Pep Guardiola says any club would "tremble" if Real Madrid or Barcelona enquired about one of their star players, amid speculation linking Raheem Sterling with Los Blancos.

In an interview with Spanish publication AS on Friday, City forward Sterling spoke of his admiration for Madrid following rumours of a potential move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

The England international was also pictured holding up the shirts of both City and Madrid, who meet in the Champions League last 16 next week.

In a news conference ahead of City's Premier League clash with third-placed Leicester City, Guardiola insisted he has no doubt over Sterling's commitment.

However, he conceded all clubs have to worry should Madrid or their LaLiga rivals Barcelona come calling.

"All the clubs have to know that when Real Madrid or Barcelona knock on the door, the other clubs must tremble, they will be a little bit in trouble," Guardiola told reporters.

"Barcelona and Madrid are maybe the strongest and most powerful teams in terms of history and how good they are. That is normal and I understand completely.

"But on the same point, you just see the commitment from Raheem, every single day when he arrives. He's never injured.

"His commitment in every game, offensively and defensively, so he's one of the best players in the world and it's normal that big clubs see his desire for the team.

"I don't know if Madrid or Barcelona called his agent, [but] I don't have any doubts about the commitment Raheem and the other ones have had from the first day to the last day."

Guardiola himself has been linked with leaving City after the club was handed a two-year ban from the Champions League by UEFA for a breach of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.

With City in the process of lodging an appeal after denying UEFA's claims, Guardiola swiftly moved to dismiss reports of a potential exit and reiterated his commitment to City once more on Friday.

"My happiness. I'm looking for my happiness, that's the only thing I'm looking for," Guardiola said when asked if he would consider staying beyond the expiration of his current deal, which runs out at the end of next season.

"I'm working with exceptional players especially and I have the feeling that they follow us 100 per cent, knowing how it's not easy working with us and with me, but I'm happy.

"That is the only reason why, when I move on always it's because I am thinking I can be happier than the place that I was before. That is the only reason.

"We have got incredible owners and a good relationship, so I think it will not be a problem to understand both sides if we decide to stay three more years or stay in the time we are together."

Wayne Rooney marked his 500th game in English league football with a goal but it was not enough for Derby County as they drew 1-1 with Fulham.

Rooney made it 10 goals from his last 13 appearances against Fulham in all competitions when he chipped home from the penalty spot 10 minutes into the second half in Friday's Championship encounter.

However, Fulham fought back to restore parity – Aleksandar Mitrovic sending a brilliant finish into the bottom-left corner in the 71st minute.

Bobby De Cordova-Reid and Ivan Cavaleiro went close to completing the turnaround for Fulham, though the visitors had Marek Rodak to thank when he pulled off a string of stunning saves late on.

Ultimately, though, neither side could snatch a winner and the draw leaves Derby in 12th, while Fulham missed the chance to move level on points with second-placed Leeds United.

Robert Lewandowski scored a late winner to send Bayern Munich four points clear at the top of the Bundesliga with a 3-2 over bottom side Paderborn.

Hansi Flick's men twice saw a one-goal lead erased by their lowly visitors in an absorbing encounter, with efforts from Serge Gnabry and Lewandowski cancelled out by Dennis Srbeny and Sven Michel.

However, two minutes from the end of normal time Gnabry and Lewandowski combined to seal maximum points for Bayern, albeit in unconvincing fashion.

After avoiding a remarkable slip-up, Bayern can watch the rest of the weekend's action with the pressure firmly on challengers RB Leipzig as they visit Schalke on Saturday looking to reduce the gap back to a point.

 

 

Zinedine Zidane defended Gareth Bale's performance against Celta Vigo, yet the Wales forward has not been included in Real Madrid's squad for the trip to Levante.

Bale started and played 84 minutes on Sunday, as Madrid were held to a 2-2 home draw by Celta, who equalised late on through Santi Mina.

"I think Bale played a good game and we have to keep thinking that there's a long way to go and we have to think about what we all do on the pitch to improve it," Zidane said in the wake of the draw.

However, Bale will not get the chance to continue in Madrid's XI this week after he was left out of the squad for the clash with Levante.

