Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Byrant died suddenly in Calabasas, California on Sunday.

Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash, with seven other reported casualties.

Tributes for five-time NBA champion and 2008 MVP Bryant have poured in across all sports.

After Bryant's shock passing, we look back at his memorable farewell appearance against the Utah Jazz on April 13, 2016, which capped a glittering 20-year career.

 

60 - Bryant's final point total. No player in the NBA scored as many as the Lakers guard did in one game throughout that season.

50 - The amount of shooting attempts by Bryant, who eclipsed Michael Jordan's record of 49 shots against the Orlando Magic in 1993. Bryant took 15 more shots than the rest of his team-mates combined.

16 - Unassisted points recorded. Bryant took control in his Hollywood goodbye - his final seven baskets coming without an assist.

18 - Contested shots made. Bryant nailed 18 of 40 shots with a defender within 3.5 feet against the Jazz.

22 - Points scored by Bryant in the paint. Having great success with layups, he also finished six-of-21 from three-point range.

13 - Unanswered points posted in the final two minutes in LA. The Lakers trailed by 10 points with 2:36 remaining before Bryant sparked and completed the rally.

2 - Turnovers committed in a remarkable outing. Bryant took care of the ball, despite his record amount of shooting attempts.

4 - Assists tallied by 'the Black Mamba'. Jordan Clarkson was the main beneficiary as he received three dimes from Bryant.

0 - Shots made in the first six minutes of the game as nerves troubled Bryant in the opening exchanges. He missed his first five shots.

7 - It had been seven years since Bryant's previous 60-point game - the 18-time All-Star going off with 61 against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden in 2009.

18,997 - Fans in attendance for Bryant's farewell at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Kobe Bryant transcended the game of basketball after entering the NBA in 1996.

The Los Angeles Lakers legend provided highlight after highlight up until his retirement in 2016, with staggering point hauls.

Tragically, the five-time NBA champion and 2008 MVP and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

Following his sudden passing, we look at Bryant's five greatest games with the Lakers, where he spent his entire 20-year career.

 

65 points - March 16, 2007 v Portland Trail Blazers

Against the Trail Blazers at Staples Center, Bryant came close to reaching the career-high 81 points he had recorded just over a year earlier. The superstar guard lit up the Blazers with 65 points as the Lakers won 116-111. Bryant shot 23-of-39, including 11-of-12 from the free-throw line, while he also made eight three-pointers.

Nate McMillan coached Portland that day and following Sunday's heartbreaking news, the-now Indiana Pacers coach told reporters: "I've seen it firsthand. He lit us up and I remember, he was shooting threes and just on fire, and we had him in a trap, deep corner, he had nowhere to go, should have passed the ball. He's facing his bench and he just turns and shoots it and it goes in. He really became like Michael [Jordan], in the sense that when you watched him play, could he do it again? Could he create that magic again in the fourth quarter? And he did."

61 points - February 2, 2009 v New York Knicks

Madison Square Garden hosted one of Bryant's greatest performances almost 11 years ago. At the world-famous arena in New York, 'the Black Mamba' posted 61 points - a venue record for a visiting player - against the Knicks, who lost 126-117 to the Lakers. On 19-of-31 shooting, Bryant finished with three assists and one block. He scored 34 points in the first half alone en route to the record, which was matched by Houston Rockets star James Harden in 2019.

"Tonight was one of the nights he kind of showed why he's going to go down in history," Lakers team-mate Lamar Odom said after the game.

62 points - December 20, 2005 v Dallas Mavericks

Three quarters were all that Kobe needed to embarrass the Mavericks. Bryant outscored Dallas 62-61 at the end of the third quarter in Los Angeles as the Lakers eased to a 112-90 victory. The Mavericks were one of the best teams that season, going on to reach the NBA Finals before succumbing to the Miami Heat. However, the Mavericks were schooled by the unstoppable Bryant, who shot 18-of-31 from the field and 22-of-25 from the free-throw line. He sat out the entire fourth quarter.

"It was just one of those nights," Bryant told reporters as he reflected on the game in 2016. "Yes [I could have scored 80 points that night]. It sounds funny to say, but yes, I could have."

60 points - April 13, 2016 v Utah Jazz 

Bryant farewelled basketball in the only way he knew how, with an exclamation mark. It was a true Hollywood goodbye as Bryant capped a career - spanning two decades - by scoring 60 final-game points in a 101-96 victory over the Utah Jazz at Staples Center. Bryant drained 23 points in the fourth quarter, posting his first 50-point game since February 2009. 

"It's hard to believe it happened this way," Bryant, who played 42 minutes and took attempted a career-high 50 shots, said. "I'm still shocked about it…. The perfect ending would have been a championship. But tonight was [me] trying to go out, play hard and try to put on a show as much as I possibly could. It felt good to be able to do that one last time."

81 points - January 22, 2006 v Toronto Raptors

The highlight of a stellar career and the night Bryant threatened to surpass Wilt Chamberlain. Kobe played 1,346 NBA games but he was well and truly in the zone against the Raptors, scoring 81 points - just 19 short of Chamberlain's legendary 100-point outing in 1962. Bryant produced 48 minutes of pure brilliance to lead the Lakers past the Raptors 122-104. It was a display of efficiency as Bryant's outburst featured a 60.9 shooting percentage from the field and 53.8 per cent from beyond the arc.

"Not even in my dreams," Bryant said. "That was something that just happened. It's tough to explain. It's just one of those things."

Real Madrid lifted the lid on the worst-kept secret in world football on Monday when they confirmed the signing of Flamengo talent Reinier Jesus for a reported €30million.

In completing the long-reported deal, Los Blancos bolstered an already impressive collection of young players on their books, with the club's future planning seemingly second to none in world football.

In Eder Militao, Federico Valverde, Luka Jovic, Brahim Diaz, Rodrygo Goes, Vinicius Junior, Takefusa Kubo, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Reguilon, Martin Odegaard and now Reinier, Madrid boast a remarkable amount of under-23 talent.

Reinier completed his switch the day after his 18th birthday and, while his price tag appears hefty, it actually led to friction within Flamengo – coach Jorge Jesus accusing the club of not being able to value their players, a comment vice-president Marcos Braz subsequently shut down.

Although a regular in transfer gossip columns of late, Reinier remains something of an unknown quantity and a complete rookie given he has played just 15 matches of senior football.

We asked Andy Walker, a Brazilian football analyst and expert for Football Radar, for the lowdown on the latest Brazilian 'wonderkid' to secure a move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

What's Reinier's favoured role?

