For the eighth year in a row Juventus are the champions of Serie A, but their latest triumph may be their most impressive yet.

The competition has been simply obliterated, with Juve beaten only twice in the league this season as Cristiano Ronaldo rested up at Genoa and SPAL.

Napoli, the closest of the other contenders, have been unable to match Juve's searing pace and, despite having six matches still to play, their title hopes are already over after a 2-1 comeback win over Fiorentina crowned Juve again.

Ronaldo's arrival from Real Madrid might not have delivered the intended results in the Champions League, but it appears to have inspired Juve to new heights domestically.

Eight straight Scudetti sets a new record in Europe's top-five leagues, outrstripping Lyon's seven consecutive Ligue 1 titles between 2001-02 and 2007-08, while no Serie A club has ever sealed the deal with more than Juve's five games remaining.

Omnisport takes a look at six of the fastest triumphs across the continent since the start of the 21st century, when league success has not necessarily coincided with European glory.

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bayern lead the way in the Bundesliga having claimed the 2013-14 title after just 27 matchdays. Pep Guardiola's first season in charge of the Bavarian giants was a roaring success, Bayern also claiming the DFB-Pokal, Club World Cup and UEFA Super Cup. Mario Mandzukic, now playing a key role for Juve, led the way with 18 Bundesliga goals and Bayern only lost twice in the top flight. A 5-0 aggregate thrashing by Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals marred their season, though.

Ligue 1: Paris Saint-Germain

There were still eight rounds of games to go when PSG won the Ligue 1 title in 2015-16 under Laurent Blanc. Indeed, they could have sealed the league even earlier having been unbeaten in their first 27 matches of the campaign before suffering a 2-1 loss away to Lyon at the end of February. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an amazing 50 goals in all competitions but there was European disappointment for PSG, too, after being edged out 3-2 on aggregate by Manchester City in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. 

 

Premier League: Manchester United, Manchester City

Two clubs have won the Premier League with five games still to play this century: Manchester United and their rivals Manchester City. United cruised to glory in the 2000-01 season under Alex Ferguson, losing only twice before the end of March, although they ended the campaign limply with three consecutive defeats. United reached the last eight of the Champions League but found Bayern too strong.

City smashed a series of records in crushing the competition last term, as they also won the league with five games remaining - denied the outright Premier League best mark when United won a dramatic Manchester derby 3-2. Guardiola's City racked up 100 points, finished 19 clear of United and boasted a stunning goal difference of +79. There was more European disappointment for Guardiola, though, with a 3-0 loss at Anfield setting up a 5-1 aggregate defeat to Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-finals.

 

LaLiga: Barcelona

Guardiola's former club Barcelona are on track to win the league again this term, having had four games remaining when they secured the title under Ernesto Valverde last season. They sealed the double by collecting the Copa del Rey, demolishing Sevilla 5-0 in a marvellous display that marked Andres Iniesta's farewell. But Barca were on the wrong end of one of the great Champions League comebacks, contriving to exit at the quarter-final stage to Roma by losing 3-0 at the Stadio Olimpico, having won the first leg 4-1 at home.

Serie A: Inter

Prior to Juve's success this term, Inter's 2006-07 triumph under Roberto Mancini was out in front as the quickest Scudetto secured, with the Nerazzurri having five games in hand. Inter did not lose until mid-April, going down 3-1 at home to Roma in their only league defeat of the season. They also reached the final of the Coppa Italia, again losing to Roma after a stunning 6-2 first-leg defeat. As is the case with all the other record-holders mentioned above, Inter underperformed in Europe, with Valencia knocking them out of the Champions League in the round of 16.

The Golden State Warriors start their NBA playoffs campaign looking to join an elite group of teams by winning their third successive title. 

One of LaLiga's fiercest city derbies takes place on Saturday, as Sevilla and Real Betis meet at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan in a game which could have a significant impact on an enthralling top-four race.

El Gran Derbi, as it is known in Andalusia's capital, rarely disappoints, as both clubs are renowned for their vociferous supporters and the electric atmospheres they create.

Even before their encounters begin, the streets surrounding the stadium overflow with people in a party atmosphere – incessant chants pound your eardrums, flare smoke obscures your vision and excitable fans make it nearly impossible to move.

On the pitch, proceedings are often fiery and engrossing, with only one derby in the last 10 years finishing goalless.

But few of their meetings have ever come amid a race for Champions League football, with the six-way scrap for the final spot in LaLiga's top four proving a gripping watch.

Getafe unlikely occupiers of the hot seat

In only four of their 11 previous seasons in the top flight have Getafe finished in the top half of the table, making their rise to fourth in LaLiga all the more remarkable for a side with one of the smallest budgets in the division.

Key to their success this season has been striker Jaime Mata, a free transfer from promoted Real Valladolid after scoring 35 times for them last term. His 13-goal haul this season earned him a shock Spain call-up last month.

Centre-back Djene Dakonam has been similarly vital and has established himself as one of the league's finest defenders, with his athleticism, reading of the game and technical ability making him a fine all-round player.

A run of one win in four games has seen their stranglehold on fourth slip a little, with Sevilla now just a point behind, but there is no doubt coach Jose Bordalas is doing a sterling job at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez and will likely be targeted by bigger clubs come the end of the season.

