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Virgil van Dijk admits winning the Ballon d'Or after an exceptional season with Liverpool would be a dream come true.

No defender has claimed the award since Fabio Cannavaro in 2006, the year he lifted the World Cup with Italy, but centre-back Van Dijk is a strong contender to break the drought.

The 28-year-old shone as Liverpool won the Champions League last season and was crowned PFA Players' Player of the Year for his part in helping the Reds finish second in the Premier League.

Already a revered figure at Anfield, Van Dijk could become the club's second Ballon d'Or recipient after Michael Owen in 2001.

"If people are talking about it - you can't say it doesn't [excite you]," Van Dijk told Sky Sports.

"But it's a subject we don't have any influence on. I can't change anything right now other than get fit, stay fit and that's the situation.

"Winning something like that is a dream come true for every footballer in the world. If you don't then you just get on with it and try to perform better than last year.

"It would be fantastic and I would be very proud.

"But the main thing will be to focus on what we do all together and achieving the bigger goal - that's getting silverware with the club."

Van Dijk and Liverpool are in the United States for pre-season ahead of another gruelling campaign.

The European champions must contend with the usual domestic and Champions League commitments along with a trip to Qatar for the Club World Cup in December.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp views the demands on modern players, including regular international matches and tournaments, as unsustainable.

"It looks like nobody can imagine a week without football in the year," Klopp told reporters.

"When did that happen? A game again, a game again.

"It is difficult for the boys. Everything will be fine this season, but in the long term we have to change it. There must be breaks.

"Come on, let them go. Be brave. Don't treat every game like it is the last of a decade."

Luke Shaw said there will be a "new" Manchester United this season as he sent a warning to Premier League champions Manchester City and rivals Liverpool.

United endured a forgettable 2018-19 campaign after the Red Devils finished sixth, 32 points adrift of City and 31 behind Liverpool.

Jose Mourinho was sacked in December, with United turning to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer on an interim basis before appointing the club great on a three-year deal in March.

Following another trophy-less season and all-English Champions League and Europa League finals, Shaw is determined to get United back to the top of the Premier League.

"It was really tough for all of us to take and you couldn't really enjoy your holidays," United left-back Shaw said.

"You see the Champions League final and the Europa League final and they're all English teams. It makes you feel even worse, and especially the way the finals went. None of us want that to happen again.

"I think that's why we've all come back again with a different mindset. We had that break to clear our minds but now we're all focused on getting United back to where they belong and not let the likes of the teams we've seen in the finals have it that easy."

Shaw added: "For sure this season it will be a new United. They [City and Liverpool] won't have it as easy as last season. People are probably already doubting us but they can carry on doing that.

"We know what we are capable of doing and we will have a much better season. It will be a new United, especially with the new ideas the manager is bringing in."

After signing Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James, Solskjaer's United have impressed in pre-season with wins over Perth Glory, Leeds United and Inter.

United – who have been linked to Leicester City defender Harry Maguire and Sporting CP star Bruno Fernandes – will face Tottenham in Shanghai on Thursday.

"We've worked a lot on tactics, pressing wise – when to go, what sort of moments to," he said. "The other side of that is to keep the ball more. The manager wants us to play out from the back.

"The way the game went [against Inter], I feel we looked a lot better than we probably have for a while. A lot of times last season we didn't keep the ball well enough and now, playing on the front foot with the pressing, we know as a team what the manager wants. I have no doubt that when the first game of the season comes we will be flying."

Neymar and Gareth Bale have been locked in something of a transfer impasse in recent weeks - but it appears there could be a solution.

According to the Independent, Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar's representatives are trying to push through a deal that would see the Brazil star move to the Santiago Bernabeu, with Bale and money moving the other way.

Manchester United are not thought to be interested in either player, but their pursuit of Harry Maguire may, at last, be coming to an end.

 

TOP STORY - NEYMAR AND BALE PROPOSED IN SWAP DEAL

Neymar is said to be "desperate" to leave Paris Saint-Germain and ideally return to Spain, but his options have so far seemed limited, with Barcelona and Real Madrid either unable or unwilling to stump up for the transfer.

