court can be your best friend," Gauff said. "I think that's what she did."

Discussion over Osaka's slightly withdrawn nature and lack of comfort in the spotlight has been a prominent feature of her rise to the top of the women's game.

Now the focus has been shifted to her capacity for empathy and her sportsmanship, though Osaka appeared to indicate she would still rather not be the subject of such attention.

Asked if the tennis world needs more "Naomi moments", Osaka replied: "I don't know what a Naomi moment is. Hopefully there won't be many of those. Yeah, whatever I do, I try to tell myself to just do it from the heart."

If she maintains the kind of form she demonstrated on Saturday, there is a strong chance the next Naomi moment will be her lifting the trophy.

Following her wonderful display of compassion for Gauff, the New York crowd that booed as she collected the trophy last year will surely this time be on her side should she prevail again.

The Premier League table is taking on a familiar look after matchweek four, with undefeated Liverpool and Manchester City setting the pace following comfortable victories.

But there are some unexpected sides among the chasing pack, with Leicester City and Crystal Palace completing the top four after home wins, while Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham sit outside the top six.

At the other end of the table, promoted Aston Villa and Norwich City are struggling to get going and both suffered away defeats, while the division is propped up by last season's FA Cup finalists Watford, who picked up their first point.

A delve into the Opta data on the weekend's action reveals the milestones being passed and records being set as the 2019-20 season unfolds.

FIRMINO REACHES 50 AS REDS MAKE HISTORY

Liverpool's 3-0 victory over Burnley at Turf Moor marked a historic milestone for the Anfield club, who have won 13 league games in a row for the first time in their history.

Those 13 victories have all featured more than one Liverpool goal and the Reds are the first side to achieve that feat since Tottenham's glorious team of 1960.

After Chris Wood's own-goal opened the scoring at Burnley, Sadio Mane doubled Liverpool's lead with his 30th in all competitions since the start of the last season, pulling him level with Mohamed Salah over that time period.

Roberto Firmino's strike 10 minutes from time wrapped up a straightforward victory for the European champions and made him the first Brazilian player to score 50 Premier League goals. He is the ninth player to reach that milestone in the Premier League era for Liverpool, who have more half-centurions than any other club in the division except Manchester United, who have also had nine 50-goal players.

DERBY TURNAROUND DENIES SPURS MUCH-NEEDED AWAY WIN

Tottenham looked on course for their first league win away from home in eight attempts when goals from Christian Eriksen and Harry Kane put Mauricio Pochettino's men 2-0 up over north London rivals Arsenal.

But Alexandre Lacazette pulled one back for the hosts just before half-time and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang drew Arsenal level in the second half to leave Tottenham with a record of two draws and six defeats from their last eight Premier League away games - their longest winless streak on the road since December 2011 to April 2012 (also eight games).

Pochettino's record in away visits to fellow 'big six' opponents is poor, with Spurs having won just three of their 27 such trips since he took over in 2014-15.

Arsenal went behind when Bernd Leno parried the ball to Eriksen's feet - the goalkeeper's sixth error since the start of last season - and Granit Xhaka conceded a penalty for the fifth time since his Premier League debut to allow Kane to make it 2-0.

But Lacazette narrowed the deficit before Aubameyang scored in his seventh successive Premier League start at Emirates Stadium - an Arsenal record bettered only by Thierry Henry, who scored in nine successive starts at Highbury.

AGUERO ONE SHORT OF HOME CENTURY

Sergio Aguero scored twice in Manchester City's 4-0 demolition of Brighton and Hove Albion, taking the Argentinian to 99 Premier League goals at Etihad Stadium.

Only Thierry Henry at Highbury (114) and Wayne Rooney at Old Trafford (101) have scored more goals at a single venue in Premier League history than Aguero, whose second goal was assisted by David Silva.

That came after former Spain playmaker Silva also laid on Kevin De Bruyne's opener, and he has assisted 87 Premier League goals since his City debut in August 2010 - 27 more than any other player.

Bernardo Silva scored the fourth goal as the champions capped a result that leaves Brighton winless in every game they have played away at City, drawing two and losing on eight of their 10 trips.

SOLSKJAER'S SIDE MAKE SLOWEST START IN 27 YEARS

Manchester United roared to a 4-0 win over Chelsea in their season opener but head into the international break with just five points from four games, their lowest total at this stage of a Premier League campaign since 1992-93.

Saturday's subdued 1-1 draw at Southampton extended United's winless run away from home to eight competitive matches, the club's worst in almost five years.

Daniel James, scorer of a sublime opener, continues to be a bright spark and has now netted as many for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side as he did in his final 22 Championship appearances for Swansea City.

But the Wales winger's third of the season was not enough for victory, Jannik Vestergaard forcing a share of the spoils with his first goal for Saints in his 27th league appearance.

Kevin Danso provided the cross for centre-back Vestergaard to equalise, although the Austrian later undid some of that good work by becoming the first Premier League player to be sent off on a home debut since Yannick Sagbo of Hull City in August 2013.

