ICON Legends – Danny Care – England and Harlequins star

As the England rugby team enters a new era under Steve Borthwick, there’s one man that won’t be part of the revolution. Danny Care announced he was retiring from international rugby following the Six Nations last month, bringing an end to his 16-year stint representing his nation.

Care became just the sixth player in history to reach 100 England appearances earlier this year, with his 101st coming in his final appearance as his side suffered late heartbreak against France.

As Care hangs up his boots and reflects on a whirlwind career, we’ve taken a look at his key moments as he becomes the latest inductee in our ICON Legends hall of fame.

An England centurion

Only Ben Youngs, Jason Leonard, Dan Cole, Owen Farrell and Courtney Lawes have represented England more times than Care. The 37-year-old scored 84 points for his country, including 15 tries.

The last of those tries proved crucial, coming in the narrow win over Samoa at the World Cup last year, where England ultimately finished third. After helping England to silver in the rugby sevens at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Care made his international debut two years later.

His first appearance came in a defeat to New Zealand, before he scored his maiden try in his first start the following game. Care continued to be selected for England camps and while he took time to establish himself as a starter, he was a crucial part of the squad as England won the Six Nations in 2011.

Three years later, Care was nominated for Six Nations Player of the Year and then in 2016, he helped England claim the Grand Slam for the first time in 13 years. The championship was sewn up with a win over France in the final game, with Care scoring an iconic try in the first half.

With the game level at 3-3, Care picked up the ball 45 metres out before powering through the French backline and diving over the line. The match in Paris eventually finished 31-21 and saw Care claim his second Six Nations medal.

England defended their crown the following year with Care part of the squad and he was also pivotal as they came second on three other occasions. Despite his strong performances for the national team, Care was dropped by Eddie Jones before the 2019 World Cup.

He spent three years in the wilderness before eventually earning a recall in 2022 and he enjoyed one final tournament in France last year.

Harlequins hero

Domestically, Care started out at hometown club Leeds Tykes before joining Harlequins in 2006, where he has played ever since. The stalwart has made 370 appearances for the London outfit, scoring almost 600 points in the process.

Despite his success on the rugby pitch, things could have turned out so differently for Care. A talented sportsman, he was snapped up to the Sheffield Wednesday academy as a youngster. But after being released at the age of 15, Care turned his back on football in favour of pursuing a career in rugby.

He made his Guinness Premiership debut in 2005 before joining Quins a year later – and he hasn’t looked back. As well as his Six Nations medal collection, Care has tasted success at club level too.

He was a key cog as Harlequins won Premiership Rugby titles in both 2012 and 2021, while they also went all the way in the EPCR Challenge Cup in 2011. That cup final saw them come up against Stade Francais in Cardiff and the French side were leading 18-12 with just five minutes left on the clock.

But always one to step up for his teammates, Care chipped an expert ball through to Gonzalo Camacho, who gratefully scored and saw his try converted to claim the trophy. The following year, Care was pivotal again as they beat Leicester to the title.

While his England honours quenched the thirst in the intervening years, Care wouldn’t taste domestic success again until 2021. But it was worth the wait as Harlequins came back from 28-0 down against Bristol Bears to win the semi-final, before pipping Exeter Chiefs to claim the title.

Although Care would have dreamt of retiring with a World Cup win to his name, he can have no regrets over his success on the field. His reliability and professionalism were key components in his longevity in the England setup.

Alongside several other seasoned professionals, Care’s experience provided the glue for the England side, acting as the foil for the up and coming youngsters that have entered the fold of late.

As the England team continues to grow, any success they have in the near future will obviously see the plaudits aimed at those that have got the job done. Yet those players will undoubtedly be the first to admit that the leadership of Care and his fellow older heads would have paved the way for their success.

ICON Legends – Rachael Blackmore – The Queen of Horse Racing

As the sun sets on another thrilling week at Cheltenham, it would be remiss of us not to honour one of the festival’s greatest jockeys as we continue our ICON Legends series.

Rachael Blackmore has made history throughout her career, often breaking records by becoming the first female to win countless races and accolades. The Irish jockey grew up on a dairy farm riding ponies and had her first amateur win at the age of 21.

Since turning professional in 2015, Blackmore has gone from strength to strength, riding her first winner just six months into her career. And after adding to her long list of Cheltenham winners last week, we’ve taken a look back at some of her greatest achievements.

