San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich joined the chorus of prominent voices in sport to speak up after nationwide protests against police brutality and racial injustice erupted following the death of George Floyd.  

Popovich, in his 24th year coaching the Spurs, pointed to a lack of leadership as a reason for an apparent decline in race relations in the United States.

"The thing that strikes me is that we all see this police violence and racism and we've seen it all before but nothing changes," Popovich told The Nation.

"That's why these protests have been so explosive. But without leadership and an understanding of what the problem is, there will never be change.  

"And white Americans have avoided reckoning with this problem forever because it's been our privilege to be able to avoid it. That also has to change."

The five-time NBA champion coach, who has previously been critical of President Donald Trump, blasted the White House's response to the protests.  

"It's unbelievable. If Trump had a brain, even if it was 99 per cent cynical, he would come out and say something to unify people. But he doesn't care about bringing people together. Even now," Popovich said.

"That's how deranged he is. It's all about him. It's all about what benefits him personally. It's never about the greater good. And that's all he's ever been."

"It's so clear what needs to be done. We need a president to come out and say simply that 'Black Lives Matter.' Just say those three words. But he won't and he can't. He can’t because it's more important to him to mollify the small group of followers who validate his insanity. 

"He's not just divisive. He's a destroyer. To be in his presence makes you die. He will eat you alive for his own purposes. I'm appalled that we have a leader who can't say 'Black Lives Matter.' That's why he hides in the White House basement. He is a coward. He creates a situation and runs away like a grade-schooler."

Popovich also criticised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and called him "the person who really runs the country". 

While Popovich's disdain for the Trump administration has been well known, his statements to The Nation are his strongest to date.  

"It's more than just Trump. The system has to change," he said. "I'll do whatever I can do to help because that's what leaders do. But he can't do anything to put us on a positive path because he's not a leader."

After four NBA championships, an MVP award, two scoring titles, 15 selections to the All-Star Game and All-NBA First Team honours on eight occasions, Shaquille O'Neal called time on his illustrious career on June 1, 2011.

Nine years on and the Hall of Famer remains one of the most dominant centers the league has ever seen.

After being drafted first overall in 1992 by the Orlando Magic, O'Neal was named Rookie of the Year and went on to provide the focal point of a team that reached the NBA Finals in 1995.

The Magic failed to go one better the following year and lost him to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he teamed up with Kobe Bryant and three-peated under Phil Jackson.

He was traded to the Miami Heat and won one more NBA championship there, before stints at the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and, finally, the Boston Celtics.

O'Neal had his jersey numbers retired by the Heat and the Lakers, while the latter also erected a statue of him outside of Staples Center.

Using Stats Perform data, we look at some of the most notable aspects of O'Neal's career.

 

Controlling the paint

From his first year in the league until 2004-05, O'Neal averaged at least 20 points and 10 rebounds per game in each of those seasons. That is 13 straight and is more than anyone else in NBA history. Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon each accumulated 12 in succession.

During that run, there were 10 consecutive seasons (from 1993-94 until 2002-03) in which O'Neal averaged at least 25 points and 10 rebounds per game. Abdul Jabbar's run of nine from 1969-70 until 1977-78 is the next best.

He is one of just four players in NBA history to score more than 25,000 points and block over 2,500 shots.

A man for the big occasions

While he shared the spotlight with Bryant at the Lakers, O'Neal showed how important he was to the team when needed.

He was named the NBA Finals MVP in 2000, 2001 and 2002. The only other player to win the award in three straight years is Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan.

O'Neal also holds the record for the most offensive rebounds in postseason history, with his 866 comfortably outstripping second-placed Tim Duncan's 778.

 

Struggles from the stripe

While he may have had the beating of most opponents in the paint, O'Neal found life much harder from the free-throw line.

He was often subjected to intentional fouls, with opposing coaches looking to manage the game clock and limit his team's scoring by sending him to the stripe. The strategy was dubbed the Hack-a-Shaq.