"Reinier is at his best in a No.10 role, but he does like to play slightly more advanced than a traditional '10', staying close to the striker as much as possible," Andy surmised.

It is an area in which Madrid are by no means short, but Reinier also boasts the flexibility to fill in right across the frontline. "He has actually been used as a striker at times by Flamengo as a result," Andy added.

 

What are his greatest attributes?

A Brazilian attacker coveted by Real Madrid – you might be able to guess at a few of his strongest traits, though Andy has also been impressed by Reinier's poise when it matters.

"A quick, direct dribbler who can glide past his man with ease, as well as possessing deceptively good close control and technique," Andy said. "He's also got a real eye for goal, with six goals in 729 minutes of senior football, with his composure really impressive given his very young age."

 

In which areas does he need to improve?

While he is certainly costly, it should not be forgotten Reinier has only just turned 18 and is by no means the finished article. Our expert has reservations over the Flamengo product's physicality and athleticism at the moment.

He said: "He needs to progress physically as we have seen him struggle to keep up the pace in the latter stages when playing a full 90 minutes, but that should all come as he learns the game and adapts to a more rigorous training regime in Europe. As with any young Brazilian, he will need a lot of growth on the tactical side of the game, but his six months under Jorge Jesus will prove a real benefit, rather than playing under some of the archaic Brazilian coaches."

 

Which player could he be comparable to?

Every talented young player from Brazil or Argentina gets labelled as the heir apparent to a previous superstar, and it seems Reinier is no different having drawn comparisons to a former Madrid player.

"The easy comparison to make is with Kaka – or specifically the Milan-era Kaka," Andy suggested, and he is not the only one to make that link. Guilherme Dalla Dea, Reinier's former Brazil Under-17 coach, said similar last year.

"I see him as a '10' – a Rai, a Kaka," he told FIFA. "I see these characteristics in Reiner. He likes getting in the box, scoring goals. He also scores goals from outside the box. I've so much belief in him. He's a kid, a youngster, but he's very level-headed and because of this he's our captain. I firmly believe we'll see him playing at a very high level overseas."

 

How does his potential stack up compared to Rodrygo and Vinicius?

There is no doubt Madrid are backing their own track record of turning raw young talents into the world's best, such has been their investment in under-23 players over the past few years. And the consensus is, Reinier's potential is vast.

"It's difficult to say given Rodrygo and Vinicius were given more time to show their talents in Brazil before moving, but Reinier's talent has been obvious since his very first game and I think the general feeling is that, if all goes well, then he could end up being the best of the lot," Andy observed.

 

Have there been any concerns relating to his mentality?

Talent can only take you so far. As a teenager moving to a new continent, Reinier will surely face mental challenges and those will likely determine whether or not he achieves success – but in terms of professionalism, he is seemingly well set.

"Reinier's team-mates and coaches have all been very positive about his attitude and willingness to learn, so he looks well-placed to make the most of his talents," Andy commented.

Similarly, his coach Jorge Jesus has no worries about that side of the 18-year-old, telling Marca: "I believe a lot in Reinier. I had several talks with him and we talked a lot from the point of view of how he can get better, about his defects, what needs to be corrected. Reinier is a very intelligent kid, he likes to learn and I can say he is a gifted one. I assure you, he is going to mature there. He will arrive in Madrid safe and quiet to do a job, but it is necessary to give him some time."

After a quarter-final run at the 2019 Australian Open, a lot has changed for Ashleigh Barty but it is business as usual for the world number one in Melbourne.

Australian star Barty arrives at Melbourne Park for her home grand slam as the WTA Tour's top-ranked player and the reigning French Open and WTA Finals champion.

Barty became the first Australian to win the Roland Garros singles title since Margaret Court in 1973 and the first Australian to claim a major singles title since Sam Stosur's 2011 US Open triumph.

Her memorable 2019 exploits have heightened expectations in Melbourne, where all eyes are on the top seed ahead of her opening match against Lesia Tsurenko.

However, Barty's coach Craig Tyzzer told Omnisport: "There's more expectations on her, but she knows she has to go out there and compete every day, do her best. The result takes care of itself. If she's able to do that and keep focused on that stuff, she'll do some damage."

"The pre-season was pretty strong," Tyzzer said. "Ash put a lot of effort it. She's particularly fussy and a bit of a perfectionist anyway, so it kept her on edge a bit more knowing 'okay well I've got a responsibility here as well'.

"It's been good. We know what's coming but we will treat everything pretty much the same with regard to how we approach her matches."

"Slams are so hard to win over the two weeks, being healthy and playing well all the time," he continued. "Her expectations are that every match is going to be tough. She's pretty ready for the battle, and hopefully she can go deep into the tournament."

Barty is fresh off a 57-13 season on the WTA Tour – a year which yielded four titles from six finals in Miami, Paris, Birmingham and Shenzhen.

The 23-year-old claimed the biggest winner's cheque in tennis history after collecting $4.42million thanks to her WTA Finals victory over Elina Svitolina in November.

"I think her consistent level of play," Tyzzer said when asked about anything specific that helped Barty make such an impact last year. "There weren't many ups or downs. There weren't really super highs or big drop offs. I felt like over the 12 months her level was very consistent.

"There were a few times where she was tired after long periods of time. We could see that kind of stuff coming, so we controlled that fairly well with breaks and then build up again to the next tournament block. Her ability to play at a good level throughout the whole year was probably the biggest factor, I know there were other areas."

Barty's success saw Tyzzer – who has worked with the Queenslander since she returned to the sport in 2016 after a cricket stint – recognised as the WTA Coach of the Year.

But Tyzzer and countrywoman Barty are refusing to stand still in pursuit of further glory.

"There's certainly areas where she can get better. We've been working through the summer on her transitioning, try to get into the net more and get in behind her good shots. She sees it well in doubles but probably doesn't see it as well in singles yet. So that's probably one of the areas I'd like her to spend time on," he added.

"You can never sit still in the sport. If you sort of stop and feel like you've done everything and you're not going to improve then someone else is going to run over the top of you pretty quickly."

"We're doing a lot more work on her strength and speed, movement around the court," Tyzzer said. "Putting in a lot of time on returning, trying to make that better as well. As a coach, you're always looking for improvements, but you also have to acknowledge the good stuff and continue to encourage what she's done well. She's put good results together, so you don't want to make drastic changes just for the sake of changing.  You have to be careful with that stuff too."

The 108th edition of the Australian Open begins on Monday as the world's best tennis players battle it out at the first grand slam of 2020.

Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka will return to defend the titles they won last year, adding to the event's storied history.

