It is almost a guarantee that whenever the name Diego Armando Maradona is spoken it will be in discussion about who is the greatest football player of all time. He was one of the two joint winners of the FIFA Player of the 20th Century award.

Maradona's vision, passing, ball control and dribbling skills combined with his small stature (1.65 m or 5 ft 5 in), giving him a low centre of gravity and allowing him to manoeuvre better than most other football players. He would often dribble past multiple opposing players on a run.

His presence and leadership on the field had a great effect on his team's general performance, while he would often be singled out by the opposition. In addition to his creative abilities, he also possessed an eye for goal and was known to be a free-kick specialist. A precocious talent, Maradona was given the nickname "El Pibe de Oro" ("The Golden Boy"), a name that stuck with him throughout his career.

In his international career with Argentina, he earned 91 caps and scored 34 goals.

Maradona played in four FIFA World Cups, including the 1986 World Cup in Mexico where he captained Argentina and led them to victory over West Germany in the final, and won the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player.

His second goal against England in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal, a 60-metre dribble past five England players was voted "Goal of the Century" by FIFA.com voters in 2002.

 

Playing Career 

Full name: Diego Armando Maradona

Date of birth: 30 October 1960 (age 59)

Place of birth: Lanús, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Height: 1.67 m (5 ft 6 in)

Playing positions: Attacking midfielder/Second striker

 

Clubs

Years                  Team                           Apps        (Gls)

1976–1981          Argentinos Juniors           167         (116)

1981–1982          Boca Juniors                     40           (28)

1982–1984          Barcelona                         36           (22)

1984–1991          Napoli                            188           (81)

1992–1993          Sevilla                              26            (5)

1993–1994          Newell's Old Boys                5            (0)

1995–1997          Boca Juniors                      30           (7)

Total                                                      491         (259)

Honours

  • Boca Juniors - Argentine Primera División: 1981 Metropolitano
  • Barcelona - Copa del Rey: 1983; Copa de la Liga: 1983; Supercopa de España: 1983
  • Napoli - Serie A: 1986–87, 1989–90; Coppa Italia: 1986–87; UEFA Cup: 1988–89; Supercoppa Italiana: 1990

International

  • Argentina: 1977-1994 (91 Apps, 34 Gls)

 

Honours

  • FIFA World Youth Championship: 1979
  • FIFA World Cup: 1986
  • Artemio Franchi Trophy: 1993

Individual

  • Argentine Primera División top scorers: 1978 Metropolitano, 1979 Metropolitano, 1979 Nacional, 1980 Metropolitano, 1980 Nacional
  • FIFA World Youth Championship Golden Ball: 1979
  • FIFA World Youth Championship Silver Shoe: 1979
  • Argentine Football Writers' Footballer of the Year: 1979, 1980, 1981, 1986
  • South American Footballer of the Year: (official award) 1979, 1980
  • Olimpia de Oro: 1979, 1986
  • Guerin d'Oro (Serie A Footballer of the Year): 1985
  • UNICEF European Footballer of the Season: 1989–90
  • FIFA World Cup Golden Ball: 1986
  • FIFA World Cup Silver Shoe: 1986
  • FIFA World Cup Most Assists: 1986
  • FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 1986, 1990
  • Onze d'Or: 1986, 1987
  • L'Équipe Champion of Champions: 1986
  • United Press International Athlete of the Year Award: 1986
  • World Soccer magazine's Player of the Year: 1986
  • Capocannoniere (Serie A top scorer): 1987–88
  • Coppa Italia top scorer: 1987–88
  • FIFA World Cup Bronze Ball: 1990
  • FIFA World Cup All-Time Team: 1994
  • South American Team of the Year: 1995

Neymar appears likely to remain at Paris Saint-Germain for another season, while Newcastle United have big plans.

Linked again with a return to Barcelona, Neymar could yet stay in Paris, where he is contracted 2022.