Do or die for Betis

No team in LaLiga flitters between the brilliant and the baffling quite like Quique Setien's Betis, as they are entirely capable of beating Barcelona in Camp Nou one week, before then losing to struggling Villarreal the next, as occurred in November.

Although entertaining to watch, Betis simply do not score often enough, with Sergio Canales and Giovani Lo Celso their joint-top scorers in LaLiga on just seven goals apiece.

They have slipped to ninth and seven points adrift of Getafe after just one win in their past four games, though victory over their bitter rivals on Saturday will surely restore belief and boost morale ahead of the run-in, particularly if Bordalas' men fail to beat Valladolid.

However, Betis have won just one LaLiga match at Sevilla since 2012 – a remarkable 5-3 victory last season during Vincenzo Montella's rather hapless period in charge at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan.

Sevilla picking up a head of steam, but Valencia lurk

Since Joaquin Caparros replaced Pablo Machin as Sevilla coach for a third spell at the helm, Los Rojiblancos have won four of five LaLiga games to put them right back on the heels of Getafe, whom they face next week.

That momentum has them on track again following a dismal run, which saw them go from pacesetters in December to losing at rock-bottom Huesca and dropping out of the top four last month.

Their solitary defeat since Caparros' return was to Valencia, who have enjoyed a remarkable rise up the table and are many people's favourites to eventually finish fourth, even after their defeat to Rayo Vallecano.

Losing to Deportivo Alaves at the start of 2019 left Valencia 12th, but their subsequent 12-match unbeaten run propelled them right into Champions League contention, four points behind Getafe in sixth.

Alaves, Athletic Bilbao still in the hunt

Completing the queue behind Getafe are Alaves and Athletic, both of whom have also had intriguing seasons.

Similarly to Getafe, Alaves are by no means one of LaLiga's traditional clubs, with this being only their ninth season in the top tier since the 1950s.

Yet they have been remarkably consistent this term, occupying a place between third and seventh – where they are ahead of Saturday's trip to Espanyol – ever since the fifth matchday of the campaign.

Whereas Athletic looked in real danger of suffering a first ever relegation as recently as February, but Gaizka Garitano has steadied the ship in expert fashion.

Level with Betis on 43 points and having suffered only one defeat in their last five, few will be surprised if Athletic are pushing Getafe, Sevilla and Valencia at the end of the season.

Dwyane Wade brought the curtain down on his time in the NBA on Wednesday, ending a glittering career that began in 2003 - when LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh all entered the league too.

Wade made a triple-double in his final game with the Miami Heat, who selected the guard with the fifth overall pick 16 years ago.

James went first overall that year to the Cleveland Cavaliers and after Darko Milicic landed with the Detroit Pistons, the Denver Nuggets took Anthony and the Toronto Raptors drafted Bosh before Wade came off the board.

With the help of Opta, we take a look at how James, Anthony, Bosh and Wade have fared since they entered the league.



LeBron James: 2003-present (Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers)

James has certainly lived up to the incredible hype that surrounded him in 2003, having won three titles and been named MVP on four occasions. 

He has the fourth-most points of all time (32,543), having recently moved above Michael Jordan on that list, and the 34-year-old is the only one of this quartet to have made over 10,000 field goals (11,838) and more than 50 per cent of his attempts (50.4 per cent).

However, he is the worst of the four from the free-throw line (73.6 per cent) and both Anthony (1,818) and Bosh (1,927) have more offensive rebounds than James' 1443, though the latter has 7,437 defensive boards - way more than the others.

 

Carmelo Anthony: 2003-present (Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets)

Currently without a team after a disastrous short spell with the Rockets at the start of this season, Anthony trails only James among the four in regular-season games played.

He has 10 All-Star appearances to his name and was the NBA scoring champion in 2013, but he is the only one of the quartet yet to win a championship ring.

Anthony leads the way when it comes to making attempts from beyond the arc (34.7 per cent), with Wade's three-point shooting percentage beneath 30 per cent (29.3).

However, the former Knicks star has the worst overall field-goal percentage of the quartet (44.9 per cent) and averages fewer assists, steals and blocks when compared to Wade, who finished his career averaging only two points fewer per game than Anthony.

Chris Bosh 2003-2017 (Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat)

Bosh was the first of the four to retire, the two-time NBA champion and 11-time All Star calling it a day in 2017, having won two rings alongside James and Wade in Miami.

Although he has not featured in the NBA since 2016, he has still managed more offensive rebounds (1,927) than any of the other three and has the most blocks (932).

While James (27.2), Anthony (24) and Wade (22) have all averaged more than 20 points per game and made over 1,000 appearances each, Bosh retired with a career points-per-game average of 19.2 and featured in just 893 regular-season matches.



Dwyane Wade 2003-2019 (Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers)

Among these four, only James (15) has appeared in more All-Star Games than Wade (13), and he was the first of the quartet to win a title too when he was named Finals MVP in Miami's 2006 success.

Wade averaged fewer minutes per game (33.9) than James (38.6), Anthony and Bosh (both 35.8), which perhaps explains why he trails his peers in a number of categories.

The other three have all made over 30 per cent of the three-point shots they have taken, yet Wade (29.3 per cent) failed to reach that figure. He also had the fewest rebounds (4,933), with James leading the way in that category (8,880).

A 2-0 win over Porto in the Champions League quarter-final first leg certainly has Liverpool in a decent position, though against better teams such a relaxed attitude has the potential to see their chances go up in flames.

