Frenkie de Jong can be pleased with his first season at Barcelona and has the potential to successfully replace club legend Sergio Busquets, according to Ronald de Boer.

Netherlands international De Jong has faced criticism from some sections since joining Barca from Ajax in a reported €75million transfer last year.

De Boer believes his compatriot has adapted well to life at Camp Nou, however, with former team-mate Matthijs de Ligt's early struggles at Juventus being held up in comparison.

"People said he didn't reach the level he reached with Ajax last season in Europe or with the national team," De Boer told BarcaBlog. 

"But not everyone can say that they play so many minutes with such a strong team, so I think he's doing well.

"You see how another young player like De Ligt had a harder time, while everyone thought he would play regularly from the start. 

"He is doing very well when you consider that this is his first season."

De Jong has two goals in 37 games this term, but De Boer insists it is better comparing him to Busquets, who is regarded as arguably the finest holding midfielder of his generation.

"If he's going to play as a central midfielder, I'm sure he'll be successful," said De Boer, who won the LaLiga title with Barcelona in 1998-99 before joining Rangers the following year..

"He is a controller, you should not ask him to score 20 goals, he is not such a player. 

"I am sure he will be a great successor to Busquets in the future."

Barcelona are seemingly getting closer to landing Lautaro Martinez.

The Inter star continues to be linked with a move to Camp Nou, where he could play alongside Argentina team-mate Lionel Messi more regularly.

It appears an agreement has almost been reached.

TOP STORY – BARCELONA, INTER AGREEMENT FOR LAUTARO 'IMMINENT'

Barcelona and Inter are finalising a deal for Lautaro Martinez, according to the cover of SPORT.

The report says the clubs are going to agree a deal of close to €60million plus two players – midfielder Arturo Vidal and either Nelson Semedo or Emerson.

SPORT also reports Barca and Martinez have a verbal agreement for a four-year deal.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus are still looking to sign Manchester United star Paul Pogba. AS reports Juve are offering the Premier League club Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot in their bid to complete a deal.

- Talk continues over Miralem Pjanic's potential switch to Barcelona. SPORT claims Juventus have also offered LaLiga's champions Mattia De Sciglio, along with the midfielder. SPORT also says Jean-Clair Todibo, who is on loan at Schalke, could be part of the deal.

- With 22 goals for Lyon this season, Moussa Dembele continues to attract interest from the Premier League. The Daily Star reports Manchester United are increasingly confident of landing the former Celtic forward in a £60m (€68.4m) deal.

- Odion Ighalo's loan at Manchester United from Shanghai Shenhua expires at the end of June. The Sun says the striker is desperate to extend his stay at Old Trafford, with the Chinese Super League club reportedly demanding a transfer fee.

- Linked with a move to Liverpool, Werder Bremen striker Milot Rashica appears to be heading elsewhere. BILD reports the 23-year-old's move to RB Leipzig is becoming more and more likely. Rashica has scored seven goals in 20 Bundesliga games this season.

Fabio Cannavaro discussed his love for Andres Iniesta, saying he watched the former Barcelona midfielder over Lionel Messi.

Iniesta, now playing for J1League outfit Vissel Kobe, celebrated his 36th birthday on Monday.

The former Spain international left Barcelona in 2018 after a trophy-laden stint with the LaLiga giants.

Cannavaro, who won two LaLiga titles as a Real Madrid player, said he always had eyes on Iniesta, widely regarded as one of the best midfielders of all-time.

"He played with such style, you couldn't help but love him when you saw him play," the Italian told AS.

"He was a perfect professional, very humble ... I loved him.

"Everybody might have been watching Messi but I was watching Iniesta."

Thibaut Courtois clarified his comments regarding Barcelona, saying he never said Real Madrid should be named LaLiga champions.

The goalkeeper said last week Barca should not be awarded the title if the season was unable to be finished due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But LaLiga is aiming to finish its season and Quique Setien's men hold a two-point lead over Madrid with 11 games to play.

Courtois discussed his comments again on Monday and said he did not call for Madrid to be crowned champions.

"At no point did I say that Real Madrid had to be declared champions," he told Television Espanola.

"If the league ends, we're in a better position even if we lost to [Real] Betis.

"If we play the 11 remaining matches then I am confident that my team can win the league."

