Paul Pogba finally confirmed his desire to leave Manchester United for a "new challenge" on Sunday, a revelation that will likely split the club's supporters.

While few would doubt Pogba's ability, the last three seasons since his return from Juventus have been anything but smooth.

Pogba has struggled for consistency in a United team that has so often been crying out for his creativity, while the soap opera around his turbulent relationship with Jose Mourinho before the Portuguese manager's December sacking became a distracting sideshow.

Although Pogba's form did initially improve after Mourinho left, the dominant performances soon dried up again – a haul of 13 goals (seven from the spot) and nine assists in the Premier League exaggerating his influence.

Sunday's comments about desiring a move will not have surprised many given the speculation surrounding him, but offloading Pogba might prove a blessing in disguise for a United side in need of a rebuild. We have identified some potential replacements.

 

Sean Longstaff - Newcastle United

Magpies midfielder Longstaff has only made nine Premier League appearances, but he impressed to such a degree he is being linked with a £25million move to United. Poised in possession with a maturity that belies his 21 years, Longstaff looks to have a very bright future but it would be asking a lot of him to replace one of the best midfielders in the world.

Tanguy Ndombele - Lyon

Ndombele is reportedly a target for Tottenham, who he has described as "a great team, a great club", though he could be a good fit at Old Trafford too. The France midfielder impressed in the Champions League last term but Lyon's outspoken president Jean-Michel Aulas is known among the hardest negotiators in the game. The Ligue 1 side are said to be demanding £70m for the 22-year-old.

Bruno Fernandes - Sporting CP

Nations League winner Fernandes is expected to leave Sporting this year, but United would surely face a battle for his signature, as Manchester City, Inter, Tottenham, Liverpool and Juventus are all said to be keen. Fernandes hit 20 league goals for Sporting, who missed out on Champions League qualification and will likely have to cash in on the versatile 24-year-old as a result. He is reportedly valued at £70m. 

Youri Tielemans - Monaco

Tielemans impressed on loan at Leicester City last term and, although the Foxes may wish to do a deal with Monaco to sign him permanently, they could be blown out of the water by offers from richer sides. Tielemans, said to be valued at £40m by the Ligue 1 club, has been linked with United, but speculation has also suggested they have moved on to other targets.

Adrien Rabiot - PSG

A risk-reward signing if ever there was one, Rabiot is available on a free transfer as his contract is expiring this year at Paris Saint-Germain. But the 24-year-old has a reputation as a difficult character, having been shunted aside at PSG over a contract dispute, while he rejected the invitation to be on the standby list for Didier Deschamps' France squad at the 2018 World Cup. The undoubtedly talented Rabiot is said to be in huge demand, with Juventus rumoured to be interested in a player Gianluigi Buffon has described as a combination of Pogba, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio.

Giovani Lo Celso - Real Betis 

Versatility makes Giovani Lo Celso an appealing option, with the Argentina midfielder able to operate in front of defence or in a more attacking role. He scored nine LaLiga goals for Real Betis last season and the club can expect to make a significant profit on a player they signed from PSG for €25m only two months ago. Should Lo Celso impress at the Copa America, demand in a player linked with Tottenham could increase.

Many of the world's best players will be on show in Brazil over the next few weeks for the 2019 edition of the Copa America, but there will also be some talents hoping to use the tournament as a springboard.

For every Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez and James Rodriguez there will be a less familiar name attempting to establish himself on the international stage, potentially earning a big move.

The tournament sees the traditional CONMEBOL nations take part, plus guests Qatar and Japan, the latter of whom have named a squad mostly made up of players likely to feature in next year's Olympics.

With the Copa America starting on Friday, we have spoken to the experts to identify one potential breakout star to watch for each nation.

 

GROUP A

Brazil - David Neres (Ajax)

Tom Webber (Brazilian football expert): Following a stellar season with Champions League semi-finalists Ajax, Neres has a great chance to make his mark on the international stage. The 22-year-old winger is expected to be handed a starting role following Neymar's injury-enforced withdrawal, despite only making his first start in the 7-0 demolition of Honduras on June 9. Neres scored 12 goals and supplied 11 assists in all competitions for Ajax in 2018-19 and appears primed to make a mark on the Copa America, with plenty of interested parties likely to be keeping a close eye on him.

Bolivia - Edwin Saavedra (Bolivar)

Andres Mendez Dott (Bolivian football expert): Saavedra is a direct and explosive midfielder who started his career as right-back but now plays further forward. At the age of 23, he is closing in on 200 appearances for Bolivar and had a short spell at Brazilian side Goias. Humble off the pitch, he is rather more audacious on it, as he is not afraid to shoot from distance or take on defenders. Coach Eduardo Villegas is still undecided about his starting midfield, but we can expect Saaverdra to be a part of it. There are some rumours he might be deployed on the left, but either way, if he gets the ball and some space, you can count on him testing Dani Alves or Filipe Luis against Brazil. The Copa will be very challenging for Bolivia, but Saavedra could make his mark.

Peru - Renato Tapia (Willem II, on loan from Feyenoord)

Diego Montalvan (Peruvian sports journalist): If there's one player to watch in the Peru side, it's 23-year-old Renato Tapia, coming off arguably his best season in Europe with Willem II. The tournament will also enable him to put himself in the shop window, as he is reportedly looking for a transfer away from parent club Feyenoord. A central midfielder who can also fill in defensively, for Peru Tapia generally plays the role of destroyer to Yoshimar Yotun's creator, but if given the freedom to move forward he can create and even chip in with a few 'golazos'. 'El capitan del futuro', as he is called by many in Peru, is already an undisputed starter, but if he wants to stay in Europe he will have a point to prove in Brazil.

Venezuela - Wuilker Farinez (Millonarios)

Daniel Alvarez Montes (Venezuelan sports journalist): Farinez was part of the Venezuela squad in Chile for the 2015 Copa America when he was just 17. Many criticised then-coach Noel Sanvicente for that decision, knowing Farinez was not going to play. However, Sanvicente insisted it was a great opportunity for Farinez to grow. Four years later, we can say that decision was arguably his best one while in charge of La Vinotinto. Farinez played a significant role for Venezuela's youth sides after that, making a huge impact in tournaments at several age levels. Currently playing for Millonarios in Colombia, the Copa America will be a massive opportunity for him to show the world what he is capable of. Europe could be his next stop, with Benfica front-runners to acquire him.