Robert Lewandowski's 200th Bundesliga goal underlines the Bayern Munich striker's status as one of the modern era's most prolific scorers.

The Poland international reached the milestone with the first of his brace in Saturday's crushing 5-0 victory over former club Borussia Dortmund, a result that sent the champions hurtling back to the top of the table.

No overseas player has scored as many Bundesliga goals as Lewandowski, who is on track to win the league's top goalscorer prize for the fourth time.

To mark his 200th strike across spells for Bayern and Dortmund, Omnisport picks out five of Lewandowski's most memorable Bundesliga goals.

 

5. Hannover 0-3 Borussia Dortmund, March 22 2014

Although undoubtedly a complete striker, Lewandowski has arguably earned himself a reputation for instinctive finishes more than goals which have seen him do all the leg work, but this effort proves what he is capable of. After picking up possession on the left, he darted into box, squeezed between a pair of defenders and then rifled home to make it 2-0 to Dortmund.

4. Bayern Munich 6-0 Borussia Dortmund, March 31 2018

Since leaving Dortmund for Bayern in 2014, it is fair to say Lewandowski has made a habit of scoring against his former employers. Last season's crushing 6-0 win saw the Poland international lead the assault, scoring three times, and his first was brilliantly mischievous. With just five minutes played, Lewandowski peeled away from his marker to race on to Thomas Muller's throughball and he fooled Roman Burki with an excellent feint, before rifling into the roof of the net with the goalkeeper still reeling from the trickery.

3. Bayern Munich 6-0 Werder Bremen, August 26 2016

Lewandowski started the 2016-17 season with a bang, scoring a hat-trick in a demolition of Werder Bremen. The best of his three goals had an air of simplicity about it, but it left the visitors' defence bamboozled. The striker nipped in front of his marker at the last second to reach a low cross from the right at the near post, delicately meeting the delivery with a back-heeled effort which found the net.

2. Bayern Munich 3-0 Eintracht Frankfurt, April 11 2015

It is difficult to separate Lewandowski's two best goals, but this one was just edged out due to the nature and context of the other. After controlling the ball on his chest just outside the area, he subsequently flicked the ball over his head and a defender, before then unleashing an unstoppable drive into the top-left corner as it dropped down perfectly for him, showcasing his technical ability, control and power.

1. Bayern Munich 5-1 Wolfsburg, September 22 2015

A remarkable match remembered for an incredible scoring feat by Lewandowski, who scored all five of Bayern's goals in the space of nine minutes just after coming off the bench. The pick of the bunch, however, was undoubtedly his final strike, as he met a cross from the right with a stunning scissor-kick on the edge of the area. The ball cannoned off his right foot and into the top-left corner, leaving Pep Guardiola – his coach at the time – looking astonished.

It was only December when reports emerged the axe could be set to fall on AC Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso, with Arsene Wenger the man on everyone's lips.

Only two wins in seven matches that month, and Ivan Gazidis' arrival from Arsenal, increased pressure on Gattuso and prompted speculation over former Gunners manager Wenger.

Ex-Chelsea and Juventus head coach Antonio Conte was also linked with a return to Italy via Milan.

Since the New Year, however, Gattuso and his Milan have only lost once in 12 games in all competitions – including five successive Serie A victories heading into Sunday's derby against Inter.

Across the city divide, Luciano Spalletti's Inter have stuttered as they deal with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding former captain Mauro Icardi.

With Milan in form and on track to qualify for the Champions League, Rossoneri great Gattuso has fans dreaming again.

 

Difficult December

Already under pressure following Leonardo's return, the month of December only plunged Gattuso's position into further doubt. Back at the club as they continued to overhaul their senior hierarchy under new owners Elliott Management, sporting director Leonardo was forced to deny links with Conte in July. Five months later, the 49-year-old Brazilian then dismissed reports Gattuso could be replaced. Leonardo's backing came after a five-match winless streak, which included a run of four league games without a goal against Torino, Bologna, Fiorentina and Frosinone. At that stage, Inter were third and seven points clear of fourth-placed Lazio following victories over Napoli and Empoli to close out 2018.

Higuain out, Piatek in

Gonzalo Higuain's arrival from Juventus at the expense of Leonardo Bonucci after just one season was meant to signal a new era at San Siro, with the Argentina international seen as the man to follow in the footsteps of Andriy Shevchenko and others. Many believed Milan were the winners of that deal too after also signing promising defender Mattia Caldara. It did not go according to plan, however. Higuain – often a frustrated figure on the pitch – left for Chelsea and a Maurizio Sarri reunion having scored just eight goals in all competitions. Milan wasted little time replacing the former Napoli striker, turning to Genoa sensation Krzysztof Piatek in a €35million deal in January. With Brazilian star Lucas Paqueta's transfer triggering memories of Kaka, Milan enjoyed an upturn in form. After making his debut against Napoli, Piatek opened his account with a double against the same opposition in the Coppa Italia three days later. Milan only lost once in January – against Juve in the Supercoppa Italiana – as Gattuso celebrated his true number nine.

