Sarina Wiegman is "absolutely happy" with England's progress ahead of the Women's Euro 2022, but she did not see a stunning 5-1 defeat of the Netherlands as cause to get carried away.

England have never lost back-to-back matches against the Oranje, yet their previous meeting had been a crushing 3-0 reverse in the Euro 2017 semi-finals.

Wiegman was in the Netherlands dugout on that occasion, guiding her country to a home tournament success.

That is now her aim with the Lionesses, and Friday's victory at Elland Road surely laid down a marker, with Beth Mead scoring twice – either side of goals from Ella Toone and Lauren Hemp – after Lucy Bronze had cancelled out Lieke Martens' opener.

England are yet to lose in their 13 games under Wiegman, scoring 80 times across those matches, but the manager still saw room for improvement.

"Maybe," Wiegman told ITV Sport when asked if she had to temper expectations. "For us, it's just that when we lose, we go with our plan; when we win, we go with our plan.

"We had a good win, but we cannot think we are there. Today showed that we have still lots of things to do.

"Things went really well, but lots of things didn't go well, and we really have to improve that, too. We'll start working on that again on Monday."

That is not to say Wiegman was unhappy with what she saw, adding: "I'm absolutely happy. It was such a high-level game.

"Of course the score says a lot: 5-1. That's really good, the game in the second half was really good, so there are very exciting things to see.

"Yes, we're in a good place, but still we have some things to improve."

The slow start was undoubtedly one area that could have concerned Wiegman, although she was enthused by England's response to only the third goal they have conceded in her tenure – this the first time they have trailed.

"It's very nice to score five goals, but for us it actually was good that we got behind for the first time and how we reacted to that," she said.

"We needed to come back from not playing well, conceding a goal, and get the game to a higher standard. That was good."

Roberto Bautista Agut stands in the way of Stefanos Tsitsipas and his first grass-court title.

Making his debut at the Mallorca Championships, Tsitsipas sealed his maiden appearance in a grass-court final by cruising past Benjamin Bonzi 6-4 6-4 on Friday.

The world number six has now reached four finals this season, having lost two of the previous three – winning on clay at the Monte Carlo Masters.

It was the second meeting between the pair in as many weeks, with the Greek having also downed Bonzi at the Halle Open.

And Tsitsipas now has a chance to warm up for Wimbledon in winning fashion.

"It was a good match. I am very happy today," Tsitsipas said in his on-court interview. "I have played a final a week before a grand slam before. It was the year I made the final at Roland Garros, in Lyon.

"It worked out pretty well to have that final and consistency of matches. It is different this time. We are talking about a different surface, so we will see."

Tsitsipas has now claimed a tour-leading 39 wins this season, but standing between the 23-year-old and silverware is Spaniard Bautista Agut, who reached a 20th career final by beating Antoine Bellier 7-6 (7-5) 6-2.

Like Tsitsipas, Bautista Agut is aiming for a second title of the season.

At the Eastbourne International, two Americans will vie for the title after Indian Wells Masters champion Taylor Fritz saw off a tough challenge from Alex de Minaur while Maxime Cressy defeated home favourite Jack Draper 7-6 (7-5) 6-7 (2-7) 6-3.

Fritz, who triumphed at Eastbourne in 2019 – similarly against an American, in Sam Querrey – but has found his best form hard to come by of late, also needed three sets to get the better of De Minaur, eventually succeeding 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-3.

"It's amazing," Fritz said. "I was having a bit of a rough start coming back from injury to the grass season, and then I came here and the first day I was here I just immediately felt like I was playing good tennis again.

"I just have a lot of confidence being here, obviously great memories, so I'm really excited to come back out and play for the title again."

The New York Yankees and star slugger Aaron Judge agreed to a one-year, $19million contract just hours before the two sides were scheduled for an arbitration hearing on Friday.

The deal represents a compromise between Judge, who is in his final year of arbitration eligibility, and the Yankees.

The three-time All-Star's representatives had been seeking a $21m salary for this season, while New York countered with a $17m offer.

Judge can also earn an additional $250,000 if he wins the American League MVP award and another $250,000 if named MVP of the World Series. 