Cheltenham Festival glory

The Cheltenham Festival wouldn’t be the same without Blackmore celebrating in the winner’s enclosure and she was back there again last week. The 34-year-old has ridden 16 winners there since 2019, smashing records on the way.

She’s made a habit of setting standards for female jockeys and in 2021 she became the first woman to be the leading rider at the festival, winning six races including the Champion Hurdle.

And the following year she picked up where she left off. Aboard A Plus Tard, Blackmore became the first female Cheltenham Gold Cup winner in 2022, dominating with a phenomenal finish to win by 15 lengths.

It wasn’t the first time that Blackmore and A Plus Tard celebrated together at Cheltenham. Her maiden festival victory came in 2019 aboard the gelding in the Chase Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Last week saw another incredible Cheltenham Festival and once again, Blackmore wowed spectators as she rode to victory in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Her Queen Mother Champion Chase win aboard Captain Guinness came as something of a surprise. They set off at 17/2 but were able to take advantage when clear favourite El Fabiolo pulled up, opening up the field.

Grand National history maker

In a sport traditionally dominated by men, Blackmore has paved the way for women and she continued in this vein in 2021 as she became the first female jockey to win the Grand National, three years after her first appearance.

Blackmore made history aboard Minella Times, navigating the iconic Aintree course perfectly, having started the race as the 11/1 fourth favourite. Despite there being no fans present due to the pandemic, Blackmore remained focussed throughout to see off the challenge of runner-up Balko des Flos.

Minella Times was the first Grand National winner for trainer Henry de Bromhead, who also trained Balko des Flos, ridden by Aidan Coleman.

Honeysuckle heroics

Some of the best stories in sport are built on partnerships and for Blackmore, her career could have been so different without the incredible Honeysuckle. The dynamic duo won 17 of their 19 races together under the tutelage of de Bromhead.

It was with Honeysuckle that Blackmore completed another of her iconic ‘firsts’, becoming the inaugural female jockey to win the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2021. Not content with winning it once, the pair repeated the feat the following year.

Between them, Blackmore and Honeysuckle have won both the Irish Champion Hurdle and the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle on three separate occasions, as well as the Punchestown Champion Hurdle twice.

Regarded as one of the greats, Honeysuckle’s career came to an end last year. It was fitting that Blackmore took the reins for a final time as the pair raced to victory in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham to secure their fourth win together at the festival.

For Blackmore, there have been no whispers of retirement and fingers crossed she’ll continue to make history and be a role model for aspiring jockeys for many more years to come.

ICON Legends – Serena Williams – Queen of Tennis

As our ICON Legends series continues, it’s time to take another trip to the world of tennis to look back on the phenomenal career of Serena Williams. The American is undeniably one of the greatest performers in the history of sport, let alone tennis.

Williams won an incredible 23 Grand Slams across her career, making her the most successful female player in the Open Era. She’s just one major title behind Novak Djokovic and Margaret Court, who currently share top spot in the all-time rankings.

Having first turned pro in 1995, it took her just four years to claim her first major title. Her breakthrough came on home soil as she won the US Open in 1999 and she never looked back, sparking a new era of tennis dominance.


Serena was almost unstoppable in both singles and doubles, winning a combined 39 Grand Slams across both disciplines. She spent a total of 319 weeks as world number one throughout her career, which adds up to more than six years at the top of the pile.

To this day, she remains the only player in history to land a Career Golden Slam in both singles and doubles. She claimed gold in both at the 2012 Olympics, beating Maria Sharapova in the singles final and losing just one game in the process.

In fact, such was her success, she even had a monumental achievement named in her honour. After winning four consecutive slams from the French Open in 2002 to the Australian Open in 2003, the feat was dubbed the ‘Serena Slam’. She repeated the accomplishment again in 2014-15.

Doubles dominance

As well as blasting through all contenders in the singles game, Serena was also a force to be reckoned with in doubles alongside sister Venus. Between them, the pair won an incredible 14 Grand Slam titles and went their careers unbeaten in major finals.

They particularly enjoyed playing at the home of tennis, winning at Wimbledon on six occasions. In fact, four of those titles came in the same year that Serena won the singles title at SW19.

Together, Serena and Venus also won three Olympic gold medals. While representing the USA, they secured the ultimate accomplishment at Sydney in 2000 and Beijing in 2008, before completing the hat-trick at London 2012. As a result of her Olympic success, Serena remains the only player in tennis history to complete the Career Golden Slam on three different occasions.

