Harry Kane has two iconic Premier League strikers in his sights after he plundered his 20th top-flight goal of the season in Tottenham's clash with Everton on Friday.

The England international's clinical half-volley in the 27th minute at Goodison Park took him to 20 Premier League goals in a campaign for the fifth time in his career.

Only Newcastle United legend Alan Shearer (seven) and Manchester City forward Sergio Aguero (six) have achieved the feat more often in the history of the competition.

The clinical strike also saw him overtake Jermain Defoe to move joint-seventh with Robbie Fowler on the all-time list of Premier League scorers, the pair sitting on 163.

Everton have suffered more than most when up against Kane, with the 27-year-old one of only three players to score 10 Premier League goals against the Toffees, after Les Ferdinand and Shearer (16 each).

Meanwhile, only Jimmy Greaves (seven) has scored 20 or more goals in a top-flight season for Spurs more times than Kane, who had failed to reach that number in both 2018-19 and 2019-20.

Harry Kane's future at Tottenham is shrouded in doubt and former England striker Alan Shearer believes it is now or never if he does want to leave.

Kane has never been shy about expressing his desire to win trophies at Tottenham, calling that the "next step" when the club moved to their new stadium from White Hart Lane.

Spurs flirted with that possibility under Mauricio Pochettino, finishing second in the 2016-17 Premier League season and reaching the final of the Champions League two years later.

But under Jose Mourinho they are going backwards, with Spurs seventh in the league and six points adrift of fourth-placed West Ham, meaning Champions League qualification may elude them.

Kane has proven himself as one of Premier League's all-time greatest strikers, with his haul of 162 goals bettered by only seven players, while his 121.8 minutes per goal is the third best among those to have netted at least 100 times.

But recent media speculation has suggested Kane is losing patience, and Shearer – who famously joined Newcastle United over Manchester United in search of trophies and failed to win any – thinks he may not get another opportunity to take his career to the next level.

Writing in his column for The Athletic, Shearer said: "I've got way too much respect for Harry as a player and a man to offer him advice on a decision that I know for myself is rarely linear and that may not, in the end, be his to make. What I would say, though, is this: if he's going to leave, it looks like this summer or not at all.

"Harry is 28 in three months and this is why I think we're approaching a pivotal moment. He's at his peak, the ready-made article, an absolute guarantee of goals wherever he plays and the opposite of a gamble, but a buying club is going to want three or four of his best years in return for what would certainly be an exorbitant transfer fee. This is that time. Twelve months down the line and it becomes that bit more difficult to justify.

"The one indisputable fact is that Harry is under contract at Tottenham for three more years. That six-year deal he signed in June 2018 was a fantastic piece of business by Daniel Levy and his club.

"It tied down their most saleable asset and it gives them a thick layer of protection now. I'm not convinced it was quite so great for Harry, even though the landscape at Spurs was much more positive back then.

"The point is that Harry could no longer say the same things about winning the Premier League [as he did in 2018]. Would the picture change at Spurs if Mourinho went? Maybe.

"As Leicester City and West Ham show, a place in the top four is open to clubs that get things right, but in terms of more than that? Spurs look a long way off. And so that leads back to the same question: is it enough?"

Shearer routinely insists he has no regrets over choosing to join Newcastle instead of going to Old Trafford 1996, despite the Red Devils going on to win the Premier League title in four of the following five years, including their historic 1999 treble that included Champions League success.

For his part, Shearer went on to become Newcastle and the Premier League's record goalscorer, feats he treasures, and Kane appears on course to accomplish similar achievements with Spurs.

But if it is trophies rather than personal accolades that Kane thirsts for, Shearer can see only one option – not that there is ever a guarantee of success, regardless of whether he ends up at United, Manchester City, Real Madrid or Barcelona.

"When I moved to Newcastle for a world-record fee in 1996, I did so with the aim of winning trophies. That was the driver for me, as well as the pull of coming home," he continued.

"It didn't work out like that, of course, but for most of my decade at St James' Park and with lots of ups and downs on the way, we were trying.

"Harry is a big player; he won't accept staying at Spurs for the sake of it. He has to have something to buy into. Right now, winning means leaving.

"None of that means Harry should leave; to repeat, that's not something I would ever say, but if we judge him on his words from two or three years ago, then it's certainly a subject he will be considering now.

"If it ends with no trophies, does that mean hell have had a s*** career? No, of course not. All that said, the great players do not settle. They always want more and they push for it. And Harry is a great player, which is why it feels like he and Spurs are approaching a moment of definition."

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min have set a new single-season Premier League record after combining for a 14th goal in 2020-21 against Crystal Palace.

Tottenham's star duo have enjoyed an outstanding campaign, with Kane scoring 16 and assisting 13, while Son has netted 13 and laid on nine.

Four of Kane's goal involvements came in a 4-1 win at home to Palace on Sunday, creating the first two for Gareth Bale before netting twice himself.

The final goal of the match saw Son cross for his strike partner, whose simple header ensured the duo surpassed the 13 goals Blackburn Rovers forwards Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton combined for in a 1994-95 title-winning campaign.

Further down the list, Bournemouth's Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser – both now at Newcastle United – linked up 12 times in 2018-19, while Les Ferdinand and Kevin Gallen at QPR and Shearer and Mike Newell at Blackburn each had 11 combinations in a campaign.

