Lionel Messi is a Paris Saint-Germain player. It may still seem a bit hard to take in, particularly as such a scenario looked so unlikely as recently as last week, the deal is complete.

Messi has signed a two-year deal at the Parc des Princes and will form probably the most-feared front three in world football alongside Kylian Mbappe and his old friend Neymar.

Barcelona's dire financial situation meant they could not bring their greatest ever player back under LaLiga's salary restrictions.

Messi's contract expired at the end of June and, although Barca president Joan Laporta confirmed the two parties had reached an agreement, the numbers made a deal impossible. The Blaugrana chief confirmed at a monumental press conference that the deal to keep the talismanic forward at Camp Nou was dead.

Step forward PSG. Just as they gutted Barca four years ago when triggering Neymar's release clause to leave them utterly helpless, the Parisians have swooped in again and wasted no time about it. A matter of hours had passed between Laporta's news conference and the emergence of widespread reports suggesting Paris beckoned.

What Messi goes on to achieve in France remains to be seen, but using Opta data, Stats Perform looks at some of the incredible feats that have make him such a colossal signing for PSG.

 

Messi played 778 games for Barcelona in all competitions, scoring 672 goals and providing 265 assists across those games. That amounts to 937 goal involvements during his Barca career, which began as a 17-year-old.

Previously a one-club man, his first appearance for Barcelona came under Frank Rijkaard against Espanyol in October 2004, while his first goal arrived seven months later against Albacete at Camp Nou from a Ronaldinho assist.

Brazil great Ronaldinho was the last Barcelona player to wear the famed number 10 before Messi took that shirt in 2008 and made it his own.

But Ronaldinho does not feature among the top assisters for Messi goals, a list that is led by Luis Suarez (47). Dani Alves assisted 42 of the attacker's goals and third is Andres Iniesta with 37, six more than fellow legendary midfielder Xavi.

 

Messi played under eight different coaches during his time with Barcelona. Of those, he featured most often (219 appearances) and scored the most goals (211) during Pep Guardiola's tenure.

However, the 60 goals Messi scored in 50 games under the late Tito Vilanova – an average of 1.20 goals per match – was his best goals-per-game return with a single coach.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Messi's lowest average goals-per-game ratio was during the Rijkaard era at the start of his career (0.38), followed by the 0.63 managed under Quique Setien between January and August 2020.

 

Messi's most prolific season as a Barcelona player was in 2011-12 when scoring a remarkable 73 goals in all competitions and providing a further 28 assists, setting a personal record in both categories.

Indeed, the forward netted 79 goals for his club across the calendar year in 2012, which is a record amount by a single player. His next most prolific year was 2010 when registering 58 times.

In more recent years, Messi managed 51 goals in 2016, 50 goals in 2017, 47 goals in 2018, 45 goals in 2019 and 26 goals in 2020 – a steady decline that he had already rectified this year, having scored 28 times in the first half of 2021.

He is the only player to have scored 10 or more goals in LaLiga in 15 consecutive seasons.

 

Messi's 672 goals for Barcelona were scored against 82 different teams. Sevilla were his favourite opponent, finding the net against them 38 times in 43 appearances.

Atletico Madrid were next on that particular list, with Messi bagging 32 goals in that fixture, followed by Valencia (31), Athletic Bilbao (29) and bitter rivals Real Madrid (26), making him the leading all-time scorer in El Clasico.

In terms of individual goalkeepers, Diego Alves was Messi's most-frequent victim, the former Almeria and Valencia man having conceded 21 goals against the Argentina superstar.

Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas was joint-third with 17 goals against, one less than the 18 Messi put past Gorka Iraizoz.

 

Messi is of course synonymous with Camp Nou, a ground where he has scored 394 goals in 381 games at an average of 1.03 per match. Madrid fans will be particularly sick of him as he has scored 15 times in 22 games at the Santiago Bernabeu – his second favourite venue.

That is followed by Vicente Calderon, Atletico's old home (14 goals in 20 appearances). Deportivo La Coruna's Riazor (13 in eight) and Sevilla's Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan (13 in 18) complete the top five.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Messi has played more times at Bayern Munich's Allianz Arena (three) without scoring than at any other stadium for Barcelona. He is also without a goal in two trips to English grounds Anfield and Old Trafford.

