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Proper Football’s 2021 Premier League Draft

The 2021 NFL Draft took place last week in Cleveland, Ohio and the annual event has gained a cult-like following in the United States. 

As always, the draft is highlighted by the first round, where 32 of the best college players heard their names called and will soon live out their dreams of playing in the NFL.

But what if the Premier League had a draft? 

It’d be interesting to see what would happen if the 20 top-flight English clubs had their chance to call the names of the best young players in the game, right?

The format for this draft would be just like the NFL Draft, where the worst team receives the top pick and then each team follows based on record. 

The biggest difference would be there’s no relegation in this draft, so Sheffield United, West Bromwich Albion, and Fulham are safe for this exercise and won’t be headed for the Championship.

All 20 teams in this current 2020/21 season will have first round picks that could make or break them heading into the 2021-22 season. 

The only caveat in this draft is that all players selected must be 23 years old or younger, and cannot currently be in the Premier League. 

Without further ado, the draft is underway. Sheffield United is now on the clock.

1.Sheffield United – Erling Haaland
Alexandre Simoes / Contributor

With the 1st pick in the inaugural EPL Draft, Sheffield United selects striker Eerling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.

The Norwegian has wreaked havoc offensively in his early career, and he may even have the ability to make Sheffield United one of England’s best squads.

2. West Bromwich Albion – Kylian Mbappe
Alexander Scheuber – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

The Baggies had their decision made for them after the Blades chose Haaland. Mbappe is one year older than his Norwegian counterpart, so it’s splitting hairs between two generational talents 

The Word Cup winner has skyrocketed to the top of football, and even outplayed Neymar to become the “Golden Boy” of Paris. It’s an easy No. 2 pick for the Baggies.

3. Fulham – João Félix
Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Another goal-scorer taken. There’s a significant drop in media hype after the first two selections, but the Portuguese forward is a Swiss-Army knife with all the makings of an elite player. 

It wouldn’t come as a shock to see him in the discussion as the best player in the world in a few years if his goal-scoring ability continues in the Premier League.

4. Brighton & Hove Albion – Weston McKennie
Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Brighton need a game changer in the middle of the park, and few young players have the game-changing qualities that Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie possesses. 

The man from Little Elm, Texas, has made quite a journey in professional football. He fit in seamlessly at Juventus, and would be the main building block for a Brighton side that barely escaped being in the bottom three.

5. Newcastle United – Jude Bellingham
Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

No player’s stock has risen as much as this 17 year old. Bellingham made his way from Birmingham to Dortmund back in July 2020, and has been improving ever since.

He has a strong chance at getting an opportunity to play for England in the Euros this summer.

6. Southampton – Alphonso Davies
Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

The highest drafted Canadian football player in the NFL Draft was Tony Mandarich, who was drafted second overall in the 1989 NFL Draft. 

The Canadian international and Bayern outside back becomes the highest drafted Canadian at the sixth spot for the Saints.  Davies gives the Saints something they have none of at the moment; excitement from the back. 

Southampton’s strategy the entire year has been to get the ball to Danny Ings, but they didn’t have any stars to give him the ball. Now they do with Davies in the outside back position.

7. Burnley – Jadon Sancho
Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Had this draft taken place 2 years ago, many would’ve had Sancho as the #1 overall pick. The British forward has had his ups and downs at Dortmund, but his upside is out of this world. 

Burnley are a stout defensive team. They don’t make too many mistakes, but they lack a true star upfront. Sancho would bear a heavy burden of the offense, but he’s the type of player who would relish in the opportunity for Burnley.

8. Crystal Palace – Giovanni Reyna
Alexandre Simoes/Borussia Dortmund via Getty Images

Another young American is taken off the board (not a shocking trend). Reyna is a football purebred, and his midfield creativity paired with Wilfried Zaha’s finishing ability would make Palace a treat to watch. 

If Mel Kiper Jr. were a soccer draft analyst, he’d describe Reyna as “low risk, average ceiling”. Meaning he wouldn’t be a bust in the Palace midfield, but he may not be enough to get the Eagles out of the bottom-half of the table.

9. Wolverhampton Wanderers – Ansu Fati
Urbanandsport /NurPhoto via Getty Images

Knee injuries at 18 aren’t great, but this is one of the most promising players in the world. 

We’ve seen glimpses of brilliance at Barca, and if he stays healthy we could be witnessing the beginnings of a superstar. Wolves add more upfront firepower to a squad that has veteran Raul Jimenez and fellow teenager Fabio Silva.

10. Aston Villa – Pedri
Aitor Alcalde Colomer/Getty Images

Villa drafted based on the best available player. They disregarded a need for a true #9, and took Pedri, a center midfielder from Barcelona. 

Call me crazy, but Pedri and Jack Grealish would be a top 3 midfield duo in the Premier League. Perhaps more of a long-term project for Villa, but a great pick, nonetheless.

11. Arsenal – Gianluigi Donnarumma
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The first goalkeeper has been taken off the board by a side that desperately needs one. Bernd Leno has been a liability between the ivory panel for the Gunners. Donnarumma would be a long term solution to their goalkeeping dilemma. 

The Italian national team keeper has been at AC Milan since he was 16, so it’ll be interesting to see how the shot-stopper fares in England.

12. Leeds United – Sergino Dest
Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The always attacking Leeds were slated to draft another forward, but seeing Dest, a defender who loves to get forward, still on the board made the Whites become another EPL team to draft an American born player. 

Dest will slide into this Leeds starting XI with ease. His uptempo style of play will be a great asset to manager Marcelo Bielsa, who loves to press forward with little concern for defense on the back end.

13. Everton – Daryl Dike
Isaac Parkin/PA Images via Getty Images

What makes this pick exciting, is that it could actually happen soon. The former University of Virginia Cavalier has shown his potential after moving from the MLS to Barnsley in the Championship. Everton is hoping he’ll become their next Romelu Lukkaku.

14. Liverpool – Dayot Upamecano
Focke Strangmann – Pool/Getty Images

Liverpool desperately need a defender. With injuries to Virgil Van Dyke, Joe Gomez, and Joel Matip, it’s vital that Liverpool take a strong defender in the first round.

Bringing in the former Red Bull Leipzig would be a huge help to the red half of Merseyside.

15. Tottenham – Ryan Gravenberch
Angelo Blankespoor/Soccrates/Getty Image

The 18 year old Dutch midfielder has been stylistically compared to Paul Pogba and is a menacing 6’3”. 

A player with that kind of ability and athleticism would be a nice addition to a Spurs midfield looking to give Kane and Son additional offensive help.

16. West Ham United – Florian Wirtz
Sascha Steinbach – Pool/Getty Images

The Hammers are drafting for need with this pick. The 18 year old Leverkusen product will serve as a needed change of pace from a productive, but aging, Michail Antonio.

Wirtz celebrated his 18th birthday on Monday, and he can also celebrate getting drafted by a team on the rise. Wirtz would be an immediate first team selection, and wouldn’t have to deal with the pressure of being the point man at one of the bigger British clubs.

17. Chelsea – Lautaro Martinez
Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

The Blues aren’t taking chances with a German striker this go-around. Martinez isn’t the sexiest name on this list, but his track record of scoring at Inter spoke for itself.

The 23 year-old Argentine netted 35 goals in 96 appearances for Milan, and that pace should continue in a deep Chelsea team that is in the Champions League Final.

18. Leicester City – Eduardo Camavinga
John Berry/Getty Images

Every draft has top ranked players slip late in the first round, and Eduardo Camavinga is this year’s faller. 

It’s nothing to do with his play, others just got more spotlight from the media. Leicester receives an absolute steal of a pick late in the draft. 

The link up play with Vardy, Maddison, and Camavinga would terrorize EPL defenses.

19. Manchester United – Matthijs de Ligt
Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Unfortunately for United fans, they can’t draft a new owner with the 19th pick. If this draft happened a month or two ago, United fans would’ve been begging for a defender. The 21 year old Dutchman fills that void in the back. 

De Ligt would replace Phil Jones who is set to turn 30 next year, and would join Harry Maguire at the heart of the United back line.

20. Manchester City – Myron Boadu
ANP Sport via Getty Images

Is this a sign of Pep looking to find a true #9? Perhaps. 

