Novak Djokovic had predicted "fireworks" in Sunday's Wimbledon final with Nick Kyrgios, tennis' self-proclaimed bad boy and as combustible a sports star as they come.

In some regards that proved true, with Kyrgios providing those in attendance and watching at home with a run-through of his greatest hits.

There was plenty of ranting from start to finish – some perhaps going too far – with the odd interaction with the crowd and a broken racquet or two thrown in for good measure.

In between all that, Australia's first finalist here since Mark Philippoussis in 2003 produced some remarkable shots, an underarm serve and brilliantly executed tweener included.

Love him or hate him, this was Kyrgios at his ill-tempered best, and he went a long way to showing there is more to him than just a petulant twentysomething by taking the first set.

At that point, Kyrgios had reeled off five sets in a row across three meetings with his opponent without dropping one. But this is Djokovic, on Centre Court, in a grand slam final.

 And so at the end of a three-hour battle, it was Djokovic who prevailed 4-6 6-3 6-4 7-6 (7-3) to make it 21 major titles, pulling him back to within one of Rafael Nadal's record.

It was the enforced withdrawal of Nadal that gave Kyrgios his route into the biggest match of his career, and thus denied the millions viewing around the world their dream final.

While witnessing tennis' two greatest ever players face off once more would have made for quite the spectacle, this was a Championship clash that provided subplots galore.

One of the themes of this year's tournament has been Djokovic's uncharacteristically slow starts, almost teasing opponents into thinking they had his number before striking back.

He trailed Jannik Sinner and Cameron Norrie in the past two rounds and so that proved again versus Kyrgios, who with those slow starts in mind let Djokovic serve first.

That appeared to be a masterstroke when Djokovic double-faulted first up, yet the Serbian recovered – as he so often does – to hold and settle into the match.

But Kyrgios went on to earn the only break of the first set in the fifth game and let out a huge roar of "Let's go!". If anything, that only worked to fire up his opponent even more.

This was hardly unchartered territory for Djokovic, who also lost the opener in last year's final against Matteo Berrettini before battling to victory in four sets.

The second set proved far more comfortable for the 35-year-old, promoting Kyrgios to take a different approach as he let loose at the umpire. It would not be the last time.

If Kyrgios stuck to his half of the bargain by being his usual self, Djokovic did likewise by focusing solely on his tennis and taking a well-contested third set with a solitary break.

As the lowest-ranked finalist in a grand slam final since Marcos Baghdatis (50) at the Australian Open in 2006, world number 40 Kyrgios surely knew his number was up.

And so it proved as for the 13th time in 15 grand slam matches when losing the opening set, it was Djokovic left celebrating as he claimed a seventh Wimbledon crown.

 This latest comeback also made Djokovic the first player since Ted Schroeder in 1949 to win the title after dropping the first set in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.

It will almost certainly not be the four-in-a-row champion's final title, either, though it remains to be seen if Kyrgios will scale these heights again any time soon – if at all.

On this occasion, Djokovic simply proved a step too far as Kyrgios' fireworks fizzled out at the climax of a fascinating Wimbledon campaign.

Perhaps taking a page out of legendary Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson's playbook, it is out with the old at Manchester City and in with the new in what has been a busy transfer window to date.

On the back of winning a fourth Premier League title in five seasons, City have waved goodbye to long-serving and reliable midfielder Fernandinho, while sanctioning the exits of forwards Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling – the latter's move to Chelsea expected to go through in the coming days.

It is undoubtedly a risk from City's perspective, not least with Jesus and Sterling joining fellow big-six clubs Arsenal and Chelsea respectively, but one the reigning English champions feel is worth taking as they freshen up their side.

Plenty of focus will undoubtedly be on new arrivals Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez and Kalvin Phillips (sorry, Stefan Ortega), but Pep Guardiola will also need other squad members to step up in City's quest for more major honours.

That is a category Jack Grealish, now into his second season at the Etihad Stadium following last year's British record £100million transfer, fits into on the back of a rather mixed first 12 months or so in Manchester.

Unusually for such a big-money transfer, and for a player moving between clubs in the same league, Grealish was afforded a settling in period at City and occasionally went under the radar – right up until May's title celebrations, that is!

But with Sterling no longer around, the former Aston Villa star must now deliver if Guardiola's gamble is to pay off. Here, Stats Perform looks at exactly what Grealish offers to City, and the areas he can perhaps still improve.


GREALISH OVERLOOKED

Allowing Sterling to leave would not have been an easy decision for City, even if he did become more of a peripheral figure in his final 18 months or so at the club – coinciding with a 2-0 home loss to Manchester United in March 2021.

The versatile forward had started 70 per cent of City's games in all competitions between his debut and that loss to United, compared to 53 per cent of the Citizens' subsequent 77 matches.

He was named among the substitutes in both legs of the thrilling Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid, as well as the final-day showdown with Villa in the Premier League.

But rather tellingly, it was Sterling who Guardiola turned to from the bench in the first leg against Madrid, with Grealish playing a watching brief throughout, as was the case in that game against Villa when City were chasing three goals.

Put simply, Guardiola felt he had options better than Grealish when in need of goals. But with wide forwards Sterling and Jesus gone, that surely cannot be the case this season – unless, of course, the plan is to rely on Haaland up top.

 

THE STATS DON'T LIE

Grealish played 39 times for City in all competitions in his first season at the Etihad, 31 of those being starts, ranking him level with Riyad Mahrez (31 starts) and behind Sterling (32) and Phil Foden (36) in a similar area of the pitch. Jesus, incidentally, started just 28 games for City in 2021-22.

While that is a pretty telling statistic in its own right, Grealish's – let's face it – hugely underwhelming direct-goals involvement of just 10 in a high-scoring City side is what garnered the most attention when picking apart his first year under Guardiola.

Eight other City players directly contributed to more goals in all competitions last season, with Sterling registering 15 more combined goals and assists than Grealish. Mahrez, now well suited to playing in Guardiola's complex system, led the way with 33.

Grealish himself admitted midway through last season that he needed to play a bigger part in front of goal, but felt the statistics were not truly reflecting his performances in the final third.

"I think [stats] are important because at the end of the day that is what people look at such as how many goal involvements us attackers have. Especially when you come to a club with the price tag that I did," he said.

"If you don't get some [goals and assists] for a few games, everyone starts to talk. I think they are important but there will be times where you're playing well and the goals and assists just aren't coming. That's what I have felt recently. 

"In the Watford game the other day I could have scored about four or five and I came off the pitch with nothing. Even the Leeds game, we scored seven goals as well and I only got one."

In that Watford game mentioned by Grealish, the England international finished with an expected goals (xG) value of 0.83 in his 68 minutes on the pitch but could not find the net from any of his five efforts, three of which were on target. 

That compares to two goals from three shots for midfield team-mate Bernardo Silva from an xG of 0.28, with Sterling scoring City's other goal in that 3-1 Premier League win at Vicarage Road.


... OR DO THEY

That Watford game was very much a microcosm of Grealish's time at City to date, with the underlying figures backing up his previous point about his efforts perhaps not paying off. 

His four assists in 2021-22, for example, came from an expected assists (xA) return of 7.08 – that differential of 3.08 being the highest of any City player. Effectively, had his team-mates put away certain chances, Grealish's season would have had a slightly more positive spin.

Indeed, the 78 chances created by the 26-year-old last season was bettered only by Kevin De Bruyne (129) among City players in all competitions, though just 10 of those were defined as 'big chances' by Opta, which is the same number as central defender Aymeric Laporte.

This is by no means to say Grealish's shortcomings last season were down to those around him. If he is to truly thrive under Guardiola, though, the shackles will surely have to be released if the Grealish that lit up the Premier League with Villa is to be seen again.

The Grealish that plays with freedom and flair – the reason Guardiola pushed hard for the club to pay a nine-figure sum for the transfer, after all – was there to see for England in their recent Nations League games.

He made a huge impact down the left-hand side from the bench with England trailing against Germany, managing six touches in the opposition box despite playing just 18 minutes, which was double that of any England player other than Harry Kane (seven).

Grealish then played a part in the incident that led to England being awarded a penalty in which Kane converted to snatch a 1-1 draw. That is very much the difference-making cameo Guardiola did not see enough of last time out.

The good news for Grealish is that he may be afforded more opportunities to get at opponents now that City have a target man in Haaland to aim for. The slick passing moves will not be done away with, as such, but Haaland is completely different in stature to any player City had up top last season.

And after a whole year of working under Guardiola, including a first pre-season, Grealish will now be far more accustomed to the demands expected of him if he is to become a regular in the starting line-up.