Courtois returned to training on Monday with LaLiga aiming to get back underway in mid-June.

The Belgium international was happy to be back, albeit in unusual circumstances due to COVID-19.

"It was good to go back to training a little," Courtois said. "But it was weird, different, but feeling the grass and training is better than nothing."

Joan Laporta plans to enter the Barcelona presidential elections next year and wants Pep Guardiola to return if he is successful.

Laporta spent seven years as Barca president before stepping down in 2010.

A decade after relinquishing power at Camp Nou, the 57-year-old has set his sights on succeeding Josep Maria Bartomeu in 2021.

Laporta promoted an inexperienced Guardiola to the role of first-team coach in 2008 and that proved to be a masterstroke.

If Laporta has his way, the Manchester City boss will return to Catalonia.

He told Catalan station TV3: "I'm working to introduce myself as a presidential candidate.

"I've been president before and I'm excited to be back. The situation in 2021 will be dramatic and we'll have to reverse it. I'm working with people I trust."

He added: "I would very much like Guardiola to come back, but now he is at City and it is a decision that Pep should take. He is a benchmark for Barcelona and many Catalans would like him to train Barca again.

"At the right time, I will speak to the person we think should be a Barca coach from 2021."

Laporta suggested it may be too early for Xavi to take the Barca hotseat, which was only filled by Quique Setien in January.

He said: "Xavi is already a coach, he lives by football and it is he who must decide what his moment is.

"In 2021 there will still be players [at Barca] who were Xavi's team-mates, and he must think if he is prepared to lead former team-mates, which is not an easy thing."

Laporta added of the former Spain midfielder: "He is an honest man, he knows a lot about football and he will make the right decision, he will know what his time is to train Barca. I have not talked about Xavi on these issues."

Like most major events to do with Barcelona, Andres Iniesta's Copa del Rey final farewell in 2018 was best summed up by Lionel Messi.

They had combined for the goal of the game. Iniesta glided forward, fed Messi, collected his return pass, dummied exquisitely past David Soria and fired home. After the jumping fist pump and the player huddle came Messi's tribute: eyes closed, he hugged his long-time team-mate, the image a silent reflection of the headline that would follow in AS the next day: "Iniesta, don't go!".

Messi knew, though. The news was confirmed the following Friday, but it came as no surprise: Iniesta was to leave Barcelona at the end of 2017-18, after 22 years at the club. He moved to Vissel Kobe, backed by Barca sponsors Rakuten, where he has already added two trophies to a staggering collection of 37 in his senior career for club and country.

The decision brought sadness, a sense of an era coming to a close, but also frustration. That Copa final, the Iniesta Final, showed everyone he still had plenty to offer European football as he approached the age of 34. But if anything, that strengthened the resolve that the time was right: like Xavi after the treble in 2015, Iniesta left on a high, his powers intact, his legacy immovable.

His achievements are remarkable. The Copa was his 34th career trophy; his 35th was LaLiga title number nine. He scored the winning goal in a World Cup final; he was named player of the tournament at Euro 2012 as Spain defended their crown; he became the first man to assist a goal in three different Champions League finals. "This kid will retire us all," Pep Guardiola famously told Xavi. He wasn't far wrong.

"If Andres was called 'Andresinho', he would have two Ballons d'Or," Sergio Ramos said two years ago after France Football apologised for never giving him the prize. "World heritage" was how former boss Luis Enrique described him, and such is the global respect for a man who has had standing ovations at the Santiago Bernabeu, in Turin and at the Wanda Metropolitano as an opposition player, a popular vote for the Ballon d'Or always felt plausible.

He is not the perfect midfielder, if there can be such a thing.

He should have scored more goals; he never reached double figures in a single season. He registered only seven assists in LaLiga across his last three campaigns, although that's a stat impacted by the change to a functional midfield set-up under Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde.

But watching Iniesta gather the ball, execute a change of pace and set an attack underway has always remained one of the joys of the sport. It is majesty in motion, apparently simple yet uncommonly hard to do, and he's done it every 90 minutes, every week, since 2002. "I've known him for 15 years and he's never, ever had a bad game," Fernando Torres once said.