GROUP B

Argentina - Giovani Lo Celso (Real Betis)

Peter Coates (Buenos Aires-based football writer): Finding a balance in midfield, linking defence to attack and crucially providing a partner for Lionel Messi have been issues for Argentina for several years. A new-look squad for the Copa America sees much of that responsibility fall on the shoulders of Lo Celso and coach Lionel Scaloni has already spoken highly of the 23-year-old, hoping the Real Betis playmaker and the world's best player can reproduce a relationship he has already witnessed on the training field. Something akin to an old-fashioned 'enganche' of yesteryear, Lo Celso will operate in the spaces behind the striker and allow Messi to roam off the right with his usual menace. The Rosario Central product's eye for a pass, ability to work in tight spaces and sweet left foot could make him the ideal partner for Messi and crucial to La Albiceleste's success.

 

Paraguay - Matias Rojas (Defensa y Justicia)

Roberto Rojas (Paraguayan journalist): Rojas is expected to be La Albirroja's breakout player in this Copa America. A product of the esteemed Cerro Porteno academy, the 23-year-old followed the path of various Paraguayans looking to get their first break abroad by heading to Argentina, where he was initially loaned to Lanus in 2017, before joining modest Defensa y Justicia the following year. He became a key player for Sebastian Beccacece's team, who secured an historic second-place finish in the 2018-19 Superliga. A central midfielder known for his passing and dangerous set-pieces, Rojas has already signed a contract to join Racing Club, who finished just ahead of Defensa y Justicia. Paraguay manager Eduardo Berizzo is likely to play Rojas in a 4-3-3 formation, where he will be expected to combine with Newcastle United's Miguel Almiron as the team's two-man creative hub.

Qatar - Almoez Ali (Al-Duhail)

Martin Lowe (Asian football expert): Ali went from relative obscurity to the name on everyone's lips at the Asian Cup, finishing as the highest-scoring player and breaking Ali Daei's record with nine goals from seven matches as Qatar claimed a surprise success. A languid target man with strength and the eye for a goal, he threatens from even the trickiest situations and cemented his MVP status at the Asian Cup with an outrageous bicycle kick in the final. Ali – born in Sudan – remains a contentious case amid questions over his eligibility, but he has been allowed to continue representing Qatar. He blossomed in a number of international youth teams, tending to fill his boots whenever he got the opportunity. His all-round game has improved, having been shifted out wide for his club side Al-Duhail, but he is mostly used as a static focal point with more creative types such as Akram Afif and Hassan Al-Haydos playing off him.

Colombia - Luis Diaz (Junior)

Simon Edwards (South American football writer): Diaz is a hugely exciting winger who will be tasked with bringing fresh impetus to Colombia off the bench. He was spotted by Carlos Valderrama and 'El Pibe' recommended Junior snap him up. He has become a star of Colombian league football, with offers received from River Plate and Cardiff City. Diaz plays with the fearless enthusiasm and the joy of a child, but has also complimented his unpredictable, weaving dribbles with goals and improved defensive discipline. He is now a complete attacking midfielder who tracks back and provides a threat. Diaz draws defenders but has the skill and invention to craft a solution. 'Luchito' will take risks and lose possession occasionally, but he also has the quality, pace and confidence to have a huge impact for this Colombia side.

GROUP C

Chile - Erick Pulgar (Bologna)

Adam Brandon (Chile-based South American football writer): Erick Pulgar will probably be given a chance to shine in central midfield in the Copa America after his stellar season with Bologna in Italy. The 25-year-old is good on the ball, passes well and can play a more defensive role as well. He also boasts an excellent penalty record, which could come in handy for Chile again in this Copa America, given how the 2015 and 2016 finals were won.

Japan - Takefusa Kubo (FC Tokyo)

Stuart Smith (Japan-based football writer): Japanese fans will line up to tell you 18-year-old attacker Takefusa Kubo, currently with FC Tokyo but almost certainly headed to a big European club very soon, is the Samurai Blue's player to watch. Small, fleet-footed and not afraid to try tricks, he has shown a maturity beyond his years this season in the J.League. He spent his formative years at Barcelona's famed La Masia, and his technical ability is a testament to that period. Excellent with both feet, extremely skilful and able to spot and drift into spaces that other players cannot, Kubo has the potential to develop into an outstanding player. Coach Hajime Moriyasu will try to manage expectations, but it will be difficult to keep such a talented player off the pitch for too long.

Ecuador - Jhegson Sebastian Mendez (Orlando City)

Xavier Zavala (Ecuadorian football analyst): Coach Hernan Dario Gomez will implement a defensive approach that will appeal to Mendez's greatest strengths, which are his tackling efficiency and relentless motor. The 22-year-old midfielder has shown he is capable of man marking without being rash or overly aggressive and his position with Ecuador will be similar to at Orlando City, where he plays a deep-lying role. The challenge he has is dislodging the Liga de Quito partnership of Jefferson Orejuela and Jefferson Intriago, but given the stamina the system used by 'El Bolillo' requires, rotation is to be expected. Once Mendez gets his chance, he will be in a position to prove his worth.

Uruguay - Nahitan Nandez (Boca Juniors)

Nick Dorrington (freelance South American football journalist): Nandez is an all-action midfielder who has become a regular for Uruguay over the last year or so, usually playing off the right-hand side. A boundlessly energetic little terrier of a player, he snaps away at the heels of opponents, runs up and down and back again, and gets the ball forward quickly. He is also capable of moments of genuine quality, such as the ball he played through to release Dario Benedetto for Boca Juniors' goal in their Copa Libertadores final defeat to River Plate in December. Linked with a move to Europe, the Copa America could be a useful shop window for the 23-year-old.

The Toronto Raptors won their first NBA championship in franchise history and now they have some serious questions to answer.

A 114-110 victory against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena on Thursday sealed a 4-2 series triumph and the title.

The questions are all obvious. We will not lie to you. 

But hey, we still have them for you because it is fun to do this kind of thing.

Here are three questions the Raptors have to answer this offseason:

 

Will Kawhi Leonard be in Toronto?

This might be the number one question in all of the NBA this offseason after it was announced Warriors star Kevin Durant had ruptured his Achilles. Kawhi Leonard is the best player on the free-agent market and the Raptors have him — for now.

So, did Toronto do enough this season to convince Leonard to stay? Or will he move on to another team following a second Finals MVP award?