Sibling rivalry

While Venus Williams was a phenomenal player in her own right, it’s fair to say that she spent much of her career in the shadow of her sister. The siblings met in nine different Grand Slam finals, with Serena claiming victory in seven of them.

Appropriately, Serena’s final ever Grand Slam win came at the expense of Venus. The pair met in the 2017 Australian Open final and Serena won both sets 6-4 to secure major title number 23.

In a demonstration of her dominance, Serena didn’t drop a set throughout the entire tournament and went out with a bang. She continued for another five years, including a comeback having taken time out to have a baby, before officially hanging up her racket in 2022.

Tennis has seen some phenomenal players come and go over the years. Fans of the sport will never agree on who the best of all time is, with everybody having differing opinions. However, there’s one thing that everybody can unanimously agree on and that is that Serena Williams is more than deserving of her place in the conversation.

ICON Legends – Michael Schumacher – Formula One superstar

Formula One is currently enjoying one of it’s greatest eras ever, with Max Verstappen literally racing away with his third consecutive title last year. But despite his dominance, Verstappen still has a long way to go before he can be compared to Michael Schumacher.

The German was simply unstoppable at his peak and he paved the way for the drivers of the modern era, so it’s only right that he takes his place among our line-up of ICON Legends.

The greatest of all time?

Lewis Hamilton may have something to say about that but the Brit undoubtedly grew up dreaming of one day emulating the great Schumacher. The pair are currently tied at the top of the all-time Drivers’ Championship standings, with seven titles each.

Five of Schumacher’s championships came in consecutive years at the turn of the century, with few able to offer adequate competition. Racing was in the blood as his father ran a local karting track in Cologne back in Germany, while his son Mick Schumacher has also raced in F1.

Schumacher and his brother, Ralf, first started racing there and never looked back as they both became professional drivers. In fact, they remain the only siblings to have both won Formula One races and they have finished in first and second place on five different occasions.

New kid on the block

Having started out in karting, Schumacher made his F1 debut with Jordan in 1991 before quickly signing with Benetton. He didn’t take long to get to grips with the circuit and he won his first race the following year at Spa.

After a steady few seasons, Schumacher showed he meant business as he claimed his first title in 1994, although in controversial circumstances as he collided with rival Damon Hill in the final race, which retired them both.

However, there were no complaints a year later as Schumacher dominated the track, winning the championship by a landslide. His success earned him a move to Ferrari and although he struggled initially, going four years without a title, he managed to take it to the final race twice.

Early noughties dominance

If Ferrari were beginning to have doubts about their decision to snap up Schumacher, they needn’t have worried. The new millennium sparked a new era for Formula One as he dominated the sport, winning five consecutive championships between 2000 and 2004.

Schumacher still holds the record for the most titles in a row and he was the driving force behind Ferrari claiming the Constructors’ Championship in six successive seasons. He’s also still the record holder for the highest number of fastest laps, having achieved 77 at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix.

In 2002, Schumacher finished the season with almost double the amount of points that second-placed Rubens Barrichello achieved. That year, he finished on the podium in every single race, winning 11 of them, and wrapped up the title with six races to spare.

Return and life after F1

Following his five successive triumphs, Michael Schumacher finished third and then second before deciding to hang up his helmet in 2006. But the lure of the track proved too much and he stepped out of retirement to join forces with Mercedes in 2010.

Schumacher’s decision raised eyebrows throughout the world of racing, with few believing that he’d be at the same level as before. Unsurprisingly, his shock U-turn didn’t turn out to be the fairytale return that he’d hoped for as he finished 9th, 8th and 13th before finally calling it a day.

Sadly, following his second retirement, Schumacher suffered a serious brain injury after falling while skiing and he was put into an induced coma for several months. Thankfully, he survived but he has remained incredibly private since the accident.

The outpouring of love and respect from global sports fans for Schumacher at the time was phenomenal and is testament to how highly regarded he is both as a person and as a sportsman.

Hamilton has often suggested that he doesn’t plan on retiring until he achieves one more title to edge ahead of Schumacher in the standings. However, considering the form that Verstappen has shown in recent years, that doesn’t look like happening any time soon.

But whether Hamilton surpasses him or not, there’s no denying that Michael Schumacher is among the greatest drivers of all time and is fully deserving of his spot in our ICON hall of fame.

ICON Legends – Emma Hayes – Women’s football hero

After more than a decade in charge of Chelsea, Emma Hayes will wave goodbye to these shores at the end of the season to take charge of the USA Women’s national team.

