Conor McGregor says he has retired from the fight game but there is more than a sense of deja vu about the announcement.

The Irishman, who has a 22-4 MMA record, took to Twitter following UFC 250 to declare that he is stepping away from combat sports.

McGregor's comments have, understandably, been met with a degree of scepticism given this marks the third time in the space of four years the former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion has said he is calling it quits.

Below, we take a look at the context surrounding each of his retirement announcements.


April 2016: "I have decided to retire young. Thanks for the cheese."

It was over four years ago that McGregor, then aged 27, first hinted he was done with fighting when he tweeted: "I have decided to retire young. Thanks for the cheese."

On that occasion it took just two days for McGregor to clarify he had not actually retired but had fallen out with UFC bosses over promotional work.

"I am paid to fight. I am not yet paid to promote. I have become lost in the game of promotion and forgot about the art of fighting," he explained.

"There comes a time when you need to stop handing out flyers and get back to the damn shop."

McGregor was pulled from UFC 200 that year where he was slated for a rematch with Nick Diaz, with president Dana White saying:  "I respect Conor as a fighter and I like him as a person, but you can't decide not to show up to these things.

McGregor would eventually avenge his Diaz defeat at UFC 202.
 

March 2019: "I've decided to retire from the sport formally known as 'Mixed Martial Art.'"

After reneging on his first retirement, McGregor went on to become UFC's first dual-weight champion by defeating Eddie Alvarez to win the lightweight title.

A sign of his power to really transcend the fight game was his lucrative boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather in August 2017 but things became a little ugly when he returned to the Octagon to face Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018.

Bad blood in the build-up, which included McGregor attacking a bus carrying Khabib and other athletes, spilled over into fight night when, after Khabib scored a submission victory, the two camps were involved in an ugly post-bout fracas.

Five months later, McGregor said he was stepping away, writing on Twitter: "Hey guys quick announcement, I've decided to retire from the sport formally known as 'Mixed Martial Art' today.

"I wish all my old colleagues well going forward in competition. I now join my former partners on this venture, already in retirement. Proper Pina Coladas on me fellas!"

High-profile incidents away from the ring plagued McGregor and his decision came two weeks after he was charged for allegedly smashing and stealing a man's phone in Miami – charges that were later dropped dropped over inconsistencies in the victim's testimony.

In the meantime, McGregor launched his 'Proper Twelve' whiskey brand, leading White to say: "He's retiring from fighting, not from working. The whiskey will keep him busy and I'm sure he has other things he's working on."

But once again McGregor would reverse his decision…


June 2020: " Thank you all for the amazing memories! What a ride it's been!"

More issues away from MMA followed McGregor and in November last year he was fined €1,000 after pleading guilty to an assault of a man at a pub in Dublin.

But a refocused McGregor was booked to fight Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone, a contest he wrapped up emphatically in the first round in January, and he spoke of his desire to fight three times in 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected those plans, while the direction of a talent-heavy lightweight division remains unclear.

Yet, the timing of McGregor's latest retirement announcement is perhaps the most surprising yet.

After UFC 250, he wrote on Twitter: "Hey guys I've decided to retire from fighting.

"Thank you all for the amazing memories! What a ride it's been! Here is a picture of myself and my mother in Las Vegas post one of my World title wins!

"Pick the home of your dreams Mags I love you! Whatever you desire it's yours."

Responding to the latest proclamtion, White said: "We're in a pandemic, the world is a crazy place right now. 

"If these guys want to sit out and retire right now, or if anybody feels uncomfortable in any shape or form about what's going on, you don't have to fight – it's all good. 

"So if that's what's Conor's feeling right now, Jon Jones, Jorge Masvidal, I feel you."

The smart thing to do right now would be to watch this space…

Conor McGregor's retirement announcements are becoming so frequent they should be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt.

The big-talking Irishman has twice previously said he is calling it quits from the fight game, once in 2016 and also in March last year, which came five months after his UFC 229 loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018.

Such a decision now appears strange given McGregor returned to the Octagon in January with a devastating first-round defeat of Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone and expressed plans to fight three times this year.

The coronavirus pandemic has likely scuppered that scenario but McGregor – who made his declaration on Twitter following UFC 250 – has still been vocal in baiting his rivals.

Still, if we are to take the former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion at his word and this really is goodbye to an MMA legend, now is a good opportunity to look back at some of McGregor's most withering put downs of his opponents.

 

I RUN THIS WHOLE SHIP!

Ahead of his scrap with Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight belt at UFC 205 in November 2016, McGregor had some choice words for those who felt he received preferential treatment from president Dana White.

"I run this whole thing. I run New York. I run this whole ship. Without me none of this happens. I run this whole s***. Everyone in this game does what they're f****** told except for me and rightly f****** so. If I say you're on the prelims, you're on the f****** prelims. If I say main event, it's the f****** main event."

HIS WIFE AND KIDS WON'T RECOGNISE HIM!

Alvarez himself did not escape McGregor's ire, with the Irishman making some pretty gruesome promises.

"I'm going to toy with this man. I will rearrange his facial structure. His wife and kids won't recognise him again. His friends will know he's not the same after this contest. You're never, ever going to be the same. Your kids are going to beg, 'Daddy, please don't go again!'"

WHO THE F*** IS THAT GUY?!

When McGregor was asked prior to facing Alvarez who his biggest rival is, Jeremy Stephens called out: "Right here, the real hardest-hitting 145-pounder, right here." McGregor replied with a brutally simple six-word put-down.

"Who the f*** is that guy?!"

I'D LIKE TO APOLOGISE…TO ABSOLUTELY NOBODY!

McGregor kept his word to defeat Alvarez and become the first UFC fighter to hold belts in two divisions at the same time. His post-fight interview produced this absolute gem.

"I've ridiculed everyone on the roster, I just want to say from the bottom of my heart, I'd like to take this chance to apologise…to absolutely nobody!"