"I am just trying to keep improving all of the time and I know for a fact that the longer I am here the more I will improve," he added in that interview seven months ago.

With the old guard gone, the time has now arrived for Grealish to prove he has what it takes to thrive under Guardiola.

Whatever data Mark Horton is supplying his PGA Tour clients these days, it seems to be paying off.

The English statistician counts both Sam Burns and Billy Horschel among those coming to him for guidance in their golf games. And each registered Tour wins in consecutive weeks last month, as Burns captured the Charles Schwab Challenge before Horschel cruised to victory at the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday.

"Hortsy (Horton) is unbelievable," Horschel said after his win. "He's been on my team since 2014. First year he comes on the team we win the FedExCup. He's very English and he's very blunt, and we had a conversation before he joined my team about my record on the PGA Tour and things I didn't do well.

"My short game wasn't very good and I had stone hands. And this week I showed him finally that I have a short game that can live up to the golf course and save me at times."

Horschel's game at the Memorial wasn't just good, it was unprecedented. His +13.58 Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green was the most at an event in his PGA Tour career and best since the 2018 Wyndham Championship (+10.74, tied for 11th). It broke his long-time career record of +13.07, set a decade ago at the 2012 Sanderson Farms Championship.

He was the fourth Memorial winner since 2003 to rank first in both Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green as well as Greens in Regulation (53), joining Patrick Cantlay (2021), Jason Dufner (2017) and Tiger Woods (2012). He also finished the week ranked second in Proximity to the Hole, his third time on Tour ranking in the top-two and more than four feet closer than his previous average in eight previous starts at the Memorial.

Credit to Horschel for his performance. And in the meantime, Horton will keep crunching the numbers.

"He just tells me where I need to be on holes, where guys are making bogeys, where the birdies are coming from, the perfect way for me to plot my way around the golf course," Horschel explained. "That's what I love to do. I love to put my ball here, put the ball there. And he backs me up with that data that's he's been giving me for the last eight years."

SCHAUFFELE FINALLY CONVERTS

Xander Schauffele knew the record. The numbers don't lie.

0-4 lifetime. Oh for four. Goose egg.

That was Schauffele's career record on the PGA Tour when holding a 54-hole lead or co-lead. The now six-time Tour winner was still waiting to successfully convert a third-round position atop the leaderboard into a victory, and the Travelers Championship was one more opportunity to do it.

"In the past when I had a 54-hole lead or close to the lead, my Sundays felt really fast," he said. "And I'd be sitting back in the hotel or at a house on Sunday [afterward] thinking, 'What happened today?'"

This time, he said, Schauffele wanted to stay in the present and focus on the task at hand, which was each and every shot. They would all be critical to stave off Cantlay, who trailed him by only a stroke entering the final round, with more players not far behind.

"I told [my caddie] to hold me accountable on the first hole walking up there," Schauffele said. "And he did a really great job, and both of us were pretty much dialled in from the first hole."

That they were. Schauffele finished the week hitting 63 greens in regulation, leading the field and tying his most hit during an event on Tour in his career. He also hit 63 earlier this season at the WM Phoenix Open, where he tied for third, and hit 60 twice at both the 2020 Sentry Tournament of Championship (T2) and CIMB Classic (T3).

That precision helped Schauffele finish with a Strokes Gained: Total of +16.39, the most at an event in his career. His previous best total was +15.31, set in 2020 at The CJ CUP.

Schauffele trailed Sahith Theegala by one stroke as he approached the last, but the tournament leader closed with a double-bogey before Schauffele hit his approach to 3 feet, setting up the winning birdie. It marked his first individual PGA Tour title since the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions.

"It's been a year where my stats have been very solid, just haven't really put in four good rounds of golf," Schauffele said afterward. "I think subconsciously or without myself even really knowing I was getting a little impatient. And this week I was just trying to be self-aware as possible to just stay as patient as possible. I had to just realise that I put the work in and if I can just sort of do what I've been doing and just focus a little bit more throughout the day that it will pay off in a big way, and fortunately it did."

MCILROY DIALS IT IN

When Rory McIlroy looked ahead to the final-round forecast at the RBC Canadian Open, a simple glance at the wind direction told him all he’d need to know about his chances for victory.

"Seeing that southerly wind again, I knew I needed to go out and shoot 5-or-6-under par to have a chance to win," he said.

Simple enough. McIlroy posted an eight-under 62 to edge Tony Finau by two strokes for his 21st PGA Tour victory.

"You needed to keep your foot down, you needed to keep your foot on the pedal," McIlroy said of his mindset. "I got off to a faster start today than I have done the previous few days."

McIlroy has feasted in final rounds this year, joining Finau as one of only two players on Tour with four final rounds of six-under or better this year. Prior to his eight-under 62 in Canada, he also posted a pair of six-under 66s at The Players Championship and The CJ CUP to go along with an epic eight-under 64 at The Masters.

It marked his third final round of 62 or better en route to a PGA Tour win, something no other winner has done more than once since 1983. He also shot a final-round 61 to win the 2019 RBC Canadian Open, as well as a 62 at the Wells Fargo Championship.

The Northern Irishman was buoyed by an incredible approach shot performance, as he averaged just over 3 feet to the hole from 100 to 125 yards out, 14 feet closer than the field average in the final round.

Maybe this time football really is 'coming home'.

Hosts England are widely considered among the favourites to win Euro 2022 as Sarina Wiegman leads the Lionesses onto the big stage, and they can be considered marginal front-runners for a wide-open tournament.

That conclusion is based on modelling from Stats Perform's Artificial Intelligence team, using Opta's data reserves to quantify each team's chances of winning the entire tournament.

Every match has been run through the Stats Perform Women's Euro prediction model to calculate the estimated probability of the outcome (win, draw or loss). This uses odds from betting markets and Stats Perform team rankings, which are based on historical and recent performances.

The model takes into consideration the strength of each team's opponents as well as the difficulty of their respective paths to the final, plus the make-up of the groups and any relevant seedings heading into the knockouts.

The rest of the tournament is then simulated thousands of times and analysed, providing the probability of each team progressing round by round and ultimately lifting the trophy at Wembley on July 31.

Spain have been widely portrayed as favourites, but La Roja might find it hard going in England. Here is a run-down of the AI results, and they might shock you.
 

MOST LIKELY CHAMPIONS

1. England (19.3 per cent)

Runners-up in 1984 and 2009, perhaps England's second European finals on home soil could bring about a triumph the Lionesses have longed to achieve.

They have such immense strength in their forward ranks that Ellen White, joint top scorer at the 2019 World Cup, is not assured of her place in the team. The likes of Ella Toone, Beth Mead and Alessia Russo could push White for the starting spot as striker, with three attackers set to feature in behind, as manager Wiegman looks to blow away the opposition.

England are given an 81.9 per cent chance of coming through the group stage to reach the quarter-finals, a 54.1 per cent shot at getting through to the semi-finals, and a 31.1 per cent hope of making it through to the Wembley trophy match. Their 19.3 per cent chance of carrying off the trophy means it is hardly a given that England will finish bathed in glory, and that is because the opposition is so strong.

2. France (18.5 per cent)

Les Bleues left Amandine Henry and Eugenie Le Sommer out of their squad, meaning two of their recognised stars will be conspicuously absent from Corinne Diacre's team.

Stats Perform's women's football Power Rankings puts France second on the global list, behind only the United States, but coach Diacre is dicing with danger by omitting proven performers. Should things go wrong, fingers will likely be pointing her way.

However, at the back France have the stalwart Wendie Renard skippering the side, while in attack the Paris Saint-Germain striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto should make a big impact on her first major senior tournament. They possess quality, notwithstanding the notable absentees.

France have Italy, Belgium and Iceland as Group D rivals and are given a 74.8 per cent chance of advancing and are rated 49.1 per cent shots to make in into the semi-finals.

3. Sweden (14.6 per cent)

FIFA ranks Sweden second in its own rankings, and the Scandinavians were only denied Olympic gold in Tokyo last year after a penalty shoot-out loss to Canada in the final.

They might lack superstar names, but the likes of Barcelona's Fridolina Rolfo, Milan's Kosovare Asllani and Arsenal's Stina Blackstenius are players to keep an eye on.

The Swedes are given an 84.2 per cent chance of reaching the quarter-finals – the highest percentage of all teams – as they head into a group that also features defending champions the Netherlands along with Switzerland and Portugal.