O'Neal missed 5,317 free throws across his entire career, the second-most all time in the NBA; only Chamberlain (5,805) missed more.

Of players to have made at least 1,200 free throws in the NBA, O'Neal has the fourth-worst percentage (52.7). Chamberlain is third with a 51.1 per cent success rate, with DeAndre Jordan (47.4) second only to Andre Drummond (46.1 per cent).

O'Neal also holds the single-game record for the most free-throw attempts without making one, failing to hit any of his 11 against the Seattle SuperSonics in December 2000. He still finished the game with 26 points.

Roger Federer and Anthony Joshua have become accustomed to winning in their respective sports, but both suffered notable defeats on June 1 through the years.

Federer saw his hopes of a second successive title at the French Open dashed in 2010, while nine years later Joshua lost his heavyweight titles - and his perfect record - to Andy Ruiz.

The date has better memories for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League, plus it is also memorable for marking the end of Shaquille O'Neal's stellar NBA career.

Take a look back at some of the great sporting moments to happen on this day.

 

2008 – Royals overcome Kings to be crowned

The inaugural IPL season concluded with a last-ball thriller. 

Rajasthan Royals, who were the top seeds at the end of the round-robin stage, just about overcame Chennai Super Kings in Mumbai, Sohail Tanvir the unlikely hero with the bat as he hit the single they required from the final delivery of the match.

Captain Shane Warne was also out in the middle for the winning run but Yusuf Pathan was the star performer for the Royals in the final, following up figures of 3-22 with the ball by making 56 in their successful chase. 

2010 – Federer's slam streak comes to an end

For a second successive year, Robin Soderling caused a huge upset at Roland Garros. 

The Swede had sensationally knocked out Rafael Nadal in the fourth round in 2009, though he went on to lose in the final to Federer. However, 12 months on, he gained revenge in the French capital, ending the champion's reign with a 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4 win in their last-eight meeting.

With the loss, Federer saw his impressive run of reaching 23 consecutive grand slam semi-finals come to an end. 

2011 – Shaq stops: NBA legend announces retirement

After a 19-year career that saw him score 28,596 points, O'Neal decided the time was right to retire. The man nicknamed 'The Big Diesel' had come to the end of the road.

Drafted by the Orlando Magic with the first overall pick in 1992, the center won three successive titles after moving to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he teamed up with Kobe Bryant.

O'Neal - voted the league's MVP in 2000 - won a further championship after switching to the Miami Heat. There were also stints with the Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the latter stages before a final stop in Boston with the Celtics.

2019 – Replacement Ruiz stuns AJ in New York

Ruiz was not even originally due to be in the opposite corner to Joshua in Madison Square Garden.

The challenger was called in as a replacement when Jarrell Miller was removed from the headline act - and he seized the unexpected opportunity by producing a stunning result that sent shockwaves through the boxing world.

Joshua had won 22 straight as a pro and came into the bout as the IBF, WBA and WBO champion. However, he was dropped and stopped by Ruiz, who climbed off the canvas in the third round to sensationally turn the fight around. 

Michael Jordan has issued a strong statement on the recent death of American George Floyd while in police custody, condemning the actions of Minneapolis police while calling for more change and accountability regarding racial injustice. 

"I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry," the Basketball Hall of Famer and principal owner of the Charlotte Hornets said in a statement released by the Hornets on Sunday.

"I see and feel everyone's pain, outrage and frustration. I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country. We have had enough." 

Floyd, who was black, died on Monday after becoming unresponsive while pinned to the ground by white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin during an arrest.

The incident was recorded by several onlookers and triggered a wave of protests, some violent, in Minneapolis and other cities across the United States.

"I don't have the answers, but our collective voices show strength and the inability to be divided by others," Jordan continued. "We must listen to each other, show compassion and empathy and never turn our backs on senseless brutality. We need to continue peaceful expressions against injustice and demand accountability. 