I CAN MAKE YOU RICH, I'LL CHANGE YOUR BUM LIFE!

Back in September 2015 at a 'Go Big' news conference, McGregor launched one of his most famous tirades. Replying to comments from Rafael dos Anjos, who was promoting a fight with Cerrone, he bragged about the attention he brings to UFC.

"I can make you rich. I'll change your bum life. You fight me, it's a celebration. When you sign to fight me, it's a celebration. You ring back home, you ring your wife, 'Baby, we've done it. We're rich baby. Conor McGregor made us rich. Break out the red panties.'”

YOU'RE STIFF AS A BOARD!

At the same media event, McGregor replied to Cerrone's assertion he could not cut it at 155lbs.

"You're too slow and you're too stiff. You're stiff as a board and I'd snap you in half, and that's it. I see stiffness when I look in the 155-pound division...slow, stiff, I feel like they're stuck in the mud almost. Yee-haw!"

I COULD BUY AND SELL YOU A HUNDRED TIMES OVER

The bad blood between McGregor and Nate Diaz drew some of the most heated comments from the Irishman.

"My socks are worth more than the suit you had on, you little bum. You're a broke b****. I could buy and sell you a hundred times over."

THE KING IS BACK!

After avenging his loss to Diaz by winning the rematch at UFC 202, McGregor had a simple message for his detractors.

"Surprise, surprise, motherf******! The king is back!”

I NEED TO FEED EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU IN THE GAME

McGregor was named Fighter of the Year for 2015. He was typically…let's say gracious...with his speech when accepting the award.

"I need to feed all you bums. I need to feed every single one of you in the game so I've got to keep working. Because you bums don't work."

KHABIB YOU ABSOLUTE EMBARRASSMENT!

Only last month, McGregor was calling out his lightweight rivals on social media with a brutal rant. Justin Gaethje, who sensationally defeated Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, and Khabib were his targets.

"Justin, there is no danger in a man that hugs legs, we all know. Try and dance around what the real threat is here all you want. I am going to f****** butcher you. Your teeth. I'm going to put them on a f****** necklace. Speak on my skills as a father? You are f****** dead."

"Khabib you absolute embarrassment. Scurrying, hiding rat as usual. As I have said many times. As has been seen many times."

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.

 

Fuerte Apache, Buenos Aires is an imposing sight. Like a skyrise jungle domineering over the run-down surroundings of small shops and bars, it holds a certain aura that is probably not helped by its reputation.

Ejercito de los Andes, to give its original name, received its more familiar moniker after a shootout in the estate was broadcast live on the news. The 1981 film 'Fort Apache, The Bronx' is where the nickname came from, and it stuck.

Carlos Tevez is the barrio's most famous son. The former Manchester United, Manchester City, Juventus and Argentina star's face is prominent in numerous places around the estate, with several murals dedicated to him.

While the biggest – and most iconic – piece in tribute to the forward can be seen on the north edge, facing away from the estate, there is another deep inside Fuerte Apache.

Here, fittingly, Tevez looks out over the football pitch of Roger 'Didi' Ruiz, the coach who discovered him, and where Argentina's next great hope crafted his skills.

First there was Tevez, now Fuerte Apache expects of Thiago Almada.

From Tevez's patch to Velez

As early as four years old, Almada – like Tevez before him – was playing with Club Santa Clara in Fuerte Apache. By five he was signed up by Velez Sarsfield, but he continued to represent his local side as well.

For Almada, a silky attacking midfielder, football has offered a legitimate route to a better life. Even though he accepts the area isn't quite as dangerous as it was in Tevez's time, trouble was still frequent in his youth.

"In the neighbourhood, there are a lot of people who chose the wrong path. It is one way or the other, and I also chose," he told Diario Clarin in 2017, when he was still a part of Velez's youth setup.

But he wouldn't be for much longer. A little over a year later, in August 2018, Almada made his first-team debut as a 17-year-old, appearing for 26 minutes in the 2018-19 Superliga opener against Newell's Old Boys.

He went on to play a total of 16 league matches that season under the tutelage of Gabriel Heinze, generally operating through the middle or off the left, but such prominence at a young age in Argentina does not go unnoticed by bigger European clubs, and it caused fractions.

Velez were understandably concerned about Almada being poached and, with his contract set to expire in June 2020, for a period it seemed realistic he could leave for pittance.

The situation led to speculation claiming Heinze had grown frustrated with Almada, though the coach furiously denied this in a news conference last year, saying: "Tell that journalist that he is a liar and he is absolutely wrong. There are two people here, it's me and it's Thiago. I tell him that they have a lying journalist and the information is a lie. My relationship with Thiago remains the same."

"All the goals were scored by him"

In September, Velez finally tied Almada down to a new four-year contract. As much as anything, it provided the Liniers club with greater financial security, increasing his release clause from a reported €14million to a figure that will reportedly reach €25m after August 31. Directors could breathe a sigh of relief.

Man City had been lurking. With reports of Almada's agent travelling to Europe for talks with other clubs, a feeling of deja vu would have been justifiable for Velez, who lost Benjamin Garre – a former youth-team colleague of Almada – to the Premier League giants for a nominal fee in 2016.

While Almada's rise has been impressive – he has played 22 times in the Superliga this term – it cannot be said that no one saw it coming.

Turu Flores, a former Velez player, spent five years on the coaching staff of the club's senior side, including a 12-month stint as head coach. In that time, watching the youth teams was a regular occurrence for him, and one kid always seemed to stand out.

"I've known Thiago since he was a child," Flores told Stats Perform News. "He is a friend of my son and already had an incredible impact when he was 14 years old. I remember him when he was 12, 13 or 14 years old. At that time I was working for Velez and I used to go and see him playing. He used to start as a central midfielder, but the matches would finish 3-0 or 4-0 and all the goals were scored by him. So, you could already envisage that he has the potential to make important things in football."