Mauricio Pochettino wanted Christian Eriksen's future resolved before Sunday. "Tomorrow, we are going to know if Christian is going to be with us or not. That's the most important thing," he said the day before.

The fact the midfielder was thrown back into the starting line-up for the north London derby suggests this particular transfer saga has, for now, been paused. This felt like a message to Real Madrid, and any other suitors, that Eriksen will be a Tottenham player after Monday's European transfer deadline.

"We need to wait," he said to Sky Sports after the game against Arsenal. "But that [performance] showed that Christian Eriksen was alright." That was an understatement.

If there have been any doubts about the commitment of Eriksen, who has admitted he wants a new challenge, then they were dispelled emphatically in a breathless 2-2 draw at Emirates Stadium. Eriksen offered everything Pochettino could have asked for.

Would he do enough out of possession, or cruise through the match in a bubble of uncertainty? He ran 12.22 kilometres, more than any other player on the pitch.

Would fitness be a concern after comparatively little football of late? Only two team-mates clocked a higher average speed than his 7.25km per hour in the north London sunshine.

If his head has been turned, would he offer enough of that championed 'grit' that only seems to become a prerequisite for a footballer against a team's bitter rivals? Only David Luiz and Harry Winks made more tackles, and he was booked for bringing down Granit Xhaka for good measure.

Most pertinently of all, would he still have enough quality to bring life to a Spurs attack that were shut out by Newcastle United a week ago? He managed six crosses, two chances created, four shots on target out of four attempted - and one easy tap-in to break the deadlock.

It was not Eriksen's fault Spurs surrendered a commanding 2-0 lead and ended up largely hanging on for a point. It was not he who let Alexandre Lacazette dance through the defence to score, or who failed to track Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's run for the equaliser. When Moussa Sissoko ballooned a shot over the bar at the end of a promising break deep into injury time, Eriksen had out-sprinted everyone else in white to take up a far better position. It wasn't his fault he was ignored.

In many ways, this game epitomised the development of Pochettino's team: from also-rans, to Premier League and European elite, to somewhere oddly in between. As clinical, controlled and committed as they were in the first half, the meek submission to the building Arsenal pressure in the second was much more like Spurs of 2019 than of the past few years.

After all, they are now winless at the Emirates in the league since November 2010, have managed just nine victories from 21 top-flight games in 2019 and haven't beaten anyone away in English football since January.

Pochettino was adamant rumours he could step down after the Arsenal game were complete nonsense, but it's hard to ignore the growing sense of staleness creeping in. More and more, that Champions League final in June has the feeling of a ceiling reached, rather than another step taken on a path to greater heights.

With Eriksen in the team, in this form, with this focus, there could be new life breathed into Spurs. We'll know for certain come Tuesday morning whether he is, for a few more months at least, a Tottenham player. It could have a huge say on their immediate future.

Arsenal suffered another humbling defeat to Liverpool at Anfield last week, but they have every reason to feel confident ahead of the visit of Tottenham on Sunday.

The Gunners have not lost the north London derby at Emirates Stadium since surrendering a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 in November 2010, in Spurs' only away league victory against their fierce rivals in the last 26 attempts.

Spurs were beaten 4-2 in this fixture last season, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring two of his three goals against the 'big six' in England's top flight.

The striker's record might sound in desperate need of improvement, but there are signs Unai Emery is cultivating a new system at Arsenal that could play right into the strengths of their Gabon star.

ARSENAL STARTING DEEP TO SPRING LIGHTNING TRAP

We may be only three games into the season, but there are indications Arsenal are adapting their play to sit deeper and hit with more speed - something that surely suits Aubameyang and record signing Nicolas Pepe.

In the opening matches of 2019-20, no team has attempted more shots from fast-break situations than the Gunners (four), with Aubameyang's goal at Newcastle United coming from just such an attack.

Opta defines a 'fast break' as a fast counter-attack starting from the team's own half, where they turn defence quickly into attack with the ball moving at a high tempo. The opposition defence must also be at least partly unsorted.

The attempt at goal must be made 15 seconds after winning the ball in the first quarter of the pitch, or 10 after winning it in the second quarter.

To help with this apparent proclivity for fast breaks, Emery has had his side dropping back further than usual.

The Gunners have been starting possession spells from much deeper positions on the pitch. Indeed, on average, they have started open-play sequences of possession 35.8 metres from their own goal, which is nearer than any other Premier League team and far deeper than in any of their previous five seasons.

DIRECT AND TO THE POINT

No team has had more direct attacks in 2019-20 than Arsenal (10, at an average of 3.3 per game). A 'direct attack', according to Opta, is an open-play sequence that starts just inside the team's half and has at least 50 per cent of movement towards the opposition penalty area, with that team ending with a shot or a touch in the opponent's box.

Emery's side have not averaged above 2.8 per game in any season since 2014-15, which again points to something of a shift under the former Sevilla boss compared to the more patient approach of Arsene Wenger's teams.

This deeper, counter-attacking brand of football is also yielding fewer turnovers in possession. A 'high turnover' is defined as a sequence that starts in open play and begins 40 metres or fewer away from the opponent's goal. This season, no team has had fewer than Arsenal's five.