Meanwhile, Newcastle – reportedly on the verge of being taken over – are considering some big names.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR SET FOR PSG STAY AMID BARCELONA LINKS

Due to the coronavirus pandemic and troubles at Barcelona, Neymar looks set to stay at PSG for another season, according to Marca.

It also reported that Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is struggling to find the financial formula to sign the Brazil forward.

Neymar only arrived at PSG from Barca in a world-record €222million move in 2017.

ROUND-UP

- Newcastle could have money to spend if their proposed takeover goes through. Mundo Deportivo reports the club are looking at Barcelona attacker Philippe Coutinho, who it says is also a target for Everton. Foot Mercato claims Newcastle are eyeing PSG striker Edinson Cavani, Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly and Real Betis forward Nabil Fekir.

- Like they are struggling with Neymar, Barcelona are battling to find a deal for Inter forward Lautaro Martinez, according to Sky Sport Italia, which says the LaLiga side are struggling to meet the Argentina international's €111m release clause.

- Paul Pogba's future remains a talking point. Tuttosport says Manchester United are open to an exchange deal with Juventus, with Aaron Ramsey and Douglas Costa among the players linked with a move to Old Trafford.

- Barcelona are still a long way off reaching an agreement with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, according to Sport. Ter Stegen is contracted at Barca until 2022. Meanwhile, Sport reports Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana is prioritising a move to Barcelona if he leaves the Eredivisie giants.

- Perhaps Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will stay at Arsenal after all. Sport reports the forward, whose deal ends in 2021, will renew with the Premier League club. Staying at Arsenal and the Daily Express says Arsenal are considering a move for Barcelona attacker Ousmane Dembele.

- A youth product who has spent his entire professional career at Barcelona, Sergi Roberto has gone from untouchable to transferable, according to Marca.

Ciro Immobile compared Lazio head coach Simone Inzaghi to Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, while the Italy star revealed his Napoli dream.

Inzaghi's Lazio were only a point behind defending champions and leaders Juventus through 26 games when Serie A was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lazio have also tasted Coppa Italia (2019) and Supercoppa Italiana (2017 and 2019) success under Inzaghi, who was appointed in 2016.

Immobile worked with Klopp during the pair's time together at Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund in 2014-15 and the Lazio striker heaped praise on the German and Inzaghi.

"Klopp is a great expert in football and I always said that I'd have liked to work with him when I was in my best form. He is a complete coach, he has everything," Immobile said on Instagram Live chat with Er Faina.

"Having said that, he really reminds me of Simone Inzaghi, as they are very similar in their motivational skills, albeit in slightly different ways."

Immobile had scored an incredible 27 Serie A goals this season when the campaign was postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis.

With 12 games left to play, Immobile is nearing Gonzalo Higuain's record of 36 goals in a single Serie A season, set with Napoli in 2015-16.

Immobile has flourished since returning to Italy via Lazio in 2016 and the 30-year-old addressed previous links to hometown club Napoli and Liverpool as he addressed his future.

"I was close to Napoli and it's true that I did hope to one day play for them, but I am so happy here that after arriving at Lazio, I stopped thinking about it," Immobile said.

"I don't know if I'll end my career here. Perhaps by the time I am 33, Lazio will be so successful that they need more important players than me. I don't like to be a burden on anyone. I'll keep giving my all for this jersey as long as I can.

"Inzaghi is certainly the coach I got along best with. We had that brief discussion when I reacted angrily to a substitution, but he dealt with it the right way. I know him and he knows me."

Barcelona could keep Philippe Coutinho after all, while Gareth Bale is seemingly set to stay at Real Madrid.

Coutinho, who is on loan at Bayern Munich this season, has been heavily linked with a permanent move away from Barca.

Meanwhile, Bale is said to be considering his Madrid future, but could yet remain at the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – COUTINHO TO STAY AT BARCELONA

Barcelona coach Quique Setien has found a solution for Coutinho and could play the Brazil international in midfield, according to Marca.

