Rumour Has It: Real Madrid eye Mbappe-Haaland pairing, Rice expects West Ham exit

By Sports Desk September 03, 2021

Real Madrid have not given up on their hopes of adding Kylian Mbappe. 

He will be a top priority for Carlo Ancelotti following the 2021-22 season.

But could Los Blancos add two stars for the price of one? 

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID EYE MBAPPE-HAALAND PAIRING

Real Madrid will be the favourites to land Kylian Mbappe following the season if he does not reach a new deal with Paris Saint-Germain, but they will not be content adding only him. 

According to Marca, Erling Haaland is also a prime target at the Santiago Bernabeu and Madrid could pursue both players. 

Mbappe would be available on a free and Haaland could be had from Borussia Dortmund via his €75million release clause. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Declan Rice expects to leave West Ham after the season, according to 90min, which reports he has asked the club to include a release clause in any new contract offer the Hammers might make. 

- Juventus declined the opportunity to sign Edinson Cavani from Manchester United after Cristiano Ronaldo's move in the other direction, the Mirror reports. 

- Former Tottenham right-back Serge Aurier prefers to remain in the Premier League and could end up at Arsenal, according to Sky Sports. The Ivory Coast international and Spurs terminated his contract by mutual consent this week. 

- Nicolas Nkoulou could be an option for Lazio if they cannot sign David Luiz, reports Calciomercato. 

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    Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders has expressed his excitement at Harvey Elliott's return to full training, saying that the youngster "didn't lose his football brain."

    Elliott has been out of action since September, having dislocated his ankle in a 3-0 Leeds United. The teenager had played in all four of Liverpool's previous games this season.

    The 18-year-old returned to full training earlier this week and Lijnders smiled as he was asked about the former Fulham player at a news conference ahead of Liverpool's EFL Cup semi-final second leg at Arsenal.

    "Let me say it like this, he didn't lose his football brain," Lijnders said, though he did not put a timescale on Elliott's return to match action.

    "He shows immediately what he's about. It would be a crime if you would not play him if he trains like this, but we know it's just the start of the team training. He needs time and we go step by step, of course.

    "Some players they never knock on the door, they run through it – and he's one of them."

    Elliott, the youngest ever Premier League player, returned to Merseyside at the end of last season having enjoyed a productive loan spell at Championship side Blackburn Rovers, where he registered the joint-third most assists in the division (11), behind only Emiliano Buendia (16) and Michael Olise (12), who is now playing a starring role for Crystal Palace.

    He was also the only player in the Championship to register as many as three second assists – which Opta defines as a pass/cross that is instrumental in creating a goal-scoring opportunity – and was eighth overall for successful passes into the final third (519), ahead of the likes of Olise (495), Leicester City's Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (478 while on loan at Luton Town) and Tottenham's Oliver Skipp (441 while on loan at Norwich City).

    In his three Premier League starts and one substitute appearance this season before his injury, Elliott created five chances, more than team-mate Curtis Jones (three) has in his four starts and three appearances from the bench, and won possession in the middle third of the pitch (17) more often than Jones (11) and even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (12) despite the former Arsenal man making 15 league appearances, seven of which have been starts.

    Lijnders also had words of praise for Liverpool's opponents on Thursday, crediting the work that Mikel Arteta has done since taking charge of Arsenal just over two years ago and noting how well the Gunners played in the goalless first leg at Anfield despite going down to 10 men in the first half when Granit Xhaka was sent off.

    Arteta, too, has been happy to utilise younger players as he continues to freshen up Arsenal's squad.

    "First of all, Arsenal always had really good players but, for me, they have a really good team at this moment," Lijnders added. "I think credit to Mikel, they matured.

    "You see many games where the team with 10 men plays better than the 11 – not play better but they give just this extra step, they give this extra [bit] more because they know they have one player less. What happens many times with the 11 players is that they do one thing less because they know they have one player more. That's exactly what happened.

    "Anyway, what I like about the Arsenal game is that we wanted to surprise them with our intensity and that's what we did until Xhaka went off.

    "I really think that in football the only advantage exists if you go to the last minute of the game, to be honest. Before that, it's quite even. I think Mikel did an unbelievable job. The team is a proper team.

    "They were struggling as well with injuries and, how you said, COVID cases and they had to change as well in the last minute, but if you can play with 10 men like that then you have a mature and good team."