"Our unified voice needs to put pressure on our leaders to change our laws, or else we need to use our vote to create systemic change. Every one of us needs to be part of the solution, and we must work together to ensure justice for all. 

"My heart goes out to the family of George Floyd and to the countless officers whose lives have been brutally and senselessly taken through acts of racism and injustice." 

In contrast to other NBA legends such as LeBron James and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jordan has largely avoided commenting on political and social matters throughout both his playing and post-playing career and has at times drawn criticism for his reluctance to speak on such issues. 

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said he drove 15 hours from Boston to his home state of Georgia to lead a peaceful protest on Saturday in response to the death of George Floyd.

Brown, who streamed part of the march live via his Instagram account, marched with a megaphone while holding a sign that said, "I Can't Breathe", a reference to Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who pleaded he could not breathe while a Minnesota police officer knelt on his neck.

Floyd's death on Monday has sparked protests against police brutality in cities across the United States.

"I drove 15 hours to get to Georgia, my community," Brown said in an Instagram video.

"Being a celebrity, being an NBA player doesn't exclude me from no conversation at all. First and foremost, I'm a black man and I'm a member of this community. … We're raising awareness for some of the injustices that we've been seeing. It's not OK."

Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns, team-mate Josh Okogie and former NBA player Stephen Jackson, a long-time friend of Floyd’s, took part in a demonstration on Friday in Minneapolis.

Roger Federer has eclipsed Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to top the annual Forbes list of the highest paid athletes on the planet.

The Swiss maestro jumped four spots to sit top of the pile, earning $106.3million in the past year as he becomes the first tennis player to lead the way.

That eye-watering figure puts the 20-time grand slam winner ahead of football stars Ronaldo ($105m), Messi ($104m) and Neymar ($95.5m).

NBA icon LeBron James rounds out the top five, raking in $88.2m in a period when some sportspeople took wage cuts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Endorsements account for most of Federer's income, but he also undertook a tour of North and South America late last year to further boost his earnings.

"The coronavirus pandemic triggered salary cuts for soccer stars Messi and Ronaldo, clearing the way for a tennis player to rank as the world's highest-paid athlete for the first time," said Kurt Badenhausen, senior editor at Forbes.

"Roger Federer is the perfect pitchman for companies, resulting in an unparalleled endorsement portfolio of blue-chip brands worth $100million a year for the tennis great."

Federer's rise to the summit comes after fellow tennis player Naomi Osaka was announced as the highest paid female athlete, her $37.4m putting the Japanese 29th overall.

Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker said the state's five professional sports teams can re-open their practice facilities on June 6 as the Boston Celtics prepare to return on Monday.

The coronavirus pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe, especially in the United States, where the NBA, MLS and NHL seasons have been postponed since March.

The start of the 2020 MLB campaign has also been delayed due to COVID-19, which has killed over 104,500 people in the USA.

But the Celtics, Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins, New England Patriots and New England Revolution will be able to resume practicing next month, in compliance with the health and safety rules set in place by their respective leagues.

"The leagues are obviously working hard to host games again and I think we all hope opening practices will make that happen a little sooner," Baker said on Friday.

"For all of us, live sports and especially pro sports would be a great thing to see again. It's not only a significant milestone for fans, but also a signal that we continue to do all the things we need to do."

NBA franchise the Celtics, meanwhile, will allow voluntary individual workouts at the Auerbach Center on Monday.

The NBA has been on hiatus since March, but the league is reportedly planning to restart the 2019-20 campaign on July 31.

"We're happy that our players will now have the option to work out individually in a safe environment at the Auerbach Center, and we hope it signals a step back towards playing basketball again," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said.

The Celtics (43-21) were third in the Eastern Conference, behind NBA leaders the Milwaukee Bucks and defending champions the Toronto Raptors at the time of the postponement.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the league office has informed the board of governors it is planning to restart the 2019-20 season on July 31, according to The Athletic.  

