Transfer Gossip in top European Leagues

Sadio Mane is set to travel to Bayern Munich on Tuesday to undergo medical tests before joining the club on an imminent transfer away from Liverpool. Former Manchester City and Liverpool keeper David James cannot see why Gabriel Jesus is considering joining Arsenal this summer. Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus reportedly would instead join champions league winners La Liga side Real Madrid than Arsenal and Mikel Arteta this summer. Arsenal is said to have hedged Arsenal’s gamble to sign Gabriel Jesus by also making a bid for ex-Chelsea failure Alvaro Morata; the Atletico Madrid forward has spent the past two years on a long-term loan with Juventus, which is looking to make that arrangement permanent this summer.

Manchester United was among the Premier League sides enquiring last season about the availability of Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior, according to reports in Spain. Manchester United and Arsenal both had expressed an interest in taking Tammy Abraham back to the Premier League. Darwin Nunez is said to be joined Liverpool rather than Manchester United, with the Mirror Football exclusive reporting that Nunez wants to keep playing in Europe’s top-flight next season. Timber, Ajax’s current starter, is highly rated amongst the best players in the division, with both United and Liverpool heavily linked.

Pep Guardiola describes current Ajax star Timber as the perfect fit at City. A big-money move to Manchester’s blue-side would be far more palatable given their historical rivalry with United. Manchester United would have the opportunity for Champions League football again, and finally, some real identity and structure for their team. They insisted, following the departures of Darwin Nunez, Calvin Ramsay and Fabio Carvalho, that they would not be signing any more players this summer. That is because Dortmund already lost one of their key players to Manchester City’s signing of Erling Haaland and did not want to lose Jude Bellingham to a similar window.

Manchester United are set to renew their bid to sign Dutch midfielder Frenkie De Jong from Ajax, but the clubs are still about PS 15m apart in valuation. Starting what is probably already the most talked-about transfer of the summer transfer window, Man United are looking to persuade Frenkie de Jong to switch the Nou Camp for Old Trafford. With Eric Ten Hag set to manage United this summer, United could become a much more dangerous proposition on the transfer market next time around. Pau Torres is reportedly in United’s transfer wishes, along with Tottenham. Gabriel Jesus, in particular, remains open to leaving City, and his representatives have been said to have held talks with Arsenal in recent months.

Match Review: The Finalissima

A 10/10 performance from Lionel Messi and his team, helped them to grab The Finalissima title after beating the current EURO Champions Italy for three goals. 

First-half goals by Lautaro Martinez and Angel Di Maria put the South American champions in complete control against an Italy side who were back at Wembley 11 months after beating England to win the delayed Euro 2020.

Lautaro Martinez, Angel Di Maria and Paulo Dybala scored to lead Argentina to a 3-0 victory over Italy on Wednesday in the first Finalissima meeting of the South American and European champions. The opener was created by Lionel Messi’s solo brilliance taking him past Giovanni Di Lorenzo, and the Argentina captain squared for Martinez to slot past goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma in the 28th minute.

Martinez turned creator in first-half stoppage time by threading a pass through for Di Maria to chip Donnarumma, having got past Giorgio Chiellini. The 37-year-old Italy captain came off at halftime of his 117th and final international appearance. The win was wrapped up in the fourth minute of stoppage time, with Messi again providing the assist — this time for the substitute Dybala to strike low into the net.

Mesmerizing

Lionel Messi, the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner, lifted his second international trophy with Argentina in 11 months. This win is all the more special for Argentina’s number 10 because the last La Finallisima holder was another Argentina number 10, one Diego Maradona.

In a one-off meeting of the European and South American champions, the latter came strong, courtesy a player of the match performance from Lionel Messi, who’d put in a player of the tournament performance last summer to win the Copa America.

The 34-year old has now made 46 goal contributions in the 45 finals that he has played in his career. And judging by the two assists that he recorded on his record-extending 161st Argentina appearance last night, there is no sign of Messi slowing down with the chance to win a first World Cup title later this year.

