Messi enters final countdown: Neymar, LeBron and other transfers that shocked the world

By Sports Desk December 30, 2020

Lionel Messi, one of the greatest football players of all time, stunned Barcelona by telling the club he wanted to leave only to be thwarted in his attempts in the last transfer window.

However, as he enters the final six months of his contract, it seems likely talks have already begun with interested parties as he considers where his future will lie in 2021.

The Argentina superstar has spent his entire career at the Catalan giants, but he now looks likely to start the 2021-22 campaign with a new club. 

Where Messi goes remains to be seen but any deal for the 33-year-old will rank as one of the most dramatic in the history of sport. 

Here, we look at a selection of other sporting deals that shocked the world. 

 

Neymar: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, 2017

The Brazilian had formed a potent attacking trio with Messi and Luis Suarez at Camp Nou but a move to PSG was inevitable when the French side met his world-record buyout clause of €222million. He has played an important role in their continued dominance of domestic football, but has so far been unable to guide them to Champions League glory. He was reduced to tears by his side's 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2020 final last term. 

LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers to Miami Heat, 2010

Basketball icon James announced that he would sign with the Miami Heat instead of returning to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a six-time All-Star, James added to the spectacle of the stunning move by announcing it on a special television broadcast called The Decision. He enjoyed four years in Miami, where he won a pair of NBA titles, before returning to the Cavaliers in 2014. 

Tom Brady: New England Patriots to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2020

Few people expected Brady to leave the Patriots after 20 years and six Super Bowl victories. Not only did one of the game's greatest ever quarterbacks leave, but he joined one of the least successful franchises in NFL history. Time will tell if his decision to sign with a highly promising Buccaneers team proves to be a masterstroke.  

Luis Figo: Barcelona to Real Madrid, 2000

Should Messi ever return to Camp Nou as an opposition player, it is unlikely he will be on the receiving end of the kind of abuse that greeted Figo. Barca fans threw bottles, lighters and even a pig's head at the Portuguese star when he went back to Camp Nou with Los Blancos in the seasons following his controversial move. 

Wayne Gretzky: Edmonton Oilers to Los Angeles Kings, 1988

In 1988, the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings agreed a deal that shook the NHL to its core. The trade left Canada in disbelief, with a member of the country's parliament even proposing the federal government block the trade or buy Gretzky's contract and sell it to another Canadian team. "The Great One" would go on to enjoy eight successful years in Los Angeles before spells with St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.

Related items

  • Hodgson to step down as Crystal Palace manager amid Lampard speculation Hodgson to step down as Crystal Palace manager amid Lampard speculation

    Crystal Palace have confirmed Roy Hodgson will step down as manager at the end of the season, amid rumours Frank Lampard is in talks to replace him.

    The 73-year-old is nearing the end of his fourth season with Palace and has kept them clear of the relegation places in each of those campaigns.

    Hodgson will step away from Premier League management after his last two matches against Arsenal and Liverpool.

    With Hodgson's contract due to expire, former Chelsea boss Lampard has long been linked with taking over as his replacement having been sacked by the Blues in January.

    "After more than 45 years of coaching I have decided that the time is right for me to step away from the rigours of top-flight Premier League football, so our final two matches will be my last ones as manager of Crystal Palace," Hodgson confirmed in a statement to the Palace website.

    "It's been a particularly rewarding period of my football life and career to have been able to spend these last four seasons with Palace. 

    "I feel now that at the end of another successful season, in which we have secured our Premier League status, the moment is right for me to step down from my responsibilities of being a full-time manager.

    "I have had so much support from my wife and family throughout my career and I have been contemplating this decision for some time, and now I believe the time is right to consider them and to see what the future holds for me.  

    "I have really enjoyed my time at Palace, I have been privileged to work with an outstanding group of professional and dedicated players, most of whom have been with me throughout the four years."

    Palace have finished 11th, 12th and 14th under Hodgson. This season they sit 13th after a dramatic 3-2 win over Aston Villa last time out.

    Chairman Steve Parish said: "It has been an absolute privilege and pleasure to work alongside Roy, who is both a magnificent human and an outstanding football manager. 

    "I know how much it has meant to Roy managing the club he supported as a child, adding to his distinguished and unparalleled career in football management. 

    "His record with us simply cannot be overstated, he is the only Palace manager to secure four years in the Premier League and he has helped give us stability in the most turbulent of times."

    Assistant manager Ray Lewington will also leave with Hodgson.

