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Top 20 Sports Stars of the 21st Century

Tom Brady

As Lewis Hamilton stormed to his 7th and record-equalling F1 title this winter it got us thinking. As the end of the decade looms with a sense of uncertainty, we wanted to look back, identify and celebrate some incredible sporting individuals who have established themselves in the history books. Accolades, achievements, trophies and medals set the barometers here as well as their impact and association with the sport that they competed in.

The only rule we’ve set is that they must have turned professional in this century, ruling out the likes of Tiger Woods, Floyd Mayweather, Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Brian O’Driscoll who competed professionally in the 1990s. That leaves us with a substantial 20 years of athletes to explore and we’ve narrowed it down to 20

Of course this will differ readers opinions and hopefully start a conversation over Christmas or in a pub (with your own household of course) so let us know who your top stars are. Some of our choices are still available to see in action before they retire, so browse through our hospitality packages and register your interest to secure a place at a major event in 2021.

 

Coming Soon
Where is Lewis Hamilton ranked among the best sport stars of the 21st century?
Where is Lewis Hamilton ranked among the best sport stars of the 21st century?
Where is Lewis Hamilton ranked among the best sport stars of the 21st century?

 

20th – Khabib Nurmagomedov: The undefeated UFC powerhouse defeated McGregor and many more before recently retiring, although a 2021 comeback could be on the cards.

19th – Valentino Rossi: Making his debut in 2000, Valentino Rossi has won 7 world championships since debuting in the major Motor GP classes in 2000.

18th – Teddy Riner: The Judo master has won 2 Olympic medals, 10 World Championships, 5 European Championships and went undefeated for an outrageous 10 years!

17th – Andres Iniesta: Scoring the winner in a World Cup final was the highlight of Iniesta’s incredible career. The midfield genius won 1 World Cup, 2 Euros, 4 Champions Leagues and 9 La Liga’s plus more.

16th – Rory McIlroy: For players that turned pro after 1999, Rory McIlroy has won 4 majors, the most alongside Brooks Koepka. It’s been 7 years since he won his last, so hopefully he can win another golf major in 2021.

15th – Ronda Rousey: The first UFC female fighter and champion, the first PPV headlining female athlete and an Olympic bronze medal in Judo, Ronda has defined an era for women and sport.

14th – Chris Froome: Chris has racked up 3 Tour de France victories and 2 Olympic Bronze medals on his way to becoming one of the best ever cyclists in the world.

13th – Eliud Kipchoge: The Kenyan holds the world record for the marathon. He beat the previous time by over a minute, posting 02:01:39 in Berlin in 2018. Can he defend his Olympic title in Tokyo next year?

12th – Novak Djokovic: Just 3 Grand Slams behind Nadal and Federer, Djokovic is the only player to achieve the ‘Big Titles Sweep’, winning all 4 slams, all 9 Masters titles and the Nitto ATP finals in one season.

11th – Jimmy Anderson: 600 wickets and counting Anderson is the all-time leading wicket-taker among fast bowlers. He’ll be chomping at the bit against India to add to his tally.

10th – Diana Taurasi: The ‘White Mamba’ has won 3 World Championships, 6 EuroLeague titles and 4 Gold medals, becoming the all-time WNBA scorer in the process.

9th – Rafael Nadal: With 20 Grand Slams to his name, is 2021 the year that he surpasses Federer to become the best ever? He’ll be eyeing up the French Open and Wimbledon to do so.

8th – Dan Carter: Top point scorer in international rugby, three time world player of the year and a MoM in the 2015 World Cup triumph.

7th – Lionel Messi: You should probably read below why he isn’t in the top 5…

6th – Usain Bolt: 8 gold medals and 2 active world records, the incredible Jamaican Usain Bolt is the most recognisable and much loved Olympian in the world.