It was a second trophy lift at Wembley for Messi, who had won the Champions League Final here with Barcelona in 2011, beating Manchester United 3-1 and putting in another player of the match performance. The celebrations for La Albiceleste were not so different as they threw their captain in the air, forming a huddle around him. Same as they did after their Copa America win last year in Brazil.

It was a painful return for the Italians to Wembley Stadium, who’d won their Euro title last year on the same turf. The Azzuri will miss playing at the World Cup for the second successive time.

 

UEFA announces Champions League team of the season

UEFA has picked its Champions League squad of the season, just days after Liverpool were defeated by Real Madrid in the competition’s final in Paris.

Los Blancos beat the Reds 1-0 in the French capital in a game marred by ugly scenes outside the ground before and after.

The two finalists, predictably, dominate the XI, with each side fielding four players. The other three names are PSG, Chelsea, and Manchester City players.

Thibaut Courtois was selected in goal, most likely motivated by his final heroics, which included a number of brilliant saves from Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.

The Belgian will be particularly pleased that UEFA’s committee had shown him the requisite ‘respect’ that he demanded in many of his post-final media interviews.

Meanwhile, Liverpool dominates the back line, with three of their players picked with Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger in defence.

Virgil van Dijk was picked in the centre of defence with German Rudiger, with Andrew Robertson starting at left back. Despite his high-profile loss to Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior for the game’s lone goal on Saturday, Trent Alexander-Arnold completes the Liverpool defence.

Luka Modric was the clear choice in midfield despite tight competition. His efforts against PSG and Chelsea, particularly in the round of 16 and quarter-finals, appeared to guarantee him a place regardless of what transpired in the semi-finals and final.

Fabinho, who returned from injury for Saturday’s final, was named to the midfield three. His defensive performance for Liverpool has been consistently impressive this season, but his goal away at Villarreal in the semi-finals was critical to the Reds’ success.

Kevin De Bruyne was picked alongside Modric and Fabinho, with the City star playing pivotal roles in each of City’s knockout matches.

In attack, Liverpool fans may be surprised that neither Salah nor Mane made the starting lineup. Despite his team being eliminated at the first knockout stage, UEFA chose Kylian Mbappe to play in Salah’s normal right-side position.

However, the Frenchman had scored twice across the tie with Real Madrid prior to Karim Benzema’s astonishing second half rescue act.

After one of the genuinely great continental campaigns, Benzema’s 15 goals across the competition ensured him a berth in the squad.

Hat-tricks against PSG and Chelsea, in particular, will live long in the memory of a club that has had many memorable nights on the European stage.

Vinicius’ deployment on the left completes the team. Having slipped under the radar due to Benzema’s out-of-this-world heroics, the Brazilian burst into the tournament at a critical juncture.

His goal to drag Real Madrid back to 3-2 at the Etihad was essential in the circumstances of that match, while his finish on Saturday night is self-explanatory!

So yeah, that is the team of the season! You can check out the entire team by clicking here!

 

 

Kylian Mbappe to join Real Madrid or to stay with PSG

Real are optimistic about sealing the deal before the transfer window shuts in a few months since they believe Kylian Mbappe is not signing a new agreement in Paris, as his current contract is set to expire at the end of this season. PSG rejected a transfer request for an estimated PS145.8m in summer 2021, the same summer Kylian Mbappe entered the last 12 months of his PSG contract, and they have turned down approaches once more in January 2022, hoping that they can persuade the three-time Ligue 1 player of the year to sign a new contract. With Kylian Mbappe set to be a free agent in 2022, Real Madrid was still thinking such a pricey deal was worth doing now, while PSG decided to hold out, hoping Mbappe would eventually sign an extension, though a shorter one. The question is whether clubs can agree on a fee. Since his current contract ends in 2022, meaning that Kylian Mbappe can talk to Real Madrid about a free transfer, it seems to be Paris Saint-Germain’s responsibility to secure a fair price.