The report says Setien has in mind an option of playing Coutinho as a number eight.

A playmaker, Coutinho has made 32 appearances in all competitions for Bayern this season.

ROUND-UP

- Linked with a move away, Bale is committed to staying at Real Madrid, according to AS, which also says the club have told forward Luka Jovic his future is at the Santiago Bernabeu.

- Barcelona are said to be chasing Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele. Sky Sports reports the LaLiga club have offered Spurs Samuel Umtiti and Nelson Semedo for Ndombele. The Mirror says Tottenham have no intention of selling the France international. Sport, meanwhile, says Barca want €45million for Semedo.

- Alexis Sanchez's future remains uncertain. The Sun says neither Manchester United nor Inter, where he is on loan this season, want the Chile international.

- Out of contract at Arsenal in 2021, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be set for an exit this close season. The Daily Mail reports the Premier League outfit are ready to listen to offers for the forward.

- Dries Mertens is set to attract plenty of interest with his Napoli contract expiring. The Mirror reports Chelsea want the forward, who is the Serie A club's equal all-time leading goalscorer.

- That could impact Olivier Giroud's future at Chelsea, where he is out of contract at season's end. The Mirror says Chelsea are ready to activate a one-year extension for the striker, while Tuttosport reports Inter are still considering the France forward.

Another day, another Paul Pogba story.

Pogba's future continues to make headlines, with the Manchester United star reportedly unhappy at Old Trafford.

Long linked with a switch to Real Madrid, a Santiago Bernabeu transfer could be on the cards.

 

TOP STORY – ZIDANE EYES POGBA

Zinedine Zidane wants Real Madrid to sign Manchester United star Paul Pogba at the end of the season, according to L'Equipe.

Madrid have been heavily linked to Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga but Zidane is determine to bring Pogba to the Santiago Bernabeu.

It comes as Tuttosport and Sportmediaset claim Inter have joined Madrid, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain in the race for Pogba.

 

ROUND-UP

- Juve are interested in re-signing Pogba but the Serie A champions could be about to turn to another midfielder target. Calciomercato says Juve are eyeing Ajax's Donny van de Beek, who has been linked to Madrid and United.

- Sport says Liverpool are in talks with soon-to-be free agent and Chelsea attacker Willian. The Brazilian is out of contract at the end of the 2019-20 season.

PSG have prepared an offer for Milan full-back Theo Hernandez, according to Tuttosport. The Frenchman has been a revelation since arriving from Madrid.

- Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti is Napoli's first choice if Kalidou Koulibaly leaves, claims Sport. Koulibaly has been linked to PSG, United and Madrid.

- Marca reports Martin Odegaard's future at Madrid depends on Luka Modric. The Spanish newspaper says if Modric leaves the Santiago Bernabeu, Odegaard will return from his loan spell. Otherwise, the Norwegian will spend another season on loan at Real Sociedad.

- RAC-1 claims Juve and Barca are in talks over a swap deal, which could see Miralem Pjanic leave for the LaLiga champions and Arthur move to Turin.

Madrid have accepted they will not be able to sign PSG star Kylian Mbappe this year, says L'Equipe. The Spanish capital club are determined to bring the France international to Madrid.

Chelsea are reportedly in talks with Barcelona over Philippe Coutinho, while Real Madrid are preparing a "grand revolution".

Coutinho is expected to leave Barca permanently this close season, with the playmaker on loan at Bayern Munich in 2019-20.

With a Premier League return touted for the former Liverpool star, it seems Coutinho is close to getting back to England.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA START COUTINHO TALKS

Chelsea have already started talks with Barcelona over Coutinho, according to Sport.

Bayern will reportedly not use their €120million purchase option on the Brazil international, opening the door for Chelsea.

Barcelona have set a starting price of €90m (£79.5m) for Coutinho, who joined the club from Liverpool for a reported initial fee of €118.8m (£105m).