The pair will face stiff competition from stacked fields in the men's and women's draw as a host of players seek glory in Melbourne.

To whet your appetite for the forthcoming feast of tennis, here is a selection of the best Opta facts related to the Australian Open.

 

- The last three years have seen the 12 women's grand slam tournaments being won by 10 different players; only Simona Halep and Osaka have won twice in that span.

- Djokovic won his seventh Australian Open title in 2019, the most of any male player in the history of the tournament. He has won the event every time he has reached the semi-finals.

- Of the last 14 editions of the Australian Open, 12 have been won by either Djokovic (7) or Roger Federer (5) – Rafael Nadal (2009) and Stan Wawrinka (2014) are the only other winners in that period.

- Victoria Azarenka (2012, 2013), Serena Williams (2009, 2010) and Jennifer Capriati (2001, 2002) are the only women to have won successive titles at the Australian Open since 2000.

- Federer won his sixth Australian Open title in 2018, 14 years after his first win at the event; no player has won multiple Australian Open titles over a longer period in the Open Era. It is his last win in a grand slam tournament to date.

- Since 2005 only Williams (2010, 2015) and Azarenka (2013) have won the title at the Australian Open as the number one ranked player in the world.

- Williams has not won any of the last 11 grand slams, with her last victory coming at the Australian Open in 2017 when she was pregnant – this is the American's longest span without a major title.

- Petra Kvitova lost in the final of the Australian Open last year, the only time she went further than the quarter-finals in her last 19 grand slam appearances, since winning Wimbledon in 2014.

- Either Nadal or Andy Murray has been the runner-up in nine of the last 10 Australian Open men's finals, Murray losing five times and Nadal four. Marin Cilic in 2018 is the only other player to lose an Australian Open final in that span.

- The last time an Australian made it to the men's final at the Australian Open was Lleyton Hewitt in 2005 and the last Australian to win the title was Mark Edmondson in 1976 (against fellow Australian John Newcombe).

"By the end of that match, Rafa's mind was scrambled eggs."

Craig O'Shannessy was part of Dustin Brown's coaching team when the German qualifier sensationally eliminated two-time Wimbledon champion Rafael Nadal at the All England Club in 2015.

Through numbers, patterns and data, Australian pioneer O'Shannessy orchestrated the gameplan to send Nadal packing in the second round almost five years ago.

"After the match, I described that as organised chaos," O'Shannessy told Omnisport. "A lot of times with Dustin it's pure chaos. Sometimes he wins with it, sometimes he loses. What gelled was we organised his chaos so that people didn't know him, would've looked at that thinking all hell is breaking loose. Whereas I'm watching the match going 'he is running the patterns that we talked about perfectly'.

"It's about taking away what Rafa wanted to do. It's about attacking him early on the point, it's about attacking him wide of the forehand, going after returns simply because you know where the serve is going, about drop shots and bringing him in. It's just about messing with his mind and making it very unclear."

O'Shannessy – recognised as a world leader in teaching and analysis – has continued to transform the sport. He teamed up with Novak Djokovic as his chief strategist in 2017 and helped the Serb rise back to the top with four grand slams in three years.

Now working with 2019 US Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini, Jan-Lennard Struff, Alexei Popyrin and Tennis Canada, O'Shannessy crunches the numbers for his players.

"Every single match the player receives a pre-match report that has text, specific details about what the players like to do, I'll put in a bunch of numbers, tables and graphs particularly on serve patterns and rally length, then video," he said. "You just keep hammering away and supporting the winning strategy in as many different ways as you can."

At the forefront of analytics in tennis, how further can data go?

"Still a long away. We're only scratching the surface," O'Shannessy said. "There's a lot of numbers and data that we see but still don't know exactly what it means. The next five years will be incredibly important and we'll know way more than we do now. We're just at the start of the journey."

On data and patterns, O'Shannessy added: "For example, when you're returning, you can't cover everything. Players that try to cover everything, basically end up covering nothing. You look at it by the point score, if a player is at 30-30, they really need the point. If they're at 40-15, they don't necessarily need the point.

"So the players will have the tendency to gravitate to certain locations when they need that point and if you're sitting there waiting for it, all of a sudden the advantage of that point gets completely turned around. Instead of the returner being unbalanced, the server is off balance because the return is coming back harder and faster. They're on defence instead of offence.

"Early in my coaching career, I naturally put a big emphasis on the opponent, the idea being you're going to play 50 matches in a year and you may only play two or three where you think you've played incredible. The other 47 it's going to be your B or C game that triumphs, so the more you can understand it's not about you playing phenomenal tennis, it's about making them play bad. That mentality takes the pressure off and delivers it to the other side of the court."

Then there is artificial intelligence. Stats Perform, of which Omnisport is a part of, harnesses the true power of sports data by leveraging advancements in AI to generate the industry's richest insights, though it is relatively untapped in tennis.

"AI is able to crunch some very big data and make sense of it," O'Shannessy added. "The ability to do forecasting through there about percentages and situations. I'm already looking at the best way to incorporate AI and the end result to basically help players win more matches."

Craig O'Shannessy knows Novak Djokovic better than most. He was the brains behind the 16-time grand slam champion's revival.

When O'Shannessy teamed up with Djokovic as his chief strategist in 2017, there were doubts over the Serbian star and whether he was a spent force on the ATP Tour due to injuries and form.

Djokovic drifted to 22nd in the world rankings during the 2018 season after ending the previous year without a slam crown – Australian Open (second round), French Open (quarter-finals), Wimbledon (quarter-finals) and US Open (absent due to injury).

However, highly regarded Australian strategy analyst and data pioneer O'Shannessy masterminded Djokovic's rise back to the top with three consecutive major championships thanks to a specific gameplan and emphasis on numbers and patterns.

Djokovic won four slams in total with O'Shannessy – the Australian Open (2019), Wimbledon (2018, 2019) and US Open (2018) – before the pair went their separate ways at the end of the 2019 season.

Providing an insight into Djokovic ahead of his quest for a record-extending eighth Australian Open crown in Melbourne, O'Shannessy, who provides players with reports and videos focusing on serving patterns and rally lengths before every match, told Omnisport: "He was really fantastic.

"He was also really receptive, really inquisitive, he is a sponge. There were so many times that I'd give him data and he was locked on to it. He always looked at it as much as possible. He had a real thirst for all the analytics I'd provide him. My job was to make things simple. He is a very smart guy. I think the record and success he had, a big part of that was going onto the court and having the confidence in the gameplan."