Whatever the star forward decides will determine the team's future going forward. If he re-signs, the Raptors are instantly a favourite to get back to the NBA Finals. If he leaves, they may have to start building around Pascal Siakam.

 

Do they want to keep Marc Gasol?

Marc Gasol is a great defender, a good offensive player and has been a pivotal part of the Raptors' postseason run. But is he a player Toronto want to bring back?

He struggled to fit into the team's push-the-pace offense for a good portion of the playoffs and will be 35 next season. He has a player option for 2019-20, so he could simply opt in and come back, but it remains to be seen if he even wants to do that.

So, was he just a rental or is he part of the team's future?

 

What do you do with Danny Green?

Danny Green is another player who ran into some problems at times this season, but he has always been someone who is a bit streaky.

Green – who was part of the trade to bring Leonard to Toronto from the San Antonio Spurs at the start of the season – will be a free agent after this campaign, but he is a valuable three-point shooter and defender.

But, he will be 32 next year and it may be more logical to bring in a younger player to match what he does on the floor. Younger players, however, have not been where Green has. He is a veteran of 123 playoff games and has made appearances in three NBA Finals. Odds are those stats will not be on the open market.

The Golden State Warriors' attempt at a NBA three-peat came up short.

Golden State's bid at history ended when they fell to the Toronto Raptors 114-110 in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday.

Kyle Lowry scored 26 points to lead the Raptors to the victory while Pascal Siakam chipped in 26.

Klay Thompson finished with 30 in the losing effort but left in the third quarter with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee.

The Warriors now turn their attention to the offseason as their roster could look different in 2019-20.

Here are three questions Golden State will soon have to answer:

 

What will happen with Kevin Durant?

This is arguably the biggest question of the offseason.

All season long, Kevin Durant was expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent. He had reportedly been considering leaving the Warriors and was linked to the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Clippers and Brooklyn Nets, among others.

But, Durant ruptured his Achilles in Game 5 against the Raptors and will be out for most, if not all, of next season.

It is unclear if the injury changes Durant's offseason plans. He could utilise his player option and return to the Warriors, although that is reportedly his last resort. Or, he could still choose to sign elsewhere — at least three teams, as well as the Warriors, are still open to giving the 30-year-old a max contract, according to ESPN.

Durant's choice will have a major impact on Golden State's future, one way or the other.

 

Who will play center?

The Warriors will enter the offseason with a big hole in the middle of their line-up.

DeMarcus Cousins surprisingly signed a one-year deal with Golden State last July. He was inconsistent in 2018-19 and also dealt with a torn quad during the playoffs. But he will still most likely be out of the Warriors' price range this offseason and he is expected to receive a bigger contract from another team.

Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell are both also set to become free agents.

The Warriors appear like they will attempt to re-sign either Looney or Bell, if not both. They also could look to add a big man via trade or with the mid-level exception.

Damian Jones, who has played in just 49 NBA games, has one season remaining on his contract and should be back with Golden State in 2019-20.

 

How will the bench be reshaped?

At the beginning of the Steve Kerr era, the bench was a strength for the Warriors. But, it became a weakness this season.

Andre Iguodala was in and out of the starting line-up and can be a contributor defensively. The wing, however, undeniably took a step back on the other end of the floor, as did long-time backup point guard Shaun Livingston.

Quinn Cook became a reliable spot-up shooter but 2018-19 was the last year of his current contract. The Warriors also did not receive much this season from 2018 first-round pick Jacob Evans.

The Warriors will have to add a few pieces to their second unit in the offseason and almost certainly will not have the cap space to do it. They will need to get creative.  

The Toronto Raptors won their first title in franchise history with a 114-110 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Thursday.

This all started last year when the Raptors was swept by LeBron James and Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs.

Toronto went for it after that, trading for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green and picking up Marc Gasol at the deadline.

It turned into an Eastern Conference title and eventually a championship.

Here are seven key stats from the Raptors' title run:

 

732: Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard scored 732 points in the postseason, which is the third most by any player in playoff history (LeBron James, 2018 and Michael Jordan, 1992).

16: Toronto's Fred VanVleet hit 16 three-pointers in this series, setting an NBA record for the most shots made from beyond the arc off the bench in a Finals. JR Smith and Robert Horry are now tied for second with 15.

26, 10: Kyle Lowry scored 26 points and added 10 assists in the Raptors' win. He is just the sixth player ever to have 25 or more points and 10 or more assists in Game 6 or 7 of an NBA Finals. He joins LeBron James as the only other player to do it on the road.

(Ditto): Pascal Siakam also scored 26 points and added 10 rebounds for the triumphant Raptors.

0 for 9: Warriors star Stephen Curry is now 0 for 9 in the playoffs on shots to take the lead in the last 24 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime.

Nine: Nick Nurse became the ninth rookie head coach to win an NBA title. He is the first since Cleveland's Tyronn Lue in 2016-17.

34: Danny Green is the 34th North Carolina Tar Heel to win an NBA title. That is more than any other college program. He is the ninth former UNC player to win multiple rings.

Brazil will be under pressure to erase memories of the 2014 World Cup by winning this year's Copa America on home soil, while Lionel Messi and Argentina have a score of their own to settle following disappointment in Russia 12 months ago.

On one of Brazilian football's darkest days, the Selecao were humiliatingly crushed 7-1 by Germany as hosts in the 2014 World Cup semi-finals and they fell a stage earlier in Russia last year.

Argentina were even more underwhelming at the 2018 World Cup than their rivals, finding themselves eliminated in the last 16, with their performances resulting in a major overhaul of the coaching staff and squad.

An ageing Chile will do well to win a third successive title, but both of the favourites have plenty of baggage heading into the tournament.

Can Messi end Argentina's long wait?

Messi's lack of success on the international stage is well-documented and routinely used as a stick to beat him with in the never-ending "greatest player of all time" debate.

"I want to end my career having won something with the national team, or at least try to do so as many times as possible," Messi said to Fox Sports in a recent interview.

He cannot be accused of not trying, having helped his country to four major finals. The past two were in the most recent Copa America editions, losing on penalties to Chile both times.

Argentina have not won a Copa America since 1993, and Messi, 32, is running out of time to be the one who brings them international success again.

Brazil without their poster boy

A big boost to Argentina's chances was the news Brazil talisman Neymar will miss the tournament with an ankle injury, a massive blow for the hosts and favourites.

