Boca Juniors claimed an important result in their first-leg tie against Corinthians in the last 16 of the Copa Libertadores, holding on for a 0-0 draw in Sao Paulo on Tuesday.

Corinthians dominated proceedings at home but were not able to capitalise, with Roger Guedes also failing to convert from the penalty spot with the interval approaching.

It would have been a deserved lead for the Timao after a positive opening 45 minutes, but Guedes was brilliantly denied in the 43rd minute by Agustin Rossi, who guessed correctly and quickly reacted to save.

The home side's best chance in open play fell to Giuliano after a mazy dribble into the penalty area from Willian in the 46th minute, but Marcos Rojo scrambled to quell the danger.

With Exequiel Zeballos and Dario Benedetto struggling to have a tangible impact, coming back to Buenos Aires for the second leg with parity intact is a positive for Boca, after also failing to defeat Corinthians in their two Group E games.

Ortiz denies CAM smash and grab

Emelec will have to progress past Atletico Mineiro in Belo Horizonte after only managing a 1-1 draw at home in the first leg.

As expected under Antonio Mohamed, CAM primarily looked to absorb pressure, and they scored against the run of play in the 16th minute. A spectacular first touch from Hulk to bring Everson's hoof under control put Ademir through, and he calmly converted past Pedro Ortiz.

Emelec captain Sebastian Rodriguez deservedly got his side back on level terms in the 58th minute, but CAM had a penalty of their own with two minutes of regular time remaining. Ortiz stood up this time, though, denying Hulk what would have been the winner.

Athletico-PR take first leg

Two first-half goals from Athletico Paranaense allowed them to secure a 2-1 win at home to Libertad in Curitiba.

After confirming Fernandinho's signing from Manchester City, Luiz Felipe Scolari's side were characteristically solid defensively, but only after they hit the lead a second time.

Vitor Roque put the hosts ahead in only the sixth minute but the Paraguayan champions equalised through Hector Villalba in the 20th minute. Athletico PR restored the lead 12 minutes later, with Nicolas Hernandez scoring the eventual winner.

Carlos Tevez has confirmed his retirement from football at the age of 38, citing the death of his father as the reason why he turned down offers to continue playing.

Tevez enjoyed a glittering career, particularly in England where he played for both Manchester United and Manchester City.

As well as three separate spells at boyhood club Boca Juniors, he also spent time at Corinthians, West Ham United, Juventus and Shanghai Shenhua.

Tevez played his final game for Boca Juniors in 2021 before saying goodbye, though at the time he left the door open for a move to another team.

However, in quotes relayed by Mundo Albiceleste, Tevez said on Friday that even though he had received offers from Major League Soccer in the United States, he had stopped playing because he no longer had his "number one fan" after the passing of his father.

"I have retired, it's confirmed," he said. "They offered me many things, including from the United States. But that's it, I have given everything.

"Playing the last year was very difficult but I was able to see my old man. I stopped playing because I lost my number one fan."

Tevez won a remarkable 26 titles in his career and is among only four Argentine players to win both the CONMEBOL Libertadores Cup and the Champions League, lifting the biggest prize in European club football with United in 2008.

He also played at two World Cups for Argentina, in 2006 and 2010.

A 10-man Corinthians moved a step closer to securing their place in the Copa Libertadores knockout stage, playing out a 1-1 draw with Boca Juniors on Tuesday.

The draw at the Bombonera means the Timao maintained their one-point lead over Boca in Group E on eight points. Deportivo Cali and Always Ready sit on five and four points respectively, with their game on Thursday awaiting.

Corinthians were looking to absorb from the opening minute and scored with their only shot for the match, with Du Queiroz's attempt following a corner trickling past Agustin Rossi in the 16th minute.

Dario Benedetto scored the equaliser on his birthday three minutes from the interval, but Boca largely could not break Corinthians down, even after the latter went down to ten men.

A lengthy melee and stoppage following Victor Cantillo's straight red also saw Corinthians coach Vitor Pereira given his marching orders, but his side emerged with an important point.

Flamengo coast through to last 16

Flamengo booked their spot in the knockout stage, securing a comfortable 3-0 win at home to Universidad Catolica.

The Rubro-Negro hit the lead in only the seventh minute, with Willian Arao heading home Giorgian de Arrascaeta's corner. Everton Ribeiro doubled the margin six minutes from the interval.

Pedro rounded out the scoring with a fine solo finish in the final minute of regular time, securing the fourth win from five games and a five-point margin atop Group H.

Estudiantes also secure progress

Estudiantes also confirmed passage to the last 16 earlier on Tuesday, claiming a 1-0 win away to second-placed RB Bragantino.

Gustavo del Prete's wonderfully improvised finish in the 77th minute ultimately proved the difference between the two sides in what was otherwise a tightly contested game of little clear chances.

While Estudiantes moved to 13 points from five games, Bragantino's second spot remains within touching distance of Nacional and Velez Sarsfield, who play on Wednesday.

