Rumour Has It: PSG launch fresh attempt to keep Real Madrid target Mbappe

By Sports Desk January 15, 2022

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid as a free agent at the end of this season.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has stalled on signing a new deal with the French giants.

Madrid have long courted Mbappe with a view to signing him, but PSG remain determined to keep their man.

TOP STORY – PSG RE-ENTER TALKS WITH MBAPPE

PSG have launched a determined attempt to retain Mbappe after making the France frontman a new contract offer, claims Telefoot.

The Parisians are said to have offered Mbappe a massive two-year deal to fight off attempts to woo him by Real Madrid.

Mbappe is reported to be unwilling to make a decision yet and could let his contract expire. It runs only until the end of June.

 

ROUND-UP

- La Repubblica reports Arsenal are closing in on a deal for Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic, with Fiorentina said to be considering accepting a £58million offer from the Gunners.

- Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano claims both Barcelona and Bayern Munich are keen to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen at the season's end.

- Manchester United are interested in Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi taking over as their manager next season, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- Southampton have contacted Manchester United about signing goalkeeper Dean Henderson, reports Football Insider. Saints also want to sign Chelsea's Armando Broja permanently but will stiff competition, claims Sky Sports.

- Lille are pursuing former Newcastle United winger Hatem Ben Arfa, reports L'Equipe. Ben Arfa left Bordeaux at the end of last season.

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    Xavi admitted his Barcelona team failed to match the intensity of Athletic Bilbao as they tumbled out of the Copa del Rey at the last-16 stage, another blow in a dismal season.

    Barcelona may yet claw their way into the Champions League places in LaLiga, but their trophy pursuit looks doomed to failure. Beaten by Real Madrid last week in the Supercopa semi-finals, a 3-2 defeat after extra time against Athletic on Thursday was another bitter pill for head coach Xavi and his players.

    Add in the blow of losing substitute Ansu Fati to what Barcelona described as "a femoral biceps injury in his left thigh", and it was a calamitous night at San Mames for the visitors.

    Barca are out of the LaLiga title reckoning, and Europa League play-off opponents Napoli will surely fancy their chances of taking the Blaugrana's scalp on this latest evidence.

    The defeat in Bilbao, where home captain Iker Muniain capped an inspiring performance with two goals, means Barcelona have failed to reach at least the quarter-final stage of the Copa del Rey for the first time since 2009-10.

    This is also the first season since 2003-04, when they were in the UEFA Cup, that Barcelona have not featured in the Champions League knockout rounds. A group-stage exit saw to that.

    Barcelona got what they deserved in Bilbao. The expected goals (xG) calculation, based on each team's chances, showed the gulf between these sides was wider than the final scoreline.

    Athletic had an xG of 3.33, while Barcelona's was a miniscule 0.36. The home side had 19 shots to just seven by Xavi's team, and the 66.7 per cent of possession that Barcelona enjoyed was mostly lacking in end product.

    Success has flooded into the Catalan giants in recent years, and Barcelona beat Athletic 4-0 in the Copa final only last April. Lionel Messi scored twice in that game, and Antoine Griezmann also netted. Both have now long since departed.

    "In summary, I think Athletic's intensity surpassed ours," said Xavi. "In duels, in second balls. They lived each ball as if it were their last."

    Athletic led through Muniain and Inigo Martinez, but Ferran Torres, with his first Barcelona goal, and Pedri, deep into stoppage time, replied for Barcelona.

    A handball by Jordi Alba was punished by Muniain from the penalty spot near the end of the first half of extra time, and this time Athletic did not relinquish their lead.

    "With Pedri's goal it seemed like it was our moment," Xavi said, speaking at a post-match news conference.

    Muniain's penalty told the coach different, however.

    "It seems that when things are heads or tails, we always get tails. We have to change the dynamic," Xavi added.

    He was not minded to contest the penalty decision after the final whistle. Alba was struck on the arm by Nico Williams' cross, and with VAR guidance it was an obvious spot-kick.

    Former Al Sadd boss Xavi, who took over the Barcelona top job in November, said his team would "fight" for their remaining objectives.

    It remains to be seen when Fati is seen again in action. He looked distressed, tearful, on leaving the pitch barely half an hour after entering the action. That setback compounded the misery of a regrettable evening.