"He's fantastic. He's the most talented Spanish player of all time. He's an amazing player and a wonderful person with a huge heart," Xavi told UEFA.com about his old midfield partner, his cohort in a generation-defining partnership. He once wrote: "Sometimes I get the feeling Andres doesn't realise how important he is: one day he'll retire and we'll see the magnitude of what he has done."

Iniesta is not finished yet, but reflections and tributes on his 36th birthday show what he still means to Barca and Spain.

He left LaLiga a rare figure indeed: a universally appreciated and admired footballer. He is the greatest Spain have ever produced, for his longevity, his triumphs, his elegance, his dignity. He has come far from the boy who cried when he joined La Masia at the age of 12. He teared up during the Copa final, too; perhaps that was a fitting bookend.

Iniesta won't be remembered as Barca's finest youth product. That honour belongs to Messi, a man who dominates headlines for feats that sometimes defy all logic, with even players of Iniesta's calibre left in the background. 

And yet, for Messi, that's precisely what makes his old friend a master of his craft. In the midfielder's book, The Artist: Being Iniesta, Messi said: "I know how difficult it is to do what he does. He does everything well, with simplicity. At times, it may look like he's not doing anything, but in fact he's doing it all.

"Everything is different with Andres. The hardest thing to do in football is to make it look like everything is easy, effortless, and that's Andres."

Picking out the best bits from the career of Andres Iniesta is rather like trying to get the ball off him. It's damnably difficult.

Still, to mark the former Spain and Barcelona star's 36th birthday, we have selected 10 truly top moments from one of the 21st century's finest footballers.

These have been chosen from among his career highlights with Barca and the national team, so, Vissel Kobe fans, we must apologise.

Enjoy a stroll down memory lane to look at 'The Artist' and his finest work...

2006: FINAL SUPER-SUB

Iniesta later admitted his "blood was boiling" when he learned he was on the bench for the 2006 Champions League final against Arsenal.

With Barca 1-0 down at half-time, Frank Rijkaard moved to rectify that error by introducing the midfielder for Edmilson. It proved pivotal.

Fellow subs Henrik Larsson and Juliano Belletti, along with Samuel Eto'o, might have provided the telling touches to secure a 2-1 victory, but it was Iniesta's arrival that catalysed the comeback. Future team-mate Thierry Henry, who was in that Arsenal side, recalled: "The person who really killed me was Andres. When he comes on, everything changes."

 

2009: INIESTAZO AT STAMFORD BRIDGE

Chelsea fans might remember this Champions League semi-final second leg for a string of questionable refereeing decisions, but there is one moment that will forever stay with Barca fans.

The Catalans were moments from going out to a Michael Essien strike, but Iniesta's thumping effort from outside the box in the third minute of injury time sent them through on away goals.

Barca went on to beat Manchester United in the final and win the treble in Pep Guardiola's first season in charge. Iniesta's goal made it all possible.

2010: WORLD CUP GLORY

Iniesta recalled his winning goal in extra time of the 2010 World Cup final as a moment of clarity, when it seemed as though the world drifted into slow motion.

That feeling of calm was a far cry from the year leading up to the tournament, in which the player struggled badly with mental and emotional concerns despite his success on the pitch. "It was like nothing was right," he recalled in his book, The Artist: Being Iniesta.

The loss of his friend Dani Jarque in 2009 - the Espanyol defender who died at just 26 years old - had deeply affected Iniesta, and it was only fitting he celebrated securing Spain's first World Cup by pulling off his shirt to reveal a message beneath reading: "Dani Jarque, always with us."

2010: A CLASICO FOR THE AGES

Guardiola's Barca reached their peak in 2010-11 and arguably their greatest performance came in November 2010 against Real Madrid.

Jose Mourinho's first taste of the Clasico as Madrid coach ended in a 5-0 battering at Camp Nou in which Iniesta, Xavi and Sergio Busquets utterly dominated proceedings.

He was not among the goals - Xavi (from Iniesta's pass), Pedro, David Villa (twice) and Jeffren were on the scoresheet - but Iniesta's display underlined his position as one of the world's best midfielders in the finest team on the planet.

2011: UNITED BACK ON THE CAROUSEL

Alex Ferguson famously compared facing a midfield of Xavi and Iniesta to being stuck on a carousel after Barca beat United 2-0 in the 2009 Champions League final.