Corinthians momentarily moved to top spot of Group E in the Copa Libertadores, defeating Boca Juniors 2-0 on Tuesday.

Maycon scored a double for Corinthians, who moved to six points from three games following their opening group game defeat away to Always Ready.

On loan from Shakhtar Donetsk, the 24-year-old opened the scoring in only the fifth minute, getting on the end of Fagner's cross to head home past Javier Garcia.

Despite playing at home, the Timao were more than comfortable absorbing Boca possession, with only 33.8 per cent of the ball for the second half.

They eventually doubled the margin on the counter in the 78th minute, with Willian breaking clear and playing in Roger Guedes, whose attempt on goal was parried into Maycon's path for the rebound and finish.

Boselli brilliance puts Estudiantes in box seat

Estudiantes took a commanding lead in Group C on Tuesday, claiming a 2-0 win at home to RB Bragantino.

Augustin Rogel broke the deadlock for Estudiantes in the 54th minute, heading in from close range before Mauro Boselli's spectacular lob over Cleiton in the Bragantino goal only three minutes later.

Los Pincharratas moved to seven points after three games, ahead of Bragantino, who are joined on four points by Nacional following their 2-1 win away to a 10-man Velez Sarsfield.

Shares spoiled in Group D

Independiente del Valle and Atletico Mineiro played out a 1-1 draw in Quito, to share top spot in Group D after three games.

Hulk opened the scoring in only the seventh minute with recent Selecao callup Guilherme Arana providing the assist.

The Negriazules kept applying pressure and eventually got a deserved equaliser via Junior Sornoza five minutes after the restart.

Barcelona loanee Philippe Coutinho was prominent as Aston Villa went on a recent three-match winning streak in the Premier League.

Despite losses to West Ham and Arsenal coming into the international break, Villa have steadied since the November appointment of head coach Steven Gerrard, who took over from Dean Smith.

Villa are thought to remain interested in turning Coutinho's loan into a permanent arrangement, but another suitor could yet strike a deal, according to Spanish newspaper Sport.

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE LINKED WITH COUTINHO RAID

Newcastle United are said to be ready to swoop for Coutinho if Villa, who have an option to buy, cannot piece together a long-term agreement for the Brazilian winger.

Villa signed Coutinho on loan in January and to take him off Barcelona's hands would reportedly cost around €40million (£33m).

The 29-year-old has immediately become an integral part of Gerrard's attack, providing four goals and three assists in 10 Premier League appearances since arriving.

However, the prospect of a permanent deal is based on Villa accounting for Coutinho's substantial wages, which Barcelona currently subsidise. With new ownership, Newcastle appear capable of finding such funds.

ROUND-UP

Barcelona have tried to exploit sanctions affecting Chelsea by attempting to sign three of the club's defenders in Antonio RudigerCesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen, according to The Telegraph.

– RB Leipzig are set to conduct contract talks with Christopher Nkunku, but according to ESPN they are willing to listen to offers in excess of €75million.

Edinson Cavani is set for a move to Boca Juniors when his contract with Manchester United expires at the end of the season, claims Todofichajes.

– Bruno Fernandes has signed a new contract with Manchester United, extending his existing deal by one season but with a substantial wage increase, The Guardian reports.

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid at the end of this season.

The 23-year-old attacker has stalled on a new contract offer at Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid have been circling for Mbappe's signature for a long time and had multiple bids rejected in 2021.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE COULD STILL RE-SIGN WITH PSG

Mbappe could spring a surprise and renew his current PSG deal prior to the end of this season, claims Le Parisien.

The 2018 World Cup winner had been expected to become a free agent when his contract expires on June 30 and join Madrid .

Le Parisien claims that PSG have hope that Mbappe may pen an extension to force a transfer fee from Los Blancos, should they pursue a move. Mbappe is still undecided on his future, according to the report.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United 's superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo has held crisis talks with his agent Jorge Mendes as he considers his future with the Red Devils, according to The Sun. Ronaldo reportedly may leave United depending on their choice of a new permanent manager.

- El Nacional claims that Liverpool are ready to offer Barcelona teenager Gavi a deal worth £80,000 (€96k) per week to secure his signature, while Manchester City are also interested. Barca have a £42m (€50m) release cause in the 17-year-old's contract.

- Arsenal want to sign a new midfielder in January with Lyon's Bruno Guimaraes on their radar while a loan deal for Arthur Melo was discussed but has not advanced to talks with Juventus yet, claims Fabrizio Romano.

- Argentinean forward Dario Benedetto is set to return to his homeland to join Boca Juniors from Marseille although the deal may take several days to complete, reports Cesar Luis Merlo.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Newcastle United have opened discussions with Sevilla on a four-year deal to sign Brazilian defender Diego Carlos .

- West Ham United and Newcastle may be priced out of their pursuit for Marseille's Boubacar Kamara,  who wants a £150,000-per-week (€180k) deal according to The Sun.

Edinson Cavani re-signed with Manchester United at the start of the season but Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford has hampered the Uruguayan.

