Rumour Has It: Ronaldo ready for Man Utd exit as he courts move to Messi's PSG

By Sports Desk March 08, 2022

Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Manchester United may be coming to a premature end.

The Portuguese forward has struggled since Ralf Rangnick's arrival as interim manager in December.

United are also battling to finish in the Premier League's top four.

TOP STORY - RONALDO COURTS MOVE TO MESSI'S PSG

FootballTransfers claims that Ronaldo has decided that he will leave Manchester United if they do not qualify for the Champions League, with a move to join Lionel Messi at Paris Saint-Germain on his agenda.

Speculation about Ronaldo's future at Old Trafford ramped up after he missed Sunday's Manchester derby due to a hip flexor injury and flew to Portugal.

The report that claims that Ronaldo returning to Juventus has been ruled out, along with his original Portuguese club Sporting CP, with the five-time Ballon d'Or courting a move to Paris.

 

ROUND-UP

- Defensa Central reports that Newcastle United have commenced talks with Real Madrid over a move for 31-year-old ex-Chelsea forward Eden Hazard who has had an underwhelming spell with Los Blancos.

- Manchester United's Marcus Rashford has a list of clubs circling for his services with Arsenal, Newcastle and West Ham all interested, according to 90Min.

- The Mail claims that PSG will make a move for Rashford too, should Kylian Mbappe leave the French capital to join Madrid.

- Manchester City and Madrid are in the lead to sign Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland ahead of Bayern Munich and Barcelona claims The Athletic.

- RB Leipzig midfielder Christopher Nkunku is being tracked by Chelsea and Man City according to FootMercato.

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  • 'Time to live a new dream' – Jesus ready for new chapter with Arsenal after departing Man City 'Time to live a new dream' – Jesus ready for new chapter with Arsenal after departing Man City

    Gabriel Jesus has thanked everyone associated with Manchester City and says "it is time to live a new dream" after completing his move to Arsenal.

    The Brazil international spent five-and-a-half years at the Etihad Stadium and scored 95 goals in 234 appearances for City in all competitions.

    However, following the arrivals of Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez, Jesus has opted to depart the club in a deal worth a reported £45million.

    Arsenal confirmed the signing of Jesus on a long-term deal on Monday, and the 25-year-old took to Twitter to pay his respects to City.

    "Thanks Man City and all the people who made this club my life for all these years," he said. "Time to live a new dream!"

    Jesus becomes Arsenal's fourth signing of the window following the arrivals of Matt Turner, Marquinhos and Fabio Vieira.

    He had a strong end to the 2021-22 campaign as City went on to retain the Premier League title – one of 11 trophies won during an illustrious spell in Manchester.

    And the Palmeiras academy product feels he is departing City as a better player than the one who arrived as a teenager in 2017.

    "It's been a pleasure to play for Manchester City," he told the club's official website. "I feel like I am a better player now than when I arrived.

    "To win 11 trophies has been amazing. My four Premier League titles are particularly special for me.

    "I want to thank everyone at City – the manager, my team-mates and the fans – for all the support they have given me over the past five-and-a-half years."

    Jesus, who will wear the number nine shirt at Emirates Stadium, was thanked by City director of football Txiki Begiristain for his services to the club.

    "Gabriel is a fantastic professional and I want to thank him for what he has given Manchester City since he came here in 2017," Begiristain said.

    "His hard work and dedication to this club cannot be questioned. He has been a brilliant servant and I have no doubt he will continue to be a success."

  • Phillips, Guardiola and Man City a match made in heaven Phillips, Guardiola and Man City a match made in heaven

    When it comes to recruitment and squad construction, there aren't many clubs – if any – that are run more effectively than Manchester City.

    Their Premier League title success in the 2021-22 season was just another reminder of how good they are on the pitch, yet the people in charge are not the types to simply sit around admiring their achievements.

    Even before winning a fourth Premier League crown in five years – a feat only ever previously managed by Alex Ferguson's Manchester United – it was clear where City were going to strengthen.

    A deal for arguably the most sought-after striker in world football, Erling Haaland, was wrapped up two weeks before the season ended, and then with Fernandinho expected to depart, another central midfielder was to be the second priority.

    Kalvin Phillips proved to be the chosen one, with City confirming on Monday that the England international has completed his reported £45million move from Leeds United, having undergone a medical on Friday.

    It's an impressive statement by City, who have already bolstered their two primary problem areas – if you can call them that – by the first week of July.

    And with respect to Phillips' signing, there's a lot to suggest it's a shrewd acquisition.

     

    Moulded by Bielsa

    Of course, the most obvious – and arguably crucial – link here is Marcelo Bielsa. It was under the Argentinian coach that Phillips has played the best football of his career and cemented himself as an England regular.

    Bielsa is also considered one of Pep Guardiola's greatest inspirations, with an apparent 11-hour meeting between the pair back in 2006 said to have played a major role in the City boss' decision to go into management.

    The similarities between the two coaches' styles of play are significant, and this should facilitate a smooth transition for Phillips.