Two years later, Guardiola's men led the Red Devils on an even dizzier dance, winning 3-1 at Wembley to secure another European triumph. Such was Xavi, Busquets and Iniesta's control over events that even Ferguson could find no complaints over the scoreline.

"They do mesmerise you with the way they pass it," he said. "I would say they're the best team we've faced. Everyone acknowledges that and I accept that. It's not easy when you've been well beaten like that to think another way. No one has given us a hiding like that. It's a great moment for them."

 

2011: A WORLD RUN BY MIDFIELDERS

At the 2011 Club World Cup, Barca went into the final against Santos with David Villa injured and Pedro on the bench. Guardiola's solution? Let's midfield them to death.

Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara (oh, and Dani Alves) all lined up behind Lionel Messi in a 3-4-3. It gave Barca a grip on the game that never loosened.

Messi (twice), Xavi and Fabregas scored in a 4-0 win in which Barca had 71 per cent possession and a young Neymar was given a glimpse of his future. Iniesta, the beating heart of the side, described the performance as "unique... it was something to remember and enjoy".

 

2012: THE BEST IN EUROPE

Iniesta was part of the Spain side that won Euro 2008 under Luis Aragones before Vicente del Bosque led them to World Cup glory. Two years later, one of the great modern eras of international football was secured as they defended their continental crown, dispatching Italy 4-0 in the final in Kiev.

Del Bosque's team comprised six midfielders and no strikers, a remarkable line-up that represented the zenith of tiki-taka football, where technical mastery of pass-and-move play trumped all else and the classic number nine was rendered obsolete. It was the footballing equivalent of a guitar band deciding guitars aren't cool any more.

Iniesta was named man of the match, player of the tournament, and crowned UEFA's Best Player in Europe later that year.

2015: CHAMPIONS LEAGUE HISTORY

Another former Barca player in his first season as head coach, another treble, and another Iniesta assist on a big stage.

Luis Enrique's Barca took the lead against Juventus in Berlin through Ivan Rakitic after four minutes, as Iniesta became the first player to assist a goal in three different Champions League finals.

Alvaro Morata equalised but Luis Suarez and Neymar secured a 3-1 victory, as Iniesta claimed another man-of-the-match prize in a major final.

2015: THE SANTIAGO BERNABEU STANDS AS ONE

Iniesta is one of the few Spanish players who is generally admired throughout rival fan bases and territories - even among Real Madrid supporters.

In the Clasico of November 2015, Barca destroyed Madrid on home turf with a 4-0 victory in which Iniesta set up Neymar for a goal and scored a stunner himself.

Such was the supremacy of Iniesta that day - with Lionel Messi out injured - that the Bernabeu gave him a standing ovation as he left the pitch in the 77th minute. Only two other Barca players had ever been accorded such an honour: Ronaldinho, and Diego Maradona.

2018: THE INIESTA FINAL

Iniesta had not yet confirmed he would be leaving Barca at the end of 2017-18, but he made sure to provide the perfect curtain call anyway.

Having played a reduced role for much of the season, Iniesta seemed to have been saving himself for a last hurrah: the Copa del Rey final against Sevilla.

Although nearly 34, he looked at the peak of his powers, dictating the game at his own tempo as Barca cantered to a 5-0 win.

He even scored the goal of the game - exchanging passes with Messi, dummying the keeper and firing home - before yet another ovation serenaded his teary-eyed exit from the last major final he would play for the club he joined as a 12-year-old.

Milan Skriniar has established himself as one of the best defenders in the world since moving to Inter from Sampdoria in 2017.

Manchester City, Manchester United and Barcelona have been linked to Skriniar.

Real Madrid are also reportedly interested amid uncertainty over captain and defender Sergio Ramos.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID INTERESTED IN SKRINIAR

Real Madrid are eyeing a move for Inter defender Milan Skriniar, according to Diario Gol.

With uncertainty over the future of captain Sergio Ramos, Madrid are looking to bolster their defence at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly and RB Leipzig's Dayot Upamecano have been linked but an exchange deal sending James Rodriguez plus cash to Inter could see Skriniar join Madrid.

ROUND-UP

- Marca claims Madrid forward Gareth Bale is a priority for Newcastle United's prospective new owners. Newcastle have also reportedly identified former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino as their next head coach and that could convince Bale to return to the Premier League.