And following Sergio Aguero's shock retirement, the door has opened for Cavani at Camp Nou.

Cavani is believed to be on the verge of swapping Manchester for Barcelona.

 

TOP STORY – CAVANI TO CAMP NOU

Edinson Cavani will join embattled LaLiga giants Barcelona in January to replace Sergio Aguero, according to TyC Sports.

Aguero announced his retirement from football this week due to a heart problem and Barca are on the lookout for a replacement.

Manchester United forward Cavani has emerged as a target, with the Uruguay international reportedly rejecting an offer from Boca Juniors to move to Camp Nou.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Friday's Gazzetta dello Sport claims Antony Martial is eager to leave United for Serie A giants Juventus. He has also been linked with Atletico MadridCavani, Paris Saint-Germain's Mauro Icardi and former Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are believed to be among Juve's targets.

- Barca have held talks regarding a move for Juve winger Federico Bernardeschi, claims Sport. The Italy international is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Neither United nor PSG have opened talks with Barca midfielder Frenkie de Jong, reports Fabrizio Romano. Bayern Munich and Liverpool are also believed to be interested.

Newcastle United have offered £88million (€100m) for Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic, according to Calciomercato. Vlahovic is wanted by Manchester United, Manchester City, Bayern, Tottenham, Arsenal, Inter, Juve and Atletico.

Xavi hailed "sensational" Dani Alves and tipped the full-back to have a big impact at Barcelona after making his second debut for the club on Tuesday.

Alves returned to Camp Nou on a free transfer last month following his departure from Sao Paulo in September over a contractual dispute.

The 38-year-old, who played 391 times for Barca in his first spell with the club, cannot be officially registered for the Catalan giants until the January transfer window.

However, the Brazil international was able to pull on the Blaugrana strip in Barca's exhibition friendly with Boca Juniors and played a full part in Saudi Arabia.

Alves impressed in the first half in particular but could not help his side overcome Argentine giants Boca, who went on to win the penalty shoot-out 4-2 after a 1-1 draw.

Xavi may not be able to call upon Alves competitively for another few weeks, but the recently appointed Barca boss is glad to have the veteran defender in his squad.

"His second debut is very positive for the team," Xavi said after the Maradona Cup match. "Everyone has seen he will help us a lot. He is a sensational player. 

"He's a team player and has a lot of character and soul. He will do very well for us.

"He has shown what he can contribute both in defence and attack. He plays with a lot of intensity and his final pass makes a difference."

 

Questions were raised regarding the timing of the game, which was held in memory of the late Diego Maradona, who represented both clubs during his legendary playing career.

But Xavi felt it was a good opportunity to give certain fringe players a run-out, with Philippe Coutinho among those to feature from the beginning.

"Those who have played less, like Neto or Riqui Puig, performed at a very good level, as did all the youngsters," Xavi said.

"The conclusions I take from this game are positive. We lost on penalties but are happy. Losing on penalties is the least important thing – getting minutes is what matters."

Ferran Jutgla gave a much-changed Barca side the lead at King Saud University Stadium, but Exequiel Zeballos struck 13 minutes from time to take the game to penalties.

Xavi's side now turn their focus back to LaLiga matters with a home match against Elche on Saturday, before travelling to Sevilla three days later for their final game of a testing year.

Barca have been linked with Erling Haaland as they prepare for 2022 after the Borussia Dortmund striker's agent reportedly met with club president Joan Laporta.

Given the LaLiga side's well-publicised financial issues, however, a move for the in-demand Norway international seems highly unlikely next year.

"These are all hypotheses," Xavi said when asked about the recent transfer speculation. "We will see, because we depend a lot on the salary limit and on financial fair play.

"We are not in our best moment but we will try to strengthen the team and the reinforcement of Dani will also go very well for us. In all markets we would like to strengthen."

Dani Alves is ready to begin "the most important challenge" of his career when he makes his second debut for Barcelona in Tuesday's exhibition match with Boca Juniors.

The 38-year-old re-joined the club on a free transfer last month following his departure from Sao Paulo in September over a contractual dispute.

Alves, who played 391 times for Barca in his first trophy-laden spell at Camp Nou, cannot be officially registered for the Catalan giants until the January transfer window opens.

However, the Brazil international is in line to represent Blaugrana on Tuesday when they face Argentine giants Boca Juniors in the Maradona Cup in Riyadh.

Speaking at a pre-match news conference on the eve of the friendly, Alves said: "I'm feeling nervous after not being able to play and represent the club for so long.

"The most important challenge of my career has come, because of how the situation happened and the position the club is in.

"But challenges are for those who do not fear them. We will all do our best for this club and for this badge."

 

Alves won 23 trophies in eight seasons with Barca before departing in 2016 for spells with Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Sao Paulo, where he spent two years.

The club the veteran full-back has returned to five years on is a long way off competing for major honours. 

Barca exited the Champions League at the group stage last week and are eighth in LaLiga after 16 matches, but Alves is hopeful he can help the Catalans return to the top.