Kane and Son have created for one another 34 times across all Premier League seasons, closing on the all-time record of 36 held by former Chelsea team-mates Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba.

Meanwhile, Kane became the first Tottenham player to score twice or more and assist twice or more in the same game since Jurgen Klinsmann against Wimbledon in May 1998.

His second strike also brought up 100 Spurs goals in all competitions this term, a mark only previously reached by Bayern Munich (now 106 goals) across Europe's 'top five' leagues.

Frank Lampard's appointment as Chelsea head coach was widely heralded by the club's fanbase, who were desperate for a returning hero to succeed in the dugout.

Just 18 months later and Lampard – the club's record all-time leading goalscorer who won 11 major honours at Stamford Bridge – has been sacked.

The Blues have proven in the past there is little time for sentimentality or to dwell on past successes and not even a player with the stature Lampard holds at the club has been granted extra time.

Lampard's first season in charge brought a top-four finish and an FA Cup final but a run of just two wins in eight league matches saw Chelsea wield the axe with the team ninth and 11 points off top.

A huge close-season recruitment drive that saw the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell arrive perhaps gave the Blues hierarchy itchy feet and brought about the end for Lampard.

With that in mind, we have looked at some hits and misses when players have returned to a club as boss.

HITS

Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping down in May 2018, only to return 10 months later. He has already won LaLiga and the Supercopa de Espana in his second stint, though a slump this term has left his long-term future shrouded in doubt.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job in 2014. Conte is now battling to end the Bianconeri's domestic dominance as head coach of Inter.

Roberto Di Matteo

Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern, but he was discarded early in the following season.

MISSES

Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try to save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning just 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league position in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a relegation play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

JURY'S OUT

Mikel Arteta

Arteta served Arsenal with distinction as a player between 2011 and 2016, captaining the club and winning the FA Cup twice. Success in football's oldest cup competition followed last term, with Arteta having replaced Unai Emery in December 2019. After finishing eighth, Arsenal defeated Liverpool on penalties to win the Community Shield but eight defeats from 19 league games in this campaign have left Arsenal 11th and 13 points off top spot.

Andrea Pirlo

Lampard's opportunity at Chelsea arrived when Maurizio Sarri departed for Juventus, but his stint in charge at the Bianconeri lasted just one season despite winning the Serie A title. Pirlo won four Scudetti, the Supercoppa Italiana twice and the Coppa Italia during a four-year stint as a player in Turin and was appointed head coach just a week after being installed as Under-23 boss. So far it has been a mixed bag in Juve's hunt for a 10th straight title, with six draws and two defeats in 18 matches leaving them seven points back of league leaders Milan – albeit they do have a game in hand. Pirlo also collected a first trophy courtesy of victory over Napoli in the Supercoppa Italiana last week.

The most wonderful time of the year may not be quite as magical as years gone by due to restrictions on all of our lives caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Christmas is still a special period, though, and the familiarity of a hectic Premier League schedule is sure to be a comfort to fans across the globe.

We appreciate you may be about to tuck into your dinner or snoozing after over-indulging already, but why not digest some tasty Christmas Premier League facts before cracking on with the next beer?

Wondering where you enjoy such a gem? Well we have you covered below, with the help of the happy little elves at Opta.


SANTA SLEIGHED BY SALAH

We ho ho hope you don't mind a little Christmas gag to headline this section to get us cracking…

It seemed only fitting to start with a bit of a coincidence that once upon a time a man with a festive theme in his name was responsible for the best minutes-per-goal ratio during the month of December.

That man was ex-Blackburn Rovers striker Roque Santa Cruz, who netted nine times in 846 minutes for a ratio of 94 minutes per goal.

Alas, just like Rudolph and the rest of the gang at the end of a busy Christmas Eve shift, Santa Cruz has been reined in. The honour now goes to Liverpool star Mohamed Salah, who has a goal every 91 minutes in matches played in December (19 goals in 1737 minutes).

Mick Quinn (97 mins per goal), Divock Origi (105 mins per goal) and Demba Ba (106 mins per goal) complete the top five for December.


MAYNOR THE KING OF THE CHRISTMAS CRACKERS?

Paper hats, Christmas jokes and cheaply assembled plastic toys…you all love pulling a cracker at Christmas!

And there have been many crackers scored in the month of December in the Premier League – not least Maynor Figueroa's 60.5-yard effort for Wigan Athletic against Stoke City back in 2009, which remains the longest of long-range goals in the competition during the final month of the calendar year.

The full-back's quick thinking with a free-kick from his own half caught Thomas Sorensen off guard and nestled in the back of the goal.

Former Portsmouth man Matt Taylor had a penchant for a long-range goal and his famous audacious volley against Everton in 2006 measured in at 40.6 yards.

Juan Mata (39.9 yards for Man Utd v Stoke), Sebastian Larsson (39.4 yards for Birmingham City versus Wigan) and Kevin De Bruyne (38.3 yards for Manchester City v Crystal Palace) all rank in the top five.


LLORIS AND THE KEEPERS GIFTING OUT THE GOODS

Christmas, at least under normal circumstances, is a time for spending time with loved ones and eating copious amounts of foods that aren't particularly good for us.