Atalanta comeback

Leaving the Italian capital with a point against Roma thanks to Piatek further highlighted Milan's resurgence, which the Poland international and Paqueta backed up at home to Cagliari. But, it was the win at Atalanta that really impressed. One of the most entertaining teams in the league under Gian Piero Gasperini, Atalanta were stunned by a red-hot Milan. With another Piatek brace, a settled front three and a midfield trio of Franck Kessie, Paqueta and Tiemoue Bakayoko – finally returning to his Monaco form – performing well, doubts over Gattuso quickly disappeared. As for the Nerazzurri, they went through a turbulent February. After playing as Inter snapped a three-match losing run against Parma, Icardi was stripped of the captaincy and replaced by Samir Handanovic. The 26-year-old has not featured in the eight matches since.

Milan leapfrog Inter

Repaying the faith shown and solidifying the rebuilding project under Elliott Management, Gattuso's Milan continued to fly high as they went from fourth to third, dislodging Inter for the final Champions League automatic qualifying spot. A fourth successive league win at home to Sassuolo, coupled with Inter's shock loss away to Cagliari, saw Milan take full advantage to leapfrog their bitter rivals in the standings. Absent from the Champions League since 2013-14, Milan cemented that position – only six points behind second-placed Napoli – with a gritty victory on the road against Chievo, where Piatek enhanced his status as a fan favourite.

They say never go back, but Zinedine Zidane has rarely been someone who pays too much attention to the advice of others. 

Zidane returned to his old role of Real Madrid coach on Monday, just nine months after walking away from the post following their third straight Champions League triumph. 

After a dreadful season that has seen brief and unsuccessful spells for Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari, Madrid will be delighted to have Zidane back at the helm. 

So, was he right to return? Here Omnisport's Liam Blackburn and Nicholas McGee debate that question. 

Why Zidane is wrong to go back

By Liam Blackburn

Perhaps Zidane's return could be comprehended if he had unfinished business at the Santiago Bernabeu. Yet after winning three Champions League titles in a row and the 2016-17 LaLiga crown, what is there left for him to achieve with Los Blancos? 

If Zidane wants to be considered an elite manager, he must prove himself away from Madrid, as Jose Mourinho did in multiple countries, and as Pep Guardiola has done since leaving Barcelona. There were murmurs he could be next in line at Juventus if Massimiliano Allegri moved on at the end of the season - the prospect of ending their long wait for Champions League glory would surely have been a more appealing challenge to Zidane. 

Yet instead he has opted for the 'comforts' of Madrid, for a job that seemingly left him jaded just under a year ago. Perhaps he has returned because he has been promised a greater say in transfer dealings – reportedly a bone of contention for Zidane in his first stint - but how much control is president Florentino Perez really willing to cede on that front? 

Sequels are rarely as good as the originals, and Zidane is returning to a Cristiano Ronaldo-less team desperately in need of a rebuild. He won the Champions League every single year he was in charge first time around, how can he possibly live up to those heights again?


Why Zidane is right to go back

By Nicholas McGee

Zidane's legacy at Madrid is already secured. With a hat-trick of Champions League titles under his belt, he will forever be seen as a club legend regardless of what happens in his second spell. 

However, what Zidane will have been disappointed by is how quickly a team that looked so formidable has suddenly crumbled without him. 

He had, by all accounts, warned the club that a tumble down to earth was likely if his demands over transfers were ignored. Madrid have paid the price for failing to heed his words this season, their squad looking unfit for the demands of trying to win on three fronts. 

Part of leaving a legacy is putting something in place that will last, that can carry on after you have gone. For Zidane to return, he will likely have received assurances that Madrid will strengthen. With those in place, and the emergence of Vinicius Junior, Sergio Reguilon and Marcos Llorente this season, Zidane should have much better resources to rebuild a team that can sustain success even after his second stint ends. 

Refreshed after a ninth-month break from the rigours of coaching at the highest level, that is a strong enough reason for Zidane to return to add to his legend by developing a unit that can enjoy long-term dominance in all competitions.

Santiago Solari's spell as head coach of Real Madrid lasted less than five months but his time in charge featured no shortage of highs and lows.

The club's board called time on his tenure after a run of four defeats in six games left Madrid sitting third in LaLiga, 12 points behind leaders Barcelona, out of the Copa del Rey and eliminated from the Champions League following a shock defeat to Ajax.

The Argentinian, who twice won LaLiga during his time as a player at the Santiago Bernabeu, left following a 4-1 win at Real Valladolid on Sunday.

But the victory was not enough to save Solari's job, and we look back at his tenure here.

 

October 29 – Lopetegui axed, Solari takes over on interim basis

Following the 5-1 embarrassment in the first Clasico of the season at Camp Nou, Madrid acted swiftly and decisively, ending Julen Lopetegui's short reign a day later and putting Solari in temporary charge. He left Gareth Bale and Isco out for his first match, a Copa del Rey meeting with Melilla. Little did they know that lack of involvement was to become a feature of his time in charge.

November 13 – Madrid appoint Solari until 2021

Having won each of his first four games across all competitions, Solari was hired on a full-time basis until 2021. There was a sense of Madrid having their hands forced, though, as league regulations prohibiting having an interim coach for more than two weeks meant they effectively had to stand him down or give him a permanent contract.

November 24 – A bad start

It did not take long for the cracks to reappear. Solari's first game as full-time head coach saw Madrid lose to Eibar for the first time, the Basque club running out 3-0 winners at Ipurua. Another bad result came a few weeks later in the Champions League, as they were beaten 3-0 at home by CSKA Moscow. Luckily for Madrid, however, they had already secured top spot and the last-16 draw gave them a seemingly straightforward tie with Ajax.

