Brazil's men's and women's teams have been paid at the same rate since March and will continue to be treated equally moving forward, CBF president Rogerio Caboclo has announced.

In what the CBF described as an "unprecedented measure", Brazil Women - led by captain Marta - receive the same daily wages and prize money as the five-time men's world champions.

Caboclo revealed the change at a news conference as Duda Luizelli and Aline Pellegrino were hired as the CBF's new women's football coordinators.

"Since March of this year, the CBF has paid an equal value in terms of prizes and daily rates between men's and women's football," Caboclo said.

"The men's players earn the same as the women's players during their call-ups. What they receive daily, the women also receive.

"What the men will gain by winning or advancing at the Olympics next year will be the same as the women will have.

"What men will receive at the next World Cup will be proportionally equal to what is proposed by FIFA.

"There is no more gender difference, as the CBF is treating men and women equally."

FIFA president Gianni Infantino expressed joy at the announcement of ground-breaking law changes that should improve the rights of workers in Qatar, host nation of the next World Cup.

It was confirmed on Sunday that the Emir of Qatar had abolished certain restrictions in place for migrant workers in the country, with two new laws passed by authorities.

The changes mean workers are no longer unable to change jobs without their employer's permission, while a monthly minimum wage of 1,000 Qatari riyal – plus basic living allowances for some workers – has been introduced.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International hopes these steps will "strike at the heart of the abusive kafala system", a practice that requires so-called unskilled labourers to have a sponsor – predominantly their employer – in the country.

The kafala system had been widely criticised by campaigners for allowing some employers to exploit workers.

Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup in December 2010, though their selection was shrouded in allegations of corruption, while the country's use – and reported exploitation – of workers in the meantime has led to moral objection to the tournament and uncomfortable questions for FIFA.

But world football's governing body sees these changes as a significant step in creating a positive legacy and lasting change in the region.

"We sincerely congratulate the State of Qatar on this significant step," Infantino said in a statement released on Tuesday.

"Since the FIFA World Cup 2022 was awarded to Qatar, there has been a major collective effort from the local authorities, our partner the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and the ILO [International Labour Organisation] to bring about positive change, and we are really pleased to see that this has materialised into concrete major progress in the area of workers' rights.

"Well before kick-off, this important milestone demonstrates the capacity of the FIFA World Cup to foster positive change and build a lasting legacy.

"There is definitely still room for further progress, and we will continue to work closely with the authorities and all stakeholders to promote a progressive agenda that should be of long-term benefit to all workers in Qatar, whether involved in the preparation of the event or not."

Yuriy Ganus has been removed as the Russian Anti-Doping Agency's (RUSADA) director general, prompting concerns over its independence from the Russian Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

RUSADA's supervisory board earlier this month recommended its founders - the Russian Olympic and Paralympic Committee - dismiss Ganus, advice that was taken on Friday.

Deputy director general Margarita Pakhnotskaya and the supervisory board's independent international expert member Sergey Khrychikov resigned this week.

RUSADA's non-compliance case is pending before the Court of Arbitration for Sport after it appealed the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) four-year suspension of Russia from global sporting events.

WADA and the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations (iNADO) each responded to news of Ganus' removal with unease.

WADA, which previously said it was "extremely concerned" by the supervisory board's recommendation, said: "These developments reinforce the concerns expressed by WADA in its statement of August 5 in relation to the manner in which the founders reached the decision regarding Mr Ganus following a recommendation by RUSADA's supervisory board.

"[The developments] re-emphasise the critical importance for RUSADA to maintain its operational independence going forward.

"WADA is in contact with RUSADA and other relevant Russian authorities to get further clarifications on the latest developments."

It added: "It is a critical element of the World Anti-Doping Code that national anti-doping organisations, such as RUSADA, remain safe from interference in their operational decisions and activities in order to conduct their work independently and effectively.

"This is why the Compliance Review Committee made it a condition of RUSADA's reinstatement that WADA remains satisfied that RUSADA's independence is being respected and there is no improper outside interference with its operations."

iNADO said: "iNADO is deeply concerned by the control that the Russian Olympic and Paralympic Committee exercise over RUSADA.

"This was made evident today in the dismissal of Yuriy Ganus as director general by these two organisations."

It added: "It is a clear conflict of interest when sport organisations have the power to remove the head of a national anti-doping agency unopposed."

Lionel Messi is a "competitive beast" who will definitely play at the 2022 World Cup according to Xavi, who has reiterated his desire to one day coach his beloved Barcelona. 

Argentina great Messi will be 35 by the time the next international global showpiece is held in Qatar across November and December. 

Messi has suffered more than his fair share of heartbreak with La Albiceleste, losing three Copa America finals and the 2014 World Cup final to Germany. 

Despite turning 33 last month, Messi's numbers continue to be phenomenal and he topped LaLiga's goalscoring and assists charts with 25 and 21 respectively this term. 

Xavi, who played alongside Messi in Barca's first team from 2004 until his Camp Nou departure in 2015, is coaching Qatari side Al Sadd and fully expects to see his former team-mate involved at the next World Cup. 

"I see Leo playing until he wants to. On a physical level, he is fast, strong, he is a competitive beast, physically an animal," Xavi told Marca.  

"I have no doubt that he will play in Qatar 2022."