The 20 year old Dutchman is currently with AZ Alkmaar, but it wouldn’t stun many to see him on a team like City in the next few years. The striker has scored 29 goals in 59 matches, and that form should sustain if he’s surrounded by the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden. 

Comment below with draft grades, and let me know who you think got snubbed being a 1st round pick. Also chime in if you’d want to see the Premier League implement a draft.

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Sports Strength

2021 Champions League Breakdown: Chelsea Hosts Real Madrid

Manchester City punched its ticket into the UEFA Champions League final Tuesday for the first time in club history, and now Chelsea and Real Madrid will battle it out to decide which side will face Pep Guardiola’s crew later this month.

These two clubs are no stranger to the latter stages of the Champions League, particularly Madrid, who have won the competition a record 13 times. That’s six more than any other club.

Zinedine Zidane’s group have captured four of the last seven UCL titles, most recently three years ago when Madrid knocked off Premier League side Liverpool in the final.

Interestingly enough, a Premier League side has only beaten a Spanish club in the final once in the competition’s history. Liverpool did it in 1980/81 by defeating Real Madrid in the final, but Man City will have to wait to see whether they can try to be the second team to accomplish the feat or if they’ll be in store for an all-Premier League tie.

Thomas Tuchel’s men have rallied all season after the sacking of Frank Lampard so in a way it’s fitting they’ve come this far under the German manager’s tutelage. After earning a positive result in Spain last week, Chelsea’s away goal would have them through to the final if Wednesday’s match ends scoreless.

Let’s take a closer look at Chelsea and Real Madrid as they prepare for their semi final matchup.

CHELSEA VS. REAL MADRID

TOP GOALSCORERS (UCL)

Chelsea: Olivier Giroud – 6

Real Madrid: Karim Benzema – 6

KEY INJURIES/SUSPENSIONS

Chelsea: Mateo Kovacic (thigh)

Real Madrid: Dani Carvajal (hamstring), Lucas Vasquez (knee), Raphael Varane (abductor)

HISTORY

Real Madrid and Chelsea surprisingly haven’t met many times throughout their respective histories, and Wednesday marks the second time they’ve played one another in the Champions League. 

In four previous meetings, Chelsea won two and drew two more against Los Blancos, so Zinedine Zidane’s men will be looking to capture its first win against the London-based side and progress to yet another UCL final.

BREAKDOWN

Chelsea’s biggest letdown during leg 1 of the semi finals was Timo Werner’s massive miss inside the penalty area, and now the Blues will need to find a way to be more clinical in the final third on Wednesday.

Tuchel’s side will likely remain relatively unchanged with Mateo Kovacic ruled out once more with a thigh injury. 

The German manager will have to decide if he starts Werner once again up front, especially with Olivier Giroud’s success in UCL this season. Giroud leads the Blues this season in goals with six.

Madrid receives a huge boost with Sergio Ramos back in the fold defensively, so Zidane’s group will certainly benefit from their captain’s presence. 

Real’s also likely to have Eden Hazard from the start after coming on in the second half of the opening leg for the Spanish giants. Hazard will have the chance to make an impact against his former club after missing much of the season due to injury.

Prediction: 1-1 Draw (Real Madrid on PKs)

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Sports Strength

The Wrestling Classic’s Most Unforgettable Celebrity Appearances in Wrestling

Hey everyone! It’s “The Wrestling Classic” Justin here with another article for On37PM. This time I won’t be doing a traditional ranking; this one will be about some of the most memorable celebrity appearances in professional wrestling. There have been a plethora of celebrity appearances throughout the last four decades so I may forget to mention some memorable names, but I did my best to cover the ones that came to my mind first. My goal was to bring up the appearances that really made an impact or those that got physical by getting in the ring and actually competing.

Celebrity appearances like Regis Philbin, Bob Uecker, Kim Kardashian and others who just appeared for their celebrity presence to be felt on the show won’t be mentioned, along with musical artists who performed on wrestling shows but did not get physical or make a direct impact when it came to on-going storylines.

I also won’t be bringing up all the celebrities that appeared during the Raw Guest Host era that ran from 2009-2016 or the celebrities that have won the 24/7 Championship these past few years as those could both be their own lists respectively. Therefore, names like Bob Barker, Kevin Hart, Cedric the Entertainer, Betty White, The Muppets, Gronk, Rob Stone, Enes Kanter, Marshmello and many others won’t be mentioned. There will be some crossovers though, as many celebrities who appeared as Raw Guest Hosts did more in wrestling either before or after that stint. Also big names such as Steve “Mongo” McMichael, Ronda Rousey, and Cain Velasquez, who made their name outside of wrestling but ended up signing legitimate contracts with the company they chose to work for as talent won’t be mentioned either. People who made the official crossover from another career to full-time wrestling is a list of its own. Now that we got all of that out of the way, let’s go down memory lane.

Muhammad Ali
WWE

In 1976, Muhammed Ali was one the most well known boxers around the world and he was set to have an unprecedented fight against Japanese wrestling star Antonio Inoki. Ali was a reigning champion fresh off a knockout victory and Inoki was having an open challenge against champions of other martial arts to prove that wrestling was the best form of fighting. However, just weeks before the fight, he appeared at a WWWF event in the Philadelphia Arena where he confronted Gorilla Monsoon only to be picked up for an airplane spin before being dumped on the mat. He then went to have this controversial fight with Antonio Inoki in Japan where Inoki spent the entire fight on his back throwing kicks at Ali’s legs. The fight didn’t go as anyone expected, but will forever live on in infamy. Ali also appeared as a special guest referee for the main event of the inaugural Wrestlemania and was the guest of honor for the record breaking “Collision in Korea” event, headlined by Ric Flair and Antonio Inoki in North Korea.

Andy Kaufman
WWE

Andy Kaufman was a comedian and performing artist popularized by his role in the hit television series “Taxi.” He was one of the first people from show business who wanted to get involved in the world of professional wrestling in the early 80s. He started calling himself the “Intergender Wrestling Champion of the World” while having his own wrestling matches against women. Eventually he got involved in the Memphis Wrestling scene, feuding with the legendary Jerry “The King” Lawler. This was followed up by the infamous segment on “Late Night with David Letterman,” where Lawler slapped Kaufman out of his chair, leading the actor to go on a furious tirade, which created a buzz in both the wrestling and entertainment world. It really seemed as if the Letterman segment was an authentic non-scripted moment, but decades later we found out that Kaufman planned the entire thing.

Cyndi Lauper
WWE

There would not be a “Rock N Wrestling” era if it wasn’t for Cyndi Lauper. Cyndi Lauper was one of the most popular pop-rock stars of the 80s. Her award-winning music video for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” featured professional wrestling’s Captain Lou Albano playing the role of her father. Cyndi’s then boyfriend and manager Dave Wolf grew up a wrestling fan and helped foster her relationship with the sport. Lauper appeared many times in the squared circle in some capacity following this music video dropping, thus creating the Rock N Wrestling connection.

Lauper played a huge role in the feud between Hulk Hogan and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, which led to the “War to Settle the Score” event that aired on MTV and concluded at the inaugural Wrestlemania. Lauper would also be in the corner of Wendi Rechter at that first Wrestlemania. Lauper wouldn’t appear again in the WWE for 27 years, but did make appearances to help promote Raw’s 1000 episode and served as celebrity guest host, where she made peace with former rival “Rowdy” Roddy Piper.

Mr. T
WWE

As the “Rock N Wrestling” era and the Hogan-Piper feud continued on, so did the trend of involving those from the entertainment world in the world of wrestling. Mr. T was the next major 80s star to get in the squared circle and the first one to be involved in a major way. Mr. T rose to fame with his roles in Rocky III as Clubber Lang and his role in the television series the “A-Team” as Sergeant BA. He entered the WWE aiding Hulk Hogan in his feud against “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, “Cowboy” Bob Orton and “Mr. Wonderful” Paul Orondorff. It all came to a head in the main event of the first ever Wrestlemania, when Hogan and Mr. T defeated Piper and Orondorff.

Mr. T didn’t get embraced by everyone in the locker room as much as celebrities today, as a lot of the wrestlers—including Roddy Piper—believed in protecting the business and that T hadn’t paid his dues like the rest of them. Regardless, Mr. T returned the following year for Wrestlemania 2 where he would box Roddy Piper. He made many more appearances in both the WWE and WCW, whether it was to make an appearance, play an enforcer role or to be inducted in the Hall of Fame where he gave an unforgettable speech about his momma.