December 22 – Club World Cup champions … again

Solari can at least depart Madrid knowing he did win a trophy, regardless of how much importance is placed on the Club World Cup within Europe. A 4-1 win over Al Ain – who qualified as hosts – in the final saw them win the title for a third year in a row.

January 6 – Vinicius Junior gets his first LaLiga start

If there is any genuine legacy Solari leaves, it is that he was the first coach to really trust the prodigious Vinicius. The Brazilian had made a handful of substitute appearances in LaLiga, but he got his first top-flight start on January 6. Although the game ended in a 2-0 defeat to Real Sociedad, Vinicius was barely out of the side since until sustaining a torn ligament in his calf in March.

February 6 – Madrid show promise in Camp Nou

In the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final with Barcelona, Madrid looked as though they had learned their lessons from the October battering. They claimed a 1-1 draw in Catalonia and produced a gutsy display, filling them with hope ahead of the return game.

February 9 – Solari sinks Simeone

Without question, the finest result of Solari's spell in charge came in a 3-1 win away to Atletico Madrid in the derby. The result not only appeared to reignite an unlikely title challenge by moving Los Blancos up to second, it was also their first victory at the Wanda Metropolitano. The manner of the triumph was also impressive, as they outfought an Atletico team renowned for thriving in a scrap.

February 27 – The beginning of the end

Madrid's best chance of a trophy vanished with a 3-0 defeat at home to Barca in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg. Solari's men struggled to threaten the opposing goal, while Ernesto Valverde's men played it cool and ultimately picked them off.

March 2 – Barca's Clasico dominance continues

Three days on from halting Madrid's Copa hopes, Barca essentially ended their LaLiga chances as well. Ivan Rakitic's clever chip proved decisive as Solari's side again struggled to break Valverde's men down. It extended Madrid's winless run in Clasicos to six matches and left them 12 points adrift of the summit.

March 5 – Ajax hand out total humiliation

With a 2-1 lead from the first leg in Amsterdam, Madrid were confident of getting beyond Ajax regardless of their form going into the game. What they got was a demolition. Two early goals had Ajax in control and heading into the last eight, before the excellent Dusan Tadic made it 3-0. Marco Asensio pulled one back, but Lasse Schone wrapped up a 4-1 win. Madrid's European domination lay in ruins.

March 11 – Santia-GONE

The knives were sharpening for Solari when Anuar Tuhami put Valladolid 1-0 up after 29 minutes of Madrid's trip to the Jose Zorrilla but strikes from Raphael Varane and Luka Modric either side of a brace from Karim Benzema helped Madrid bounce back from the defeat to Ajax with a 4-1 victory.

It was not enough to keep the club's board from wielding the axe and sacking Solari the following day, with Zinedine Zidane announced as his replacement on a deal until 2022.

Will Mauro Icardi sign a new Inter contract or not?

That remains to be seen after star striker Icardi was stripped of the Inter captaincy.

Icardi's relationship with Inter and their fans has been far from rosy since arriving from Sampdoria in 2013.

With Icardi facing an uncertain future, Omnisport looks at the timeline of the events that have transpired in Milan.

 

October 7, 2016 - Icardi signs a new deal following interest from rivals Napoli.

October 16, 2016 - Curva Nord want Icardi stripped of the captaincy following comments made in his autobiography 'Sempre Avanti'. Icardi claimed that he became "a hero" to his team-mates after confronting an ultra leader following a 3-1 defeat to Sassuolo the season prior. Inter's most prominent ultras faction insist Icardi is "finished" at the club.

October 17, 2016 - Inter sanction Icardi but he retains the armband, much to the frustration of the Curva Nord - who denounce the Argentinian as their skipper.

October 21, 2016 - Paolo Fontanesi, author of the book, says the biography "will be reprinted" following the controversy.

January 16, 2017 - Wanda Nara claims Icardi has offers from China.

March 30, 2017 - Icardi says he "loves" playing for Inter and wants to "stay here forever".

December 16, 2017 - Nara refuses to dismiss the possibility of a move to LaLiga giants Real Madrid. "I do not know anything, I do not say yes or no. Mauro would stay at Inter all his life, but it depends on other things."

April 4, 2018 - Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio says there is no rush on Icardi's contract renewal.

May 13, 2018 - Icardi admits he could leave Inter but only if it is in the best interests of the club.

September 3, 2018 - Nara claims Juventus and Napoli were both interested in signing Icardi during the transfer window, revealing she met with the latter's president Aurelio De Laurentiis.

October 18, 2018 - Icardi says he is happy to stay at Inter. "We will try to find a renewal, but I don't know if it will arrive before Christmas."

December 18, 2018 - Nara says Inter and Icardi are still "very far" apart in contract negotiations amid links with Madrid.

January 9, 2019 - Nara reiterates that a renewal is a "long way off" after Ausilio suggests a new offer is on the table for Icardi, adding a number of European clubs are monitoring the forward.

January 21, 2019 - After Inter chief Giuseppe Marotta says Icardi will re-sign, Nara reveals a new contract is virtually a "100 per cent" certainty.

February 13, 2019 - Icardi is stripped of the captaincy and replaced by goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, before being left out of the Europa League squad to face Rapid Vienna.