O'Shannessy, who now works with 2019 US Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini, Jan-Lennard Struff, Alexei Popyrin and Tennis Canada, said: "We met in 2016 and I just showed them the work I could do, which was a lot of video work, analysis of matches, reports that led to video and it was something they weren’t doing at all in their team. We started at the beginning of 2017 and did it for three years, which in tennis years is a substantial amount of time, and it was very successful.

"Early on, I asked him how I could best be an asset for him. I had showed him everything I could do and the big thing was he wanted to see video. He hadn't seen a lot of video from his matches and what he did well. The big thing early on was the confirmation that certain ways and patterns that he gravitates naturally to on the court and didn't know whether they were really the best options.

"A lot of it early on was to show video of his best patterns of play, what worked the most, why he was winning, provide gameplans for every single match over the three years for the opponent, so he never went in blind. We always had a gameplan and knew the tendencies of opponents. Really double down at the big events and against his big rivals, to ensure no stone was left unturned."

At the age of 32, Djokovic – regarded as one of the all-time greats – trails Roger Federer's slam record (20) but can specific training with the use of analytics help prolong his career in pursuit of history?

"Novak is the kind of player that when he's practising, likes to feel the ball, likes to have rhythm, likes to have a large volume of hitting," O'Shannessy added. "But at the same time, there's one element being 'I need to feel good about my game but I also need to spend time working on the patterns that I know will be the most conducive to me winning matches'.

"Being smarter, a lot of the data does direct itself to being smarter on the practice court and not just grinding away, but running patterns of play and serving to a location to receive a ball, then to go to another specific location. For sure that knowing while you win matches and knowing that it's much more in the shorter rallies than the longer rallies, then you go to the practice court and develop those patterns."

Zion Williamson is finally ready to make his NBA bow in one of the most highly-anticipated debuts of all time.

Forward Williamson was the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft after dazzling as a college star in his only season at Duke.

The New Orleans Pelicans won the draft lottery and selected Williamson, but the franchise has yet to see the benefits of that on the court, with the 19-year-old suffering a knee injury during preseason in October.

The wait will soon be over, though, and we've taken a look at some of the things to keep an eye on, with Williamson set to debut against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, January 22.

 

DUNKS, BLOCKS AND HIGHLIGHT-REEL PLAYS

In today's social-media age, Williamson was already considered a superstar long before he even arrived at Duke.

The NBA has perhaps never seen anyone that big (6ft 6ins, 284 pounds) who is also that athletic, with Williamson regularly rushing down the court and rising above the rim to deliver devastating slams and brutal blocks.

His pre-game feats have already got more traction on Twitter and Instagram than some NBA stars' in-game shots so expect social media to be abuzz whenever Williamson wows.

COUNTING THOSE MINUTES

The Pelicans would dearly love to have Williamson on the floor for as long as possible, but they also need to be smart.

He has not played a game at all in three months and it is 10 months since he last played a competitive one, when he was unable to prevent Duke from losing to Michigan State at the Elite Eight stage of March Madness.

Pels head coach Alvin Gentry has already confirmed there will be a "minutes restriction" in place for Williamson, but it might be difficult to leave him on the bench for too long if he starts living up to the hype straight away.

 

CELEB SPOTTING

NBA courtsides are home to the rich and famous and Pels homes games will soon be the hottest ticket in town thanks to the legend of Zion.

Former US president Barack Obama was in attendance when Duke played North Carolina during Williamson's sole season with the Blue Devils.

Boxing great Floyd Mayweather Jr. and rapper Jay-Z also rocked up to Duke games to see what all the fuss was about and the interest will only grow now Williamson is in the pros.

BUT WHAT ABOUT BRANDON?

With Williamson sidelined, another former Duke star, Brandon Ingram, has come to the fore for Gentry's team.

Ingram was one of those traded to New Orleans as part of the package that saw Anthony Davis join the Los Angeles Lakers and, away from the City of Stars, the 22-year-old has been able to shine.

The small forward is averaging 25.1 points - the 11th best in the NBA this season.

That number will surely take a hit when Williamson returns but New Orleans will hope Ingram can still flourish alongside their top draft pick in a league littered with dynamic duos.

 

GETTING HIS KICKS

The previous US president did not see much of Williamson due to an injury the teenager sustained after his Nike shoe came apart.

That did not prevent him from signing with the sportswear giant's Jordan brand, though, in a deal reportedly worth $75million across seven years.

The sneakers worn by basketball stars are always the subject of great interest and the kicks Zion first dons will be of particular interest, especially after the incident in the North Carolina game.

Those inside Camp Nou on November 11, 2018 where treated to a true spectacle. Regardless of whether or not Barcelona fans were angered by the end result, a 4-3 defeat, they were almost certainly entertained.

It was Barca's first loss at home in any competition since September 2016 and the manner of the defeat was truly impressive.

Real Betis battered Barca for much of the match and finished with a commendable 48 per cent possession, a feat few clubs can match at Camp Nou. At no point did Betis trail.

Fourteen months on, that remains the last time Barca were defeated at Camp Nou, in any competition. But now, the man who masterminded Betis' win is in charge of the champions.

Quique Setien was announced as the successor to Ernesto Valverde following his unceremonious sacking on Monday, with the 61-year-old seemingly hired due to his football ideologies being closely aligned to those of Barca.

Despite being held in high regard by many for his philosophy and championing of Barca icon Johan Cruyff, there remain massive reservations about his adaptability and whether he truly is the right man for the club in the long-term.

If he is to be the perfect fit, there are a few things he needs to address at a clun that some feel has lost its identity.

Adapt his system to Messi and determine future of aging stars

A non-negotiable condition of the job that even the most vociferous cirtics of Valverde will accept he more than met during his two-and-a-half years in charge - get the best from Messi. In theory, Setien's possession-based football should make him the ideal fit for Barca, and therefore Messi. But his teams – namely Las Palmas and Betis – had as much of a reputation for a chaotic approach that bordered on all-out attack as they did for dominating possession. Betis in particular played some rip-roaring football at a blistering pace, but playing at break-neck speed won't always been the case for Barca, who often have to be more methodical to break down deep-sitting opponents. Messi should still be expected to thrive, but where Setien opts to utilise the 32-year-old and the other stars of an aging team will be crucial. Can Gerard Pique, Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and the others over the age of 30 still keep up?