 

5th Place – Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton sneaks into the top 5 for a whole host of reasons, but the brave decision to jump from an established McLaren team to an ambitious Mercedes project is one of the best gamble’s in sport. Having secured just one title in 2008 in his second season with McLaren, Hamilton hovered around the front of the grid without winning a second championship. Stick with a brilliant team that has the infrastructure to win titles or try and lead a team into a new era? Hamilton gambled.

Fast forward 8 years since making that move, the Stevenage born driver has won 6 more championships and has broke records that some never thought could be broken, set by the great Michael Schumacher. Watching his 14 year career to date, Hamilton has matured from a man that seemingly enjoyed the F1 lifestyle and attracted various headlines, to someone that has mellowed and used his voice and stature for greater causes in the world today. Some love him, others not so much, but there’s no doubting that he’s a superstar of the sport and arguably the best to have ever driven in F1. Lets hope he can create history in 2021, win at Silverstone and become the driver with the most world championships.

Key Stats:

Joint most F1 World Championships – 7

Most Race Wins – 95

Most Pole Positions – 98

Most Consecutive Points Finishes – 48 

 

4th Place – Lebron James

The King makes it into 4th place and whether you think Michael Jordan or Lebron James is the best player of all time, you can’t argue that he is a phenomenal athlete. Lebron was drafted as the number one pick in 2003 to Cleveland, his home town team and instantly became dominant in the league. After winning the Rookie of the Year, James continued to improve the Cleveland Cavaliers, turning them into a championship challenging team but ultimately never securing his and their first title.

Lebron decided to leave Cleveland to pursue his title dream, which was heavily criticised across the board but in the Miami Heat he found a squad more equipped to win. Since then he has won 4 championships in total, 2 with Miami, 1 on his return to Cleveland and the final with the LA Lakers last season.

James has had a rollercoaster career with many final losses against amazing teams but his ability to drag his teammates to new levels is reminiscent of Jordan. The championship win with Cleveland against the formidable Golden State Warriors in 2016 was one of the best finals performances the game has ever seen. There is no other NBA player in the last 20 years that could have elevated himself to that unstoppable level, driving Cleveland to an unprecedented achievement of coming back from 3-1 down to win 4-3 away in the final game. If he could win a couple of more titles with the Lakers then Lebron’s fight to topple Jordan as the undisputed best might just be conclusive.

Key Stats:

Most UEFA Champions League Goals – 130 

Most Goals for Real Madrid – 450

Most International Tournaments scored in – 10 

Fastest player to reach 50 goals in Serie A – 61 matches

 

3rd Place – Cristiano Ronaldo

Ok it had to be one of the two, but why Ronaldo? Firstly I think Messi is the most naturally gifted footballer and in his peak Barcelona years, he would be the first pick for any team in the world. Messi has more league titles, more Ballon d’Or’s, more team and individual awards with Barcelona than Cristiano. If you think Messi is the best and deserves to be on this list then it’s hard to argue with you.

But Ronaldo’s career path and evident transformation inspires me. His development under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United after signing from Sporting Lisbon was incredible, morphing from a soft and tricky winger, to a devastating goal scorer. He has scored more goals (748) than Messi (711) and has more champions league trophies, whilst winning the league multiple times in three countries. Also, a notable stat difference is the elusive international trophy that Ronaldo claimed with Portugal in Euro 2016. He appears to galvanise and elevate his international teammates, compared to Messi who was never able to bind a group of terrific players (especially in attack), amplified by 4 Copa America final defeats.

Both players have defined this era for football and will be fondly remembered when they finally hang up their boots for their dazzling performances and goals in major competitions around the world. If the beautiful game conjures up two more like Messi and Ronaldo in the next twenty years then maybe VAR won’t be the number one talking point after all…

Key Stats:

NBA MVP’s – 4 

All NBA First Team Appearances – 13

NBA Championships – 4 

All time points scorers – 3rd

 

2nd Place – Tom Brady

Tom Brady, the Californian born quarterback has had an incredibly long and successful NFL career. After being picked 199th in the 2000 draft by the New England Patriots, the ‘steal of the century’ has gone on to be the most successful ever NFL player in history, winning his first championship in 2001 and his 6th in 2018.