Goal understands Kylian Mbappe has turned down no less than half a dozen offers for an extension at PSG, and agreeing to a personal terms deal with Madrid would be a non-issue. The forward is now entitled to talk to other clubs, as he is entering the final months of his contract at PSG. While it is thought that PSG is still trying to persuade the forward to remain in the capital, Real Madrid is confident he will sign with them as soon as the PSGs season ends next week.

Kylian Mbappe has yet to sign paperwork for Real, and his current club, PSG, are still trying to persuade him to change his mind. The offer comes as several reports in Spain and France suggest that Kylian Mbappe is close to joining Real Madrid on a free transfer once his PSG contract ends after the season ends. It now looked as though he would depart in January, the first, with the upcoming galactico set to leave arrangement next summer, with Madrid likely agreeing to take him for free in January. PSG sporting director Leonardo said that he expected Kylian Mbappe to remain past this season and denied PSG had received the latest deadline-day bid of EUR 200m from Real Madrid for Kylian Mbappe.

However, according to transfer expert Gianluca Di Marzio, Mbappe is “likely to remain with PSG.” According to another story in Sports Bible, PSG has apparently given Kylian Mbappe the position of the owner of their sporting endeavour, with absolute ability to replace coaches and choose whoever players he wants.

Jack Grealish vs Aston Villa for the title decider

Jarrod Bowen’s first-half brace prevented the Blues from expanding their lead at the top of the table to six points ahead of Liverpool’s midweek visit to Southampton.

After a dreadful first 45 minutes in which City conceded twice against the run of play, Jack Grealish hit back to cut the deficit in half and give his side hope of a comeback in their penultimate league game of the season.

An own goal by Vladimir Coufal with just over 20 minutes remaining levelled the score, but City were denied a late winner when Riyad Mahrez’s penalty was saved by Lukasz Fabianski.

Grealish, on the other hand, is convinced that his team will win the title when they face their old employers and boyhood club on the final matchday of the season this weekend.

Grealish’s first major honour would be to win the Premier League, and the game against his boyhood club on Sunday is full of stories.

Villa is managed by Liverpool icon Steven Gerrard, and their squad features former Reds players Danny Ings and Philippe Coutinho. Grealish stated that despite the many tales, he is not distracted.

“Of course, we are going to be confident. We have got a great record at the Etihad this year and we have scored a lot of goals, so it is down to us,” the 26-year-old said after Sunday’s draw at the London Stadium.

“We have to just try and get the three points on the last day. It is not about me (playing Aston Villa) or the opposition, it is about the team and the club. That is what I have got in my head.

“It is going to be a big day for this city and for this football club. Hopefully we can go and lift the trophy. All we can do is go out there and try to get three points so we can get our hands on the trophy.

“Of course, it will be a nice occasion for me, but it is about the team and we have a job to go out there and get three points. I am looking forward to it and I cannot wait.”

Aurelien Tchouameni prefers Premier League

The Reds have already sealed a deal for Fulham attacker Fabio Carvalho ahead of next season. But Klopp and the management are scouring the market for new arrivals, with a midfielder likely to be top of that list.
According to journalist Fabrizio Romano, Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni could potentially join Liverpool this summer.

One player who has been linked with a move to Liverpool is Tchouameni, who is arguably one of Europe’s most highly-rated young midfielders.

The 22-year-old has been an influential performer for Monaco throughout this season, averaging 2.5 tackles and 2.8 interceptions per game in Ligue 1.

Tchouameni is an enormous prospect who has been described as extraordinary by Paul Pogba, and he looks like someone who could be the perfect addition to Liverpool’s midfield.

He could come in as a squad player initially, but it likely wouldn’t take long before he was an integral part of Klopp’s team, combining quality on the ball – he enjoyed a 90.9% pass completion rate across five appearances for France in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, with tireless work off it.