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid are preparing for a "grand revolution". The cover of Sport says president Florentino Perez is getting ready to make changes at Los Blancos, with Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez and 14 players out on loan the main problems.

- With Newcastle United reportedly on the verge of a takeover, the Premier League side are being linked with a new manager. The Mirror says former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is among the top targets for the club once the sale is complete.

- Ashley Young has impressed at Inter. The Guardian claims Young, 34, will get a one-year extension at the Serie A club.

- Despite only arriving at Manchester United in June 2018, Diogo Dalot could be set for an exit. The Sun says United are willing to listen to offers for the 21-year-old Portuguese full-back.

- It seems Roma have received some good news. Corriere dello Sport reports Manchester United's Chris Smalling and Arsenal's Henrikh Mkhitaryan, will remain at the club on loan until the end of the season, even if it goes beyond June 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

- Cengiz Under could be on his way out of Roma. CalcioMercato reports Everton, Milan and Napoli are interested in Under and Roma may be willing to lower their initial demand of €40m.

Dino Zoff is arguably the greatest goalkeeper in Italy’s history and that says much given the country is the joint second-most successful country in the world with four World Cup titles.

Arkadiusz Milik remains in talks with Napoli over a new contract amid links to Milan, Atletico Madrid and Juventus, according to his agent David Pantak.

Napoli forward Milik is out of contract in 2021 and the Poland international has so far failed to agree fresh terms at the Serie A club.

Speculation has emerged that Milik could leave Napoli, with Italian rivals Milan reportedly keen admirers of the 26-year-old, while Juve and LaLiga's Atletico are also believed to be interested.

Pantak addressed rumours about Milik, telling Calciomercato: "Regarding everything that's come out in the media in the past few days, I want to clarify that they're only rumours, some of them even disrespectful to Napoli as a club.

"I'm in constant contact with Napoli's sporting director, our conversations on [Milik's] renewal have remained active.

"At the end of this difficult period for everyone, we'll meet and try to find a solution.

"Only in the event that one can't be found will we think of a shared solution for the good of the player and club."

Milik, who joined Napoli from Dutch giants Ajax in 2016, had scored 12 goals across all competitions before the 2019-20 season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Neymar has been tipped to make the move to Barcelona, almost three years since his world-record transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.

Lionel Messi and Co. have spoken glowingly about their former team-mate amid the speculation.

But reports claim a Barca reunion is not on the cards.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA DISMISS NEYMAR RETURN

Barcelona have ruled out re-signing Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain, according to Catalunya Radio.

Neymar – who swapped Barca for PSG in a world-record €222million transfer in 2017 – has been repeatedly linked with a Camp Nou comeback.

But the financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic reportedly mean Barca are not in a position to bring Neymar back to the club at the end of the coronavirus-hit 2019-20 campaign.

 

ROUND-UP

Borussia Dortmund or Manchester United? Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham is hot property following his exploits for the Championship outfit prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Both clubs are vying for Bellingham, however, the Daily Mail says Dortmund are hopeful of beating United to the 16-year-old's signature.

- The Daily Mail claims Tottenham have asked former manager Mauricio Pochettino to take a pay cut. Pochettino is on gardening leave following his sacking and Spurs are looking to reduce costs amid the COVID-19 crisis.

- Staying in London and Tottenham are seriously interested in signing Inter centre-back Diego Godin, reports Mundo Deportivo. The 34-year-old Uruguayan has struggled to fit into Antonio Conte's plans, having only arrived from Atletico Madrid at the start of the 2019-20 campaign. United have also been linked.

Gianluigi Buffon is poised to sign a new deal with Serie A champions Juventus, according to Calciomercato. The only thing missing is the 42-year-old goalkeeper's signature.

Everton are interested in Torino star Andrea Belotti, says Tuttosport. The Italy international has also been linked to United and Napoli.