"We're used to seeing Barcelona at the top but we know there's a problem," he said. "We cannot hide from it, but instead look for a solution as soon as possible.

"When I arrived the first time a transformation had to be made. The situation is different but it's done and we will write a new chapter to get Barca where they are used to. 

"We have to recover the winning feeling because we live for winning. We have to change the streak. In football, there are good and bad streaks, though this is lasting a bit longer."

Barca have named a 28-man group for the meeting against Boca, with Alves joined by the likes of Gerard Pique, Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho and other first-team stars.

The timing of the game, with league matches against Elche and Sevilla to come over the next eight days, has raised questions.

But while Xavi accepts the distance travelled is not ideal, he believes it is important to respect Maradona, who died from a heart attack aged 60 last November.

"These are club circumstances and is something that was previously agreed," he told reporters in Saudi Arabia. "For us it's an honour to be here representing Barcelona.

"We are paying homage to one of the best players in history. It's an honour and a privilege and it will be an emotional occasion."

Hinting at changes to the side that started the 2-2 draw with Osasuna on Sunday, Xavi added: "It will be a test for the players that don't usually play and a chance to see players that haven't played so much. We want to be at our best."

Diego Maradona dragged Argentina to World Cup glory, triumphed in Italy and Europe with Napoli and won countless individual honours.

Along the way, the footballing great – who died at the age of 60 on November 25, 2020 – scored some of the greatest goals the game has ever seen.

No matter the occasion, or indeed the opponent, Maradona was often unplayable – as can be seen from our selection of his five greatest ever goals.

 

Argentina v England (June 22, 1986)

Hailed by many as the greatest goal of all time, Maradona picked up the ball inside his own half and dribbled past four England players before calmly rounding Peter Shilton.

The moment of magic arrived four minutes after the notorious 'Hand of God' goal and helped Argentina into the semi-finals of the 1986 World Cup, a tournament which they went on to win.

Peter Reid, one of the England players that Maradona sauntered past, described the mesmerising second goal as an example of "an artist at work, at the best of his ability".

 

Argentina v Belgium (June 25, 1986)

The goal scored by Maradona three days later, this time in the semi-finals, was not too dissimilar in that he had four opposition players between himself and the goal.

He slalomed between two of them, jinked past another – in the process taking out a fourth – and fired past Jean-Marie Pfaff for his second goal of the contest.

Napoli v Juventus (November 3, 1985)

Napoli ended their 12-year wait for a league victory over rivals Juventus thanks to Maradona's brilliance of a different kind. If the previous goals were all about neat footwork and clinical finishing, this was more to do with sheer audacity.

A large wall, set five metres from the ball, was not enough to stop the Argentine maestro delicately lifting the indirect free-kick, rolled short into his path, into the one spot Stefano Tacconi could not reach.

Napoli v Hellas Verona (October 20, 1985)

This one was all about the technique - and the confidence to even think about taking it on. Maradona brought down the ball with his first touch, turned and sent a long-range drive flying over Giuliano Giuliani from a good 40 yards out.

What made it all the more special is that this strike came in a 5-0 thrashing of Hellas Verona, who were the reigning Serie A champions at the time.

Boca Juniors v River Plate (April 10, 1981)

Maradona spent a season with Boca Juniors before arriving in Europe, and it soon became clear what a talent he would become.

His first spell at the club may have been short, but he left behind plenty of memories, including a famous goal against bitter rivals River Plate. Intricate footwork in the penalty area left River helplessly bamboozled before Maradona converted from close range.

Barcelona will face Boca Juniors in an exhibition match Saudi Arabia in December in honour of Diego Maradona.

The inaugural Maradona Cup will take place at Mrsool Park in Riyadh on December 14, a little over a year after the former Argentina star died in his homeland at the age of 60 from heart failure a fortnight after undergoing brain surgery.

Maradona played for Boca in 1981-82 before moving to Europe with Barca, where he won the Copa del Rey, the Copa de la Liga and the Supercopa de Espana.

He returned to Boca for the final two years of his career before retiring in 1997.

The match will take place in the week after Barca face Bayern Munich away in their final Champions League group game, with a LaLiga game at Osasuna scheduled for December 11.

Ronald Koeman's side will be due back in Saudi Arabia in January 2022 for the Supercopa de Espana along with Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Athletic Bilbao.

Barca and Boca have met 10 times previously, most recently in the Joan Gamper exhibition game in 2018, which the Catalans won 3-0.

Borussia Dortmund teenager Jude Bellingham is attracting plenty of interest.

The 18-year-old England international's price is valued at around £80 million (€94m).

Bellingham made 46 appearances for Dortmund last season and already has eight England caps.

 

TOP STORY – CITY PLACE BELLINGHAM ON WISH LIST

Manchester City have turned their attention to Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, claims the Daily Star.

City have placed the 18-year-old England international on their wish list, as they look for a long-term replacement for veteran Fernandinho.