The 30-year-old has reportedly been struggling with a stomach bug, which meant he was unable to train on Wednesday.

Striker Luka Jovic has also missed out – with the Serbia international reportedly suffering from the same issue – while Rodrygo and Nacho do not feature in the 19-man squad.

Eden Hazard, who made his comeback from injury against Celta, is included.

Madrid have been boosted by the return to non-contact training of Marco Asensio, who has missed the entirety of the season due to a knee ligament injury.

Jose Mourinho insists Tottenham's upward trajectory since he took charge is not just down to his coaching.

Spurs, who were beaten 1-0 by RB Leipzig in the Champions League last time out, sit fifth in the Premier League, one point behind fourth-placed Chelsea, who they face at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

Since Mourinho took charge, Spurs have managed eight league victories, including three successive wins heading into Saturday's clash at Stamford Bridge, with the Blues having won the reverse fixture against their former boss in December.

Should Manchester City's ban from the Champions League be upheld, fifth place will mean automatic qualification for UEFA's elite competition but, despite Spurs being third in the form table since Mourinho took over, the Portuguese claims he cannot take full responsibility.

"I am but that's not about me. Not about me," he told a news conference when asked if he was proud of Spurs' position in the form table.

"If it was about me, I would even choose to move quickly to July 1 and start the pre-season with my players, without injuries, going to Premier League day one with the same points as everybody else.

"That's not about me, it's about us, that's the club. The boys did fantastic to put themselves back in the positions where we belong, these positions fighting for the top four. The situation is difficult.

"Don't think of any targets, we just want to go match after match and see where this can take us. After three months we went from closer to the relegation positions, which obviously was never a problem.

"But we went from there to be one point behind the top four. Amazing effort by everyone. So now that we're in this position, we earned the right to fight for it."

Despite the potentially pivotal nature of the fixture with Chelsea, Mourinho says Saturday's visit to his former stomping ground is no different to any other occasion he faces one of his previous teams.

"No, not special, one more game. Because I'm a professional, as I've said every time I played my previous clubs, I belong 200 per cent to my club," he said.

"The only different thing will be at the end of the game I can walk from the stadium to my house but I won't take advantage of because I'll go back from the stadium with my players."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's determination and ambition is having a positive impact on Milan, according to coach Stefano Pioli.

Milan have lost just once since Ibrahimovic made his return to the Rossoneri on a six-month contract in December.

A win at Fiorentina on Saturday would at least temporarily move Milan into the top six.

Ibrahimovic has scored three times in eight appearances so far in his second spell, but Pioli believes he has brought more than just goals.

"We are training well and that’s the truth, here you can breathe the positive air," said Pioli. "The priority is the present and you can only determine the future by thinking about the present.

"We don't think about stuff we can't impact; we don't have the time nor the energy to think about anything else.

"To have such an example of determination and ambition as Ibra has, it can do us good. If Ibra has become a champion and a unique player, it's because he is always hungry and wants to improve himself."

Though there has been speculation about Pioli being replaced at the end of the season, contrasting talk has suggested he could have his contract extended.

"It's pleasing to know that my job has been judged in a positive way," he added. "I feel that I’m the point of reference for the team.

"No coach is secure regardless of the results. In the end, the ones who make the decisions will decide.

"But I can't answer questions about my future on every press conference, let's focus on the present and see what will happen."

Maurizio Sarri has vowed his Juventus team will not let their focus be affected by the prospect of next week's top-of-the-table clash with Inter.

Saturday sees Juventus travel to face SPAL, who sit at the bottom of Serie A with just four wins from 24 games, and coming away with three points is imperative for Sarri's side.

Juventus are locked in a three-way title battle with Inter and Lazio, and they also resume their Champions League mission next Wednesday with a trip to Lyon.

The Inter tussle follows four days later, so it would hardly be surprising if Juventus supporters were already looking beyond the SPAL game.

That approach is not for Sarri, though, as he explained in Friday's pre-match news conference, stating: "We're coming into the game ready, both mentally and physically in what is an important stage of the season.