February 17, 2019 - Icardi watches from the stands as Inter beat former club Sampdoria 2-1 in Serie A.

February 17, 2019 - Nara later claims Icardi has no intention to leave Inter after losing the armband.

El Clasico returns on Wednesday for the first of three meetings between Barcelona and Real Madrid inside the next month, evoking memories of their four showdowns in quick succession back in 2011.

Spain's two biggest clubs face each other in the Copa del Rey semi-finals, while they are also due to meet in LaLiga at the start of March, a game which could define their respective seasons.

It is not the first time the two great rivals have faced off so often in a short period, however, as 2011 saw them battle across LaLiga, the Copa del Rey and Champions League in the space of 18 days.

A contentious period, those games are arguably memorable as much for the off-field histrionics of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola as the actual football…

 

The (relative) calm before the storm

Opening the quadruple-header was a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu on April 16 which effectively secured Barca the 2010-11 league title. Although the second half entertained, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi both scoring from the spot and Raul Albiol getting himself sent off, there was a feeling the two teams were ensuring they did not deplete their fuel reserves ahead of the matches on the horizon. Barca remained eight points clear and on course for LaLiga, but much more was yet to come.

'He criticises the referee when he makes correct decisions' – Mourinho baits Guardiola

If Madrid were able to take one thing away from this historic four-match tussle, it was preventing Barca winning the treble – Ronaldo's extra-time goal sealing a 1-0 Copa del Rey final triumph on April 20, despite Angel Di Maria getting a late red card. A correctly disallowed Pedro goal resulted in some bizarre Guardiola criticism, surmising the assistant "must have great eyesight to spot that Pedro was two centimetres offside". The subsequent response was vintage Mourinho.

"Up until now there was a very small group of coaches who didn't talk about referees and a very large group, in which I am included, who criticise referees," he said. "Now, with Pep's comments, we have started a new era with a third group, in which there is only him, that criticises the referee when he makes correct decisions. This is completely new to me." And so, the bait was laid…

'Mourinho is the f****** chief, the f****** boss'

Mourinho has had an almost unrivalled knack of riling people throughout his career, whether that is journalists, fans, players or opposing coaches. Guardiola fell into the trap ahead of the Champions League semi-final first leg on April 27, responding to his rival's previous comments. "In this room [the Bernabeu's press room], Mourinho is the f****** chief, the f****** boss," Guardiola said.

"He knows all about this [mind games] and I don't want to compete with him in here. I'd just like to remind him that I worked with him for four years [at Barcelona]. He knows me and I know him. I try to learn from Jose on the pitch, but I prefer to learn as little as possible from him off the pitch."

Messi dazzles in 'scandal at the Bernabeu'

The first Champions League meeting was a fractious, ugly affair, as the two sides kicked lumps out of each other, harassed the officials and conspired to get each other sent off at almost every opportunity. Pepe was the one to pay the price, catching Dani Alves with a high foot and consequently shown a red card after most of the Barca team surrounded the referee.

Messi then stepped up, opening the scoring with a neat finish, before wrapping things up with a brilliant solo effort after dribbling past Lassana Diarra, Albiol and Sergio Ramos. Mourinho – who was sent off for his protestations after Pepe's dismissal – labelled it a "scandal at the Bernabeu", suggesting the officials were biased in Barca's favour.

Guardiola's 'most beautiful' night en route to Barca's double

Messi's efforts in the first leg gave Madrid too much to do at Camp Nou as Mourinho – serving a five-match ban for his "scandal" comments – had to give it a miss. A 1-1 draw saw Barca go through to the final, where they beat Manchester United 3-1 at Wembley, while they also held their nerve to win the league title.

"This has been one of the most beautiful nights I have ever lived," Guardiola said after the draw with Los Blancos, bringing a sorry saga to a less contentious end.

Romain Ntamack's selection has caught the eye ahead of France's opening Six Nations fixture, but the 19-year-old is only one of a host of young stars who could be given a chance to shine by Jacques Brunel over the coming weeks and months.

The youngest player in the championship and son of former Les Blues wing Emile, Ntamack will start at centre alongside the vastly experienced Wesley Fofana when France host Wales on Friday night.

Ntamack has been picked ahead of Mathieu Bastareaud, a move that suggests Brunel is eager to refresh a team that lost eight of its 11 Tests in 2018.

However, while Bastareaud has not even made the matchday 23 on this occasion, the other six members of the 30 and over brigade in France's squad will all start against Wales.

Fofana and skipper Guilhem Guirado are joined in the line-up by Louis Picamoles, Morgan Parra, Yoann Huget and Maxime Medard, with the latter duo both coming into the Six Nations on the back of strong form at club level.

For the time being at least, therefore, there will be plenty of familiar names in France's team, but that may not be the case for much longer.

With the exception of Stade Rochelle back Geoffrey Doumayrou, who is 29, all of Brunel's replacements for the Wales game are aged 25 or under, with 20-year-old prop Demba Bamba the youngest of them and the likes of Baptiste Serin (24), Gael Fickou (24) and Julien Marchand (23) also set to earn some game time on Friday.

In addition, there are several more youngsters in France's 31-man squad, all ready to be called upon should injuries or poor form bring about changes.

Uncapped full-back Thomas Ramos (23), halves Anthony Belleau and Antoine Dupont (both 22), and forwards Pierre Bourgarit (21), Fabien Sanconnie (23) and Yacouba Camara (24) represent youthful options outside of Brunel's initial 23-man selection for the Wales fixture.