Pep Guardiola's side will join the queue alongside Liverpool, Chelsea and Bayern Munich.

ROUND-UP

- Dortmund's Erling Haaland will not rush into a decision on his club future when a release clause of approximately £70m (€81m) takes effect in 2022 amid interest from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City,  claims 90min.

- Man City will rival Manchester United and look to complete a deal for West Ham midfielder Declan Rice in 2022, reports The Sun. Rice is valued at £100m by the Hammers.

- The Daily Mail claims Alexandre Lacazette's future at Arsenal is in some doubt after the club reportedly tried to replace him during the recent transfer window.

- Free agent Dani Alves has been heavily linked with a move to Argentine giants Boca Juniors,  according to Marca.

- Barcelona have already tabled a contract extension offer to 18-year-old talent Ansu Fati,  reports Mundo Deportivo.

Cristiano Ronaldo will be playing back at Old Trafford in 2021-22 after Manchester United confirmed his signing from Juventus.

The Portugal great has returned in a deal worth up to €23million (£19.7m), which was sensationally agreed with Juve on Friday.

For a short while, it looked as though Ronaldo – who had asked to leave the Bianconeri – was heading to Manchester City after they missed out on the signing of Harry Kane.

Instead, he is heading back to the red side of Manchester.

With the deal now finalised, Stats Perform takes a look at other greats who went back to their former homes, starting with the Portugal captain...

Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United

Ronaldo spent six years at Old Trafford during his previous spell, arriving as a lanky teenager who loved a stepover and leaving as a Ballon d'Or winner and ice-cold finisher. His then-world-record move to Real Madrid had been a long time coming and he spent nine years at the Santiago Bernabeu, becoming the club's all-time top scorer as he continued his transition from winger to out-and-out 'number nine'. There he won four Champions League titles before moving on to Juve, for whom he plundered 81 goals in 98 Serie A matches and picked up two Scudetti. But now he is returning to England. Whether he can match the standards he set last time remains to be seen, with his 31-goal haul of 2007-08 only bettered once in a 38-match season, but United fans will be convinced he can fire them to a first league title since Ferguson left.

Juan Roman Riquelme – Boca Juniors

Synonymous with Boca Juniors, Riquelme made his professional debut for the Buenos Aires giants and returned to the club for the majority of his final years as a player, following spells with Barcelona and Villarreal. After a breakdown in his relationship with Manuel Pellegrini, Riquelme – the classic number 10 – returned to Boca initially on loan in 2007, going on to stay until 2014. He helped Boca win the Copa Libertadores in 2007, the Recopa Sudamericana a year later, Apertura titles in 2008 and 2011 and the Copa Argentina in 2011-12. He is currently Boca's vice-president.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Milan

After a difficult spell under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, Ibrahimovic – who had excelled at both Juventus and Inter – moved back to Italy, joining the Nerrazurri's city rivals Milan on loan for 2010-11. He became an instant star for the Rossoneri, picking up where he left off in Italy with 21 goals, a tally he bettered in 2011-12, scoring 35 times in all competitions. Paris Saint-Germain came calling and he went on to become the Ligue 1 giants' record goalscorer (a title now held by Edinson Cavani), before joining Manchester United and LA Galaxy. Despite being in his late 30s, Ibrahimovic still had more to offer and rejoined Milan for the back half of the 2019-20 campaign, netting 11 goals. He carried on his form into an injury hit 2020-21, scoring a further 16 times, and he is set to be a pivotal figure at San Siro once again this season.

Romelu Lukaku – Chelsea

Part of United's reasoning behind signing Ronaldo was to perhaps ensure they kept pace with their title rivals. For the past two seasons, Ronaldo has gone head-to-head with Lukaku in Serie A. Though Ronaldo won the battle last season, scoring 29 league goals, compared to Lukaku's 24, it was the Belgian who won the war by leading Inter to the title, and now the duo will face off again in the Premier League after Chelsea smashed their transfer record to re-sign the 28-year-old 10 years on from his initial arrival from Anderlecht. Lukaku did not manage to push himself into the starting XI back then and was loaned out to West Brom and Everton, before moving to Goodison Park on a permanent deal in 2014. He returns to Stamford Bridge as the complete package, however, and bullied Arsenal's defence on his second debut, scoring the opener in a 2-0 win for the European champions.

Didier Drogba – Chelsea

Part of the allure for Lukaku returning to Chelsea was to emulate his icon Drogba, who left Stamford Bridge after helping the Blues clinch a Champions League crown in 2012. The Ivorian went back to west London in the 2014-15 season, with Drogba explaining he could not turn down the chance to work with Jose Mourinho once again. He scored four league goals in 28 appearances to help Chelsea win the title, before heading off for a swansong in MLS with the Montreal Impact.

Thierry Henry – Arsenal

Another Premier League great, Henry rejoined Arsenal on a short-term loan deal at the start of 2012. He scored on his second debut against Leeds United in the FA Cup, converting his only attempt of the game in a 22-minute cameo from the bench. He went on to play a further six times, scoring in the Premier League against Sunderland, before he returned to the New York Red Bulls to round off a wonderful career.