Xavi won eight league titles and the Champions League four times during a glittering Barca career. His name was heavily linked with the coaching vacancy at Camp Nou when Ernesto Valverde was sacked and while Quique Setien got the job, there is now speculation over his future too. 

Xavi has made no secret of his desire to one day return to Barca but says respect must be shown to Setien, who he feels has done some good work despite missing out on the league title to rivals Real Madrid.  

"I do not hide, and I have always said, that my main goal, when it occurs, is Barca. It is my home and it would be a dream," he said. 

"But now I am focused on Al Sadd, looking forward to the new season. When Barca has to come, in the short or long term, it will come. Above all, Quique Setien must be respected and I wish the team all the best. 

"Sometimes Barca plays very well, others well, and others not so well. But I like the idea of Setien, now and with his previous teams - dominate and make an attractive game.  

"Sometimes it is not possible, it is true, but the rival makes it difficult for you. We have seen very nice and very good games of Barca with Setien. Definitely."

It was revealed over the weekend that Xavi had returned a positive test for coronavirus, which meant he was not on the bench for Al Sadd's 2-1 victory over Al Khor. 

The World Cup winner says he is doing well but expects the transfer market to suffer as a result of the global health pandemic. 

"I am fine, although logically isolated, and wanting to train soon," he said. 

"It [coronavirus] will lower the level [of the market], like everything after this pandemic. It will be very damaged. There will be a reorganisation of everything, of clubs and players. It is a shame, but it will be so." 

Xavi has been in charge at Al Sadd for a little over a year, during which time they have won the Qatari Super Cup and Qatar Cup, while they also reached the AFC Champions League semi-finals last term. 

He spoke of the difficulty of trying to compete against other wealthy teams in Qatar and welcomed the arrival of former international team-mate Santi Cazorla to Al Sadd. 

"When you are in a winning club, like this one, the goal is to win everything, although you have to be aware of our rivals," he added.  

"In Qatar, we have ahead of us Al Duhail, who has twice the budget of us and Al Rayyan, who has made a great financial effort.  

"With them it is difficult to compete. At the Asian level, we want the Champions League. We have reached the semis two years in a row [as player and coach].  

"In 2020, I have the hope of reaching the final. For that we have signed Cazorla, to make a good team." 

Xavi was still in his prime playing alongside a 26-year-old Andres Iniesta, and Vicente del Bosque had figured out a goal would do.

Sergio Ramos was 24 playing right back next to a 23-year-old Gerard Pique, and neither of them had much to do.

David Villa was 28, and a 24-year-old David Silva couldn’t find a regular spot in the squad because the 2010 Spanish midfield just didn’t need him. What they did need was 745.8 touches per goal.

You could either watch it for two hours out of appreciation for the pure aesthetics of how that midfield made it look, understanding a goal was coming from space you couldn’t yet see, or you could watch it for two hours wondering how more never came.

It’s an illogical comparison between an entire team and a single striker, but it’s also an amusing one: Miroslav Klose needed 728 career touches to score 16 World Cup goals.

La Roja scored eight in South Africa, the fewest by a World Cup winner, from 5,966 touches, the most by any team in the World Cup dating to 1966, when advanced data records began. To some, they were untouchable, dominant and – time for a new word – undispossessable. To others, simply frustrating.

But they were very good. Aside from a moment in which Arjen Robben got behind the defence after a beautiful through ball from Wesley Sneijder only for Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas to get a foot on his shot, it’s hard to recall many times in the tournament when viewers thought the then and future European Champions could lose – until we’re reminded they lost their World Cup 2010 opener to Switzerland.


POSSESSION, AND THE OCCASIONAL GOAL

Spain’s goal every 82.5 minutes in 2010 ranks 184th among World Cup sides dating to 1966, is the worst rate among World Cup winners (though Argentina reached the 1990 final by scoring once every 138), and 12th among the 32 teams in 2010 just behind a United States (78.0) side that was moments from missing the knockout stage.

Pre-2010, the lowest goal total by a winner was 11 by England in 1966, but it only took six matches to win a World Cup in those days. The 1982 Italy team scored 12 in seven matches, which was the lowest per-match mark (1.71) until Spain (1.14).

A brutal final against the Netherlands which saw referee Howard Webb show 14 cards – a record for the World Cup final – couldn’t prevent them from their emblematic scoreline: 1-0.

A 23-year-old Cesc Fabregas came on in the 87th minute to give a midfield fresh legs it probably didn’t need before supplying a tournament-winning assist in extra time.

To hyperbolically state they had the ball the entire match, as we tend to do 10 years after, would be 38.4% inaccurate. Xavi completed 90 of 97 passes attempted and had 130 touches – the second-highest single-game total of the tournament. The two in their 4-2-3-1, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets, combined for 166 touches. They were never dispossessed.
 

 

La Roja 2010 completed more passes in a World Cup than any team until Germany topped them by six four years later, yet overwhelming possession is always how Spain will be remembered.


Team Passes Completed in a World Cup

Team               Year     Matches          Completed      Completion %

Germany         2014    7                      3,802                           86.2

Spain               2010    7                      3,796                           86.9

Brazil               1994    7                      3,585                           85.0

England           2018    7                      3,276                           85.3

Netherlands   1998     7                      3,220                           84.5


Possession percentage may not mean much – France had the ball 48.6% of the time in 2018 – but we can’t seem to talk about this Spain side without reiterating how much they had the ball.

