Ronaldo 1,000: Juventus star set for landmark appearance

By Sports Desk February 22, 2020

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to make his 1,000th appearance for club and country when Juventus face SPAL in Serie A on Saturday.

The Portugal superstar was named in Maurizio Sarri's starting XI after being rested for the 2-0 win over Brescia last weekend.

Providing the 35-year-old comes through the warm-up unscathed, he will bring up his incredible landmark and seek to add to his tally of 724 goals. 

It will be the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's 73rd outing for Juve, with the bulk of his matches having come for Real Madrid (438).

Manchester United sit second on that list (292), with 31 of his games coming for Sporting CP, a further two for Sporting B and 164 for his country. 

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    Hansi Flick has brought the same harmony to Bayern Munich as iconic head coach Jupp Heynckes created, according to Lothar Matthaus.

    Flick on Friday signed a contract to be Bayern's head coach until 2023, having taken over from Niko Kovac on an interim basis in November and guided the club into a four-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga.

    Matthaus, who won seven Bundesliga titles with Bayern, has backed that decision, comparing the atmosphere under Flick to that seen under Heynckes, who masterminded Bayern's famous treble in 2012-13 and returned to win the Bundesliga in 2018.

    Heynckes himself said over the weekend it was the right choice to appoint Flick on a permanent basis and Matthaus is in agreement.

    "Definitely [the logical decision], it would have been incomprehensible if Bayern hadn't extended with him," Matthaus said to AZ.

    "Hansi absolutely deserves this. FC Bayern are on the right track with him. It's a harmony like last seen under Jupp Heynckes, the team plays great football.

    "He has improved the team overall, their football and tactically. In addition, there is his human dealings. Thanks to him, players like Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller have once again reached their top level. 

    "And Hansi also relies on young players like Alphonso Davies or Joshua Zirkzee. This is important because FC Bayern wants to ensure that the young players find their way from the youth centre [to the first-team] as often and regularly as possible. Hansi can shape an era in Bavaria."

    Matthaus also hopes there will be another benefit to Flick's appointment.

    He added: "It could be a sign to all players who have not yet renewed their contract: Thiago Alcantara, Thomas Muller, David Alaba, Manuel Neuer.

    "Flick has raved enormously about Neuer in recent weeks, calling him the world's best goalkeeper." 

  • Coronavirus: Taylor insists players not stupid over pay cuts, brands Hancock 'astonishing' Coronavirus: Taylor insists players not stupid over pay cuts, brands Hancock 'astonishing'

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    Hancock last week urged top-flight players in England to do their part and doubled down on his comments in an interview on Sunday.

    Wayne Rooney, Gary Neville and Gary Lineker have been among the high-profile figures stating it is unfair for footballers to be singled out during the debate over salary reductions.

    Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) chief executive Taylor was shocked by Hancock and insists players are simply demanding clarification on where any money they sacrifice will go.

    His comments came after the PFA pointed out the loss of tax contributions that will occur if players agree with the Premier League's proposal for a 30 per cent pay cut.

    Taylor told the Telegraph: "I found it astonishing that Matt Hancock could come out like that when he's got his own issues with trying to get the necessary protective health equipment for our NHS workers and didn't have the tests in place either.

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  • Tiger Woods' major debut became a tale of Burnt Biscuits, tough lessons and Augusta awe Tiger Woods' major debut became a tale of Burnt Biscuits, tough lessons and Augusta awe

    Nervous as hell, Tiger Woods stood over his first putt at The Masters and gave the ball a fair thunk towards the hole, near as dammit 25 feet away.

    Crowds were already swarming for Woods, the college kid making his major championship debut in a pairing with the defending champion, Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal.

    The date was April 6, 1995. A quarter of a century ago. A drizzly Thursday in Georgia.

    THE BALL THAT KEPT ROLLING

    Nineteen years old and accordingly fresh-faced, Woods was already a mighty draw, the Stanford student a prodigy around whom hype had swirled since he was barely as tall as the putter he now gripped tightly.

    His ball shuffled closer to that first hole, rolling by, just needing to hold up. No birdie then, but a par four at the hole they call Tea Olive would have been a satisfying, becalming start. This, famously, is where Ernie Els in 2016 would shamble to a quintuple-bogey nine.

    As Woods was about to discover, its green demands the utmost care and concentration.

    Woods had taken a close enough look at that first putt, studied the undulations of the green. Heck, he had played the course already that week in practice rounds alongside Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, Nick Price, Raymond Floyd and Fred Couples. This time, though, the ball had shot off his putter just a touch punchier than necessary.

    Just hold up. Stop rolling. It kept rolling.

    "People on the other side of the green started moving," Woods remembered. "It's never good when you hit a putt and people start to move."

    AN ENQUIRING MIND OPENS DOORS

    By the time Woods woke on the morning on his Masters bow, he could plot out a good map of Augusta National.

    Not just the course and its colourful flora, but the corridors, nooks and crannies of its clubhouse were becoming imprinted on the mind of the teenage Woods. He was staying for the week in the Crow's Nest, the quaint, rather rustic second-floor accommodation reserved for players from the unpaid ranks, with Woods in the tournament by virtue of being the reigning U.S. Amateur champion.