4. Germany (11.5 per cent)

The eight-time winners cannot be ruled out, but they are no longer the team that everyone fears. Starting off in the same pool as Spain complicates their task considerably, with Euro 2017 runners-up Denmark also in Group C, along with Finland.

Given that line-up, Germany are given a 72.8 per cent shot at finishing in the top two and reaching the quarter-finals, plus a 43.2 per cent chance of making the last four and  a 22.0 per cent prospect of getting through to the final.

5. Spain (8.8 per cent)

Some might scoff at Spain being given such a low rating, but they face the same problem as Germany initially, with no guarantee of escaping Group C.

Jorge Vilda's Spain are built on formidable foundations, with players from Barcelona and Real Madrid dominating their squad. Barcelona won all 30 of their domestic league games last year, but their players were knocked out of stride by defeat to Lyon in the Champions League final.

Having the likes of 100-cap playmaker Alexia Putellas in their ranks makes Spain an undoubted threat. However, she has suffered an injury on the eve of the tournament, and Spain have yet to triumph on the big-tournament stage. Like Spain's men before they found a winning formula, the women's football can be a joy to watch, but their efficiency in front of goal can be lacking.

They have reached quarter-finals at the last two editions of the Euros, and are rated as 71.6 per cent likely to at least go that far this time around. Will they reach a final first? The AI analysis gives them just a 19.0 per cent chance of featuring in the Wembley showpiece.

6. Netherlands 7.2 per cent

Champions last time out when they hosted, the Dutch will believe they can defend their title, and the team's opener against Sweden will tell us a lot about their potential.

Englishman Mark Parsons has stepped in to replace Euro 2017-winning boss Wiegman, inheriting a group containing the likes of Vivianne Miedema, Lieke Martens and Danielle van de Donk, who are all potential stars of the tournament.

This time the Netherlands are given only a 64.6 per cent chance of advancing to the quarters, and a 15.8 per cent hope of reaching another final. A 5-1 pasting by England in a pre-finals friendly has cast doubt on whether they can be the same force as five years ago. If they fail to top Group C, a likely quarter-final with France awaits.

TITLE CHANCES OF THE REST (all figures are percentages): Belgium 4.5, Italy 2.9, Iceland 2.8, Austria 2.6, Norway 2.3, Switzerland 2.3, Denmark 1.1, Finland 0.6, Portugal 0.6, Northern Ireland 0.3

Manchester United certainly can't be accused of not supporting their new manager, Erik ten Hag, given the players they're going for in the transfer market.

Granted, that's more about how United are primarily being linked with players Ten Hag knows or has previously coached rather than them targeting a host of renowned superstars.

Whether that suggests a certain trust in Ten Hag or if it comes down to a lack of belief in the club's own scouting department is a discussion for another time, but clearly Ten Hag is being allowed to build a team in his image, and that's what many fans will have hoped for.

The first one in through the door is Tyrell Malacia, who joins from Eredivisie side Feyenoord on a four-year   contract with an option for a further season.

Netherlands international Malacia had apparently been close to joining Lyon until United came in at the last minute, but once the Red Devils' interest became apparent, there was only likely to be one destination: Old Trafford.

But what sort of player are United getting? Stats Perform takes a look…

Exit looming for Telles?

When considering the areas United needed to strengthen ahead of the new season, left-back might not have been highlighted as a major cause for concern, therefore some are likely to feel Malacia's signing isn't necessary.

But most would agree Luke Shaw endured a generally poor season, and his deputy – Alex Telles – seemingly wasn't good enough to fully dislodge the England international. Then you have Brandon Williams, who has returned from a loan spell at Norwich City but will in all likelihood be sold.

One would assume Malacia's arrival will lead to another sale at left-back as well, and that'll presumably be Telles rather than Shaw, who will be expected to get back to the level he showed in the 2020-21 season.

Shaw has responded well to competition before. In fact, his excellent 2020-21 campaign coincided with United's signing of Telles, but perhaps he took his foot off the pedal once he realised the Brazilian wasn't likely to be a long-term threat to his place.

Malacia could be.

 

At 22, Malacia is youthful and boasts a skillset that may make him a greater understudy – and challenger – to Shaw than Telles.

Already a Netherlands international, Malacia is quick, comfortable on the ball and had an impressive output in attack last season. Telles, on the other hand, isn't especially fast and his final-third threat relies on crosses from deep.

Full-backs performed an important function for Ten Hag's Ajax. Their underlapping runs make them potential threats in the box, while those at his disposal in Amsterdam possessed excellent technical abilities, helping the team to maintain control of possession even out wide, a little like at Manchester City.

Such a role certainly shouldn't faze Malacia considering his pace and technique.
 

A considered threat

Malacia's technical ability and speed are probably his two most obvious attributes, though neither are especially easy to prove with numbers.

Of course, it's difficult to accurately – and fairly – compare players across two hugely different competitions just using stats, but you can at least get an idea of what a player offers.

Malacia's 1.1 open-play chances created every 90 minutes in the Eredivisie last season was the 10th highest among defenders (minimum of 1,000 minutes played). That was the same as Shaw's, though the latter was obviously playing in a league generally regarded to be a higher level.

 

Despite that frequency not being especially remarkable, Malacia did lay on four assists, and his 6.0 expected assists (xA) was bettered by only four Eredivisie defenders.

So although he wasn't necessarily creating a huge amount of opportunities, those he did craft had an average xA value of 0.16 – of the defenders with at least 18 key passes, only Daley Blind (0.27), Noussair Mazraoui (0.19) and Yukinari Sugawara (0.17) created better chances on average.

Similarly, Malacia's xA output on a per-90-minute basis of 0.19 was higher than that of Shaw (0.14) and Telles (0.11).

Both of the xA averages mentioned for Malacia highlight – and can be partly explained by – how he attacks. He recorded 2.7 touches in the opposition's box every 90 minutes last term (fifth among Eredivisie defenders), whereas Shaw (1.1) and Telles (1.0) were far less willing to get into that area.

As such, of his 5.0 passes into the box each game, only 3.0 were crosses. Those respective figures for Shaw (5.9/5.7) and Telles (7.6/7.3) show a far greater reliance on hopeful crosses.

 

Again, specific coaching instructions may explain the figures of Shaw and Telles, so the data isn't suggesting any one is better than the others, but it's still easy to see why Ten Hag might feel Malacia is a good fit as one of his underlapping full-backs.

Malacia also tallied more tackle attempts (2.7), tackles won (1.8) and duels (11.0) compared to Shaw (1.1, 0.7 and 8.2) and Telles (2.4, 1.3 and 9.8).

As before, these don't necessarily mean he's a better defender because the context of the two leagues and the respective teams' playing styles make it difficult to draw such conclusions, but Malacia's figures do at least point to a certain level of tenacity off the ball.

Regardless of the numbers, it seems clear United are taking a bit of a gamble with Malacia. Although obviously talented, he is young, inexperienced and joining a team that cannot claim to have much stability.

Nothing about United over the past decade has suggested it's a club that successfully nurtures young players anymore. Even when you look at the success stories such as Marcus Rashford, he's not appeared happy for a while.

The fact Malacia has seemingly been signed upon the request of his manager – rather than a glorified accountant on the board – is undoubtedly a tick in the pros column, but only time will tell if that trust in Ten Hag is well-placed.

"He wants to come."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta did not mince his words when speaking about the possibility of the Blaugrana signing Raphinha.

Last week, Chelsea struck a deal with Leeds United – reported to be worth around £55million with add-ons taking the total fee to more than £60m – to take the Brazil winger from Elland Road to Stamford Bridge.

That agreement seemingly saw Chelsea pip London rivals Arsenal to the post after a high-profile pursuit.

Yet a deal that seemed set for a swift resolution has, as of yet, not been completed, and that is because, if Laporta is to be believed, the 25-year-old is prioritising a switch not to Stamford Bridge, but Camp Nou.

Barca have been consistently linked to Raphinha, who has established himself as one of the most exciting attackers in the Premier League since his move to Leeds from Rennes in September 2020.

Yet Laporta acknowledged that, despite Raphinha's wish to join Barca – whose financial issues make matching Chelsea's offer to Leeds problematic – the race is not won.

"We've spoken to Leeds, I don't think they will be offended," he explained. "We have communication and we have spoken personally. 

"What happens is that there are other clubs that want Raphinha and they are making their proposals."

At this stage, it does seem to be a two-horse race. Previously, with Barca's interest having seemed to have cooled, Arsenal looked well set to beat their rivals Tottenham to the winger, but it was then Chelsea who stole a march.