The signs for the rest of the campaign are promising, too. At an average of 1.7 per game, the Gunners would be comfortably below their previous high turnovers since 2014-15, when they averaged a league-high 4.8 per match.

There is a problem, however, with their passing.

They have completed 39 per cent of their passes in the opponent's half this season, and 20.1 per cent of passes ending in the final third. Each of those tallies is the lowest they have recorded stretching back to 2003-04.

This seems to be a trend under Emery. Completed passes in the opposite half last term fell by nearly nine per cent from 2017-18, while completed passes ending in the last third dropped by more than five per cent.

PICK YOUR SPOT, PIERRE

Arsenal's overall trend of play bodes well for Aubameyang, who in turn needs to sharpen up against the Premier League's big hitters.

The former Borussia Dortmund star's shot conversion rate against the rest of the Premier League is a healthy 30.1 per cent, dwindling to 9.7 in big-six matches.

His differential in terms of 'big chance' conversion is even more stark – 16.7 per cent down from 48.8.

Aubameyang's expected goals per ninety minutes is 0.59 in big-six encounters, with 0.78 elsewhere, indicating the quality of chances coming his way in such games is lower than normal.

Enough of Arsenal's work over the opening weeks of the season suggests that might be about to change. Starting on Sunday, can Aubameyang make the most of spearheading Emery's flying forwards?

Liverpool set a new club record on Saturday, beating Burnley 3-0 to record a 13th consecutive top-flight victory.

Jurgen Klopp's men finished the 2018-19 campaign with nine straight Premier League wins and have taken maximum points from their first four games of this season.

As a result, they have surpassed the 12-game winning run previously achieved under Kenny Dalglish in 1990.

How does Liverpool's ongoing winning streak compare to the record runs of the rest of the Premier League's 'big six'? With the help of Opta, we take a look...

 

Manchester City: 18 wins in a row

Liverpool would need to win each of their next five Premier League matches - against Newcastle United, Chelsea, Sheffield United, Leicester City and bitter rivals Manchester United - to equal the 18-game streak City put together from August to December two years ago.

Pep Guardiola's side needed a 97th-minute strike from Raheem Sterling to beat Bournemouth in the first game of that run, which featured 5-0 wins over Liverpool and Crystal Palace, a 6-0 triumph at Watford and a 7-2 mauling of Stoke City.

It was Palace who eventually brought an end to City's stunning string of wins, earning a 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park that could have been even better, with Ederson saving an injury-time penalty from Luka Milivojevic.

City subsequently won 14 matches in a row to pip Liverpool to last season's title and also claimed victory in their first game of 2019-20 before drawing 2-2 with Tottenham in a match they dominated.


Arsenal: 14 wins in a row

Arsenal's 'Invincibles' famously completed an unbeaten Premier League season in 2003-04, but the Gunners' longest winning streak in the competition did not come in that campaign.

Their best run of 14 straight wins was achieved in 2002, when a team spearheaded by Thierry Henry secured a league and FA Cup double.

A 2-0 win over Birmingham City in August saw Arsene Wenger's magnificent side set a new benchmark for consecutive top-flight wins, at least until City's recent dominance.


Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham: 13 wins in a row

In winning 13 successive games, Liverpool have drawn level with the best runs of Chelsea and Tottenham.

The Reds' current streak began against Burnley in March and stretched to 13 matches with Saturday's 3-0 win over the same opponents.

Chelsea recorded 13 wins in a row from October to December in 2016 and went on to be crowned champions the following May.

You have to go way back to 1960 for Tottenham's longest winning runs in the top-flight, which was achieved under Bill Nicholson in another season that ended with the league trophy being lifted.


Manchester United - 12 wins in a row

Somewhat surprisingly given their years of sustained success under Alex Ferguson, United sit bottom of this particular list.

They have never won more than 12 league games in a row, reaching that mark in August 2000 - three months after winning the Premier League yet again.

Indeed, the longest winning runs of United, City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham have all come, at least in part, during title-winning campaigns.

After coming so close to glory last term, Liverpool will hope they follow suit next May.

Daniel James' brilliant opener in Manchester United's 1-1 draw at Southampton continued a stunning start to life in the Premier League for the Wales youngster.

James capped an opening weekend thumping of Chelsea and was also on target in last weekend's 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace.

Three goals in his first four United appearances places the 21-year-old in some elite company but being prolific in your opening games for the club does not necessary mean long-term success.

Here are the other Red Devils who got off to a flyer in the Premier League era.

Robin van Persie – four in three

Van Persie's decision to shun Manchester City to move to United from Arsenal instantly endeared him to the Old Trafford faithful. His debut from the bench could not avert a 1-0 loss to Everton at Goodison Park, but he thrashed in a sublime volley in a 3-2 win over Fulham before a hat-trick saw off Southampton by the same margin. The Dutch forward maintained his prolific form, scoring 26 Premier League goals as United sent Alex Ferguson into retirement with one more title.