Manchester City are monitoring Lyon sensation Houssem Aouar, says L'Equipe. The 21-year-old is valued at around £44million (€50m) by Lyon, who are prepared to cash in. Aouar has been linked to the likes of Liverpool and Juventus.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports Napoli want at least £44m (€50m) for Hirving Lozano, who is attracting interest from Everton.

- The future of Zlatan Ibrahimovic could be decided in 20 days, according to Calciomercato. As Ibrahimovic prepares to return to Milan following the coronavirus pandemic, the Rossoneri want to define the 38-year-old's future as they plan ahead amid links to Madrid's Luka Jovic.

Chelsea will make a move for West Ham midfielder Declan Rice if they lose N'Golo Kante, says The Mirror. Madrid are reportedly tracking Kante.

- L'Equipe claims Manchester United are keeping tabs on PSG veteran Edinson Cavani. The soon-to-be free agent has been tipped to join Atletico Madrid, while an MLS switch is also an option for the veteran forward.

Gerard Pique said he has not seen superstar team-mate Lionel Messi train as Barcelona step up their LaLiga preparations with individual sessions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Messi and Barca returned to training on Friday, albeit via individual sessions due to the COVID-19 crisis, with the squad divided over three pitches to ensure social-distancing requirements are upheld.

Barca followed a similar routine on Saturday as LaLiga hopes to resume in mid-June, having suspended the 2019-20 campaign in March.

"I didn't have any contact with Messi on the pitch, I only spoke to him on my mobile phone," Barca defender Pique told Movistar's El Partidazo.

"I didn't see him train either, I just crossed him in the parking lot. All the footballers we train in different fields. I am with Sergi Roberto and [Sergio] Busquets in a field, but we are separated."

Defending champions Barca were two points clear of bitter rivals Real Madrid through 27 matches when the season was postponed.

Barca head coach Quique Setien has previously said it would be logical for the Spanish giants to receive the title if the season was incomplete – a view strongly opposed by Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Pique, though, would prefer to finish the campaign, adding: "I understand LaLiga's interest in finishing the season because there's a lot at stake.

"Despite being leaders, it would be quite ugly to win that way.

"We've spent a lot of time out of action and we have to keep in mind we need to be well prepared to avoid the risk of injuries, a few days of training more wouldn't be bad."

"They've kept us very well informed; [LaLiga president] Javier Tebas has dedicated many hours to it," Pique continued.

"There are people who are scared and it's important that everyone follows the protocol to the finest detail. It's better training as a group but we have to adapt."

Thibaut Courtois showed safe hands behind the steering wheel as he got the better of Sergio Aguero in Formula One's Virtual Spanish Grand Prix.

Victory at a simulated Circuit de Catalunya went to Britain's George Russell, racing for the Williams team, who fended off Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in a gripping finish.

The battle of the footballers went the way of Real Madrid goalkeeper Courtois though, with the Belgian's Alfa Romeo placing 12th after the 33-lap contest.

Manchester City striker Aguero marked his debut in the eSport with a solid 14th place, having been battling with golf's Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter at one stage, and the Argentinian said his debut was "not bad".

Poulter ended up 18th for Renault, one place better off than Barcelona midfielder Arthur Melo, whose Haas finished last of the cars that completed the race.

McLaren's Lando Norris pulled out midway through.

Russell started on pole and wound up in a battle over the closing laps with Leclerc, when it became clear they were the class cars in the field.

Victory looked set to go to Leclerc when Russell picked up a three-second penalty, but Monte Carlo driver Leclerc collected the same punishment himself on the penultimate lap, the pair both penalised for cutting corners.

That let 22-year-old Russell cruise to the finish line, celebrating what he said was a first motor racing win for him since 2018, when he was competing in Formula Two.

"I am feeling ecstatic. I'm not used to this winning thing," Russell told Sky Sports. "I've not done it for a long, long time."

He said he was "almost wetting my pants" when news came through of Leclerc's penalty late in the race, having been "angry" about his earlier sanction.

Leclerc felt "very disappointed" to have a likely victory taken away but praised Russell's performance, describing the Englishman, who fell from pole to fifth place in the early stages, as "extremely quick" when it mattered most.