The league revealed its plans during Friday's board of governors meeting, with four scenarios being discussed on how to complete a season suspended on March 11 by the coronavirus pandemic.

One possibility would have the NBA cancel the remainder of the regular season with the top 16 teams in the standings heading straight to the playoffs, while another would have all 30 teams reach 72 games before conducting a full postseason.

The NBA is also considering restarts with either 20 or 22 teams involved, with the final few playoff spots to be determined by either a play-in tournament or by group-stage play similar to the World Cup format. 

The majority of league general managers are in favour of having the season move directly into the playoffs, according to survey results ESPN claims to have seen. Sixteen of the 30 GMs polled preferred that option, with only one backing a regular season with all 30 teams before holding the playoffs. 

Sixteen GMs also supported keeping the traditional playoff format, with 14 championing an option to re-seed the 16 qualifiers regardless of conference.  

Should the NBA decide on some type of 'playoff-plus' model, a play-in tournament to determine the number seven and eight seeds in each conference was the most popular option, followed by a play-in for solely the final spot of both conferences.

Half of the GMs preferred 20 teams participating in any kind of expanded playoffs, with seven voting for 24 teams, five for 18 and three for 22.  

The survey also indicated a willingness for greater roster flexibility among teams once play resumes, whether by increasing numbers or providing more options to replace injured or sick players.  

GMs were also asked their preference for when the season should end, with 25 of the 30 responses favouring a completion on or before October 1. 

The NBA is expected to use the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex near Orlando, Florida for all games as well as training camps once it determines how many teams will participate in the season's resumption. 

It is 52 years since Manchester United beat Benfica to win their first European Cup, while Roy Halladay pitched a perfect game for Philadelphia Phillies on this day in 2010.

English giants United lifted the famous trophy thanks to a couple of goals from Bobby Charlton in a 4-1 win at Wembley – their first of three continental triumphs.

As for Halladay, he retired all 27 of Florida Marlins' batters – striking out 11 – en route to hurling a no-hitter at Sun Life Stadium.

Today is also a meaningful date in the history of the Utah Jazz and Sunrisers Hyderabad, who achieved memorable sporting feats on May 29.

Join us in looking back on some memorable moments from this day in years gone by.


1968 - Man Utd prevail at Wembley

Having progressed through four rounds of two-legged ties to reach the final on English soil, United faced the daunting task of taking on Benfica.

The Portuguese heavyweights had won the competition twice before and boasted all-time great striker Eusebio in their ranks.

But it was Matt Busby's side who took the lead after a goalless first half through Charlton, only for Jaime Graca to equalise for Benfica.

Alex Stepney then produced a big save to deny Eusebio and that proved to be a pivotal moment in the final as George Best, Brian Kidd and Charlton were all on target in extra time.

 

1997 - Stockton sends Jazz to first NBA Finals

More than two decades on, it is still regarded as arguably the biggest moment in Utah's history.

Trailing the Houston Rockets by 10 points with 2:59 left in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, the Jazz went on a 17-4 run that culminated in John Stockton's buzzer-beating three-pointer.

He let fly from 26 feet and found the target to earn the Jazz a dramatic 103-100 victory, setting up a showdown with Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls.

It was the first time Utah had reached the Finals, though it ultimately ended in heartbreak as the Bulls battled to a 90-86 win on home soil.

 

2010 - Halladay's perfect game

Halladay is one of only 23 people to have pitched the perfect game in Major League Baseball history, doing so in style on a steamy night in south Florida.

What makes the achievement all the more incredible, though, is that it came in just his 11th start for the Phillies after being traded by the Toronto Blue Jays.

He needed no more than 12 pitches in any inning except the seventh, throwing 115 in total, 72 for strikes. Of his 11 strikeouts, four came by way of sinkers.

Halladay's perfect pitch came 20 days after the Oakland Athletics' Dallas Braden had done likewise – the shortest span between two perfect games since 1880.