Bayern Munich have been credited with an interest in the past, but Sadio Mane's switch to Bavaria has ruled the German champions out.

But just why has Raphinha, a somewhat under-the-radar arrival in Yorkshire under two years ago, been so coveted?
 

Brazilian stardust meets street fighter spirit

Brazil. The home of the Copacabana, festivals and beautiful football. Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Pele, Kaka, Neymar, Zico, Socrates... the list of world-class talent produced by the South American nation is endless. They are five-time world champions for a reason.

But while Brazilian flair remains in abundance, the most recent success stories when it comes to the players that have struck gold, in the Premier League at least, have been those who have merged that national talent with steel, grit and robustness perhaps more associated with the likes of Argentina, Uruguay or the northern European nations.

Raphinha fits that bill, and like Premier League-based compatriots Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison, always seemed set to move for pastures new this off-season.

His talent cannot be doubted. Since making his Leeds debut, he has directly contributed to 29 Premier League goals, scoring 17 times and providing 12 assists, at least five more than any team-mates in the period.

 

The variety of his strikes has also been hugely impressive, with seven of his league goals for Leeds coming from outside the area. Only one player – Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse – can boast a better total (nine) in the same time frame.

Raphinha's 11 league goals last season marked his best performance since the 15 he netted in the 2017-18 campaign, when he played for Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal. He did not score as freely for Sporting CP, and only managed seven goals during his sole full season with Rennes in France.

Leeds' system, particularly under former manager Marcelo Bielsa and even still under Jesse Marsch, is physically demanding.

Raphinha, however, proved more than up to the task. Indeed, last season, he was a standout performer when it came to both targeted off-ball runs into the final third, and the number of sprints made per 90 minutes. 

A tireless runner, Raphinha offers both sides of the game.

He compares competitively when stacked up against Tottenham new boy Richarlison, one of the hardest working wide players in the Premier League across his time with Everton and a player that Raphinha competes with for a place in the Brazil side.

Raphinha's duel success rate of 42.6 per cent falls just short of Richarlison's 43.4 per cent, since the winger's league debut for Leeds on October 19, 2020, while the pair have won the same number of tackles (42), albeit Richarlison's success percentage of 59.7 compared to Raphinha's 54.1 puts him ahead in that regard.

Nevertheless, whichever club gets Raphinha is buying not just attacking output, but defensive steel.
 

Top-class creativity 

As mentioned, Raphinha's attacking output is up there with the best the Premier League has had to offer in recent seasons, especially when Leeds' struggles last season are taken into account.

Only four forwards have created more goals in the competition than Raphinha since his Premier League debut, and just one – Tottenham star Son Heung-min (131) – has created more chances in total than his tally of 129.

Of those opportunities, 85 came from open play, ranking him third in the division's attackers behind Mane (93) and Mohamed Salah (101), with his 22 big chances trailing only Salah and Harry Kane (both 26).

 

Raphinha has attempted 286 dribbles, the third-highest total in the league behind Adama Traore and Allan Saint-Maximin, though his success rate (41.3) trails some way behind that duo.

Four forwards had more than Raphinha's 155 shots, though his conversion rate of just under 11 per cent shows an area of improvement if he is to succeed at one of Europe's elite clubs.
 

World Cup hopes

It was in Portugal, not his homeland, that Raphinha made his name, but ahead of Qatar 2022, he seems a shoo-in to make Tite's squad.

He has won nine caps since his first selection in October last year, when he assisted twice on just his second appearance in a 3-1 win over Venezuela before scoring twice on his full debut in a 4-1 rout of Uruguay. Raphinha's third international strike came in a 4-0 defeat of Paraguay.

While a place on the plane to Qatar should be secured, barring injury, Raphinha will be determined to ensure he is fighting for a place in Tite's starting XI.

Brazil's coach has plenty of options to choose from for both flanks; the aforementioned Richarlison and Jesus can play central or wide, while Real Madrid star Vinicius Junior is surely a certainty to start on the left. Ajax's Antony, Madrid's Rodrygo and Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli and Everton, now back in Brazil with Flamengo, are all likely to be in that fight, too. 

Should he get his move to either London or Barcelona, Raphinha will get the opportunity to show Tite he truly can perform on the biggest stage.

When it comes to recruitment and squad construction, there aren't many clubs – if any – that are run more effectively than Manchester City.

Their Premier League title success in the 2021-22 season was just another reminder of how good they are on the pitch, yet the people in charge are not the types to simply sit around admiring their achievements.

Even before winning a fourth Premier League crown in five years – a feat only ever previously managed by Alex Ferguson's Manchester United – it was clear where City were going to strengthen.

A deal for arguably the most sought-after striker in world football, Erling Haaland, was wrapped up two weeks before the season ended, and then with Fernandinho expected to depart, another central midfielder was to be the second priority.

Kalvin Phillips proved to be the chosen one, with City confirming on Monday that the England international has completed his reported £45million move from Leeds United, having undergone a medical on Friday.

It's an impressive statement by City, who have already bolstered their two primary problem areas – if you can call them that – by the first week of July.

And with respect to Phillips' signing, there's a lot to suggest it's a shrewd acquisition.

 

Moulded by Bielsa

Of course, the most obvious – and arguably crucial – link here is Marcelo Bielsa. It was under the Argentinian coach that Phillips has played the best football of his career and cemented himself as an England regular.

Bielsa is also considered one of Pep Guardiola's greatest inspirations, with an apparent 11-hour meeting between the pair back in 2006 said to have played a major role in the City boss' decision to go into management.

The similarities between the two coaches' styles of play are significant, and this should facilitate a smooth transition for Phillips.

Under Bielsa he'll have become accustomed to not only intense training sessions, but also a playing philosophy that revolves around possession-based football and relentless counter pressing.

In terms of the latter, City are perhaps a little more considered in their efforts compared to Bielsa's Leeds, but either way Phillips has been exposed to the same fundamentals, and that can only be a tick in the pros column.

After all, a second-season bounce has become commonplace for signings under Guardiola. Numerous players have needed a full campaign to truly get to grips with the demands required by the Catalan coach before going on to show significant improvement and growth thereafter – Phillips might be better-equipped than most to hit the ground running.

But that brings up a separate issue; what will Phillips be to City?

Rodri the immovable object

Having come through Leeds' academy, established himself as a key player and then gone on to be a fulcrum in Bielsa's team, Phillips was the first name on the teamsheet – when fit – for several years at Elland Road.

Regardless of his suitability for City, it seems unlikely he'll enjoy a similar status in Guardiola's team. Phillips is at his most effective as lone defensive midfielder, but so too is Rodri, and it's difficult to imagine the Spain international being suddenly taken out of the team given how effective he's proven to be.

Rodri's 2,937 successful passes in the opposition's half since the start of the 2020-21 season is over 400 more than any other Premier League player, and his 577 ball recoveries over the same period is the joint-most alongside Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, though the Dane has played almost 1,000 minutes more.

Of course, who's to say Phillips couldn't play the role even more effectively? But the key thing to consider is that Rodri has an important function in both keeping City on the ball and then winning it back when they don't, and he demonstrably does both well.

Nevertheless, Guardiola's proven he's a coach keen to rotate. He gave at least 900 minutes of Premier League football to 18 players last season, with only four teams bettering that, so Phillips can still expect plenty of game time.

And, to be fair, Phillips might not have even been up to the task of being a regular starter for City given how much time he spent sidelined last season.

A match made in heaven

Clearly, then, Guardiola's rotation policy would suggest Phillips will have opportunities to deputise for Rodri and take up the back-up role vacated by Fernandinho, yet there's no doubt he possesses the skillset to also play alongside the former Atletico Madrid midfielder as well.

First and foremost, he's a more progressive player than Rodri. Over the past two seasons, 28 per cent of Phillips' passes have been forward, the exact same figure as Fernandinho and a fair bit more than Rodri's 20 per cent.

Similarly, in the same period Phillips has played 3.5 passes into the box every 90 minutes, whereas Rodri has averaged two, and his 1.0 dribble attempts each game is also slightly more than his new team-mate (0.9).

But in a way it shouldn't necessarily matter which midfield role Phillips plays in, given he has a range of abilities that should suit him either as a number six or a number eight, especially in a Guardiola team.

On top of that, Phillips doesn't turn 27 until December, so he is very much entering his prime years, and if anyone can squeeze every ounce of potential out of a player, it's Guardiola.

Then when you consider Phillips' history with Bielsa and type of team he played in at Leeds, everything points to this being a match made in heaven.

Mohamed Salah committed his long-term future to Liverpool on Friday by signing a new three-year deal.