'Welcome to Manchester', part two?

A wonderful technician, it's easy to see why City might see Almada as a long-term replacement for David Silva, even if they already possess Phil Foden. But having missed out on him last year, there's reportedly growing interest from elsewhere – United, Inter and Atletico Madrid have all been mentioned as admirers.

It remains to be seen if Almada emulates Tevez and causes another tug-of-war between the Manchester giants, but whoever manages to prise him away from Velez will potentially get themselves a generational talent.

"He is very young and has a long journey ahead of him, a lot to learn, but he has incredible conditions," Flores adds. "He's got a great shot and amazing vision. His vision is not common anymore, you don't see it, or we haven't seen it for a long time. This kind of player comes from the playground, how he controls the ball, how he hits the ball. He is one of the last players that grew up in the street playgrounds."

That style of play is also reflected by his idolising of Juan Roman Riquelme, who invited him to a barbecue after seeing him play earlier this season. "He got my number, texted me and invited me. He is my idol – I could not believe it," Almada told Infobae in October.

Like Riquelme at Boca Juniors in the 1990s, Almada is already a significant influence at Velez despite being a teenager, even if only 10 of his league appearances this term have come as a starter.

With nine goals since making his debut, he is – remarkably – Velez's top-scorer, and only five players have featured more regularly than him.

In terms of chance creation, he's laid on 54 key passes since August 2018, the second most of Velez players, and his dribbling excellence is also quantifiable.

He has attempted 121 take-ons in senior football, completing 60 per cent – of Velez players, only Gaston Gimenez (67 per cent) has a better completion rate than Almada.

Explosive, technically outstanding and creative, there is much to like about his game. More dynamic than Riquelme and arguably a greater natural talent than Tevez, Almada's future looks exciting.

Tevez may have blazed a trail out of Fuerte Apache for Almada to follow, potentially even to Manchester, but there's every chance the teenager could one day be held in even higher regard than Carlitos.

June 7, 2009 was the date Roger Federer finally reigned at Roland Garros.

The Swiss completed his grand slam collection when beating Robin Soderling in the French Open final and, in doing so, equalled a record held by Pete Sampras.

This was also the date when 'The Last Dance' Chicago Bulls shut down the Utah Jazz in emphatic fashion in 1998.

Take a look at events that previously happened on this date through the years.

 

1996 - Chavez's century ends in defeat

Julio Cesar Chavez and Oscar De La Hoya were both multi-weight world champions during their careers and a fight between the two was highly anticipated in 1996.

De La Hoya, who owned a 21-0 record heading into the bout, was 10 years younger and facing an opponent who was fighting for the 100th time, Chavez having won 97 of the previous 99.

However, the light-welterweight contest was short-lived, falling way short of the hype as Chavez suffered a serious cut in the opening round and eventually succumbed to a barrage in the fourth, unable to continue after De La Hoya's left hook broke his nose.

Chavez would fight for another seven years, however, finishing with a 107-6-2 record, while De La Hoya retired in 2008 following losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao.

 

1998 - Jazz fail to hit the right notes as Bulls gain Finals advantage

The series was finely poised at 1-1 when the Bulls and Jazz tipped off in Game 3 of the 1998 NBA Finals.

What followed was the most dominant victory in Finals history as the Bulls won by 42 points, 96-54, as Utah scored what was at the time the lowest total in an NBA game since the inception of the shot clock.

Despite Karl Malone's 22 points, the Jazz went 13-of-59 from the floor as Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen and the rest of Chicago's defense delivered a performance that swung the series in their favour.

Chicago would go on to win the Finals 4-2, delivering a second three-peat to end a glorious run in the Windy City for Michael Jordan and Phil Jackson.

2009 - Finally for Federer

Having already triumphed at the other three slams, a French Open title had evaded Federer, thanks mainly due to the presence of Rafael Nadal.

However, in 2009 the Spaniard was suddenly out of the picture after a shock fourth-round loss to Soderling, who would go on to set up a final against Federer.

The showdown proved a mismatch; Federer eased to a 6-1 7-6 (7-1) 6-4 triumph in under two hours to win his 14th grand slam title.

In doing so he equalled Sampras' all-time record, with Federer eclipsing the American's haul with victory at Wimbledon later that year when he overcame Andy Roddick in an epic encounter.

Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller reached personal milestones as Bayern Munich broke Bundesliga records in a 4-2 defeat of Bayer Leverkusen.

This was the most difficult remaining game on paper this term for the league leaders, who went into the contest with a seven-point lead over Borussia Dortmund at the top of the table.

It proved as much in the first half when Lucas Alario's clever finish past Manuel Neuer secured a 1-0 lead for Leverkusen, who were without star man Kai Havertz due to injury.

The advantage was short-lived, though, as Hansi Flick's record-breaking side struck three times before the break through Kingsley Coman, Leon Goretzka and Serge Gnabry.

Coman's precise finish was Bayern's 62nd goal in just 20 Bundesliga matches under Flick, a number beyond that of any previous coach in the history of the competition.

Muller teed up Goretzka to make it 2-1 and reach 19 league assists for the season, which became 20 in the second half when he crossed for Lewandowski to head in the fourth.

Muller is the first player to reach that number of assists in Europe's top-five leagues since Kevin De Bruyne for Wolfsburg in 2014-15. One more for the Bayern's number 25 will see him move beyond De Bruyne's division record.

As for Lewandowski, his emphatic header brought up 30 league goals for 2019-20 and took him to a remarkable 44 in 39 games in all competitions. It is the most the Poland striker has ever scored in a single season.

Lewandowski's goal took Bayern's tally for this Bundesliga campaign to 90, a league record for a team after 30 matches, as they stretched their winning run to nine consecutive games.