Look to La Masia, promote Puig

During the 2016-17 LaLiga season, Setien's Las Palmas squad had 14 'cantera' products in it. While that might be more readily expected of a club with a significantly smaller budget than Barca, he continued to make the most of the academy when at Betis. Francis, Fabian Ruiz, Loren Moron and Junior Firpo – with whom he has reunited – were all prominent figures under Setien at the Benito Villamarin. Barca's famed La Masia has been less successful in recent years, but there are certainly talents coming through with the likes of Ansu Fati. An easy early win for Setien would be promoting Riqui Puig to the first-team, with the silky – albeit diminutive – midfielder ready for the step up. Don't be surprised to see teenager Pedri also link up with the senior squad when he officially joins from Las Palmas at the end of the season.

Sign a Suarez substitute

Luis Suarez is set to miss most – if not the rest – of the season after having knee surgery, leaving Barca with a significant hole to fill. It's likely Antoine Griezmann will be asked to take up a central position, but beyond him their options are more or less limited to Carles Perez. As such, Barca are reportedly considering bringing in another forward, with Girona's Cristhian Stuani seemingly among the most likely arrivals. But the burly Uruguayan is not an archetypal Setien striker – Chimy Avila of Osasuna is. The Rosario-born forward is said to be being monitored by Barca, as the Argentinian is enjoying a fine season. A feisty competitor, Avila's nickname 'Chimy' comes from his father's conclusion that he is "spicy like chimichurri", a popular South American sauce. Small, quick, agile and relentless, comparisons with Sergio Aguero are understandable, and his release clause is a fairly modest €25m.

Win LaLiga

To be fair, achieving league success in isolation may not be good enough to keep Setien in a job for long – just ask back-to-back LaLiga winner Valverde. No, Setien will have to do more. He'll essentially have to win LaLiga while playing exciting football and win the Champions League to earn an extension to his contract, which ties him to the club until 2022. But, as was made abundantly clear by Josep Maria Bartomeu in Setien's presentation, the length of a contract can be irrelevant if certain expectations aren't met. "Setien has signed until 2022, but there's also a caveat that there can be a change," the president said on Tuesday. "Valverde had a contract until 2021 [until 2020 with the option for another year] and we saw there's a change."

Avoid a Champions League collapse

Perhaps the biggest issue the fans had with Valverde was humiliating collapses in successive Champions League campaigns. In Valverde's first season, Barca took a 4-1 lead into their quarter-final clash with Roma, only to be eliminated by virtue of a 3-0 loss in the return leg. The next year they did go a step further, but the result was much the same – a 3-0 defeat of Liverpool at Camp Nou was following by a 4-0 Anfield annihilation by the eventual champions. The concerns some might have of Setien relate to his teams' defensive capabilities, as such an emphasis on attacking left Las Palmas and Betis vulnerable at the back. While he will have a greater calibre of player at Barca, if this side of his team is to be exploited, it'll likely be in the latter stages of the Champions League.

Given he delivered back-to-back LaLiga titles and left Barcelona still at the summit, Ernesto Valverde's departure appears perplexing on the surface.

There has been no great decline to speak of, no obvious player revolt and no boardroom bickering.

Why then have the Blaugrana opted to part ways with their head coach and replace him with Quique Setien, a man who could only lead Real Betis to a 10th-place finish last term?

We have taken a look at the five games which might have ultimately resulted in Valverde's exit.

Roma 3-0 Barcelona. Champions League quarter-final second leg. April 10, 2018.

After being beaten in both legs of the Supercopa de Espana by Real Madrid to begin his reign, things picked up for Valverde, who enjoyed a 36-match unbeaten run at the beginning of the 2017-18 LaLiga campaign.

However, two and a half weeks before that title triumph was sealed, Barcelona were stunned in Europe.

Valverde's side were in control of the tie having beaten the Serie A side 4-1 at home, but Roma became only the third side in Champions League history to overturn a first-leg deficit of three goals or more.

Greek defender Kostas Manolas scored the crucial third goal eight minutes from time as Roma went through on away goals and Valverde suffered his first, but not last, European humiliation.

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona. Champions League semi-final second leg. May 7, 2019.

Fast forward a year and a case of deja vu, with Barca sitting pretty on a 3-0 first-leg lead in their last-four tie against Liverpool.

The Reds were without Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino for the return fixture at Anfield, where Divock Origi's early goal only gave them a sliver of hope.

Yet Barca looked shell-shocked as Georginio Wijnaldum's double was followed up by another Origi strike, Liverpool incredibly progressing to a final they would win.

Described in the Spanish press as a "debacle", "tragedy" and "historic failure", the writing seemed to be on the wall for Valverde from that point.

Barcelona 1-2 Valencia. Copa del Rey final. May 25, 2019. 

Not even a second LaLiga title could silence Valverde's doubters, who had more ammo when his team lost to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.

Valverde had hoped a victory would ease the pain of the Liverpool loss but Barca were stunned again, Kevin Gameiro and Rodrigo putting Valencia 2-0 ahead before Lionel Messi pulled one back.

Rather than wield the axe, though, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu absolved Valverde of blame for the result.

 

Espanyol 2-2 Barcelona. LaLiga. January 4, 2020.

Away defeats to Athletic Bilbao, Granada and Levante would have looked costlier had the champions' nearest rivals Real Madrid not stumbled along themselves in the first half of this season.

Both teams' struggles were evident in a 0-0 Clasico draw at Camp Nou in December, but it was Barcelona's first result back after the mid-season break that would have set more alarm bells ringing.

Derby rivals Espanyol were bottom of the table and had not beaten Barca in LaLiga since 2009 but Frenkie de Jong was sent off as the strugglers claimed a 2-2 draw.

Barcelona 2-3 Atletico Madrid. Supercopa de Espana semi-final. January 9, 2020.

Five days later and it got even worse for Valverde and Barcelona.

Leading 2-1 in Saudi Arabia with nine minutes to go, the Blaugrana collapsed again late on, with Alvaro Morata and Angel Correa sending Atletico through to a final against their cross-city rivals Madrid.

It meant Barcelona had won just one of their previous five games, a sour note to end on for Valverde.

Ninety minutes was not enough to separate Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana final on Sunday.

Madrid emerged victorious in a penalty shoot-out in Jeddah after extra time finished with the two sides still locked at 0-0.

It marked the fifth straight time a single-game final between the city rivals has gone to the additional 30 minutes.

Here we look back at an incredible run of all-Madrid marathons.

 

2013 Copa del Rey final: Real Madrid 1-2 Atletico Madrid

The third trophy won by Diego Simeone with Atletico, the Rojiblancos beat their rivals in their own backyard in a dramatic final at the Santiago Bernabeu that saw then Madrid boss Jose Mourinho, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gabi sent off.