 

2016 - Hyderabad emerge victorious in high-scoring final

With David Warner leading from the front, Hyderabad won their maiden Indian Premier League title with an eight-run win over Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Warner top-scored with 69 off 38 balls and Ben Cutting registered an unbeaten 39 off 15 in Hyderabad's 208-7 at Bangalore's M Chinnaswamy Stadium.

The skipper then stepped up by marshalling his bowlers as they held off an onslaught, the hosts finishing just short with their reply of 200-7.

It was the third final Bangalore had lost, having also done so in 2009 and 2011, while Hyderabad reached the final again in 2018 but lost to Chennai Super Kings.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame was to enshrine one of its most star-studded lineups this year, but that ceremony will now be moved to 2021.

Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of the board of the governors for the Hall, said on ESPN on Wednesday that the original dates of enshrinement weekend, August 28-30, and the proposed alternate dates of October 10-12, are "just not feasible" in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The board of governors will convene on June 10, he said, to explore the exact dates for next year.

"We're definitely cancelling," Colangelo said. "It's going to have to be the first quarter of next year. We'll meet in a couple weeks and look at the options of how and when and where."

The 2020 class is headlined by Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant and also includes former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich, 10-time WNBA All-Star Tamika Catchings, Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey, Bentley College women's coach Barbara Stevens, former FIBA and IOC executive Patrick Baumann, and former college coach Eddie Sutton, who died on Saturday. 

Though both the 2020 and 2021 events will now take place in the same calendar year, Colangelo said there will be separate ceremonies for each class.

"We won't be combining them," he said. "The class of 2020 is a very special class and deserves its own celebration."

John Wall last played in an NBA game exactly 17 months ago but the Washington Wizards point guard says he is fit and ready to go again.

"I'm 110 per cent. I'm healthy," he said on Tuesday during a conference call.

Wall has not played since December 26, 2018, missing the remainder of the 2018-19 season and all of the 2019-20 season while recovering from surgery for bone spurs in his left heel and a torn left Achilles tendon.

The 29-year-old has appeared in just 73 games since the start of the 2017-18 season.

"I'm itching to get back out there," Wall said.

Though the five-time All-Star is eager to return to the court, Wall said he is "taking [his] time with the rehab" and is not planning to return if the 2019-20 season restarts.

The Wizards' plan has been for him to focus on being at full speed in time for the 2020-21 season.

A return this season would also seem to make little sense for a Wizards team unlikely to challenge for a playoff spot.

Preliminary discussions have taken place between the NBA and the Walt Disney Company about resuming the 2019-20 season at an isolated site near Orlando, Florida in late July, but the league still has not settled on a format for a return.

It has been reported the NBA would like teams to reach a total of 70 regular-season games – about five more for most clubs – to fulfil contracts with local broadcast affiliates.

The Wizards have played 64 games, and at 24-40 they sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, five and a half games behind the Orlando Magic for the eighth and final playoff spot.

"I don't know what the protocol the organisation or the coaching staff want me to be on," Wall said. "I will kind of just let them make that decision, them and my agent."

It has not been announced how the 2019-20 NBA season will be concluded if games resume, but Portland star Damian Lillard says he will not play if the Trail Blazers do not have a shot at a playoff spot.

Preliminary discussions have taken place between the NBA and the Walt Disney Company about resuming the 2019-20 season at an isolated site near Orlando, Florida in late July, but the league still has not settled on a format for a return. 

It has been reported the NBA would like teams to reach a total of 70 regular season games – about five more for most clubs – to fulfil its contracts with local broadcast affiliates.

The Trail Blazers have played 66 games, and at 29-37 they sit in ninth place in the Western Conference, three and a half games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Speaking to Yahoo Sports, Lillard said: "If we come back and they're just like, 'We're adding a few games to finish the regular season,' and they're throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don't have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I'm going to be with my team because I'm a part of the team.

"But I'm not going to be participating. I'm telling you that right now.