“When he showed his real pace towards the end he was just too quick for me,” Leclerc said.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is out of contract in June 2021 and the Gabon international is no closer to signing a new Arsenal deal.

The former Borussia Dortmund star is not short of suitors amid uncertainty over his future in London.

And Real Madrid are reportedly making their move.

 

T OP STORY – MADRID TELL ARSENAL TO DECIDE OVER AUBA

Real Madrid have set Arsenal a deadline as they look to sign star forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, according to The Mirror.

Aubameyang is out of contract in June 2021 and the Gabon international has been tipped to leave Arsenal.

Madrid reportedly want Arsenal to make a decision on Aubameyang's future by June 15 as the likes of Inter and Paris Saint-Germain also circle.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport reports Barcelona are on the brink of signing Juventus midfielder Miralem Pjanic. The LaLiga giants are close to agreeing a four-year deal with the Bosnia-Herzegovina international.

- Pjanic had been mentioned in a possible swap deal with Barca's Arthur, who has previously dismissed an exit. However, Tuttosport claims Juventus have not given up on signing Arthur.

- Former RB Leipzig boss Ralf Rangnick is set to become head coach of Milan, reports Calciomercato.

- The Express says Manchester United have identified Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek as a top transfer target. Van de Beek has also been linked to Madrid and Juve.

Madrid want Casemiro to continue at the Santiago Bernabeu, but Mundo Deportivo reports the futures of captain Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, Lucas Vazquez and James Rodriguez are up in the air.

- According to The Sun, Borussia Dortmund want to sign Chelsea teenager Charlie Webster.

Inter have set their sights on Freiburg centre-back Robin Koch, reports Tuttomercatoweb. Koch has also been linked to Napoli and Benfica.

United are keeping tabs on Swansea City defender Joe Rodon, says The Mirror. The Red Devils have already raided Swansea previously, signing Welshman Daniel James ahead of the 2019-20 season.

The transformation of Barcelona under Johan Cruyff took an important step forward on May 10, 31 years ago.

The Catalans won their first trophy since the great Cruyff's return to his old club, beating Sampdoria to claim the Cup Winners' Cup.

Liverpool became European champions for the second time on this day in 1978 as they defended the trophy by defeating Club Brugge.

More recently, May 10 has brought about historic achievements from Stephen Curry and Rafael Nadal.

 

1978 - Liverpool defend European Cup

Liverpool became the first English team to retain the European Cup in 1978 – and they did so at the national stadium, too.

A solitary goal from Kenny Dalglish in the second half secured a 1-0 victory over Club Brugge at Wembley in a game that was a far cry from the thrilling 4-3 aggregate win for Liverpool against the same opponents in the UEFA Cup final two years earlier.

The Reds will not have cared too much, though. It was their second European Cup triumph, following on from 1977's 3-1 defeat of Borussia Monchengladbach, and they would go on to lift the trophy twice more in the next six years.

 

1989 - Barcelona win Cup Winners' Cup to kick-start Cruyff legacy

Johan Cruyff was a legend as a Barcelona player, but he returned as coach during a time of real strife at his old club.

Within a year, he had secured his first trophy in charge, as the Catalans claimed a 2-0 victory over Sampdoria to lift the 1988-89 Cup Winners' Cup.

Goals in each half from Julio Salinas and Luis Lopez Rekarte were enough to seal the win and kick-start the sustained success of Cruyff's fabled 'Dream Team'.

By the end of the 1993-94 season, Barca had won four LaLiga titles in a row, a Copa del Rey, three Supercopas de Espana, the UEFA Super Cup of 1992 and the European Cup of the same year, where they beat Sampdoria again.

 

2016 - Curry becomes first unanimous NBA MVP in history

Stephen Curry led the Golden State Warriors to a historic 73-9 in a regular season in which they seemed to break records at will, only to lose the Finals 4-3 to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Still, there was little argument against Curry being named MVP for the second year in a row. In fact, it seems there was no argument at all.

He swept all 131 first-place votes to become the first unanimous winner of the award in history, with Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs a distant second.

2018 - Nadal breaks McEnroe record for consecutive set wins on single surface

Rafael Nadal is quite good at tennis on clay courts, if you were not aware.