"We're not worrying about players picking up suspensions ahead of Inter, we're just focusing on tomorrow's game.

"We're not thinking about the Scudetto race, just tomorrow's game in Ferrara because this is not yet a decisive period."

Sarri is continually exploring formation options and, quoted on the Juventus website, he added: "We're taking it game by game. A 4-3-3 depends on the players that we have available, on a defensive level not much changes.

"SPAL are different on a tactical level with [Luigi] Di Biagio at the helm. It will be a difficult game as they are playing to stay in the division."

Cristiano Ronaldo was rested by Juventus last weekend, when Sarri's men won 2-0 at home against Brescia, but can be expected to return.

Veteran defender Giorgio Chiellini returned from injury as a substitute in the Brescia game but according to Sarri is "just lacking the last step", an apparent indication it will be a while before he is ready to start a game.

If veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon plays, a 648th Serie A appearance would take him ahead of Milan great Paolo Maldini and into the outright lead in the most games played by anyone in Italy's top flight.

Sarri could include Federico Bernardeschi, who has returned to training after a short lay-off, but warned the Italy attacking midfielder is not yet ready to play a full 90 minutes.

Zinedine Zidane thinks Raheem Sterling is a quality player but is not interested in discussing a possible Real Madrid bid for the Manchester City star.

In an interview with Madrid publication AS, Sterling described Los Blancos as "a fantastic club" and suggested he could be interested in playing at the Santiago Bernabeu, although he made it clear he is happy at City.

With Pep Guardiola's side facing a ban from European competition pending the outcome of a planned appeal, the future of Sterling is likely to intensify over the coming weeks, particularly with Madrid and City meeting in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Madrid head coach Zidane is undoubtedly an admirer of Sterling, but he seems disinclined to encourage speculation.

"I can't talk about a player who isn't mine," he told reporters on Friday. "He's a very good player, no doubt about that."

Madrid face Levante in LaLiga on Saturday before their attentions turn to City next week.

One player hoping to impress is Rodrygo, who has not made a league appearance since January 26.

"He hasn't been in the last three squads, but we know he's an important player for us and when everyone is there, you have to select a squad," Zidane said of the Brazilian.

"That's all it is, because we're happy with him. He's shown he's very good."

Madrid captain Sergio Ramos is said to be at an impasse in talks over a new contract, with Madrid reportedly unwilling to match their captain's request for a two-year extension.

Zidane, though, expects a new deal to be agreed without too much complication and is even backing the defender in his desire to represent Spain at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

"Sergio's renewal looks easy to me. I want Sergio with me. He's our captain, our leader and an example as a player," he said.

"He's very important for all Madridistas, for the players...

"He should go, of course [to the Olympics]. I will support him. It's very beautiful to play for your country."

Western Sydney Wanderers closed to within four points of the top six with a thrilling 5-2 A-League drubbing of Adelaide United.

There were six goals in the first half at Bankwest Stadium in which the visitors went 2-1 up after trailing just five minutes in, only to surrender their advantage in a manner described by coach Gertjan Verbeek as "comedy capers".

Pirmin Schwegler's deflected free-kick five minutes in was cancelled out by a Riley McGree penalty, and Ben Halloran's composed finish made it 2-1 22 minutes in.

Two goals in two minutes turned the match on its head, though, Nicolai Muller making levelling before Mitchell Duke finished emphatically after being sent through by Simon Cox.

Duke headed in a second before the break to give the Wanderers a two-goal cushion, and Cox's clever after 73 minutes capped a fine outing for Jean-Paul De Marigny's side, who are now seventh.

In Friday's earlier game, Wellington Phoenix claimed a 2-0 win over Western United to climb into third in the table.

Mark Rudan's side kept Wellington at bay thanks to goalkeeper Filip Kurto until Liberato Cacace steered a volley beyond his reach 29 minutes in.

David Ball finally made the points safe with a fine strike in the 90th minute straight from a clearance from goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, leaving United with plenty to consider having failed to score a goal in February and with only one win from eight matches.

Manchester City forward Gabriel Jesus is reportedly wanted by Serie A giants Juventus.