"If we come back and I don't have an opportunity to make the playoffs, I will show up to work, I'll be at practice and I'll be with my team. I'm going to do all that and then I'm going to be sitting right on that bench during the games."

The NHL has proposed a 24-team playoff bracket, and Lillard would be open to something similar.

“If they come back and say it's something like a tournament, play-in style, between the number seven and number 12 seeds, if we're playing for playoff spots, then I think that's perfect," the five-time All-Star said.

Lillard, who is fifth in the NBA in scoring this season with a career-best 28.9 points per game, also likes Portland's chances to make a deep run if the team is the playoff picture.

The Blazers advanced to the Western Conference finals last year, and should have center Jusuf Nurkic and power forward Zach Collins in the line-up when games resume after the two combined to miss all but three games due to injuries before the season was paused.

"It would suck not to get in the playoffs because our thing was, we had fought ourselves back into position to get a spot," Lillard said.

"We had our starting center and starting power forward coming back, so we had a lot to look forward to and for a great reason. Now, they're healthy and have extra time to train and rehab while everybody's rusty.

"So now, they won't be coming back as the only rusty players. And if everybody's rusty, we can come in here and beat everybody.”

The debate over who is basketball's G.O.A.T has been reignited.

The release of 'The Last Dance' - ESPN's docuseries on the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls - has brought Michael Jordan's exploits back to the forefront of people's minds.

And the suspension of the current NBA season due to the coronavirus pandemic means current superstar LeBron James has, for the time being at least, been unable to respond on the court.

However, this week marks three years since James, then with the Cleveland Cavaliers, sunk a deep three-pointer in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals to pass Jordan and become the NBA's all-time playoff points leader.

Stats Perform has crunched the numbers on the two icons of the game to look at how they compare when the spotlight shines brightest.

 

PILING ON THE POINTS

That record-breaking shot from beyond the arc against the Boston Celtics moved James beyond Jordan's all-time haul of 5,987 points in his 212th game.

However, his boyhood hero's tally came in just 179 games, with Jordan having averaged a staggering 33.4 points per game, compared to James' 28.9.

There are still multiple postseason records Jordan holds too, including most points in a game (63 - which he accrued in the Bulls' incredible double-overtime loss to the Celtics in 1986) and consecutive games with at least 20 points (60).

Despite having seven-time All-Star Scottie Pippen also on the roster, Jordan was clearly the go-to guy for the Bulls on offense and he led them in scoring in 168 of his 179 playoff appearances.

James has led his teams in scoring (including ties) in an NBA-record 189 playoff games - out of 239 appearances - despite calling Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving team-mates at specific points.

 

JAMES: AN ALL-AROUND THREAT

While Jordan comes out on top in points per game, James has the edge in most other categories.

The current Los Angeles Lakers star averages more rebounds (8.9 to 6.4), assists (7.1 to 5.7) and blocks (0.97 to 0.88) per playoff game than Jordan, who does average more steals (2.10 to 1.75) - and it was robbing Karl Malone of the ball that famously helped MJ deliver championship number six 22 years ago.

James is, marginally, a more efficient postseason shooter, scoring from .491 of his attempts compared to Jordan's .487, though the two are neck and neck (.332) from three-pointers.

The all-around threat of James is perhaps best highlighted by the fact he has 23 playoff triple-doubles - second only to Magic Johnson's 30 - while Jordan made just two across his illustrious career.

 

COUNT THE RINGS

Of course, the ultimate goal for any successful team is to end the NBA Finals holding aloft the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy, something Jordan has done on six occasions, twice as many as James.

Jordan went 6-0 in Finals - and was named MVP of each series - while James has a 3-6 record - and three Finals MVP awards - across stints with the Cavaliers and Miami Heat.

The Bulls' success in the 1990s - when they twice three-peated - means Jordan won 66.5 per cent of the playoff games he appeared in, a number that James (currently 65.3 per cent) will surely soon eclipse with his Lakers team primed for a deep playoff run when this season resumes.