 

Messi's other notable records and achievements

– Messi is the all-time LaLiga top scorer with 474 goals and is the second-highest scorer ever in Europe's top five leagues behind Cristiano Ronaldo (476).

– He scored in 21 consecutive LaLiga games between November 2012 and May 2013, a record for a player in the competition's history.

– The Newell's Old Boys product is one of only two players to reach 100 goals in Champions League history (120), alongside Cristiano Ronaldo (134).

– Messi was the first player to score five goals in a Champions League match, doing so against Bayer Leverkusen in March 2012 at Camp Nou.

– The Argentina forward is one of six players to score more than 50 goals in Copa del Rey's history and the only one to score in six different finals in the tournament (Telmo Zarra scored in five).

One of the best teams in Europe just got better – Lionel Messi has signed for Paris Saint-Germain.

Following his shock exit from Barcelona as a free agent, Messi becomes the Ligue 1 giants' fifth signing of the transfer window, joining the superstars Mauricio Pochettino already had at his disposal.

After coming so close in recent seasons, PSG will hope this move can bring an end to their wait for a first Champions League triumph.

But how will all these players fit in the same XI? Stats Perform attempts to work that out...

 

GK: Gianluigi Donnarumma

Keylor Navas has been one of Europe's outstanding goalkeepers in recent seasons, ranking third for goals prevented (8.1, using expected goals on target data) in the top five leagues in 2020-21. But Donnarumma – the Player of the Tournament at Euro 2020 – did not leave boyhood club Milan just to sit on the bench and, at 22, represents the long-term option.

RB: Achraf Hakimi

Alessandro Florenzi headed back to Roma at the end of his loan, but PSG identified just about the best replacement on the market. Over the previous two seasons, Robin Gosens (34) was the only defender with more goal involvements than Hakimi (30).

CB: Marquinhos

PSG won 72.5 per cent of the games Marquinhos played last season in all competitions, conceding 0.7 goals on average. Those numbers altered significantly in his absence, with a winning percentage of 52.9 while shipping 1.1 goals per game. Even with the club's superstar signings, their captain remains one of the key men.

CB: Sergio Ramos

Ramos, another freebie, may no longer be able to play every game – he appeared only 15 times in LaLiga for Real Madrid last term – but PSG better hope he is there for the big ones. Over the previous three seasons, Madrid won 10 of the 15 Champions League games Ramos featured in and only four of the 13 he missed.

LB: Abdou Diallo

This is perhaps the one position on the pitch where PSG lack a genuine world-class option. Even if Pochettino were to bring in Presnel Kimpembe as a third centre-back, there is no outstanding left-sided wing-back. Diallo, a defensive full-back in an attacking team, gets the nod by virtue of starting the season fit and ahead of Layvin Kurzawa in the pecking order.

CM: Marco Verratti

At the end of a season in which Verratti was restricted to only 16 Ligue 1 starts, Euro 2020 provided a reminder of his talents. The Italy midfielder created a tournament-leading 14 chances across just five games while still completing 93.1 per cent of his 417 passes. Now imagine those passes are being played to Messi...

CM: Leandro Paredes

Paredes, Messi's international colleague, also made just 16 league starts for PSG last term, but he was still trusted for the big occasions in the Champions League. That included a dominant display against a Barca midfield of Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong and Pedri, as Paredes played the second most passes on the pitch (73) and assisted one of four PSG goals.

CM: Georginio Wijnaldum

Angel Di Maria is very unfortunate to miss out on this XI and undoubtedly still has a part to play, but Wijnaldum perhaps offers a better balance in a midfield three with the attacking talent ahead of him. Across his Liverpool Premier League career, Wijnaldum led all Reds midfielders in recoveries (951) and duels won (645) and ranked second in interceptions (115) and third in tackles (181).

RW: Lionel Messi

Of course, Messi can play across the front three, but starting from the right – with Hakimi in the Dani Alves role outside him – will bring back memories of Barca teams of old. It is the role he occupied in 2014-15, forming part of perhaps the Blaugrana's most exciting attacking trio.