There are hundreds and hundreds of stats to prove why Tom is the best ever NFL player but his longevity is remarkable in a sport known for major injuries and short careers. The 43 year old is still playing, still winning games and still competing at the highest level, having secured a one year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers preceded by a 20 year spell of dominance at the New England Patriots. In a sport where there are 32 teams, a play-off system where one loss equals elimination and a format that encourages the worst performing teams to improve through a weighted draft structure, having 6 titles and 9 final appearances for one team is staggering.

Although heavily denied, the one scar on Tom’s CV is ‘Deflategate’ where he and the Patriots were accused of deflating the balls they used to their advantage on offence in 2015. Having been suspended for four games in 2016, Brady and the Patriots used the scandal as motivation that bought a renewed sense of togetherness, resulting in his 5th NFL Championship  that silenced a lot of criticism. A man I truly admire, Tom was extremely close to climbing on to the top pedestal, but when someone else has stood on that pedestal 23 times, it’s too hard to ignore.

Key Stats:

Most Superbowl victories by a player – 6

Most Regular Season games won by a quarterback – 226

Oldest QB to win a Superbowl – 41 years and 6 months

Most Play-Off Appearances by a player – 41

 

1st Place – Michael Phelps

The Olympic GOAT. The Flying Fish. However you want to describe swimming legend Michael Phelps, the man from Baltimore has had a truly insane 20 years. Qualifying for the 2000 Summer Olympics aged just 15 and breaking world records aged 16, Phelps has dominated the pool like no other. His very long torso and short legs were crucial as his natural body shape propelled him to competitive action against adults very quickly. 16 years later he owns a staggering 28 Olympic medals (23 of those gold) which easily gives Phelps the title of the most decorated Olympian of all time, 10 more than gymnast Larisa Latynina between 1956-1964. Phelps won medals in freestyle, individual medley and relays across four Olympic games and has broke world records 39 times in his career.

Astonishing stats for someone destined for success so early, but ultimately that can come at a price which has become more apparent over the last couple of years. Encouragingly like others athletes, Michael Phelps has opened up about his fight against depression, suicidal thoughts and anxiety recently and how intense periods before and after the Olympics can take it’s toll on an athlete’s mental health.

I can’t look past the dominance and medal count compared to anyone else in history to determine the best sports star of the 21st century to date. Michael Phelps is the number one sports star of the 21st century.

Michael Phelps

Key Stats:

Olympic GOAT

 

Live Sport in 2021

There are so many exciting events set to happen in 2021 and it will be fascinating to see who emerges across the world of sport in the next twenty years.

I have certainly missed the anticipation and buzz that attending a live sporting generates. All of us at Engage are excited to give you the best viewing experience possible for the incredible set of sporting fixtures next year. Please do not hesitate to call us on 0207 048 4848 to enquire about any of our hospitality events or you can register your interest on a specific event page. If you can’t see an event you would like to attend then call us or register your interest and we’ll be able to find the perfect solution for you.

Who are you kicking out of this top 5?

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UEFA Nations League Updated

England Football

UEFA Nations League update

England Football News – Introduction

This article will round up the latest England football news from the recent International Break.

3 games would finish Gareth Southgate’s and England’s 2020. A warmup game against the Republic of Ireland followed by 2 key UEFA Nations League fixtures away to Belgium, the world’s No1 ranked team and then back to the ‘Home of England Football’ for Iceland. Victory against Belgium in Leuven would offer the chance to top the group, however with a loss and other negative results then it would be the end of the road for the Three Lions.

Highlights of the England v Republic of Ireland fixture – Friendly

For the return to International duty Southgate selected an experimental England team to play the Republic of Ireland on Friday night.

England created early chances from set pieces with towering defenders Harry Maguire and Tyrone Mings providing the attempts.