With the likes of James Milner, Jordan Henderson and Thiago all now in their 30s, and Fabinho turning 29 this year, it is vital that fresh legs come in in the middle of the park. Tchouameni is perfect in that respect.

Monaco star Tchouameni has no interest in signing for PSG as he wants to further his career by leaving France this summer. That will give Liverpool and United a major boost ahead of the Ligue 1 champions, who could blow them both out of the water with money alone.

This summer, the France international is hot property ahead of the transfer window after a sensational campaign in Ligue 1. He even breaks into the national set-up where Didier Deschamps is spoilt for choice.
Real Madrid and Chelsea are also interested in the midfielder, but Liverpool and United might be able to entice the player should he decide to move to the Premier League. Both clubs are looking at strengthening the middle of the park, where they have looked light.

United have made signing a defensive midfielder a priority after a miserable campaign where their lack of a specialist has left them brutally exposed. At the same time, Liverpool have yet to truly replace Georginio Wijnaldum.
The French giants are expected to revamp their squad despite winning the title at a canter with the Champions League their main priority, and that could also include a change of manager with Mauricio Pochettino clinging to his job. But they will have to look elsewhere in the engine department.

 

World Cup without Italy Again!

Italy will miss the World Cup for the second time in a row after Italy were stunned by a counterattack goal in a World Cup qualifier in Palermo. Another World Cup agony for Italy after Aleksandar Trajkovski’s goal stopped the European Champions Italy to qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar.  Italy conceded goals at the end of the playoffs to seal their fate. The defeat knocked Italy out of the European play-offs, just like the loss to Sweden four years ago. 

Italy broke England’s hearts last July by winning the European Championship final, but after failing to qualify for the World Cup for the second time in a row, fans thought their Wembley triumph was nothing. The Italian team lost to Spain in the 2012 European final and won the 2020 European Championship but missed out on two World Cups, only the third time they have failed to qualify since  1958 and imagine another World Cup without them.

Roberto Mancini’s Italian team scored a total of 32 shots during Thursday’s play-off semi-final. Still, it somehow failed. Lower-ranked North Macedonia will play Portugal for a place in Qatar next Tuesday. Still, whatever happens in this play-off final, the team will never forget their trip to defeat Italy’s might in Palermo. On Thursday, Italy missed dozens of chances in their 1-0 play-off semi-final against North Macedonia. Aleksandar Trajkovski scored in injury time to secure a shocking win for the 67th ranked nation.

The visitors’ decisive blow incredibly sent North Macedonia to the World Cup play-off final at the expense of European champions Italy in one of the biggest qualifying shocks of any heat. As Italy was upset for 90 minutes by North Macedonia’s heroic defensive play, Alexander Trajkovski, a former Palermo player, scored the only goal in the World Cup qualifier in the second minute of injury time,

However, after trying to find an attack for the match, North Macedonia shocked the Italian fans and the football world at large in the second stoppage time with a goal that put them 1–0 ahead and eventually gave them the victory. After 30 minutes of dominance without a severe threat to the doors of North Macedonia, Italy had an excellent opportunity to take the lead. Italy, as expected, dominated the game but, as they had in the last few games, struggled to beat a determined visiting team. When opportunities presented themselves, they weren’t patient enough to take advantage of them. 

Missing out on the FIFA World Cup for the second consecutive time, where do you think the football in Italy will go? The National team appointed Mancini as their new manager, who helped them win the EURO Cup but failed to qualify for the World Cup. Will we witness a change in the managerial role again?

Match Preview: Portugal vs Turkey

Portugal are set to take on Turkey in a Path C semi-final clash of the European play-offs for the 2022 FIFA World Cup at Estadio do Dragao in Porto on Thursday. Fernando Santos’ men finished second to Serbia in Group A of the qualifiers. In contrast, Turkey finished runners-up to the Netherlands in Group G. As a result, they now have to negotiate a tricky play-off path.