Ronaldo had put Madrid ahead by converting Mesut Ozil's corner in the 14th minute, but Diego Costa equalised after being played in by Radamel Falcao and Miranda's near-post header sealed a famous triumph for Atletico.

2014 Champions League final: Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid

Having beaten Barcelona and Madrid to a shock LaLiga title, Atletico appeared poised to deny Los Blancos 'La Decima' after Diego Godin opened the scoring in Lisbon. However, Sergio Ramos' superb 93rd-minute header forced extra time, and goals from Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Ronaldo secured European glory for Carlo Ancelotti's men.

2016 Champions League final: Real Madrid 1-1 Atletico Madrid (5-3 pens)

More heartbreak on European football's grandest stage for Atletico as Madrid again denied them a first Champions League crown. Ramos bundled home the opener for Madrid but, after Antoine Griezmann struck the crossbar from the spot, Yannick Carrasco fired in from Juanfran's cross to level. However, Juanfran hit the post in the only miss of the shoot-out, Ronaldo confidently converting the winning penalty and giving Madrid their 11th European title and first of three in a row under Zinedine Zidane.

2018 UEFA Super Cup: Real Madrid 2-4 Atletico Madrid

Atletico laid down an early marker ahead of the 2018-19 season in a hugely entertaining Super Cup. Costa opened the scoring with a ferocious finish from a tight angle in the first minute in Tallinn and equalised after Karim Benzema's header and a Ramos penalty turned the contest on its head.

Saul Niguez's stunning volley gave Atletico a 3-2 lead in extra time and Koke added a fourth to seal victory, though it proved a false dawn as they finished 11 points behind Barcelona in LaLiga and went out in the last 16 of the Champions League. For Madrid, it was the start of a dismal season in which Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari endured disappointing tenures before Zidane was brought back.

2020 Supercopa de Espana: Real Madrid 0-0 Atletico Madrid (4-1 pens)

The final of the first four-team Supercopa in Saudi Arabia provided a disappointing spectacle, as Madrid and Atletico meandered to a goalless draw light on incident in normal time. There was a tempestuous end to extra time as Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde was sent off and, for Atletico, a disappointingly familiar finale as Ramos slotted home the decisive spot-kick.

It was a game that illustrated just how evenly matched the neighbours are, with Atletico going into the second half of the LaLiga season aiming to eradicate their five-point deficit to Madrid and leaders Barca.

Max Verstappen has committed his Formula One future to Red Bull, taking him off the driver market.

The 2021 season is when new technical regulations come into the sport but the Dutchman has joined Ferrari's Charles Leclerc in staying with his current team beyond that date.

Verstappen had previously been linked with a switch to Mercedes, with the long-term futures of a host of top F1 names like Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel still unclear.

Here, we look at why Verstappen, who has been with Red Bull for four seasons, has opted to stay at with the team for another four until 2023. 
 

Progress of Honda

Gone are the days when the Honda engine was the laughing stock of the grid and Mercedes' power unit was dominant. 

Ferrari were on top in that department last year and, at many tracks, Honda had made huge strides and were right there with them, with Verstappen's win in Austria being the manufacturer's first since 2006.

With their issues supplying McLaren now a distant memory, Verstappen clearly has faith Honda will continue their progress, which could be a decisive factor for the next championship and beyond once the new regulations arrive.

"Honda coming onboard and the progress we have made over the last 12 months gives me even more motivation and the belief that we can win together," Verstappen said when his new deal was announced on Tuesday.
 

His results are better every year

After joining Red Bull while the 2016 season was ongoing, Verstappen has made clear progress across his three complete campaigns with the team.

His first full year saw him finish sixth in the drivers' championship, registering four podiums and two victories.

More consistency followed in 2017 as he racked up 11 top-three finishes along with two wins en route to a fourth-place finish.

Last year, only the Mercedes pair of Hamilton and Bottas finished ahead of the 22-year-old as he won a career-best three races, as well as recording his first two pole positions.

Undisputed number one

While the struggles of Pierre Gasly early in the 2019 season occasionally left Verstappen outnumbered and at a tactical disadvantage in races, there are also benefits to being an undisputed number one.

Leclerc and Vettel have disagreed over strategy and even took each other out in Brazil, while Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's relationship at Mercedes was problematic.

Verstappen may have an able team-mate in Alex Albon going forward but at least for now he is the more experienced and established driver. 

It does not look like he will be having any internal squabbles and, if he is in the 2020 title race against other teams, can be given strategic priority by Red Bull while their rivals are trying to appear fair.
 

Red Bull have done the job before

Mercedes have been the top team in F1 during the hybrid era, but Red Bull and their management team have proven they have the structure to deliver success.

Team principal Christian Horner and chief technical officer Adrian Newey are long-serving figureheads who helped Vettel to four consecutive world titles between 2010 and 2013.

With Honda improving and the Red Bull chassis always one of the best, Verstappen must have faith that the team he has worked so closely with can take him to the next level, as they did with Vettel.

"Red Bull believed in me and gave me the opportunity to start in Formula One, which I have always been very grateful for," added Verstappen.

"I want to win with Red Bull and our goal is of course to fight for a world championship together."

All eyes were on Takumi Minamino.

With Jurgen Klopp confirming most of his star players were to be rested for the visit of Everton, his new signing was to be thrust straight into the action in front of expectant Reds fans.

Minamino's ability and mentality had been plain to see at close quarters for Liverpool already this season, the Japan international having played against his new club twice in the Champions League with Salzburg.

His displays in that competition suggested Minamino was perfectly suited to Liverpool, stylistically at the very least.

A comfort on the ball, clever movement in attack and creativity marked the Japan international out as a standout player in the group stage of the competition, and he ranked among the most productive players in terms of assists and big chances created.

Those traits also suggested he could fit in perfectly with Liverpool's incumbent attacking trident of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.

None of those featured against Everton on Sunday, as Minamino played his first game since a £7.25million from the Austrian champions. Flanked by 16-year-old Harvey Elliott and Divock Origi, there were hints of promise.

The new arrival filled the role usually taken by Firmino and it was easy to see why, particularly in the first half, as Minamino often dropped deep to link up with the midfield, showcasing his associative quality.

A burst in the 33rd minute showed precisely what Minamino will bring to Liverpool, as he took up possession in midfield and drove forward alone, before being hauled down. Unlucky to not win a free-kick, the forward had relieved pressure on the midfield trio and singlehandedly started an attack.