The Egypt international was due to be out of contract at the end of the upcoming season, leading to strong links with a move away from Anfield.

However, out of the blue, Salah has penned an extension to – temporarily, at least – bring an end to speculation over his future.

After losing Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich, albeit with Darwin Nunez signed as a replacement of sorts, tying down Salah is a major boost for Liverpool ahead of the new season.

Here, Stats Perform looks at just how important Salah has been for Liverpool over the past five years, and how his record compares to Europe's other elite attackers.

ALREADY AMONG LIVERPOOL GREATS

It is difficult to remember now, but Salah's arrival from Roma in a deal rising to £43million raised more than a few eyebrows due to his disappointing earlier spell with Chelsea.

Six major honours later, including one as a key part in the club's first Premier League title triumph, and Salah will go down as one of Liverpool's all-time greats.

The 30-year-old has made 254 appearances for the Reds in total, 235 of those being starts, and has scored 156 goals while assisting 58 more.

Those 156 goals rank him ninth on the list of Liverpool's record scorers, with considerable ground to make up on Ian Rush at the top of that list with 346 goals.


CLOSING IN ON GERRARD RECORD

Salah might struggle to overhaul Rush, but he will also have another record in his sights when the 2022-23 campaign gets up and running next month.

With 164 direct goal involvements in the Premier League, Salah trails only Steven Gerrard (212) among Reds players in the competition in that regard.

Indeed, only two players from Europe's top five leagues have scored and assisted more goals across the same period – Robert Lewandowski (184) and Lionel Messi (200).

Kylian Mbappe, seen by many as the most desirable player in world football, is fourth on that list on 163 goal involvements, while Ciro Immobile is fifth with 159.


PREMIER LEAGUE PEDIGREE

Salah has scored 118 goals for Liverpool in the Premier League alone, which is 13 more than next-best Harry Kane among all clubs since the start of the 2017-18 season.

Those strikes have helped Salah to three Golden Boot awards – only Arsenal legend Thierry Henry (4) has finished top of the competition's scoring charts more often.

The former Basel forward also ranks top for minutes per goal among those to have played at least 100 times (126 minutes per goal), shots (678) and touches in the opposition box (1,575).

However, one metric he does not lead is assists, with Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne boasting 58 to Salah's 46.


MORE TO COME FROM MO

Salah's output has been consistent across his five years at Anfield, starting between 45 and 49 games a season and registering double figures for assists in all but one of those campaigns.

He has remained a prolific scorer throughout, with a high of 44 goals in the 2017-18 season and a low – but still respectable – 23 in the 2019-20 campaign. The latter was the season when Liverpool won the Premier League.

The Al Mokawloon youth product has managed 31 goals in each of the past two seasons, while the 15 assists registered last season was a career-high.

All that suggests Salah is far from finished on Merseyside, and with a new three-year deal signed, Liverpool fans have plenty more to look forward to from their 'Egyptian king'.

June 30, 2002, Yokohama. Ronaldo pounces on Rivaldo's dummy to side-foot past Germany's Oliver Kahn, becoming just the ninth man to score twice in a World Cup final and making Brazil champions of the world.

That moment, the pinnacle of the legendary forward's career, remains unmatched to this day for the Selecao, with Brazil failing to add to their five World Cup crowns in the subsequent two decades.

Should Brazil fall short of glory in Qatar later this year, that drought will stretch to at least 24 years, matching their longest wait for World Cup glory since their maiden title in 1958 (also between 1970 and 1994).

For a country whose hopes have been entrusted to such footballing icons as Ronaldinho, Kaka and Neymar in subsequent years, such a drought seems inexplicable, with three quarter-final exits and one historic semi-final humiliation the sum of their efforts since 2002. 

Exactly 20 years on from Brazil's triumph in Japan and South Korea, Stats Perform looks back on that momentous success, questions why it is yet to be repeated, and asks whether Tite's class of 2022 are equipped to bring glory to one of the world's most football-mad nations.

2002: Irresistible Ronaldo fires Selecao to glory in Japan and South Korea

It is no exaggeration to say Brazil's last World Cup win was one of the most impressive triumphs in the competition's history.

Luiz Felipe Scolari's men went from strength to strength after requiring a late Rivaldo penalty to edge a tense opener against eventual third-placed finishers Turkey, winning all seven of their games by an aggregate score of 18-4.

The class of 2002 thus hold the record for the most games won by a nation at a single World Cup, with Ronaldo – coming off an injury-blighted four seasons at Inter in which he managed just 36 Serie A appearances – the star of the show.

Partnering Rivaldo and supplied by Paris Saint-Germain's breakout star Ronaldinho, O Fenomeno netted eight goals across the tournament, the joint-most of any Brazilian at a single World Cup and the highest tally of anyone since West Germany's Gerd Muller struck 10 times in 1970.

 

Ronaldo's 19 shots on target in the tournament has not been matched in any subsequent World Cup, while his total of 34 attempts was more than five different nations managed. 

Quarter-final opponents England, vanquished when Ronaldinho audaciously (perhaps fortuitously) lobbed David Seaman from long-range, were the only side to keep Ronaldo out as he took the competition by storm.

A 25-year-old Ronaldo's final double against Germany represented his 44th and 45th international goals in just his 64th Brazil appearance. He managed just 17 further strikes in the famous yellow shirt during his career.

There was nothing in the 2002 squad's make-up to suggest a long wait for further tournament success was imminent: The experienced Cafu (31 in 2002) and Roberto Carlos (29) were still around in 2006, while future Ballon d'Or winners Ronaldinho (22) and Kaka (20) had their whole careers ahead of them.

How, then, did one of the greatest sides in modern international history contrive to fall so far short in subsequent World Cups?

 

2006-2010: Zidane and Sneijder sparkle as drab Brazil fall short

Brazil looked set for another shot at glory in Germany in 2006. Ronaldinho was crowned the world's best player in 2005; Kaka was to follow in his footsteps in 2007; and Ronaldo had hit a century of goals in his first four seasons with Real Madrid.

Brazil conceded just once in group-stage clashes with Croatia, Australia and Japan before crushing Ghana 3-0 in the last 16, but with Carlos Alberto Parreira cramming his three attacking stars into a rigid 4-4-2 shape, it was France who more closely resembled the Brazil sides of old in the last eight. 

Zinedine Zidane's performance in Frankfurt stands as one of the finest in the competition's history, as he tormented the defending champions' flat midfield before assisting Thierry Henry's winner.

It was the first of two masterful midfield displays to end the World Cup hopes of drab Brazil teams, with Wesley Sneijder assuming Zidane's role as the Netherlands vanquished Dunga's men in South Africa in 2010.

Progressing from the group stages has not been an issue for Brazil. Astonishingly, they are unbeaten in their last 15 group games, last suffering a first-stage defeat against Norway in 1998.

A lack of tactical nous against the world's best, however, has been a legitimate charge, and an understandable one given the identities of some of their head coaches.

Parreira's one Brazilian top-flight title was won way back in 1984, while Dunga's only club-level experience remains, to this day, a dire 2013 campaign with Internacional.

In that context, the return of Scolari, the emergence of Neymar and a home World Cup lifted expectations to monumental levels by 2014, when Brazilian dreams were to be shattered in the most incredible manner imaginable.

2014-2018: Home humiliation and Neymar reliance see Brazilian woes continue

The 2014 World Cup was billed as a festival of football, lit up by jubilant Brazilian crowds and thrilling football – the 171 goals scored across the tournament are the joint-most on record, alongside 1998.

Sadly for Brazil, eventual winners Germany provided 18 of those, with seven coming in a scarcely believable semi-final rout at the Mineirao.

Having gone 5-0 down within 29 minutes in the absence of Neymar and Thiago Silva, Scolari's men collapsed to arguably the greatest humiliation in World Cup history and, as almost goes without saying, the heaviest semi-final defeat the tournament has ever seen.

Only when Yugoslavia faced Zaire in 1974 had a side previously been 5-0 up after 29 minutes at a World Cup, but for all the excitement building around the host nation, Brazil's class of 2014 always appeared flawed.

An over-reliance on Neymar – cruelly sidelined by a dreadful quarter-final challenge from Colombia's Juan Camilo Zuniga – was clear in both 2014 and 2018, when Brazil fell to a 2-1 defeat to a Kevin De Bruyne-inspired Belgium in Russia.

 

Across those two tournaments, Neymar's six goals and two assists saw him directly involved in 42 per cent of Brazil's goals.

