Rumour Has It: Man Utd want Fofana as Liverpool still eye Konate

By Sports Desk April 17, 2021

A new defender appears to be at the forefront of Manchester United's planning.

The Premier League giants have been linked with a host of centre-backs.

But they could turn to a familiar club to bolster their defence.

 

TOP STORY – ANOTHER LEICESTER DEFENDER SET FOR OLD TRAFFORD?

Manchester United are eyeing Leicester City defender Wesley Fofana, according to Foot Mercato.

United are targeting a new partner for former Leicester star Harry Maguire – the world's most expensive centre-back – amid links to RB Leipzig's Ibrahima Konate, Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Villarreal defender Pau Torres and Real Madrid pair Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.

Fofana only joined Leicester from Saint-Etienne at the start of the season and is contracted until 2025.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano says Konate remains one of Liverpool's top transfer targets. Liverpool are reportedly preparing a five-year contract.

Arsenal are targeting Rennes and France sensation Eduardo Camavinga, reports Marca. The 18-year-old midfielder, who has already rejected a contract extension, has been linked with Madrid, United and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Inter's Martin Satriano is attracting interest from Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea, PSG and Leipzig, claims the Daily Mail.

- Tottenham are considering a move for Barcelona's Emerson, says Mundo Deportivo. The 22-year-old is currently on loan at Real Betis amid links with Inter and PSG.

Atletico Madrid are eyeing Juventus sensation Nicolo Rovella and Udinese's Nahuel Molina, according to Mundo Deportivo.

- Gazzetta dello Sport reports Milan have enquired about Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan as the Serie A side consider alternatives to Gianluigi Donnarumma should he fail to sign a contract extension. Meanwhile, SportItalia says Milan have offered Inter full-back Danilo D'Ambrosio a two-year deal. The Italian is out of contract at season's end.

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    In a pre-match news conference lacking much talk of the opposition, there was one question that stood out in that regard ahead of Rangers' Europa League final clash with Eintracht Frankfurt.

    Gers captain James Tavernier was pointedly asked for his opinion on Eintracht wing-back Filip Kostic, given the pair are likely to see a lot of each other on the flank they'll share.

    "Obviously I respect how he's been playing, he's a top player," Tavernier said. "But, I've just got to bring the best version of myself when the game starts and try to cause him all the problems, try to make him deal with me for the majority of the game. That's all I can really do."

    Tavernier's response didn't offer any particularly great insight, but his mentality of wanting to cause Kostic as many problems was at least another identifier of how their duel could be such a key battle.

    Of course, it's worth pointing out that Tavernier, a right-back, remarkably heads into Wednesday's game as the Europa League's top scorer on seven goals, and realistically – or, unrealistically – only a hat-trick from Eintracht's Daichi Kamada can prevent the Englishman from at least ending the season with a share of the competition's golden boot.

    Further to that, he netted 19 times over the course of the 2020-21 season and could yet match that figure this term – he also has an impressive assists haul of 17.

    If it needs reiterating, he's a huge contributor for Rangers in the final third.

    So, given he's technically a right-back, there's obviously an element of Tavernier needing to be solid defensively on Wednesday, but some might suggest it's even more essential he's as sharp as ever going forward as that would not only give Rangers a credible threat on the right, but it would potentially keep Kostic occupied in a deeper position.

    Granted, Eintracht's set-up with a back three should always ensure they have an extra man to cover for Kostic's runs forward, while the two attacking midfielders supporting Rafael Borre up top often occupy narrow, deeper berths in order to maximise the space out wide for their biggest threat.

    Yet there's always the possibility of an overload in behind Kostic if the conditions are right, such is his attacking influence.

    After all, the frequency at which Kostic delivers into the box is frankly astonishing. This season, he has been the executor of 519 crosses and corners, 140 more than any other player in the top five leagues – Trent Alexander-Arnold is second with 379.

    Kostic's 78 successful crosses from open play is also a season-high. Of course, you would expect him to lead the way given he's attempted so many more than anyone else, but his 26.8 per cent accuracy (crosses/corners) is right in line with the average (among players with at least 100 attempted). That in itself is impressive given his greater frequency.

    Another way of looking at it is, he is producing one accurate open-play cross every 45.4 minutes. While that may not sound incredible on the face of it, his 12.4 expected assists (xA) is the 10th highest among players in the top five leagues, highlighting just how much of a weapon he is in terms of his creative quality.

    So, while he may be classed as a wing-back in terms of his position on a team line-up graphic, the Serbian is there for his attacking tendencies.

    A cursory glance at his map of open-play chances created proves that point.

    But Rangers must also be aware of the danger posed on the opposite flank.

    Ansgar Knauff has been one of the stars of Eintracht's journey to the final, with the 20-year-old becoming something of a revelation in the past few months.