It is also, of course, if we're being honest, a time to exchange tat by the Christmas tree and say a silent prayer the generous buyer has kept the receipts.

Obviously, in football you're not supposed to be generous with your gifts – but Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has been particularly forthcoming with presents for opposition teams at this time of year.

The France World Cup winner has committed seven errors in the month of December, a Premier League high and one more than Red Devils number one David De Gea.

Unsurprisingly, goalkeepers make up the top five with Petr Cech (6), Robert Green (5) and Simon Mignolet (4) all featuring. Indeed of those to have committed three or more errors leading to goals in December, ex-Newcastle United defender Aaron Hughes is the only outfield player on our list.


SANTA'S NOT THE ONLY LAPLAND VISITOR

Santa makes his annual jolly around the globe to deliver presents to all the good boys and girls but back in 2001 there was another who heralded from Lapland to visit England.

Finland international Hannu Tihinen arrived on loan at West Ham from Norwegian side Viking and fittingly made his Premier League debut on Boxing Day!

In total he made just eight Premier League appearances, winning just once in England's top flight.

Perhaps the difference in quality was just – ahem – poles apart for Tihinen, who was nonetheless part of the side that memorably defeated Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup early in 2002.


RED DEVILS TOP OF THE TREE

The old cliche is that it means nothing to be top at Christmas…but for the sake of the jokes in this piece it's very important to be top of the tree come December 25!

Manchester United have sat in such a position on seven occasions, more than any other team, but Liverpool – six times – are the only side to hold top spot three seasons running having done so in 2018, 2019 and now 2020.

In total, 11 sides have managed to be top at Christmas - Chelsea (5), Arsenal (2) and Manchester City (2) unsurprisingly doing so. Norwich City, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United (2), Aston Villa, Leeds United and Leicester City have also achieved the honour.

There have been 15 instances of a team being in first place on December 25 and jingling all the way to the Premier League title, but nothing can be wrapped up this early in the season.


SNOW-BODY DOES IT BETTER THAN SHEARER OVER CHRISTMAS

For a man with 260 Premier League goals to his name, it should come as no surprise to hear that the player with the most goals scored in the period from December 26 to January 5 is Alan Shearer.

The Newcastle United great netted 23 times between those dates, five more than the 18 celebrated by former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler.

Dimitar Berbatov and Jermain Defoe each have 17, while Steven Gerrard has 16 – the same amount as Tottenham star Harry Kane, who has Shearer's record in his sights.

In a league table of win percentages during this period, Manchester United lead the way with 64.6 per cent, while Liverpool (59.5 per cent) have brought plenty of festive cheer too.

At the opposite end, Sheffield United have won just 18.2 per cent of Premier League games for those dates over Christmas, while Crystal Palace 21.2 per cent fare little better.


JESUS RISES TO THE OCCASION

Christmas for many is mainly a secular celebration nowadays but the traditional meaning of the holiday season is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the Premier League, there have been six occasions of a player with Jesus in their name scoring a December goal – five of which were from Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus.

The other was netted by former City winger Jesus Navas, who fittingly at this time of year often delivered for others – producing six December assists and amassing 74 crosses from open play.

Andrea Pirlo was untouchable at the height of his playing career, a footballer whose grace and prowling presence drew widespread admiration and struck fear into rival teams.

As a coach, we can surmise but really it is a guessing game as to what we will be getting from Pirlo as the dugout rookie leads Juventus into the 2020-21 season.

On Sunday evening in Italy, the man who was a World Cup winner in 2006 takes charge of his first Serie A game with Juve, who play Sampdoria in Turin.

Maurizio Sarri's Juve reign lasted just one season, albeit another Scudetto-yielding campaign for the most successful club in the league's history. Pirlo will be expected to deliver at least that level of success, and encourage a swagger too.

He joins a host of significant former players plucked for leadership roles at an elite level, typically on a hunch rooted in familiarity, the chosen ones often still fresh from their playing days and with scant experience to call on. Top marks in coaching exams provide no guarantee that success will follow.

Many times, the gamble on a colt coach has paid off, with presidents and owners rightly sensing the novice harbours the innate expertise to lead and to inspire, and crucially to bring results. On other occasions, it has ended in frustration and tears, and in some instances the jury remains out.

Here is a look at just some of those cases, illustrating how there are no guarantees attached to such appointments.

PEP GUARDIOLA

The go-to example for any club that wishes to justify appointing a club legend to sudden seniority on the coaching side, former midfield general Guardiola was just 37 when he took charge at Barcelona in 2008, after a year coaching the B team. He departed four years and 14 trophies later, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League triumphs, and was vaunted as the world's best coach.

Further successes have come with Bayern Munich and Manchester City. Plainly, Pep was born to lead and Barcelona were wise to the fact.

ZINEDINE ZIDANE

How would Zidane, the mercurial playmaker – the only rival to Brazil striker Ronaldo when assessing the greatest player of their generation – take to coaching? Could the erstwhile Galactico tease out the best from those who can but dream of matching the twinkling feet and god-gifted balance with which he was blessed? Could the former Real Madrid maestro really be a suitable fit for the Bernabeu job that has swallowed up many an experienced coach?