CF: Kylian Mbappe

Mbappe has the Luis Suarez role, providing the direct runs in behind that create space in front of the defence for Messi and Co. Last season's 53 goal involvements did not quite match the forward's career high of 54 in 2018-19, but Mbappe can expect to break all sorts of records in this thrillingly creative line-up this term.

LW: Neymar

Still the world's most expensive player if no longer the biggest name in his own dressing room, Neymar was the third member of that 2014-15 front three. Having decided to step out of Messi's shadow, the Brazil superstar wanted his old friend back. During their four years together at Barca, Neymar assisted Messi 22 times, while the six-time Ballon d'Or winner returned the favour on 20 occasions.

Leeds United view Jack Grealish's transfer as a warning sign as they look to keep Kalvin Phillips at Elland Road, according to Leeds' chief executive Angus Kinnear.

Grealish made Premier League history when he joined Manchester City last week for a record-breaking fee, Aston Villa unable to keep their captain with a release clause triggered by the reigning champions.

But Leeds remain adamant they will not suffer a similar fate with their key asset Phillips, who impressed in his debut Premier League campaign and subsequently for England at Euro 2020.

"The lure of Champions League and playing for a team that's going to win trophies turned the player's [Jack Grealish] head," Kinnear told the Square Ball podcast.

"I know Aston Villa didn't have to sell him, even at that value, and they wanted to keep him, but when the player wants to go, you have a problem.

"Our job is making sure all the players feel wanted and valued and they can grow at Leeds United. Kalvin is a long-term pillar for the club. We'll work with him and his representatives to make sure he feels valued and motivated and wants to be at Leeds United."

Phillips starred for Leeds on their return to the Premier League, ranking fifth at the club for duels won and fourth for recoveries last term, while his 1189 passes also placed him fifth – despite missing nine top-flight fixtures.

However, it was at Euro 2020 where he hit the headlines, partnering with Declan Rice in midfield to form a remarkable pairing as England reached their first major final in 55 years.

The 25-year-old recovered possession a team-high 45 times, while only three England players completed more than his 293 successful passes.

Phillips was the subject of transfer interest from Grealish's former club in 2019, prompting him to sign a new five-year deal, but Kinnear insisted Leeds will not be rushed into offering further improved terms.

"At the moment he's got three years on his contract," the chief executive said. "It's a healthy contract and we don't need to rush into any of these things. But we defend interest in our players very vigorously in the market place.

"This summer we've received a number of firm expressions of interest and some offers for players that would be perceived as our marquee talent.

"None of them have been entertained, no discussions or negotiations have taken place."

Marcus Rashford revealed he is "a little sore" but "feeling good" after undergoing shoulder surgery that will see him miss the start of the 2021-22 season.

Manchester United confirmed Rashford would have to undergo an operation to resolve a longstanding issue with his left shoulder, having played through the pain for much of the previous campaign.

The England international – who was part of Gareth Southgate's squad for Euro 2020 – had the procedure last Friday. While his club have not made it clear how long he will be out, reports have suggested it could be a 12-week recovery process.

However, Rashford appeared in good spirits on Tuesday as he provided a fitness update on Twitter.

"Thank you for all the well wishes. I had my surgery on Friday morning and everything went very well," he wrote to accompany a picture of him relaxing in a chair with his feet up.

"A little sore but other than that I'm feeling good. Hope you're all having a great day!"

United open their Premier League campaign with a home game against Leeds United on Saturday.

Rashford scored 11 goals in the competition last term, helping Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's squad finish second to Manchester City. He also scored twice as the Red Devils made the Europa League final, albeit they missed out on securing the trophy when losing to Villarreal on penalties.

There was also shoot-out disappointment for the 23-year-old with his country in Euro 2020 too, Rashford one of three England players to miss in the Wembley final defeat to Italy.

Since Solskjaer's first match in charge in December 2018, Victor Lindelof (10,289 minutes) is the only player to feature more regularly for the Red Devils than Rashford (9,671 minutes) across all competitions.

Still, United are not short of attacking options in his absence. Rashford's international colleague Jadon Sancho has arrived in the close-season, with the former Borussia Dortmund forward undergoing his first training session with the United squad on Monday.

Inter and Radja Nainggolan have reached a mutual agreement to terminate the Belgium midfielder's contract, the club announced on Tuesday.