Meanwhile, Gareth Bale has been told by head coach Zinedine Zidane that it would be best for him to leave, but suitors appear hard to come by for the Wales international.

The Independent claims this has prompted some of Neymar's camp to explore the prospect of the forward joining Madrid in a deal involving money and Bale heading to PSG.

The idea is that it would solve some of the concerns around transfer fees that have stalled moves for each player and allow the two teams to sign ready-made stars to replace the ones they are losing.

ROUND-UP:

Manchester United's chase for a centre-back could nearly be over, with the Independent claiming a deal to sign Harry Maguire from Leicester City is "imminent".

Manchester City could yet intervene but, according to the Sun, they would have to sell Nicolas Otamendi or Eliaquim Mangala to afford England international Maguire.

- If Bale does not become part of a Neymar swap deal, he could end up in China – the Mirror claim he has been offered a contract worth £1million per week to join Beijing Guoan.

- Having agreed personal terms, Andre Silva is close to moving to Monaco, which would free up AC Milan to sign Atletico Madrid's Angel Correa, both Sky Sport Italia and Sport Mediaset claim.

Napoli have been chasing James Rodriguez but might now go instead for Lyon captain Nabil Fekir, according to RMC Sport and L'Equipe.

- Another Madrid player tipped for an exit, Dani Ceballos, has been told to choose between Arsenal and Tottenham for his season-long loan, AS say.

- Calciomercato reports Juventus could sell either Merih Demiral or Daniele Rugani following Matthijs de Ligt's arrival. Demiral, who only just arrived from Sassuolo, has been linked to AC Milan. Roma are reportedly interested in Rugani.

Sadio Mane will miss Liverpool's Community Shield clash against Manchester City as manager Jurgen Klopp confirmed the star would return to training just days before the start of the Premier League season.

After helping Liverpool win the Champions League, Mane guided Senegal to the Africa Cup of Nations final in Egypt, where they lost to Algeria in the decider.

The attacker's busy off-season will mean he misses the Community Shield on August 4, set to return just four days out from his side's league opener against Norwich City.

"He is in good shape," Klopp told the club's website after a 2-1 friendly loss to Sevilla on Sunday.

"Obviously they had a celebration in Senegal and I'm happy about that because it showed that they respect the competition and saw the second place as a success, which is nice.

"He is now on holiday, not the longest one. He will be back on August 5, after the Manchester City game. That means he had two weeks.

"There is four or five days to prepare for Norwich, 10 days for Chelsea [in the UEFA Super Cup]."

Mane scored 26 goals in 50 games in all competitions for Liverpool last season.

Sevilla head coach Julen Lopetegui said Joris Gnagnon was "very, very worried" after his horror challenge left Liverpool teenager Yasser Larouci on a stretcher.

Sunday's friendly in Boston – won 2-1 by Sevilla – was marred by Gnagnon wildly kicking out at 18-year-old Liverpool left-back Larouci.

Sevilla defender and second-half substitute Gnagnon, who issued an apology post-game, was shown a straight red card with 14 minutes remaining, while Larouci required lengthy treatment at Fenway Park.

"[Gnagnon] was very, very worried and knows it could have been a bad injury," Lopetegui said.

"I am worried about the player [Larouci] but I asked Jurgen [Klopp] and he said the player is okay, it isn't a bad injury and I am happy for that.

"That's the most important thing. The referee thought it was a red card and I haven't seen a replay but it's possible it was a red card."

Larouci reportedly left the stadium on crutches following a fiercely contested pre-season fixture, with Liverpool on the receiving end of some tough tackles.

Liverpool star Virgil van Dijk was infuriated by Gnagnon's actions and he added: "I saw it from the side and it's not nice.

"Especially when it happens against a young guy who is playing pretty well this season, it's not great to see. I think it says something about him [Gnagnon]."

James Milner was scathing of Joris Gnagnon's "disgraceful" challenge on Yasser Larouci that marred the friendly between Liverpool and Sevilla.