Three Champions Leagues and two LaLiga titles later, we probably have a decent idea of the answer to those questions. There have still been ups and downs, and a brief split along the way, but 18 months in charge of Madrid's B team – Castilla – hardened Zidane for the obstacles he would face in the top job. His Madrid sides have at times lacked the verve that was his signature as a player, but they have delivered results and abundant trophies, and ultimately that is what counts.

MICHEL PLATINI

Before there was Zidane, France had Platini. A wonder of an attacking midfielder with Nancy, Saint-Etienne and Juventus, Platini was also a goalscoring titan of the France team that won Euro 84 and reached semi-finals at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups. It followed, to those that knew him, that Platini would go on to become a great national-team coach too, and at the age of 33 he was appointed to lead France, having retired as a player a year earlier. Platini took over with France already at a low ebb and defeats under his charge against Yugoslavia and Scotland meant they missed out on reaching the 1990 World Cup.

Could Platini bounce back? It seemed he might when France reached Euro 92 in style, with eight wins from eight qualifiers, Platini nurturing the likes of Didier Deschamps and Laurent Blanc, but Les Bleus flopped at the tournament itself as they and England bowed out of a group from which Sweden and Denmark advanced. Platini resigned not long afterwards, began to forge a solid reputation in football administration, and by the late 1990s had built a strong, ultimately fateful, alliance with the then FIFA secretary general Sepp Blatter. He would never coach again.

DIEGO MARADONA

If there were ever a case of being blinded by celebrity, then some of the presidents who have given Diego Armando Maradona coaching work surely have fallen victim. The biggest star of his generation, Maradona retired from playing in 1997 and, with barely a sniff of coaching experience and just about as much baggage as an airport carousel, was named boss of his native Argentina in 2008, tasked with taking the Albicelestes to the World Cup two years later. Argentina scraped their way into the finals and were thumped 4-0 by Germany in the quarter-finals. Maradona's contract was not renewed.

He has continued to pick up coaching work, one curious-looking appointment after another, most recently with Gimnasia in the Argentinian top flight. Maradona the coach has been no match for Maradona the player, and it was naive surely for anyone to think that was ever remotely possible.

FRANK LAMPARD

Pirlo was an artist of the 21st century game, and he is considered a deep thinker, while the common theory is that English midfield counterpart Lampard achieved much of his success through hard graft and maximising his rather more rudimentary talent. Whether either categorisation fits the bill is a moot point, but Lampard has a wiser head on his shoulders than many footballers, was top of the class in his school days, and his IQ is reputed to be through the roof.

Derby County gave him a first break in coaching but it took Chelsea just a year to pounce and parachute Lampard into his first Premier League manager's job. A Stamford Bridge great as a player, Lampard had an acceptable first season as Blues boss but the acid test comes in this new term after a spree of big-money signings. A high-stakes London gamble will play out in the coming months.

ALAN SHEARER

As Pirlo takes charge of those in the Bianconeri stripes he once wore – Cristiano Ronaldo and all – it bears remembering that returning black and white messiahs can fail. Former Newcastle United striker Shearer returned to St James' Park in April 2009, the club's record goalscorer aiming to rescue the team from the threat of relegation, but a dismal return of five points from eight games saw them sink out of the Premier League.

Shearer left and has not coached since, happily staying in his niche as a television pundit. There are pressures but also a certain comfort to that studio role. Two months at Newcastle was the sum of Shearer's coaching career: as Pirlo may yet find out, that can be all it takes to destroy the notion of it being a natural next step.

Juventus' elimination from the Champions League spelled the end for Maurizio Sarri and the start of a new era under Andrea Pirlo.

Despite leading the Bianconeri to a ninth straight Scudetto in 2019-20, Sarri was fired after Juve crashed out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage to Lyon on Friday.

Pirlo was at the heart of Juve's brilliant midfield during the start of their Serie A dominance, winning four Scudetti, the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana twice during a four-year stint that ended when he moved to New York City in 2015.

A week after returning to Juve as their Under-23 boss, Pirlo was handed the reins of the first team ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

He is not the first club legend to go back and manage a team they played for, though, and we have taken a look at the biggest successes and failures.

HITS

Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping away in May 2018, only to return 10 months later. He has already won LaLiga and the Supercopa de Espana in his second stint.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job in 2014. Pirlo will have to get the better of his former coach Conte, now at Inter, if he is to maintain the Bianconeri's run of titles.

Roberto Di Matteo

Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern Munich, but he was discarded early in the following season.

MISSES

Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try and save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning just 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league position in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

Romelu Lukaku matched a long-standing Alan Shearer record on Wednesday as he opened the scoring for Inter against Getafe.

Lukaku put Inter 1-0 up in their last-16 tie against the Spanish side in Germany with an exceptional finish in the 33rd minute.

The Belgian's strike made it eight successive Europa League appearances in which he had scored, with the 27-year-old having also netted in each leg of Inter's round-of-32 tie against Ludogorets.

He had previously appeared in the competition with Everton in 2014-15, scoring in matches against Dynamo Kiev, Young Boys and Wolfsburg.

Previously, only Premier League icon Shearer – back in 2004-05 with Newcastle United – had scored in his eight consecutive appearances in either the UEFA Cup or Europa League.