Portugal fans cannot forget the name Aleksandar Mitrovic quickly enough, as with the Euro 2016 champions and Serbia level pegging at 1-1 in their final group encounter, the Fulham forward dramatically headed home in the 90th minute to send his side into the finals.

A goalless stalemate with the Republic of Ireland three days before that 2-1 defeat also proved costly in Portugal’s bid to secure a simple route to Qatar, with Santos’s side now at a real risk of failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1998.

A potential meeting with Italy in the play-off final could follow for Portugal – assuming that the European champions can navigate their way past North Macedonia in the other Path C semi-final – meaning that at least one of the two European heavyweights will be watching on from home later this year.

A record of 17 points and a +11 goal difference means that Portugal boast the best group record out of any UEFA nation in the play-offs, but defeat to Serbia at the Estadio da Luz marked their first home loss in World Cup Qualifying since 2008.

However, Santos’s side had won 10 on the bounce at home in qualification before Mitrovic, and Dusan Tadic put them to the sword in November, although their upcoming opponents have enjoyed quite the revival since their Euro 2020 capitulation.

With Ruben Dias injured and Joao Cancelo suspended, Portugal’s backline has been further depleted by Pepe testing positive for COVID-19.

Santos will also miss midfielder Ruben Neves and goalkeeper Anthony Lopes due to injuries. Renato Sanches is also injured, though a suspension would have kept him out anyway.

Turkey defender Mert Muldur is set to return after serving his ban. Veteran striker Burak Yilmaz has been consistent but expects Stefan Kuntz to explore his options in attack.

Head-to-Head

In eight head-to-head encounters between the two sides, Portugal hold the clear advantage, having won six games and lost two.

The two countries last faced each other way back in 2012, with Turkey beating Portugal 3-1. A brace from striker Umut Bolut and an own goal from centre-back Pepe ensured victory for Turkey. Winger Nani scored the consolation goal for Portugal.

Portugal form guide: L-D-W-W-W

Turkey form guide: W-W-W-D-L

Portugal vs Turkey Predicted XI

Portugal Predicted XI (4-3-3): Rui Patricio, Diogo Dalot, Goncalo Inacio, Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro, Joao Moutinho, Matheus Nunes, Danilo Pereira, Bernardo Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, Goncalo Guedes

Turkey Predicted XI (4-4-2): Ugurcan Cakir, Zeki Celik, Merih Demiral, Caglar Soyuncu, Ridvan Yilmaz, Abdulkadir Omur, Hakan Calhanoglu, Dorukhan Tokoz, Muhammed Kerem Akturkoglu, Burak Yilmaz, Cengiz Under

 

Champions League: Benfica stun Ajax in the 2nd leg

Ajax’s incredible Champions League journey has abruptly come to an end after they were unable to win at home yet again.

Ajax failed to end a 26-year winless skid at home in the knockout rounds of the European competition on Tuesday, falling 1-0 to Benfica to end a faultless group stage campaign.

After a 2-2 draw in the first leg of the last-16 encounter in Lisbon last month, the Dutch club was anticipated to breeze through to the final eight with home advantage in the second leg.

However, their chances of extending their run in the Champions League were dashed by Benfica, who have had a dismal domestic season and are currently 12 points off the top of the Portuguese league.

Story of the match

After a 2-2 tie in the first leg in Lisbon, Erik ten Hag’s home team had control from the start at the Johan Cruijff Arena on Tuesday.

Benfica, on the other hand, struck decisively in the 77th minute, when Nunez blasted in the Portuguese visitors’ first shot on goal, sending Nelson Verissimo’s side through.

Ajax dominated the opening exchanges, with Sebastien Haller scoring after only seven minutes, but the celebrations were cut short by a late offside penalty against Dusan Tadic.

Ten Hag’s players continued to play with authority but without result before the break, with Antony testing Odisseas Vlachodimos from range and Ryan Gravenberch seeing a fizzing strike turned over.