    Speaking to Barca TV, Xavi said: "We need to continue believing in this project, continue in LaLiga and continue in the Europa League. This is the way, continue to keep going and working hard."

  • Athletic Bilbao 3-2 Barcelona: Holders dumped out of Copa del Rey on sorry night for Xavi Athletic Bilbao 3-2 Barcelona: Holders dumped out of Copa del Rey on sorry night for Xavi

    Holders Barcelona were dumped out of the Copa del Rey and saw another trophy slip away as Xavi's team lost 3-2 after extra time at Athletic Bilbao.

    Home captain Iker Muniain hit the first and last goals of the night, opening the scoring with a delicious strike. Ferran Torres responded against the run of play before half-time with his first goal for Barcelona. Inigo Martínez then scrambled what looked like a late winner, only for Pedri to strike in the third minute of stoppage time.

    Muniain restored Athletic's lead with a penalty at the end of the first half of extra time, and this time there was no way back for Barcelona, who lost substitute Ansu Fati to an apparent injury.

    Barcelona drubbed Athletic 4-0 in last year's final, with Lionel Messi getting two goals, Antoine Griezmann one and Frenkie de Jong also on target. That made this sweet revenge, and Athletic richly deserved the win.

    Muniain gave Athletic a second-minute lead, collecting the loose ball after Nico Williams crossed low from the right. From a deep position beyond the far post, Muniain took two sharp touches to set himself and curled a sumptuous strike over Marc-Andre ter Stegen and into the far corner.

    Torres replied from a similar spot and with a comparable finish in the 20th minute, stepping inside Oscar De Marcos and whipping a shot beyond Julen Agirrezabala.

    Yet Barcelona were ripe for being picked off at the back and kept allowing chances, Muniain and Nico Williams going close before the break.

    The visitors were stronger for the introduction of De Jong and Fati just after the hour, yet they looked doomed when Athletic's second goal arrived in the 86th minute, scrambled in from close range by Martinez after Alex Berenguer's header was only half-blocked by Ter Stegen.

    Pedri dramatically made it 2-2 with a thumping strike from 15 yards, but Barca then lost Fati to injury early in extra time, and they conceded a penalty when Nico Williams' cross struck Jordi Alba on the arm from close range. Muniain blasted past Ter Stegen, Barcelona complained to no avail, and it is Athletic who go into Friday's quarter-final draw.

  • Hazard and Isco rescue Madrid: I know I can count on them, says Ancelotti Hazard and Isco rescue Madrid: I know I can count on them, says Ancelotti

    Carlo Ancelotti acknowledged Eden Hazard and Isco might have been frustrated by their restricted roles for Real Madrid but now hopes to rely on both moving forward. 

    Hazard and Isco have started just 10 Madrid games between them in all competitions this season and were again on the bench for Thursday's Copa del Rey clash at Elche. 

    Isco was introduced late in normal time with the game goalless, before Hazard came on as the tie headed into extra time. 

    The pair did not have an immediate impact, as Marcelo was sent off and Gonzalo Verdu netted a deflected opener for Elche, but ultimately turned the match on its head. 

    Isco touched in an equaliser before Hazard's first goal of the season sent Madrid through. 

    A report last week claimed Madrid had accepted a bid from Newcastle United for Hazard, but it added the player rejected the move. He has now had two goal involvements in as many appearances – as many as in his previous 17. 

    A delighted Ancelotti appears convinced, saying of the winger and Isco: "I knew that changes could give a boost to the team and they have given it. 

    "[Hazard] and Isco have won the match. It has a meaning. It may be that they deserve to play more, but the past is the past and you have to look forward. 

    "I know that I can count on them and on a squad that has everything, an extraordinary character and that fights against adversity and never gives up. 

    "I'm very happy. I think it's the game that's given me the most happiness." 

    Both men might expect to feature again in the quarter-finals of the Copa in a fortnight, when Madrid will be without a host of South American stars due to a short international break outside of a FIFA window. 

    "Let's see if those who make the calendars wake up. It's nonsense," Ancelotti said of the issue. "It is inevitable, but it has to be changed. We have to make them fairer for everyone." 

    Madrid are playing in the last eight for the fifth time in six seasons, although they have not won the trophy since 2013-14. Only twice this century have the Blancos lifted the Copa. 

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