Lionel Messi has retained his place at the top of Forbes' list of highest-paid footballers after earning $126million over the past year, with Cristiano Ronaldo closely behind him in second. 

The Barcelona superstar sent shockwaves through world football last month when he told the club he has spent his entire career at he wanted to leave after a trophyless campaign in 2019-20.

Messi believed he could use a clause in his contract to leave for free, but Barca and LaLiga disputed that claim and insisted his deal could only be terminated should his €700m release clause be paid.

Amid frustration with the Camp Nou board, Messi performed a U-turn and elected to stay with the embattled LaLiga giants for at least the 2020-21 campaign.

He does so as the highest paid footballer in the world after earning $126million in salary and endorsements over the past 12 months.

His long-time rival Ronaldo is second on the list after bringing in earnings of $117m. 

Paris Saint-Germain stars Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are third and fourth respectively, with Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah in fifth place.

Making up the rest of the top 10 are French World Cup winners Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, Real Madrid outcast Gareth Bale, Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea.

 

Forbes' top 10 highest-paid footballers:

1. Lionel Messi - $126m
2. Cristiano Ronaldo - $117m
3. Neymar - $96m
4. Kylian Mbappe - $42m
5. Mohamed Salah - $37m
6. Paul Pogba - $34m
7. Antoine Griezmann - $33m
8. Gareth Bale - $29m
9. Robert Lewandowski - $28m
10. David De Gea - $27m

The Premier League returned last weekend in enthralling fashion.

From a seven-goal spectacle at Anfield to another London derby win for Arsenal, there was excitement to behold almost everywhere you looked (unless you were looking for Harry Kane in the Everton penalty area, where he touched the ball twice).

We saw Mohamed Salah set a new Premier League record, a rotten moment for Virgil van Dijk and a lousy start to life back in the big time for the three promoted clubs - although they do have a reason not to be too worried.

By now, you're probably wondering why Steven Fletcher was in the headline. Fear not, dear reader: like a Premier League referee spotting that mysterious VAR screen on the touchline, you'll soon see there's a reason for everything.

Read on for some of the quirkiest facts from the first weekend of the 2020-21 season...

KEEP THE FAITH, NEW BOYS

Leeds United lost 4-3 to champions Liverpool in an absolute belter at Anfield, while Fulham and West Brom each suffered rather more one-sided 3-0 defeats to Arsenal and Leicester City.

Those results mean this is the first season since 2013-14 in which the three promoted sides all lost their opening Premier League matches.

There's no need to fret just yet, though. Of those teams seven years ago - Crystal Palace, Hull City and Cardiff City - only Cardiff were relegated at the end of the season. Palace finished as high as 11th.

In case you wondered, no season has ever seen all three promoted sides win on matchday one in the Premier League.

 

PEN-FEST

Salah and Jamie Vardy each scored two penalties over a weekend featuring just five games. There was only one instance of a player scoring twice from the spot in a single match in last season's 380 Premier League games (Troy Deeney against Newcastle United).

In total, 54 players have scored two penalties in a match in Premier League history; nobody has ever managed three.

Only four players have suffered the ignominy of missing two spot-kicks in a single game: Mark Draper against Newcastle in August 1994, Juan Pablo Angel against Fulham in February 2005, Darren Bent versus Tottenham in April 2010, and Saido Berahino against Watford in April 2016.

 

VAN DIJK CHASING STONES 'RECORD'

Van Dijk's generous but perplexing decision to cushion the ball down and set up Patrick Bamford to score means he has now made two errors leading directly to goals in his past four league games. He only committed one such mistake in his first 154 Premier League appearances.

Since his Southampton debut on September 12, 2015, 13 outfield players have made more errors leading to goals in the Premier League than Van Dijk. He is in esteemed company on three, alongside the likes of Sol Bamba, Erik Pieters and, yes, David Luiz (and two above Harry Maguire).

He has some way to go to reach the top of this particular chart, though. Since Van Dijk's debut in the competition, John Stones and Granit Xhaka lead the way on six errors leading to goals.