Nainggolan joined Inter from Roma in a swap deal worth £33 million (€38m), with Davide Santon and Nicolo Zaniolo moving to the Italian capital in 2018.

However, the 33-year-old has spent the last two campaigns on loan at Cagliari and Inter have finally come to an agreement to part ways with Nainggolan.

A short statement on the club's official website said: "FC Internazionale Milano announces that it has reached an agreement with the player Radja Nainggolan for the termination of the contract with the club."

The former Roma man managed just 33 Serie A appearances for the Nerazzurri, scoring six times before his two loans at Cagliari, where he netted one more in 48 appearances.

Nainggolan, who is expected to move to Cagliari now he is free to negotiate without Inter's involvement, was a standout performer last term for the Rossoblu.

He created 23 chances, ranking fifth among Cagliari players despite only featuring 22 times, while his 141 recoveries also placed him in the same position.

Lionel Messi's imminent switch to Paris Saint-Germain has not had an impact on Cristiano Ronaldo's future with Juventus, according to team-mate Leonardo Bonucci.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi is expected to complete a move to PSG this week after bringing an end to his 21-year association with Barcelona.

French giants PSG have previously been linked with fellow superstar forward Ronaldo, who is now into the final 12 months of his contract with Juve.

With any path to the Parc des Princes now effectively being cut off by Messi's arrival, Ronaldo looks set to stay in Turin for at least the next year.

However, Bonucci insists the shock transfer involving Messi has had no bearing on where Ronaldo will play his football this coming season.

"I think that Cristiano would have stayed even if Messi had not gone to PSG," the Juve defender told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"For us, it's an added value and I'm sure that this year, more than in past years, he will help us reach all of our goals."

 

Since Ronaldo joined Juventus from Real Madrid in 2018, only Robert Lewandowski (103) has scored more goals in all competitions than the Portugal forward's 73 among players in Europe's top five leagues.

Ronaldo's 83 goal involvements over this period rank fourth behind Lewandowski (121), Messi (106) and Kylian Mbappe (97).

Despite Ronaldo enjoying another prolific season in front of goal, Juve finished fourth in Serie A in 2020-21.

And Bonucci, who played a starring role in Italy's Euro 2020 triumph, is aiming to win back the title from Inter when the new season begins in a little under two weeks' time.

"We want to bring the Scudetto back home, there is no point in hiding that," he said. 

"When you play for Juventus, that has to be the objective for the season, just like having a great Champions League campaign and fighting on all fronts.

"Personally, though, my goal is to continue my form from the Euros, where I played a major role, and do that again with Juventus."

Barcelona defender Oscar Mingueza is set to miss the start of the 2021-22 LaLiga campaign due to an injury sustained on Olympics duty with Spain.

The 22-year-old featured three times for beaten finalists Spain in Tokyo, including in their quarter-final win against Ivory Coast when damaging his hamstring.

Mingueza underwent a scan at Barcelona's medical centre on Tuesday and it was confirmed he is set for a short spell on the sidelines.

Barcelona did not provide a timeframe for Mingueza's recovery, but reports from Spain suggest that he is facing around two weeks out.

The Barca academy product made 39 appearances at club level last season, 27 of those coming in LaLiga as the Catalan giants finished behind Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

Mingueza won more tackles per 90 minutes (1.56) than any Barcelona player in the league in 2020-21.

It is the latest blow for Ronald Koeman, who is having to deal with the unexpected departure of Lionel Messi and Monday's news that new striker Sergio Aguero will be out for 10 weeks with a calf injury.

Barcelona begin the post-Messi era with a home match against Real Sociedad on Sunday, before travelling to Athletic Bilbao the following weekend.

 

John Stones has backed "fearless" Jack Grealish to make an immediate impact at Manchester City following his arrival from Aston Villa for a British-record £100million fee.

England international Grealish was confirmed as a City player last week and made his debut as a second-half substitute in Sunday's 1-0 Community Shield defeat to Leicester City.

The 25-year-old played 25 minutes in that annual curtain-raising fixture, managing 25 touches of the ball and completing 15 of his 16 passes during his time on the pitch.

He is in contention to start City's opening Premier League fixture against Tottenham next Sunday and Stones is excited by what his international team-mate will bring to the side.