Two years ago, he reminded everyone just how imperious he can be on the red dirt (if 12 French Open singles triumphs since 2005 was not proof enough).

By beating Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-4 at the Madrid Open, Nadal broke the record for winning consecutive sets on a single surface. He reached 50 set wins in a row on clay, surpassing the 49 on carpet set by John McEnroe in 1984.

Remarkably, the run ended in rather meek fashion in his next match, as Dominic Thiem won their quarter-final 7-5 6-3.

Diego Maradona is the greatest of all time, not Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, according to Fabio Cannavaro.

Maradona and Messi are both regarded as two of the greatest players and the Argentine duo's standing atop football's history is often debated.

Messi is a record six-time Ballon d'Or winner but former Italy defender Cannavaro believes 1986 World Cup champion Maradona is the greatest.

"I respect Messi a lot. For the new generation he is one of the best, but Maradona is different because the football was different," Cannavaro – now head coach of Chinese Super League giants Guangzhou Evergrande after captaining Italy to World Cup glory in 2006 – told Sky Sports.

"They kicked him a lot, but he was always in control and he was tough.

"Messi is top, but Maradona is another world. I never compare him with other players. I never saw Pele, but I watched Maradona, for seven years I saw every game.

"He's not one of the best, he's the best."

Maradona won silverware at Barcelona, helping the Spanish giants to Copa del Rey, Copa de la Liga and Supercopa de Espana glory.

The 59-year-old then went on to become an icon with Napoli, where he won two Serie A titles, as well as UEFA Cup, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana.

Messi has won 10 LaLiga crowns and four Champions League titles among other honours at Barcelona, though he has not tasted senior success with Argentina.

Samuel Umtiti suffered an injury in only the second day since Barcelona resumed training sessions at the Ciutat Esportiva.

The centre-back sustained a problem to his right calf, the LaLiga leaders confirmed in a short statement.

Barca were back training on Friday after players and staff were given coronavirus tests to ensure it was safe for them to return.

On Saturday, players were separated across three pitches in order to undergo sessions while maintaining social distancing.

LaLiga teams have been granted permission to use training facilities again as part of gradual steps towards the planned resumption of the competition in June.

Barca were two points clear of Real Madrid at the top of the table when the season was suspended indefinitely in March.

Kalidou Koulibaly's future remains a talking point and Liverpool are reportedly in "pole position" to sign the Napoli defender.

Koulibaly, 28, has been linked with a move amid reported interest from several of Europe's biggest clubs.

And it seems a Koulibaly-Virgil van Dijk central defensive pairing is getting closer at Anfield.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL IN 'POLE POSITION' TO SIGN KOULIBALY

Liverpool are in pole position to sign Koulibaly after Paris Saint-Germain withdrew their interest, according to Le 10 Sport.

With Manchester United having also reportedly withdrawn from the race, Jurgen Klopp's side and Newcastle United – pending takeover – could land the defender.

Koulibaly is contracted at Napoli until 2023 and it will reportedly take an offer of £88.4million (€100m) to land the defender.

ROUND-UP

- PSG do seemingly want to hold onto Mauro Icardi beyond the end of his loan from Inter. La Gazzetta dello Sport reports PSG are willing to offer Julian Draxler as part of a deal for Icardi, who joined with a €70m purchase option.

- Staying at PSG and the Ligue 1 giants are looking to sign Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali, according to Le 10 Sport. Tonali has been linked heavily with a move to Juventus.

- t seemed Barcelona and Juventus were preparing for a swap deal. But Goal reports an exchange involving Barca midfielder Arthur and Juventus' Miralem Pjanic is off, with the LaLiga giants also wanting money for the 23-year-old Brazil international.

- Dries Mertens is drawing plenty of attention with his contract at Napoli expiring at the end of the season. Mundo Deportivo reports PSG have joined Atletico Madrid, Inter and Chelsea in a fight for the forward.

- Also with Inter, the Serie A club are still considering forward Jonathan David, according to CalcioMercato. David, 20, has scored 23 goals in 40 games for Gent this season.

- With his loan deal at Roma ending, Chris Smalling looks set to return to Manchester United. Corriere dello Sport reports Roma are considering Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren and Barcelona's Jean-Clair Todibo, who is on loan at Schalke, to replace Smalling.

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