 

FULHAM'S CAPITAL PUNISHMENT

Fulham were soundly beaten 3-0 by Arsenal on Saturday, stretching their run in Premier League London derbies to 11 defeats in a row (they lost 10 in 2018-19). That's the worst record in history.

In the all-time top-flight London derbies table (yes, that one), Fulham sit on 126 defeats and 41 wins from 223 matches. That's as many victories as Crystal Palace, nine behind Wimbledon, and 19 fewer than Queens Park Rangers.

Top of that particular table is Arsenal, unsurprisingly, who have won 324 of their 691 capital clashes. Chelsea are next on 256 wins - just two above Tottenham.

Bottom of the pile are Leyton Orient, with two wins from eight games. So, Fulham fans - it could be worse.

 

STEVEN FLETCHER, LOSING IN STYLE

Salah's hat-trick inspired Liverpool's win over Leeds and saw him claim another slice of Premier League history.

The Egypt star has now been on the winning side in each of the past 35 league games in which he has scored, which is a record in the competition, one more than the previous best held by Wayne Rooney for Manchester United from September 2008 to February 2011.

As the old adage has it, goals win football games - unless your name is Steven Fletcher. The Scotland striker boasts the unenviable record of having scored in 10 consecutive matches for Wolves in 2011-12 without ever being on the winning side.

Barcelona are reportedly targeting Liverpool star Mohamed Salah.

Salah made a fine start to the Premier League season, scoring a hat-trick for Jurgen Klopp's men in a 4-3 win over Leeds United on Saturday.

Unsurprisingly, the forward is apparently wanted by LaLiga giants Barca.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA MAKE SALAH TOP TARGET

Barcelona have made Liverpool star Salah their top transfer target, according to the Express.

Salah and his Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane have often been linked with moves to Barca's rivals Real Madrid.

Since Ronald Koeman arrived to take charge at Camp Nou, Barca have been said to be interested to numerous forwards, including Lyon star Memphis Depay.

ROUND-UP

- Frustrated in their pursuit of Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, Manchester United may look elsewhere. The Express reports the Premier League giants could make a move for Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale.

- Back at Camp Nou and Luis Suarez is expected to make an exit this close season. Mundo Deportivo reports Juventus – the most strongly linked to the forward – remain hopeful of signing Suarez.

- Could Christian Eriksen leave Inter after less than a year? CalcioMercato reports the Serie A giants are prepared to listen to offers for the midfielder.

- Inter may already have their replacement if the Denmark international leaves. Gianluca Di Marzio reports Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal is "one step away" from joining Inter.

- Emiliano Martinez looks set to leave Arsenal. Goal reports the goalkeeper is close to a £20million move to Aston Villa with a deal to be finalised in the coming days. Martinez has been at Arsenal since 2010.

Jurgen Klopp hailed Mohamed Salah as a "very special" player after the Liverpool star scored a hat-trick in a thrilling victory over Leeds United.

Marcelo Bielsa's newly promoted side pushed defending Premier League champions Liverpool all the way at Anfield on Saturday, but Salah had the final say when he converted his second penalty of the game to seal a 4-3 win.

Salah had opened the scoring from the spot early on after Robin Koch's handball, though Jack Harrison switfly equalised.

A frantic start continued as Virgil van Dijk swung the game back in Liverpool's favour, only to then gift Patrick Bamford an equaliser prior to a stunning strike from Salah restoring the Reds' lead, which was then cancelled out once more by Mateusz Klich.

It was Salah who settled matters from 12 yards with two minutes remaining and Klopp believes the Egypt forward's all-round display showed the true quality of Liverpool's talisman.

"First and foremost congratulations to him because he's a very special player very, very special player," said the Reds boss.

"The numbers tell the story a little bit, all the rest you probably don't know. But today's a very good example as he put three more goals on his score list, but the performance all-round was absolutely exceptional in a game like this.

"So he deserved the goals, 100 per cent, yes two were penalties, one was a sensational finish, but he deserved these goals because he was constantly present, causing the opponent massive problems.

"He was top in one-on-one situations, played football. With all the good performances he's had for us, obviously this was for sure one of the better ones and so he should be proud of that because it's very special to have these kinds of numbers. Long may it continue."