Louis Saha – four in four

Rarely do January signings prove such an instant hit as Saha, following his switch from Fulham midway through the 2003-04 campaign. He opened the scoring in wins over Southampton and Everton, completing a double in the latter game. The France international did likewise at Fulham before his old employers battled back to a 1-1 draw. Saha collected a pair of Premier League medals and also became a Champions League winner during his time at United, although injuries frequently interrupted his progress.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – four in four

Never likely to tolerate a quiet introduction to English football, Ibrahimovic drove in from long range to cap a 3-1 win at Bournemouth on his debut in 2016. His double to sink Southampton ensured a memorable maiden turn at Old Trafford, where he also found the target in a derby loss to Manchester City. Ibrahimovic scored 28 times in 46 appearances as United claimed EFL Cup and Europa League glory. However, a serious knee injury meant he was a spectator for the latter triumph and an underwhelming return the following season preceded his move to LA Galaxy.

Romelu Lukaku – four in four

It would have been very hard to envisage Lukaku being hastily bundled out of Old Trafford to Inter without a replacement being sought after he produced an instant return on Jose Mourinho's £75million investment in 2017. The Belgium striker hit a brace in a 4-0 opening-weekend win over West Ham. He also scored as Swansea were beaten by the same margin and netted in a 2-2 draw at Stoke City to go four in four. It was part of a hot streak of 16 goals across 13 appearances for club and country – something Antonio Conte clearly has designs on Lukaku rediscovering at Inter.

Dwight Yorke - three in four

Some eyebrows were raised when Ferguson paid a then club-record £12.6m to bring in Yorke from Aston Villa in August 1998. Although he drew a blank in a 0-0 debut at West Ham, a brace against Charlton Athletic – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was also at the double in a 4-0 win – got him off and running. The opener in a 2-0 victory against Coventry City next time out ensured United had a new hero who would prove pivotal in that season's historic treble.

Anthony Martial – three in four

Like James, Martial came off the bench to delight Old Trafford on his debut, dispatching an unforgettable solo effort to down bitter rivals Liverpool. Southampton, who would seemingly do well to avoid attackers in the early stages of their United careers if possible, then copped for a brace at St Mary's. Now restored to a central striking role in a depleted attack, the onus is on Martial to make good on that early promise this season.

Marcus Rashford – three in four

The remaining member of United's first-choice attack also flew out of the blocks. Rashford was Louis van Gaal's most successful punt on youth during his time in charge – a brace against Arsenal on his 2016 Premier League bow actually followed a Europa League double versus FC Midtjylland the preceding midweek. On his fourth league appearance, Rashford brilliantly scored the only goal to sink City in the derby.

The 2019 film 'Diego Maradona', a documentary covering a period of the great Argentina footballer's life, brilliantly depicts the breathless intensity of life as a superstar.

Put together with behind-the-scenes Maradona footage from various sources in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the critically acclaimed picture portrays the fierce adoration of supporters, the media and more that built and broke the ex-Napoli forward.

Quite understandably, it seems everyone wanted a piece of El Diego. Quite understandably, it seems this took its toll.

THE SPOTLIGHT

Watching Coco Gauff in the aftermath of her second-round US Open win was initially adorable and then a little uncomfortable.

The 15-year-old, with five main-draw grand slam triumphs to her name already, was riding the crest of her very own wave, blushing as the crowd chanted her name and then giggling excitedly as she was reminded defending champion Naomi Osaka is up next.

It is customary for victors on the show courts to then stick around for a moment or two after the interviews to sign autographs and take pictures before quickly disappearing back to the dressing room.

Gauff went above and beyond for her fans as the camera lingered for several minutes. Teenage boys tussled over signed merchandise, others tripped over themselves to get involved in the scrum. Coco kept smiling, kept signing. Some supporters were polite and grateful, others appeared blunt and rude. Coco kept going.

Many children her age - Gauff has beaten Venus Williams but is still just a child - might be discouraged from speaking to strangers. With a security guard at her side, Coco had an army of them, like Maradona, wanting a piece of her.

THE HYPE

Even for a player long tipped for success as a junior, Gauff's introduction to women's tennis has been quite remarkable. Against Timea Babos, she showed her power, her devilish speed and a defensive showing Simona Halep would be proud of. There was nothing in her performance to suggest she cannot one day live up to the hype surrounding her.

That hype is considerable. Daniela Hantuchova, on Amazon's Flushing Meadows coverage, gushed as she assessed Gauff's display. This was a future multiple-major winner, she said. The first serve of Venus, the second serve of Serena. Wow.

Coco has been the name on everyone's lips since Wimbledon, where Serena, Roger Federer and the rest discussed her thrilling breakthrough. She traded messages with Michelle Obama. Kobe Bryant was in New York on Thursday and keen to take in the clash with Babos.

And the world's top tennis prospect has understandably capitalised on this attention as a no-doubt-lucrative New Balance deal has seen the player, her team and her family turn out in shirts and shoes adorning the slogan, "Win or lose, call me Coco". She is being readied to rule the world.

A young Maradona, likewise destined for the top, had a camera crew follow him around in the days before this was normal, recording footage intended to make him a movie star. Ultimately, this would form part of the film that concluded with the tale of his downfall.