Lukaku has enjoyed a brilliant first season for Inter, scoring 23 Serie A goals as Antonio Conte's side finished second behind Juventus.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's achievement of scoring 50 goals in 77 Premier League games for Arsenal makes him the sixth fastest player in the competition's history to hit the half-century milestone.

That Aubameyang arrived at 50 goals in fewer league matches than the likes of Sergio Aguero and Thierry Henry tells you just how prolific the Gabon international has been since his arrival from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018.

Aubameyang's landmark goal, which arrived for Arsenal against Norwich City on Wednesday, is made all the more remarkable by the fact that he has not been playing in a particularly successful team during his time at Emirates Stadium, with the Gunners finishing sixth in his first season, fifth in his second, and starting the day in 10th as they faced the Canaries.

The five players to have reached 50 Premier League goals in fewer matches than Aubameyang all did so in teams challenging at the top end of the table, and all with very distinct goal-scoring styles.
 

Andy Cole – 65 games

After scoring 12 goals when Newcastle United were promoted as Division One champions in 1992-93, Andy Cole plundered 34 in 40 top flight games to help Kevin Keegan's side finish third in the table the following season.

A real six-yard box striker who could also finish from distance and beat defenders for pace, he netted another nine Premier League goals for the Magpies before joining Manchester United, where he took his top-flight tally to 50 before the end of the 1994-95 season.

Alan Shearer – 66 games

Alan Shearer reached 50 Premier League goals during Blackburn Rovers' title-winning campaign in 1994-95, having netted 47 goals in 62 games in the two seasons prior.

Shearer's matchless eye for goal and thunderously powerful shot helped him to 34 goals in 42 matches as Rovers became champions, and he passed the 100 mark just a year later.

Ruud van Nistelrooy – 68 games

Ruud van Nistelrooy cost Manchester United £19million when he joined the club from PSV ahead of the 2001-02 season and he quickly set about repaying their faith in him.

The Netherlands international netted 23 Premier League goals in 32 games in his first season, followed by a further 25 in 34 games in 2002-03.

He then passed 50 in the 2003-04 season on his way to scoring 20 goals in 32 matches as United were beaten to the title by Arsenal.

Fernando Torres – 72

More similar to Aubameyang in terms of playing style than any of the players listed above, Fernando Torres scored his 50th Premier League goal during his third season as a Liverpool player.

It was a season that would end with Torres becoming a World Cup winner with Spain, but it was not a happy one for the Reds, who finished seventh in the table despite Torres' 18 goals in 22 games, and the striker left the club to join Chelsea part way through the following campaign.

Mohamed Salah – 72

Mohamed Salah scored his 50th Premier League goal during a 4-3 victory over Crystal Palace in April 2019, becoming the second-fastest player to reach the milestone in terms of minutes played.

Only Shearer, who netted a half-century in 5,337 minutes for Blackburn, reached the landmark in a shorter on-pitch timespan than free-scoring Reds forward Salah, who did so in 5,374 minutes of play following his £34m transfer from Roma.

In all probability, Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool would have been emerging through a Newcastle United guard of honour on Sunday.

The conclusion of a stunning Premier League campaign was scheduled to see the Reds run out at St James' Park in the final round of fixtures.

However, the continued pause brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic means Liverpool's coronation remains on ice.

In the meantime, remember some incredible instances of dramatic final days from previous top-flight seasons.

 

2012 – AGUEROOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

"I swear you'll never see anything like this ever again – so watch it, drink it in!" hollered hoarse Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler. It was hard to argue. As their game against relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers ticked into stoppage time, Manchester City were 2-1 down and throwing it all away. Edin Dzeko nodded in David Silva's corner to equalise but Roberto Mancini's men still needed to match Manchester United's result to claim a first title for 44 years on goal difference.

United's game at Sunderland had finished, with the Reds poised to celebrate on the field at the moment Mario Balotelli lost his footing but found a return pass for Sergio Aguero to blast beyond Paddy Kenny. Cue complete and utter bedlam.

2007 – TEVEZ HAULS HAMMERS TO SAFETY

Carlos Tevez's most notable contribution to that unforgettable final day drama in Manchester was a somewhat theatrical tumble to get Joey Barton sent off. He'd been substituted before the late goals, but over at Old Trafford five years earlier the Argentinian forward was undoubtedly the main attraction.

A long wait for Tevez's first goal in West Ham colours ended with a spectacular free-kick against Tottenham in March. However, defeat in that London derby left them 10 points adrift of safety. An astonishing turnaround followed, with Tevez to the fore as Alan Curbishley's men won seven of their final nine matches, culminating in their star man coolly clipping a dropping high ball past Edwin van der Sar on the half-volley for a 1-0 win over Manchester United. The champions would sign Tevez that close season.

2000- BANTAMS CONDEMN DONS TO THE DROP

Bradford City and Wimbledon were level on points heading into the final day of 1999-2000, with the Dons boasting a superior goal difference and having the theoretically easier assignment against Southampton.

But Paul Jewell's Bantams ripped up the script and defeated Liverpool 1-0, with experienced centre-back David Wetherall planting in a 12th-minute header to send Valley Parade into raptures. Nerves were shredded thereafter, but Bradford held on.