Following a remarkable few years for women’s football, we’ve taken a look at the career of one of English football’s most decorated managers in the latest edition of our ICON Legends series.

Dominating English football with Chelsea

Since taking over at Chelsea in 2012, it’s fair to say that Hayes has established herself as one of the greatest coaches to grace the sport. She’s won 13 major trophies in her 11 years at the helm, including six WSL titles and five FA Cups.

Four of those six league titles have come in the last four years, with three of them as part of a hat-trick of consecutive league and cup doubles. Hayes’ influence in English football has been unmatched, leading to her being crowned as the WSL manager of the season six times, including in each of the last three years.

Chelsea have been run close for the title by Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City in recent years but Hayes has always found a way to get the edge on her opponents. Her attention to detail and focus on marginal gains has been a huge factor in her trophy-laden success.

While she’s dominated English football, perhaps one regret she’ll leave behind in west London is never managing to secure an elusive Champions League title. She came close as Chelsea reached their only ever final in 2021, where they were soundly beaten by Barcelona.

Despite never tasting European success, Hayes leaves behind an incredible legacy at Kingsmeadow and whoever follows her in the Chelsea dugout undoubtedly has massive shoes to fill.

Revolutionising the women’s game

As well as her brilliance on the training pitch and the sidelines, Hayes has also been pivotal behind the rise of the women’s game. The sport has grown in popularity in recent seasons and Hayes has been a driving force behind it.

The Chelsea boss has been a constant advocate for equal opportunities in the game and has campaigned for more awareness of key issues, as well as investment in the sport.

Hayes has pushed research on health issues within the game, including the effects of the menstrual cycle on recovery, nutrition and the frequency of ACL injuries in female footballers.

She’s been recognised throughout football and beyond, having been presented with an MBE in 2016, followed up with an OBE last summer.

Embarking on a new American chapter

Hayes will hope to replicate her success when she heads across the pond next May. She’s set to become the world’s highest-paid female coach and there are hopes she can turn the USA side around following a disappointing World Cup.

The four-time winners endured their worst ever World Cup campaign as they crashed out in the last 16, leading to the departure of Vlatko Andonovski. Hayes will be looking to make an instant impact as the USA target a fifth Olympic gold medal at Paris 2024.

She’s got history in the states having started her managerial career at Long Island Lady Riders before enjoying spells at Iona Gaels and Chicago Red Stars. But it won’t be an easy ride, with the likes of Megan Rapinoe, Julie Ertz and Ali Krieger all now retired.

It’s up to Hayes to nurture a new generation of talent to get the USA back on form. They’ve dominated women’s football for decades but the gap has closed, with teams like England, Spain and the Netherlands now a regular threat.

Some eyebrows were raised when Hayes took the USA job, with many hoping that she would wait for the England job to become available in order to make the move into international football. But she clearly relishes a challenge and if she enjoys even half the success stateside as she did at Chelsea, the USA side are heading straight back to the top.

ICON Legends – Rafael Nadal – Tennis Superstar

We’re heading over to the world of tennis as we take a look at the glittering career of Rafael Nadal for the latest edition of our ICON Legends series.

The Spaniard burst onto the scene back in 2001 and after turning professional at the age of 14, it took him just four years to win his first major title. Nadal hasn’t looked back since and has won 20 Grand Slams in total, second only to Novak Djokovic in the all-time men’s rankings.

Known as the King of Clay, Nadal has dominated the French Open throughout his career, winning it a record 14 times since his first Roland Garros triumph in 2005. He’s also helped himself to four US Open titles, as well as winning both the Australian Open and Wimbledon twice.

Nadal also won gold at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, making him the youngest ever player to achieve a Career Golden Slam. Considering his career has regularly been disrupted by recurring injury issues, it’s remarkable that Nadal has achieved all that he has, including being the only man to win multiple majors in three separate decades.

The 37-year-old missed this year’s French Open for the first time in 19 years and looks set to finally hang up his headband in 2024. But while it may be game set and match for his illustrious career, Nadal will always remain among the greatest players to ever pick up a racket.

The King of Clay

It’s rare to see a player so dominant in one tournament but Nadal made the French Open his playground. He won it nine times in his first 10 appearances and is the only player to win the same major tournament 14 times.

At the 2017 tournament, Nadal didn’t drop a single set and of the 115 matches he’s played at the French Open, he’s only lost three times. He holds the record for the most consecutive wins on clay, remaining undefeated on the surface over 81 consecutive matches from April 2005 until May 2007.