The two first-half occasions that Liverpool looked most likely to score from had Minamino at the centre – firstly glancing a header just wide having found space behind Yerry Mina, then forcing a poor back pass with his pressing, nearly getting there ahead of Jordan Pickford.

But let's not get carried away – it was by no means the perfect debut. Minamino spent much of the second half – before his 70th-minute withdrawal – frustrated, with Liverpool moving the ball a little slower and Everton preventing him making runs in behind.

With Liverpool in control more than they had been before half-time, Minamino found it difficult to find space amid Everton's packed defence and he doesn't have the physical prowess to be that kind of nuisance.

The FA Cup third round, a Merseyside derby – it had the makings of the ideal bow for Minamino but, perhaps fittingly, it proved to a be a local kid who stole the show.

When Minamino was struggling to make an impact, 18-year-old Curtis Jones came to the fore. The attacking midfielder relished the fact the Reds were seeing more possession, allowing him to flourish.

Mostly working from the left, Jones was gutsy and showed admirable confidence on the ball, often looking to beat his man or pick out a key pass – of which he ended the game with a joint match-high of three.

The Liverpool academy product has long been held up as a potential homegrown star and showed why there has been so much hype with his winning goal.

After an eye-catching flicked pass into the box for Origi, he got the ball back, took a touch and curled an audacious 20-yard effort into the top-far corner, out of the reach of Pickford.

In a contest that was typified by work ethic – or lack thereof in Everton's case – this was a moment of pure individual inspiration, rightly deciding the match.

While Minamino's performance was far from thrilling, he did show glimpses that suggest he will fit in perfectly with Klopp's style of play, eventually.

Jones, however, already appears to be the archetypal Klopp midfielder - crafty, snappy and confident.

With James Milner suffering an injury early on and Jones thriving against a full-strength Everton, further chances should be just around the corner for the Reds' academy product.

Now all eyes are on Jones.

Out with the old and in with the new.

Happy new year! Happy new decade! To your health, and to your wealth. May your future be prosperous and your family live in abundance.

Remember when we'd greet each other with such forceful cheer, way back in 2020? When Donald Trump was merely a White House tweeting machine, and not yet a challenger to Jack Nicklaus' golf majors record.

This is a message dispatched from Tuesday, January 1, 2030, and you've just swallowed the theory that the so-called former "commander-in-cheat" might legitimately win not one golf tournament but upwards of 18 against the world's elite.

The funny thing is, had it happened, perhaps it would not have been the most seismic event of the past 10 years - a turbulent, anything-goes period in sporting history.

Some will tell you sport in the 2020s reached its nadir when FIFA's executive committee needed three days of meetings before ruling out staging the 2029 Club World Cup in the cities of Chernobyl and Pripyat. You can't, it turns out, carry out urban regeneration within a nuclear exclusion zone, not even with the best will in the world and the 100% backing of CONMEBOL.

Others will look to the NFL appointing Sarah Sanders as its commissioner. Here, in any case, is an advance snapshot of the decade you're about to live through.

A 39th game in the Premier League ... and goodbye to VAR! 

By the dawn of the 2020s nobody doubted heads could be turned by great wedges of cash. The Premier League's long-mooted '39th game' finally got the green light, with an extra round of fixtures being staged in the United States in 2023 - predictably overshadowed by a routine weekend of college football.

Away from dollar-driven 'progress', 2023 also saw the VAR system abolished by incoming FIFA president and career goal-hanger Gary Lineker. No one countenanced ever speaking of VAR again.

Roger… and still not out!

Roger Federer has never added to those 20 grand slam titles he tallied in the '00s and '10s, and agonisingly he saw Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic both nudge one ahead of him on the all-time list in the early 2020s. Where are Rafa and Nole now though? In an incontestable, quite glorious triumph for Team Federer, Roger is rolling on at the age of 48, a knock-in for those Wimbledon and US Open wild cards and still a fixture in Anna Wintour's wildest dreams.

In 2026, Federer partnered his 16-year-old daughter Myla Rose in mixed doubles at the Australian Open. "I've always wanted to keep going until my grandchildren have the chance to see me play, but of course so many people want to write me off," said Roger in a post-match interview.

Federer, hunting that elusive 21st major, has reached the third round of a major only twice since 2022. The year 2022, coincidentally, saw Serena Williams finally match and then pass Margaret Court's women’s tour record of 24 singles slams, immediately quitting tennis and public life at the age of 40 for a surprising second career in taxidermy. Cross the formidable Serena these days and you really can get stuffed.

Run off track

Peeved with persistent pee-test perniciousness, the plug was pulled on Olympic athletics six months out from Los Angeles 2028. To assuage the choking loss of track and field, the sport was substituted on the Memorial Coliseum stadium schedules by daily NFL games, thus guaranteeing stunning television audiences and spectacular financial success, feathering the IOC nest. The rest of the world audience, as per, embraced whatever sport in which their country had concocted a way to become world-beaters since the Tokyo Olympics. America's dominance of the shooting proved a sore point with some observers, given the successful dismantling of the NRA by President Michelle Obama's administration.

Hearn in space

'No context' in 2019, and no gravity by 2028, boxing promoter Eddie Hearn teamed up in a co-promotion with Elon Musk's SpaceX corporation to announce boxing's first showdown on the International Space Station. The Matchroom boss guffawed and called the experience "different gravy" on a recce trip, yet not one astronaut on the ISS laughed back nor posted a three-second clip straight to Twitter. Even from a height of 250 miles, the world instantly felt a better place.

Coming out was the new staying in

A host of sports stars – you'll recognise some of the names, but all in good time - came out as proud members of the LGBTQ+ community over the last decade. The enlightened public majority welcomed the healthy cultural shift that made it possible, and an ignorant minority was soon shouted down. After years of suppressing their true selves in public, this generation of athletes was able to thrive in large parts of the world. There's no punchline here, just the hope we don't screw this one up in the years ahead.

The future's female, are we nearly there yet?

How has the gender gap closed over the course of the 2020s, you wonder? Here's an answer: significantly but not sufficiently.

Sure, there's been a woman reaching the final of the darts world championship, half a dozen female Formula One drivers, Sam Kerr grabbed a handful of A-League goals when guesting for Perth Glory, and we've seen the first prominent football managers crossing over to the men’s game (Emma Hayes spent two years at Fulham, Corinne Diacre had 15 months with Lille, Laura Harvey is bossing the Seattle Sounders and Sarina Wiegman is sporting director of PSV).

The future's better: stadiums are now packed for women's World Cups in football, rugby and cricket.

Squabbling over tennis prize money calmed when grand slams cut matches across the board to best-of-three-set contests, yet achieving outright equality across the sporting spectrum will be one for the 2030s crew to take on.