But other World Cup teams have had it more, and only three of the top six World Cup teams in possession percentage have managed to advance out of their groups. Spain 2010, Argentina 2010 and Netherlands 1998 are the only World Cup teams to advance out of the round of 16 with over 60% possession, so it follows La Roja are the only team to win a World Cup with over 60%.


Highest World Cup Possession Percentage

Team               Year     Matches          Possession %

Spain               2018    4                      74.1

Germany         2018    3                      71.5

Argentina        2018    4                      65.5

Colombia        1994    3                      64.7

Spain               2010    7                      64.5

Argentina        2002    3                      63.2

Argentina        2010    5                      62.3

Mexico            2002    4                      62.3

Spain               2006    4                      62.1

France             2002    3                      61.1

Netherlands   1998    7                      60.8

Spain               2014    3                      60.8


From that possession came surprisingly few chances, and with those surprisingly few chances came surprisingly poor finishing. Spain in fact had a higher xG total in just four matches.

With those eight 2010 goals came an 8.90 xG, marking the first negative xG differential by a World Cup winner. It didn’t help that they missed both penalties they were awarded.


Lowest Performance vs. xG for World Cup Winners

Team               Year     Games Goals   xG        xG +/-

Spain               2010    7          8          8.90     -0.90

Germany         2014    7          18        15.88   2.12

Germany         1974    7          13        10.17   2.83

Brazil               1994    7          11        7.53     3.47

England           1966    6          11        6.37     4.63


It wasn’t a matter of progressing the ball up the pitch or settling for inconsequential maintenance style possession at the back. Spain’s touches in the opposition box (215) rank third dating to 1966 behind the Netherlands 1974 (260) and Germany 1974 (237), but those two sides combined for 28 goals.

It was even a mediocre scoring tournament across Spain’s history. They’ve qualified for the last 11 World Cups. In that time, they’ve outscored the 2010 side four times and matched it once while never advancing past the quarter-finals or playing more than five matches.

Their 1.09 goals scored per 90 minutes in 2010 ranks ninth of those 11 Spanish sides. Their 1.21 xG per 90 in 2010 is tied for fifth among those 11, trailing even the 1998 team (1.67) that didn’t get beyond the group stage in France.

So what, then, was it that made this team look so special so frequently and, more importantly, what made it possible for them to get it together after their opening loss to Switzerland to advance to the knockout stage and beat Portugal, Paraguay, Germany and the Dutch by a combined score of 4-0?


POSSESSION AS DEFENCE

The answer may be that their possession often worked more as a method of defence than attack. We focus so often on recent Spanish teams’ ability to sustain possession or threat, and as a result what can go unnoticed is where they stood defensively.

Spain 2010 are one of 64 teams to play at least six World Cup games dating to 1966. Of that group, they’re one of four sides to concede just twice. Their 2.32 shots on goal conceded per 90 ranks sixth, their 0.27 goals against per 90 is third, while their non-penalty 0.46 xG against per 90 is eighth. France 1998 are the only other World Cup winners to concede under 2 1/2 shots, a third of a goal, and half a non-penalty expected goal per 90.

The right side of the defence (Ramos and Pique) was young, and the left side was made up of 32-year-olds Carles Puyol and Joan Capdevila. Neither side was responsible for an overwhelming amount of their non-penalty opponent xG with 1.82 coming from sequences starting on the left and 1.52 coming from the right.

Measured by shot location, 1.47 came from left, while 1.87 came from the right. Regardless, they allowed one shot from inside the six for the tournament:
 

 

Meanwhile, Casillas ranked 29th in saves per 90 for the tournament (though he stopped the only penalty he faced to preserve a 1-0 quarter-final lead against Paraguay), while Spain’s 17.3 tackles per 90 is the fifth-lowest total among all World Cup teams to play at least six matches, and their 104.2 duels per 90 is third lowest among World Cup winners.

So much of that had to do with retaining possession, which is why a player like Sergio Busquets fit so well as a holding midfielder for this team. He was and is a possession retainer, never to be confused with a ball winner behind the playmakers.

Among Spain’s possessions lost, they were dispossessed a total of 13 times in the defensive half, and twice in the defensive third – or once every 330 minutes. Spanish players were dispossessed once every 62.2 touches, which is best among World Cup winners not named Germany.

But there was also remarkable creativity. Spain 2010 attempted more through balls (60) than any World Cup team aside from Brazil in 1978 (69), and their pass completion percentage ending in the final third among teams to play at least six matches in a tournament ranks second to Brazil 1970.


Highest World Cup Pass Completion % Ending in Final Third

Team               Year     Matches          Passes in Final Third   Completion %

Brazil               1970    6                      562                                          76.6

Spain               2010    7                      890                                          74.6

Germany         2014    7                      966                                          74.6

France             1982    7                      533                                          74.4

Germany         1974    7                      797                                          74.2

(Teams with at least six matches dating to 1966.)


Now, possession itself can be boring. But players involved in it are often not boring. Iniesta, for example, was never a boring player, particularly at the previously mentioned age. There’s something interesting to say about most of these guys, but we’ll focus on a handful.