    Palace have a host of players out of contract at the end of the season too, so there will be significant changes throughout the club in 2021-22.

    They face Arsenal on Wednesday and Gunners boss Mikel Arteta paid tribute to the veteran Hodgson.

    Arteta said: "He's an absolute legend. What he's done in football, for English football, what he transmits as a person and the work he has done at different clubs is remarkable. 

    "To keep doing it for so long with the way he has always conducted himself, it's a great example as a young coach of someone I admire.

    "We can count them [managers like Hodgson] with one hand. What he has done, in this league in particular, is incredible."

  • Kane will cost a king's ransom! Redknapp warning to England captain's admirers Kane will cost a king's ransom! Redknapp warning to England captain's admirers

    Harry Kane will cost a premium for any club wanting to prise him away from Tottenham, according to former Spurs boss Harry Redknapp.

    England captain Kane is reportedly keen to end a career-long association with the north London club in order to pursue major honours.

    Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea have all been linked to the 27-year-old, along with Paris Saint-Germain and his ex-manager Mauricio Pochettino.

    However, Redknapp knows first half what a tough negotiator Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is and he expects his old boss to extract top dollar.

    "It will not be easy. You are dealing with Daniel Levy and he's not easy to deal with," Redknapp told talkSPORT.

    "He is not going to go, 'Okay, Harry, I understand, off you go mate, we will sell you for cheap'.

    "He is going to cost a king's ransom, believe you me."

    Redknapp expressed surprise at Kane apparently agitating for a move, given his exulted status at Spurs.

    "I thought he would stay," he said. "His life is fantastic, he is the leader of the club, his family is here.

    "But I suppose he has got to the stage now where he has won all the individual accolades and now wants to get some trophies on the board."

    As such, Redknapp feels the Tottenham faithful should be understanding towards their talisman, who he thinks would be a transformative singing if he ends up at Old Trafford.

    "If they are sensible, they [the fans] will look at and think he deserves the opportunity to go and win a few trophies," he said.

    "I would be surprised if he went to Chelsea. If the fans have any sense, they would understand his situation.

    "If you want a guarantee to win trophies you go to Man City or Liverpool, but he could turn Man United into title winners. He is that good.

    "With his goals and everything he brings, they would be very close. Whoever gets him, he will improve them massively. He will be a great signing for somebody."

    Redknapp added: "He is a great lad, a great professional and an absolute gent to work with. He would be amazing to have at your football club."

  • Jazz break through for maiden championship as Nets wait goes on – Stats Perform AI predicts NBA playoffs Jazz break through for maiden championship as Nets wait goes on – Stats Perform AI predicts NBA playoffs

    It is that time of year again – the NBA playoffs.

    Although this season has a different feel due to the new play-in tournament, it's crunch time as LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers eye back-to-back championships.

    The Utah Jazz claimed the best record in the league for the first time in their history, while Eastern Conference top seed the Philadelphia 76ers and the star-studded Brooklyn Nets loom large.

    With the play-in tournament due to get under way to determine the final eight teams from each conference set to feature in the playoffs, the Stats Perform AI team have been crunching the numbers to find a worthy winner of the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

    The Stats Perform model takes proprietary data and creates an offensive and defensive rating for each team.

    Those ratings are paired with the team's opponent and adjusted for each team's pace. In addition, the home team get a slight boost for home-court advantage.

    The model uses this information to calculate a projected score for both teams. The winners receive a victory in the race for the Larry O'Brien Trophy – this was done for every game in the playoffs.

    So, here are the AI-generated results in the event that the play-in winners are the Lakers, Golden State Warriors, Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards.

     

    Suns sizzle as Lakers crash out, Heat stun Bucks in sweep

    Much has been made about the Phoenix Suns this season. Led by All-Star Devin Booker and star veteran Chris Paul, the franchise returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2009-10. Second behind the Jazz in the Western Conference, the Suns ease past the Lakers 4-1. Winning the opening three games 120-93, 90-88 and 105-104, Phoenix never look back as they end the Lakers' quest to land consecutive championships for the first time since 2009-10.

    The Milwaukee Bucks loaded up heavily in the offseason, bringing in Jrue Holiday to aid two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in his quest for a title and the franchise's first since 1971. But after trips to the Eastern Conference Finals and semi-finals, the third-seeded Bucks are sensationally swept 4-0 by last season's runners-up the Miami Heat.