In total, Nadal has won 63 titles on clay, remaining unbeaten in French Open finals. He’s also the only player to complete the Clay Slam, winning the French Open alongside titles at Monte Carlo, Madrid and Rome in 2010.

Rivalry with Roger Federer

While Nadal and Federer were never rivals in a bitter sense and had a tremendous amount of respect for each other, for several years the pair were constantly battling for top spot. Before the emergence of Novak Djokovic, it was rare to see a Grand Slam not won by either of them.

Nadal remains the only player to beat Feder in four finals at the same major and is also the only player to defeat the Swiss in the final of three different majors, with only the US Open evading him.

In total, the pair have faced off 40 times, with Nadal coming out on top on 24 occasions. Remarkably, the Spaniard leads Federer 14-10 in their meetings in finals, although Federer has managed to defeat the master twice on clay.

They first met at the 2004 Miami Open where Nadal announced himself to the world by winning in straight sets. The pair then went on to win 11 consecutive Grand Slams between them from the 2005 French Open all the way through to the 2007 US Open.

Between 2006 and 2008 they contested every French Open and Wimbledon final. In fact, the 2008 Wimbledon final is considered by many to be the greatest tennis match of all time. Nadal took the first two sets before Federer fought back to take it to a deciding fifth set. There was nothing to separate them until Nadal finally edged it 9-7 to claim his first title at SW19.

The old rivals met for the final time in the Wimbledon semi-finals in 2019 but, unlike their first face-off in Miami, it was Federer who came out on top.

With Federer retired and Nadal expected to follow next year, it truly is the end of an era as we close the curtain on a remarkable period in modern tennis. And while the future looks bright following the emergence of Carlos Alcaraz, the young Spaniard has a long way to go before he can even come close to the achievements of his compatriot.

The word legend is thrown around far too casually in modern sport. However, following everything that he’s accomplished in his career, it would be impossible for anybody to argue that Nadal isn’t deserving of the accolade.

ICON Legends – Johnny Sexton – An Irish rugby hero

Irish rugby won’t quite be the same following the news that legendary fly-half Johnny Sexton is hanging up his boots.

The former captain helped his side to four Six Nations Wins, two Grand Slams and three Triple Crowns in a glittering career that saw him crowned the 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year.

Sexton scored an incredible 1,113 international points, the fourth-highest in history. He’s in rich company, with only Dan Carter, Owen Farrell and Jonny Wilkinson ahead of him in the all-time rankings.

Following a stellar career with Leinster, Racing 92, Ireland and the British and Irish Lions, we’ve taken a look back at the many highs (and lows) of Sexton’s rugby journey.

World Cup heartbreak

As Sexton clapped the travelling fans in his final match for his country, there wouldn’t have been a dry eye back home in Ireland. The fly-half was unable to keep it together as TV cameras caught his son encouragingly saying “You’re still the best, dad.”

He is undoubtedly Ireland’s greatest ever player and a World Cup win this summer would have been the icing on the cake, possibly cementing his place as the best the sport has ever seen.

Despite a trophy-laden career, Sexton was never able to add the Webb Ellis Cup to his impressive collection. Ireland have never progressed beyond the quarter-finals and that continued in France as they suffered a 28-24 defeat to New Zealand in the final eight.

The tournament wasn’t all bad for Sexton. Their pool stage triumph over Tonga saw him become Ireland’s highest points scorer of all time, while their 82-8 win against Romania was their biggest ever World Cup win.

Yet those records will do little to soften the blow of never being able to claim rugby’s greatest honour in what was possibly Ireland’s biggest opportunity in years.

Ireland national team sing the national anthem during the Rugby World Cup

Rugby Hospitality

An Irish idol

While Sexton’s medal collection has one notable omission, it does little to taint an incredible legacy in the green of Ireland. The 38-year-old spent 14 years giving his all for his home country, captaining them for the final four years of his career.

He made his debut way back in 2009 and was an instant hero as he scored 16 points, kicking seven from seven and winning man of the match in blistering conditions against Fiji.

He then followed that up against South Africa, where a broken hand didn’t stop him from scoring all 15 points in a 15-10 win.

A long-winded rivalry with England was spawned in the 2011 Six Nations as he scored 14 points to stop them from winning a Grand Slam. The first of Sexton’s four Six Nations championships came in 2014 as he finished as the joint-highest try scorer, before Ireland repeated the feat the following year.