ANDRES INIESTA

Iniesta was undoubtedly the skilled midfielder in his prime that dynamised Spain’s style, but he also scored some big goals. You know, the one in the 116th minute that won them the tournament and earned him man of the match. That was important.

But he also scored another one, which in hindsight really mattered. Iniesta gave Spain a 2-0 lead in the 37th minute of Spain’s final group play match, a 2-1 win over Chile in which he was also named man of the match.

Without that goal, Chile would have won the group, and Spain would have played Brazil rather than Portugal in the round of 16, and this World Cup anniversary story might be about a different team.

Iniesta may have been the player on this team that made the detractors keep the television on. While fellow midfielders like Xavi, Busquets, Xabi Alonso looked to move the ball through team-mates, Iniesta took more chances on his own.

His 35 take-ons trailed only Messi’s 45 for the tournament, and while his 48.6 take-on completion percentage was nowhere near Messi’s 68.9, it compares favourably to the only other two players who attempted more than 30. Robben and David Villa each attempted 31 at 32.3%.

His 13 through balls played were second in the tournament only to the guy you’ll read about last on this list. His two goals more than doubled his 0.77 xG, and without him or David Villa on this list, Spain realistically wouldn’t have had the finishing to win a World Cup.


DAVID VILLA

Playing striker with this bunch couldn’t have been a dream job. With persistent possession and plenty of defensive clutter behind the ball to navigate with back to goal, there wasn’t much space for a No. 9 to do his thing. But Villa was used to it while playing at Barcelona with much of the Spanish midfield, and he managed to outperform his xG by 2.18 goals, which ranked sixth in 2010.


2010 World Cup Performance vs. xG

Player              Team               Goals   xG        xG +/-

W. Sneijder     Netherlands   5          1.28     3.72

T. Muller         Germany         5          1.28     3.72

D. Forlan         Uruguay          5          2.21     2.79

R. Vittek          Slovakia          4          1.53     2.47

G. Higuaín       Argentina        4          1.75     2.25

D. Villa            Spain               5          2.82     2.18

M. Klose          Germany         4          2.04     1.96

In 2010, he scored five of Spain’s eight goals, and that 62.5% individual share of team goals is the highest all-time for a World Cup winner. It would have been six of nine if he’d converted a rather meaningless penalty against Honduras.
 

 


SERGIO BUSQUETS

This author may have a tendency to argue Busquets has been one of football’s most fortunate midfielders given the team-mates he’s had who have hidden his lack of athleticism and allowed him to do exactly what he’s good at and nothing more. But man is he good at what he’s good at, even if it only occasionally requires a sweat.

His pass percentage in the opponent half (92.3) during the 2010 tournament went unsurpassed by non-defenders until 2018 when three players did it. It’s now been bettered by Axel Witsel (93.2), Toni Kroos (93.4) and – yes – Sergio Busquets (93.9).

Additionally, he made a team-high 27 interceptions and had a 61.3% tackle rate, which considering his lack of range are sneaky numbers to anyone used to watching him at 31 rather than 21. In fact, his 3.9 interceptions per 90 were fourth among all central, attacking or holding midfielders to reach the knockout phase. These are numbers we typically expect of a holding midfielder, but not necessarily one of Busquets’ variety.

Busquets was dispossessed three times in 631 minutes in 2010, which at least in part explains that Del Bosque quote you may have come across when googling his age for this story: "If you watch the whole game, you won’t see Busquets. But watch Busquets, and you will see the whole game."

That’s what he’s good at, but he wouldn’t have been as good at it if he’d had to worry about Xavi losing the ball up in front of him.


XAVI

Saving the best for last, Xavi assisted the 73rd-minute semi-final winner against Germany – a match in which he created seven chances to Germany’s three while completing 105 of his 113 passes.

His 30 chances created were a tournament best regardless of whether you measure it by total or per 90, and he created 10 more than next-best Mesut Ozil. Xavi accounted for 20 of Spain’s through balls, also a tournament best ahead of Ozil’s 17.

And then there’s everything about Xavi that made Spain Spain at their peak.

There have been 18 players to complete at least 400 passes in a single World Cup. Xavi completed 599 in 2010, which is the most ever, and it came with a 91.2% success rate, which trails only Busquets in 2010 (92.1) and Isco in 2018 (91.4) among non-defenders in that 400-plus group.

His 84.2% passing accuracy ending in the final third is unmatched among all players in that group. And for anyone clinging exclusively to this midfield being great at looking good while struggling to do much with it, Xavi was a part of a tournament-best 65 sequences ending in a shot. At a per-90 rate, his 9.2 trailed only Argentina's Lionel Messi and Brazil’s Dani Alves and Felipe Melo.

Spain managed 17.2 such sequences per match, and for the sake of comparison, Busquets (4.1) and Iniesta (6.1) barely add up to more sequences ending in shots per 90 than Xavi.

He wasn’t just a key part of sequences leading to attempts on goal. He was also reliable with the ball while repeatedly receiving it in advanced and contested positions, which was absolutely key for Spain sustaining threat and limiting counters.

His 568 passes received in 2010 are the most by a player in a single World Cup. Now, that doesn’t mean much if he’s constantly receiving the ball in harmless positions. But Xavi was one of six players in the tournament with an average sequence starting location at least 52 metres from goal, yet he was dispossessed 14 times.