Carlos Tevez – Boca Juniors

The Tevez-Boca love affair has dominated most of the striker's complex career. After coming through their youth ranks, the feisty forward was seen as the heir to Maradona. A brief stint in Brazil with Corinthians followed, but Europe had long since beckoned, even if West Ham were by no means the expected destination. He went on to play for Man United and City, increasing tension between the clubs, before then going to Juventus, but throughout this time Tevez seemed to long for a return to Boca. He went back to La Bombonera in 2015, his homecoming interrupted by a brief spell with Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 in the Chinese Super League, though even Tevez acknowledged he saw his time in China as a "holiday". "He filled Santa's sack with dollars and now he has returned to Boca," was Maradona's assessment upon the forward's return from the CSL. His third spell with Boca ended in June 2021 and it remains to be seen if he ever plays for another club.

Wayne Rooney – Everton

With Lukaku joining Man United in 2017, it opened the door for Everton to bring back Rooney, who had left his boyhood club in 2004 on the back of a stellar performance at Euro 2004. Then just 18, Rooney went on to become United's record goalscorer – and England's, too – and he returned to Goodison Park for the 2017-18 season. He scored on his league debut, heading in the winner against Stoke City, and though he netted 11 times in total for the Toffees, a difficult season saw Ronald Koeman sacked and replaced with Sam Allardyce, who was subsequently shuffled out of the door for Marco Silva. With Everton looking to go in a new direction, Rooney left to join MLS side DC United in 2018.

Gianluigi Buffon – Parma

Buffon likes a comeback. Having returned for a second spell at Juventus in 2019, the goalkeeping great departed the club for a second time at the end of 2020-21. The Italy legend had not finished playing yet, though, and Parma quickly emerged as a potential destination despite their relegation to Serie B. After a few weeks of contemplation, it was confirmed that Buffon was heading back to the club where he made his name. Now 43, the iconic stopper is wearing Gialloblu for the first time in 20 years, and he is set to remain with them until he turns 45, given he signed a two-year contract. What happens after that is anyone's guess, but calling it a day with his first club could be a satisfyingly romantic conclusion to a remarkable career – that or he ends up at Juve again!

He is back where he belongs.
He is back home. #SupermanReturns @gianluigibuffon @Kyle_J_Krause @ParmaCalcio_en pic.twitter.com/bh2FO6P8YX

— Parma Calcio 1913 (@1913parmacalcio) June 17, 2021

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to be playing back at Old Trafford again in 2021-22 after Manchester United confirmed they have reached an agreement with Juventus for the transfer of the Portugal great.

While personal terms, a medical and visa are still to be sorted out for Ronaldo, it would take something remarkable to stop him from joining now after a deal reportedly worth up to €23million (£19.7m) was agreed with Juve on Friday.

For a short while it looked as though Ronaldo – who had asked to leave the Bianconeri – was heading to Manchester City after they missed out on the signing of Harry Kane.

But apparent interventions from Ronaldo's former United manager Alex Ferguson and old team-mate Rio Ferdinand may have swung the race in the Red Devils' favour.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer seemed to open the door to Ronaldo during his news conference on Friday, and just a few hours later United confirmed a deal had been struck with Juventus.

Following confirmation of the deal, Stats Perform takes a look at greats who went back to their spiritual home, starting with the Portugal captain…

Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United

Ronaldo spent six years at Old Trafford during his last spell, arriving as a lanky teenager who probably averaged four stepovers per minute before leaving as a Ballon d'Or winner and an ice-cold finisher. His then-world record move to Real Madrid had been a long time coming and he spent nine years at the Santiago Bernabeu, becoming the club's all-time top scorer as he continued his transition from winger to out-and-out 'number nine'. There he won four Champions League titles before moving on to Juve, for whom he plundered 81 goals in 98 Serie A matches and picked up two Scudetti. But now he is all set for a return to England – whether he can match the standards he set last time remains to be seen, with his 31-goal haul of 2007-08 only bettered once in a 38-match season, though United fans will be convinced he can fire them to a first league title since Ferguson left.

 

Arjen Robben – Groningen

Robben's first retirement lasted just a single season, having announced last year he would be returning to his boyhood club Groningen for the 2020-21 campaign. Robben, now 37, initially brought an illustrious playing career to an end in July 2019 shortly after his 10-year spell with Bayern Munich finished. Although at the time he was linked with a potential return to the team that gave him his professional debut, Robben – who suffered with numerous injury problems throughout his career – opted to retire. He then caused something of a shock as he finally went back to the place where it all began, but once again injuries blighted his availability, restricting him to just seven Eredivisie appearances in 2020-21. Club director Mark-Jan Fledderus wanted him to stay on for another year, but when Robben said at the end of the season that he was going to have a long think about his future, the writing was seemingly on the wall. Another U-turn appears unlikely.