The 30-year-old has emerged as an early MVP frontrunner as the leader of a Yankees team who own the majors' best record at 52-18.

Judge's 27 homers in 2022 are five more than any player, and he is batting a career-best .304 through 68 games. He also ranks third in the majors in OPS (1.037) and third in the AL with 53 RBIs.

Judge reportedly turned down a seven-year, $213.5m extension offer from the Yankees during spring training, and the six-foot-seven outfielder's stellar start to 2022 likely has him in line for a more lucrative payday when he reaches free agency in the offseason. 

Those 2022 numbers would not have impacted Judge's arbitration case, however, as any statistics after March 1 are not admissible per the agreement between MLB and the players' association that ended this past offseason's lockout.

Catcher Salvador Perez will undergo surgery to repair a damaged ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb, the Kansas City Royals announced on Friday.

The procedure will sideline Perez for an extended period, although the Royals said in a statement that the seven-time All-Star is expected to return this season.

Perez, whose 48 home runs in 2021 tied Toronto's Vladimir Guerrero for the major league lead, initially injured his thumb while swinging in mid-May.

He returned on May 28 but aggravated the injury while catching in Kansas City's win over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday. 

The 32-year-old leads the Royals with 11 homers this season while adding 34 RBIs in 57 games, although his .211 average and .254 on-base percentage are the lowest marks of his 11-year MLB career.

Perez earned his fourth career Silver Slugger Award in 2021 after tying a Royals season record for home runs and leading the majors with 121 RBIs. The veteran is also a five-time Gold Glove Award winner at catcher.

Perez's absence will allow the Royals to give an extended look to rookie MJ Melendez behind the plate.

The 23-year-old Melendez, who entered the season as MLB.com's number 51 overall prospect, led the minor leagues with 41 homers in 2021 while splitting the season between Double and Triple A.

Melendez has hit .234 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 45 games with Kansas City since being called up in early May. 

Manchester United's owners must invest to make the club attractive to potential signings amid a reported battle with Brentford to sign Christian Eriksen.

That is the message from United great Gary Neville, who is frustrated with how the Glazer family run the club.

Eriksen is said to be considering a move between Brentford and United, which might seem unusual given the contrasting statures of the two clubs.

The offer from United is reported to be far more financially lucrative, but the Denmark midfielder may repay the faith shown in him by Thomas Frank, who gave him a chance to prove his fitness – and quality – a little over six months after Eriksen had collapsed on the pitch at Euro 2020 due to a heart problem.

Eriksen scored once and assisted four goals in 11 Premier League games to help Brentford maintain their top-flight status, having joined the Bees in January after being released from Inter due to Serie A rulings preventing players from featuring with a cardioverter-defibrillator fitted.

The 30-year-old also created 30 chances following his Brentford bow in February, with only Martin Odegaard (38) and Kevin De Bruyne (42) providing more opportunities in the Premier League over that period.

As Erik ten Hag looks to rebuild at United, Neville urged the Glazers to invest to make the club appealing for transfer targets again.

"That's why dividends have to stop for a period," Neville posted on Twitter in response to recent reports that Eriksen is yet to make his mind up.

"Every penny has to go back into the club until it becomes attractive again. The club has become a graveyard for players.

"Culturally for owners to take cash out of a poorly performing business is demoralising."

Jurrien Timber and Antony have also been linked to reunite with their former Ajax coach Ten Hag, but Christopher Nkunku will not be joining United after penning a contract extension with RB Leipzig.

Headingley hero Jonny Bairstow and new boy Jamie Overton dug England out of trouble on a sensational second day of the third Test against New Zealand.

Playing on his home ground, Yorkshireman Bairstow scored a breathtaking 130 not out, forging an unlikely and unbroken alliance worth 209 runs for the seventh wicket with Jamie Overton as England, in their first innings, recovered from 55-6 to reach 264-6 at stumps.

They were replying to New Zealand's 329 all out, in which Daryl Mitchell converted his overnight 78 not out into a third century of the series. That is the joint-most hundreds by any New Zealand player in a Test series, matching Andrew Jones' feat against Sri Lanka in 1991 and Ross Taylor's three against West Indies in 1993.

He was eventually out for 109, caught smartly by England captain Ben Stokes off Jack Leach (5-100), as New Zealand progressed from 225-5 at the start of play.