That works out to 40.6 passes received per dispossession. The other five – Messi, Sneijder, Landon Donovan, Diego Forlan and Simone Pepe – had a combined average of less than half that (19.9).

That’s Spain 2010. For lack of a real word, undispossessable. Attack, defence and – yes – frustration rolled into one.

And it probably frustrated opponents far more than any neutral fans. Miroslav Klose happened to play 90 minutes against Spain in the 2010 semi-final. He of course didn’t score, and the 23 touches he had were his fewest ever on a per-90 level in a World Cup match.

This story was originally published by Stats Perform. For more like this, sign up for The Analyst newsletter at statsperform.com/resources

FIFA has confirmed the match schedule for the 2022 World Cup, which will take place in Qatar from November to December.

The tournament will start on November 21, with Qatar kicking off the competition at the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium at 13:00 local time (10:00 GMT).

The final will take place at Lusail Stadium on December 18 at 18:00 local time (15:00 GMT), while it has also been confirmed there will be four games per day during the group stage.

With the group stage lasting 12 days, the final round of group fixtures will take place at 18:00 and 22:00 local time (15:00 and 19:00 GMT), as will the knockout games.

FIFA has also announced the group-stage matches will only be allocated to a stadium following the draw for the finals, which is planned to take place after the March 2022 international match calendar qualifying window.

Once the draw has been made, FIFA will consider changing kick-off times to provide a more beneficial experience for audiences watching from around the globe.

Real Madrid's baby-faced breakthrough goalkeeping star at the turn of this century, Iker Casillas turned 39 on Wednesday.

During 16 decorated seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu, Casillas won five La Liga titles, two Copas del Rey, four Supercopas de Espana, three Champions League, two UEFA Super Cups and three Club World Cups.

A career swansong followed at Porto, where he plied his trade for a further four seasons from 2014-15 – winning the Primeira Liga in 2017-18.

Of course, Casillas is arguably best remembered for serving as the impeccable last line of defence as Spain claimed glory at Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.

Those were the fruits of a 1,048-game professional career. Here, we delve a little deeper into the remarkable numbers amassed by one of football's modern greats.

REIGNING IN SPAIN

725 – Casillas is second on Real Madrid's all-time appearance roster, behind former team-mate Raul (741).

510 – His 510 LaLiga outings are the seventh most in the history of the competition.

334 – Only Lionel Messi (354) has won more matches in Spain's top flight.      

177 – Casillas has the third most clean sheets in LaLiga, behind Andoni Zubizarreta (235) and Paco Buyo (213). Zubizarreta and Buyo also lead the way in terms of games started by goalkeepers (622 and 542 to Casillas' 508) and minutes played (55,746 and 48,717 to 45,684).

KING OF EUROPE

177 – Casillas' number of Champions League appearances – coincidentally the same amount as his LaLiga clean sheets record – are the most in the competition.

101 – Cristiano Ronaldo is eight appearances behind Casillas on the all-time list and, with 106 wins, he is the only player to have tasted victory more often.

1 – His solitary substitute appearance in the Champions League came during the 2002 final, as a replacement for the injured Cesar Sanchez to help Madrid close out a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen at Hampden Park.

57 – Casillas' number of clean sheets lead the way in Europe's top competition, with Gianluigi Buffon (51) and Edwin van der Sar (50) the only others to have chalked up half a century.

3 – He is alongside Juan Alonso and Keylor Navas as a three-time winner while playing in goal for Real Madrid.

INTERNATIONAL GLORY

167 – Casillas' cap record for Spain was recently passed by Sergio Ramos (170). Both share a joint-record of 17 appearances in World Cup finals.

0 – He did not concede a single goal in the final three matches of the triumphant Euro 2008, 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 campaigns, completing a hat-tricks of quarter-final, semi-final and final clean sheets.

2 – The two goals he allowed in South Africa are the joint fewest let in by a World Cup-winning goalkeeper alongside Buffon in 2006 and Fabian Barthez in 1998. His five clean sheets matched the efforts of Buffon, Barthez and Brazil's triumphant 1994 goalkeeper Taffarel.

433 – Casillas' run of minutes without conceding a goal at the 2010 World Cup is a Spanish best.

2 – Republic of Ireland's Ian Harte in 2002 and Paraguay's Oscar Cardozo in 2010 had penalties saved by Casillas. Excluding shoot-outs, only Poland's Jan Tomaszewski and the United States' Brad Friedel have saved two penalties at World Cups.

Hugo Sánchez Márquez was a prolific goalscorer and between himself and Rafa Marquez, one must find themselves using the term ‘the greatest player Mexico has ever produced’. In 684 games between 1976 and 1997, Sanchez scored 400 goals, better than one in every two games. But he isn’t just regarded as one of, if not the greatest players Mexico has produced, he was one of the greatest of his generation. To this day, only three people have scored more goals in La Liga history than Sánchez, with some massive names in that list. Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Telmo Zarra are the only players to have scored more. Sánchez played 58 times for Mexico, scoring 29 goals along the way, but was famous for the nature of some of those goals. It was not unusual for Sánchez to finish with a volley from some unlikely body positions. Diminutive, but athletic, Sanchez would even score headers above taller, stronger defenders, and had exquisite kicking technique that led to a powerful shot with very little warning.  