And given France's string of poor results in recent times, few of the more established names can consider their places truly safe, particularly with hopes high for a new generation - including Ntamack - that secured glory at the Under-20 World Cup last June.

The Six Nations is understandably Brunel's primary focus at present as France look to improve on a fourth-placed finish in 2018, when they did at least run Grand Slam winners Ireland closer than anyone before being sunk by a last-gasp drop goal from Johnny Sexton.

Yet it would be no surprise if further members of the successful U20 team, not currently in France's senior squad, are pushing for caps by the time the Rugby World Cup comes around in September.

One name to watch is Jordan Joseph, who starred in that U20 World Cup campaign at the age of 17. The 2019 RWC might come just too soon for the Racing 92 number eight, who is considered one of the most talented teenagers in world rugby.

Regardless of whether Joseph breaks through in the near future, it is clear France have no shortage of options when it comes to young talent.

As Guirado, Picamoles, Huget and Medard gear up for what is likely to be their final tilt at a world title, it feels like the next crop of French stars are poised to emerge.

Novak Djokovic secured a record seventh Australian Open title with his thrashing of Rafael Nadal in Sunday's final.

The Serbian star moved on to 15 major crowns after dismantling Nadal 6-3 6-2 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena.

Almost half of Djokovic's grand slams have come in Melbourne, including his first in 2008.

We take a look back at all of his Australian Open successes.

2008 – A maiden grand slam title

Aged 20, this was Djokovic's fourth main-draw appearance in Melbourne and his previous best had been the fourth round the year prior.

But he produced a flying run to the final, beating Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets in the last 16 and top seed Roger Federer in the semis.

Djokovic, the third seed, was left with a surprise opponent in the final and he made the most of his chance, coming from a set down to beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

It was the first grand slam since the 2005 Australian Open not won by either Federer or Nadal.

2011 – The beginning of complete Melbourne dominance

Djokovic had to wait three years for his second title in Melbourne, but it started a wonderful run of dominance.

He was largely untouchable again on his way to the final, including wins over top-10 seeds Tomas Berdych and Federer.

Djokovic crushed Andy Murray 6-4 6-2 6-3 in the decider to win the first of an incredible three grand slams in 2011.

 

2012 – Coming through two epics

This would be a major best remembered for two matches – Djokovic's semi and final.

He took almost five hours to get past Murray in the last four in a match that seemed certain to ruin his chances in the decider.

Somehow, Djokovic came through that too, beating Nadal 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 in the longest Open Era grand slam final, which went for a gruelling five hours, 53 minutes.

2013 – Hat-trick complete

Djokovic extended his winning streak at the Australian Open to 21 matches with a third straight title.

He became the first man in the Open Era to win a hat-trick of titles in Melbourne.

Djokovic took five hours to get past Stan Wawrinka – the man who would break his run the following year – in the fourth round before again beating Murray in a final.

 

2015 – Another Wawrinka marathon, another Murray final

Fernando Verdasco and Milos Raonic were unable to stop Djokovic and, this time, Wawrinka failed too.

Djokovic beat the Swiss star in a five-set semi-final before a familiar face stood between him and another title.

Murray managed to split the first two sets, but Djokovic ran away with it from there 6-3 6-0 for a fifth crown.

2016 ­– Record equalled after Simon scare

It was the fourth round that proved to be the biggest scare in Djokovic's bid for a record-equalling sixth Australian Open title.

But he got through another gruelling five-setter, this time against French 14th seed Gilles Simon.

Kei Nishikori, Federer and Murray were unable to stop him from there as Djokovic joined Roy Emerson on six Australian Open crowns.
 

2019 – Record claimed in flawless fashion

For a six-time champion and the world number one, this seemed like a quiet run by Djokovic.

He dispatched of up-and-comers Denis Shapovalov and Daniil Medvedev, spent less than an hour on court with an exhausted Nishikori and was almost flawless against Lucas Pouille.

Only Nadal stood between him and a record seventh Australian Open title in a repeat of their epic 2012 final.

And Djokovic may have saved his best performance for the final, dismantling Nadal in just over two hours.

Novak Djokovic delivered the most emphatic reminder as to why he is the king of Melbourne with his stunning triumph over a stunned Rafael Nadal.

The Serbian alone can now lay claim to the crown at the Australian Open, winning a record seventh title by crushing long-time Nadal on Sunday. But even by his incredibly lofty standards, what Djokovic produced on Rod Laver Arena was special.

This was a display of the utmost precision at times verging on baseline bullying. A ruthless rout of a fellow all-time great who simply had no answer to the irresistible force on the other side of the net. This was the most startling example of what Djokovic can do on the Melbourne stage.

The 15-time grand slam champion – only Roger Federer (20) and Nadal (17) have claimed more – won 13 of the first 14 points and never looked back, romping to a 6-3 6-2 6-3 victory in just two hours, four minutes.

Djokovic went about his business relatively quietly on the way to the final, with Greek sensation and Federer conqueror Stefanos Tsitsipas taking most of the attention, alongside Nadal and his new serve. 

Remodelled and improved, Nadal's serve had not faced a test like this – and it did not hold up. The world's best returner was on the opposite side of the draw, and on Sunday the opposite side of the net. Nadal had almost nothing to offer in response, not via the serve or the forehand, as Djokovic hit lines and corners at will.