Barcelona great Xavi bade farewell in style on this day five years ago as he claimed a fourth Champions League title.

Elsewhere on June 6, Brian Lara set the cricket record books alight in the midst of a phenomenal 1994 purple patch, while an icon of the tennis world has great memories of this day in 1999.

Here we look back on those and some other landmark sporting moments.

 

1994 - Lara racks up 501

West Indies batsman Lara apparently did not satisfy his unquenchable thirst for runs when scoring a Test record 375 against England in Antigua.

On English soil two months later, he scored 501 not out for Warwickshire against Durham, surpassing Hanif Mohammad's 499.

It could have been very different as Lara made an uncertain start – bowled off a no ball on 12 and then dropped by wicketkeeper Chris Scott.

The Durham gloveman's error proved unfathomably costly as Lara smashed 62 fours and 10 sixes to reach his still unsurpassed milestone from 427 deliveries. Starting with the 375, it was his seventh century in eight first-class innings.

 

1997 - Rose finally blooms

Considering his breakout performance as a teenager at the Open Championship came in 1998, Justin Rose had to bide his time when it came to waiting for first PGA Tour title.

However, he took the opportunity in style when his moment came at the 2010 Memorial Tournament.

Four strokes off the lead at the start of the final day, Rose shot an imperious 66 to finish on 18 under and win by three strokes from Rickie Fowler.

In 2013, the Englishman claimed his maiden major triumph at the U.S. Open.

 

1999 - Agassi completes career Grand Slam

Andre Agassi's designs on completing tennis' career Grand Slam appeared to be slipping through his fingers when he fell two sets behind to Ukraine's Andrei Medvedev in the final of the 1999 French Open.

But he stormed back to complete a 1-6 2-6 6-4 6-3 6-4 triumph, converting a fourth match point in the decider. It made Agassi the first man in 30 years to win all four grand slams.

"It's been a lot of years since I've had this opportunity and I never thought I would see this day," he said, having won Wimbledon in 1992, the 1994 US Open and the 1995 Australian Open.

That Roland Garros triumph sparked a late career surge from Agassi, who lost the Wimbledon final to Pete Sampras and won a second US Open later that year, preceding a trio of Australian crowns in 2000, 2001 and 2003.

 

2001 - Iverson steps over Lee

In 2001, Iverson produced one of the greatest moments in NBA Finals history.

With less than a minute of overtime remaining, Philadelphia 76ers star Iverson made a 16-foot jump shot that Tyronn Lue of the Los Angeles Lakers leant in to contest.

As the ball dropped through the hoop, Lue lost his footing and Iverson mockingly stepped over him in celebration – an iconic image that sits uneasily with its main protagonist.

“I don’t like it [people making fun of Lue] because I love him," Iverson told ESPN in 2016. "I don’t like people joking on him and all that, because that’s my man."

The Lakers collectively had the last laugh, storming back from their opening night reverse to take the series 4-1. Iverson top scored for the 76ers in each game and ended the Finals with 178 points – a record for a five-game series.

 

2015 - Barca complete 'MSN' treble

Luis Enrique's fabulous Barcelona side – inspired by the MSN forward line of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar – completed their 2014-15 treble with a 3-1 Champions League final win over Juventus in Berlin.

Ivan Rakitic gave the Catalan club an early lead but Alvaro Morata levelled for Juve 10 minutes after the interval.

Suarez restored the advantage midway through the second half before Neymar made sure of victory deep into stoppage time.

For Xavi, it amounted to the perfect farewell at his boyhood club, having also lifted the Champions League in 2006, 2009 and 2011.

The NBA may be coming back next month, but Vince Carter will likely not be returning to the court again.

Only the 22 teams with the best records will recommence the 2019-20 season in Florida, with the campaign now officially over for eight clubs, including Carter's Atlanta Hawks.

The 43-year-old became the first man to play an NBA game in four different decades earlier this year, but he had also confirmed this would be his final season before retirement.

Though 'Vinsanity' will not be afforded the farewell many of his peers received, we take a look at the eight-time All-Star's brilliant career using Stats Perform News numbers.

 

LONGEVITY

Carter entered the league in 1998 having been drafted fifth overall and he played in 50 games for the Toronto Raptors during a lockout-shortened campaign, during which he won Rookie of the Year.

Incredibly, the guard has barely missed any significant time over the past 22 years - only sitting out the final 22 games of the 2001-02 season and the start of the following term due to injury - and he started all 82 games for the New Jersey Nets in 2006-07.

In all, Carter has played 1,541 games - third-most of all time - a total only Robert Parish and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar can better, and he was only 20 appearances away from moving up to second on the list.

The honour of playing in the most NBA seasons does belong to Carter, though, as this campaign was his 22nd, one more than Parish, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Willis.

 

JOURNEYMAN

Unlike Dallas Mavericks icon Nowitzki - the NBA's ultimate one-team man - and Garnett, who represented only three clubs, Carter has called almost a third of the NBA home at one point or another.

After lengthy spells with the Raptors and Nets, Carter played for the Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings before arriving in Atlanta in 2018.

Of those to have played for eight NBA teams, Carter's 25,728 points are 6,314 more than anyone else, with Jamal Crawford next on that list ahead of Otis Thorpe and Willis.

Carter has played at least 50 games per season at each of those eight stops, another record he holds along with others such as Crawford and Matt Barnes.

 

POINTS

Naturally given such longevity, it is no surprise to see Carter flying high on all-time points lists too.

His 25,728 points are the 19th-most of all time, more than notable names such as Reggie Miller, Patrick Ewing and Charles Barkley.

Moreover, Carter is a top-five scorer for two different franchises - the Nets (where he has the third-most points ever) and the Raptors (where he has the fourth-most). Others to own that distinction include Chris Bosh (the Raptors and Miami Heat) and LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers and Heat).