Fluminense striker Fred, ridiculed by many for his performances in 2014, wasn't exactly up to the task of replacing his goal threat, while Gabriel Jesus failed to find the net despite starting every match under Tite in 2018.

Indeed, coming into the 2018 tournament, Neymar – with 55 goals in 85 caps, was the only player in the Brazil squad to have scored more than 12 international goals.

Having achieved the rare feat of holding onto his job after leading Brazil at a World Cup, Tite will hope the emergence of several other stars lessens the burden on his number 10 this time around.

The road to Qatar: Can the class of 2022 end World Cup drought? 

Assuming he remains in charge when they face Serbia on November 24, Tite will become the first coach to lead Brazil at back-to-back World Cups since Tele Santana in 1982 and 1986.

While neither of Santana's campaigns ended in glory, the current boss – a Copa Libertadores and FIFA Club World Cup winner – will hope his six years moulding the side will prove invaluable in Qatar.

Brazil have already ended one mini trophy drought under his watch, winning a first Copa America title in 12 years on home soil in 2019 before finishing as runners-up to Argentina two years later.

Most impressively, Brazil triumphed without the injured Neymar in 2019 as Everton Soares top-scored, and the form of a series of Selecao stars has given Tite enviable squad depth.

In Allison and Ederson, he can choose between arguably the top two goalkeepers in the Premier League, while Fabinho was crucial as Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool fell narrowly short of a historic quadruple last term.

Casemiro, who won his fifth Champions League title with Madrid in May, could partner him in a fearsome midfield duo, but most of the excitement is centred on his club team-mate Vinicius Junior, whose 22 goals and 16 assists for Los Blancos last term suggest he can be the man to dovetail with Neymar.

 

After landing an appealing group-stage draw alongside Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon, the excitement around Brazil is building once more.

With the Selecao topping the FIFA World Rankings, having fairly recent a Copa America win under their belts and possessing some of European football's most-effective players, 2022 seems as good a time as any for Brazil to end 20 years of disappointment and bring 'o Jogo Bonito' to the world once more.

Romelu Lukaku's second spell with Chelsea lasted just one season.

Inter have confirmed the return of Lukaku in a season-long loan deal just 321 days after selling him to Chelsea for just under £100million.

It reunites Lukaku with the club with whom he won the Scudetto in 2021 and writes another chapter in the history of the Blues signing a high-profile striker, only for them to fail to produce.

As the London club perhaps wonder what might have been with Lukaku, Stats Perform looks back at the string of forwards who saw their goals dry up after moving to Stamford Bridge.

Mateja Kezman

Kezman did not arrive for big money by today's standards, joining from PSV for a £5.3m fee in 2004, but he came with significant expectations after a goal-laden spell in the Eredivisie in which he plundered 105 in 122 league appearances and won the title twice.

However, he came nowhere close to living up to the billing in his sole season in the Premier League, finding the net seven times in 41 games in all competitions. His most important goal was the ultimately decisive third in Chelsea's League Cup final win over Liverpool as the Blues did the double, going on to claim a first Premier League crown under Jose Mourinho.

He was subsequently sold to Atletico Madrid and had spells with Fenerbahce and Paris Saint-Germain that delivered more trophies, though he never managed to recapture his PSV form.

Andriy Shevchenko

Few strikers in world football were as feared as Shevchenko during his golden years at Milan, for whom he remains the second-highest goalscorer in the club's history with 175.

Chelsea's £30.8m move to lure him from San Siro in 2006, then a record fee paid by an English club, reflected his reputation. Yet Shevchenko's transition to the Premier League did not go to plan.

In his final season in Serie A, Shevchenko averaged a goal every 116 minutes. Across two seasons with Chelsea, that dipped to one every 284 minutes in the Premier League. He netted 22 in 77 games in all competitions, with the appointment of Avram Grant as Mourinho's successor in 2007 limiting his game time. Shevchenko won the FA Cup and League Cup with the Blues but was an unused substitute as they lost the 2008 Champions League final to Manchester United.

He was sent back to Milan for an unsuccessful loan spell before finishing his career back at boyhood club Dynamo Kyiv.

Fernando Torres

Torres' 2011 move from Liverpool to Chelsea was one of the most famous January transfers in Premier League history. As with a lot of January moves, it did not have the desired impact.

In his final two full seasons with Liverpool in 2008-09 and 2009-10, 'El Nino' scored 32 Premier League goals from 166 shots that had an expected goals (xG) value of 13.3. In 2010-11, he scored nine for Liverpool from an xG value of 8.5. Across three and a half seasons with Chelsea, Torres scored 20 league goals from 217 shots with an xG value of 26.5.

In terms of silverware, Torres was still successful with Chelsea, winning three trophies. His crowning moment came as he scored the decisive goal at Camp Nou against Barcelona to send the Blues into the Champions League final, where they beat Bayern Munich on penalties.

But his overall output was never close to good enough, and he too had a brief spell at Milan before heading back to where it all began with Atletico Madrid.

Alvaro Morata

Of all the players on this list, Morata's relative lack of goalscoring success was the least surprising given he made the move to Stamford Bridge having never scored more than 15 league goals in a single season in his career.

Moving from Real Madrid on the back of that career-best campaign in 2016-17, Morata was unable to live up to his reported £60m fee, scoring 11 goals in 31 games in his first season and five in 16 in the first half of his second before being loaned to Atletico, who he then joined on a permanent basis having won the FA Cup and Europa League with Chelsea.

Timo Werner

Werner still has the chance to turn his Chelsea career around, but the former RB Leipzig striker's time at Stamford Bridge has followed a very similar trajectory to Chelsea's high-profile misfires.

Having scored 95 goals in 159 games for Leipzig, Werner has netted only 23 in two seasons for Chelsea since his £47.5m move, with his 191 shots carrying an xG value of 33.7, illustrating just how poorly the Germany international has performed in front of goal.

He has brought value in other areas, serving as a high-energy focal point of the Chelsea attack, but Thomas Tuchel will surely want to see more in terms of end product for Werner to free himself from the 'flop' tag.

Romelu Lukaku

Unable to cement a place in the Chelsea first team during his first spell with the club, Lukaku's second act at Stamford Bridge was expected to be much more profitable.

Chelsea forked out a club-record £97.5m on that proving to be the case but have now moved to cut their losses and allow Lukaku to return to Inter, if only on loan.

Lukaku scored a goal every 120 minutes in helping Inter to Serie A glory in 2020-21 but managed just eight in the Premier League at one every 198 minutes.

Between Werner and Lukaku, Chelsea could not afford to carry two struggling strikers, with the latter becoming the latest in a long line of misguided attacking investments to make a swift exit.

Eoin Morgan signalled the end of an era for England's limited-overs team as he announced his international retirement on Tuesday.

Morgan, who started his career playing for Ireland, had captained the white-ball side for eight years.

In that time, England went to the 2016 World Twenty20 final and then overcame the pain of that narrow defeat by winning a dramatic 2019 Cricket World Cup final.

Morgan will "go down as one of the most influential figures not just in English cricket but in world cricket", according to Brendon McCullum, while Nasser Hussain lauded "our greatest ever white-ball captain" and Michael Atherton hailed his "white-ball dynasty".

But more than merely an outstanding leader - who is expected to be replaced in his role by Jos Buttler – Morgan has also been a brilliant player for England.

Indeed, there is scarcely a white-ball record Morgan does not have his fingerprints on, with his Test career lasting only 16 matches.

Despite playing 23 ODIs for Ireland between 2006 and 2009 before switching allegiances, no player has appeared in more matches for England in the format (225); the same is true of T20Is (115).

Perhaps it is no surprise then that Morgan leads England in runs in both formats – 6,957 in 50 overs and 2,458 in 20. In fact, only eight players of any nationality have scored more T20I runs.

Morgan has played with some of the sport's biggest hitters but can hold his own, too: his 220 ODI sixes (202 for England) include 17 in one match against Afghanistan at the 2019 World Cup, a record that stands to this day.

In the shortest format, he has hit 120 sixes – the most of any England star and the fourth-most overall.

A star in the field, too, Morgan has taken 46 catches in T20Is to lead England all internationals and rank joint-eighth across the board.

But Morgan will perhaps still be best remembered as the man organising the field as England scaled new heights – and he owns his fair share of records in that regard, too.

Morgan was captain for just over half of his ODI appearances (126), comfortably the most such outings of any England player, ahead of Alastair Cook (69).

It is unsurprisingly a similar story in the younger T20I format, with Morgan's 72 games as captain matching India's MS Dhoni for the record.

Morgan's sublime career is unlikely to be forgotten in a hurry, but this array of dominant records ensures that will remain the case.