Nothing comes free from Djokovic and Nadal couldn't even get anything cheap. The Serbian lost just 13 points on serve. He committed just nine unforced errors.

Nadal was bidding to become the first man in the Open Era to win each of the majors twice. Now, he will have to defend his Roland Garros kingdom to stop Djokovic doing just that.

And the 'Nole Slam' is back on for a second time. Djokovic holds every major except the French Open. Only three men – Don Budge (1938), Rod Laver (1962 and 1969) and Djokovic (2015-16) have claimed the non-calendar year Grand Slam. None of his great rivals have managed what Djokovic is on the verge of doing twice.

A trip to the French Alps may have revitalised Djokovic last year, but he needs no invitation to rise to his best in Melbourne.

And on Sunday he took his crown, producing a performance befitting of a king.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will contest an eighth grand slam final on Sunday when they meet in the showpiece of the Australian Open.

The pair have 31 major titles between them and have served up numerous pulsating encounters over the course of their glittering careers.

It will be the second time the two have faced off in the final at Melbourne Park and, if this encounter lives up to that incredible match, the Rod Laver Arena crowd will be in for a treat.

Of the 52 meetings between Djokovic and Nadal, the Serbian has won 27 to the Spaniard's 25, and here we look at five of the best as they gear up to hopefully deliver another classic on the biggest stage.

2018 Wimbledon semi-final

The last Djokovic-Nadal offering was one fans were made to wait for, but the patience of supporters at the All England Club was rewarded.

A marathon semi-final between Kevin Anderson and John Isner meant Nadal and Djokovic did not take to the Centre Court until gone 20:00 local time, although the late start did not appear to hamper them as they played some electric tennis under the closed roof.

It was a stark contrast to the semi-final that had gone before; clean, crisp hitting with high-energy movement made for an enthralling affair, it was just a shame the 23:00 curfew forced them to stop after Djokovic edged a suitably brilliant third-set tie-break.

Nadal ensured Saturday's ticket-holders got more bang for their buck by forcing a decider with a successful challenge of a serve that was called out, having already staved off a trio of break points in a crucial game.

A stunning fifth set went in Djokovic's favour after Nadal, who had already saved a match point in game 16, slipped on a forehand and gave his opponent another three opportunities to win it.

Nadal went wide on the first one to bring the monumental meeting to an end and send the Serbian into his first major final since the 2016 US Open with a 6-4 3-6 7-6 (11-9) 3-6 10-8 triumph.

2015 French Open quarter-final

Roland Garros is Nadal's dominion.

He was already the most prolific at the French Open having won nine tiltes, but his wait for 'La Decima' would go on as Djokovic finally got the better of him in Paris - it only took seven attempts!

There was an aspect of vengeance for Djokovic, who lost the 2014 final to the King of Clay, when he handed Nadal just the second loss of his career at Roland Garros.

But such joys were shortlived as the Serbian failed to complete his career Grand Slam by losing to Stan Wawrinka in the showpiece on Court Philippe Chatrier.

Having almost been moved to tears by the reception he received from the crowd in the wake of his third French Open final loss, Djokovic said: "I respect the appreciation they showed me. It's something that definitely gives me even more motivation to come back and keep on trying."

He finally got his hands on the trophy the following year.

 

2013 French Open semi-final

Having missed the Australian Open amid seven months out with a serious knee injury, Nadal wasted little time in returning to his previous heights by booking his place in an eighth Roland Garros final – but he did not make it easy for himself.

The Spaniard missed a chance to serve out the match at 6-5 in the fourth set and soon found himself 4-2 down in the decider.

But Nadal, as Djokovic put it afterwards, showed "why he's been ruling Roland Garros for many years" by forging ahead and clinching a 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-7 (3-7) 9-7 triumph.

The final-set tussle lasted 87 minutes, but it was by no means their longest battle…

 

2012 Australian Open final

That honour belongs to this meeting at Melbourne Park, where Djokovic and Nadal, ranked first and second in the world respectively as they are now, played out the longest grand slam final in history – a record that still stands.

Nadal managed to force a decider after surrendering his one-set advantage and looked to be on course for an 11th major title when he took a 4-2 lead in the fifth.

But Djokovic showed the grit and drive that would see him dominate the ATP Tour for the next four and a half years, completing a 5-7 6-4 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 7-5 triumph in five hours and 53 minutes.

"Rafa, you're one of the best players ever. You're one of the most respected guys on the tour. We made history tonight," said the Serbian during the post-match presentation. "I hope we will have many more finals like this."

2009 Madrid Open semi-final

This was their fourth meeting in just over two months, and it proved to be an absolute stunner.

Nadal had beaten Djokovic in the Davis Cup and the finals of the Monte Carlo Masters and the Internazionali d'Italia as he diplayed why he is, without doubt, the King of Clay.

But the Serbian ran him close on home soil. Nadal saved three match points as he rallied from a set down to triumph 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (11-9) in a monstrous three-setter that took four hours and two minutes.

Reflecting on the encounter two years later, the Spaniard told the ATP: "It was a really emotional match. Seriously, I'm not very happy about how I played that match. I think I wasn't in the best moment of my career in that match, because I had the problems with the knees and personal problems. Thinking about that, it's even more important for me."

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