Ireland won their third ever Grand Slam in the 2018 Six Nations but that dream almost fell apart in the first game. They were trailing away at France but Sexton stepped up to save the day, scoring a crucial drop goal in the 83rd minute after 41 phases to win the game 15-13.

Sexton was imperious throughout the tournament, scoring 44 points across the five games on his way to being nominated for player of the tournament. And it wasn’t just in the Six Nations that he excelled as he continued an impressive 2018 by helping Ireland secure their first series win in Australia since 1979.

He finished that season undefeated as a starter for Ireland and became just the second ever Irishman to be crowned World Rugby Player of the Year.

Sexton enjoyed a successful final few years captaning his nation and last summer he led them to a Test series win in New Zealand. That victory saw Ireland become the first touring side to defeat the All Blacks in their own backyard since 1994.

And in Sexton’s final ever Six Nations game against England, Sexton captained Ireand to their fourth (and his second) Grand Slam.

Heineken Cup hero

Away from the international stage, Sexton has also enjoyed a remarkable domestic career, most notably for hometown club Leinster. Apart from a brief two-year spell at Racing 92 in France, Sexton spent his entire career at Leinster and helped them to four European Cups, six league titles, one European Challenge Cup and two Irish Shields.

Sexton’s first Heineken Cup triumph came in 2009, where a stunning drop goal from the halfway line helped Leinster to their first ever European Cup. He scored 11 points as his side won 19-16 against Leicester Tigers.

Two years later, Leinster’s name was on the trophy again after Sexton inspired them to one of rugby’s greatest ever comebacks. They trailed 22-6 at half-time but two tries and 28 points from Sexton saw them claim a remarkable 33-22 win. Sexton won man of the match and his haul was the second-highest points tally ever recorded in a Heineken Cup match.

Leinster secured a second consecutive Heineken Cup a year later – their third in four years – and Sexton scored 15 points in the 42-14 win over Irish rivals Ulster, which was the biggest ever winning margin in a final.

Following Sexton’s return from France, he became Leinster captain in 2018 and led them to a fourth European Cup, beating old side Racing 92 in the final, before they claimed four consecutive league titles to cement their place as one of Europe’s greatest sides.

Love him or loathe him, Sexton has had a phenomenal career and as he settles down to enjoy a well-deserved retirement, he’ll rightly be remembered as one of the best to ever do it.

ICON Legends – Lionel Messi – Football superstar

In the latest instalment of our ICON legends series, we’ve taken a look at the mind-blowing numbers behind Lionel Messi and his incredible career.

While football fans will never unanimously agree on who the best player of all time is, it’s undeniable that Messi deserves to be at the centre of any debate. The Argentinian broke into Barcelona’s first team at the age of 17 and he hasn’t looked back since.

Messi spent 17 years running the show at the Nou Camp, winning an astonishing 34 trophies, including four Champions Leagues and 10 La Liga titles. He scored 672 goals for the Spanish side, including 73 in the 2011/12 season, which landed him one of his six European Golden Shoes.

He was the talisman in one of the greatest club sides in history under Pep Guardiola, leading Barca to Spanish football’s first ever treble in 2009. Messi’s dominance continued and alongside Neymar and Luis Suarez, he was part of one of the most feared attacks in Europe as Barca secured European glory again in 2015.

The 36-year-old has won it all at club and international level and he holds the record for the most Ballon d’Or wins, having secured the coveted award an incredible seven times.

Rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo

Messi enjoyed a healthy rivalry with Cristiano Ronaldo that lasted nine years, with both of them in the prime of their career as they competed for fierce rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Ronaldo regularly joins Messi in the conversation for best of all time and they’ve each developed a dedicated cult following worldwide – it truly is the footballing equivalent of Blur vs Oasis.

The pair have won 79 trophies between them and have each scored more than 800 career goals. For many years they shared the Ballon d’Or, with no other player managing to win it between 2008 and 2017.

Their domestic rivalry ended in 2018 when Ronaldo left La Liga to join Juventus and despite the drama that was created whenever they met on the pitch, it was evident throughout their careers that the pair had nothing but respect and admiration for one another.

Messi Kolkata - World Cup Poster

World Cup win

Messi has been compared to Diego Maradona throughout his career due to both his playing style and his prestige back in Argentina. And while Messi is his country’s all-time leading goalscorer, there were always question marks over his legendary status due to the fact that he hadn’t won the World Cup.

He almost single-handedly managed it in 2014 as he guided Argentina to the World Cup final before they fell at the final hurdle, ultimately losing to Germany.