"Jack's an incredible footballer. A raw talent. I think you can see he is a bit fearless in how he plays and very direct," Stones told City's official website.

"We only saw a little bit of him in the Euros, but when he came on everyone was excited to see him and he came on and gave some vital assists at key moments.

"He is a big game player. An incredible person as well. He is coming into one of the best dressing rooms in the world non-football wise, with the characters we have here and he will fit in straight away.

"I am sure he will be looking forward to more success here and hopefully winning some silverware."

Stones was speaking after signing a new long-term contract at the Etihad Stadium that keeps him tied down to City until June 2026.

Former Everton defender Stones has spent the past five seasons with City and played an integral part in last term's Premier League and EFL Cup double.

City kept 19 clean sheets across the centre-back's 35 appearances in 2020-21 and conceded only 16 times with him on the field.

The 27-year-old's 24 blocks in 2020-21 were his most in a single season at City, while 32 tackles and 146 recoveries were above his average numbers over the past five seasons.

It marked quite the turnaround for Stones, who struggled for form and fitness during 2019-20 and came close to leaving the club.

And the Barnsley academy product has thanked Pep Guardiola and City's coaching staff for the faith shown in him.

"I think everyone, coaching staff, all the other staff that are here, from day one made me feel so welcome," Stones said.

"Everyone plays a major part in our success as players. I appreciate what everyone does for me here as a person.

"It is hard to say, but they have had a big impact on me and it was an easy decision for me to put pen to paper again. I feel like this is home and I absolutely love the place."

Moeen Ali has been added to England's squad for the second Test against India, which starts at Lord's on Thursday.

The hosts escaped with a draw in last week's opener at Trent Bridge, thanks to rain on the final day and the stunning exploits of captain Joe Root – whose 64 and 109 made him the only England player to pass 50 in either innings.

Off-spinning all-rounder Moeen last featured at Test level against India in February, with his previous home outing coming in the 2019 Ashes.

He gives Root and coach Chris Silverwood the option of offering greater balance to the bowling attack while also bolstering that flimsy batting card.

England named a four-man, all-seam attack in Ben Stokes' absence last time out, despite the presence of off-spinner Dom Bess and slow left-armer Jack Leach in a sizeable squad that Moeen's inclusion now swells to 18.

The 34-year-old has been captaining Birmingham Phoenix in the inaugural Hundred and struck 59 off 28 balls in a dominant 93-run win over Welsh Fire on Monday.

He was in a similarly belligerent mood when smashing an 18-ball 43 in a losing cause in Chennai earlier this year, although the most recent of his five Test centuries came in December 2016.

 

That was also against India and it is likely Moeen's success with the ball against Virat Kohli's men is the driving factor in his recall. In 13 Tests against England's current opponents, he has 49 wickets at an average of 31.91.

If he plays at Lord's, Moeen is unlikely to be the only change. Haseeb Hameed is in contention to step into a misfiring top order, with Zak Crawley the leading candidate to make way.

Ollie Pope missed the opening Test due to a thigh injury and could return, while fast bowler Mark Wood might come into the reckoning after Sam Curran and Stuart Broad took one wicket between them at Trent Bridge.

 

England squad: Joe Root (captain), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Haseeb Hameed, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Dom Sibley, Mark Wood.

England defender John Stones has signed a new five-year contract at Manchester City, committing him to the Premier League champions until June 2026.

Stones joined City from Everton in 2016 for £47.5million, becoming one of Pep Guardiola's first major signings at the Etihad Stadium.

It has not always been plain sailing for the 27-year-old, however, and struggles for form and fitness during 2019-20 saw him fall out of the reckoning at international level, while Guardiola conceded he could leave the club.

Had Eric Garcia not opted to run his contract down in order to join Barcelona on a free transfer, that might well have been the case, but Stones stayed to forge an impressive partnership with new arrival Ruben Dias in central defence as City claimed their third Premier League title in four seasons.

Guardiola's men also lifted a fourth consecutive EFL Cup – the Wembley winner against Tottenham scored by Aymeric Laporte, who was dislodged as a first-choice selection by Stones during the 2020-21 campaign – and the Barnsley-born centre-back has won eight major honours overall during his five seasons in Manchester.