Would another three rings see James surpass Jordan in the eyes of many? For now, it remains a fascinating debate.

Lionel Messi could emulate Michael Jordan's 'Last Dance' by winning the 2022 World Cup with Argentina, midfielder Lucas Biglia says.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner has mostly endured disappointment at international level since winning Olympic gold in 2008.

Messi was awarded the Golden Ball at the 2014 finals, when Argentina lost the final to Germany, before going on to lose back-to-back Copa America finals against Chile.

The Barcelona star will be 35 by the time of the next World Cup in Qatar, which is due to be held during November and December to avoid the harsh summer conditions.

Biglia played alongside Messi at senior international level for seven years until retiring after they were knocked out of the 2018 World Cup by eventual winners France.

The Milan midfielder believes Messi can still taste glory on the global stage, though, having recently enjoyed the Netflix documentary on Michael Jordan's memorable sixth and final NBA championship triumph with the Chicago Bulls in 1998.

"I finished The Last Dance the other day, it was excellent," Biglia told FM 94.7. "It got me thinking that, in a few years, hopefully we will be able to watch something similar with our own phenomenon.

"[We could] learn a load of things about his day-to-day. Because you see him train, you see him play but so many things happen on a day-to-day basis that you don't know about, as we see [with Jordan] in the series.

"The scene that I would like to see in the future is the one when Jordan is hugging the [NBA] trophy and crying. I would like to see that with Messi and the World Cup. That I would like to see. I know what it would mean for him and for the Argentine people."

Argentina's defeat in the 2016 Copa America final – the third time Messi has finished runner-up at the tournament – led to the Barca forward quitting international football for a time.

Biglia admits it has been tough to see Messi endure so much disappointment with his country given his overall success in the sport.

He added: "Why does a person have to suffer so much? In the last World Cup, to see how the elimination hit him, that's when you ask yourself, 'why?'. That stayed with me. Not just on the pitch, but off it.

"It hurts me to see him suffer so much and makes me ask myself why he has to suffer in that way. I pray to God that we can see him at the next World Cup in two years' time."

Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale does not understand why he is so heavily criticised for playing golf and insists his love of the sport makes him a better footballer.

Bale has faced scrutiny in Spain for thinking too much about golf and not playing for Madrid, where he has been plagued by numerous injury issues in recent years.

The Wales international has been nicknamed 'the Golfer' by his Madrid team-mates and riled his own fans in November when posing with a flag that read "Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order".

However, Bale has defended his decision to regularly tee it up and pointed to the example set by Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, who also shares a passion for golf and has previously played on the Korn Ferry Tour.

"A lot of people have problems with me playing golf, I don't know what the reason is," he told the Erik Anders Lang Show podcast. "I've spoken to doctors and everybody's fine with it.

"The media have this perception that it's not good for me: 'You should be resting, it can cause problems, injuries.' In America, I know Steph Curry plays maybe on the morning of a game. 

"Here, if I play two days before a game it's like, 'What's he doing?'

"I just like going out to play, thinking I've got 18 holes ahead of me. You can get away from the football, away from anything negative that's going on, and reset your mind.

"The next day you feel a bit more fresh and ready to go and concentrate and feel better about football again."

Bale is back in training with Madrid ahead of LaLiga's planned return on June 11, three months on from the season being brought to a halt by the coronavirus pandemic.

And despite an underwhelming return of two goals and two assists in 14 league appearances in 2019-20, the 30-year-old is content with his performances this term.

"The thing with football now is everything is based around results. That's the problem," he said. 

"You might play amazingly, not score for five games and everyone says, 'He's having a terrible time.'

"People just like goals, assists, 'wow' things. And sometimes that doesn't always happen. I've played terribly, then I've scored two goals, and everyone says, 'Great game.'

"People can have their own opinions, as long as I know I've tried my best and I've played as well as I can then I'm happy with that."

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