Carter's accuracy from beyond the arc certainly helped his numbers, as he drained 2,290 three-pointers - sixth-most of all time - from 6,168 attempts - fifth-most of all time.

He may not get the rapturous send-off his career deserves, but Carter's impact on the NBA over the past two-and-a-bit decades has certainly been felt.

It is 15 years since Rafael Nadal lay sprawled on his beloved red clay with a look of disbelief on his face after winning his first French Open title.

The fresh-faced teenager had realised his dream just two days after turning 19, beating an unseeded Mariano Puerta 6–7 (6–8) 6–3 6–1 7–5 under grey Paris skies.

King Juan Carlos of Spain was among those fortune enough to see the Mallorca native win his first grand slam final on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Little did the beaming monarch know he had witnessed the start of a dynasty as he embraced his compatriot, wearing a green vest and long white shorts.

With long hair flowing like a rock star and the bulging biceps of a boxer, Nadal may not have resembled a future royal back in 2005, but his incredible exploits since have ensured he will forever be known as the 'King of Clay'.

Puerta told the media after that showdown a decade and a half ago: "When I went off the court, I knew I had lost against the best player in the world on clay. What could I do?"

That is a question so many have tried and failed to find an answer to.

With phenomenal athleticism, a powerful serve, blistering groundstrokes, deft lobs and drop shots, the domineering left-hander was too good for Argentine Puerta.

Nadal was not at his brilliant best, though, and there were some ominous words from his coach and uncle, Toni Nadal, after his maiden grand slam triumph.

"In every facet of the game he can be better," he said. "And, boy, if he works, and masters more of his game. Then and only then we can win several of these.

"He doesn't work just to win matches, but to be the best, to be number one."

Fifteen years on, Nadal this week celebrated his 34th birthday with a record 12 French Open titles to his name and 19 majors in total, one shy of Roger Federer's haul.

Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic are the only players to have beaten the legendary Spaniard in his 95 matches at Roland Garros.

You have to go back to 2015 since his last loss in his favourite major, at the hands of Djokovic, and the world number two has lifted the La Coupe des Mousquetaires in each of the last three years.

The coronavirus pandemic prevented Nadal from adding to his tally this month, but he may get the opportunity to continue one of the most astonishing sporting runs of dominance in September.

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and provided he stays fit, the irrepressible Nadal's love affair with Paris is far from over.

Chelsea are reportedly closing in on a major transfer coup by securing RB Leipzig star Timo Werner.

The Germany forward has long been touted as a target for Liverpool, but the Blues appear to have stolen a march on their Premier League counterparts.

But what sort of a player will Chelsea be getting?

Here, we take a look at the numbers that make Werner one of the most highly regarded players in European football.

MEASURING UP TO THE PREMIER LEAGUE ELITE

At 24, Werner is poised to enter his prime years and appears to be improving at a rate of knots.

Last season, he scored 16 goals in 30 Bundesliga appearances, under-performing his Expected Goals (xG) figure of 17.6, according to Opta data.

This term, he has raced to 25 in 29 outings – a prolific return that is 5.5 in excess of his 19.5 xG.

The early return of the Bundesliga has given Werner chance to burnish his tally, with four goals in as many outings since the restart, including a hat-trick in the 5-0 demolition of Mainz.

But even in terms of goals-per-game, none of the leading Premier League marksmen are able to match the RB Leipzig star's average of 0.9 this season. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Jamie Vardy and Sergio Aguero are all on 0.7.

Vardy and Aubameyang do boast better shot conversion rates – 32 and 26 per cent respectively, compared to Werner's 23 per cent, while Leicester City's former England striker also shades him 66 per cent to 65 in terms of accuracy.

Nevertheless, Werner compares incredibly well to his soon-to-be counterparts in England and his upgrade on Tammy Abraham's 0.5 goals per game for Chelsea could be a particularly significant one for Frank Lampard.

PUSHING LEWANDOWSKI IN THE BUNDESLIGA

Bayern Munich have also been noted as admirers of Werner and there would appear to be no more suitable heir to their prolific number nine Robert Lewandowski.

Since Werner's Bundesliga debut for Leipzig in August 2016, only Lewandowski (110) has scored more goals in Germany's top flight than his 75. Hoffenheim's Andrej Kramaric comes in third on 52

Indeed, across Europe's top five leagues this term, Werner's 31 goals in all competitions is better than everyone's return aside from the Poland superstar's 43.

No player's goals in the 2019-20 Bundesliga have been worth more points to their side than the 15 Werner's have bagged for Leipzig, while the trademark style of some of those strikes has certainly caught the eye.

GIVING RB LEIPZIG WINGS

Werner's pace in all attacking situations and speed on the break has become something of a calling card.

No player in Europe's top five leagues has scored more than his five from fast breaks in 2019-20. Vardy, PSG star Kylian Mbappe and Parma's Gervinho are on four.

In terms of goals following a carry – defined by Opta as a player travelling five metres or more with the ball – Werner also edges Mbappe out at the top of the standings 8-7. Lewandowski and Inter's Romelu Lukaku have six apiece.

Along with Leipzig team-mate Christopher Nkunku, Borussia Dortmund's Thorgan Hazard, Lazio's Luis Alberto and Riyad Mahrez at Manchester City, Werner has six assists following a carry, with that quintet only bettered by Dortmund winger – and another widely rumoured Premier League target – Jadon Sancho (eight).

Werner's overall goal involvements following a carry come to 14, putting Sancho into second place on the continent with 12. Mahrez and Mbappe are in esteemed company on nine with Lionel Messi and Sadio Mane – a man who can perhaps now breathe a little easier over his starting place at Anfield.

Additionally, Werner has got into the best shooting positions from take-ons in the top five leagues, amassing an xG of 3.1 in those situations. Vardy is the next best on 2.6.