While Salah spearheaded Liverpool's fearsome attack, the Reds looked unusually ordinary at the back, with Van Dijk in particular struggling to find his rhythm.

Klopp, however, is not concerned, and suggested the fact all of his starting defenders had been away on international duty could have impacted their performance.

"I didn't really see us struggling defensively, it's just the way they play you cannot defend it 100 per cent all the time," Klopp said.

"The first goal both full-backs were deeper than the centre-halves, that should never have happened. The second goal I think was a misunderstanding between Virgil and Alisson, it was one of the things that can happen. It should not, but it can happen. I don't think we will see these situations very often.

"So that's defending, but it's not an excuse, it was just an explanation. And maybe I don't have to give explanations, but the last line played for England, Holland, and Scotland, four days ago or whatever.

"So, all top teams but different ways of defending and it can happen and if the things are not really settled, which we are in the early stages of the season.

"I know people say they played 500 games together, but defending is not like riding a bike. You have to work on it constantly. So space for improvement, all good."

Mohamed Salah drew on the experience of netting a penalty in the Champions League final to hold his nerve and seal a 4-3 win for Liverpool over Leeds United in a riotous opening Premier League encounter.

Salah struck from the spot early on at Anfield on Saturday, as he did in the Reds' 2-0 showpiece triumph over Tottenham in Madrid last year – a contest that proceeded fairly uneventfully from that point.

The opening game of their title defence cut a sharp contrast, with newly promoted Leeds playing in a fearless manner and equalising three times before Salah completed his hat-trick with a second conversion from 12 yards in the 88th minute.

Asked about how he handled that moment mentally by Sky Sports, the Egypt star replied: "I scored a penalty in a Champions League final, so that was a little bit easier! Especially with no fans.

"It was important for me to focus and score the goal to get three points."

Jack Harrison and Mateusz Klich scored excellent goals either side of Patrick Bamford capitalising upon a dreadful error from Virgil van Dijk, who headed Liverpool's second of a frantic clash, and Salah was full of admiration for Marcelo Bielsa's Championship winners.

"Leeds are a tough team, they press high as well, so the game intensity was really high as well," he said.

"They had a great game, they play away and react really well. They scored three goals against us, that's huge

"I'm happy about the result and we have to keep on improving. It's important for me to stay focused. We had a good game."

The Premier League and Championship titleholders produced a classic for the ages to launch the 2020-21 top-flight season in England.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp promised Leeds United a ferocious baptism in the Premier League and a procession looked to be on the cards at Anfield when Mohamed Salah scored an early penalty.

But Marcelo Bielsa's team dazzled as they have since the coaching visionary arrived in West Yorkshire, with Jack Harrison, Patrick Bamford and Mateusz Klich all on target.

Each Leeds goal was an equaliser but Salah had the final word when he netted his second penalty of the contest to secure the points in the 88th minute.

Here, we look back at how a trilling encounter unfolded on Merseyside.

3:58 – LIVERPOOL 1-0 LEEDS
The anticipated frenetic start was quickly realised and surpassed, with Liverpool seeking to stamp their authority over ambitious foes. Robin Koch looked unfortunate to be penalised when Salah's shot spun up off the defender's boot and into his arm, but referee Michael Oliver and his video assistant agreed a spot-kick should be given and Salah slammed home his 50th Premier League goal at Anfield in his 63rd appearance. Only Alan Shearer (47) has reached that landmark faster.

11:13 – LIVERPOOL 1-1 LEEDS
Leeds were not cowed and Helder Costa had a goal ruled out for offside before Manchester City loanee Harrison darted in from the left flank, beyond Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez, to drill into the bottom left corner. On the week of his England debut, Kalvin Phillips created the goal with a raking pass from his own half – the midfielder's first assist in 19 league games.

19:38 – LIVERPOOL 2-1 LEEDS
Debutant Koch could not blame the officials when he switched off and allowed Van Dijk to head home Andrew Robertson's corner. It was the Dutchman's 10th Premier League goal for Liverpool, with no other centre-back scoring more since his Reds debut in January 2018. Robertson's assist was his 29th since his own Liverpool bow. Only Kevin De Bruyne (38) has more over that period of time.