Nevertheless, such a situation opens the door to others to impress, and in Richarlison, Everton and David Neres, Tite has plenty of options at his disposal.

But Neymar's injury – however crucial in the long run – will not be a valid excuse if Brazil fail again on home soil as they did at the World Cup in 2014.

The pressure is on and the likes of Philippe Coutinho will be expected to carry Brazil to success.

Low expectations for the holders

Back-to-back champions Chile will be under significantly less pressure, however, despite their recent successes in the Copa America.

Coach Reinaldo Rueda has plenty of experience at his disposal, with six centurions in the squad and 11 players who are aged 30 or older.

But there is a startling lack of young talent coming through in Chile presently, with 24-year-old defender Paulo Diaz the youngest outfield player in the selection.

In previous editions such issues might have been ignored given the qualities of Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, but neither – particularly the latter – are what they once were.

Guest nations out to spoil the party

CONMEBOL has regularly invited guest nations to participate in their showpiece tournament, but for only the second time there will be representatives from countries outside of the Americas playing.

Japan – who also featured in 1999 – and 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar will take their respective places in Group C and Group B, hoping to cause something of an upset.

Qatar won their first Asian Cup title earlier this year and Almoez Ali will be key to their chances of making it out of the group.

Expectations are rather more modest for Japan, however, as coach Hajime Moriyasu has taken a squad mostly made up of players who will be eligible to feature at next year's Olympics.

World player of the year Ada Hegerberg has chosen to miss the party but the Women's World Cup will boast a plethora of global stars.

Hegerberg's principled protest, based on her perception of how the Norwegian federation treats women's football, means the Lyon striker will be sorely missed in France.

Lining up to dazzle, however, will be an array of players ready to become household names or enhance already lofty reputations.

Here is a look at 10 women who are ready to make a major impact for their countries.

 

Christine Sinclair, Canada, striker

After more than 19 years on Canada's national team, Sinclair could be entering her final World Cup. She is Canada's all-time leading scorer and sits second on the list for women's international goals scored with 181, three behind American Abby Wambach. Her impressive resume does not stop there, though, as her 282 caps is the third highest tally ever and makes her the only non-US player with more than 225.

 

Other notable accomplishments:

Two-time CONCACF Women's Best XI (2018, 2016) 14-time Canadian Female Player of the Year (2000, 2004-2014, 2016, 2018) Two-time Olympic bronze medallist Two-time winner of the National Women's Soccer League with Portland Thorns (2013, 2017)

Alex Morgan, United States, striker

Morgan's unique combination of athleticism, anticipation and technical ability has elevated her to the top of the game. She has tallied 101 goals in 162 appearances for the United States, playing a major role in the team's 2015 World Cup triumph. Taking into account off-field endorsements, Morgan is reputedly the world's best-paid women's footballer.

Other notable accomplishments:

Olympic gold medal (2012) FIFA Women's World Cup winner (2015), runner-up (2011) FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup winner (2008) SheBelieves Cup winner (2016, 2018) CONCACAF Women's Championship winner (2014, 2018)

Marta, Brazil, forward

Marta Vieira da Silva, known as Marta, has established herself as one of the greatest women's footballers in history. She holds the record for most goals scored at Women's World Cup tournaments with a haul of 15 to date. Marta has a career total of 110 goals for Brazil, making her the country's leading scorer, and all eyes will be on the 33-year-old once again in France.

Other notable accomplishments:

Two Pan American Games appearances (2003, 2007) FIFA Women's World Cup runner-up (2007) Two-time silver medal at the Olympics (2004, 2008) Five-time winner of FIFA World Player of the Year (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010) Four-time runner-up of FIFA World Player of the Year (2005, 2011, 2012, 2014) FIFA Women's World Cup Golden Ball (2007) FIFA Women's World Cup Golden Shoe (2007)

Megan Rapinoe, United States, midfielder

The experienced Rapinoe will be another key figure if the United States are to repeat their 2015 success. The playmaker first joined the national team in 2006 and has netted 44 times in 152 games, as well as making many more assists. Off the pitch, she has been a powerful campaigner for women's football to be taken more seriously, not least by world governing body FIFA which she criticised in the lead-up to this year's finals.

Other notable accomplishments: 

FIFA Women's World Cup winner (2015), runner-up (2011) Olympic gold medal (2012) SheBelieves Cup winner (2018) CONCACAF Women's Championship winner (2014, 2018)

Sam Kerr, Australia, striker

Kerr has emerged as one of Australia's first marquee players and the 25-year-old is heading to her third World Cup. She made her international debut as a 15-year-old against Italy in 2009 and has totted up 77 caps and 31 goals for the Matildas. Perth-born Kerr has been the top scorer in the National Women's Soccer League, where she represents the Chicago Red Stars, in each of the last two seasons.

Other notable accomplishments: 

AFC Women's Asian Cup winner (2010) Tournament of Nations winner (2017) Cup of Nations winner (2019)

Nikita Parris, England, forward

England had the top scorer at the last European Championship in Jodie Taylor, but there is a sense that the time has come for Parris to take over the scoring mantle for the Lionesses. The 25-year-old Liverpudlian is the Women's Super League's record scorer and such has been her development in recent seasons that all-conquering Lyon have pounced to take her from Manchester City. She could start on the wing for England, but her goal threat will remain.

Other notable achievements:

12 international goals 34 international appearances Football Writers' Association women's player of the year (2019) European Championship semi-finalist (2017) SheBelieves Cup winner (2019)

Lucy Bronze, England, defender

Bronze was named in the 'All Star' squad after standing out for England at the 2015 World Cup, and the rapid rise of the Northumberland-raised player has continued in the years since. England boss Phil Neville believes she can play anywhere, but it is as an attacking right-back that the Lionesses have seen the best of the Lyon star. The former pizza shop worker has come a long way. She is now a Champions League winner with her French club, and if England are to thrive they will look for Bronze to set the standard.