THE WARNING

Gauff has dealt with her new status incredibly well and will, you would imagine, continue to do so as long as the coverage remains positive and she keeps performing far above the level ordinarily expected of a teenager. There appears no pressure at this stage as she defeats senior pro after senior pro.

Yet might Osaka, her next opponent, be able to offer a word of warning? The Japanese appeared at ease and content on the WTA Tour a year ago, steadily forging an impressive career but not yet a victim of the expectation that comes with success.

That all changed with victory first at the US Open and then in Melbourne. Osaka became world number one and initially hated it. "Mentally, it was way more stress and pressure than I could have imagined," she said. Sport can chew up and spit out even the most prodigious talent. 

Osaka should beat Gauff and so there will be no outrage if the American is undone. The biggest feel-good story in tennis will roll on and on, the hype growing and then eventually perhaps, too, the scrutiny.

Whether Coco reaches superstardom or falls some way short, her health and happiness must remain intact throughout her career. Others have not always found that to be the case.

When Naomi Osaka takes on teenage sensation Coco Gauff in the tie of the third round at the US Open on Saturday, it will be impossible not to see the parallels between the two.

Following her victory in a brutal battle with Timea Babos on Thursday, John McEnroe was quick to warn how a Gauff triumph in the match everyone hoped to see may be too much, too soon for the 15-year-old sensation.

The rise of Osaka, and her subsequent struggles to deal with the spotlight that has arrived with becoming the world number one and winning two grand slams by the age of 21, may well be a reason why McEnroe made that claim.

Osaka has rarely looked comfortable in the media glare and, prior to the final major of the year at Flushing Meadows, conceded she has not had fun playing tennis since her success at the Australian Open.

The Japanese can see herself in Gauff, who is again the story of the first week of a grand slam having become the youngest woman to reach the third round of the US Open since 1996.

However, speaking after her routine win over Magda Linette on Thursday, Osaka pointed out a key difference between her and Gauff.

"Yeah, I mean, off the court she seems like me. Well, she seems a little bit more, like, she knows what she's doing," Osaka said. "I just mean, like, I'm very quiet. I've gotten actually a bit talkative recently, though.

"But, yeah, I saw her in the locker room. She wasn't really talking to anyone. I was like, 'Oh, looks familiar'. I'm just going to talk to her. I know she's super young, and I know it's sort of hard to transition.

"I wasn't even a junior, but I can only imagine as a junior you play these tournaments with your friends, and then you come to the pros and you don't know anyone.

"She's a really talented girl. I would love for her to come out of her shell a little bit. I just realise that's probably what people say about me, too."

Though based on her post-match demeanour, Osaka may be doing herself a disservice.

A comfortable win understandably changes the tone of a media conference for the better, but Osaka's light-hearted approach to proceedings - in which she cracked jokes about helping famous fans Kobe Bryant and Colin Kaepernick stay out of the sun - made for a striking contrast to how she has often dealt with the media.

Still, Osaka's praise of Gauff's composure is well-founded. On and off the court, the teenager never seems fazed by anything thrown in her direction, though she partially credits Osaka for giving her the belief she can beat the best on the biggest stage.

Asked what she can take from how Osaka has navigated early success, Gauff told a media conference: "I think she just made it, I guess, possible. 

"Last year, at the US Open, she wasn't really like a big contender. Obviously now this year she is. She had that amazing run, then the final. Honestly, I think she's a big inspiration for everyone. She's 21. She has two slams. She's still thriving for more.

"I think she's just a super-sweet person on and off the court. She competes great out there. I think she shows us how to compete and the way to, like, be off the court, too."

Competing with Osaka on the court will be the biggest challenge Gauff has faced so far. She fought extremely hard in her Wimbledon defeat to Simona Halep and will likely have to improve on that effort if she is to progress further in New York.

In terms of her overall poise, however, Gauff may actually be ahead of a world number one who is still finding her feet in dealing with the rigours that come with being at the top of the sport.

Too much, too soon? It remains to be seen. However, there can be no doubt Gauff has the temperament to handle the occasion in what will be the first of hopefully many enticing contests between two players set to dominate women's tennis.

Vasyl Lomachenko heads to London to take on Luke Campbell with his WBA and WBO lightweight belts, as well as the vacant WBC title, on the line.

Since losing his second professional fight in 2014, Lomachenko has 12 wins from as many bouts and represents a huge hurdle for challenger Campbell to attempt to clear.

So tough is the task ahead of Campbell that he last week told GQ he had been sparring three boxers at once to prepare.

Does the home hopeful have any chance, or is Lomachenko simply too strong? We take a look at the tale of the tape.