It always feels somewhat presumptuous to talk about an NBA Draft in the immediate aftermath and judge who did well and who did not. Surely, we have to wait to see how things play out and whether players with immense potential are able to fulfil it?

However, what you can do is judge those who, on paper at least, seem to have struck gold and those who appeared to stumble through their Thursday evening and may well have come away disappointed with their haul.

The night started off delightfully chaotically as the Orlando Magic went against the widely predicted number one pick of Jabari Smith Jr and instead brought in Paolo Banchero.

Now the dust has settled after an interesting night, Stats Perform has taken a look at the potential winners and losers of the draft.

Winners

Houston Rockets

The Rockets could probably not believe their luck when the Magic decided to opt for Banchero. The Italian-American would have still been a fine first-round pick, but given the choice it seems like Houston would rather have taken Smith Jr, and they had the chance to do just that.

The youngster was a disruptive defender for Aubern, and clearly has sound fundamentals, a result no doubt of growing up in and around basketball, with his father Jabari Smith Sr a former NBA player himself.

Smith Jr averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists while shooting 42.9 per cent from the floor and 42 per cent from the three-point line in 2021-22, and should dovetail nicely with Alperen Sengun, a first-round pick from last year.

The Rockets also took Tari Eason, a breakout star at LSU, and TyTy Washington, a high-quality and versatile option who was expected to be picked up earlier in the night.

Detroit Pistons

A very similar moment of fortune fell for the Pistons as their top choice Jaden Ivey was surprisingly still available when it came to their number five pick, with the Sacramento Kings instead taking Keegan Murray.

In two seasons at Purdue, Ivey showed himself to be a top-five prospect with a well-rounded game, though questions persist about the consistency of his shooting. He averaged 17.3 points per game last season, though, with a field goal percentage of 46.0.

Detroit were also involved in a three-way trade with the Charlotte Hornets and the New York Knicks. This ended with them procuring Jalen Duren and Kemba Walker in exchange for their 2025 first-round pick, having acquired it as part of the Jerami Grant trade to the Portland Trail Blazers earlier in the week.

Walker is expected to be bought out of his contract and become a free agent, so it looks like sound dealing to essentially trade a first-round pick to get Duren through the door, who averaged 12.0 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for the Memphis Tigers last season.

San Antonio Spurs

Nothing outrageous from the Spurs, but on the face of it, they ended the night with three solid picks.

Jeremy Sochan became the first British player to be picked in NBA Draft in over 10 years. As a freshman at Baylor, Sochan averaged 9.2 points and 6.4 rebounds in 25.1 minutes per game, making 47.4 per cent of his field goal attempts.

As that average suggests, one aspect to his game that could be improved is his shooting, but San Antonio's Chip Engelland is one of the best shooting coaches in the game and could well help the young man who was raised in Milton Keynes, England.

Malaki Branham looks a smart choice as the number 20 pick from Ohio State, with his one college season seeing him average 13.7 points on 49.8 per cent shooting, while Blake Wesley from Notre Dame also has the potential to also be a valuable arrival.

Losers

New York Knicks

After a poor season that felt like it would at least set them up for a productive draft, the Knicks appeared to overthink things at the draft, or underthink them depending on your viewpoint.

They decided to trade their number 11 pick for three future first-round picks, though none that really hold any value.

They managed to get Walker's contract out the door to the Pistons to free up some salary space, seemingly putting all their eggs in the Jalen Brunson basket, or potentially even Kyrie Irving. However, they only saved $9.2m from Walker's contract, which is not a lot considering they gave up one of their first-round picks. 

Who knows if it will pay off, but Knicks fans were almost certainly expecting more.

Washington Wizards

There was nothing particularly wrong with the picks from the Wizards, but as harsh as it may sound, they are in danger of becoming the NBA's dullest team.

A win percentage of 0.427 was down from 0.472 in 2020-21, and it felt like they might need to take a bit of a risk in the draft with their number 10 pick.

Johnny Davis is a fine player, averaging 19.7 points per game for the Wisconsin Badgers last year, the 25th highest in the college game, but someone like Duren could have been a roll of the dice for something to boost that win percentage sometime soon.

Who knows? It could be a sound strategy, but to be frank, it is a strategy that has not been working for the last few years in Washington.

Sacramento Kings

There is some sympathy with the situation the Kings were put in as the extremely obvious pick at four was Ivey, who had expressly said he did not want to go to Sacramento, so they went with Murray instead.

Murray is a fine prospect himself, and arguably a better fit than Ivey for the Kings, but the latter felt like an opportunity to at the very least have significant trade leverage.

Murray did average the fourth-highest points per game average last year with 23.5 for Iowa, while also adding 8.7 rebounds per game, so comes in as a promising addition.

Ivey will inevitably feel like the one who got away if he does what many think he will at Detroit, though, which could bring back memories of when Sacramento failed to take on Luka Doncic in 2018.

To suggest the next 12 months may well define Lionel Messi's career would be doing a disservice to what we have witnessed up close over the past 18 campaigns. 

From boy wonder to the greatest player ever in the view of many, and now into a new chapter with Paris Saint-Germain, the Argentina forward has nothing to prove to anyone.

And yet on the day he turns 35 – the average age of retirement for a footballer – questions continue to be asked of Messi. 

Will he win a World Cup – still in the eyes of many the real barometer of a truly great player, even in the era of the Champions League – before he retires? 

Can he prove himself in a different country after a mixed first season in France? Both of those questions will be answered before he celebrates his 36th birthday in a year's time.

Stats Perform looks at how Messi's game has already changed, and whether he is still capable of inspiring club and country to glory in possibly the biggest year of his career.
 

MESSI 2.0

Ten months have passed since the shock announcement that Messi was bringing an end to his 21-year association with Barcelona to join Ligue 1 giants PSG.

By his own high standards, Messi's first campaign in Paris was far from great. He scored 11 goals in 34 appearances, down on the 38 scored in his last season with Barca.

And those 11 goals came from an expected goals (xG) value of 16.8, meaning he scored 5.8 goals fewer than he should have based on the quality of his chances.

Among players in Europe's top-five leagues in all competitions last season, only six others had a worse return, with Lille striker Burak Yilmaz (8.11 differential) topping the list.

There were extenuating circumstances, of course, with Messi himself recently opening up on just how badly he struggled after testing positive for coronavirus in January.

The La Masia product also had to adapt to life outside the place he had called home for more than two decades, seeing him take on an entirely different role.

While his scoring figures dropped considerably, Messi set up 14 league goals – only once in his last five seasons at Camp Nou (21 in 2019-20) did he assist more in a campaign.

The majority of his assists last season came from a left-of-centre position outside the box, where he predominantly played alongside Neymar and just off Kylian Mbappe.


RONALDO SHOWS THE WAY

The 11 goals Messi scored at the age of 34 is his lowest return since the eight he netted when aged 18 and still in the infancy of his Barcelona career.

While that can be put down to a change of scenery, and being in the unfamiliar role of having to play second-fiddle to Mbappe, age is also surely a factor.

At 35 – or 34 as he was last season – Messi will inevitably have to rely more on his footballing brain than his legs to give him an advantage over opponents.

As showed by Cristiano Ronaldo, though, age is just a number when it comes to the very best, the Portugal star having scored 75 goals in 102 games since his 35th birthday.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, four months shy of his 41st birthday, has scored an impressive 112 goals in 174 appearances since hitting 35, an age often perceived as being 'over the hill'.


ALL EYES ON QATAR

Playing a supporting role may well be something we must come accustomed to when it comes to club level, but for Argentina Messi very much still remains the main man.

That was clear to see earlier this month when, in his final game in a gruelling campaign, Messi scored all five of Argentina's goals in their thumping friendly win over Estonia.

That five-goal showing rightly attracted plenty of focus, though it was arguably four days earlier in his side's 3-0 'Finalissima' victory over Italy that Messi truly showed his quality.

Messi pulled the strings from a slightly deeper position as Argentina, who also boast the likes of Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala, showed their credentials.

He assisted two of Argentina's three goals, including a delightful turn to leave Giovanni Di Lorenzo trailing in his wake before setting up Martinez for a simple finish. 

On the back of ending their 28-year wait for silverware in 2021 with victory at the Copa America, Lionel Scaloni's men now look good value to challenge for the World Cup.

Regardless of any more titles he adds to his collection at PSG, Messi lifting the most famous trophy of them all in Qatar later this year would be the defining image of his career.