Playing Career

Full name: Hugo Sánchez Márquez (Hugo Sánchez)

Date of birth: 11 July 1958 (age 61)

Place of birth: Mexico City, Mexico

Height: 1.75m (5ft 9 in)

Playing position: Forward

Club Career

         Years           Team                             Apps      (Gls)

  • 1976–1981   UNAM                                 188      (97)
  • 1979–1980   San Diego Sockers (loan)       32      (26)
  • 1981–1985   Atlético Madrid                    111      (54)
  • 1985–1992   Real Madrid                        207     (164)
  • 1992–1993   América                               29     (11)
  • 1993–1994   Rayo Vallecano                     29     (16)
  • 1994–1995   Atlante                                 31     (13)
  • 1995–1996   Linz                                     20       (6)
  • 1996            Dallas Burn                          25     (11)
  • 1997            Atlético Celaya                     12       (2)
  • Total                                                   684    (400)

Club Honours

  • UNAM - Primera División: 1976–77, 1980–81; CONCACAF Champions' Cup: 1980; Copa Interamericana: 1980
  • Atlético Madrid - Copa del Rey: 1984–85
  • Real Madrid - La Liga: 1985–86, 1986–87, 1987–88, 1988–89, 1989–90; Supercopa de España: 1988, 1989 , 1990; Copa del Rey: 1988–89; UEFA Cup: 1985–86
  • América - CONCACAF Champions' Cup: 1992
  • Linz - First League: 1995–96

International Career

  • 1977-1994 Mexico 58 (29)

International Honours

  • Pan American Games: 1975
  • CONCACAF Gold Cup: 1977

Individual Honours

  • European Golden Shoe: 1990
  • La Liga top goalscorer: 1984–85, 1985–86, 1986–87, 1987–88, 1989–90
  • Don Balón Award – Best Foreign Player: 1986–87, 1989–90
  • Mexican Primera División top goalscorer: 1978–79
  • CONCACAF Champions' Cup top goalscorer: 1992
  • Best Sportist of Mexico of the 20th century
  • IFFHS Best footballer of Mexico of the 20th century
  • IFFHS Best footballer of CONCACAF of the 20th century
  • FIFA 100: 2004
  • Golden Foot Legends Award: 2010
  • FIFA XI: 1982
  • IFFHS Legends
  • Marca Leyenda: 2018

The A.C. Milan and Italy national team player Paolo Maldini is widely regarded as one of the greatest ever defenders, and as one of the greatest players of all time. As the Milan and Italy captain for many years, he was considered a leader by fellow footballers, leading to the nickname "Il Capitano" ("The Captain"). 

Maldini spent all 25 seasons of his career in the Serie A with Milan, before retiring at the age of 41 in 2009. He won 25 trophies with the Rossoneri: the UEFA Champions League five times, seven Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, five Supercoppa Italiana titles, five European Super Cups, two Intercontinental Cups, and one FIFA Club World Cup. During his years at Milan, Maldini played at a world-class level for the entire two-and-a-half-decade span of his career and won the Best Defender trophy at the UEFA Club Football Awards at the age of 39, as well as the Serie A Defender of the Year Award in 2004. 

To vote for Maldini to be part of SportsMax's Ultimate XI, visit SportsMax's Ultimate XI page and watch the SportsMax Zone today as Brent Sancho, Howie Bell, and Colin Murray take a look at your picks. The SportsMax Zone airs on SportsMax at 4:30 pm Jamaica time/5:30 pm Eastern Caribbean time with a repeat on SportsMax 2 at 6 pm Jamaica time/7 pm Eastern Caribbean time.

Playing Career

Full name            Paolo Cesare Maldini

Date of birth          26 June 1968 (age 51)

Place of birth                       Milan, Italy

Height                     1.87 m (6 ft 2 in)

 

International team

1988–2002       Italy      126       (7)

Honours

FIFA World Cup runner-up: 1994, third place 1990

UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament: 1988, 1996, 2000

FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 1990, 1994

UEFA European Championship runner-up: 2000; Semi-finalists 1988

UEFA European Under-21 Championship runner-up

 

FIFA World Cup appearances: 4

Semi-finals             Italy 1990

Runner-up             USA 1994

Quarterfinal           France 1998

 Round-of-16         South Korea 2002

 

Club Career

1984–2009       Milan   647       (29)

 

Honours

Serie A: 1987–88, 1991–92, 1992–93, 1993–94, 1995–96, 1998–99, 2003–04

Coppa Italia: 2002–03

Supercoppa Italiana: 1988, 1992, 1993, 1994, 2004

European Cup/Champions League: 1988–89, 1989–90, 1993–94, 2002–03, 2006–07

UEFA Super Cup: 1989, 1990, 1994, 2003

Intercontinental Cup: 1989, 1990

FIFA Club World Cup: 2007

 

Individual

Ballon d'Or: Third place 1994, 2003

World Soccer Player of the Year: 1994

FIFA World Player of the Year: Silver Award 1995

FIFA FIFPro World XI: 2005

If there is a goalkeeper who could challenge Dino Zoff as the greatest ever produced by Italy, Walter Zenga would be that man.