    As recently as mid-January he was turning out for Borussia Dortmund's second team in the third tier. Then he joined Eintracht on loan and has since scored important Europa League goals against Barcelona and West Ham.

    His impact on the road to Seville has been significant, with his brilliant athleticism, bravery and confidence on the ball making him a real asset on the right-hand side.

    Before Knauff's arrival, Eintracht were rather lopsided, with their other options on the right far from convincing. Sure, Kostic remains their main outlet, but Knauff's emergence has provided them with another – albeit stylistically different – threat on the other side, giving them greater balance.

    Across all competitions since his Eintracht debut in early February, only Kostic (5.6) and Jesper Lindstrom (2.6) have amassed better xA records than Knauff, who is also fifth to those two, Borre and Kamada in terms of xA and xG (expected goals) combined.

    He may not be their deadliest weapon, but he's proven he can offer them a lot, and his team-high 61 dribble attempts in that period proves he's happy to make his markers work for their money.

    Oliver Glasner's team is full of neat, technical players and is also blessed with fine work ethic, as it would need to be to play their high-pressing football.

    But their width and desire to attack from the flanks is fundamental to how they play – while it may be easier said than done, limiting their effectiveness out wide would go a long way to ending Rangers' 50-year European trophy drought.

  • Rumour Has It: Claims Messi to buy into Inter Miami in 2023 Rumour Has It: Claims Messi to buy into Inter Miami in 2023

    Lionel Messi's much-publicised move to Paris Saint-Germain has not gone as planned.

    Messi's departure from Barcelona to join Kylian Mbappe and Neymar has not translated into European silverware despite lofty expectations in the French capital.

    While the 34-year-old's future at PSG might be in doubt, he reportedly appears to be setting himself up for life post-football.

    TOP STORY – MESSI TO BUY INTO INTER MIAMI   

    Messi will acquire 35 per cent of shares in Inter Miami and the join the MLS franchise when his contract expires at PSG, according to DIRECTV.

    The Argentina international made a very public and emotional departure from Barcelona last year, before signing a two-year deal at PSG.

    Despite six goals and 13 assists in 25 Ligue 1 appearances this season, the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner has not propelled PSG to European success.

    While Messi has previously confirmed his desire to play in the MLS and live in the United States, it will reportedly eventuate after his deal expires at the end of the 2022-23 season.

    However, Sport has disputed the report, saying Messi's camp insist "the player has not defined his future".

    ROUND-UP

    – The Mirror is reporting 20-year-old Ajax defender Jurrien Timber is a target for Manchester United, with talks already believed to have taken place over his transfer.

    – Juventus have offered Paul Pogba, who will be available on a free transfer when his United deal expires, a three-year-deal and a €7.5million annual salary, according to Goal.

    – In further anticipated player turnover at Old Trafford, Roma coach Jose Mourinho wants to bring in 33-year-old Nemanja Matic on a free transfer, per Calciomercato.

    – Manchester City are preparing a £30m move for Brighton and Hove Albion's Marc Cucurella, the Daily Mail reports.

  • MLS salaries revealed: Xherdan Shaqiri tops list of big earners with bumper Chicago Fire deal MLS salaries revealed: Xherdan Shaqiri tops list of big earners with bumper Chicago Fire deal

    While his old club Liverpool battle to finish in first place in the Premier League, Xherdan Shaqiri is top of the money tree in Major League Soccer with the Chicago Fire.

    Switzerland international Shaqiri is the highest-earning player in the US-centred top flight, new figures released on Tuesday by the MLS Players' Association (MLSPA) revealed.

    The 30-year-old is on a base annual salary of $7.35million, with guaranteed compensation of $8.15million.

    Shaqiri left Liverpool at the end of last season to join French club Lyon, but he spent less than six months in Ligue 1 before being signed as a designated player by Chicago in February.

    He became the Fire's most expensive acquisition, reportedly costing €6.5million ($7.5million), and was described by Chicago sporting director Georg Heitz as "a game-changing player".

    The club's new number 10 has scored two goals and had three assists in nine games to date for Chicago.

    On the money list, he sits ahead of LA Galaxy's former Manchester United and Real Madrid forward Javier Hernandez ($6million base salary) and Inter Miami's Gonzalo Higuain ($5.1million), another Madrid old boy.

    Top five highest base salary earners in MLS, according to MLSPA (players under contract on April 15 2022):

    1. Xherdan Shaqiri, Chicago Fire, $7.35million ($8.15million guaranteed compensation)
    2. Javier Hernandez, LA Galaxy, $6million ($6million guaranteed)
    3. Gonzalo Higuain, Inter Miami, $5.1million ($5.79million guaranteed)
    4. Alejandro Pozuelo, Toronto FC, $3.8million ($4.69million guaranteed)
    5. Josef Martinez, Atlanta United, $3.7million ($4.14million guaranteed)

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