Jesus, 22, has struggled for regular game time since arriving at City from Palmeiras in early 2017.

And Juve may be prepared to take the Brazil international to Turin.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS WANT MAN CITY'S JESUS

Juventus want Jesus in a €69.9million (£58.5m) move, according to The Sun.

The report adds the Serie A champions also want Mauro Icardi, who is on loan at Paris Saint-Germain from Inter.

Jesus has scored 36 goals in 90 Premier League games for City, but just 48 of those have been starts.

ROUND-UP

- With his contract at Real Madrid ending in 2021, Sergio Ramos seemingly wants a new deal. AS reports the Madrid captain, 33, wants a further two years on his deal, but the LaLiga giants are not keen to offer it.

- Paulo Dybala looks likely to re-sign at Juventus. CalcioMercato reports the playmaker is getting closer to a renewal with the club with his current contract expiring in 2022.

- Amid Liverpool's reported interest in RB Leipzig star Timo Werner, Roberto Firmino has been linked with a stunning move to Bayern Munich. However, Goal reports the Premier League leaders' front three of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Firmino are "going nowhere" at the end of the season.

- Newcastle United remain keen to sign Lille midfielder Boubakary Soumare. Le 10 Sport says the Premier League club are continuing to press for the 20-year-old to make the move after being unable to get a deal done in January.

- Arsenal are eager to re-sign Bukayo Saka. The 18-year-old, who has impressed at left-back, is in talks over a lucrative long-term deal, according to The Times.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has defended the club's decision to sign Martin Braithwaite but admits Leganes have every right to feel aggrieved by the transfer.

The LaLiga champions confirmed on Thursday they had signed the striker after triggering an €18million release clause in his contract.

Barca were granted special dispensation to sign Braithwaite outside of the transfer window after losing Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele to long-term injuries.

LaLiga strugglers Leganes have been blocked from bringing in a replacement forward, however, much to the frustration of the club's general director Martin Ortega.

Ortega accused the league and the Royal Spanish Football Federation of causing Leganes "irreparable damage" and has asked for the rule to be amended.

Speaking at Braithwaite's introductory news conference on Thursday, Bartomeu agreed the loophole needs to be looked at.

"We have paid the clause following the regulations, although we believe that it should be revised because it is not fair that Leganes cannot now sign anyone," he told reporters.

Barcelona's decision to sign Braithwaite has raised eyebrows, but Bartomeu believes the former Middlesbrough forward can be a big asset for the club this season and beyond.

"After analysing different players, we chose Martin. We believe it will help us win the two remaining titles," he added.

"I am very excited about the arrival of a new player and we hope he will help us in a league that we want to win and that is very open. He will give us strength.

"We had a long-term injured player like Dembele, in addition to Luis Suarez. The technical team has studied players and we hope Braithwaite can debut quickly.

"He has signed for the next four and a half years and comes to help now and for the future."

Braithwaite could make his debut when Eibar visit Camp Nou on Saturday, and Barca director Eric Abidal is happy with the new arrival.

"Martin is a Denmark international, with experience different from those players we have," said Abidal, who dodged questions regarding his recent row with Lionel Messi.

"He has character, strength, speed and great potential. I have had the opportunity to speak with coaches he has had. He will contribute a lot and be decisive. 

"Hopefully, we can compete with him at the highest level."

Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick is staying relaxed despite the uncertainty surrounding his future and wants to establish his own "philosophy" after his playing style was compared to that of Pep Guardiola.

Flick took over from Niko Kovac in November after the Croatian was dismissed, and following an initial interim spell in charge, he was appointed head coach until the end of the season.

Bayern were fourth in the Bundesliga when Kovac was sacked but have since risen to the summit, winning 13 of 16 matches in all competitions following the 5-1 thrashing at Eintracht Frankfurt that cost Flick's predecessor his job.

But recent reports have claimed Flick is frustrated by Bayern's unwillingness to appoint him on a long-term basis before the end of the season, while other stories suggest he is attracting interest from rival clubs.

Publicly, however, Flick insists he is at ease with his situation and not thinking about the future.

"I live in the present. I just enjoy it," Flick told reporters on Thursday.