That looked to be the end of Messi’s World Cup dream as just two years later he announced his international retirement. But he quickly changed his mind and helped his nation reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

It wasn’t for another three years that Messi would taste international glory as Argentina beat Brazil in the final to secure the 2021 Copa America. And a year later, he finally etched his name alongside Maradona’s by winning football’s ultimate prize.

Despite being 35 years old at the tournament in Qatar, Messi rolled back the years as he captained Argentina to the final. He scored twice against France as the game finished 3-3, before Messi and co. came out on top in a tense penalty shootout to bring the famous trophy back to Argentina for the first time since 1986.

Ballon d’Or favourite

As a result of winning the World Cup, Messi remains the favourite to win the Ballon d’Or for the eighth time. The superstar continued his brilliance after the tournament as he helped PSG to the Ligue 1 title.

Messi has since crossed the pond to join Inter Miami, where he has reunited with former Barcelona team-mates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba and the trio have already secured the 2023 Leagues Cup.

Manchester City star Erling Haaland will be a strong contender when the Ballon d’Or ceremony rolls around next month. The Norwegian striker enjoyed a season Messi would be proud of as he scored a phenomenal 52 goals en route to the treble in his debut season in England.

But the award famously favours success in the World Cup and having already won it seven times, it seems inevitable that an eighth is on its way.

ICON Legends – Stuart Broad – England Cricket Idol

English cricket may have entered a new era but it has also reached the end of one with Stuart Broad retiring last week. After a professional career spanning almost 20 years, the legendary bowler has made the decision to hang up his headband for good.

Broad will go down as one of England’s greatest ever players and he went out with a bang, taking his 604th Test wicket (and his 151st in the Ashes) with the final ball of his career.

The 37-year-old spent the majority of his career at hometown club Nottinghamshire, as well as enjoying brief dalliances in the IPL and the Big Bash. He played a whopping 167 Test matches for England and has captained both the ODI and T20i teams.

As part of our ICON series, we’ve taken a look at the highlights of Broad’s glittering career.

Broad’s early years

Considering he spent his career near the bottom of the order, it’s hard to believe that Broad started out as an opening batsman. A growth spurt at 17 saw him develop into a fast bowler and it wasn’t too long before the fresh-faced starlet was making his first-class debut for Leicestershire.

Broad spent three years at the midlands club before switching allegiance to Nottinghamshire in 2007, where he spent the rest of his domestic career. And it was that very same year that he faced his first true test as a cricketer.

In a T20 World Cup match against India, Yuvraj Singh hit Broad for six sixes from just one over. It was the first time it had ever happened in a T20 game and just the fourth time in cricket history.

Instead of letting the incident derail his progress, Broad used it as inspiration. Just three months later he made his Test debut and he hasn’t looked back since, becoming a mainstay in the team for the next 16 years.

Becoming a Test match star

Broad’s Ashes debut came two years later in Cardiff as he followed in the footsteps of his father, Chris Broad, who played 25 Test matches for England. The fifth Test at The Oval saw him crowned man of the match as he bowled an impressive 5/37.

Broad continued to shine on the world stage for England with both bat and ball. In 2010 he scored a career-high 169 against Pakistan, the second highest ever score from a number nine.

And the following summer he claimed his first Test match hat-trick against India at Trent Bridge. He’s one of only four players to claim multiple hat-tricks, with the second coming against Sri Lanka at Headingley in 2014.

In 2012, the West Indies didn’t know what had hit them at Lord’s. It was the Stuart Broad show as he got 7/72, finishing the match with 11 wickets.

Hometown glory

If England fans were impressed with Broad’s bowling display at Lord’s, they hadn’t seen anything yet. With England 2-1 up against Australia in the 2015 Ashes, they travelled to Trent Bridge for the fourth Test.

Perhaps spurred on by the crowd at his home ground, Broad was unstoppable. He recorded 8/15, the best bowling performance in the Ashes since Jim Laker in 1956, and the Aussies were bowled out for just 60 runs.

It was Broad’s best ever return in his career and England went on to win the match and claim the urn. Remarkably, his eight wickets didn’t include David Warner, who was dismissed by Mark Wood that day. The pair enjoyed a healthy rivalry throughout their careers, with Broad getting Warner a whopping 17 times in total.

Going out in style

For cricket fans, the summer of 2023 will be remembered for an incredible all-action, full-throttle, Ashes series – and Broad more than played his part.