Other notable accomplishments:

Women's Super League winner (2013 and 2014 with Liverpool, 2016 with Manchester City) SheBelieves Cup Winner (2019) Captained England at 2018 SheBelieves Cup in absence of injured regular skipper Steph Houghton French league winner with Lyon (2018, 2019) European Championship semi-finalist (2017) Professional Footballers' Association women's player of the year (2014, 2017)

Kim Little, Scotland, midfielder

Little has been a superstar of the women's game for many years now, and it came as a crushing blow when a cruciate knee ligament injury ruled her out of Euro 2017. But the 28-year-old is raring to go this time, and with Scotland boasting quality all over the pitch then it could be a tournament where the Arsenal Women playmaker has a platform to show a worldwide audience exactly what she can achieve. Earlier in her career, Little landed the MVP and Golden Boot awards when running the show for the Seattle Reign in the NWSL.

Other notable accomplishments:

Has scored 53 goals in 133 appearances for Scotland Named BBC women's footballer of the year (2016) Selected for NWSL Best XI (2014, 2015)

Amandine Henry, France, midfielder

Captaining the home team will be Henry, who won the silver ball at the 2015 World Cup, being pipped to the top prize by Carli Lloyd. She will anchor the French defence, a role she performs for European club champions Lyon, and will aim to emulate Hugo Lloris, who lifted the World Cup with Les Bleus last year.

Other notable achievements:

Joined Lyon as a teenager and recovered from a serious knee injury as a youngster to become a first-team regular Has won 11 domestic league titles in France with Lyon, and one in the United States with Portland Thorns Five-time Women's Champions League winner with Lyon (2011, 2012, 2016, 2018, 2019)

Vivianne Miedema, Netherlands, striker

Arsenal pulled off a coup in May 2017 when persuading Miedema to join them from Bayern Munich, and months later the Dutch striker was playing a vital role as the Netherlands won Euro 2017 on home soil. Still just 22 years old, Miedema has been a goalscoring phenomenon at club and international level, striking 58 times in 75 appearances for the Netherlands. She helped to knock England out of the Euros two years ago, and should make the Dutch a threat in France too.

Other notable achievements:

As an 18-year-old she scored 39 goals for Heerenveen in the 2013-14 campaign, earning her move to Bayern Munich Two-time women's Bundesliga winner with Bayern Munich (2015, 2016) Women's Super League champion with Arsenal (2019) WSL top scorer with Arsenal in title-winning season, netting 21 goals in 20 games Current PFA player of the year Won Under-19 European Championship with the Netherlands in 2014, also finishing as top scorer and player of the tournament

Antonio Conte's appointment as Luciano Spalletti's replacement at Inter may not be a hugely popular one among fans given his Juventus background, but it looks a smart hire.

Spalletti was dismissed on Thursday despite guiding Inter to successive fourth-place finishes in Serie A and the club announced Conte's arrival on a three-year deal the next day.

It marks Conte's return to football following his sacking by Chelsea at the end of the 2017-18 season, as the Blues missed out on Champions League qualification.

Conte's last job in Italy was with Inter's bitter rivals Juve, whom he coached for three seasons having represented them for 13 years as a player.

Some Inter fans might not be enthusiastic about Conte's hiring as a result of those Juve ties, but Opta data suggests the club has taken a step in the right direction with his appointment.

 

Goals aplenty

Although critics of Conte might accuse him of being a pragmatist, generally over spells with Juve and Chelsea, his teams have not been short of goals.

Across the five seasons in question, Conte's teams have never averaged fewer than 1.74 goals per game (2017-18), while Chelsea netted an average of 2.3 in each match of his first season at the helm.

By contrast, Spalletti's Inter managed only 1.65 goals per game in 2017-18 and that decreased to 1.5 this term.

While Spalletti's backers will rightly point out Conte has had better squads at his disposal, the latter even had a more impressive record in the season he was sacked by Chelsea.

 

Defensive solidity to suffer?

During Conte's time at Juventus, the Old Lady were fairly defensively shrewd, conceding 0.71 goals per game at most in a single campaign.

At their best in 2011-12, they only allowed 0.6 goals in per match, increasing to 0.71 in 2012-13 before dropping back to 0.67 the following campaign.

But at Chelsea there was a significant increase, letting in 0.93 and 0.98 goals every game in his two seasons in charge.

Spalletti's Inter have averaged 0.77 and 0.88 concessions each outing over his two years at San Siro, considerably better than Conte's Chelsea record.

However, Conte would likely suggest such an increase is to be expected when playing more attacking football, as Chelsea scored more than 100 across all competitions in both his seasons at Stamford Bridge.

 

A proven winner

Arguably Conte's greatest draw statistically is his winning record at both Juve and Chelsea.

Even in his second – and less successful – season in the Premier League, he still managed to win 54.2 per cent of his 59 matches in all competitions.

By comparison, Spalletti has only won half of his games in both campaigns with Inter.

Should Conte really inspire Inter, he will be hoping to get somewhere close to the 78.7 per cent winning rate he posted at Chelsea in 2016-17, as they won a Premier League and FA Cup double.

Conte also boasts an average of 2.19 points per game in his past five seasons as a club manager, while Spalletti has managed 1.79 with Inter.

Manchester United's finest hour in the modern era saw them come from behind to beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in the 1998-99 Champions League final and Sunday marks the 20th anniversary of that momentous day.

Alex Ferguson's United had an immensely difficult run en route to the final, having faced Bayern and Barcelona in the group stage, before then eliminating Inter and Juventus in the knockout phase.

Bayern – who faced rather more modest opposition in Kaiserslautern and Dynamo Kiev before the final – found themselves ahead after just six minutes, with Mario Basler's free-kick finding the bottom-right corner.

The Germans had the better of things and looked to be heading for the title, but in the first minute of stoppage time Teddy Sheringham turned Ryan Giggs' scuffed shot in from close range.

Two minutes later, United secured their remarkable turnaround – Sheringham nodded on a David Beckham corner and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer prodded home the most famous goal in the club's history.

On the 20th anniversary, we've looked back at the teams on display that day and investigated what they are up to in 2019…

MANCHESTER UNITED

Peter Schmeichel

Since hanging up his gloves, Schmeichel has remained a prominent media personality, appearing as a pundit for many major broadcasters. In December he declared his interest in the director of football role at United, though nothing more has been heard on that front since.

Gary Neville

After a poor stint as Valencia coach came to abrupt end in 2016, Gary Neville returned to his role as a leading pundit on Sky Sports in England. He is also a part-owner – with fellow 'Class of '92' graduates Phil Neville, Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Beckham – of Salford City, a club who recently earned promotion to League Two.

Ronny Johnsen

Norwegian Johnsen has worked as a television pundit in his homeland, while he is also a United ambassador, often travelling to events around the globe and representing the club.