Tadic swerved off target as Ajax resumed where they left off after the break, just before an unmarked opponent. Jan Vertonghen gave the hosts a scare when he headed wide from a good chance.

Antony came close to breaking the deadlock, but his headed effort just missed the top-left corner, and Ajax’s failure to convert proved costly with 13 minutes remaining.

Nunez towered over goalkeeper Andre Onana to meet Alex Grimaldo’s inswinging free-kick from the right flank, and he clinically headed into the left corner, snatching the victory for Benfica.

Ajax had a chance to equalize deep in stoppage time, but Benfica goalkeeper Odysseas Vlachodimos made a fantastic save to deny Brian Brobbey, who was then called offside.

Comments after the game

“Obviously I’m very happy. It was a very difficult game, we knew we all had to run when it came time to defend and attack,” Nunez told reporters.

“We played against a team that plays very well, we knew we were going to suffer, we suffered, we had to defend but our team gave everything,” he added.

Elimination was a bitter blow said home captain Dusan Tadic.

“We stopped all their efforts to counter-attack and then we lose from a free kick… We didn’t deserve to lose. We were the better team, but in Europe, it’s also about set pieces and counters. Then such a moment can be fatal.”

Benfica will now wait to find out the identity of their opponents in the last-eight draw on Friday, with the two-leg clashes set to take place across early April.

RIP Shane Warne: Legendary Leg Spin Bowler

 All-time great cricketer and Australian icon who surpassed cricket, Shane Warne, has died at the age of 52 after a suspected heart attack. Australian cricketer Shane Warne died suddenly of a suspected heart attack while on holiday on the Thai island of Koh Samui on Friday. Hours after Shane Warne’s death, Sunil Gavaskar was attacked by fans after discussing whether Shane Warne was the most excellent spinner of all time.

Australian cricketer Shane Warne, a game beloved by Shane Warne, one of the greatest cricketers of all time and a standout figure on and off the pitch, died Friday in Thailand. Voted one of the five greatest players of the 20th century by the authoritative Wisden Cricketers Almanack, Australian cricketer Shane Warne was one of the best shooters in the crowd. Their skill and lifestyle often made headlines. Coming out of international cricket after the 2006-07 Ashes, the urn was quietly won 5-0, Shane Warne was one of the most astute tacticians in cricket; “The greatest captain Australia has ever had,” was the oft-repeated phrase about the cricket brain, which is always full of ideas and theories.

After a disappointing debut against India in January 1992, when Shane Warne’s single-wicket was worth 150, Warne hinted at his full bowling potential in Australia, following an unlikely win over Sri Lanka in Colombo – His fifth appearance – he stole seven winning wickets. In the 1992-93 Boxing Day Test, their second game was at home against West Indies. Warne was the first bowler to grab 700 Test wickets, with his leg-spin, retiring from Australia in 2007 after a 5-0 home win over historic rivals England. Warne played for Australia from 1992 to 2007 and took 1001 International Tests and ODI wickets. Known for reviving the art of leg curls, Warne was part of Australia’s dominant Test team in the 1990s and 2000s and helped his country win a limited 1999 World Cup.

Affectionately known as Warney, Warne is credited with almost single-handedly reviving the art of the leg-spin in the early 1990s. Appearing as a brash young player with a shock of blond hair, Warne became as famous for his life away from cricket as for his exploits on the pitch. Warne stunned the cricket world when he cleaned the stump of English batsman Mike Gatting in an England-Australia match in Manchester in 1993.

The rise of the Twenty20 format follows Shane Warne’s international career, where he played in the Indian Premier League, captained Rajasthan Royals in 2008 and played cricket in England between the 2000s. Former Indian batsman Virender Sehwag said Australian cricketer Shane Warne was “one of the greatest spinners, the one who made him spin more”, Gary Lineker added in a tweet: “The greatest ever. Great spinner”.

Shane Warne will be remembered forever in cricket history for his leg-spin bowling.