Different now he may be, but Messi has a chance to show in his 35th year that he has plenty more left in the tank to turn a great career into the greatest.

It is the end of an era at Liverpool as one of their iconic front three leaves for pastures new.

After six years at Anfield, Sadio Mane has departed for a new adventure with Bayern Munich, completing a move for €41million (£35.2million).

Stats Perform understands Liverpool will receive a guaranteed €32million (£27.5m), plus €6m (£5.2m) based on appearances and a further €3m (£2.5m) depending on future success that Mane and Bayern achieve.

The Reds have already moved on by bringing in Uruguay striker Darwin Nunez from Benfica, but it feels significant that Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah will never play together again for Jurgen Klopp's side.

The trio fired Liverpool to multiple trophies, including a Champions League and Premier League, though the additions of Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz in the last couple of years had already seen a slight evolution.

However, Klopp has now lost one of his main men, which is an experience the German boss has had to get used to in his career, especially the idea of his players moving to Munich.

While it may not feel like quite the blow of past desertions given the forward planning, Stats Perform has taken a look at how the decision to leave Klopp went in the past.

 

Nuri Sahin

Sahin was always likely to be a major component for Borussia Dortmund when he became the Bundesliga's youngest player aged 16 years, 11 months against Wolfsburg in August 2006, a record that was only broken in November 2020 by Youssoufa Moukoko.

He shone under Klopp, particularly in 2010-11 when Dortmund shocked German football to win the Bundesliga title, with Sahin claiming the league's Player of the Year award and earning a move to Real Madrid.

After 14 goal involvements from midfield (six goals, eight assists) in his last season in the Bundesliga, Sahin struggled to do similar in Spain, making just 10 appearances in all competitions for Madrid, with one solitary goal in the Copa del Rey against Ponferradina.

An unsuccessful loan move to Liverpool the following season was cut short halfway through, and just 20 months after leaving Signal Iduna Park, Sahin was back in the yellow and black on loan, before making the switch permanent in 2014, staying until a move to Werder Bremen in 2018.

Shinji Kagawa

The Japan international spent two very productive seasons at Dortmund under Klopp between 2010 and 2012, winning back-to-back Bundesliga titles and scoring 21 goals in 49 league games.

Kagawa decided to try his hand at the Premier League, moving to Manchester United in June 2012, but much like Sahin, found the grass far from greener.

Due to injury, he only played a supporting role as United won the title in the 2012-13 season, scoring six goals in 26 appearances in all competitions, before making a further 29 in the first campaign at Old Trafford following the retirement of Alex Ferguson, with no additional goals to his name.

Like Sahin, Kagawa returned to Dortmund in 2014, spending a further five years at the club.

 

Mario Gotze

The fresh-faced Gotze came through the youth ranks at Dortmund and, like Kagawa, played a vital role in Klopp's great Dortmund side that won two Bundesliga titles, and also had a big hand in getting them to the 2013 Champions League final.

One of the side narratives to that final against Bayern was that prior to it, Gotze had agreed a €37m move to the Bavarian club.

Klopp was hurt by Gotze's decision, but although the attacking midfielder went on to score the winner for Germany in the 2014 World Cup final and have a decent record at Bayern, scoring 36 goals in 114 games, he never really established himself as a key cog in their team, and in a familiar move for those who had left Dortmund, returned three years later.

Gotze spent four years back in the yellow and black, but was never able to recapture the magic that made him one of Europe's hottest prospects under Klopp.

Robert Lewandowski

Arguably the only real success story of those who moved on from Klopp, though there is no denying that the building blocks were put in place by the German for Lewandowski to become the striker he is today.

Arriving at Dortmund as an unknown from Lech Poznan, he scored just eight times in 33 games in his first Bundesliga season, before going on to rack up 66 across his next three league campaigns.

His goals also played a part in Dortmund winning two titles and reaching the Champions League final, but a year after Gotze had moved to Bayern, Lewandowski did the same following the expiry of his contract.

There were thoughts that the Poland international might struggle to replicate his form to quite the expected levels in Munich, scoring just 17 goals in his first Bundesliga season.

However, since then he has never scored fewer than 22, and broke Gerd Muller's record for most goals in a Bundesliga season when he netted 41 times in just 29 games in 2020-21.

Since leaving Dortmund in 2014, Lewandowski has won eight Bundesliga titles, three DFB-Pokal's and a Champions League, while also being awarded the FIFA Best Men's Player of the Year in the last two years.

 

Philippe Coutinho

Klopp probably thought the days of losing his star players were behind him when he arrived at Liverpool, but on the eve of his third season at Anfield, he was rocked when Coutinho handed in a transfer request.

The influential Brazilian was part of Klopp's first great front three at Liverpool along with Mane and Firmino, but the arrival of Salah softened the blow of his move to Barcelona in January 2018, as did the reported £142m (€160m) fee.

Despite a promising start to life at the Camp Nou, the pressure of the price tag and essentially being the replacement for the legendary Andres Iniesta proved too much, with Coutinho loaned to, of course, Bayern after just 18 months in Spain.

He had a successful season in Germany, winning a treble and having 20 goal involvements (11 goals and nine assists) in 38 appearances in all competitions, but returned to Barca and again failed to impress, albeit a serious knee injury curtailed most of his 2020-21 campaign.

After 16 goals and seven assists in 84 games in all for Barca, Coutinho returned to England in January 2022 to play for ex-Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa, recording five goals and three assists, enough to secure a permanent move for a slightly more modest fee of around £17m (€20m).

Georginio Wijnaldum

The Netherlands midfielder may be a harsh inclusion as it remains unclear how much of his exit from Liverpool was his decision and how much was the club's, but Wijnaldum parted ways with Klopp and the Reds at the end of the 2020-21 season to join Paris Saint-Germain.

The man who earned cult status at Liverpool with his two goals against Barcelona in their dramatic comeback in the Champions League semi-final second leg three years ago would now get the chance to play alongside Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi.

However, despite being a regular under Klopp, having never started fewer than 27 league games in his five years on Merseyside, the 31-year-old started just 18 Ligue 1 games for PSG, scoring once.

Wijnaldum was voted the worst signing in Ligue 1 by a poll held by Get French Football News, but still has two years left on his contract at the Parc des Princes, so could yet turn things around, and had a title winners' medal to show for his efforts after his debut campaign.

Mane will most likely win more titles in Germany to add to his already meaty collection from his time at Liverpool, but whether he can recreate the level of performances and subsequent adulation he received from the red half of Merseyside remains to be seen.

Sadio Mane's illustrious spell at Liverpool has come to a close after the forward completed a move to Bayern Munich.

The Senegal international had just one year remaining on his contract at Anfield and was yet to agree terms on an extension, leading Liverpool to accept a €41million (£35.2m) bid from the Bundesliga champions for his services.

Mane's departure will leave a void within Jurgen Klopp's attacking ranks, although work had already been done to prepare for the changing of the guard with the signing of Luis Diaz from Porto in January and the capture of Darwin Nunez from Benfica in June.

While Diaz has hit the ground running on Merseyside and expectations are high for Nunez, replacing Mane is certainly no easy feat – as displayed by his record over the past six years...

Reliable return

Mane's contributions have been vital to Liverpool's success, with 120 goals across all competitions for the Anfield club. He averaged a goal every 180 minutes – one every two matches.

With an additional 37 assists, Mane chipped in with a goal involvement every 137 minutes.

In the Premier League, only Harry Kane (134), team-mate Mohamed Salah (118) and Leicester City's Jamie Vardy (104) scored more Premier League goals than Mane (90) over the course of his Liverpool career.

Leading the way

As part of a devastating attacking trio alongside Salah and Roberto Firmino that helped fire Liverpool to multiple honours, including ending a 30-year wait for a league title, Mane was often the provider at crucial moments.

Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Mane's Premier League goals were worth 63 points; only Tottenham's Kane ranks higher in that regard, with strikes worth 75 points.

Mane (38) was also only behind Kane (43) for opening goals in Premier League matches, while he scored 29 winning goals – behind Kane (38) and Salah (34).

 

Crucial role

In six years at Liverpool, Mane made 269 appearances across all competitions for Liverpool, starting 248 of those – resulting in a total of 21,577 minutes for Klopp's side.

In that time, only Firmino made more Reds appearances, with 278, but Mane led the way for both starts and minutes.

Mane, Salah (20,697) and Firmino (20,142) were actually the only three Liverpool players to tally more than 20,000 minutes over this period.

Having Mane available so often was key, too, as Liverpool's win rate improved from 58.3 per cent without the former Southampton man to 65.4 per cent when he featured.

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