Jaap Stam

In his day, Stam was one of the finest centre-backs and he has also shown signs of promise as a coach. After being sacked by Reading last year, he returned to Netherlands and took over PEC Zwolle in December. He seemingly did enough in his first four months to convince Feyenoord, who announced in March that Stam will replace departing coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst in June.

Denis Irwin

One of the real unsung heroes of the treble-winning side, Irwin probably isn't considered as much of a 'great' as he should because of his quiet, unassuming nature. As such, perhaps it's no surprise he did not go into coaching, though he has made regular appearances on United's TV channel, worked for Irish broadcasters and written a column for a newspaper.

Ryan Giggs

A brief stint as interim manager of United after David Moyes was sacked in 2014 opened the door to Giggs' coaching career. He served as assistant to Louis van Gaal during his two-year spell as boss, before taking charge of Wales' senior side last year, which he juggles with his Salford responsibilities.

David Beckham

Given his celebrity-like off-field life as a player, it's probably no surprise Beckham never went into management. A philanthropist and investor, the former England star is more businessman than sportsman these days, though he is joint owner of Inter Miami, a club expected to play in MLS from 2020.

Nicky Butt

Having worked as a youth coach after halting his playing days, Butt was hired as the head of United's academy in 2016, overseeing the development of some talented players, such as James Garner, Mason Greenwood, Angel Gomes and Tahith Chong.

Jesper Blomqvist

Another who has done a bit of TV work, but Blomqvist's post-football life is otherwise significantly different to many of his former colleagues – he now runs a pizzeria near Stockholm.

Dwight Yorke

Ambition certainly isn't something Yorke lacks, as he put himself forward for the Aston Villa job last October, though he was unsuccessful, probably because his only coaching experience was a stint as Trinidad and Tobago assistant manager a decade ago.

Andy Cole

Although Cole has trained to become a coach and briefly worked for Milton Keynes Dons, Huddersfield Town and United, that side of his career is yet to take off, partly down to health issues, having had to have a kidney transplant in April 2017.

Substitutes:

Teddy Sheringham

Great players don't always amount to top managers, which is surely relevant for Sheringham. The former striker was praised for his impact on West Ham's forwards during a stint as an attacking coach but lasted less than a year in his first management position at Stevenage. Similarly, he was in charge of Indian side ATK for six months last season before being sacked.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Introduced as a substitute who saved the day in 1999, Solskjaer finds himself in a comparable position 20 years later. After a successful interim period as Jose Mourinho's replacement, he was hired on a full-time basis as United manager in March, but poor results ever since have seen that decision called into question. Can he lead another turnaround at the club? Only time will tell.

 

BAYERN MUNICH

Oliver Kahn

One of the most iconic players – not just goalkeepers – of his generation, Kahn is also having a pretty successful 'retirement'. Still rocking his trademark blond locks, the 49-year-old is an entrepreneur and businessman, pundit and seemingly in line for a major backroom role at Bayern in the future, with reports suggesting he will take over as president once Uli Hoeness decides he has had enough.

Markus Babbel

Babbel's management career began brightly, as he presided over part of Stuttgart's Bundesliga title challenge in 2008-09. However, aside from a successful promotion campaign with Hertha Berlin two years later, there has been little to get excited about. Having also coached Hoffenheim and Luzern in Switzerland, the former defender made the switch to Western Sydney Wanderers in the A-League last year. They finished the season eighth in the 10-team division.

Thomas Linke

Instead of coaching, Linke opted to pursue more management-based roles after ending his playing career. He briefly served as sporting director at RB Leipzig in 2011 before resigning for personal reasons. Later that year he joined Ingolstadt, and under his guidance the club earned promotion in 2014-15. Relegation two years later brought his resignation, but he returned in November for the rest of the season.

Lothar Matthaus

Coaching has seen Matthaus embark on an intriguing post-playing career, managing Rapid Vienna, Partizan Belgrade, Hungary, Atletico Paranaense, Red Bull Salzburg, Maccabi Netanya and Bulgaria. None of them were particularly successful, however, and he mostly seen working as a pundit on German television these days.

Sammy Kuffour

It is fair to say Kuffour's career since retiring has been rather less nomadic than Matthaus'. Media appearances in his native Ghana have been regular, while he is now on the Ghanaian Football Association's 'normalisation committee', having been appointed after FIFA disbanded their executive committee last year following allegations of misconduct.

Michael Tarnat

Tarnat returned to Bayern after retirement, becoming a talent scout and prominent academy coach for the best part of seven years. In 2017 he went back to another of his former clubs, Hannover, where he is the head of the youth development side of things.

Stefan Effenberg

Known for his on-field aggression, Effenberg is – perhaps predictably – somewhat infamous for his controversial opinions and brutal honesty as a pundit and columnist. His only venture in management came in 2015-16 with Paderborn, but he was sacked after only five months at the helm. The former midfielder is also a banker.

Jens Jeremies

Battling midfielder Jeremies opted against taking his terrier-like attitude into management or coaching. Instead, he has worked as a player agent and run his own charity.

Mario Basler

As a player, Basler was as divisive as they come. Rarely shy about his penchant for drinking and smoking, he seemed to fall out with almost everyone. Judging by that reputations, his new career as a stand-up comedian is seemingly rather more suitable to him than management, which he had little success with.

Carsten Jancker

After learning his trade with SC Neusiedl and Rapid Vienna, Jancker took his first head coach job at SV Horn, another Austrian club, in June 2017. Nevertheless, he was dismissed in November last year and is yet to take up another position elsewhere.

Alexander Zickler

Like his former strike partner, Zickler went to Austria to cut his teeth in the coaching field, working at Red Bull Salzburg for seven years. That stay is set to come to an end soon, as the former Germany international is to follow the club's first-team coach Marco Rose to Borussia Monchengladbach.

Substitutes:

Mehmet Scholl

Bayern icon Scholl spent the first few years post-retirement working with the club's youth teams and reserve side, with whom he enjoyed two spells. But, since quitting in 2013, he has been focusing on punditry and media work.

Thorsten Fink

A fairly prominent management career followed Fink's playing days, with Ingolstadt, Basel, Hamburg and APOEL among those he has managed. His most recent job was at Grasshoppers Zurich, but that ended poorly as he was sacked in March and Switzerland's most successful club were ultimately relegated at the end of the season.