 

VASYL LOMACHENKO

Born: 17/02/1988; Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, Ukraine
Age: 31
Stance: Southpaw
Height: 5ft 7ins
Weight: 9st, 8lbs, 8oz
Reach: 65.5ins
Professional record: 13 wins, 1 defeat, 10 wins by knockout
KO ratio: 71.4 per cent
Major career titles: WBO featherweight; WBO super featherweight; WBA, WBO lightweight titles
Last fight: Anthony Crolla, April 2019 (Won - KO)

LUKE CAMPBELL

Born: 27/9/1987; Hull, England
Age: 31
Stance: Southpaw
Height: 5ft 9ins
Weight: 9st, 8lbs, 4oz
Reach: 71ins
Professional record: 20 wins, 2 defeats, 16 wins by knockout
KO ratio: 72.7 per cent
Major career titles: None
Last fight: Adrian Yung, March 2019 (Won - TKO)

Many thousands of words have been spoken and written in praise of the mercurial Vasyl Lomachenko.

The three-weight world champion will look to add the WBC lightweight title to his WBO and WBA belts when he faces fellow Olympic gold medallist Luke Campbell at the O2 Arena on Saturday.

Eulogies have poured forth throughout fight week in London, but the Ukrainian superstar's most recent opponent only needs one word when his most celebrated attribute comes up.

"Unreal," Anthony Crolla said instantly upon the first mention of "footwork" when talking to Omnisport about the challenge of trying to crack the Lomachenko puzzle.

Like all proud combatants before him, former WBA king Crolla was confident of shocking the world when he stepped into the ring with the 31-year-old in Los Angeles this April.

But soon he felt the force of a ruthless version of Lomachenko, a supreme performer looking to prove a point after a relatively below-par showing in a unification match-up with Jose Pedraza.

While fists carrying out assaults at once blurring and completely calculated covered the first part of boxing's "hit and don't' get hit" mantra, Lomachenko's deft feet and masterful control of distance took care of the latter.

"I've not really seen anything like it," said Crolla, who was bloodied and stopped inside four rounds by a boxer whose baffling brilliance has earned the nicknames "Hi-Tech" and "The Matrix".

"Before the fight we had three or four sparring partners who all did a great job.

"When you're asking a sparring partner to come to camp, you're sort of second-guessing what your opponent's going to do.

"I think there's a good possibility Lomachenko is the hardest boxer on the planet to second-guess because he's so clever and unorthodox.

"He does a lot of things that fighters can't do and if they try to do the same thing as him, they'd come unstuck. He's very, very hard to read."

Like Crolla, Campbell will be the naturally bigger man against a fighter who began his professional career at featherweight – following a completely absurd amateur record of 396 wins and one twice-avenged defeat.

But a combination of balance, accuracy, punch variety and underrated power can quickly overturn anything considered a potential disadvantage for Lomachenko.

"He hit harder than I expected for a smaller guy coming up through the weights," Crolla explained. "Obviously the accuracy and the angles he hits you from counts for a lot of that.

"He's always very well balanced, so he's always there to deliver a shot and he hits the spaces very well.

"He'll vary the power up. He might touch you, then hit you with a hard shot. Touch, touch, hard shot. So it's hard to gauge that power.

"Obviously, he knocked me out but even before that I was a bit surprised about his power. I didn't expect it to be such an issue."

Speaking with his typical Mancunian modesty, Crolla feels Campbell – who lost narrowly to their mutual foe Jorge Linares in his only previous world-title bid – is better equipped to deal with Lomachenko than he was.

Unfortunately for his fellow Briton, Crolla does not expect this to make much difference to the outcome.

 "I had very little success, so I don't know how much my opinion counts," he chuckled.

"Stylistically, Lomachenko is probably a nightmare for me. He's a nightmare for anyone but Luke has probably got better tools for the job.

"I believe he'll look to box, keep it long, use that height and reach advantage.

"That's one of the very few advantages he has, but Lomachenko's feet are that good, how long before he takes that advantage away from Luke?"

The hunch is not too long, with Crolla expecting the end to arrive shortly after the midway point of a high-class contest.

"I see Luke having little bits of success for the first two or three rounds. They'll box off each other a little bit," he added.

"But I see Lomachenko getting the better of that exchange before he starts to put it on Luke. I think around six or seven rounds he catches up with him and body shots could come into play."

Three lightweight title belts are on the line on Saturday when Vasyl Lomachenko welcomes the challenge of Luke Campbell in London.

Lomachenko holds the WBA and WBO straps, while the vacant WBC championship is also up for grabs as Campbell looks to cause a huge upset.

Ahead of the highly anticipated clash, we take a look at the key numbers courtesy of Opta.

 

14 - Lomachenko is set to be involved in his 14th world title fight as a professional boxer in what is just his 15th bout in the paid ranks. His debut versus Jose Ramirez in October 2013 was the only time he has not competed for a world championship belt.

0 - Campbell has never won a professional world title. He fell just short at his only previous attempt, a split-decision defeat to Jorge Linares in September 2017.

2 - The fight against Linares was one of two defeats Campbell has suffered. He also lost to Yvan Mendy in December 2015 but exacted revenge in a 2018 rematch, winning comfortably on the cards at Wembley.

1 - Lomachenko has lost once in his career, to Orlando Salido for the WBO world featherweight championship in March 2014 - just his second fight. He was aiming to better Saensak Muangsurin, who set a record by winning a world title in his third professional bout.

9 - The Ukrainian has forced a stoppage in nine of his past 10 bouts. Only the unanimous decision win over Jose Pedraza went the distance in that time.