    Eastern Conference top seed for the first time since 2001, the Joel Embiid-led 76ers flex their muscles 4-2 against the Wizards but it is not easy. Dropping consecutive games to Bradley Beal, Russell Westbrook and Washington, Doc Rivers' Philadelphia rally past the Wizards 112-109, 91-99 and 110-104 to bounce back from last season's first-round sweep at the hands of the Celtics.

    Boasting a three-headed monster in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, the second-seeded Nets dig deep against the Celtics 4-3 in the east. With all eyes on the star-studded Nets big three following an injury-interrupted regular season, Brooklyn lose two of the opening three matchups but reel off back-to-back victories to set the tone before progressing beyond the first round for the first time since 2013-14 thanks to a 110-91 Game 7 triumph.

    Looking to put last season's playoff capitulation behind them, having sensationally surrendered a 3-1 lead at the hands of the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semi-finals, Kawhi Leonard's Los Angeles Clippers make light work of Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks 4-1. A 128-106 rout in Game 1 ignites the Clippers, while the third-seeded Nuggets – spearheaded by MVP favourite Nikola Jokic – are upstaged by the Portland Trail Blazers 4-3. Following in the footsteps of the Clippers, Denver cough up a commanding 3-0 lead as Damian Lillard's Trail Blazers complete a stunning comeback.

    The New York Knicks and their fans have been waiting since 2013 to play postseason basketball. Their playoff return does not disappoint as the fourth seed – spearheaded by All-Star Julius Randle – make the most of their home-court advantage against the Atlanta Hawks to come out 4-3 winners. Trae Young's Hawks race out to a 3-1 lead but the Knicks are not to be denied.

     

    Trail Blazers continue giant-slaying run, Clippers bow out to Jazz as 76ers roll on

    Ranked sixth heading into the playoffs, the Trail Blazers defy their seeding by producing another shock performance, this time outlasting the highly fancied Suns in seven games. Western Conference finalists in 2018-19, Portland humble Phoenix 129-96, 117-86 and 126-92 in Games 1, 3 and 4 to seize the momentum and while the Suns storm back to force a series decider, Lillard, CJ McCollum and the Trail Blazers step up to the plate.

    Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert experienced consecutive first-round exits in 2018-19 and 2019-20, but featuring in their first Conference semi-final since 2018, the Jazz prove too hot for the fourth-ranked Clippers and take a 4-2 series win. Utah, who beat Los Angeles in two of the three regular-season contests, win the opening three games of the second-round series and never look back as pressure mounts on Leonard, Paul George and the championship-chasing Clippers.

    The standout teams in the east, the 76ers and Nets barely raise a sweat en route to the Conference Finals. In pursuit of a first championship since 1983, the 76ers sweep the Knicks 4-0, while the Nets end Miami's hopes with their own devastating 4-0 success.

     

    Nets conquer 76ers, Jazz rally past Blazers

    A matchup many predicted when the 76ers appointed head coach Rivers and the Nets landed former MVP Harden in a blockbuster trade with the Houston Rockets in January. Philadelphia's cast of Embiid, fellow All-Star Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, sharp-shooter Seth Curry and Danny Green come up against Durant, Harden, Irving and Blake Griffin, and it is Brooklyn who prevail in a thriller. The Nets and 76ers split the opening six games before a deciding seventh game. With a championship berth on the line, Steve Nash's Nets edge the 76ers 112-109 as question marks again emerge over whether the Philadelphia franchise can succeed with both Embiid and Simmons.

    Not since 1997-98 had the Jazz secured a spot in the Finals, having enjoyed back-to-back appearances in the midst of Karl Malone's greatness, but Utah end that drought against Portland. The Jazz overturn 1-0 and 3-2 deficits to finally end the Trail Blazers' fairytale run as Portland fall agonisingly short of their first Finals appearance since 1992.

     

    Jazz make history

    The last five head coaches to win a title in their first year were Nick Nurse (Toronto Raptors, 2019), Tyronn Lue (Cleveland Cavaliers, 2016), Steve Kerr (Warriors, 2015), Pat Riley (Lakers, 1982) and Paul Westhead (Lakers, 1980). Rookie and two-time MVP Nash has been looking to join that list with a Nets side eyeing their maiden championship – having faced a long wait since joining the league in 1976-77.

    Despite a frightening array of talent, the Nets go down 4-1 in the Finals as the Jazz make history, headlined by a resounding 121-102 win in Game 5.

    After consecutive Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998, the Jazz finally break through for their first NBA title thanks to coach Quin Snyder, Mitchell, Gobert, Mike Conley and Co.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.