Amanda Nunes and Cody Garbrandt will rock up at UFC 250 this weekend aiming to make statements for vastly contrasting reasons.

For Nunes, her bout with Felicia Spencer at UFC's APEX facility in Las Vegas marks the first defence of the featherweight belt she took from Cris Cyborg in sensational fashion a year and a half ago.

Garbrandt, meanwhile, returns to the Octagon after a 15-month hiatus with the former bantamweight champion on a three-fight losing streak.

Here, we take a look at three talking points ahead of Saturday's fight action.


NUNES FACES 'FEENOM' THREAT

The fearsome Nunes needed just 51 seconds to wrest the featherweight strap from Cyborg in December 2018 to become UFC's third simultaneous two-weight champion. It was a devastating performance but not out of sync with her dominance in UFC, which now sees her on a 10-fight winning streak including a 48-second win over Ronda Rousey and triumphs over Miesha Tate, Valentina Shevchenko and Holly Holm. Since defeating Cyborg, Nunes has defended her bantamweight strap against Holm and Germaine de Randamie while she waited for Germaine de Randamie the 145-pound scene to take shape.

For former Invicta FC featherweight champion Spencer – who put on a game showing in a losing effort in Cyborg's final UFC fight – Nunes represents the greatest challenge of her career. The submission specialist is likely to try and take this one to the ground to avoid the striking ability of Nunes – this one could get feisty.


GARBRANDT AT CAREER CROSSROADS

In December 2016, the bantamweight world was at Garbrandt's feet as he shocked the legendary Dominick Cruz to become champion at 135lbs. But a couple of devastating knockout defeats to fierce rival T.J. Dillashaw were followed by a first-round loss to Pedro Munhoz in March last year. With champion Henry Cejudo announcing his UFC retirement after defeating Cruz at UFC 249 last the month, the bantamweight division is wide open and Garbrandt has a huge opportunity to get his career back on track.

However, 'No Love' comes up against the fifth-ranked Raphael Assuncao – a man also out to recover from damaging defeats to Marlon Moraes and Cory Sandhagen. Victory could propel either towards a future title fight. Defeat… well best for both men not to contemplate what that could mean for their UFC futures.


STERLING-SANDHAGEN TO STAKE BANTAMWEIGHT CLAIMS

In a night that will go a long way to shaping the future of the bantamweight division, the highly rated Aljamain Sterling goes up against Sandhagen to lay their respective claims for a title fight. Sterling, ranked second in the division, is an upcoming star who has won four straight bouts. His 'Funk Master' moniker is a fair reflection of his flair-fight style but in Sandhagen he goes up against a fighter who is also riding the crest of a wave.

The American has won each of his five fights in UFC and only has one defeat overall on his MMA resume. This one has serious 'Fight of the Night' potential and is sure to have ramifications for the outcome of the title.

Week by week, game by game fans across the world are getting used to the spectacle of top-level sport taking place behind closed doors.

Germany's Bundesliga lead the way last month, with the Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A all due to follow suit as European football emerges from its coronavirus hiatus.

Goals will fly in to no applause, much like the tries being run in before empty stands in the NRL. Formula One engines will soon make a howling echo as they pass deserted grandstands.

But what of boxing and it's close-quarters intense combat in the COVID-19 age? Dramatic twists with no fan on the edge or any other part of a seat, knockout blows followed only by the thud of body on canvas and without roars and screams.

So what does a former world heavyweight title challenger think about the prospect of trading leather in an uber-sanitised environment?

"Sweet, sweet, sweet! Because the fans can make your blood pressure go up for no reason," US heavyweight veteran Kevin Johnson told Stats Perform from his base in Gelsenkirchen, the German city where he is undergoing final preparations for taking on Mariusz Wach in his native Poland next Friday.

Top Rank will bring boxing back to Las Vegas earlier in the week, with WBO super-featherweight champion Shakur Stevenson and his fellow 126lbs star Jessie Magdaleno featuring in respective main events.

In the UK, intrigue remains over Eddie Hearn's plans to stage events in the sprawling gardens of his Matchroom HQ, but Wach v Johnson has been slated for some time – confirmed in April as a pay-per-view event. It will set fans back 20 Polish zloty, or a shade under $5.

Palac w Konarach, a hotel in a plush setting that suggests its three-star rating might be selling it a little short, will host the card. It lies remotely in the rural Swietokrzyskie Voivodeship, 100 kilometres north east of Krakow and 230 south of the capital Warsaw.

"We were in negotiations late last year and then there was the corona thing, so we were postponing," Johnson explained.

"Now it's come about. It's going to be under a strategic, surgical eye as far as the methods and precautions that we're going to take in this pandemic.

"It's going to be very different to any show that's been done because of the extremes we have to go to and into for our safety."

Those precautions will include quarantined areas for both fighters at the hotel and on fight night, with tests for everyone allowed into the event – from the referee and judges, to both fighters' teams and camera operators.

Johnson knows that in the current climate, any fans at all being involved was a complete non-starter, especially given a boxing ring walk does not grant the distance from supporters afforded by grandstands in other sports.

"I always worry [about my health] when it comes to a fight," said the former Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua foe. "I'm not worried about the fighter because we test all year round. We are some of the healthiest and cleanest athletes to come into contact with each other.

"I'm more worried about fans who would want to take pictures and grab on you. You're sweaty, your pores are open, you're more susceptible for anything to happen at that moment.

"Now I don’t have to come into contact with anyone but Mariusz and his team over in Poland are taking wonderful, cautious and precise methods to make sure we can perform and come into contact with each other without any of us having anything.

"There will be extra testing to make sure we are 100 per cent and [between then and the fight] we will be isolated to our areas."

Johnson suffered his first career defeat in his 24th outing, challenging the great Vitali Klitschko for the WBC title in 2009. That unanimous points loss in Berne, Switzerland was the first time he had boxed outside of the United States.