29:10 – LIVERPOOL 2-2 LEEDS
Joy became despair for Liverpool's defensive lynchpin, with an uncharacteristic misjudgement allowing Bamford to nip in and clip a finish into Alisson's goal. Well, we say uncharacteristic… Van Dijk has now made two errors leading directly to a goal in his past four Premier League games, double the one he made in his first 154 in the competition.

32:14 – LIVERPOOL 3-2 LEEDS
Salah had already equalled Teddy Sheringham's record of scoring on four consecutive Premier League opening days when he put Liverpool ahead for a third time. Robertson's free-kick was partially cleared and the Egypt superstar thundered a magnificent left-footed strike into the top right corner.

45:00+3 – HALF-TIME
And breathe. This Anfield thriller became only the second game played in the opening weekend of Premier League fixtures to yield five goals before half-time. The other was Manchester United's 5-1 win over Fulham in August 2006, where the Red Devils were 4-1 up at the interval.

65:47 – LIVERPOOL 3-3 LEEDS
Don't let any Liverpool players take your dog for a walk this week. Midway through the second half they let another lead slip from their grasp. Helder Costa found Klich in the Liverpool box, where the midfielder's wonderful first touch was matched by an unerring volley. Poland international Klich has six goal involvements in his past six away games, with three goals and as many assists.

87:28 – LIVERPOOL 3-4 LEEDS
Leeds became the first promoted side to score three goals away to the reigning Premier League champions since Hull City in a 4-3 defeat at Manchester United in November 2008. Unfortunately for Bielsa's men they went down to the same scoreline. New signing Rodrigo Moreno clumsily fouled Fabinho and Salah sent Illan Meslier the wrong way to claim the matchball. Liverpool have now won each of the last 35 games in which Salah has scored, bettering the competition record of 34 set by Wayne Rooney in February 2011.

Hat-trick hero Mohamed Salah saved the day for Liverpool after promoted Leeds gave the champions a huge scare in a 4-3 thriller on the opening day of the Premier League season.

The Reds striker struck a decisive 88th-minute penalty, his second spot-kick of the game at Anfield, to ensure last season's all-conquering side started the new campaign on a positive note.

In a battle between last season's Premier League and Championship winners, Salah's first two goals and one from Virgil van Dijk were countered by Leeds' replies from Jack Harrison, Patrick Bamford and Mateusz Klich.

A sub-plot to this Merseyside showdown was the tactical battle between managers Jurgen Klopp and Marcelo Bielsa, and the latter looked like coming away with a point until Rodrigo fouled Fabinho, allowing Salah to slot home and win the game.

Liverpool were awarded a penalty in the third minute when Salah's shot struck the outstretched right arm of Leeds debutant Robin Koch, via the unlucky defender's knee. Salah took responsibility from 12 yards and lashed his penalty high into the net, down the middle.

A sublime leveller from Leeds arrived in the 12th minute after new England cap Kalvin Phillips fed Harrison on the left. Harrison skipped infield, fending off Trent Alexander-Arnold, before drilling past Alisson from the edge of the penalty area.

The hosts restored their lead in the 20th minute when Van Dijk sprinted away from Koch and headed in Andy Robertson's corner from the left.

Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier made a fine save to spare Pascal Struijk the embarrassment of an own goal, tipping over after the defender deflected Robertson's cross, and the visitors briefly drew level for a second time when Bamford seized on sloppiness from Van Dijk to slot in.

Salah fired Liverpool 3-2 in front in the 33rd minute of a wild first half. With Robertson's free-kick into the heart of the penalty area only half-cleared, Liverpool's Egyptian striker had space and time to pick his spot and blaze a shot high into the right corner.

Those first-half strikes made Salah the first Liverpool player to score on the opening day of four consecutive Premier League seasons, and only the second player from any club to achieve the feat, after Teddy Sheringham's run from 1992-93 to 1995-96.

Leeds brought on record signing Rodrigo for his debut with half an hour remaining, and he would be involved later, but it was Klich who struck their third equaliser of the game in the 66th minute.