"We try to do a good job. What comes next is in the stars. Bayern have a bit of peace and quiet, thinking about what they want to do in the future.

"I concentrate on the here and now. If they are convinced, they will make a decision. If they then want another coach, the world will not end for me either.

"I've never talked about that before. Bayern Munich are my employers. Everything else just distracts."

Flick's rise to the top job at Bayern has facilitated an improvement not only in results but also the perception of their brand of football.

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer said after Sunday's 4-1 win at Cologne that their first-half performance resembled the Bayern of former coach Guardiola, a three-time Bundesliga champion.

Yet while Flick sees the Manchester City boss as an inspiration, he wants to craft his own ideology.

"Guardiola is the best coach, for me," Flick said. "I was able to get to know him during my time at the DFB [German Football Association].

"The way in which he plays is an inspiration for many, also for me. But everyone has to have their own philosophy. In this respect, it's not derogatory [against Guardiola]."

Bayern are next in action on Friday when they host basement side Paderborn.

Erling Haaland's competitive nature means he shows signs of frustration even in training, a mentality that has impressed Borussia Dortmund coach Lucien Favre.

Haaland has enjoyed a remarkable start to life at Dortmund following his January arrival from Salzburg in a reported €20million transfer.

The Norwegian striker has already scored eight times in just five Bundesliga matches and 11 in seven in all for his new club.

The 19-year-old stunned Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday, scoring both of Dortmund's goals in their 2-1 first-leg victory at Signal Iduna Park.

That brace took him to 10 Champions League goals in fewer games than any other player in history, having incredibly netted eight times in six group-stage appearances with Salzburg before the turn of the year.

Favre is unsurprisingly delighted with the teenager's impact and shed light on his mentality, with Haaland seemingly taking training just as seriously as matches.

"It's great what he is doing," Favre told reporters on Thursday, as Dortmund prepare for Saturday's trip to Werder Bremen.

"As I have already said, he has a great mentality and always wants to look ahead. He always wants to train.

"When we play during training and he is losing or not scoring, he is not happy at all. This is very, very positive.

"We know what he is capable of, you [the media] realised this, too."

Haaland is by no means the only young player to be impressing at Dortmund currently, however. Gio Reyna - son of former Bayer Leverkusen, Rangers and Manchester City midfielder Claudio - has also caught the eye of late.

The 17-year-old has made seven appearances for the first team, scoring once, and was influential off the bench against PSG, his darting run and well-placed pass setting up Haaland's stunning winner.

For Favre, the English-born American's ability is obvious.

"We have kept out eye on Gio for a long time," Favre added. "He was with us in the US [during Dortmund's pre-season training camp] training and has been in [full first-team] training several times.

"If you don't see his quality, you're blind. He is very clever, very intelligent. Bit by bit, he has to be playing more, or he has to play from the beginning.

"Of course, at 17, he still has a lot ahead of him and can make great progress, but he already has a great mindset."

New Barcelona signing Martin Braithwaite believes his studious approach to football will make him a shrewd addition for the LaLiga champions.

The striker completed a move to Camp Nou on Thursday after Barca activated his €18million release clause at Leganes.

The Catalans had been granted special dispensation to sign a forward due to long-term injuries to Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele, who may not return to action this season.

Braithwaite scored six times in 24 appearances for Leganes this season to help their fight against relegation but has only twice reached double figures for goals in a single league campaign, back when he was with Toulouse in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

However, the 28-year-old sees himself as a student of the game and one whose attributes will make him useful to head coach Quique Setien.

"I'm really excited. It's a childhood dream come true," he told Barca TV. "Everyone who plays football dreams of playing at Barcelona. Here I am, and I'm really excited to win titles.

"It's a club with a lot of pressure, a lot of expectations, and I'm here to go and try to win everything possible.

"I'm a technical player, always physical in that I'm really fast, really strong. I'd say my best attribute is my intelligence. I move really intelligently. I study the game. I call myself a football student. I always try to improve my football every day.

"I think, the way we play here, my movement will help the team a lot. And, of course, I'm a goalscorer so I'm here to score goals."