- Marca claims Eder Militao will remain at Real Madrid, having been reassured that he will not be sold by the Spanish giants.

- Agent Mino Raiola would prefer to send United midfielder Paul Pogba to either PSG or Juventus instead of Madrid, according to Soccer Link.

Passing the ball can sometimes look like the easiest thing in the world to do. At least, it does when these guys do it.

Our latest dive into the data of 2019-20 sees us look at the best playmakers in Europe's top-five leagues before the season was called to a halt.

We've deliberately broadened our approach to what constitutes a playmaker here – Gerard Pique doesn't often appear as a number 10, unless Barca are in real trouble – as the idea is to offer a wider consideration of those players who generally use the ball better than most when in possession.

To that end, we've looked at 12 different metrics to come up with the top performers of the campaign, again from among those to make at least 10 league appearances.

While some stars are not exactly strange to see in the list below, there is a handful of more surprising names, too...

 

THE TOP PLAYMAKERS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Most successful passes: Sven Bender (1,766)
Highest passing accuracy: Axel Witsel (94.1 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Joshua Kimmich (873)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Axel Witsel (92.2)
Most passes ending in final third: Jadon Sancho (576)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Axel Witsel (88.4 per cent)
Most chances created: Christopher Nkunku (65)
Most big chances created: Thomas Muller (24)
Most assists: Thomas Muller (16)
Most assists from open play: Thomas Muller (15)
Most crosses/corners successful: Filip Kostic (71)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Dennis Geiger (50 per cent)

LALIGA:

Most successful passes: Gerard Pique (1,688)
Highest passing accuracy: Toni Kroos (93.6 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Sergio Busquets (957)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Toni Kroos (92.4)
Most passes ending in final third: Lionel Messi (698)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Toni Kroos (90.3)
Most chances created: Jose Campana (58)
Most big chances created: Lionel Messi (22)
Most assists: Lionel Messi (12)
Most assists from open play: Portu and Lionel Messi (8)
Most crosses/corners successful: Jesus Navas (43)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Benat (55 per cent)

LIGUE 1:

Most successful passes: Marco Verratti (1,581)
Highest passing accuracy: Thiago Silva (95.5 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Marco Verratti (956)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: Thiago Silva (92.8 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Angel Di Maria (543)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Colin Dagba (86 per cent)
Most chances created: Dimitri Payet (87)
Most big chances created: Angel Di Maria (31)
Most assists: Angel Di Maria (14)
Most assists from open play: Angel Di Maria (10)
Most crosses/corners successful: Dimitri Payet (63)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Marco Verratti (54.6 per cent)

 

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most successful passes: Virgil van Dijk (2,209)
Highest passing accuracy: John Stones (94 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Rodri (1,069)
Highest passing accuracy, opposition half: John Stones (93.9 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Kevin De Bruyne (740)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Ibrahim Amadou (93.3 per cent)
Most chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (96)
Most big chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (23)
Most assists: Kevin De Bruyne (16)
Most assists from open play: Kevin De Bruyne (14)
Most crosses/corners successful: Kevin De Bruyne (69)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Christian Atsu (47.1 per cent)

 

SERIE A:

Most successful passes: Fabian Ruiz (1,488)
Highest passing accuracy: Marlon Santos (94.1 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Fabian Ruiz (932)
Passing accuracy, opposition half: Eljif Elmas (91.5 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Luis Alberto (723)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Walace (89.7 per cent)
Most chances created: Luis Alberto (75)
Most big chances created: Luis Alberto (16)
Most assists: Luis Alberto (12)
Most assists from open play: Luis Alberto and Alejandro Gomez (9)
Most crosses/corners successful: Erick Pulgar (46)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Armando Izzo (54.6 per cent)

 

AND THE TOP 12:

Most successful passes: Virgil van Dijk (2,209)
Highest passing accuracy: Thiago Silva (95.5 per cent)
Most successful passes, opposition half: Rodri (1,069)
Passing accuracy, opposition half: John Stones (93.9 per cent)
Most passes ending in final third: Kevin De Bruyne (740)
Highest passing accuracy ending in final third: Ibrahim Amadou (93.3 per cent)
Most chances created: Kevin De Bruyne (96)
Most big chances created: Angel Di Maria (31)
Most assists: Thomas Muller and Kevin De Bruyne (16)
Most assists from open play: Thomas Muller (15)
Most crosses/corners successful: Filip Kostic (71)
Highest crosses/corners accuracy (min. 10): Benat (55 per cent)

 

Brescia president Massimo Cellino would like to see Sandro Tonali join Roma or Napoli but will be happy as long as he stays in Serie A.

Described by Andrea Pirlo as the best midfielder in Serie A, 19-year-old Tonali has been linked with a host of major clubs since breaking into the Brescia team in Serie B.

Juventus and Inter have been linked with moves for the player, who already has three senior caps for Italy despite playing just 23 times in the top-flight.

Cellino insists he will not stand in Tonali's way if he says he wants to leave and even suggested a transfer could have been arranged were it not for the chaos brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, before which Brescia looked destined to be relegated.

He told Tuttosport: "In January, a very important team came to me telling me they wanted Tonali. I didn't get into numbers, but just one question: 'Would you let him play straight away in the Champions League?'

"[They said] 'We'd leave him in Brescia until the end of the season'. I said to them, 'Thanks, but I'll keep him and we'll talk about it in July'.

"In February, I received another very important request and I didn't tell Tonali anything, with the intention of giving him a nice surprise in June. I can't say the name of the team. Unfortunately, coronavirus has changed everything."

He continued: "My dream would be to keep Tonali. I'd jump through hoops, but I have a deal with Sandro, who's a great boy. He knows that, when he asks me to leave, I'll let him go.

"I won't make it about the price – it's important he chooses from the heart. And it's only he who decides.

"Tonali is a cold, northern boy, but inside he's sentimental. That's why, as I'm a romantic, I'd like to see him at Roma or Napoli. But it'll be difficult for that to happen.

"I'd prefer him to stay in Italy, anyway."

When pressed on whether he could go to either Juventus or Inter, Cellino added: "It will depend on Tonali. He'll choose.

"But I hope he stays in Italy and gets to play. He should become an [Andres] Iniesta."

Liverpool are reportedly looking at Kylian Mbappe in case they lose Sadio Mane to Real Madrid.

Mane has developed into one of the world's best players at Liverpool, leading to apparent interest from Madrid.

But the Premier League leaders are considering a huge signing if the Senegal international does head to the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL CONSIDER MBAPPE IF MANE JOINS REAL MADRID

Madrid are determined to sign Mane and Liverpool are targeting at Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappe as a replacement, according to The Sun.

The report says Mane is not pushing for a move away from Anfield and the Reds are keen to see off Madrid.

Mbappe, 21, has been linked with Los Blancos previously, but perhaps Liverpool could land the France international.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Madrid and the Daily Star reports Manchester United are facing a battle with Los Blancos for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, who has been heavily rumoured to be destined for Old Trafford.

- It remains to be seen how Madrid can strengthen their attack this close season. Amid the Spanish club's links to Dortmund forward Erling Haaland, Bild claims the Norway international's opt-out clause at the Bundesliga club does not come into effect until 2022.

- Inter are already negotiating with Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal, according to Sport. It reports Barca are open to letting the Chile international leave and want to include him in a deal for Lautaro Martinez but Inter are refusing that as it stands.

- Staying at Camp Nou and Barcelona are ready to keep Ousmane Dembele, according to Marca. The attacker has been touted for a move away from LaLiga's champions but is seemingly attracting little interest due to his recent injury struggles.

- Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana is reportedly being eyed by PSG and Barcelona, but Premier League clubs are also considering him. The Mirror reports Chelsea and Tottenham are tracking the Cameroon international.