    Under Bielsa he'll have become accustomed to not only intense training sessions, but also a playing philosophy that revolves around possession-based football and relentless counter pressing.

    In terms of the latter, City are perhaps a little more considered in their efforts compared to Bielsa's Leeds, but either way Phillips has been exposed to the same fundamentals, and that can only be a tick in the pros column.

    After all, a second-season bounce has become commonplace for signings under Guardiola. Numerous players have needed a full campaign to truly get to grips with the demands required by the Catalan coach before going on to show significant improvement and growth thereafter – Phillips might be better-equipped than most to hit the ground running.

    But that brings up a separate issue; what will Phillips be to City?

    Rodri the immovable object

    Having come through Leeds' academy, established himself as a key player and then gone on to be a fulcrum in Bielsa's team, Phillips was the first name on the teamsheet – when fit – for several years at Elland Road.

    Regardless of his suitability for City, it seems unlikely he'll enjoy a similar status in Guardiola's team. Phillips is at his most effective as lone defensive midfielder, but so too is Rodri, and it's difficult to imagine the Spain international being suddenly taken out of the team given how effective he's proven to be.

    Rodri's 2,937 successful passes in the opposition's half since the start of the 2020-21 season is over 400 more than any other Premier League player, and his 577 ball recoveries over the same period is the joint-most alongside Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, though the Dane has played almost 1,000 minutes more.

    Of course, who's to say Phillips couldn't play the role even more effectively? But the key thing to consider is that Rodri has an important function in both keeping City on the ball and then winning it back when they don't, and he demonstrably does both well.

    Nevertheless, Guardiola's proven he's a coach keen to rotate. He gave at least 900 minutes of Premier League football to 18 players last season, with only four teams bettering that, so Phillips can still expect plenty of game time.

    And, to be fair, Phillips might not have even been up to the task of being a regular starter for City given how much time he spent sidelined last season.

    A match made in heaven

    Clearly, then, Guardiola's rotation policy would suggest Phillips will have opportunities to deputise for Rodri and take up the back-up role vacated by Fernandinho, yet there's no doubt he possesses the skillset to also play alongside the former Atletico Madrid midfielder as well.

    First and foremost, he's a more progressive player than Rodri. Over the past two seasons, 28 per cent of Phillips' passes have been forward, the exact same figure as Fernandinho and a fair bit more than Rodri's 20 per cent.

    Similarly, in the same period Phillips has played 3.5 passes into the box every 90 minutes, whereas Rodri has averaged two, and his 1.0 dribble attempts each game is also slightly more than his new team-mate (0.9).

    But in a way it shouldn't necessarily matter which midfield role Phillips plays in, given he has a range of abilities that should suit him either as a number six or a number eight, especially in a Guardiola team.

    On top of that, Phillips doesn't turn 27 until December, so he is very much entering his prime years, and if anyone can squeeze every ounce of potential out of a player, it's Guardiola.

    Then when you consider Phillips' history with Bielsa and type of team he played in at Leeds, everything points to this being a match made in heaven.

  • Man City sign Phillips from Leeds on six-year deal Man City sign Phillips from Leeds on six-year deal

    Kalvin Phillips has signed for Manchester City from Leeds United in a deal that is reportedly worth up to £45million.

    City, who had already signed striker Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, were in the market for a holding midfielder to complement Rodri after Fernandinho confirmed he would be leaving the Premier League champions after nine years with the club.

    Phillips was identified as the ideal replacement and City have moved quickly to sign the England international, who has penned a six-year contract.

    It was reported last month that City and Leeds had agreed a fee of £42m, plus a further £3m in add-ons, and the move was officially confirmed on Monday.

    City director of football Txiki Begiristain said: "Kalvin is a player that we have long admired, and at both domestic and international level, he has proved his fantastic ability and quality over the past few seasons. 

    "His reading of the game, alongside his passing ability, energy and drive make him a formidable talent and he is a player who has a fantastic will to win. 

    "We feel he will be a superb addition to our squad and that he will complement our game perfectly. 

    "Everyone here is looking forward to watch Kalvin play and develop even further over the next few years."

    Phillips came through Leeds' academy and helped the Whites back into the Premier League under the stewardship of Marcelo Bielsa after a 16-year absence from the top flight.

    The 26-year-old was an integral part of Leeds' success in their first season back in the big time, making 29 appearances as Bielsa's side finished ninth, and the midfielder went on to start every game for England at Euro 2020, with Gareth Southgate's team losing to Italy on penalties in the final.

    However, Phillips' impact was limited in the 2021-22 season as he struggled with injury. He returned for the run-in as Leeds – under Bielsa's replacement Jesse Marsch – managed to stave off relegation.

    Despite only playing 20 league games, he ranked third in ball recoveries (180) among Leeds outfield players while also recording the sixth most tackles (54).

    He will hope to help Pep Guardiola's side retain the league title as well as deliver the club's first Champions League crown after disappointing final and semi-final defeats in the past two years.

    Phillips' arrival at the Etihad Stadium came on the same day that forward Gabriel Jesus completed a £45m switch to fellow Premier League side Arsenal.

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