1995 – PREMIER LEAGUE TITLE LIFTED AT ANFIELD

Blackburn Rovers were wobbling heading into the finale of the 1994-95 campaign, having won only two of their past five to leave reigning champions Manchester United – five wins from seven games unbeaten – breathing down their necks. Alan Shearer rifled the visitors into a 20th-minute lead at Anfield, which was gripped by a surreal atmosphere throughout as their favourite son Kenny Dalglish sought to deny bitter rivals United the title.

Things looked good for Rovers at the interval as United, two points behind them, trailed 1-0 at West Ham to a Michael Hughes goal. But John Barnes levelled after the hour and Jamie Redknapp drew gasps from the home faithful with a 90th-minute winner. Luckily for Blackburn, United had run into a masterclass from Hammers goalkeeper Ludek Miklosko either side of Brian McClair's equaliser and they were champions by a point.

1993 – LATICS SNATCH SURVIVAL IN THRILLER

Arguably the most implausible escape from Premier League relegation came in the first season after England's top flight rebranded. Joe Royle's Oldham Athletic were eight points from safety heading into the final week and needed to win each of their remaining three matches while hoping results elsewhere went for them. A 1-0 win at Aston Villa had the added impact of confirming Manchester United as champions, before Liverpool were defeated 3-2 in midweek at Boundary Park.

Oldham's resurgence meant Crystal Palace were hauled into unlikely trouble. The Eagles were unable to rouse themselves, losing 3-0 at Arsenal as Latics served up a high-octane classic at home to Southampton. They overcame the inconvenience of a Matt Le Tissier hat-trick to triumph 4-3, with right-back Gunner Halle scoring one and making two more in an inspired showing. Their goal difference of minus 11 set against minus 13 kept Oldham up at Palace's expense.

Few players have had an impact on Premier League football like Alan Shearer, the greatest goalscorer the competition has seen.

The former England striker started out at Southampton in the old First Division, before going on to enjoy goal-laden spells with Blackburn Rovers and the club he supported as a boy, Newcastle United.

His impact was significant at all three, but his legacy is arguably felt the most at St. James' Park, where he spent the final 10 seasons of his career.

His goalscoring feats began on this day in 1988, but April 8 has also proven momentous in baseball, as we examine below.

1974 - Hank Aaron overtakes Babe Ruth

For many years after Babe Ruth's retirement in 1935, his record of 714 home runs looked unbeatable until 'Hammerin' Hank' Aarons became the first to surpass Ruth on April 8 ,1974. He might have done so earlier were it not for racially motivated death threats so prolific that his team – the Atlanta Braves – had to hire him a secretary to sift through it. The US Postal Service believe he received more than 930,000 pieces – positive and negative – in 1973. He broke Ruth's record against the Los Angeles Dodgers and later retired on 755, a record which stood for 33 years until Barry Bonds went beyond it in August 2007.

1988 - Alan Shearer makes his mark

Over 400 goals in professional football at international and club level,  it all started for Shearer on April 8, 1988. Then at Southampton, a 17-year-old Shearer had already made some substitute appearances, but with Arsenal visiting The Dell, he was afforded a first league start. In a 4-2 win, Shearer scored a hat-trick, becoming the youngest player to do so in top-flight history at 17 years and 240 days old. He went on to make a habit of setting new records over the following 18 years.

1989 - One-handed pitcher Jim Abbott debuts

There aren't many sports where manual dexterity is more crucial than in baseball. That said, Jim Abbott enjoyed a successful career in MLB despite only being born with his left hand. He pitched for the California Angels, New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox and Milwaukee Brewers, starting out for the former, where he made his debut 31 years ago.

Liverpool cannot be handed the Premier League title if the season is not completed due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Alan Shearer.

Debate has already started over what should happen if the Premier League, which has been suspended until April 3, cannot resume.

Liverpool are 25 points clear at the top – Manchester City have played one game less – with nine matches remaining in their season.

But Shearer, the top goalscorer in Premier League history, said there was no way Liverpool should be crowned champions if the campaign was not completed.

"If, and it is a huge if, the season cannot be completed then there is no way you can have a winner or loser," he wrote in The Sun.

"As harsh and as horrible as that would be for some clubs, none more so than Liverpool, it is the only outcome.

"If you cannot complete the fixtures then you cannot go handing out titles or consider relegating anybody."

Liverpool are just two wins away from wrapping up what would be their first league title since 1990.

But Shearer said while it was obvious Jurgen Klopp's men were set for the title, it could not be awarded.

"For Liverpool, it would be incredibly harsh," he continued.

"But I cannot see how it would be fair to hand them the title – despite the fact it is obvious nobody is going to catch them.

"They only need six points to wrap it up but they haven't got them yet so for that reason it has to be declared null and void.

"It would be very different if the season was suspended after they had got the points to win it.

"But they haven't and however horrible a scenario it would be, it's the only option."

Sergio Aguero set a Premier League record when he scored his 12th hat-trick in England's top flight as Manchester City beat Aston Villa 6-1 on Sunday.

The Argentina striker surpassed the previous best mark of 11 set by former England captain Alan Shearer across his celebrated spells with Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United.

Aguero became City's all-time leading goalscorer in 2017 and has excelled under Roberto Mancini, Manuel Pellegrini and Pep Guardiola since moving to the Etihad Stadium from Atletico Madrid in 2011.

Here, we take a look back over his record-breaking deadly dozen.