- Out of contract at the end of the season, Dries Mertens appears likely to leave Napoli. CalcioMercato says Inter are keen to sign the Belgium forward.

Brescia forward Mario Balotelli revealed he would love to play for Serie A side Napoli.

Balotelli joined hometown club Brescia in August last year, but was linked with a move to Napoli.

The former AC Milan, Inter and Liverpool forward said he tried to join Napoli and suggested he would still like a move to the Stadio San Paolo.

"I tried it [to join Napoli]," Balotelli told Fabio Cannavaro during an Instagram Live chat on Monday.

"I would have a great time in Naples. I would make my daughter head ultra. She supports Napoli.

"I sing to her, 'Brescia, Brescia', but she continues to support Napoli. She was very happy when I took her to the San Paolo, she was hypnotised.

"It is always a good emotion to enter San Paolo, although in my opinion the most beautiful stadium is San Siro."

Balotelli had scored five goals in 19 Serie A games this season when the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A 36-time Italy international, Balotelli, 29, last played for the national team in 2018 and said while he wanted a return, he respected coach Roberto Mancini.

"I have a special relationship with him," he said.

"I am happy if you feel you don't have to call me up for the national team because I know that if you were to call me up, you wouldn't do it to make me sit on the bench.

"It is right that you call who deserves it the most. The day I deserve it, I will be there and play."

Harry Kane's future continues to make headlines.

Since saying he would not stay at Tottenham "for the sake of it" in his pursuit of silverware, Kane has been linked to Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Now, Spurs have reportedly named their fee for the England international.

 

TOP STORY – TOTTENHAM SET KANE PRICE

Tottenham will allow star striker Harry Kane to leave for £200million, according to the Daily Mail.

Kane has been heavily linked to Premier League rivals Manchester United and LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

Spurs are reportedly keen on some extra funds amid the coronavirus pandemic.

ROUND-UP

Lautaro Martinez to Barcelona? Not necessarily. The Sun claims Manchester City are favourites to sign the Inter forward, despite the Argentina international being tipped to move to Camp Nou.

- Fabrizio Romano says Juventus will consider moving for Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic if they are unsuccessful in their pursuit of United star Paul Pogba. Brescia's Sandro Tonali and Gaetano Castrovilli of Fiorentina are also on the list.

Barca are desperate to strengthen their squad. Martinez is the priority up front for the LaLiga champions, but Mundo Deportivo says they want more. Barca are eyeing a midfielder, with Napoli star Fabian Ruiz and Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele being considered. The Catalan giants are also looking for a central defender and have been linked to City centre-back Aymeric Laporte, Dayot Upamecano of Leipzig and Sevilla's Diego Carlos.

Inter are interested in Bayern Munich midfielder Corentin Tolisso, reports Calciomercato. The Frenchman is also being followed by United and Arsenal.

- Signing Mauro Icardi remains the main objective for Juve, according to Calciomercato. The Serie A champions are keen to sign a striker amid links to Inter's Icardi, who is on loan at Paris Saint-Germain. Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, Timo Werner of RB Leipzig, City forward Gabriel Jesus, Arkadiusz Milik of Napoli, Lyon's Moussa Dembele and Kane are also on Juve's radar.

While the football world may be at a standstill due to the coronavirus pandemic, that's not stopping transfer rumours from swirling in their usual manner, with Sevilla's Diego Carlos a name persistently mentioned of late.

A Brazilian centre-back recruited from Nantes last year in a reported €15million deal, the 27-year-old is enjoying a fine debut campaign in LaLiga, quickly establishing himself as a fan favourite and key member of Julen Lopetegui's team, who are third in LaLiga.

An impressive physical specimen, athletic and comfortable with the ball at his feet, Diego Carlos has been most intensely linked with Liverpool – Jurgen Klopp is said to be a big fan and has apparently identified him as a potential partner for Virgil van Dijk.