The 40-year-old will step between the ropes for the 52nd time against Wach and has only fought on home soil in two of his previous 24 bouts – the last of those coming when he took Andy Ruiz 10 rounds, 11 months before the Mexican underdog stunned Joshua in New York.

This status as a well-travelled road warrior means Johnson knows the challenges of boxing with the crowd against you all too well – a factor he is relishing being taken out of the equation on June 12.

"A guy can throw punches at you and you block them, but the fans didn't see it and they think it landed," he said. "The fans either put some weight on you or they help you with their energy.

"So [Wach] has got to operate clearly off what he knows has landed. It's just me and him and the judges."

Wach's shot at the top honours came in 2012 when he took Wladimir Klitschko the distance.

Although he and Johnson's days among the elite are long gone, the bout between these seasoned campaigners carries a weight it would not have done in normal circumstances. For weeks now, they have been united in a common purpose of solitary togetherness.

"We want the world to know that fights can still happen," Johnson added.

"People don't understand the s*** you have to go through in these times just to train. It's so far-fetched, so far gone.

"This is a time right now where we're both putting our life on the line and it shows the tremendous heart and warrior spirit of two great fighters."

Rafael Nadal has celebrated plenty of times on Court Philippe Chatrier, but the jubilation he felt on June 5, 2005 is likely to live with him forever.

It was on this day 15 years ago when 'The King of Clay' won the first of his, to date, record 12 French Open titles.

Novak Djokovic and Francesca Schiavone were also crowned champions on June 5 in years gone by, while Michael Jordan produced one of the shots of his career in the 1991 NBA Finals.

Here we take a look at the most memorable sports events to have occurred on June 5.

 

1991 - Mid-Air Jordan switches hands for stunning lay-up

At this point 29 years ago Jordan was still the nearly man; a two-time MVP who had yet to win a championship ring.

The Chicago Bulls had lost Game 1 of the 1991 NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers too, but they would level the series at home with a convincing 107-86 victory in Game 2 as Jordan scored 33 points.

But his display that night is best remembered for a single shot in the third quarter. Jordan drove towards the basket ready for a right-handed dunk, only to switch the ball into his left hand in mid-air upon seeing Sam Perkins and somehow flip a shot up off the glass and through the net to astound those in Chicago Stadium.

The Bulls would go on to win the series 4-1, beginning a dynasty that would see them dominate the NBA for most of the next decade.

 

2005 - Nadal begins French Open dominance

At this point 15 years ago Nadal was still a promising teenager hoping to win his first grand slam.

However, he was considered the favourite in the final against Mariano Puerta, having won three clay-court tournaments in the build up to the French Open and, despite dropping the first set, he would emerge victorious 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 6-1 7-5.

Nadal has won all but three French Opens since, though on June 5, 2016, it was Djokovic lifting the trophy as he beat Andy Murray in four sets to complete a career grand slam.

 

2009 - England stunned in World Twenty20 opener

Eleven years ago England suffered one of their most humiliating losses in any format.

In the opening game of the second World Twenty20 tournament, the hosts were expected to encounter few difficulties against the Netherlands at Lord's.

With England, who failed to hit a single six, having made 162-5 first up after being restricted to 73 in the second half of their innings, it came down to the chasing side needing two off the final ball to clinch a famous victory.

And they got them in farcical fashion as Stuart Broad's overthrow allowed Edgar Schiferli to scamper through for a second, sealing an incredible four-wicket win for the Netherlands.

 

2010 - Schiavone makes grand slam history

Tennis fans had become accustomed to the sight of Nadal winning grand slams by 2010 when Schiavone became the first Italian woman to reach a major singles final.

The 17th seed was up against Australia's Sam Stosur – who had beaten Justine Henin and Serena Williams along the way – and it was Schiavone who came out on top 6-4 7-6 (7-2).

Schiavone not only became the first Italian woman to win a grand slam singles title, but she was also the second-lowest ranked woman to win at Roland Garros in the Open era.

A trip to Orlando, Florida is overwhelmingly a more popular travel destination than Milwaukee, Wisconsin for most American families.

NBA teams share that sentiment.

The NBA has approved its return-to-play plan, which will send 22 teams to the Walt Disney Resort near Orlando. All the games and practices will take place at the Disney complex after the NBA's Board of Governors approved proposals for a restart from the coronavirus-enforced break.

The teams invited to Florida are the 16 that held playoff spots when the season was halted on March 11, plus the six teams within six games of eighth place in both the Eastern and Western Conferences.

While having all the games at one location terminates travel and should cut down on some fatigue, it will provide a new challenge – likely playing games in empty gyms without the noise of the crowd.

A lack of crowd noise may be the biggest obstacle for the players, challenging their mettle. They will have to take part in crucial games and within these games, face critical possessions without getting any adrenaline rush from either the roar of the fans they would experience at their home arena or the chorus of boos from a hostile crowd when they are on the road.

For the teams, they are now pretty much all on equal footing. Those that had been dominating for the right to earn home-court advantage for the playoffs no longer have such an advantage.

When the season went on pause nearly three months ago, the Milwaukee Bucks owned the NBA's best record at 53-12. The Bucks are obviously an excellent team, boasting the league's highest-scoring offense behind reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, but some of their success stems from their ability to easily dispatch of foes when they visited Milwaukee.

The Bucks have only lost two of their 30 games at Fiserv Forum since the calendar flipped to November. And both of those defeats came at the hands of West clubs – the Dallas Mavericks on December 16 and Denver Nuggets on January 31. They have gone 18-1 in Milwaukee against the East this season with the lone blemish coming in overtime to the Miami Heat in their home opener on October 26.

By continuing to defend home court against East teams, the Bucks appeared to have a relatively clear path to reach the NBA Finals, but now their opponents will no longer be making that dreaded trip to Milwaukee. 