And finally…

Football 'came home', with England driven to their 2026 World Cup triumph by a combination of Jurgen Klopp's astute management, Harvey Elliott's mastery of the number 10 role, and Real Madrid frontman Dominic Calvert-Lewin's irresistible finishing.

Just one more thing…

Don't believe everything you read. That last memory of the decade? Bigly fake news. To the delight of their many World Cup frenemies, the England football team is still FAILING.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have dominated the 2010s in terms of individual awards and moments of pure inspiration.

Future generations will look back on this past decade as a period obsessed with the two generational talents - their often-exaggerated rivalry exacerbated by spending such a long time on opposite sides of the Clasico divide.

But, while Ronaldo and Messi have filled more column inches than any other player on the planet, there are plenty of others who have been world leaders in their respective positions.

Having looked back over the last 10 years, using Opta data for inspiration, we have selected a Team of the Decade. But who makes the cut?

Is David de Gea selected in goal? Does Luis Suarez join Messi in attack? Has Virgil van Dijk done enough for inclusion? Find out below...

OMNISPORT TEAM OF THE DECADE

Manuel Neuer

There is not much more Manuel Neuer could have achieved over the past 10 years. For much of that time he has been one of the globe's most dependable goalkeepers, even if he has shown signs of decline since a spate of foot injuries. A veteran of seven Bundesliga title triumphs and a World Cup winner with Germany, Neuer boasts a save percentage of 74.2 per cent and has comfortably the most clean sheets (139) this decade in the German top flight.

Dani Alves

Has there ever been a better right-back than Dani Alves? The Brazilian stands to leave an impressive legacy, not just through his thrilling style of play, but with his record-breaking trophy haul of 43 after captaining Brazil to Copa America success this year. Despite being a right-back, he claimed 67 assists in league action through the 2010s, though his greatest contribution came in LaLiga with Barcelona, for whom he set up 51 goals. Marcelo (48) is the closest to him, but he has played 77 times more than the current Sao Paulo star.

Vincent Kompany

Although a brilliant player at his best, it is understandable to suggest Vincent Kompany never reached his ceiling due to injuries. Nevertheless, the Belgian will go down as a Premier League great such has been his impact with Manchester City, with whom he enjoyed four title wins. Kompany recorded 83 Premier League clean sheets in the 2010s, just 10 fewer than record-setter Kyle Walker, who has played 57 more matches. His leadership qualities have been missed by City this season.

Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos is a player who often polarises opinion, but he's one of only three players to have been at Madrid for the entire decade, so he must be doing something right. An undisputed leader and fierce competitor, Ramos is a big-game player like few others and boasts a goal-scoring record even many midfielders would be happy with, having netted 43 times in LaLiga since the start of 2010, more than any other defender. Over the past 10 years, he's helped Los Blancos to a remarkable four Champions League titles, while he won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 with Spain.

Jordi Alba

At his best, Jordi Alba was almost unstoppable. The flying left-back became a staple and key outlet for one of the great Barcelona teams, with his driving runs – on or off the ball – often creating havoc. A master at making a darting run into the box before cutting a pass back to create a chance, Alba has 38 LaLiga assists to his name for Barca, a record bettered by only Dani Alves and Marcelo among defenders. He gets the nod ahead of his Madrid counterpart as his assist haul is from 72 fewer matches.

Luka Modric

The only player to break the Cristiano Ronaldo-Lionel Messi Ballon d'Or duopoly, Luka Modric has enjoyed a wonderful decade. A vital part of the Croatia team that enjoyed an historic run to the 2018 World Cup final, Modric also played a big role in Madrid's incredible Champions League domination. Toni Kroos (11,260) is the only midfielder to have completed more passes in LaLiga than Modric (10,759), while he laid on 42 assists and created 522 chances.

N'Golo Kante

If there was an award for the most likeable player of the decade, N'Golo Kante would surely be a frontrunner. Sadly there is no such thing, so he'll have to contend with inclusion in this team. Arguably the key cog in Leicester City's remarkable Premier League title win, Kante followed that up with similarly impressive form at Chelsea and with France, winning the World Cup with Les Bleus last year. He has made 912 tackles and interceptions in the Premier League, putting him fifth among players with 200 appearances or fewer this decade, and each of those who rank higher have played at least 20 matches more.

David Silva

When David Silva leaves Man City at the end of the season, there will inevitably be a debate as to whether he can be regarded the Premier League's greatest 'import'. That this will even be suggested tells you the impact he has had. No one gets close to Silva's record of 89 Premier League assists in the 2010s, with the Spaniard almost certainly the most consistent creator the division has seen in the past 10 years. He was similarly important for Spain until his post-World Cup retirement last year, having previously lifted the trophy in South Africa in 2010 and at Euro 2012, eventually accumulating 125 caps.

Lionel Messi

Where does one even begin with Lionel Messi? If any single player has defined the 2010s – from an individual perspective – in world football, it is surely the Barcelona talisman. In LaLiga, Messi has amassed 505 goal involvements (369 goals, 136 assist) in 343 matches since the start of the decade, routinely carrying Barca to victory. He has won every trophy possible with the Blaugrana over the past 10 years and claimed five Ballons d'Or, with his 2019 victory giving him a record-breaking sixth. Although now 32, he remains frighteningly decisive – all that eludes him is international success with Argentina.

Robert Lewandowski

A long list of immense strikers have starred throughout the 2010s, but arguably chief among them – Ronaldo aside – is Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski. Having moved from Borussia Dortmund, whom he helped turn into Champions League contenders, the Poland international has developed into a remarkable all-round striker. In 307 Bundesliga games he has 221 goals from 1,163 attempts, meaning he scores every 5.2 shots – by contrast, Ronaldo needs 6.4 efforts per goal. Although he is yet to win Europe's elite club competition, there is little doubt the Pole appears to be getting better with age having already notched 19 league goals this term, just three short of his total for 2018-19.

Cristiano Ronaldo

In the somewhat tiresome 'Ronaldo or Messi' debate about which superstar is "better", the former can at least point to his international successes with Portugal as something that sets him apart, having lifted Euro 2016 and the 2018-19 Nations League. That is just the tip of the iceberg for his brilliance in the 2010s, however. Across spells with Real Madrid and Juventus, Ronaldo has scored 335 league goals and laid on 95 assists. With Los Blancos he helped inspire four Champions League successes, also winning a couple of LaLiga titles. What a privilege it has been to see Ronaldo and Messi in the same era.

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