Braithwaite is looking forward to the chance to call Lionel Messi a team-mate, hailing the Barca captain as arguably the greatest player in history.

"He's maybe the best player ever, so of course it's a big moment for me to be able to play with this guy and to say that I've played with him, so I'm really excited," said the Denmark international.

Braithwaite could make his debut when Eibar visit Camp Nou on Saturday.

Barca then face Napoli at the San Paolo in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie before they take on Real Madrid in El Clasico on March 1.

Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and former FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke have been indicted over the awarding of World Cup and Confederations Cup rights.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has charged Valcke with accepting bribes, several counts of aggravated criminal mismanagement and the falsification of documents.

Al-Khelaifi, who also serves as the chairman of the beIN Media Group and is on the UEFA Executive Committee, and an unnamed businessman have been charged with inciting Valcke "to commit aggravated criminal mismanagement".

The unnamed businessman has also been charged with bribery, although similar charges against Al-Khelaifi relating to the World Cup tournaments in 2026 and 2030 have been dropped.

The OAG opened an investigation in 2017, a year after Valcke was sacked by FIFA after he was found guilty of breaching the governing body's ethics code on a number of occasions.

A statement from the OAG on Thursday read: "The investigations revealed that Valcke had received undue advantages from both co-accused.

"Valcke was refunded the down payment of around €500,000 that he had made to a third party on the purchase of a villa in Sardinia, after Al-Khelaifi had purchased the villa through a company instead of Valcke.

"Valcke then received from Al-Khelaifi the exclusive right to use the villa for a period of 18 months – until he was suspended by FIFA – without having to pay an estimated rent in between about €900,000 and about €1.8million.

"From the third accused, Valcke received three payments totalling about €1.25m to his company Sportunited LLC."

The statement went on to explain that Valcke's criminal mismanagement charge related to the fact he "had not reported the mentioned advantages that he received to FIFA". Al-Khelaifi and the unnamed businessman have been charged with this corresponding incitement.

Valcke has also been charged with “paying and accepting bribes” based on an allegation that “between 2013 and 2015 [he] exploited his position as Secretary General of FIFA to influence the award of media rights for Italy and Greece for various World Cup and FIFA Confederations Cup tournaments in the period between 2018 and 2030 in order to favour media partners that he preferred.”

It was also confirmed FIFA had withdrawn its criminal complaint against Al-Khelaifi and also partially against Valcke relating to the separate alleged bribery of private individuals.

That criminal complaint, which was in connection to allegations over the awarding of media rights for the 2026 and 2030 World Cups, was withdrawn after FIFA reached "an amicable agreement" with Al-Khelaifi.

The OAG statement added: "The accused are presumed innocent until a judgment enters into force."

Following the OAG's announcement, Al-Khelaifi released a statement that read: "After an exhaustive three-year investigation, where I have fully and openly cooperated with the Public Prosecutor in Switzerland, I am pleased that all charges of bribery in connection with the 2026 and 2030 World Cups have been dropped. As I have said vehemently and repeatedly for three years, the charges have not – and have never had – any basis whatsoever, either in fact or law.

"It is now – finally – indisputable fact that the 2026 and 2030 agreements were negotiated at arms-lengths and without any improper influence in any form. After the most forensic public, private, lawful and unlawful scrutiny of all my dealings, I have been cleared of all suspicions of bribery and the case has been dismissed definitively and conclusively."

Al-Khelaifi continued: "While a secondary technical charge remains outstanding, I have every expectation that this will be proven completely groundless and without any substance whatsoever, in the same way as the primary case.

"While I have cooperated with all authorities during the legal process, the three-year investigation has been characterised by constant leaks, misinformation and a seemingly relentless agenda to smear my reputation in the media – completely irrespective of the facts and the notion of due process. For that reason, I have requested the relevant Swiss authorities to open a criminal enquiry into the conduct of the investigation. I also reserve the right to take action against certain media who for three years have repeatedly published factually-unsupported and highly damaging articles, often based on illegally-sourced and – quite remarkably in some cases – faked and fabricated materials, to satisfy their narrative of my supposed guilt."

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