Tiny Lister
WWE

Tiny Lister was an actor mainly remembered as “Deebo” from the movie “Friday,” who got involved in professional wrestling in 1989 after co-starring in a WWE produced film “No Holds Barred.” He had two major stints in the world of wrestling. The first run was in the WWF in 1989, when he came in as his “No Holds Barred” character Zeus to feud with Hulk Hogan to promote the movie. This led to them headlining Summerslam in a tag match where Zeus teamed up with “Macho Man” Randy Savage to face off against Hulk Hogan and Brutus Beefcake.

He stuck around after the event, working various other matches and the feud with Hogan concluded in a rematch from Summerslam, but this time in a cage in which he was on the losing side again. In 1996, he showed up in WCW as Z-Gangsta and continued his feud with Hogan as part of the “Alliance to End Hulkamania” which gave us the infamous Triple Cage match. That was the last we saw of Lister in the world of wrestling.

Buster Douglas
WWE

In 1990, James “Buster” Douglas shocked the world by knocking out Mike Tyson to win the championship. Everyone thought it was going to be another win for Tyson before he moved on to face Evander Holyfield. Mike Tyson was also scheduled to be the guest enforcer for the WWE Championship match between then champion Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage on the third edition of the prime time NBC special event “The Main Event.” However, after losing his fight, Mike Tyson backed out but the WWE was able to secure the man who knocked him out a week earlier in Buster Douglas. The fact that Douglas had so recently defeated the seemingly unstoppable Mike Tyson was a big deal for the WWE. The interaction between Savage and Douglas after the match was entertaining as well. Considering all the circumstances surrounding this celebrity appearance, this one is hard to forget.

Lawrence Taylor
WWE

The relationship between professional football and professional wrestling has always been strong. There are a ton of wrestlers who have backgrounds in professional football prior to becoming wrestlers. That being said, it never surprises me when an NFL player gets involved in the wrestling world. Therefore, when decorated NFL legend Lawrence Taylor and Bam Bam Bigelow had a confrontation at the Royal Rumble in 1995, there was no doubt it was leading to a match. It did.

Bam Bam and Lawerence Taylor would main event Wrestlemania 11, even going on after the WWE Championship match between  Shawn Michaels and Diesel. This garnered a ton of mainstream media coverage and was the last time a celebrity competed in the main event of Wrestlemania. However, it was one of the many times someone from the world of football stepped into the squared circle in the 90s.

Kevin Greene
WWE

I can’t talk about decorated NFL superstars crossing over to professional wrestling without thinking about Kevin Greene. I feel like growing up watching World Championship Wrestling, he was constantly showing up. He first appeared in 1996, accompanying Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage at Clash of the Champions XXXII in their match against Ric Flair and The Giant. Later that year, he teamed up with fellow NFL Alumni who had signed a full time contract with WCW in Steve “Mongo” McMichael to face Four Horsemen members Ric Flair and Arn Anderson. In 1997, Kevin Greene teamed up with “Nature Boy” Ric Flair and “Rowdy” Roddy Piper to face off against the Outsiders (Nash/Hall/Syxx) of the NWO. Greene would follow this by wrestling his former friends Mongo and the Giant two times in 1998. However, the NFL contracts that he signed following his stints in wrestling prohibited wrestling, thus ending his career in the ring.

Shaquille O’Neal
WWE

Shaquille O’ Neal is one of the most popular NBA players of all-time, but also a life-long professional wrestling fan. Shaq has been making appearances in professional wrestling since 1994 when he first appeared in World Championship Wrestling at “Bash at the Beach” to award the winner of the World Championship match between Hogan and Flair. He then made a guest appearance on Raw as a guest host in 2009 and had a backstage segment with Hogan on Impact Wrestling.

However, Shaq wanted to get in the ring and for a couple of years there were rumors of a Shaq-Big Show match. At 2016’s Wrestlemania, Shaq participated in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal and confronted the Big Show during the match for a memorable moment before they both got eliminated. They never could get the singles match to work around Shaq’s schedule, but O’Neal finally got to have his long awaited headline match. It would be in the newly founded All Elite Wrestling, where he teamed with Jade Cargill to face off against Cody Rhodes and Red Velvet on a 2021 edition of Dynamite.

Pamela Anderson
WWE

Listen, I know what you’re thinking with me mentioning Pamela Anderson. What makes her appearance more impactful than Regis Philbin, Jonathan Taylor Thomas or others? Well it was because, at the time, she was considered one of the hottest women in the world and she appeared all Wrestlemania season. Anderson first appeared at the Royal Rumble during a period when the business was down. Anderson promised to accompany the winner of the Royal Rumble to the ring at Wrestlemania, but instead she chose to accompany the WWE Champion Diesel to add even more fuel to the fire in the feud between the former friends. Plus, she was Pamela Anderson from Baywatch on WWE television in her prime. If you spent any time in the 90s, you’d understand.

Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone
WWE

In 1997, World Championship Wrestling was winning the ratings war due to the popularity of the New World Order and the reality based wrestling program that Nitro was providing over WWE’s product the years prior. They also had some major stars that many celebrities had grown up watching, such as Hulk Hogan, Ric Flair and “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Therefore, when popular Chicago Bulls player and NBA legend Dennis Rodman showed up as a friend of “Hollywood” Hogan and a celebrity member of the New World Order, it was pretty damn cool. Rodman showed up helping the heel faction a few times in early 1997. However, when Rodman got in the ring to compete like he did at “Bash at the Beach” 1997, teaming with Hollywood Hogan to face The Giant and Lex Luger, that was surprising.

In 1998, the WCW was able to secure Utah Jazz player and another NBA legend to appear in WCW in “The Mailman” Karl Malone. Malone’s team was actually in the NBA Championship Finals against Rodman’s team the Chicago Bulls, which made it pretty awesome that they were able to have them feud on WCW television too. They got a ton of mainstream coverage due to the circumstances. Rodman even missed practices to make WCW appearances as we learned in “The Last Dance” documentary that Netflix released last year. At “Bash at the Beach” 1998, Hogan and Rodman were to defeat Diamond Dallas Page and Malone in a tag match. Malone wouldn’t appear in the ring or in storylines again, whereas Rodman came back for one more run in WCW in 1999 to feud with Randy Savage. Fun times.

Jay Leno
WWE

In 1998, the wrestling world was at its peak and a huge part of pop-culture to the extent that Tonight Show host Jay Leno wanted to get involved. When Leno’s people reached out to WCW President Eric Bischoff about Leno’s interest in getting involved with wrestling in early July, Bischoff was adamant about making it happen. He also had to come up with an angle that would conclude in just weeks at their August 8th “Road Wild” event. Eric decided that Jay Leno would get booted off of his own late night show by Hollywood Hogan and Bischoff. They would take over the iconic “Tonight Show,” which had never been done before. This led to a match at “Road Wild” where Diamond Dallas Page and Jay Leno defeated Hollywood Hogan and Eric Bischoff. This got a plethora of mainstream attention.

Pete Rose
WWE

It was a one-off celebrity appearance that became a three year tradition. MLB Legend Pete Rose first appeared at Wrestlemania 14 in 1998 as a special guest ring announcer for the long-awaited Undertaker versus Kane match. What appeared to be another instance of a celebrity appearing just for their presence on the show turned out to be much more as Kane hit Pete Rose with a Tombstone prior to the match. He would have made this list just for that, but then he returned again for Wrestlemania in 1999, this time dressed in a San Diego Chicken mascot-like costume, seeking revenge on Kane only to catch another Tombstone piledriver. Pete Rose decided to come back again for Wrestlemania 2000 only to be caught with another Tombstone piledriver and a stink face from Rikishi. Rose made an appearance in the “No Mercy” 2002 commercial, where he was once again confronted by Kane and then he was also confronted by Kane when he was a Raw Guest Host in March of 2010. This earned him a spot in the celebrity wing of the WWE Hall of Fame.

Mike Tyson
WWE

People always say that the Mike Tyson appearance in 1998 was when we first knew that the tide was changing in the Monday Night Wars in WWE’s favour. At this point, Mike Tyson was one of the most globally recognizable people in the world for his actions inside and outside of the boxing ring. Tyson did not earn the name “The Baddest Man in the Planet” for no reason and remained controversial his entire career.