Getting close to that score looked beyond England when they made a dismal start in reply, the mercurial brilliance of Trent Boult accounting for the home side's top three as New Zealand's left-armer bowled Alex Lees, Ollie Pope and Zak Crawley.

It was a masterful demonstration of swing bowling, and the situation got no better for England as Joe Root fell for five, caught behind off Tim Southee, before Stokes (18) and Ben Foakes (0) were prised out by Neil Wagner.

Desperate times called for Bairstow brilliance, and the man whose late father David played so many matches on this Leeds ground delivered in remarkable style, driving, pulling and cutting as New Zealand struggled to contain him.

Bairstow drove Boult through mid-off to seal a 95-ball century, the second Test ton he has made at the ground after the 140 that set up an innings victory against Sri Lanka in 2016.

It was his second century of this series and a fourth in Tests for the 32-year-old since the turn of the year, after he also reached three figures against Australia. Across his career, it was a 10th Test ton.

Test newcomer Overton was exceptional too, unbeaten on 89 by the close, setting up what could be a pivotal Saturday.

England lead the three-match series 2-0, with Bairstow and Overton raising hopes of a clean sweep.

MARVEL MITCHELL

Before the Bairstow show began, the man of the day was Mitchell. He has enjoyed a stupendous series, reaching 482 runs from five innings so far.

That is the most runs scored by a New Zealand batter in a men's Test series against England, and Mitchell should get another crack in the second innings too. Centuries at Lord's, Trent Bridge and Headingley mean, even in defeat, he has been able to hold his head high.

WELL, THAT ESCALATED QUICKLY

From a position of peril, Bairstow and Overton took 37.1 overs to add over 200 runs. In the process they achieved England's first ever century partnership for the seventh wicket at Headingley, and then doubled it. Overton is in the side principally for his bowling but looked perfectly nequipped with bat in hand.

Bairstow's highest Test score is the 167 not out he scored against Sri Lanka at Lord's in June 2016, a matter of weeks after the Headingley ton against the same opposition. Going beyond that must be now in his sights.

Reigning Eastbourne International champion Jelena Ostapenko will go up against Petra Kvitova in 2022 Saturday's final.

Ostapenko won as a wildcard in 2021, and the world number 14 confirmed her place in this year's showdown by overcoming Camila Giorgi on Friday.

She is the first female player to reach back-to-back finals in Eastbourne since Caroline Wozniacki in 2017 and 2018.

The Latvian, who is also going to compete for the doubles title, prevailed 6-2 6-2 and will now go up against Kvitova. The pair have faced off eight times previously, with each player winning four matches.

It is Kvitova's first appearance in a final in 2022, with the former world number two – and two-time Wimbledon champion – having ended Beatriz Haddad Maia's winning streak.

Haddad Maia won in Birmingham last week and Nottingham the week before, but her run came to an end at 12 matches, with Kvitova triumphing 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

"For me, a final after almost a year [without one] will be great, so I’m glad already," said Kvitova, who was a runner-up at Eastbourne in 2011 and last reached a final on grass in Birmingham four years ago.

"Jelena loves to play here, obviously, we saw it, she has a really great game for grass."

Meanwhile, at the Bad Homburg Open, 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu reached her sixth career final courtesy of a walkover against Simona Halep.

The Romanian withdrew from the semi-final clash with a neck injury, which will worry the 2019 Wimbledon champion ahead of the season's third grand slam at the All England Club.

"I am sorry that I had to withdraw today before my semi-final match," Halep said in a statement.

"But unfortunately I woke up this morning with a blocked neck and this is not allowing me to perform to the best of my ability."

Andreescu will face Caroline Garcia, who saved a match point before going on to beat fellow Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 7-6 (11-9) 3-6 7-5 to reach an 11th tour-level showpiece.

Lucas Moura remains an important part of the plans at Tottenham next season amid talk of the Brazil international being involved in a swap deal for Everton star Richarlison.

That is the message from Moura's agent, Junior Pedroso, after the forward revealed earlier in the week the 2022-23 campaign could be his last with Spurs.