  • 'Nothing has happened' for Hazard at Real Madrid, insists Ancelotti 'Nothing has happened' for Hazard at Real Madrid, insists Ancelotti

    Carlo Ancelotti has reaffirmed there is no problem with Eden Hazard, who is finding Real Madrid game time hard to come by.

    Hazard was an unused substitute in both of Madrid's Supercopa de Espana matches last week in Saudi Araba, as Los Blancos went on to win their first trophy of Ancelotti's second spell in charge.

    The former Chelsea star, who turned 31 earlier in January, has endured an injury hit time at Santiago Bernabeu since his big-money move in 2019.

    While he has in the main avoided injuries so far this season, Hazard has only made eight starts across all competitions, with his game time totalling 724 minutes.

    Hazard has only completed a game on one occasion this season, having been subbed off in his other seven starts, and he has only assisted on two occasions from 27 chances created, failing to score himself.

    Per 90 minutes played, Hazard has had 66 touches, with eight in the opposition area.

    Vinicius Jr, who has excelled on the left flank – Hazard's preferred position – under Ancelotti, averages nine touches in the area per 90 minutes played, and he has featured 28 times this season in total.

    The Brazil international creates 2.2 chances per 90 minutes and he has been directly involved in 22 goals (15 goals, seven assists), second only to Karim Benzema in Madrid's squad (33 – 24 goals, nine assists).

    With such quality competition, Ancelotti explained it is natural for players to miss out, but insisted there is no issue between himself and Hazard.

    "It is true that the two have had many setbacks due to injuries," Ancelotti told a news conference when asked about Hazard and Gareth Bale, who has played just 193 minutes across three appearances in 2021-22.

    "Hazard has been doing well from a physical point of view for a month and a half. I don't have to advise Hazard, he has the character and the experience to choose the best for him.

    "The quality of the two could have helped us more, but it's only been the first part of the season. Hopefully the second half can be better.

    "Nothing strange has happened between us, simply that there is competition and the coach, which is me, has to choose the best for each game. I try to be fair and choose the best. Sometimes you are very good and you don't play. I'm also talking about Nacho, [Dani] Ceballos, Isco, [Luka] Jovic.

    "Nothing has happened, only that there is competition in the team and I have to choose the best in each game. This affects many players, I can't deny it. Nothing has happened, he is training and waiting for the coach's call. I think he will be ready when it arrives."

    Asked if Hazard might be moved out this month, Ancelotti said: "At the moment he is still a Madrid player, he is training, focused... We have nothing else to think about."

    While Hazard did travel to Saudi Arabia for the Supercopa tournament, Bale instead remained in Madrid to work on his fitness, and Ancelotti said the Wales forward is available for Thursday's Copa del Rey meeting with Elche.

    "He will be in the squad and all those who are have the chance to play from the beginning or as a sub. It can also happen that they don't play," the Italian added.

    Thibaut Courtois will not be available due to a minor injury.

  • Xavi defiant over Dembele: Sign the contract or be sold Xavi defiant over Dembele: Sign the contract or be sold

    Barcelona coach Xavi has issued an ultimatum to Ousmane Dembele over his future: either sign a new contract or leave the club this month.

    The Catalans have been in discussion with the winger for months about an extension to his deal, which expires at the end of the season.

    Dembele has struggled badly with injury troubles since his move from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for an initial €105million, which have hampered his attempts to establish himself as a key player at Camp Nou.

    Xavi, though, has been eager to see the France international stay at the club despite him playing just six times in LaLiga this season and in only 52 per cent of all Barca's league games since his arrival.

    This week, Dembele's agent Moussa Sissoko told RMC Sport that he would not bow to "pressure" from Barca over his client's future and accused the club of making "threats of no longer playing in the side" rather than engaging in productive talks.

    It appears Xavi and Barca's directors have had enough of the situation and the message to Dembele is clear.

     

    "What I can say is that we are making a difficult decision. If he does not renew, the club has decided they will make a decision," Xavi told reporters ahead of Thursday's Copa del Rey clash with Athletic Bilbao.

    "We've waited a long time. We have been in talks with him for five months.

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    "We have to do what is best for the club. [Sporting director] Mateu Alemany has been talking with him and his representatives for months.

    "It's not a pleasant situation for anyone, but what's clear is that the interests of the club must prevail here.

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    Xavi also made it clear he considers it a priority to extend the contract of defender Ronald Araujo, which expires at the end of next season.

    "His renewal is a priority. He's a really important piece. He has a winning character," Xavi said.

    "I hope an agreement is reached because he's a player for the present and the future. Ronald is a boy who adds a lot."

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