WWE brought Mike Tyson in to be the special enforcer for the WWE Championship match between “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin at Wrestlemania. Initially, he was confronted by Steve Austin in his first appearance with the company, leading to a brawl after Austin gave Tyson the middle fingers and Tyson seemingly aligned himself with D-Generation X stable. At Wrestlemania, Tyson knocked out Michaels and counted the pinfall that led to Stone Cold winning the WWE Championship. Tyson returned in 2010 to be a guest host, where he would again be involved with DX as he teamed up with Chris Jericho to face them, only to turn on Jericho to reunite with DX. He has also made three appearances in AEW these past couple of years to present the TNT Championship to the first champion and having a rocky relationship with Chris Jericho. I’m sure it’s not the last time we have seen Tyson involved with wrestling.

Arnold Schwarzenegger
WWE

As a fan watching at the time, I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger showing up on Smackdown was a bit random. Regardless, he is a bona fide global icon, a box-office attraction, one of the first celebrity bodybuilders and a former Governor of California, so it was a big deal. Arnold came through the WWE to hype up his upcoming movie End of Days and was also awarded a replica belt just for being Arnold. He befriended fan favorite stars such as Stone Cold and The Rock as you would expect, and then was at ringside for the main event.

When Schwarzenegger assisted Stone Cold in overcoming the odds against Triple H and Test, it did not sit well with The Game. Triple H confronted The Terminator only to get beat up himself, leaving us with a memorable moment in the early days of Smackdown. Arnold would return to Raw with Sabotage co-star Joe Manganiello in 2014 in a segment with Hulk Hogan and The Miz. He was later inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Donald Trump
WWE

The former President of the United States is a known friend of Vince McMahon. Their relationship goes back to when WWE hosted Wrestlemania 4 and 5 at Trump Plaza in the late 80s. He would appear ringside in the front row at these events and attended the press conferences. At Wrestlemania 20 in 2004, he sat ringside again when he was interviewed by Jesse “The Body” Ventura about Wrestlemania, Vince McMahon and even politics.

Heading into Wrestlemania 23 in 2007, Trump got into a feud with Vince McMahon, which led to them picking representatives to wrestle for them in the “Battle of the Billionaires,” where the billionaire on the losing end would get their head shaved. Stone Cold Steve Austin was the special referee. Trump’s representative Bobby Lashley defeated McMahon’s representative Umaga, thus leading to Vince McMahon getting his head shaved. Trump would return in 2009 in an angle where he purchased Monday Night Raw. Donald aired a commercial free episode of Raw and refunded the tickets for the fans live in attendance until Mr. McMahon purchased it back. Trump was later inducted in the Hall of Fame.

Snoop Dogg
WWE

Snoop Dogg is another one of those larger than life celebrities that grew up a professional wrestling fan. The rapper made several appearances in the WWE over the years. The first time was when he was the master of ceremonies for the women’s tag match at Wrestlemania 24 in 2008. It ended with him locking lips with Maria Kanellis. He also returned to the WWE in 2009 to be Raw Guest Host, where he ended up spearing Chavo Guerrero by the end of the night. In 2015 he returned to Raw again, only to be interrupted by Curtis Axel who was working his AxelMania gimmick. This led to Snoop introducing Hulk Hogan as he came down to the ring. They worked together to get rid of Curtis Axel prior to Snoop ripping his shirt to reveal his Hulkamania tee and the segment ended with the two pop culture icons posting together.

Snoop was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016, but also made an appearance at Wrestlemania to rap over his cousin Sasha Banks’ theme song before walking her down the ramp. Most recently, Snoop Dogg appeared on AEW Dynamite to be in the corner of Cody Rhodes and even hit an infamous Snoopy Splash on Serpentico after the match. Snoop is the man!

Floyd Mayweather
WWE

Floyd “Money” Mayweather was recognized as the best boxer of his generation, so it was a huge deal when the rumors started swirling that he would be part of Wrestlemania. Big Show made his return at No Way Out 2008 and threatened Rey Mysterio in his return promo. The WBC Welterweight Champion Floyd Mayweather, who was in attendance, jumped the barricade to come to the aid of his friend Mysterio by confronting the Big Show. Big Show dropped to his knees and Mayweather bloodied him up with a series of punches, breaking Show’s nose.

This led to an exhibition fight between Mayweather and Big Show at Wrestlemania. At Wrestlemania, Mayweather defeated Big Show by knockout with the assist of brass knuckles to keep his undefeated record intact. Mayweather would appear again in the summer of 2009 to be a guest host for Raw, where he got involved in Big Show’s match again and had a funny backstage segment with Carlito, Vince McMahon and DX. It was a big deal to have Mayweather involved and I wonder if we’ll ever see him again.

Snooki
WWE

Snooki will always be a memorable celebrity appearance because the majority of the fans were not interested in seeing one of the girls from MTV’s hit reality show Jersey Shore enter their world. Regardless how the wrestling fans felt about it, Snooki was popular as hell in 2011 and it made complete sense to bring her in while the reality show was at its peak of popularity.

The whole thing started when Snooki was brought in as a Raw Guest Host. Snooki got involved after the match between Trish Stratus and Vickie Guerrero by brawling with LayCool to aid Stratus. This led to a six person tag match where Snooki teamed up with Trish Stratus and John Morrison to face off against Laycool and Dolph Ziggler. They picked up the victory when Snooki pinned Michelle McCool and that was that. It led to the end of Laycool. We can thank Snooki for that.

Maria Menounos
WWE

Maria Menounos is an actress, journalist, interviewer, television presenter and life-long fan of Sports Entertainment. I am sure you have seen Maria pop up on WWE television a ton of times over the past decade for backstage interviews, hosting the Hall of Fame Red Carpet shows or sitting in the front row for major events. The thing that makes this Greek Goddess stand out is the fact that she was never afraid to mix it up in the ring herself. The night she was the Raw Guest Host in 2009 along with Access Hollywood co-host Nancy O’Deil, Menounos ended up in a match where she teamed with Gail Kim and Kelly Kelly to defeat Alicia Fox, Rosa Mendes and Beth Phoenix.

Menounos returned for the “Tribute to the Troops” show in 2011 where she competed in an eight woman tag match in which her team was victorious against a team featuring Phoenix. When Maria was interviewing Kelly Kelly on Extra in 2012, Phoenix and Eve Torres crashed the interview. This led to a match at Wrestlemania where Kelly and Menounos defeated Phoenix and Torres. Menounos pinned Phoenix for the victory. Maria had suffered two cracked ribs while rehearsing Dancing with the Stars prior to the match, but still went through with it which shows you her love for this business. Unless we ever see her wrestle again, she remains undefeated.

Stephen Amell
WWE

Stephen Amell is a Canadian actor mostly known for his role in Arrow as Oliver Queen, but he was also a major wrestling fan. Rumors started swirling that Amell would be facing Stardust (aka Cody Rhodes) at Summerslam in 2015, but it seemed as if plans were going to fall through due to the unfortunate death of Dust Rhodes. However, Stardust attacked Amell, who was sitting in the crowd during an episode of Raw, and its was announced that Amell and Neville would team up against Stardust and Wade Barrett.

Neville and Amell would come out victorious but Amell would become good friends with Cody in real-life. Due to that friendship, Amell appeared in Ring of Honor, joining the Bullet Club which was a faction that included Cody Rhodes. He competed in five on four tag matches in ROH where the Bullet Club was victorious. Amell had a memorable performance again at the special “All In” event hosted by The Elite, where he had his first ever singles match against Christopher Danials. Amell has appeared in AEW accompanying his friend Cody to the ring for his match against MJF. I doubt that will be the only time we see Amell in AEW and I don’t think we have seen the last of him in the ring.

Machine Gun Kelly
WWE

I know I said I was going to stay away from celebrities who just appeared for musical performances—whether it was to promote an album, perform the entrance theme for a superstar or sing the theme song for a show like he did at Wrestlemania 28—but the Machine Gun Kelly appearance ended up being a memorable moment. The singer, rapper, songwriter and actor showed up on Raw to perform a couple of his songs in front of his hometown crowd in Cleveland. It was all good until Kevin Owens appeared out of nowhere, seemingly showing admiration for MGK, only to powerbomb MGK through the stage.