He took on a clever pass into the penalty area from Helder Costa on the right and smashed a shot into the left corner as the ball sat up perfectly. Leeds looked poised to hold on, only to be stung so late, an early warning of the challenges that lie ahead for them.

Mohamed Salah brought up another goalscoring landmark as Liverpool's Premier League title defence got started in a frantic fashion against Leeds United.

Salah won a fifth-minute penalty when Robin Koch handled his goal-bound shot, and the former Roma forward duly thumped home from 12 yards to score his 50th Anfield goal in England's top flight.

The Egypt star's half century has taken 63 matches, with only England great Alan Shearer (47) doing so in fewer appearances.

Salah is also the second player in Premier League history to score on the opening day of four consecutive seasons, following Shearer's old England strike partner Teddy Sheringham from 1992-93 to 1995-96.

Liverpool's early opener was swiftly cancelled out by a brilliant Jack Harrison strike.

Virgil van Dijk headed the hosts back ahead in the 20th minute but was uncharacteristically culpable with a horrible error that let in Patrick Bamford for Leeds' second equaliser.

Salah then continued an electrifying start by smashing in his 51st Premier League goal in the 33rd minute.

Jurgen Klopp was left feeling "sad" because he felt Liverpool's attacking players did not offer enough in their penalty shoot-out defeat to Arsenal in the Community Shield.

Premier League champions Liverpool finished seven places and 43 points ahead of the Gunners last term, but Arsenal ultimately lifted the trophy.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave Arsenal an early lead with a fine strike but Liverpool, who attempted to dictate proceedings, levelled 17 minutes from time through Takumi Minamino.

The game went to penalties and Aubameyang netted the decisive kick after Rhian Brewster failed to convert.

Liverpool were made to rue wastefulness in front of goal and perhaps a lack of sharpness in attack, with Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah all unusually subdued, and their issues in the final third did not go down well with Klopp.

He told BT Sport: "Today I was sad. When you play against a formation like this – which happened to us pretty much always, not only when we are 1-0 down, even when it's 0-0 a lot of teams play like this – then you need to be in the final third really fresh.

"You want to force it sometimes, create angles, create crosses, passing in behind, all this kind of stuff. The rhythm for that fell a little bit. 

"We couldn't create exactly the chance we wanted but we had two of them and the third one that we scored with. Against a team with the quality of Arsenal, on some days it must be enough.

"When you finish it off, it is enough. When you don't finish it off it's not enough and today it was not enough."

Klopp was adamant Arsenal hardly threatened after taking the lead, adding: "I think they had exactly two shots at goal and one situation that was similar.

"After a long diagonal ball, we left Neco [Williams] alone and Auba could come inside to finish it off. The the other moment Ali [Alisson] made a save. That was it, pretty much," he said.

"Apart from that we had to play against a low block with an incredible counter-attacking threat. In these games you need then the final touch.

"In the end we created enough moments but we should have created more. We had the ball a lot but had to play around.

"We had a few good moments, Sadio had chances, we deserved the equaliser for sure and then could have scored more.

"We didn't do that and have to take it. A penalty shoot-out can always be a bit of a lottery. We were unlucky there and congratulations to Arsenal. We respect the competition."

Liverpool begin their Premier League title defence at home to promoted Leeds United on September 12.

Goalkeeper Alisson has revealed how he feels part of the Liverpool family thanks to the club's efforts to help him settle into life on Merseyside.

The Brazil international has enjoyed two hugely successful seasons with Jurgen Klopp's Reds since his arrival from Roma in July 2018.

After lifting the Champions League trophy at the end of his debut campaign, he helped Liverpool end a 30-year wait for a league title this year, albeit injuries and a suspension restricted him to 29 top-flight appearances.

The 27-year-old cost what was then a world-record fee for a keeper - Chelsea surpassing it soon after for Kepa Arrizabalaga - but has proved his value to the newly crowned Premier League champions since.

It is not just on the pitch where Alisson feels right at home, though.

"At this moment it means everything," he told the club's website as part of their 'Champions' series.

"The biggest part of my achievements in football I achieved for this club, through this club, individual and my team-mates, so it means a lot to me and my family. 