Manchester City 3-0 Wigan Athletic – September 10, 2011

It proved love at first sight between Aguero and the City faithful as he came off the bench to net a brace against Swansea City on his home debut. He went one better next time out at the Etihad Stadium. Two assists were laid on by David Silva, with the delicate skill and sublime pass to craft Aguero's hat-trick goal announcing the long and fruitful on-field relationship they would enjoy.

Manchester City 4-1 Tottenham – October 18, 2014

After two seasons without a Premier League treble, Aguero scored all four in this thrashing of Spurs, with two converted penalties and another miss from 12 yards in the middle of a remarkable haul.

Manchester City 6-0 QPR – May 10, 2015

Facing the club who were on the receiving end of Aguero's career-defining goal, there was none of the tension and suspense of three years earlier as City brushed a sorry QPR aside and condemned them to relegation. A barrelling solo run through a disorganised backline opened the floodgates in the fourth minute before Aguero pounced on an error from Yun Suk-young and completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot.


Manchester City 6-1 Newcastle United – October 3, 2015

Newcastle were heading for a half-time lead until Aguero nodded a 42nd-minute equaliser. It was the first of a scarcely credible five in 20 minutes – his third following a delightful exchange of passes between Silva, Kevin De Bruyne and Fernandinho the pick of the bunch.

Chelsea 0-3 Manchester City – April 16, 2016

Pellegrini's final season at City had petered out in terms of a Premier League title challenge. Aguero's emphatic pair of finishes at the end of scything counter-attacks led by De Bruyne at Stamford Bridge made that feel particularly wasteful. Thibaut Courtois' professional foul on Fernandinho meant the matchball was claimed from 12 yards.


Watford 0-6 Manchester City – September 16, 2017

A performance that offered an emphatic response to lingering questions over whether Aguero could operate effectively under Guardiola. After heading home De Bruyne's free-kick to open the scoring and converting David Silva's cutback, Aguero prodded in at the end of a brilliant dribble to cap his hat-trick in style.

Manchester City 3-1 Newcastle United – January 20, 2018

Newcastle were on the receiving end of more Aguero punishment as he glanced in a De Bruyne cross, crashed a penalty past Karl Darlow right footed and crowned Leroy Sane's riotous dribble inside the visitors' box with his left to complete a 'perfect' hat-trick.

Manchester City 5-1 Leicester City 1 – February 10, 2018

Another occasion where three goals were not quite enough for Aguero – he found the net four times in the second half of this crushing victory over the Foxes. Incredibly, this was the third time Aguero had scored at least four goals in a Premier League game, while the win moved City a whopping 16 points clear at the top of the table.

Manchester City 6-1 Huddersfield Town – August 19, 2018

It was only the second weekend of the new campaign but Aguero was already in top form in this demolition of the Terriers. "I never saw him like this since I was here," Guardiola said. "He is in an incredible condition with the ball and without the ball." Ederson's long pass sent Aguero clear for his first, he capitalised on Ben Hamer's error for his second, and the treble was sealed when he converted Benjamin Mendy's cross.


Manchester City 3-1 Arsenal – February 3, 2019

Aguero opened the scoring in the first minute, with all three of his finishes on this occasion coming from close range. It was his 14th hat-trick in all competitions for City, who moved within two points of Premier League leaders Liverpool thanks to this defeat of Unai Emery's Gunners.

Manchester City 6-0 Chelsea – February 10, 2019

A week later and Aguero had another matchball to add to his collection after City tore Chelsea apart at the Etihad. Aguero should have converted an easy chance even before his fourth-minute opener, a sensational 25-yard drive that left Kepa Arrizabalaga helpless. Ross Barkley's mistake gave Aguero a simple second and the treble was wrapped up from the penalty spot as City leapfrogged Liverpool.

Aston Villa 1-6 Manchester City – January 12, 2020

It was already a record-breaking day for Aguero in Birmingham, who surpassed Thierry Henry as the Premier League's highest scoring overseas player with his second of the game and 176th in the top flight. Kortney Hause coughing up possession let Riyad Mahrez set him up to overhaul Shearer. Aguero's blistering 20-yard effort into the top corner to start his hat-trick was the pick of the bunch.

One story is dominating the sporting agenda in Spain on Saturday: Xavi's potential return to Barcelona.

The Catalan giants have reportedly earmarked the club great to take over from the under-pressure Ernesto Valverde at the end of the season, and held informal discussions with him on Friday in Doha.

Xavi, 39, is currently coach at Al Sadd but would likely relish a return to Camp Nou, where he won eight LaLiga titles and four Champions League trophies during a glittering playing career.

A strong affinity with a club is not a guarantee of success, however, and we have taken a look at eight other examples of players returning to manage teams they starred for.

 

HITS

Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping away in May 2018, only to return 10 months later.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job. He is now back in Serie A and thriving with the Old Lady's bitter rivals Inter.

Roberto Di Matteo

Like Lampard, Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern Munich, but he was discarded early in the following season.

MISSES

Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try and save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for AC Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league finish in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

Raheem Sterling will sit out of England's Euro 2020 qualifier on Thursday after a bust-up with international team-mate Joe Gomez.

Sterling admitted his emotions got the better of him when he confronted Gomez, after the pair also clashed on the field during Liverpool's 3-1 win over Manchester City on Sunday.