Sergio Ramos has won it all for Real Madrid and Spain.

From the World Cup to the Champions League, the Madrid and Spain captain has a full trophy cabinet.

As Ramos celebrates his 34th birthday on Monday, we look at what the former Sevilla defender has achieved since moving to the Santiago Bernabeu in 2005.

 

1 – Ramos helped Spain win their first World Cup in 2010. Playing as a right-back, with Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique the centre-back pairing – Ramos was crucial in Spain keeping five clean sheets in South Africa. It is his only World Cup title to date.

2 – Spain's most-capped player has two European Championship trophies to his name – Euro 2008 and Euro 2012. Ramos returned to the heart of Spain's defence for their title defence in 2012, partnering Puyol. Ramos also has a pair of Copa del Rey (2011 and 2014) successes.

4 – Not many can boast four Champions League winners' medals, but Ramos can. The face of Madrid, Ramos hoisted the coveted piece of silverware aloft in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018. Ramos forced extra time in the 2014 decider against Atletico Madrid as Madrid claimed 'La Decima'. He also scored in the 2016 final versus the same opponent, captaining Madrid to a remarkable three successive Champions League crowns. Just like Europe's premier club competition, Ramos has celebrated four LaLiga triumphs. He won titles under Fabio Capello (2007), Bernd Schuster (2008), Jose Mourinho (2012) and Zinedine Zidane (2017). He has also won as many Club World Cup (2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018) and Supercopa de Espana (2008, 2012, 2017 and 2019-20) finals.

3 – Ramos and Madrid dominated the UEFA Super Cup between 2014 and 2017, winning the trophy three times. He scored in the 2016 final against former club Sevilla.

21 – The amount of trophies Ramos has won as a Madrid player. Paco Gento holds the record at the Bernabeu with 23.

170 – Ramos is the most-capped player in Spain history. He surpassed former Madrid and international team-mate Iker Casillas in October after earning his 168th cap.

640 – Since swapping Sevilla for Madrid, Ramos has appeared in almost 700 games for the capital club. He is fifth on the all-time list, behind leader Raul (741).

20 – Ramos holds the all-time record for most red cards in LaLiga. In total, the Spaniard has been sent off 26 times across all competitions. He has four dismissals in the Champions League – equalled for the competition's record.

Turkey great Rustu Recber has been hospitalised after testing positive for coronavirus, his wife Isil has revealed.

Goalkeeper Rustu spent much of his club career at Fenerbahce, including a loan stint with the Turkish Super Lig giants during a three-year stay at Barcelona.

A star of the 2002 World Cup, Rustu played just seven times for Barca - all within the 2003-04 season - but retired aged 39 in 2012 with 120 international caps to his name.

The 46-year-old's wife Isil posted on her Instagram page on Saturday to inform fans of her husband's diagnosis.

"I would like to give you more positive news while sharing the truth in the most transparent way, but I'm sorry to say that my husband Rustu is hospitalised with the diagnosis of COVID-19," she wrote.

"We are shocked by the rapid symptoms that developed suddenly when everything was normal. These are critical and difficult times.

"May Allah give emergency relief to all patients, including my dear husband.

"My only request is that people can be a little more conscientious and respectful in the process. In the tests we have done, my daughter and son were negative and only my husband was positive.

"For this reason, we are at home while he's in hospital, and we are not allowed to see him. In fact, this is the most difficult part, not being able to be with him.

"Allah is great and is entrusted to him and the Turkish doctors. I hope this will pass."

Manuel Neuer turned 34 on Friday, but the Bayern Munich and Germany goalkeeper is still going strong.

Captain for both club and country, Neuer has helped Bayern to seven straight Bundesliga titles, plus a Champions League triumph, and also won the World Cup six years ago.

Despite intense pressure from Marc-Andre ter Stegen, the former Schalke star remains Germany's number one.

And Neuer is adamant he will maintain a starting role at Bayern next season after the arrival of Alexander Nubel, even if the veteran was linked to Chelsea this week.

To mark his birthday, we take a look at the key numbers - with the help of Opta - from a career that shows no signs of slowing.
 

576 - Neuer has made more senior club appearances - for Schalke and Bayern - in all competitions than any other Bundesliga player since 2006-07.

92 - The keeper is closing on a century of Germany caps since his June 2009 debut. He has been captain since September 2016.

5 - Just four other goalkeepers in Bundesliga history - Richard Golz, Gerhard Heinze, Eike Immel, Ulrich Stein - have made at least 150 appearances for two different clubs. Neuer played 156 times for Schalke, before turning out for Bayern on 241 occasions.

188 - Oliver Kahn (196) is the only goalkeeper to have kept more Bundesliga clean sheets than Neuer.

0 - No keeper can better Neuer's tally of 188 clean sheets in Europe's top five leagues since 2006-07. Former Bayern team-mate Pepe Reina is second on that list with 171.

47 - Of Bundesliga goalkeepers to have played at least four games, Neuer (47 per cent) has the best clean sheet rate. He has kept a clean sheet in 52 per cent of his league games for Bayern.

0.78 - Neuer concedes the fewest goals per game of any keeper with at least five appearances in Bundesliga history. Again, that statistic improves further to just 0.65 goals per game when playing for Bayern.