Hasan Salihamidzic

Salihamidzic is once again an important figure at Bayern. The former winger is now sporting director and has been praised in recent times for his work in that domain, with the club particularly looking towards younger players.

Barcelona are aiming for a record fifth successive Copa del Rey triumph on Saturday when they face Valencia, with the Catalans' recent dominance in the competition seeing them reach the final sixth times in a row.

If Ernesto Valverde's men complete the feat, they will certainly have done it the hard way, as they have had to get past Real Madrid and Sevilla en route to the final and will now face a Valencia side who finished fourth in LaLiga.

The pressure is on, however. Barca disappointed supporters by failing to reach the Champions League final, despite beating Liverpool 3-0 in the semi-final first leg, and some are calling for Valverde to lose his job.

Winning only LaLiga when a treble looked extremely likely just a few weeks ago could potentially spell doom for the head coach, but the omens are good for Barca, as their previous five finals have shown…

2013-14: Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona

Having seen LaLiga and the Champions League move out of reach in the build-up, Barca – and specifically coach Gerardo Martino – needed a victory in the 2013-14 final. Things got off to a bad start when Angel Di Maria opened the scoring after a good move in the 11th minute. Marc Bartra levelled with a powerful second-half header, but Gareth Bale clinched the first piece of silverware of his career with a spectacular late solo winner, consigning Barca to their first trophyless season since 2008, which cost Martino his job.

2014-15: Athletic Bilbao 1-3 Barcelona

If 2013-14 was a failure, the following season was the complete opposite. Having already wrapped up the league title, Barca cruised to victory in the Copa, giving club great Xavi the ideal final Camp Nou outing. The magnificent Lionel Messi starred, opening the scoring with a marvellous solo effort, before Neymar rounded off a flowing move for 2-0. Their Argentinian talisman ended Athletic's chances towards the end, with Inaki Williams' goal a mere consolation. Barca then went on to complete a treble with a 3-1 win over Juventus in the Champions League final.

2015-16: Barcelona 2-0 Sevilla (AET)

Fresh from beating Liverpool in the Europa League final, Sevilla were eager to upset another European giant. Barca were not helped by Javier Mascherano's dismissal for hauling down Kevin Gameiro in the first half, but they ended up managing the rest of the regulation 90 minutes fairly well and the numbers were evened up late on when Ever Banega was sent off. Barca simply had too much for Sevilla in extra time, as Jordi Alba and then Neymar got the goals, while Daniel Carrico was shown the game's third red card.

2016-17: Barcelona 3-1 Deportivo Alaves

A first ever Copa final for Alaves promised little given who they were up against. A Theo Hernandez free-kick offered them a measure of hope just after Messi's 30th-minute opener, but Barca ultimately had things wrapped by half-time, with Neymar and Paco Alcacer putting the game beyond Mauricio Pellegrino's men. Having missed out on the league title, Copa success at least meant Barca did not end the campaign empty-handed, with Luis Enrique leaving his post shortly after.

2017-18: Sevilla 0-5 Barcelona

While Barca's Copa tussle with Sevilla in 2016 was a gripping encounter, last season's meeting showed an alarming gulf. Andres Iniesta starred in what proved to be his last final for the club, scoring the fourth goal, but victory was effectively secured by half-time given a Luis Suarez double and a solitary Messi effort had them 3-0 up at the interval. Philippe Coutinho's penalty finished things off, as Barca went on to seal a domestic double, while Sevilla sacked Montella a week later.

When Paco Alcacer strode forward and beat Manuel Neuer with a delightfully nonchalant dink in November to secure Borussia Dortmund a 3-2 win over troubled Bayern Munich, German football looked reignited.

Dortmund were sitting pretty at the top of the Bundesliga after 11 games with 27 points, seven clear of fifth-placed Bayern, while they were attracting adulation from across Europe for their vibrant football and faith in youth.

It was only their second victory in seven Klassiker contests in all competitions and the improvement was clear to see from their 6-0 dismantling at the Allianz Arena just over seven months prior.

As for Bayern, they were in something of a crisis by their standards. It was the second game in a run of three league outings without a win – a streak they also endured across September and October – and the future of new coach Niko Kovac was already mired in uncertainty.

Bayern's stranglehold on German football appeared to be slipping, but fast-forward six months and they are again lifting the 'salad bowl' after a 5-1 battering of Eintracht Frankfurt with Dortmund having to settle for second. The hope that things were about to change in German football has quickly evaporated.

 

IS KOVAC THE RIGHT MAN?

Bayern's campaign has been dominated by debate over whether Kovac is up to coaching such a massive club, having made the leap from Eintracht, whose expectations were rather more modest.

Even with Bayern crowned champions, Kovac's future is clouded. Media reports constantly link other coaches – such as Mauricio Pochettino and Jose Mourinho – with the job. There is every chance they could win a domestic double and still opt for change.

Some players are reported to have been frustrated by Kovac's training methods and tactics, while a bust-up between Kingsley Coman and Robert Lewandowski in April suggested there are still issues to iron out.

Lewandowski also criticised Kovac's tactics after their Champions League elimination at the hands of Liverpool in March. There has been little to suggest the Croatian is in complete control.

 

POWER STRUGGLE

In fairness to Kovac, his position has hardly been helped by those in charge at the club, particularly the eminently vocal CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

After the 5-0 demolition of Dortmund on April 6, Rummenigge seemingly remained indifferent towards the coach with his response to the question of whether Kovac had secured another season at the helm. He said: "There is no job guarantee at Bayern for anyone."

He then brought up the selection policy used by Kovac during their early-season woes, saying the problems were all "self-inflicted" because "the coach was rotating all over the place".

Club president Uli Hoeness was similarly critical of the rotation back in October, telling Kovac he was putting his "neck on the line" with such a policy, though he has largely been more measured than Rummenigge.

Hoeness had suggested Kovac could still be in charge next season even if Bayern did not win the title, though one thing is clear; an apparent power struggle between two strong characters in the hierarchy is unlikely to be helpful for the coach.

 

INEXPERIENCED DORTMUND CANNOT GO THE DISTANCE

Luckily for Bayern and Kovac, Dortmund have not exactly been problem-free themselves. Despite their undoubted brilliance in the first half of the season, they have endured two difficult runs since the turn of the year.

A hamstring injury to Marco Reus in February did not help matters, while their defensive options have been depleted for much of the season and inexperience arguably contributed to several big-game collapses.