This was definitely a memorable Raw moment and I always appreciate it when a celebrity takes a bump to help legitimize professional wrestling. I would love to see him come back, especially if he brings Megan Fox with him…

Jon Stewart
WWE

Jon Stewart is a comedian and television host who hosted the popular Daily Show from 1999 to 2015. Throughout the beginning of 2015, Stewart had this on-going feud with Seth Rollins that started with Rollins taking jabs at Stewart, claiming he could be the new host of the show. Seth would crash the Daily Show while Stewart even showed up on Raw to be a guest on Rollins’ own version of a Daily Show.

In the end, they made peace during the final episodes of Stewart hosting the Daily Show, when Seth presented Jon with his own belt. In the summer of 2015, Stewart was scheduled to be the official host of Summerslam. He ended up playing a bigger role in one of the headlining matches that I don’t think anyone expected. Seth Rollins and John Cena faced each other in a Winner Takes All match for both the WWE Championship and the United States Championship. I remember personally fearing that this was the end of Rollins WWE Championship reign and that Cena was not only going to win both belts, but beat Ric Flair’s championship record.

Instead, Stewart interfered by hitting Cena with a chair and helped Rollins win, to everyone’s surprise. Jon didn’t want Flair’s record to be beaten and took the matter into his own hands. He was confronted by Flair the following night and ate an Attitude Adjustment from John Cena. Stewart would return at the following year’s Summerslam in the corner of the New Day, but nothing would ever top him being the reason Cena didn’t win the year prior. Thank you Jon Stewart.

Tyson Fury
WWE

The Saudi Shows were offering a lot of money to the WWE to host shows over there, so it was inevitable that the WWE would put some of that money towards the celebrity appearance budget. That being said, when we saw the decorated British professional boxer Tyson Fury ringside on the Smackdown 20th Anniversary Show in 2019 and had a confrontation with Braun Strowman, the writing was on the wall.

It wasn’t long after this that Strowman versus Fury was made official for the Crown Jewel event in Riyadh. Tyson Fury had one of the most memorable entrances in recent memory as it was so over the top. Fury ended up winning the match by count-out after a hard punch knocked Strowman off the top turnbuckle. Following the match, Strowman still hit Fury with a running powerslam. I’m not sure if this will be the last time we see Fury in a wrestling ring, but if we learned anything from this list, anything is possible.

Pat McAfee
WWE

When Pat McAfee retired from the NFL in 2017, he moved on to a career of being a sports and wrestling analyst. In 2018, McAfee started appearing on WWE television primarily on the pre-shows for the NXT events. He eventually signed a multi-year contract in 2019 with the company, so technically he shouldn’t be on this list. However, he seemed to have signed a broadcasting contract as we saw him in non competitive on-screen roles that included hosting and commentary. Although there was speculation that he would get into the ring, it was never confirmed.

Pat then got into a personal feud with Adam Cole in 2020. McAfee would call out Cole for his small size and they had tension whenever they crossed paths. The rivalry really kicked off when the video of Cole snapping towards Pat on McAfee’s podcast went viral. This all led to a match at NXT Takeover 30, in which McAfee’s performance was highly praised even though he lost. Many fans consider it to be the best celebrity match ever. This wasn’t the end of the McAfee-Cole feud as Pat ended up putting a faction together with Pete Dunne, Oney Lorcan and Danny Burch to help him fight the Undisputed Era. Pat’s faction would end up having a “War Games” match against the Undisputed Era which they lost. McAfee played a great heel though the entire run and cut memorable promos. McAfee is officially on the Smackdown commentary team now, but we’re all curious if we’ll see him in the ring anytime soon. I’m sure we will.

Logan Paul
WWE

Logan Paul is undoubtedly one of the biggest yet most polarizing YouTube stars of all time. It’s undeniable that he has the attention of a specific age demographic right now. Although I can even admit there have been some questionable things he’s done in the past, I won’t deny that him being involved with the WWE and especially Wrestlemania brought more eyes to the product. Sami Zayn had a film crew following him around for months as they were putting a documentary together to expose the conspiracies against him orchestrated by the WWE. Zayn tried getting his old friend Kevin Owens involved in the cause, which he refused, calling Zayn delusional. Zayn took offense to this and attacked Owens, starting a feud where Owens ended up challenging Zayn to a match at Wrestlemania. At the same time, Zayn was able to get the attention of Paul over Twitter; Paul was responsive, playing along with Zayn’s craziness.

Logan was invited to Smackdown for the “Red Carpet Premiere” of Zayn’s documentary, where he also suggested that Zayn might just be delusional. Owens wanted nothing to do with Paul and this was even more obvious when he hit Logan Paul with a stunner after defeating Zayn at Wrestlemania. Paul was just trying to raise Owens’ arm in victory, but that didn’t sit right with KO. Logan Paul will be boxing Floyd Mayweather later this year, but I wonder if we’ll ever see him return to the world of wrestling.

Bad Bunny
WWE

Bad Bunny is one of the most popular musical artist in the world today, with an audience that crosses many different demographics and cultures. The Puerto Rican musician is also a life-long wrestling fan. Prior to 2021, he was spotted wearing vintage wrestling merchandise regularly (shoutout to @wrestling4sale on instagram) and even featured wrestling legends such as Ric Flair in his music videos.

In 2021, Bad Bunny got more involved with the WWE by first appearing at the Royal Rumble to perform his new song “Booker T” while Booker T himself was in attendance. Backstage that same night, The Miz offered to take Bad Bunny under his wing, which Bunny rejected. The Miz ended up destroying Bad Bunny’s DJ setup as he made his way out for the Royal Rumble. This did not sit well with Bad Bunny and he came out during the Royal Rumble match to confront The Miz. It ended with Bad Buddy hitting a flying splash on Miz and Morrison. Bunny continued to appear on Raw regularly after this, continuing his feud with The Miz, befriending Damian Priest and even winning the 24/7 Championship, which he held for 28 days before trading it to R-Truth in exchange for Stone Cold merchandise.

The Bunny-Miz feud reached a climax when Miz and Morrison vandalized Bunny’s Bugatti. This all led to a tag team match between Bad Bunny and Damian Priest against Miz and Morrison at Wrestlemania 37. Bad Bunny exceeded expectations with his unforgettable performance, and even earned the respect from most of the people who weren’t fans of his beforehand. I think I can speak on behalf of a lot of us when I say that we hope to see Bad Bunny again in the WWE. 

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2021 Champions League Breakdown: Manchester City Hosts PSG

A tale of two halves determined last week’s UEFA Champions League first leg between Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain and the English side emerged with a 2-1 win in France when it was all said and done.

Now, the two giants reconvene at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester for the opportunity to be the first team to advance to this season’s final. City aims to reach the UCL final for its first time in club history, while PSG attempts to accomplish the feat in back-to-back campaigns.

Kylian Mbappe’s status for the Parisians has been the biggest talking point from either side in the lead up to Tuesday’s match, with the star Frenchman questionable after missing PSG’s Ligue 1 match against Lens on Saturday. 

The 2018 World Cup winner will surely give it a go during pregame warm ups to determine whether he can play a part in the match, but all signs point towards Mbappe playing some role in the fixture as Paris looks to turn around its deficit.

For Man City, the job is quite simple. They already picked up two away goals and played PSG off the pitch during the second half of leg one.

Let’s take a closer look at PSG and Man City as they prepare for their semi final matchup.

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN VS. MANCHESTER CITY

TOP GOALSCORERS (UCL)

PSG: Kylian Mbappe – 8

Man City: Ferrán Torres – 4

KEY INJURIES/SUSPENSIONS

PSG: Idrissa Gueye (suspended), Juan Bernat (knee), Colin Dagba (ankle)

Man City: Eric Garcia (illness)

HISTORY

PSG is yet to earn a win against Man City in their previous four meetings after falling in the first leg of the semi final.

They’ll look to change that Tuesday in the Champions League with both sides aiming to win their first UCL crown in their respective club histories.

Prior to this year’s meeting, the teams last met in 2016 with the Citizens earning a 1-0 win via Kevin De Bruyne.