Gnagnon was shown a straight red card for a horrendous tackle on Liverpool teenager Larouci, who was forced to leave the field on a stretcher in Sunday's 2-1 loss to Sevilla.

Sevilla defender and second-half substitute Gnagnon wildly kicked out at the 18-year-old with 14 minutes remaining in Boston, where tempers flared.

Gnagnon apologised post-match but Milner told LFCTV: "Was it too much? I thought so yes, it was a disgraceful tackle.

"We know it's only a friendly, but I mean, you don't see many red cards in friendlies, do you?

"Their guy said it is down to the referee and it's a tackle and a foul, but it's very disappointing. We [responded] in the right way.

"It is a tough one for the referee because you don't want to use red cards in friendlies and it is a rare thing to see.

"It's not easy to get hold of the game, you don't normally see too many tackles [like Gnagnon's] but it is a disgrace really."

Larouci reportedly left Fenway Park on crutches after Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool succumbed to Alejandro Pozo's 90th-minute winner.

Sevilla's Joris Gnagnon issued an apology to Yasser Larouci after his horrendous challenge left the Liverpool youngster on a stretcher.

Sevilla defeated Liverpool 2-1 in Sunday's pre-season friendly in Boston, where the fixture was overshadowed by Gnagnon's shocking tackle on Larouci.

Gnagnon – a second-half substitute – was shown a straight red card with 14 minutes remaining after wildly kicking out at Larouci, who required lengthy treatment before the 18-year-old was taken away on a stretcher.

Amid fierce backlash, Sevilla defender Gnagnon apologised to Larouci and Liverpool post-match.

"I would like to publicly apologise to Liverpool, the family of the player and the supporters," Gnagnon wrote in a statement posted to Twitter.

"It was a heinous act on my part for whatever reason and should not be seen on a football field. All my prayers are with the player and the family."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp provided an update on Larouci, who left Fenway Park in worrying scenes.

"[It's] much too early in the season to create headlines with saying the things I think about the situation," Klopp told reporters after Liverpool succumbed to Alejandro Pozo's 90th-minute winner.

"Let me say how the situation is with Yasser; it looks like he was lucky but, of course, how it always is with these things we have to wait a little bit. He couldn't keep on playing, so that's the first not-so-good sign but in the dressing room it was OK."

Klopp added: "He hit him full throttle and, in that moment, [if it was] a little bit different position where he hit him then it's done. He rolls… he is a sports boy so that was OK, nothing happened there.

"I don't know 100 per cent. It looks like he was lucky but I only spoke quickly to the doc and that's what he said, but we have to see."

Liverpool's friendly against Sevilla was marred by a shocking challenge on Yasser Larouci that forced the Reds youngster to leave the field on a stretcher in Boston.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool suffered a late 2-1 loss to Sevilla, but Sunday's result was overshadowed by Joris Gnagnon's horrendous tackle on Larouci.

In a feisty game at Fenway Park, Sevilla substitute Gnagnon was shown a straight red card with 14 minutes remaining after wildly kicking out at Larouci.

Larouci required lengthy treatment before the 18-year-old was taken away on a stretcher as tempers flared in the United States.

Despite Sevilla's numerical disadvantage, Julen Lopetegui's LaLiga side were victorious thanks to Alejandro Pozo's 90th-minute winner.

It came after Divock Origi had cancelled out Nolito's opener on the stroke of half-time with an emphatic close-range finish.

James Milner's future at Liverpool is uncertain as the veteran revealed he was still waiting to hear about possible contract talks.

Milner is out of contract at the end of the season and could be set for an exit from Anfield, where he arrived on a free transfer in 2015.

The versatile 33-year-old, who helped Liverpool win the Champions League last season, said he had not heard back from the club regarding a possible new deal.

"As it stands, last year we spoke to the club and asked them if they wanted to do something and they said not at that time," Milner told UK media.

"We haven't heard anything since, so that's where we are at.

"All I can do is concentrate on my football and do what I can, but in terms of where I am with my contract, that's what has happened up until now and I haven't heard anything from the club."