He’s been part of so many Test sides throughout his illustrious career and his consistent bowling and reinvention at the crease as the ‘Nighthawk’ made him a perfect element for the ‘Bazball’ revolution.

Ultimately, the series didn’t go England’s way as a rain-soaked Manchester spoiled the fun during the fourth Test, meaning Australia retained the urn. But after announcing his imminent retirement midway through the final match at The Oval, Broad made sure his teammates would get the chance to party regardless.

Not one to go quietly, the stars aligned and the cricket gods ensured he went out in style. Emotions were high as Broad came out to bat for one final time with old pal Jimmy Anderson and there was undoubtedly a feeling of smugness as old foes Australia were forced to give him a guard of honour.

The early morning partnership didn’t last long but Broad made it memorable as he smashed Mitchell Starc for six from the final ball he’ll ever face. And when the tables were turned and England needed a hero to level the series, old reliable stepped up.

As Broad prepared to bowl another over, he was told by captain Ben Stokes that it would be his last, with Wood set to come in with his extra pace. But there would be no need for Wood as Broad finished the match, and the series, forcing Alex Carey to edge into the hands of Jonny Bairstow.

It would be impossible to sum up Broad’s career in just two final actions but fearless tail-end batting and relentless, pinpoint bowling is just about as close as you can get.

ICON Legends – Frankie Dettori – Horse Racing Hero

As we kick off our ICON Legend series, what better place to start than with Frankie Dettori, one of British sport’s most iconic figures.

The Italian jockey is hanging up his whip at the end of the racing season following a glittering 36-year career. Dettori burst onto the scene in 1987 and hasn’t looked back on his way to becoming one of the most successful jockeys in history.

It’s a talent that runs in the family. Dettori’s father was a top jockey in Italy and won the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket twice in a row back in the ‘70s. And it’s safe to say Dettori has surpassed his dad’s achievements.

He’s won just about everything on offer in British flat racing and he’s dominated overseas, winning countless races in Italy and Ireland to name a few, as well as claiming six victories in France’s famous Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

Frankie Dettori

Dettori’s early years

With racing in his blood, Dettori wasted no time in getting involved. He moved to England in 1985 aged just 14 and started working in the Newmarket stables with trainer Lucas Cumani.

Two years later he became an apprentice jockey and he claimed his first winner at Goodwood. It was clear Dettori had something about him from the start and he really caught the eye when he won his first Gold Cup at Ascot with Drum Taps in 1992, a feat he repeated the following year.

And it was in 1994 that he joined forces with Godolphin Racing, enjoying success with their best horses for the next 18 years. If he wasn’t on every racing fan’s radar yet, he soon would be. He was crowned British flat racing champion jockey in both 1994 and 1995, before claiming the title again in 2004.

Frankie Dettori Early years

Magnificent Seven

When you’ve enjoyed a career as long and successful as Dettori’s, it’s hard to narrow down one crowning achievement. But according to the great man himself, his greatest honour in the sport came at Ascot in 1995.

On British Festival of Racing Day, Dettori dominated the track and famously rode all seven winners. The incredible achievement had odds of 25,091/1 and is believed to have cost the bookies around £40 million.

Gold Cup dominance

Some things in sport just go hand in hand.

Usain Bolt and gold medals. Real Madrid and the Champions League. Roger Federer and Wimbledon. And Frankie Dettori and the Ascot Gold Cup belong in that category as well.

He’s won it a remarkable nine times, just two behind record-holder Lester Piggott. Dettori famously rode Stradivarius to a hat-trick of consecutive wins in the race between 2018 and 2020.

And he went out with a bang in his final royal meeting this summer, striding home to secure another Gold Cup aboard the imperious Courage Mon Ami.

The one that got away

Frankie Dettori has ridden a whopping 287 winners in Group 1 races, with 23 of those in British Classics. That total includes seven victories in the Epsom Oaks, with the most recent coming last month.

But there’s one race that has always evaded him. Dettori has won every single Group 1 race on offer in Britain apart from the July Cup at Newmarket. And in a cruel twist of fate, he’s set to miss out on taking part this year after receiving a ban for overuse of the whip at Ascot.

Is the prospect of winning it next year enough to convince the legendary jockey to postpone his retirement for another 12 months?

If he does have his heart set on bowing out at the end of the season, you’ve still got plenty of chances to see him race. Check out our hospitality options at the Ebor Festival at York in August and you can say a final farewell to one of horse racing’s all-time greats.