"Since we arrived here we could feel that it's a different club, a club who treats you as a family and can give you all the support that you need to play football, to stay focused on playing football. 

"So, we are comfortable here. We love being here. We also love the warmth that we receive from the supporters, they are part of this family as well."

Alisson's primary objective is obviously to keep the ball out of the net, yet he did manage to help Liverpool in attack when registering an assist in the league.

It was his quick clearance that set free Mohamed Salah for the second goal in the closing moments of Liverpool's 2-0 win over Manchester United in January. The first team-mate to celebrate with the scorer? The keeper who had set him up, of course.

"That was a big moment. For my whole life everybody will remember that goal, that assist," Alisson said, before going on to discuss his knee-sliding celebrations as he raced to join Salah. 

"I think the run, they remember more about the run! That is something that I never did before. I always like to celebrate with myself. 

"I try to stay focused on the game and I know that was the last minute of the game. Then the game was closed with that goal.

"I just felt from inside and I couldn't hold myself any longer and then I just ran to celebrate together."

Mohamed Salah paid tribute to his close friend Dejan Lovren in a video message after the defender sealed a transfer from Liverpool to Zenit.

Lovren joined the Reds from Southampton in 2014 and helped star signing Salah settle on Merseyside three years later when he left Roma.

The duo subsequently won the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup and Premier League together at Anfield, the most recent triumph finally ending the club's 30-year wait to be crowned champions of England.

However, Lovren has played a diminished role in the past two campaigns, starting just 10 league matches, and completed a move to Zenit on Monday after Liverpool's title-winning campaign concluded.

Liverpool published a message from Salah to Lovren on their social media page.

The forward said: "I don't know how to say, my friend. You don't know my feeling right now. We're really going to miss you a lot - especially me.

"You've been an unbelievable player and a great friend for me. We're going to miss you a lot. I miss you a lot, I love you so much. You've been fantastic outside the field and inside the field.

"So, thank you for everything you did for the club, thank you for everything you did for me. I wish you all the best in the future and I wish you to have a great career as well, enjoying the new club with your family.

"Thank you very much and see you soon."

Lovren, described by Jurgen Klopp as a "Liverpool legend", has signed a three-year deal at Zenit, who reportedly paid around €12million for the 31-year-old.

Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy has become the Premier League's oldest Golden Boot winner at the age of 33 after finishing the 2019-20 season with 23 goals.

Vardy fired a blank in Leicester's 2-0 loss against Manchester United on Sunday - a result that saw the Foxes miss out on a top-four finish - to make it three games without a goal to see out the season.

However, the ex-England international still finished a goal clear of Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Danny Ings of Southampton at the top of the scoring charts.

He overtakes Didier Drogba, who netted 29 goals for Chelsea in 2009-10 at the age of 32, as the oldest recipient of the award.

Aubameyang shared the accolade with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah last season, though the Liverpool pair finished this campaign with 18 and 19 goals respectively. 

 

Dwight Gayle scored after just 25 seconds for Newcastle United against Liverpool on Sunday, making Premier League history.

A much-changed Liverpool side were caught dozing as Gayle ran onto Jonjo Shelvey's quick free-kick and squeezed a finish past Alisson for a goal that was awarded following a lengthy VAR review.

The swift strike was the earliest Liverpool have ever conceded in the Premier League.

And Gayle's effort - his fifth league goal against the Reds - also marked the fastest goal on the final day of any Premier League season.

Champions Liverpool started with Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino all on the bench, making this only the second time since the former's 2017 arrival they have all been missing from a Jurgen Klopp league XI.

The Premier League season concludes on Sunday, with Liverpool completing their victory lap at Newcastle United.

A dominant campaign from Jurgen Klopp's men means the destination of the big prize has long been decided, although there are still the matters of Champions League qualification and relegation to address.

The remaining top-four berths will go to two of Chelsea, Leicester City and Manchester United – with the latter two playing each other at the King Power Stadium in Sunday's standout clash.

At the other end of the table, two of Aston Villa, Watford and Bournemouth will be joining Norwich City in the Championship next season.

However, as we examine below, there are individual awards and achievements still up for grabs.