Milner has made at least 40 appearances in all competitions in each of his four seasons at Liverpool, including playing 45 times in 2018-19.

The former England international, who has regularly been praised by manager Jurgen Klopp, hopes he can continue performing.

"Everyone pipes on about my age and stuff [and] I understand you are going to get that," Milner said.

"There are three things to it – availability, fitness and performance level. Hopefully I am delivering all three."

Liverpool keeping a settled squad under Jurgen Klopp means they are set up to challenge for honours over the next few years, according to Dejan Lovren.

The Reds won last season's Champions League – a year after losing in the final to Real Madrid – and finished just a point behind Manchester City in the race for the Premier League title.

Centre-back Lovren believes the Reds' ability to hold on to their best players puts them in the perfect position to enjoy a period of sustained success, both domestically and in Europe.

"There are quite a lot of players who stayed in this team, which is quite important," he told the club's official website.

"If we keep this focus for the next couple of years we can reflect on last season and hopefully win many more trophies.

"We are a team with special characteristics, with fantastic individual players who can change the game in a second."

Jurgen Klopp's side face Sevilla in Boston on Sunday amid a heatwave that has hit much of the United States.

Lovren, however, has backed his team-mates to cope with the challenging conditions.  

"We adapt to everything," he added. "It's an important tour for us, playing against big teams.

"It will be a challenge again to play in the heat and to adapt. There are no easy opponents. But it's about our character and we are used to it already."

"It's always a pleasure to come to the States and see so many fans behind us. It's a privilege to be here."

Christian Eriksen put some of Europe's biggest clubs on alert when he declared he would "like to try something new" and now it seems the Tottenham star could make a surprise move.

Initial speculation suggested that Real Madrid would make a move for the talented Spurs playmaker.

As the 2019-20 season draws ever closer, however, it could be that another Spanish giant – and neighbours of Real Madrid – steal a march in the quest to land the Denmark international.

 

TOP STORY – ATLETI AND TOTTENHAM IN ERIKSEN TALKS

Atletico Madrid have enjoyed a productive transfer window – despite losing Antoine Griezmann, Rodri and Diego Godin – and could be set to swoop for Tottenham's Christian Eriksen.

The Dane has spent six seasons with the north London club but is ready for a new challenge and could join former team-mate Kieran Trippier in the Spanish capital.

AS reports that the two clubs have started discussions over a fee for the 27-year-old, with Spurs likely to demand in excess of €70million.

ROUND-UP

- Paris Saint-Germain have found their target if Neymar gets his desired move away from the Parc des Princes. According to RMC Sport, Juventus midfielder Paulo Dybala is PSG's top option if Neymar leaves.

- James Rodriguez is linked with the likes of Atletico Madrid and Napoli, and Real Madrid want around €40m for the playmaker, according to Marca.

- David de Gea will become the world's highest paid goalkeeper. The Manchester United shot-stopper has agreed to a six-year deal worth around £117m with the Premier League giants, according to The Telegraph.

- Arsenal could land Moise Kean from Juventus, but only if any deal includes a buy-back clause. The Daily Mail say Juve will insist on a £36m (€40.1m) clause in a possible deal involving the forward.

- Danny Rose is widely expected to leave Tottenham this close season, with numerous clubs linked with the left-back. Now, the Mirror report Serie A champions Juventus are the frontrunners to sign the defender.

- After Aaron Wan-Bissaka's move to Manchester United, Crystal Palace may have found their replacement. The Daily Mail report Palace have held further talks over a potential deal for Liverpool right-back Nathaniel Clyne.

Jurgen Klopp opted to take the positives out of Liverpool's first pre-season match in the United States after the Reds fell to a 3-2 defeat to Borussia Dortmund in Indiana.

Youngsters Harry Wilson and Rhian Brewster scored for the Reds, but Paco Alcacer, Thomas Delaney and Jacob Bruun Larsen were all on target for Dortmund as they recorded a win against the club led by their former boss.

Internationals such as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson and Virgil van Dijk were given their first minutes of pre-season in the second half and Klopp believed fresher players were the difference in the heat.