England’s opener came from a Mason Mount corner. Initially headed away by the defence, the ball found its way out to Harry Winks on the edge of the box. After setting the ball for a cross Winks delivered brilliantly towards the back post where his name sake Harry Maguire won his header angling the ball past the outstretched Irish Randolph’s hand and into the right hand corner of the net.

It was the first spell of mini pressure, bringing the England skipper his goal and reprieve after a troubling 6 months of form for club and country. The goal, was a result of a power struggle against his opposite number, Irish centre back Shane Duffy. Maguire, with his aerial prowess constantly caused the Irish defence problems throughout the night, reminding a lot of his doubters why he is one of Southgate’s go to defenders.

England’s second goal came from a similar routine to the first. A Mason Mount corner was parried out to the edge of the box only to be swung in again by Winks. This time however the ball fell to Jack Grealish who released Jadon Sancho down the left flank. Sancho with his trademark quick feet was able to cut back onto his right foot and bend the ball through the legs of the defender and past the outstretched Randolph into the bottom left corner. A confident finish from Sancho who has not been at his best in the early rounds of the Bundesliga.

Second Half

In the second half Grealish continued to pull the strings in the midfield, drifting into space and unleashing England’s runners. Grealish, Mings, and Bukayo Saka combined well down the left-hand side providing a regular supply of chances to Dominic Calvert-Lewin to attack. It was the combination of Mings to Saka which brought about England’s third goal. Saka picking up the loose ball in midfield had plenty of work to do, but with his electric pace and quick feet he drew the foul, going to ground in the opposition box. The Spanish referee was quick to point to the penalty spot and Dominic Calvert-Lewin stepped up.

Having already netted 12 goals for club and country this season he smashed the ball top left leaving Randolph with zero opportunity, a very confident finish. Calvert-Lewin’s current form is great news for England and a genuine option for Gareth Southgate when Kane needs to be rested.

3-0 down and Ireland went missing in the last quarter of the match, Sancho and Saka beating players, finding the space to cross when they attacked with intent. England were far from clinical. With the amount of chances on offer, the game should have finished with a 5-0 or 6-0 score line. England were in total control after the first goal went in, there certainly will be tougher tests in the games to come.

Highlights of the England v Belgium fixture – UEFA Nations League

The heroics at ‘The home of England football’ 2 weeks earlier were not to be repeated at the King Power Stadium, Leuven. England’s chances of reaching the UEFA Nations League Finals were dashed by defeat to Belgium.

Southgate’s men were left frustrated as they were arguably the livelier team throughout. However, 2 early goals from Everton’s Youri Tielemans (10) and Napoli’s Dries Mertens (24) put England on the backfoot and despite Harry Kane’s relentless effort throughout the night, England lacked the cutting edge to bring them back into the game. This is a theme that needs addressing quickly by England’s coaching staff!

Belgium’s first goal came within 10 minutes with a twenty-yard shot deflecting off England’s defender Tyrone Mings. The ball cannoned onto the post and into the net, leaving Jordan Pickford no chance. Pickford got his fingers to the ball but only succeeded in pushing the powerful strike onto the post and into the goal.

Controversy surrounded Belgium’s second as it initially appeared that Declan Rice fouled Kevin De Bruyne on the edge of the box. However, in slow motion (unfortunately a tool not afforded to the referee) it was clear to see that Rice had won the ball and it was De Bruyne who kicked the defensive midfielder. Where’s VAR when you need it?

Both Kevin De Bruyne and Dries Mertens stood over the freekick but it was Mertens who stepped up and whipped the ball at pace over the wall and past another full-length dive from Jordan Pickford.

Defeat for Southgate’s men and a win elsewhere for Denmark means England have failed to qualify for the UEFA Nations League Finals.

Its worth mentioning the one positive throughout the last 2 rounds of fixtures, which has been the performances of Aston Villas maverick midfielder, Jack Grealish. England have been missing their creative players through injury, however Grealish has filled those shoes and more. Jack has emerged as the catalyst for anything positive, the driving force behind England’s attacking play. Southgate will be pleased he now has an alternative option to a front three of Sterling, Rashford and Kane.