But Barcelona and Real Madrid have also been mentioned as admirers, having been able to have a close-up look at him in LaLiga.

With a €75m release clause, Diego Carlos certainly won't come cheap – but we've examined Opta's data to compare him with 16 of Europe's best centre-backs…

THE HOLLYWOOD PASS

The Sevilla team Diego Carlos plays in is quite direct, as such it's no surprise to see he plays a large portion (229) of his passes long – of our select group, only Van Dijk (281), Leonardo Bonucci (249) and Mats Hummels (235) have attempted more.

That undoubtedly impacts his overall pass accuracy of 83 per cent, the worst of the 17 players examined. However, Sergio Ramos has attempted only 10 fewer long-range passes, yet his overall completion rate is significantly better at 91 per cent.

His accuracy is even more unimpressive in the opposition's half, as it comes down to 64 per cent, compared to Ramos and Clement Lenglet at 87 per cent. Nevertheless, Sevilla's vertical style of play is significantly different to the setups of Real Madrid and, in particular, Barcelona, while the data does not take into account how difficult each pass was.

Regular Sevilla watchers will tell you Diego Carlos has a penchant for an eye-catching cross-field pass, but the data doesn't lie – many don't reach their target.

Only 48 per cent of his long-range passes find a team-mate, which again is the worst of the players analysed. It poses the question as to whether such a direct system is suited to Diego Carlos' attributes.

He is less prone to giving the ball away when distributing short – as you would expect most players to be – as he finds a Sevilla player with 90 per cent of those passes, but only Harry Maguire (89 per cent) has a lower record in this scenario, the highest being Presnel Kimpembe (96 per cent).

MUSCLE FOR A TUSSLE

Don't let his clean-cut, well-coiffed exterior fool you - one thing Diego Carlos certainly cannot be accused of is shying away from collision. He has been involved in 196 duels this season, with only Maguire (287), Van Dijk (247), Ramos (213) and Mats Hummels (205) from our select group recording more.

The Brazilian's success rate of 56 per cent in those duels is middling, though. Van Dijk leads the way here, coming out on top 75 per cent of the time in such situations.

But Diego Carlos does come off fairly well with respect to tackling, having attempted 30 and been successful 19 times. That gives him a success rate of 63 per cent, better than 10 others in this select group, including Van Dijk (55 per cent) and Ramos (62 per cent).

Diego Carlos isn't dribbled past very often either, with only eight occurrences of that this term. Six of the chosen group have better records, though three of them are on seven and only one – Leonardo Bonucci (two) – has been beaten fewer than six times.

GET RID!

The clearances metric is where Diego Carlos performs best. He has found himself in the right position to clear danger 128 times in 2019-20, the third best among defenders in LaLiga.

Only Van Dijk (135) and Maguire (132) have a better record in this area from our group, though it's worth bearing in mind the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and others do not find themselves in defensive situations as often as Sevilla.

He also leads the way in terms of headed clearances in LaLiga with 71, just shy of Maguire's 80, while Diego Carlos' 25 interceptions is a solid effort as well, though it is some way behind the Manchester United captain's 53.

While it's fair to say Diego Carlos still has areas of his game that can be improved, it's worth stressing that some data points reflect – or are influenced heavily by – the team's setup.

Although the accuracy of Diego Carlos' long passes – a feature of Sevilla's direct system – leaves a mark against his name here, as an out-and-out defender, he is not disgraced when compared to a group of centre-backs most would consider the elite, an applaudable feat given this is only his fourth season in one of Europe's top-five leagues.

Defenders included in the select group: Virgil van Dijk, Harry Maguire, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet, Raphael Varane, Presnel Kimpembe, Marquinhos, Dayot Upamecano, Benjamin Pavard, Mats Hummels, Manuel Akanji, Matthijs de Ligt, Leonardo Bonucci, Milan Skriniar, Kalidou Koulibaly

 

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