Juan Roman Riquelme – Argentinos Juniors

Perhaps more synonymous with Boca Juniors, where he made his professional debut and also spent most of his final years, Riquelme also had a strong affinity with Argentinos Juniors. He came through the club's academy in the early-to-mid 1990s, before then finishing his immense career at Estadio Diego Maradona in 2014, having also played for Barcelona, Villarreal and Argentina. Although the iconic attacking midfielder appeared close to joining Paraguay's Cerro Porteno the following year, the move never materialised.

Dirk Kuyt – Quick Boys

Kuyt briefly came out of retirement three years ago to help Quick Boys, with whom he spent 13 years as a youth. Playing in the Derde Divisie Saturday league, Kuyt was already working as assistant at the time, but made himself available for selection during a striker shortage and he made three appearances. The former Netherlands and Liverpool forward had retired the year before following a second spell with Feyenoord, where he had made his initial breakthrough in the mid-2000s, his form at the time earning a move to Anfield.

Rafael Marquez – Atlas

One of Mexico's greatest players, Marquez's longevity at such a high level was nothing short of incredible, as he accumulated 147 international caps. After breaking into the Atlas team as a teenager having come through their academy, the elegant centre-back enjoyed a sparkling career in Europe, winning 14 titles across spells with Monaco and Barcelona. Time with New York Red Bulls, Leon and Hellas Verona followed, before a final two-year stint back at the Jalisco ended in 2018. Although plagued by off-field allegations towards the end of his career, Marquez went on to become the club's sporting president, before standing down last in 2019 to focus on other areas of the sport. He was expected to be taking up a youth coaching role at Barca this season, but the deal ultimately fell through.

Henrik Larsson – Hogaborgs

While the Swedish club most may associate with Larsson is Helsingborgs, he actually made the breakthrough at a smaller side – Hogaborgs. It was here where he trained from the age of six, before eventually becoming a regular in the senior side and earning a move away. A trophy laden career followed, taking him to Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United. Although he retired in 2009, he returned to the pitch for Raa in the Swedish third tier three years later, before then finding himself back in the team at Hogaborgs in 2013, helping out due to an injury crisis despite him only previously being registered to a casual team for 'seniors'. This gave him the chance to play alongside his son, Jordan.

Carlos Tevez – Boca Juniors

The Tevez-Boca love affair has dominated most of the striker's successful and complex career. After coming through their youth ranks, the feisty forward was seen as the heir to Maradona. A brief stint in Brazil with Corinthians followed, but Europe had long since beckoned, even if West Ham was by no means the expected destination. He went on to play for Man Utd and City, increasing tension between the clubs, before then going to Juventus, but throughout this time Tevez seemed to long for a return to Boca. He went back to La Bombonera in 2015, his homecoming interrupted by a brief spell with Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 in the Chinese Super League, though even Tevez acknowledged he saw his time in China as a "holiday". "He filled Santa's sack with dollars and now he has returned to Boca," was Maradona's assessment upon 'El Apache's' return from the CSL. His third spell with Boca ended in June 2021 and it remains to be seen if he ever plays for another club.

Gianluigi Buffon – Parma

Buffon likes a comeback. Having returned for a second spell at Juventus in 2019, the goalkeeping great departed the club for a second time at the end of 2020-21. The Italy legend suggested he had not finished playing yet and Parma quickly emerged as a potential destination despite their recent relegation to Serie B. After a few weeks of contemplation, it was confirmed that Buffon was heading back to the club where he made his name. Now 43, the iconic stopper is wearing Gialloblu for the first time in 20 years, and he is set to remain with them until he turns 45, given he signed a two-year contract. What happens after that is anyone's guess but calling it a day with his first club could be a satisfyingly romantic conclusion to a remarkable career – that or he ends up at Juve again!

He is back where he belongs.
He is back home. #SupermanReturns @gianluigibuffon @Kyle_J_Krause @ParmaCalcio_en pic.twitter.com/bh2FO6P8YX

— Parma Calcio 1913 (@1913parmacalcio) June 17, 2021

Arjen Robben's playing days are officially over (again), with the Bayern Munich and Netherlands great confirming on Thursday that he is hanging up his boots.

Of course, this is not the first time Robben has made such a decision – he initially retired in 2019 after a decade with Bayern before returning to his first club Groningen.

Although the fairy-tale conclusion he may have hoped for never quite materialised, ending his career where it all began has seen his playing days come full circle.

In honour of Robben's retirement, Stats Perform takes a look at greats who have gone back to their spiritual home in the twilight stages, starting with an overview of the king of inverted wingers…

Arjen Robben - Groningen

Robben's first retirement lasted just a single season, having announced last year he would be returning to his boyhood club Groningen for the 2020-21 campaign. Robben, now 37, initially brought an illustrious playing career to an end in July 2019 shortly after his 10-year spell with Bayern finished. Although at the time he was linked with a potential return to the team that gave him his professional debut, Robben – who suffered with numerous injury problems throughout his career – opted to retire. He then caused something of a shock as he finally went back to the place where it all began, but once again injuries blighted his availability, restricting him to just seven Eredivisie appearances. Club director Mark-Jan Fledderus wanted him to stay on for another year, but when Robben said at the end of the season that he was going to have a long think about his future, the writing was seemingly on the wall. Another U-turn appears unlikely.