Moura had to settle for a limited role in Antonio Conte's side following the January arrival of Dejan Kulusevski, with Tottenham now reportedly interested in Raphinha and Richarlison to bolster their attack.

Conte has already brought in Yves Bissouma, Ivan Perisic and backup goalkeeper Fraser Forster in a bid to boost his squad depth ahead of competing in the Premier League and Champions League.

Moura previously expressed his excitement to compete in UEFA's premier club competition with Conte's side, and Pedroso insists his client remains "fundamental" to Spurs' plans.

"Tottenham don't give up Lucas for the season, they see him as a fundamental piece for the Champions League," he told Globo Esporte.

The former Paris Saint-Germain attacker appeared 34 times in the 2021-22 Premier League term, scoring two goals and assisting six, while creating 34 chances.

That marked Moura's worst return in terms of goals when playing a full campaign in the English top flight, but Conte may be keen to call on his experience in Europe next season.

Indeed, Moura was the hero as he scored a hat-trick in the 2018-19 Champions League semi-final as Tottenham snatched a dramatic 3-2 victory over Ajax before falling to Liverpool in the final.

Alex Carey delivered an important unbeaten 45 as Australia defeated Sri Lanka by four wickets on a difficult pitch in Colombo.

Sri Lanka had sealed their first home multi-game bilateral ODI series victory over Australia in three decades with a game to spare, but made a poor start in the final match on Friday.

Chamika Karunaratne, who came in at number eight, top-scored with a run-a-ball 75 but Kusal Mendis (26), Charith Asalanka (14) and Pramod Madushan (15) were the only other batters to register double figures.

That saw Sri Lanka bowled all for just 160, with Josh Hazlewood (2-22), Matthew Kuhnemann (2-26) and Pat Cummins (2-22) the pick of the bowlers.

Having seen Sri Lanka struggle in bowler-friendly conditions, Australia began their chase in similarly slow fashion, falling to 19-3 after losing David Warner (10), Aaron Finch (0) and debutant Josh Inglis (5).

Mitchell Marsh (24) and Marnus Labuschagne (31) steadied the ship, though, before Carey produced his patient.

Carey was ably supported by Glenn Maxwell's flurry of 16 from 17 deliveries, while Cameron Green stepped up with an impressive, unbeaten 25 that included one six and two fours as Australia avoided a series whitewash.

Hazlewood recovers

Hazlewood has struggled when facing Sri Lanka in ODIs, registering a bowling average of 96 – his poorest in the format against any side – before this game.

However, the paceman found his form, and is now just three wickets away from picking up 100 dismissals in 50-over international cricket.

Sri Lanka come unstuck

Sri Lanka have thrived against Australia by producing pitches to favour their spinners, though that plan was the reason they came unstuck this time out.

Having faltered here, Sri Lanka missed the chance to record four consecutive ODI wins over Australia at home for the first time since a run of four between September 1994 and September 1996.

Ben Stokes became just the third Test cricketer to reach 100 sixes in the longest format, but his England side were taking a bruising in the third match of the series against New Zealand.

England captain Stokes had seen New Zealand advance from their overnight 225-5 to post 329 all out, before a collapse saw the home side slump to 21-4 in reply at Headingley.

That brought Stokes to the middle, and he elected to go immediately on the attack.

From the third ball he faced, Stokes slapped Tim Southee's delivery high over the long-off boundary.

It took him to a career haul of 100 Test sixes, matching the total achieved by former Australia wicketkeeper-batsman Adam Gilchrist.

The only man to plunder more is Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand great who is now England's Test head coach.

McCullum cleared the ropes 107 times in his distinguished Test career.

The all-out-attack approach from Stokes did not bring the desired results, with the skipper cracking a delivery from Neil Wagner to Kane Williamson at mid-off to be out for 18 from 13 deliveries.

When Ben Foakes was pegged leg before wicket three balls later, without any addition to the score, England were in deep trouble on 55-6, having earlier seen Alex Lees, Ollie Pope and Zak Crawley bowled by the hugely impressive Trent Boult.

The final match of the series is effectively a dead rubber, however, with England holding an unassailable 2-0 lead.

Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe is plotting a path to a first Champions League triumph after committing his future to the club.

The Ligue 1 champions are yet to win Europe's top prize, despite reaching the knockout stages of the competition in each of the past 10 seasons.