Miami, meanwhile, is a hotter destination than Milwaukee – both literally and figuratively – and the Heat climbed to the top of the Southeast Division behind the strength of a 27-5 record in Miami – the third-best home record in the NBA.

The Heat, however, no longer will have the luxury of welcoming visitors to South Beach and its nightlife, instead playing the rest of their games in the more family-friendly environment provided by Mickey Mouse.

Only one team has compiled a better home record than the Bucks and Heat this season, and that has been perhaps one of the most perplexing teams of all time.

The Philadelphia 76ers have gone 29-2 at home, but if the playoffs started today they would not be hosting a first-round series. Thanks to an inability to win on the road where they have gone 10-24, the Sixers are in sixth place in the East. 

Philly has a .935 winning percentage at home and a .294 winning percentage on the road. That decrease of .641 in winning percentage from home to road is the largest difference since the NBA expanded to 14 teams in 1968-69. 

Seeing as there has been no rational explanation as to how a team can play so well at home and so poorly on the road, it is anyone's guess how the Sixers will fare in Orlando.

While teams will be missing out on having games at their own arenas and players will no longer have the creature comforts that come with home games, a handful of teams that are heading to Orlando had slightly better records on the road than at home before the season paused.

Playing these games on neutral courts, likely without fans, in Orlando does not exactly correlate to playing road games in intense visiting arenas in front of raucous playoff crowds, but the Dallas Mavericks (plus-.077 winning percentage from road to home games), Los Angeles Lakers (plus-.071), New Orleans Pelicans (plus-.063), Phoenix Suns (plus-.062) and Oklahoma City Thunder (plus-.039) all have higher winning percentages on the road than at home.

Of those five teams, only the Mavericks, Lakers and Thunder posted winning records both on the road and at home. 

When the season went on pause, the only teams with road winning percentages over .700 were perhaps the three favourites to win the title – the Lakers (.813 road winning percentage), the Bucks (.735) and defending champions the Toronto Raptors (.719). 

No big surprise, but the ability to win on the road and perform under pressure in adverse conditions bodes well for a team's championship aspirations. 

While these will not be road games, they will certainly be adverse conditions. Likely the most obscure these players have ever experienced.

As first impressions go, Shane Warne's in Ashes cricket was about as eye-catching as you could possibly get.  

It was June 4, 1993 and the second day of the series opener between England and Australia at Old Trafford. Having taken five wickets for 45 runs in the morning session to dismiss their rivals for 289, the home side's reply was progressing steadily enough at 80-1. 

However, Warne's introduction into the attack produced one of cricket's most memorable moments and changed the dynamic of the rivalry for over the next decade.

Mike Gatting will certainly never forget it, as the leg-spinner unfurled a delivery that flummoxed the England batsman.

'The Ball of the Century', as it became known, was poetry in slow (bowling) motion. The initial drift appeared to make it look innocuous enough as it veered to pitch outside the line of the right-handed Gatting's leg stump, only to dip, rip and zip beyond his defensive prod, beating the outside edge of the bat before going on to hit off stump. 

It was a stunning opening statement. As if he had cast a spell that day, Warne would go on to dominate against England for the rest of his career. 

Gatting will famously be remembered as the first but plenty more would be mesmerised by Warne, who ended his international career with 708 Test wickets at 25.41. Only Muttiah Muralitharan (800), Sri Lanka's own spin king, has ever managed more. 

The variations - the wrong'uns, flippers, sliders and shooters, or whatever other name Warne came up with for the latest addition to his bowling repertoire - all helped add to his aura. So many batsmen were often done in the mind before he had even released the ball from his right hand.

England suffered more than any other nation. Warne claimed 195 wickets against Australia's greatest rivals – the most by any opposing bowler - at an average of 23.3. 

More than half of that tally came on English soil too (129 at 21.9 in 22 matches), with his numbers against them in Australia impacted by missing the majority of the 1998-99 series due to a right shoulder injury, as well as a further two Tests in 2002-03. In terms of wickets abroad, South Africa sit second on his hit list, Warne picking up 61 there in 12 Tests. 

The young, bright-blond bowler in 1993 went on to finish with 34 scalps during the six-match Ashes, though a strike-rate of a wicket every 77.6 balls was comfortably the highest for any of his four series on English soil.

He picked up four in each innings in Manchester – albeit none with such dramatic effect as the delivery that did for Gatting – then repeated the trick at Lord's in the next Test. While the returns dipped for the remainder of the trip, including just one wicket at Headingley, Australia eased to a 4-1 triumph to retain the urn. 

From that away success towards the end of Allan Border's reign through the captaincy eras of Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, the Australians would maintain their grip on the most famous prize in cricket until 2005, when Michael Vaughan's side worked out that attack was the best form of defence. 

The competitive nature of that series – after a lop-sided opener at Lord’s that the tourists won, every other fixture provided sporting drama of the highest quality – seemingly inspired Warne to reach a personal Ashes peak.  

No cause was lost when he had the ball that summer, as demonstrated when so nearly rescuing situations in eventual defeats at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, when his side's batting failures left them playing catch-up. In the end, though, his 40 wickets at 19.9 were not enough to spare Australia from slipping to a 2-1 defeat.  

Still, he became just the eighth bowler to take 40 wickets in a series – and the first since 1989 – while striking on average every 37.9 balls. England had managed to win the war despite coming out second best in their battles with Warne. 

His hugely successful English summer helped towards an overall haul of 96 wickets in 2005, comfortably the best return during a Test career that saw him take 70 or more in a calendar year on four occasions.

The last act was to help regain the urn at home in 2006-07, Andrew Flintoff becoming Warne's 195th Ashes scalp when stumped by Adam Gilchrist in Sydney.  The bowler who made the fading art of leg spin fashionable once again had bamboozled England for the final time.

Shane Warne made an indelible mark on the Ashes on this day in 1993.

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