BREAKDOWN

Pep Guardiola will want his side to possess early and often and aim to stretch the PSG back line that struggled during the second half of last week’s first leg meeting.

Guardiola will likely employ a false 9 set up again, leaving Sergio Aguero and/or Gabriel Jesus on the bench in favor of the agile Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden. 

Since City front three is interchangeable, there’s lots of opportunity to put PSG off balance defensively when Foden, Silva and Kevin De Bruyne slot into different areas on the pitch.

PSG needs to come out as strong as they did in leg 1, but their finishing ability needs to be more clinical given the opportunities missed.

With both sides desperately seeking their first UCL title this season, it’s to be expected that Man City and PSG will be looking for a more open match and putting lots of bodies forward.

Idrissa Gueye’s suspension likely means a more attacking set up on Tuesday, which could see Julian Draxler or Moise Kean introduced into the squad.

Prediction: Manchester City 3-2

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5 NBA Teams to Watch as We Enter the Regular Season Home Stretch

This season has been profoundly weird. The Toronto Raptors played in Tampa, Florida. A-Rod had a mid-life crisis and bought the Minnesota Timberwolves. The New York Knicks are back. Now, with just under two weeks left in a season that at times felt defined by ennui (it’s almost admirable how the Brooklyn Nets have steamrolled their competition while refusing even to pretend to try hard), this year’s inaugural play-in tournament has provided a jolt of high-stakes adrenaline, as nearly two-thirds of the league jockeys for playoff position. Below are the five most noteworthy teams to watch as the season winds down.

Los Angeles Clippers

Never mind that the Los Angeles Clippers recently blew double-digit leads in three consecutive games to hilariously squander a 3-1 lead in the playoffs. Or that their sixth man almost popped the NBA’s playoff bubble because he ate chicken wings with Jack Harlow in a strip club during a pandemic. Or that just last month Paul George sat out a game because he drank too much coffee.

Don’t let their sour meme-ability fool you: the Los Angeles Clippers may only have the second best record in their division, but they’re the best team in basketball. George and Kawhi Leonard are two of the NBA’s slickest scorers and most disruptive defenders; there are hardly two wings in the whole world who can match George and Leonard’s blend of bucket-getting and bucket-prevention, let alone two wings on the same team. Both stars have leveled up as playmakers, potentially resolving the aimlessness that previously torpedoed the Clippers’ offense. Beyond their star duo, the Clippers have the personnel to play any style, reducing strategic dilemmas into simple if-then statements. Although the Clippers have been overshadowed by starrier teams and better storylines, George’s infamous, doomed prophecy from September has finally come true: the Clippers are still in the driver’s seat. 

Washington Wizards

For the bulk of the season, the Wizards practiced hardwood hedonism, allowing Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal to live their truths (triple-doubles and thirty pieces, respectively), winning be damned. Since April 7th, though, the ‘Zards have been zooming, posting an 11-2 record and the league’s eighth best point-differential. Notably, the Wizards have transformed their season these last few weeks without transforming their team—besides the addition of backup center Daniel Gafford. Washington’s roster is largely the same in both form and function, sustaining a consistent offensive and defensive shot profile; per PBP Stats, the quality of shot that the Wizards both take and allow has not meaningfully changed throughout the season.

The main difference between their 17-32 start and their 12-3 surge? The Wizards are now making shots they previously missed while their opponents are missing shots that they previously made. Sixty games deep into the season, the Wizards are still unknowable—is this hot streak a talented team finally finding its level or a lucky hiccup? Either way, the bizarre spectacle of Westbrook and Beal furiously trying to lift their team to mediocrity has single handedly validated this season’s play-in tournament experiment. Playoff berth or not, the Wizards offer proof that there can still be meaning in the NBA’s anonymous middle. And if they do sneak their way into the eighth seed: Nets in four. 

Milwaukee Bucks

For the last two seasons, the Milwaukee Bucks rampaged through the regular season behind a devastatingly simple attack, only to come undone because of their inability and unwillingness to make adjustments in the playoffs. In response, this year’s Bucks are letting their (Greek) Freak flag fly. On offense, they’ve added variety beyond their standard five-out arrangement, often shifting a player from the three-point line to the “dunker spot” along the baseline near the rim, thus making it riskier for defenses to bring aggressive help when Giannis Antetokounmpo drives. The new additions of Jrue Holiday and PJ Tucker allows them to easily switch ball-screens, giving them a failsafe against talented playoff guards who can reliably drain the mid-range jump shots that the Bucks’ patented drop coverage is designed to cede. 

Their 40-24 record may lag behind their historically great previous two campaigns, but their bet is that a skosh more unpredictability—a more democratized offense, a more adaptable defense—will unlock their ultimate potential. More than any other team, the Bucks demonstrate the awkward process of evolution as they try to rejigger the team’s identity on the fly: they can only become champions by moving on from what made them contenders.

Denver Nuggets

In the wake of star point guard Jamal Murray’s torn ACL, Michael Porter, Jr. has blossomed into an elite offensive player, overcoming his own gnarled spine and poisoned Boomer brain in the process. Although his shambly ball-handling limits his shot creation, his knack for slinking into open space without the ball makes him the perfect lieutenant to MVP favorite Nikola Jokic; Porter has averaged 26 points per game on ludicrous 71% true shooting since April 14th. Unlike most off-ball scorers who are primarily three-point specialists (think: Klay Thompson), Porter maintains a diverse scoring portfolio from all areas of the floor. Having eschewed normal conventions of offensive stardom like “dribbling” and “passing,” Porter has devoted himself instead to being the NBA’s purest, deadliest scorer. Since Murray’s injury, Porter has averaged just under half a point each time he’s touched the ball, a rate that no 25 point per game scorer has ever achieved over a full season. In turn, Porter marks a new archetype of player—a low-usage, three-level, volume scorer—that Jokic’s brilliance has made possible.

The Porter-Jokic dynamic is perfectly symbiotic: without Jokic’s brilliant passing, all of Porter’s cutting and activity would basically amount to an elaborate cardio routine; without Porter’s clever movement, Jokic’s genius would be dimmed by a lack of opportunity. Together, they are living evidence of how basketball subtly changes in real-time, turning isolation scoring into a communal pursuit. In a sport that is often defined by the struggles and triumphs of individual superstars, the Nuggets offer a gentler alternative. They get by with a little help from their friends.

New York Knicks

Like a monarch butterfly emerging from its gooey cocoon, the Knicks have shed their eternal Knicks-iness and are styling and profiling. Led by The People’s MVP Julius Randle and ex-hunk Tom Thibodeau, the Knicks have bludgeoned their way to a 36-28 record and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. And none of it feels like a fluke!

They’ve established an identity as a team of punishing try-hards, parlaying a near-psychotic level of effort into the league’s fourth stingiest defense; the Knicks succeed by inducing failure. To be sure, this is not a traditionally “fun” team—the Knicks throttle the game’s tempo so that they can impose their goony strength on more exciting opponents; Randle and RJ Barrett, the team’s two best scorers, score most of their points by leaning against a defender until something yields. In a vacuum, the Knicks are artless overachievers who seek to make each game as ugly as possible. But after 20 years of galaxy-brained incompetence, the plodding, pretty good Knicks are thrilling. Sometimes “pretty good” can feel like grace. 

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Meet Eduardo Camavinga, Rennes’ Brightest Star

France is currently in the midst of its latest golden generation of football and it’s easy to tell why they’re not only the reigning World Cup champions but also in line to have great success for many years to come.

Kylian Mbappe’s emergence for club and country has him as one of the heirs to throne once Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo decide to finish their respective careers, but France has another young talent that is only beginning to recognize his potential.

That player is Rennes’ Eduardo Camavinga.

The 18-year-old midfielder has been at the club for over eight years, but with massive clubs like Real Madrid, Liverpool and Manchester United linked to the youngster it’s hard to imagine Camavinga will be spending much more time in Ligue 1. 

History of Camavinga

Rennes isn’t a household club for those that don’t regularly follow Ligue 1, but the club has produced some incredibly talented players prior to Camavinga’s rise to stardom, including Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele and former Manchester United defender Mikaël Silvestre.

Camavinga began his youth career at Rennes in 2013, but his full story beyond football is quite astonishing. 