 

Vardy leads the way in Golden Boot race

A goal from Jamie Vardy against United could represent a huge step towards Europe's elite competition for Leicester City, while it will almost certainly mean the Golden Boot for the former England striker.

Vardy is on 23 goals, in a landmark campaign that saw him being up 100 in the Premier League. Of the 29 players to have reached a century in the competition, only Ian Wright (28 years, 286 days) made his debut at an older age than Vardy (27 years, 232).

The main competition comes from Danny Ings, whose 21 goal makes him the third Southampton player to score 20 or more in a Premier League season, following Matt Le Tissier (25) in 1993-94 and James Beattie (23) in 2002-03.

Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang is next in line on 20. The Gabon international has also enjoyed a landmark campaign, becoming the sixth fastest player to 50 Premier League goals in history as he did so on his 79th top-flight outing for Arsenal.

Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah and Raheem Sterling are the outsiders on 19 apiece. If Sterling nets against Norwich, he will become the first Englishman to score 20 times in a top-division season for Manchester City since Brian Kidd – now a member of Pep Guardiola's backroom staff – did so in 1976-77.

 

De Bryune hunting Henry's assist record

One man in particular will be keen on Sterling adding to his haul – provided it comes from one of his passes!

Kevin De Bruyne has 19 assists in the Premier League this season, placing him one shy of Thierry Henry's competition record.

Arsenal's Mesut Ozil also assisted 19 times during 2015-16.

De Bruyne has been directly involved in 30 league goals this term, scoring 11 alongside his creative exploits. This is the most for a central midfield since Frank Lampard scored 22 and supplied 14 assists for Chelsea in 2009-10.

The efforts of Sterling and De Bruyne have gone a long way to placing City close to an impressive collective feat. If Guardiola's side score three times against Norwich, they will reach 100 goals for a third consecutive Premier League season.

 

Ederson and Pope battle it out for Golden Glove

Another City player looking after number one on Sunday is their number one. Ederson is on 15 clean sheets, putting him level in the Golden Glove standings with Burnley's Nick Pope.

The Clarets end another excellent season at home to Brighton and Hove Albion and if Ederson and Pope cannot be separated at full-time the award will be shared.

Both men have a similar save percentage, with Pope stopping 70.7 per cent of efforts sent his way compared to Ederson's 69.6, but the Englishman has been far busier.

Pope has made 118 saves from 164 shots faced, compared to Ederson's 64 from 92.

Although impressive, neither man has been flawless, with Ederson committing three errors leading to goals and Pope culpable for two.

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has been named the Football Writers' Association's (FWA) Footballer of the Year.

The Reds won the Premier League title with seven games to spare, ending a 30-year wait for their 19th top-flight championship.

Playing arguably the best football of his career, England midfielder Henderson was influential in leading the side in a dominant campaign.

The FWA revealed Henderson, who has been out with a knee injury since early July, secured more than a quarter of the votes.

Team-mates Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane were in contention, along with Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne and Manchester United's Marcus Rashford. Liverpool pair Alisson and Trent Alexander-Arnold also had votes cast in their favour.

Henderson said: "I'd like to say how appreciative I am of the support of those who voted for me and the Football Writers' Association in general.

"You only have to look at the past winners of it - a number of whom I've been blessed to play with here at Liverpool, like Stevie [Gerrard], Luis [Suarez] and Mo [Salah] - to know how prestigious it is.

"But as grateful as I am, I don't feel like I can accept this on my own. I don't feel like anything I've achieved this season or in fact during my whole career has been done on my own.

"I owe a lot to so many different people – but none more so than my current team-mates, who have just been incredible and deserve this every bit as much as I do.

"We've only achieved what we've achieved because every single member of our squad has been brilliant."

The 30-year-old, who joined Liverpool in a £20million move from boyhood club Sunderland in 2011, has scored four goals in 30 league appearances this season.

As well as the domestic title, Henderson helped the Reds to lift the UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup, building on the success of their 2018-19 Champions League triumph.

Off the pitch, Henderson was also a key figure in the formation of the #PlayersTogether initiative, a fund for Premier League players to raise money for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

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