"It was tough for both teams with the circumstances – wow, it was warm," he said.

"When we had to come out for 15 minutes with the line-up from the first half and Dortmund changed and brought on fresh legs, that was the decider I would say.

"There was a lot of good moments of football and you can see they are a step further in pre-season than we are."

The German added that the playing minutes were structured for good reason, despite the early part of the second half being the decisive period of the game.

"It was an important session for us all. Sixty minutes for one team was maybe a bit too much, but they had to go through this," Klopp said.

"Thirty minutes for the other team was exactly right. That's the situation we face at the moment, that's early pre-season, we have to do it like this and use it as the main sessions.

"How we conceded the goals was due to lack of organisation around the situations. When you change a lot in the team, then it's quite difficult to have the perfect organisation. This will be better later in pre-season.

"I still don't like what I see in the game very often in pre-season, but I know the reason for it."

The Neymar saga has dominated the narrative at Paris Saint-Germain in recent days, with his future yet to be settled.

But the Ligue 1 champions still have moves to make themselves in the remaining weeks of the transfer market.

And PSG might back themselves to tempt an out-of-favour Juventus star to make the switch to France.

 

TOP STORY – PSG MAKE APPROACH FOR DYBALA

If Neymar does leave Paris, Paulo Dybala would represent a fine replacement. He is an option, according to RMC Sport.

It is reported PSG have approached Dybala's camp, with any deal quite separate from Neymar's future.

A fee of less than €50million could be enough to see Juventus sell, with Dybala no longer a vital cog following Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival last year.

 

ROUND-UP

- Dybala might not be the only Juventus player heading to Ligue 1, though. Le Parisien have reported PSG interest in Blaise Matuidi, who Sky Sport Italia say is also a target for Monaco.

- Further movement in Serie A could see Suso heading off. According to Calcio Mercato, the AC Milan star is a target for Roma. The Rossoneri will ask for close to €40m despite the midfielder appearing to be out of favour.

- Working rather harder to keep a key man are Tottenham. They will offer Christian Eriksen £200,000 a week to keep Real Madrid at bay, according to the Daily Mail.

- With Laurent Koscielny's future at Arsenal uncertain, Unai Emery's captaincy group will look quite different next season. According to the Mail, Rob Holding or Calum Chambers could be in line to be skipper.

- Their London neighbours Chelsea, meanwhile, are set to temporarily part ways with Ethan Ampadu. The teenager is on the brink of joining RB Leipzig on loan, according to the Guardian, and could be joined at the Bundesliga club by Ademola Lookman of Everton.

- But as one young prospect arrives in Germany, another might be on the way out. Bild say Barcelona are keen on Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Kai Havertz, who is also said to be in the sights of Bayern Munich and Liverpool.

Borussia Dortmund continued their strong start to pre-season with a 3-2 win over European Champions Liverpool at Notre Dame Stadium on their United States tour.

It's a second win on the spin for the Germans, who finished runner-up to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga last season, having made several changes to the team that beat Seattle Sounders 3-1 on Wednesday.

One player who has started both games for Dortmund is Paco Alcacer and he opened the scoring with his second goal in two games after three minutes, following good determined play from Giovanni Reyna.

Liverpool had the better opportunities in the first half and equalised 10 minutes before the break, when Harry Wilson slotted into the bottom corner, following a dummy from Ryan Kent.

Dortmund made nine changes at the interval and two replacements combined to put the eight-time Bundesliga winners ahead as Thomas Delaney finished coolly from Thorgan Hazard's cross.

Five minutes later it was 3-1 when Jacob Bruun Larsen received Marius Wolf's cross, turned in the area and fired into the bottom corner.

The Reds introduced internationals Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jordan Henderson and Virgil Van Dijk among nine changes at the hour mark and pulled a goal back with 15 minutes to play.

Ben Woodburn won a spot-kick which was scored expertly by Rhian Brewster, but they were unable to force an equaliser as Dortmund held firm.

Liverpool's next pre-season fixture is against Sevilla in Boston, while Dortmund face Udinese next Saturday in Austria.

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