Born into a refugee family in Angola, Camavinga and his Congolese parents moved to France when Eduardo was just two years old. 

By the time he was 11 he arrived at Rennes’ youth system and signed his first professional contract with the club just after turning 16. It’s been evident since early in his senior career that Camavinga has immense potential and his rise at the club in a variety of positions has him on track for a massive move in the near future.

Upon making his first-team debut, Camavinga became the youngest player to ever suit up for Rennes and became an instant starter in the French club’s squad.

On the international stage, Camavinga has already been selected by France for several friendlies and UEFA Nations League matches at or prior to the age of 18. Camavinga scored in his first start with Les Bleus in October 2020, becoming the youngest goal scorer for France in over 100 years (Maurice Gastiger in 1914).

Style of Play

When observing the success of France throughout the 2018 World Cup and currently, a player like Camavinga is vital moving forward for Les Bleus.

He mirrors himself after players like N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, creating space for himself in possession because of his tremendous pace and ability to carry the ball upfield.

Similar to Joshua Kimmich at Bayern Munich and the German national team, Camavinga started as an outside back and quickly moved into a central midfield role due to his ability to play both going forward and tracking back on defense.

For a country like France that only conceded six goals in seven matches at the last World Cup, a player of Camavinga’s defensive nature is so crucial.

What the Future Holds

It only seems like a matter of time until Camavinga completes his first big-money move outside of France, and with the massive clubs chasing him it could be as early as this summer after EURO 2020 (being held in 2021).

Camavinga likely figures to play a role in the French squad, and with Les Bleus expected to make a deep run in the competition it’s a safe bet that you’ll see the Rennes star at some point during the tournament.

The growing need for a versatile and strong-willed defensive midfielder is incredibly important in the modern game. Just ask Chelsea with Kante or Madrid with any of its well-adapted midfield trio of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos.

Camavinga’s ability to play multiple positions makes him the ideal candidate for a number of clubs, including several in the Premier League seeking a Kante-like player that can help their team for the next decade-plus.

Rennes managed to move current Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy at the beginning of the current European season for a significant sum, but that’s nothing compared to what the Ligue 1 side would command for Camavinga’s transfer fee. 

According to Transfermarkt’s valuation of Camavinga, he’s currently tied for the fourth-most valuable French player in the world at roughly $66 million, which is on par with Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba. That should speak volumes about Camavinga’s potential.

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Underdog Fantasy Announces Largest Season Long Fantasy Payout Ever

Sports betting has become increasingly less taboo over past few years, and interest in fantasy sports has escalated at a commensurate rate. Today, the fastest growing fantasy app in the game, Underdog Fantasy, has announced their $3.5 million season long NFL Best Ball tournament, with $1,000,001 going to first place. Best Ball Mania II is open for entry right now. You can take a look at the app on the App Store here and on the Play store here.

Best Ball Mania II isn’t the only major announcement from the fantasy app today. They’ve also announced their roster of investors, who have raised a whopping $10 million for the brand. Investors include Kevin Carter, Mark Cuban, Kevin Durant, Steve Aoki, Nas, Future, Adam Schefter, the Chainsmokers, Kygo, the Sway House, Mark Pincus, Roham Gharegozlou and Jared Goff, just to name a few. In today’s press release, Underdog Chairman and co-founder Jeremy Levine said, “Kevin Carter was the natural choice to lead our round, as he was the first investor in my last company while he was at SV Angel and believed in us before anyone else did,” adding, “Once we filled out our round, we knew we had to throw a festival…”

Which brings us to the next big announcement today.

Underdogapalooza begins today and will feature some pretty amazing guests, from the winner of last years Best Ball Mania, Justin Herzig, to Adam Schefter, Matthew Berry, The Chainsmokers and more. Underdog offers four games, but Best Ball is the most innovative, because it requires just one draft to play. Rather than setting lineups every week, dealing with trades and waiver wires, you simply draft your 18-man team and watch the season unfold. It’s definitely a good option for those overwhelmed by the seemingly full-time responsibility of managing your fantasy roster.

For more info on what Underdog is up to, keep your eyes on their Twitter. There’s over $3 million on the line, so don’t miss out.

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Proper Football’s Week 3 MLS Rewind

If there were two young stars to make note of after Major League Soccer’s third week of play, it’s pretty clear that they would be Cade Cowell and Caden Clark. 

While their respective sides earned victories over the weekend, it was their individual play that continues to have people talking and those conversations will certainly continue throughout 2021.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Sounders showed the LA Galaxy who the dominant Western Conference side really is after a convincing 3-0 win at Lumen Field. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez’s run of five goals in the first two games of the season was halted, and Brian Schmetzer’s Sounders proved their still the best in the west.

Speaking of teams that should be in contention out west, Minnesota United lost its third straight match and it’s growing to be a worrisome trend for Adrian Heath and Co. considering the money that has been spent on the Loons’ roster. After making the Western Conference final a season ago many expected Minnesota to make a further leap forward in 2021 with Ramon Abila coming in from Boca Juniors.

Let’s rewind it back to the weekend that was Week 3 around MLS.

WEEKEND AWARDS
GAME OF THE WEEK – New England Revolution vs. Atlanta United

The Revolution may just be the top team in the East right now, and Bruce Arena’s side really showed it in a tight match against Atlanta United.

Creative attacker Carles Gil may be one of the most underrated players in MLS, and after notching a goal and an assist the Spaniard’s confidence has to be at a premium.

Atlanta certainly had their chances, but Gabriel Heinze’s side is still looking to find its groove in the final third. They’ve shown glimpses at times, but Josef Martinez hasn’t found his form just yet after suffering a significant knee injury in 2020.

WEEKEND MVP – Raul Ruidiaz

Nico Lodeiro’s return to the Sounders was a big deal for the Sounders, but Ruidiaz’s influence on the Sounders has been beyond words so far in 2021.

Through three matches, Ruidiaz now has four goals, which puts him second in the league behind only Chicharito.

Everyone knows the talent that the Peruvian possesses, but starting out the season with results against both Los Angeles sides and Minnesota United only furthers the narrative that Seattle is in fact the team to beat in MLS.

SATURDAY STUNNER – Columbus Crew

While Montreal deserves a ton of credit for the way they’ve started this season, the Crew haven’t looked like themselves through two MLS matches. 

While Caleb Porter’s side is battling in the Concacaf Champions League as well, Columbus’ showings in MLS have been less than stellar given the quality they possess throughout the squad.

Drawing their first two matches isn’t really a cause for concern because they’re picking up points, but no goals scored is a bit troublesome when considering the fact that the Crew didn’t have a single shot on target against Montreal.

FANTASTIC FINISHES

Each week, we’ll close out the rewind by showcasing the three best goals from the weekend that was in MLS, and the opening weekend did not disappoint in this department at all.

CADE COWELL vs. D.C. United

The 17-year-old striker has now scored in back-to-back games, but this one was so special because of his pace, first touch and clean finishing ability.

Cowell also registered two assists on the day, showing his all-around ability to make plays up front.

Chris Wondolowski’s time as the starter in San Jose was going to have to end at some point, but Cowell’s brilliance early in the season is reinforcing Matias Almeyda’s decision to start the teenager.

LUIS NANI vs. FC Cincinnati

It’s impossible to forget how good Nani was during his days in Europe, and he’s showing many glimpses of that form since arriving in MLS. This was a completely vintage Nani moment, cutting up the defenders with his skillful control and then curling a left-footed ball into the back of the net from distance.

CADEN CLARK vs. Chicago Fire

It’s becoming evident that Clark only scores golazos and his latest against the Fire was nothing short of spectacular. Very few players have the quality of Clark in the final third, especially for a player that plays as an attacking midfielder.

His precision on his goal scoring chances is tremendous, and at 17 years old there’s a reason why he’s been linked to Europe in the near future.

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Meet Christian Pulisic, Chelsea’s Creative Winger

Being one of the most high-profile American footballers ever has brought on massive expectations for Christian Pulisic, but the U.S. Men’s National Team star is shouldering the weight with great confidence and grace,

Pulisic and Chelsea are currently in the midst of a tremendous turnaround in 2021 after struggling at times over the first half of the season. 

The USMNT attacker has fought his way into Thomas Tuchel’s starting XI and is now in prime position to help his squad reach the UEFA Champions League final with a result against Real Madrid next week.