Having finished as runners-up in 2019-20 and made the semi-finals in 2020-21, PSG suffered frustration at an earlier stage in the most recent campaign, letting a two-goal lead slip in the last 16 against eventual winners Real Madrid.

Mbappe could have subsequently departed for Madrid, but he has instead stayed in Paris and wants to be part of the team that finally delivers the trophy.

"The Champions League with PSG is a clear goal," Mbappe told BFM TV. "It's what we want, but there is a path to take.

"First of all, we have to be a winner at the national level, because in the last two years we have not been."

Mbappe has individual achievements in his sights, too, ranking behind only Edinson Cavani (200) with 171 PSG goals.

Asked about the prospect of passing Cavani, the 23-year-old added: "It can happen, it would be wonderful."

Mbappe was typically prolific in 2021-22 as he scored 28 Ligue 1 goals, with only Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski (35) beating that total in Europe's top five leagues.

The former Monaco forward also added 17 assists, putting him well clear with 45 goal involvements – a return that shows why Madrid were so keen to have him.

Italy great Fabio Cannavaro has suggested former club Napoli should attempt to sign Paulo Dybala, while making a "sacrifice" to renew Kalidou Koulibaly's contract.

Dybala appears set to join Inter when his Juventus contract expires at the end of June, with Romelu Lukaku also reportedly close to joining Simone Inzaghi's side on loan.

Napoli supporters have grown frustrated with president Aurelio De Laurentiis, with the Partenopei said to be looking to reduce their wage bill, leaving the future of Dries Mertens and Koulibaly in doubt.

Lorenzo Insigne has already left for MLS side Toronto and Cannavaro, who started his career in Naples, urged Napoli to move for Dybala.

"If I were in De Laurentiis I would make a proposal to Dybala," the World Cup winner told Corriere dello Sport.

While Napoli are unlikely to be able to acquire the Argentina international, Cannavaro also says they must do all in their power to keep Koulibaly.

Barcelona, Juventus and Manchester United are reportedly interested in the centre-back, whose contract is set to expire in June 2023.

De Laurentiis conceded earlier in May that the Senegal international could not be forced into staying after Koulibaly had stated "we'll see what happens at the end of the season".

"Kalidou represents a pillar of a team that in recent years has always been lucky enough to be able to count on him: if I were in the club I would make a sacrifice to keep him, to renew," Cannavaro added. 

"Maybe he has demands that some other club could satisfy, but it is difficult to find players like him in that role: we must keep them close. 

"There is a shortage [of such players], you can find a midfielder or a forward."

Luciano Spalletti will be keen to keep Koulibaly after Napoli conceded the joint-fewest goals in Serie A (31) and kept the second-most clean sheets (16 – behind Milan, 18) in the 2021-22 campaign.

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.

The Brooklyn Nets could be set to lose their two biggest stars with Kyrie Irving eyeing up other teams and Kevin Durant monitoring the situation, according to multiple reports. 

By June 29, Irving must decide whether to take up his $36.5million player option for the 2022-23 season or opt out and test free agency or sign a new deal with the Nets. 

Talks are understood to be at an impasse and ESPN reported on Thursday that if an agreement cannot be reached, the seven-time All-Star would pursue a sign-and-trade. 

It was claimed the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Dallas Mavericks and Philadelphia 76ers were on Irving's list of favoured destinations. 

According to The Athletic, the uncertainty surrounding the Nets has led to Durant considering his future with the franchise. 

Durant signed an extension through the 2025-26 season last year, but would reportedly seek a trade if Irving departed. 

Irving is said to have engaged in conversations with former Cleveland Cavaliers team-mate LeBron James about a reunion at the Lakers. The pair led the Cavaliers to the NBA championship in 2016, but parted ways the following season. 

Across the three seasons they have both been in Brooklyn, Irving and Durant have only played a total of 58 games together. 

Durant sat out the entire 2019-20 season due to an Achilles injury, while he missed significant time in each of the following two campaigns through hamstring and knee problems respectively. 

Irving, meanwhile, was a bit-part player for much of 2021-22 after he refused to comply with the New York City COVID-19 vaccine mandate. 

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