Stones' form earned a recall from England boss Gareth Southgate and he was an ever-present as the Three Lions plotted a path to the final of Euro 2020.

"I couldn't be happier. I love being part of this squad. There are so many quality players here and I know we can continue winning trophies, which is my main focus," Stones said, before hailing Guardiola's influence upon his development.

"Working with the manager is a dream. He has taught me so much about the game and I feel like I learn something new every single day.

"The success we've had in the last four years has been incredible. To be a part of it has been a dream come true and I just want to continue winning.

"This is the best place for me to play my football and fulfil my ambitions."

City's director of football Txiki Begiristain paid tribute to "an exceptional footballer and a fantastic defender".

"We knew when we signed him that we were getting a talented centre-back, but he has really matured in his five years here and, as we saw last season, is at the top of his game right now," he said.

"John has been an important part of our recent success and we believe he can continue to help us achieve our goals, so for him to commit his best years to us is a major boost for the club."

England defender John Stones has signed a new five-year contract at Manchester City, committing him to the Premier League champions until June 2026.

Eloy Jimenez homered twice again while Lucas Giolito starred on the mound as the Chicago White Sox won 11-1 over the Minnesota Twins in MLB on Monday.

The White Sox claimed their fourth consecutive win, following up their series sweep over the Chicago Cubs, with a one-sided display.

Tim Anderson hit a leadoff home run to start the dominance, before Jimenez claimed center stage.

Jimenez hit a straight projected 454-foot two-run homer to open up a 3-0 first innings lead.

At the top of the second inning, Jimenez went high down the line into the corner for a three-run homer, stretching the White Sox lead to 7-0.

Jimenez had homered twice in Sunday's win over the Cubs and now has five home runs in his 10 appearances this season.

Giolito had eight strikeouts across eight innings, with only two hits and without any walks.

 

Yankees edges Royals in extras

The New York Yankees scored three runs in the 11th inning to win 8-6 over the Kansas City Royals as they made it eight wins from their past 10.

DJ Mahieu's go-ahead RBI double, which drove home Joey Gallo, followed by a two score on Brett Gardner's single which hopped into short-stop Nicky Lopez's jaw, opened up an 8-5 lead in the 11th before Wandy Peralta closed it out.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs-Milwaukee Brewers game was postponed and rescheduled as part of a Tuesday double-header due to inclement weather.

 

Castillo loses his touch

Luis Castillo was pulled in the fourth inning as the Cleveland Indians opened up an 8-0 lead in their 9-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds. May 29 was the last time Castillo had given up four or more runs in a game, while he had an ERA of 1.91 since June 1.

 

Hosmer reaches 100th hit

In Fernando Tatis Jr's absence, Eric Hosmer homered in the second inning and added an RBI double in the eighth as the San Diego Padres won 8-3 at the Miami Marlins. Hosmer brought up his 100th hit of the season, while he also has 52 RBI. Joe Musgrove was outstanding with eight strikeouts too.

 

Monday's results 

Cleveland Indians 9-3 Cincinnati Reds
Chicago White Sox 11-1 Minnesota Twins 
New York Yankees 8-6 Kansas City Royals
San Diego Padres 8-3 Miami Marlins
Chicago Cubs - Milwaukee Brewers (postponed)

 

Rays at Red Sox

The top two in the American League East meet when the in-form Tampa Bay Rays (68-44) travel to the Boston Red Sox (65-49), who have won two of their past 10 games.

Luka Doncic has become the first player to be handed a supermax rookie extension worth $207million, tying him to the Dallas Mavericks for a further five years.

Doncic qualifies for the landmark deal having already twice been named to the All-NBA First Team.

Bill Duffy, Doncic's agent, told ESPN of the agreement on Monday, while the player released a statement through the same publication.

"Today is a dream come true," he said. "The game of basketball has given me so much and has taken me to so many amazing places.

"I am humbled and excited to remain in Dallas as part of the Mavericks and appreciate the support of my fans."

Doncic, who is set to hold a news conference in Slovenia on Tuesday, added he would be expanding The Luka Doncic Foundation.

The 22-year-old is in Slovenia having led his country to the semi-finals of the men's basketball tournament at the Tokyo Olympics.

The European champions were Games debutants but came within a clutch Nicolas Batum block of reaching the gold medal game.