His recent goal against Los Blancos proved critical for Chelsea, who now boast an important away goal heading into the second leg of their meeting.

Ups and downs define young players, and at only 22 years old Pulisic has already endured his fair share of triumphs but is succeeding in spite of the bumps in the road.

History of Pulisic

Americans have gotten their hopes up about teen prodigies in the past, and the amount of pressure put on Pulisic has been unlike anything U.S. futbol has seen since the early days of Freddy Adu’s career.

Pulisic comes from a football background, with both his parents have played at a high level. That includes his father, Mark, who played competitive indoor futbol with the Harrisburg Heat back in the 1990s.

While living in England for a year at the age of 7, Pulisic had the opportunity to train with Brackley Town’s academy, a club involved in the country’s sixth-tier of football. When Pulisic came back to the U.S. the following year he became further immersed in the game.

Growing up in Pennsylvania, The 22-year-old had the chance to play for top U.S. Development Academy club PA Classics for the better part of seven years.

That’s when Borussia Dortmund came calling in early 2015. After first earning a shot with the German giants at the Under-17 level, Pulisic quickly outgrew the squad after shining with the team during their season. 

He scored 10 goals and assisted on eight more over the course of 15 games, and that’s when former Dortmund boss and Pulisic’s current manager Tuchel recognized Pulisic was in need of first-team minutes.

Nearly four seasons with Dortmund helped Pulisic garner even greater recognition from top Premier League sides like Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea. He would ultimately land with the Blues in 2019 after the London side paid the largest transfer fee in football history for an American player. Pulisic became the second USMNT player in Premier League history to record a hat-trick, with Clint Dempsey previously being the other American.

Style of Play

When Chelsea brought in Pulisic there were enormous expectations for the American to fill the void left by Eden Hazard. In a lot of ways they are similar, minus Pulisic’s height advantage in comparison to the Belgium international.

Pulisic’s style is reliant on his quick pace, ability to dart into open space and past defenders on a regular basis. He’s not flashy with skills, but also doesn’t need to be because of his tremendous ball control and knack for picking out teammates going forward.

In Chelsea’s Champions League quarter final against Porto, Pulisic suffered the most fouls in almost a decade because of the Portuguese side’s awareness of how dangerous the USMNT winger can be. Again, very similar to Hazard at his best during his Chelsea days.

While the goal scoring production isn’t quite at the level of Hazard or some of Chelsea’ previous attacking threats just yet, Pulisic is improving regularly and there’s no question that his recent form will propel him to another level in the final third.

What the Future Holds

When Pulisic is able to stay on the pitch he’s an absolute nightmare for opponents, and there’s no doubt that his ceiling is similar to that of Hazard during his Chelsea days. 

The one reason for skepticism has been the injuries Pulisic has suffered early in his career, including a number of muscular ones. His recent form has silenced the doubters though, especially after rumors began swirling about a potential exit from Stamford Bridge when Pulisic wasn’t included in Tuchel’s side for some time.

He’s won his job back and doesn’t appear willing to give it up. That’s the sign of a competitor and one that has massive ambitions for himself and his country. It starts with the Champions League and FA Cup, where Chelsea are in prime position to pull off a double.

Pulisic has a huge summer ahead, followed by a 2022 that could see the USMNT back at the World Cup after missing the previous edition in Russia. 

There will be a significant weight for Pulisic and his teammates to carry with this U.S. team dubbed one of the most talented in the country’s history on the men’s side. 

With Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, and Sergino Dest among the other star players featuring alongside Pulisic, every American is hoping this group can accomplish something no other American men’s team has done before; win a World Cup.

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Sports Strength

PSG’s Meltdown Raises Major Concerns About Mauricio Pochettino

For 45 minutes Paris Saint-Germain was in complete control of their UEFA Champions League semi final against Manchester City. 

It took just a quarter of an hour for Marquinhos’ header to break the deadlock and it looked as if PSG would pile on the goals after dominating a large portion of the first half. 

Neymar and Kylian Mbappe each had one massive chance each in the opening stanza, but couldn’t convert. Meanwhile, City’s attack was almost nonexistent as the Parisians pressed high and clogged the midfield for Pep Guardiola’s crew.

City wonderkid Phil Foden found himself inside the penalty area after a breakdown in PSG possession, but blasted a high left-footed effort straight at Keylor Navas. That was the biggest City chance of the first half, but when the two teams came out onto the pitch after halftime both clubs looked drastically different.

It’s been a recurring theme for PSG throughout this season’s Champions League, but more so during the second legs of their knockout ties against Barcelona and Bayern Munich. 

Mauricio Pochettino’s side had done the job in their two previous rounds courtesy of strong showings in the opening leg, and then proceeded to sit back and nearly allow their opponents back into the tie.

In PSG’s second leg against Barca, the La Liga giants outshot PSG nearly three to one, finishing the match with 21 shots and 10 on target. A combination of Navas’ brilliance in goal and poor Barcelona finishing allowed the 1-1 scoreline to appear far more comprehensive than it should have been.

Then, we saw an eerily similar performance against Bayern in their second leg meeting. After earning a 3-2 win over the Bundesliga side on the road, PSG absorbed pressure for large portions of the match and luckily advanced on away goals despite losing the second leg 1-0. 

Let’s jump back to Wednesday, where Paris struggled mightily after halftime to get anything going in the offensive third. As soon as the second half whistle blew you could feel a Manchester City goal was coming.

The nature of both goals the Citizens would go on to score weren’t the best, but what’s that saying about being lucky instead of good? The fact of the matter is PSG’s defense got sloppy and two huge mistakes cost the team dearly.

On the first goal, the center backs and Navas completely misjudged Kevin De Bruyne’s tantalizing cross and it somehow found the back of the net.

Riyad Mahrez then doubled that lead by somehow going through the PSG wall and beating Navas once again. These were routine plays that you’re coached to defend on a regular basis and yet the Parisians fell asleep at the most inopportune times possible.

Pochettino was brought in to get PSG over the hump, and to this point he’s had them on course to do so, but in the critical moments you’re starting to see reasons for concern. 

He hasn’t adapted well in close matches and when it was clear that both Mbappe and Neymar were gassed in the second half the Argentine manager still didn’t make an attacking adjustment.

Pochettino’s lone changes came after the Idrissa Gueye red card when they went into full defensive mode, but the problem with that is PSG isn’t a defensive team and we have the track record to prove it. 

Those two recent UCL second legs that PSG managed to win were far from convincing and more due to the fact that their opponents struggled to finish more than any other reason. Not to mention the fact that Bayern was missing star striker Robert Lewandowski for both legs of their quarter finals matchup.

Thomas Tuchel was run out of Paris in December despite helping PSG progress out of the most difficult UCL group during the group phase of this season’s competition and guiding the club to the final last season; a match that could have gone either way.

PSG’s failure to win the Champions League during the COVID-delayed 2019-20 season certainly shouldn’t have been an indictment on Tuchel or his squad considering what they overcame to get to that point.

Now, Tuchel’s in the other UCL semi final with Chelsea and has a very real chance of making the title match with another positive result against Real Madrid next week. 

In fact, it’s been the German manager’s ability to improve Chelsea’s back line this season that has them in position to qualify for their first Champions League final since 2011/12.

The Blues have become one of the top defensive units in Europe since Tuchel’s arrival at Stamford Bridge, allowing just nine goals over the course of 22 matches in charge. Over that same span, Chelsea has allowed more than one goal in just one match and boasts 17 clean sheets.

It’s never easy to compare what one manager would do at a club they haven’t managed at, but in this case Tuchel was doing a fine job at PSG. Pochettino was always the sexy candidate considering his high-profile spell at Tottenham and being the most-coveted manager in the game that wasn’t currently coaching when PSG let go of Tuchel nearly four months ago.

But the same way Spurs fans grew tired of Pochettino never winning the big matches in London, we could be in for a similar result in Paris if this team doesn’t make the final or win this season’s Champions League.

With four matches remaining in Ligue 1 as well, PSG sits in second place. So what happens when Pochettino doesn’t deliver on the task he was brought in to complete?

Does PSG stick with the Argentine simply because of his stellar reputation? Or do they go in yet another direction because they recognize their clock is ticking and they may not be able to keep all their stars together much longer?