13 - In Lomachenko's professional career, he has fought in the United States on 13 occasions. This will be his second outside of America, the other taking place in Macau in 2014.

5ft 9in - Campbell is the tallest opponent Lomachenko has ever faced as a professional boxer.

3 - The two fighters have three Olympic gold medals between them. Lomachenko won the featherweight competition in 2008 and the lightweight event in 2012. Campbell triumphed at bantamweight at the London Games.

The 2019 FIBA World Cup gets under way in China on Saturday.

A total of 32 teams from four confederations will battle it out across eight host cities in the space of just over two weeks.

We take a look at five talking points ahead of what should be an enthralling competition.

 

A three-peat in the offing?

The United States have won the past two editions of the World Cup and are once again the favourites for glory. No country has ever won three straight titles.

However, Team USA are without a host of their leading NBA stars and are relying heavily on a young group.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma said: "A lot of guys back in 2010; KD [Kevin Durant], Russ [Westbrook], Kevin Love, all those guys were young. They made a name for themselves and really propelled themselves for future success in their careers."

The competition could prove beneficial to the Boston Celtics, with Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Brown getting some extra time on court with new arrival Kemba Walker.

Booming Boomers

Australia enjoyed a huge boost ahead of the World Cup by beating Team USA for the first time with a 98-94 triumph at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne.

The experienced quartet of Aron Baynes, Matthew Dellavedova, Joe Ingles and Patty Mills will be key to their hopes of a deep run.

Mills said: "We're locked in focused on trying to create history for basketball within Australia and that's what it's all about. So, we're not satisfied, we've just got to keep working hard."

However, the Boomers lost their final warm-up match against Germany 74-64 and saw Andrew Bogut limp off in the fourth quarter.

More Nurse magic?

After leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA Championship, Nick Nurse took the reins for Canada.

He got off to a winning start against Nigeria and went on to record victories over Australia and New Zealand.

But Canada also lost warm-up matches with Nigeria, Australia and Team USA, showing they have plenty of work to do if they are to pull off a shock in China.

A 'Greek Freak' Show

Greece's best performance came in 2006, when they finished second to Spain in Japan.

This time, though, they have a once-in-a-generation talent in NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who averaged 27.7 points, 12.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.3 assists during the 2018-19 regular season.

Antetokounmpo will be integral to Greece's hopes, though he sat out their final warm-up against Venezuela due to a knee problem.

If he is fit and firing, Antetokounmpo will undoubtedly make a mark on the competition.

Understrength Spain

It looks like it will be difficult for Spain to win the title for a second time.

Head coach Sergio Scariolo has selected an experienced team that is headlined by Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Llull.

They would undoubtedly have had a better chance had Serge Ibaka and Nikola Mirotic made themselves available, while Pau Gasol is absent due to injury.

Scariolo said: "The players that you have named [Nikola Mirotic and Serge Ibaka], at least one of the two would have been picked if they had made themselves available for selection.

"Another like Pau for example, he would have killed to be with us but unfortunately he is unavailable through injury."

Alexis Sanchez will attempt to put a forgettable start to his Manchester United career behind him after joining Inter on loan.

The Chile forward just never managed to find form and fitness after leaving Arsenal and has gone to Italy in a bid to revitalise his career.

It's safe to say United have not had a particularly good record when it comes to getting the best out of South American stars - although there have been a few exceptions.

Below, we rank the players from that continent to turn out for the Red Devils in competitive matches...

 

18. Rodrigo Possebon (2008-10)

Possebon squeaks onto this list as a Brazil-born player, even though he represented Italy at youth level.

Signed by United from Internacional in 2008, he mustered three league appearances before a fruitless loan to Braga and then a return to Brazil. He last played for Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

 

17. Radamel Falcao (2014-15)

Falcao, the man who tore through defences for fun with Porto, Atletico Madrid and Monaco, looked as though he had practically forgotten how to play football when he pulled on the red shirt at United, even if he did manage four goals in 26 Premier League appearances.

Just to rub it in, he returned to Monaco in 2016 and promptly became brilliant again.

16. Kleberson (2003-05)

A World Cup winner snapped up for approximately £6.5million - what could possibly go wrong? Pretty much everything, it turns out.

Kleberson played 20 league games between 2003 and 2005 before being shipped out to Besiktas.

 

15. Guillermo Varela (2013-17)

Becoming David Moyes' first signing was probably never going to work out for the best.

Varela spent four years at United, two of which saw him leave on loan, before he went to Penarol to get his career back up and running. He now plays for Copenhagen.

 

14. Fred (2018-)

Like Sanchez, Fred was said to be a man coveted by Manchester City only for United and Jose Mourinho to get in the way. Like Sanchez, the £47m midfielder has proved to be a redundant presence in the squad, apparently not valued by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Unlike Sanchez, it looks as though Fred will get longer to prove his worth to the manager.

13. Alexis Sanchez (2018-19)

He had some moments - the winner in the comeback against Newcastle United, the FA Cup strike against old club Arsenal - but they have not exactly justified the reported basic wage of £300,000 per week.