Gareth Southgate has sought to act quickly and decisively to draw a line under the matter, but the England manager can at least take comfort from the fact he is far from the first boss to have to try to defuse a team-mates' tiff.

Here we look through some examples of when presumed footballing friends became – however briefly – the best of enemies.

Neymar v Nelson Semedo

Neymar's world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain dominated Barcelona's preparation for the 2017-18 season, and all was not well on the training ground in the weeks leading up to the €222million switch.

Recent arrival Nelson Semedo became involved in a skirmish with the wantaway star in what proved to be an unseemly coda to his time at Camp Nou.

"I just arrived and one of the most important players in the team got in a fight with me," Semedo told Sport five months on from the July 2017 fracas. "It annoyed me at the time, but I also understood he was in a difficult moment, he wanted to leave."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic v Oguchi Onyewu

Never a shrinking violet, Zlatan Ibrahimovic boasts a career of confrontation in football. The taekwondo black-belt seemingly came close to meeting his match in USA defender Oguchi Onyewu when both played for AC Milan.

"I head-butted him, and we flew at each other," Ibrahimovic wrote in his autobiography. "We wanted to tear each other limb from limb. It was brutal. We were rolling around, punching and kneeing each other. We were crazy and furious – it was like life and death.

David Beckham v Alex Ferguson

Many a Manchester United player felt the heat of Alex Ferguson's infamous 'hairdryer' during the Scot's historic Old Trafford reign but – as far as we're aware – his ferocious words never actually drew blood.

The same could not be said for a stray boot in the United dressing room, though, when David Beckham was given a rocket by his boss in the aftermath of a February 2003 FA Cup defeat to Arsenal during the midfielder's final season at the club.

"He was around 12 feet from me. Between us on the floor lay a row of boots. David swore. I moved towards him and, as I approached, I kicked a boot. It hit him right above the eye," Ferguson explained. The resulting cut and butterfly plaster predictably dominated as the UK tabloids gorged on the fallout. 

Mario Balotelli v Micah Richards

Mario Balotelli was rarely far away from behind-the-scenes controversy at Manchester City, allegedly throwing darts at youth team players and once even grappling with his manager and mentor Roberto Mancini.

However, things reached boiling point in 2011 due to the unexpected multi-lingual talents of one of his team-mates.

"We were playing five-a-side and we were losing because he didn't work, which is evident,' Micah Richards told Sky quiz show 'A League of Their Own' in 2016. "He swore at me in Italian and he thought I didn't understand. But I know a bit of Italian lingo, so I said, 'Who you talking to?' He said it again, so we squared up and I offered him out. But he said no."

Craig Bellamy v John Arne Riise

Balotelli's arrival at City in August 2010 came around the same time as Craig Bellamy was tying up a loan move to Cardiff City, leaving us all to wonder what might have happened had the combustible duo shared a dressing room for any period of time. John Arne Riise, perhaps, has a fair idea.

In an infamous incident before a Champions League game at Barcelona in 2007, where both players went on to score in a Liverpool win, Riise drew Bellamy's terrifying wrath when he refused demands to sing karaoke on a team night out.

Later on, Riise found an unexpected visitor in his hotel room. "Craig Bellamy at the foot of my bed with a golf club in his hands," he reported in his autobiography. According to the Norway full-back's version of events, he managed to avoid Bellamy striking his shins by jumping out of bed but took blows to his hip and thigh.

Aboubakar Kamara v Aleksandar Mitrovic

While the risks of a rowdy team karaoke session might seem obvious in hindsight, sometimes even yoga isn't safe.

Aboubakar Kamara had not appeared particularly zen when he grabbed the ball off Aleksandar Mitrovic to take and miss a penalty during Fulham's December 2018 Premier League game against Huddersfield Town.

A fight then reportedly broke out between the pair at a yoga session and an eventful few weeks for Kamara concluded with him being arrested on suspicion of actual bodily harm and criminal damage after an incident at Fulham's training ground.

Alan Shearer v Keith Gillespie

Famously incisive in front of goal, the Premier League's all-time record goalscorer Alan Shearer once became involved in an argument about dropped cutlery with Newcastle United team-mate Keith Gillespie that escalated sharply.

"We ended up going outside, and I took one swing and missed, and he hit me - and that was goodnight," Gillespie told talkSPORT of the scrap during a 1997 team trip to Dublin. "I did actually spend a night in hospital. Because when he hit me, I fell and hit my head on a plant pot. I was unconscious."

Apparently, Shearer visited his stricken team-mate and they "had a laugh about it". They weren't the only ones.

Stig Tofting v Jasper Gronkjaer

A tough-tackling midfield enforcer, you might expect any training ground row featuring Stig Tofting to have followed a bone-crunching challenge. However, there was more shivering than shuddering when a pre-2002 World Cup jape involving Jasper Gronkjaer got out of hand.

During some stretching exercises, Tofting and partner-in-crime Thomas Gravesen sprayed the then-Chelsea winger with water bottles and put ice cubes down his shorts. Gronkjaer hurt his eye during the prank, which concluded with him wrestling Tofting and being grabbed by the throat.

Danish FA official Jim Stjerne-Hansen told reporters: "These players need a kindergarten teacher to sort them out."

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