    He knew where the Butler Cabin was to be found, should the need ever arise, and a little after-hours exploration had seen him try many an unlocked door to discover what lay behind.

    An enquiring mind led him to the champions' locker room.

    "There was no one in there, so I walked through," Woods said. "No ghosts that I know of."

    Woods not only dreamt of becoming Masters champion, he realised millions expected him to someday triumph. Sports Illustrated had already run a nine-page feature, conscious of his rare talent.

    Norman, who had been twice a runner-up by that stage, said on the eve of the tournament that the rookie possessed the game to carry off the Green Jacket that very Sunday.

    Woods climbed out of bed and went for a morning run before heading to the practice range with coach Butch Harmon.

    CHICKEN ON THE MENU

    Woods was the boy wonder with the world in his feet. His game had everything. Everything, that is, but the ability to have a second stab at that first Masters putt; to rein it back, grin to the crowds, and play it again.

    That stray ball duly rolled off the first green, down an embankment, and came to a muddy rest 50 feet away from the hole.

    Woods turned to caddie Tommy Bennett, the experienced Masters bag man he had hired for the week. Bennett went by the nickname 'Burnt Biscuits' - earned the day he scalded himself on the leg when illicitly snaffling freshly baked treats from his grandmother's kitchen.

    Back went the putter, out came a short iron.

    Down among the patrons, squirming amid his first Masters humiliation, Woods played a recovery shot that could have turned out better, leaving a dicey bogey putt. He later berated himself for a "chicken shot", just as he had after the timid sand wedge to the green that left the long-range putt, that led to all this palaver.

    If there was any solace to be taken from that torturous misread moments earlier, it at least prepared Woods for putt number two.

    This time, as Woods later wrote in his Masters memoir, Unprecedented: "I made it. Great start to my Augusta career. Hit the green in regulation, and then hit my first putt off the green."

    STAYING FOR THE WEEKEND, SIR?

    Not every golfer who flunks Augusta's first hole lands a mega-money book deal.

    From that inauspicious start, Woods has proceeded to win five Masters titles, most recently last year when he ended an 11-year trophy drought at the majors, sealing his comeback from back injury woes and the scandal that upended his career.

    Whether there will be a 2020 Masters remains to be seen. The tournament scheduled for this week had to be postponed because... well, we all know why. Woods might have to wait until 2021 for his latest title defence.

    In 1995, Woods shook off the dropped shot on that first hole of his Masters career, seeing his name up on the leaderboard briefly before signing for a level-par 72.

    A repeat in round two earned a stay for the weekend. As the lone amateur to make the cut - Trip Kuehne, Lee S James, Guy Yamamoto and Tim Jackson fell by the wayside - Woods was king of the Crow's Nest.

    Woods wrote himself out of contention with a 77 in round three, but a third 72 of the week came on the Sunday, securing a tie for 41st place, albeit 19 shots behind champion Ben Crenshaw.

    A CHAMPION'S INSTINCT

    Woods' stated goal of becoming "the Michael Jordan of golf" was gaining traction.

    Jordan, incidentally, had delivered his famous "I'm back" message just three weeks before the Masters, launching the second chapter of his NBA career after 18 months in retirement.

    Today, Jordan and Woods are thought to be America's two wealthiest sports stars.

    On his way to Augusta's second tee, back in 1995, Woods had pictured the response of a champion.

    "I told myself to pound it over the bunker on the right, and I did," Woods wrote in Unprecedented. "I had a cocky walk off that tee, because I'd done what I wanted to do."

    Woods made birdie. Olazabal gasped at his gargantuan drive, later half-joking he needed binoculars to pick out Woods' tee shots. This is what the galleries craved, what they have returned time after time to enjoy.

    The new kid on the block finished that week as tournament leader in average driving distance - 311.1 yards - but iron play had let him down.

    'FANTASYLAND AND DISNEY WORLD WRAPPED INTO ONE'

    Woods signed off his maiden Masters with a visit to Butler Cabin, where he spoke of an intention to "go all four" at Stanford. Yet he would spend just two years majoring in economics, bagging a couple more U.S. Amateur titles before turning professional.

    "It’s a tough world out here," Woods said on that first Masters trip. “Right now, I’m only 19 years old and I feel it’s right for me to live it up a little bit. You’re only young once and college is such a great atmosphere and I really love it there."

    He even left behind a letter of thanks to Augusta National, that began: "Please accept my sincere thanks for providing me the opportunity to experience the most wonderful week of my life. It was fantasyland and Disney World wrapped into one."

    Woods added: "It is here that I left my youth and became a man."

    LEAVING, ON THE LATE-NIGHT FLIGHT FROM GEORGIA

    On the Monday morning after the Masters, Woods had a 9am history class. He reputedly made it there, taking a Sunday evening flight from Augusta to Atlanta and another on to San Francisco.

    If he found time to read the reaction to his performance, he might have stumbled on Sports Illustrated Jaime Diaz's verdict.

    "Although Tiger's excellent adventure was satisfying on many levels," Diaz wrote, "it was most important as a reconnaissance mission to lay the groundwork for many future trips to - and almost surely some victories in - Augusta."

    The first Green Jacket arrived just two years later, victory snared by a then-record 12-shot margin.

    And you know what? Woods made bogey at his first hole then, too.

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