Juan Roman Riquelme - Argentinos Juniors

Perhaps more synonymous with Boca Juniors, where he made his professional debut and also spent most of his final years, Riquelme also had a strong affinity with Argentinos Juniors. He came through the club's academy in the early-to-mid 1990s, before then finishing his immense career at Estadio Diego Maradona in 2014, having also played for Barcelona, Villarreal and Argentina. Although the iconic attacking midfielder appeared close to joining Paraguay's Cerro Porteno the following year, the move never materialised.

Dirk Kuyt - Quick Boys

Kuyt briefly came out of retirement three years ago to help Quick Boys, with whom he spent 13 years as a youth. Playing in the Derde Divisie Saturday league, Kuyt was already working as assistant at the time, but made himself available for selection during a striker shortage and he made three appearances. The former Netherlands and Liverpool forward had retired the year before following a second spell with Feyenoord, where he had made his initial breakthrough in the mid-2000s, his form at the time earning a move to Anfield.

Rafael Marquez - Atlas

One of Mexico's greatest players, Marquez's longevity at such a high level was nothing short of incredible, as he accumulated 147 international caps. After breaking into the Atlas team as a teenager having come through their academy, the elegant centre-back enjoyed a sparkling career in Europe, winning 14 titles across spells with Monaco and Barcelona. Time with New York Red Bulls, Leon and Hellas Verona followed, before a final two-year stint back at the Jalisco ended in 2018. Although plagued by off-field allegations towards the end of his career, Marquez went on to become the club's sporting president, before standing down last in 2019 to focus on other areas of the sport. He is expected to be taking up a youth coaching role at Barca next season.

Juan Pablo Angel - Atletico Nacional

Angel perhaps never quite lived up to the expectations he set during his early days as part of River Plate's so-called 'Fantastic Four' with Javier Saviola, Ariel Ortega and Pablo Aimar, having joined from Colombia's Nacional. Nevertheless, he became a fan favourite at Aston Villa in the Premier League, before spending six years in MLS with New York Red Bulls, Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA. In 2013 he returned to Nacional for two seasons, having left them in 1997. He called it quits in late 2014, just a few days after losing to his former club River in the final of the Copa Sudamericana. "I am ending my career with a final between the two clubs I love the most," he said.

Henrik Larsson - Hogaborgs

While the Swedish club most may associate with Larsson is Helsingborgs, he actually made the breakthrough at a smaller side – Hogaborgs. It was here where he trained from the age of six, before eventually becoming a regular in the senior side and earning a move to Helsingborgs. A trophy-laden career followed, taking him to Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United. Although he retired in 2009, he returned to the pitch for Raa in the Swedish third tier three years later, before then finding himself back in the team at Hogaborgs in 2013, helping out due to an injury crisis despite him only previously being registered to a casual team for 'seniors'. This gave him the chance to play alongside his son, Jordan.

Carlos Tevez - Boca Juniors

The Tevez-Boca love affair has dominated most of the striker's successful and complex career. After coming through their youth ranks, the feisty forward was seen as the heir to Maradona. A brief stint in Brazil with Corinthians followed, but Europe had long since beckoned, even if West Ham was by no means the expected destination. He went on to play for Manchester United and Manchester City, increasing tension between the clubs, before then going to Juventus, but throughout this time Tevez seemed to long for a return to Boca. He went back to La Bombonera in 2015, his homecoming interrupted by a brief spell with Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 in the Chinese Super League, though even Tevez acknowledged he saw his time in China as a "holiday". "He filled Santa's sack with dollars and now he has returned to Boca" was Maradona's assessment upon 'El Apache's' return from the CSL. His third spell with Boca ended in June 2021, though it remains to be seen if he ever plays for another club.

Gianluigi Buffon - Parma

Okay, he is not technically retired yet, so perhaps Buffon does not strictly qualify here. However, after departing Juventus for the second time at the end of 2020-21, the Italy great suggested he had not finished playing just yet. Parma quickly emerged as a potential destination despite their recent relegation to Serie B, and after a few weeks of contemplation, it was confirmed that Buffon was heading back to the club. Now 43, the iconic goalkeeper will wear the Gialloblu for the first time in 20 years, and he is set to remain with them until he turns 45, given he signed a two-year contract. What happens after that is anyone's guess but calling it a day with his first club could be a satisfyingly romantic conclusion.

He is back where he belongs.
He is back home. #SupermanReturns @gianluigibuffon @Kyle_J_Krause @ParmaCalcio_en pic.twitter.com/bh2FO6P8YX

— Parma Calcio 1913 (@1913parmacalcio) June 17, 2021

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