Highlights of the England v Iceland fixture – UEFA Nations League

After the disappointment of missing out in the UEFA Nations League the England football team had a point to prove against Iceland. Back at Wembley the team wanted a positive result to end the year on a high. Southgate once again made changes to the starting 11 which included a long awaited start for Manchester City’s Phil Foden.

In the 19th minute Declan Rice scored his and England’s first goal. A superb header from a curling freekick from Foden to open England’s account. Rice’s perfectly timed run allowed him to beat his man to the ball and a glancing header found its way into the net. With the likes of Harry Kane and Eric Dier in the box you could forgive Iceland for overlooking Rice at the front post.

Once the first goal was scored it was as if England had flicked a switch, the tempo of their passing and movement picked up and Iceland were under constant pressure. It was only a matter of 4 minutes to wait for England’s second. With Jack Grealish pulling the strings in the midfield England found space down the left-hand side. Saka’s cross found Mason Mount who took the opportunity well with his left, an accomplished finish.

Second Half

For the opening 30 minutes of the second half Iceland were able to keep England’s advances at bay. It was a 79th minute red card which opened up the game. As the legs of the Iceland players began to tire, Saevarsson the Icelandic centre back pulled on the arm of Saka who went to ground. It was Saevarsson ‘s second offence of the evening and he received his marching orders. What was an already tough task with 11 players, just became a whole lot more difficult.

Foden dictated play in the midfield taking full advantage of the extra space afforded to England, creating chances freely. Southgate brought Jadon Sancho into the game combining with Foden for his first for England and teams third on the night.

England’s fourth was again scored by Foden. If his first was a technical finish, then this was clinical. A great strike, 30 yards out finding the bottom left-hand corner, no chance to Iceland’s goalkeeper.

4-0 on the night was a great result for a inexperienced England team. The youngsters Rice, Sancho, Foden and Grealish were front and centre throughout the game in great performance from England. All be it against a poor Iceland team.

England Football news – Conclusion

In conclusion to this latest round up of England Football News – It feels like every time we speak about England football there are positives but there are also plenty of question marks raised. The success of this generation and ultimately Gareth Southgate’s tenure will be judged on their silverware which currently sits empty. Southgate has plenty of talent at his disposal, it is now about finding the best formation and getting the best out of this England football team.

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Behind Closed Doors with Dylan Hartley

England v Ireland was a huge match in the first ever Autumn Nations Cup and although we couldn’t entertain in the stadium, we were delighted to entertain some of our clients with our ‘Behind Closed Doors’ Virtual Hospitality Package.

 

 

Behind Closed Doors – Dylan Hartley and Alex Payne are joined by the fantastic Jimmy Garcia to create the perfect pre-match meal with all of the premium ingredients that our clients were sent. Guests watched the full video to learn how to cook the three courses to restaurant quality, whilst listening to the guys give some exclusive insights around the relationship between food and rugby.

Dylan pours the pints for the guys as Jimmy whips up a special crumpet based starter, an incredible steak main course accompanied by a beautiful red wine and a sticky toffee pudding to finish, all easily made on gameday.

This is just a part of the package, as guests also received a live pre-match chat virtually with Alex Goode and Alex Payne. This was accompanied by hand-crafted snacks, a bottle of bubbles and other gifts to have alongside the game.

We’re delighted with our first exciting venture into virtual events and we can’t wait to bring you more options. Our next confirmed ‘Behind Closed Doors’ event will be Ireland v England in the Six Nations on 20th March.

Our range of events is expanding to Cocktail Masterclass, Tequila and Taco Night, Virtual Pub Quiz, Wine and Cheese Tasting Night and many more to come.

We are also getting ready for an extremely busy year of live sport as major competitions across the world of sport are being prepared in 2021. When it’s safe, we will be on hand to host you with our world-class hospitality packages.

Register Your Interest Now for any of our events and we will get back to you as soon as possible to discuss availability. Alternatively give us a call on 0207 048 4848.