Doncic led the competition in a number of categories across the board, including points (143), assists (57) and minutes played (196).

His triple-double against France in the last four was the third in Games history, but the point forward suffered the first defeat of his international career and then lost again to Australia in the bronze medal game.

Focus will now return to the NBA, where Doncic will hope his individual excellence can inspire improved results for the Mavs.

Dallas have not won a playoff series since they were champions 10 years ago, despite Doncic's outstanding displays taking the Los Angeles Clippers to six and then seven games in the past two seasons.

Doncic has scored 33.5 points per game across those two postseason series – no player in NBA history has played at least 13 playoff games and averaged more.

Saquon Barkley has returned to practice for the first time since his anterior cruciate ligament tear but still does not know if he will make the New York Giants' 2021 opener.

Barkley has been out of action since sustaining the knee injury in the Week 2 defeat to the Chicago Bears last year.

The second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft had established himself as one of the league's elite dual-threat running backs prior to that setback.

In his rookie season, Barkley ranked second for carries (261) and rushing yards (1,307) and was also second for catches among players at his position (91).

That amounted to 15 total touchdowns, trailing only Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara for running backs.

Year two was slightly slower but Barkley still became the first Giant to pass 1,000 rushing yards in each of his first two seasons and was looking forward to a big 2020 when he went down against the Bears.

It has been a long road back for the Bronx-born star, but he was finally fit to come off the physically unable to perform list and take part in practice on Monday before fielding questions.

"I don't know," Barkley said with a smile when asked if he could face the Denver Broncos in Week 1.

"I'm not even thinking about that. I just wanted to be able to get out there and practice and just play football with my team-mates again and I was fortunate enough for that day to be today.

"My mindset is definitely hopeful. It's definitely better being able to practice now than later on in camp."

Head coach Joe Judge said of his returning star: "We're going to be patient with him.

"We're going to watch how he responds to each situation. When the doctor says he's green-lighted to go out there and do something, he will."

Russell Wilson wants the Seattle Seahawks to quickly work out a solution to get left tackle Duane Brown back on the field.

Brown has only a single year remaining on his existing contract, which will count for $13.35million against the cap in 2021.

The veteran lineman is keen for an extension, though, and he has the backing of superstar quarterback Wilson.

"Not having Duane Brown out there is a pretty significant deal because I think he's one of the best left tackles in the game, there's no arguing it," Wilson said.

"I think he's as good as it gets. There's nobody more athletic, more talented than he is."

Brown turns 36 this month, but the QB added: "Age is just a number. He looks like he's 28, 30 out there. He's really exceptional.

"He's so smart and physical, understands the game, and I think people fear him, to be honest with you, when they're rushing him and playing against him.

"So we definitely want to be able to get him back out there. We've got to figure that out because we need Duane Brown."

The issue and Wilson's comments should be of particular concern to the Seahawks, who for a time looked as though they might enter this year without the eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback.

Wilson this offseason bemoaned "getting hit too much", prompting speculation after an impressive 2020 went off the rails fast.

The 32-year-old, who had appeared on course for an MVP year, suffered as he was sacked 47 times for 301 yards, ranking third and second in the league respectively.

It is a common issue for Wilson, who has lost more sack yards (975) over the past three seasons than any other QB.

However, of those 146 sacks, Brown has allowed just six, showing why Wilson is desperate not to disrupt the one position that is performing in front of him.

Wilson believes Brown can continue to perform well into his thirties, too.

"I think he's got several more years to play," Wilson said. "I think he can definitely do it. I don't think there's anybody more athletic than him. You see what he can do.

"And he's also our leader. He's a guy who really leads the offensive line and, really, he commands the offensive line and really can set the tone."

Any regression in 2020 was minimal, as Brown allowed only a single sack for a second successive year and had just one penalty.

The former Houston Texans tackle allowed four adjusted sacks – up from one – but that still accounted for a mere 0.9 per cent of his 444 pass protection snaps, ranking 12th in the league among left tackles. His 0.4 per cent of 250 snaps had ranked fourth a year earlier.

There was no change, meanwhile, in the pressures Brown allowed, staying at 5.2 per cent – sixth in the NFL in 2020 (23 pressures allowed) and tied-second in 2021 (13).

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