Sanchez will hope to rekindle his career alongside good friend Romelu Lukaku at Inter - another player who could not convince Solskjaer of his worth.

 

12. Anderson (2007-15)

A combative, hard-working presence in the United midfield, Anderson seemed to have a peculiar habit of kicking the ball as hard as possible regardless of whether he was shooting from 35 yards out or passing to a team-mate behind him.

He certainly got a huge medal haul – seven major trophies in eight years, no less – but his crowning achievement at Old Trafford was having a song to the tune of Black Lace's 1984 hit 'Agadoo'. And, yes, he was better than Kleberson.

 

11. Angel Di Maria (2014-15)

His audacious lob against Leicester City showed the sort of quality he could offer United as a then-British record signing (£60m, according to reports). Sadly, in that same game, United collapsed to lose 5-3 and Louis van Gaal seemed to lose all faith in attacking football of any kind.

Di Maria never seemed to gel with Van Gaal, nor did he ever settle in Manchester, and he was sold to Paris Saint-Germain for a loss within a year. He has, of course, been exceptional in France.

10. Juan Sebastian Veron (2001-03)

Veron is another expensive Argentina star who scored a memorable goal in a 5-3 game for United - on that occasion, it was when they came from 3-0 down to beat Tottenham at White Hart Lane.

Veron was a good example of the right player signed at the wrong time. United still had great quality in midfield in 2001, when Veron joined from Lazio; within a couple of years, that strength in depth had evaporated, and the world's most right-footed footballer would have been a welcome addition.

 

9. Fabio (2008-14)

Whether or not he really was the most talented of the Da Silva twins, as was claimed, Fabio was certainly not the most effective in his Old Trafford career.

Although a full-back by trade, Fabio made two rather decisive appearances in midfield for United. One was in a 2-0 FA Cup victory over Arsenal, when Alex Ferguson somehow pulled off a win with Fabio, Rafael, Darron Gibson and John O'Shea as the central four; the other was during a 3-2 home defeat to Blackburn Rovers on New Year's Eve in 2011, a match that convinced Paul Pogba he had no immediate future at the club.

 

8. Andreas Pereira (2011-)

A Brazil international born in Belgium, Pereira had a long wait to break into United's first team on a regular basis. Many supporters are still wondering when he will justify the patience.

The midfielder has talent, for sure, but whether he has enough to become a mainstay over the coming years remains to be seen. Solskjaer appears to be a big fan, so 2019-20 could be a crucial season for his development.

 

7. Diego Forlan (2002-04)

Forlan's best days were certainly after he left Old Trafford, when he would become a fine forward for Villarreal and Atletico Madrid. He retired this month to a general hum of respect and admiration.

United fans will always remember him for a winning double against Liverpool in 2002, but his talent was just a little too raw for him to establish himself in the north west.

6. Marcos Rojo (2014-)

Injuries, including serious knee damage, and a proclivity for a reckless challenge or two have dogged Rojo's past couple of seasons and may leave many wondering why he is so high in this list.

Well, it's easy to forget the important part he played in Mourinho's first season, when United won the EFL Cup and Europa League. Such was his determination to run through the proverbial brick wall for his boss, he asked for a banana to give him an energy boost while playing in the last-16 win over Rostov.

 

5. Rafael (2008-15)

A popular figure like his brother, Rafael simply offered more quality and consistency in the United team, his best season coming as first-choice right-back when they last won the league in 2012-13.

Van Gaal was not a big fan, so he was sold to Lyon in 2015, with whom he signed a new contract in May.

4. Gabriel Heinze (2004-07)

Although he was a touch heavy-handed with challenges at times - he really did like to lead with his elbows when jumping for headers - Heinze was an excellent player for United despite his second season being ruined by a major knee problem.

In fact, he would likely have stayed for longer had his place not been usurped by Patrice Evra, who was signed as cover following that injury.

 

3. Sergio Romero (2015-)

Okay, he has not played as often as others on this list, but Romero has essentially established himself as the most accomplished back-up goalkeeper in the world at United.

Hugely dependable when called upon, he was also first choice in the successful Europa League campaign of 2016-17 and kept a clean sheet in the final against Ajax.

 

2. Antonio Valencia (2009-19)

Some fans lost patience with him in his final few months, when he seemed to be phased out of the squad by Solskjaer with little explanation, but Valencia had a commendable career at United after joining from Wigan Athletic in 2009.

His decade at Old Trafford yielded two Premier Leagues, two EFL Cups, an FA Cup and a Europa League, as he marauded down the right flank as a wide midfielder and later as a first-rate converted full-back. He was the club's Players' Player of the Year twice, in 2011-12 (as a winger) and 2016-17 (as a defender).

1. Carlos Tevez (2007-09)

He's not exactly the most popular man in the red half of Manchester given his move to City in 2009, but even the angriest of Red Devils cannot deny Tevez's impact.

He spearheaded an attack containing Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo - one of the most fearsome United have ever had - and led Ferguson's side to two Premier Leagues, an EFL Cup, a Club World Cup and the Champions League in just two years.

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