20 - The World Cup winner holds the record for the most clean sheets in a Bundesliga season, achieved in both 2014-15 and 2015-16. He surpassed Kahn's 2001-02 benchmark of 19.

107 - Since his Champions League debut in 2007-08, Neuer is the only goalkeeper to tally over a century of appearances in the competition.

42 - Neuer has also kept the most Champions League clean sheets in this time.

35 - Earlier this season, Neuer surpassed Kahn (33) for Champions League clean sheets for Bayern. He is one shy of Kahn's record DFB-Pokal tally of 33 clean sheets.

76 - Since detailed data collection began in 2004-05, Neuer has the best passing accuracy percentage of all goalkeepers with at least 20 Bundesliga appearances.

1 - Neuer has played only once on his birthday, keeping a clean sheet as Schalke beat Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 away from home in 2010.

0 - Despite his regular forays outside the penalty area, Neuer has never been sent off.

Cristiano Ronaldo would have hoped to have scored his 100th Portugal goal against Belgium on Friday.

The Juventus superstar is on 99 international strikes and is set to become just the second male player to reach a century, quickly closing on Ali Daei's record tally of 109 for Iran.

But amid the coronavirus pandemic, Portugal's March internationals have been cancelled.

Ronaldo will have to wait until later in the year at the earliest to bring up another career landmark, unable to take on either Belgium or Croatia.

There are plenty of highlights from his previous 99 Portugal goals, though, and we have selected five of the best.


Denmark v Portugal (October 11, 2011)

Ronaldo could have his own wing in the Hall of Fame for free-kicks and this effort would be at home among them.

Portugal were trailing 2-0 in the Euro 2012 qualifier with the match in injury time, but Ronaldo enjoyed a moment to remember by smashing home an unstoppable 30-yard effort from the left into the far corner with power and dip – a simply glorious strike.


Armenia v Portugal (June 13, 2015)

Nearly three years on and again in a European Championship qualifier, Ronaldo played a star turn as Portugal won a thriller 3-2 in Armenia.

Having already levelled from the penalty spot and put his side ahead with an impudent finish, Ronaldo celebrated his hat-trick by taking a beautiful touch from a dropping ball, turning sharply and lashing into the top-right corner from 25 yards.


Hungary v Portugal (June 22, 2016)

A year later, Portugal fell behind to Hungary in Lyon during Euro 2016 three times and it was Ronaldo who dragged his team level on the second occasion with a display of fine skill.

The captain added a deft flick with his trailing leg to Joao Mario's right-wing cross to make it 2-2, and he cancelled out Balazs Dzsudzsak's second with a double of his own. It was enough to send Portugal into the knockout stages, and from there, they claimed a maiden international title.


Portugal v Spain (June 15, 2018)

Having twice given his side the lead, Ronaldo found Portugal 3-2 down to their Iberian neighbours in their thrilling opener at the 2018 World Cup.

The was a sense of inevitability when he stood over an 88th-minute free-kick, though, and the execution was sheer perfection as he left David de Gea with no chance.


Portugal v Switzerland (June 5, 2019)

Another game, another Ronaldo hat-trick – this time at last year's inaugural Nations League Finals. It was again a trademark free-kick that got the Ronaldo ball rolling, and he swept home a second to restore Portugal's lead. 

But Ronaldo saved the best for the last in the final minute of normal time, picking up the ball wide on the left, adding a couple of trademark silky step overs, jinking inside the defender and rifling home into the bottom-right corner.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused widespread disruption with the global sporting schedule, but you can still get your fix if you know where to look.

Whether you are in self-isolation or practicing social distancing, in a way it has become easier than ever to watch sport as you pass the time.

Some of the biggest leagues and governing bodies have reacted to the global crisis by providing free access to a back catalogue of content.

We run down the best places to look if you're missing sport.

 

FIFA OPENS UP ARCHIVES

From Saturday, FIFA are making full match replays of over 30 games from World Cup and Women's World Cup history available.

The matches appear set to be available until football is back up and running in most countries.

 

A SWISH OFFER FROM THE NBA

Basketball fans rejoice. The wait for the playoffs may go on longer than anticipated, but the NBA is offering free access to the premium League Pass subscription service until April 22.

You can view full replays and highlights from all games played in the 2019-20 season, as well as classic matches.

 

NO LONGER BEHIND GRIDIRON BARS

If the NFL is more your thing, then why not use their Game Pass until the end of May?

You can watch full-length games or condensed versions, while the 'Hard Knocks' and 'A Football Life' series are available on demand, too.

 

MORE FROM THE STATES

Maybe ice hockey is what you are missing most. If so, the NHL.tv is free to all until April 30.

There is also the MLB Vault YouTube channel, which will provide you with hours of classic baseball games.

 

MISSING MESSI?

If you are in Europe, there is the option to watch Rakuten TV's 'Matchday - Inside FC Barcelona' and 'MessiCirque' documentaries without charge. (They also have over 150 films available on a free channel.)

Until the Premier League returns, Manchester City has opened the doors to the CITY+ subscription service. All you need to do is sign up for long-form, in-house content, historic games and full match replays.

 

FOR THE GAMERS OUT THERE...

If re-runs don't sate your appetite to help fill the hours, you can try out the full version of the Football Manager 2020 computer game via the Steam app until 15:00 GMT on March 25.

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