Alcacer's form has tailed off somewhat as well. The former Barcelona striker scored 12 Bundesliga goals before January, but he has only managed to add another six in 2019.

In a deeper squad that may not have been an issue, yet there is no natural like-for-like replacement in the squad, with the rest of their forwards generally more comfortable out wide or in supporting roles.

Bayern have also been dogged by injury problems, yet they have been able to ride the storm.

 

BAYERN REIGN SUPREME DESPITE TRANSITION

With a new coach at the helm and experienced players coming to the end of the line at the club, this season was seen as the start of a transition for Bayern, a period that made them vulnerable.

Their tally of 78 points is the second-lowest haul a Bundesliga-winning side has managed in a single campaign since 2009-10, when the division was rather more competitive as only 15 points separated top from sixth.

That proves there was an opportunity for their rivals to capitalise, but still a youthful, exciting Dortmund side has fallen short and RB Leipzig ultimately paid the price for starting the campaign poorly.

With Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben departing and set to be replaced by fresh signings in what will likely be another busy transfer window for Bayern, Dortmund and the rest might sense one more opportunity next season if the Bavarians' sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic gets things wrong.

But on the evidence of this term – and the fact Die Roten have already shelled out approximately €115 million on Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard – the Bundesliga remains a grim procession that Bayern cannot lose even when they are some way below their usual standard.

Bayern Munich have won the Bundesliga for the seventh year in a row, despite Borussia Dortmund pushing them harder than in recent seasons.

Lucien Favre's side have made great progress this term with a thrilling young side including stars such as Jadon Sancho, yet they may rue a missed opportunity in the 2018-19 season.

Dortmund made a flying start and led Bayern by seven points earlier in the campaign, only for the defending champions to come roaring back under Niko Kovac, capitalising on BVB's patchy post-Christmas form and sealing the title with Saturday's 5-1 hammering of Eintracht Frankfurt.

Omnisport looks back at nine key games that ensured the championship shield will be residing in Bavaria once again.


DORTMUND 3-2 BAYERN, 10/11/18

A superb start to the season for Favre's men was improved even further when Bayern were beaten 3-2 in the first Klassiker of the season at Signal Iduna Park. Robert Lewandowski twice gave Bayern the lead against his old side, but Dortmund captain Marco Reus equalised on both occasions. Paco Alcacer then came up with a memorable winner to ensure BVB could dream of the title.

WERDER BREMEN 1-2 BAYERN, 1/12/18

A third participant in the title race was arguably Werder, who played a key part in a number of results that would go on to decide the title. Bayern entered December on a run of three Bundesliga games without a win and pressure was building on Kovac. He needed a win and he got one in Bremen thanks to a Serge Gnabry double either side of Yuya Osako's goal.


DORTMUND 3-3 HOFFENHEIM, 9/2/19

Probably the result that proved the most damaging to Dortmund's previously sky-high belief; surrendering a three-goal lead at home to Hoffenheim was a hugely painful result to take. They were 3-0 up with 15 minutes to go but somehow failed to win the game, with Ishak Belfodil scoring twice in an incredible comeback from the visitors. This setback was the middle result of three consecutive league draws for Dortmund.


AUGSBURG 2-3 BAYERN, 15/2/19

Bayern had found their groove but Augsburg were difficult opponents, having drawn at Allianz Arena earlier in the campaign. A Friday night clash proved a classic in February as Bayern fell behind in the first minute due to Leon Goretzka's own goal. Kingsley Coman equalised twice - either side of a superb strike from Ji Dong-won - and the France forward set up David Alaba for a priceless winner early in the second half.


BAYERN 5-0 DORTMUND, 6/4/19

A run of three straight wins set Dortmund up for a virtual winner-takes-all Klassiker meeting in Munich. However, a first-half Bayern blitz essentially ended BVB's hopes of usurping the defending champions. Lewandowski hit Bayern's second and fifth goals after former BVB defender Mats Hummels had opened the scoring. That two of their old heroes contributed heavily to the humiliation would have especially hurt Dortmund supporters.


BAYERN 1-0 WERDER BREMEN, 20/4/19

By this stage of the season, any slip-up from Bayern could have opened the door for Dortmund to take full advantage. However, they claimed another narrow win over Werder at the Allianz Arena, albeit there was a huge slice of luck involved. Niklas Sule's strike broke the deadlock in the 75th minute, his effort taking a substantial deflection to beat Jiri Pavlenka, with Milos Veljkovic having been dismissed for the visitors.


DORTMUND 2-4 SCHALKE, 27/4/19

Successive wins after the Klassiker ensured Dortmund were still on Bayern's tail, but they imploded in stunning fashion at the hands of rivals Schalke in the Revierderby. Dortmund led through Mario Gotze but the game turned when Daniel Caligiuri converted an 18th-minute penalty harshly awarded after a VAR check on Julian Weigl's handball.

Salif Sane converted Caligiuri's right-wing corner to put Schalke ahead and Dortmund were in disarray after Reus saw red for hacking down Suat Serdar - Caligiuri scoring the resulting free-kick. Marius Wolf was also sent off for a bad foul on Serdar and while Axel Witsel reduced the deficit for the nine men, Breel Embolo settled matters.


WERDER BREMEN 2-2 DORTMUND, 4/5/19

Yes, Werder again. Dortmund could not afford any more mistakes and after Christian Pulisic and Alcacer struck in the first half, they seemed set to bounce back from their derby defeat. It was not to be, though, as Dortmund gave up yet another lead. Roman Burki's awful error allowed Kevin Mohwald to grab one back and it was veteran forward Claudio Pizarro who effectively handed old club Bayern the title with his leveller. He later revealed to Omnisport that he received many messages of thanks from Bayern players and fans.


BAYERN 5-1 EINTRACHT FRANKFURT, 18/5/2019

Die Roten went into the final game of the season just needing to match Dortmund's result, and they accomplished that emphatically. Although a fortuitous Sebastien Haller equaliser just after half-time made things interesting, Bayern blew their visitors away. Alaba and Renato Sanches put them in control, before Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben - playing their final league games for the club - fittingly wrapped up a big win and made absolutely sure of a seventh successive title.

Premier League clubs can begin reinforcing their squads for next season in earnest after the transfer window opened on Thursday and there are plenty of shrewd signings to be made.

Manchester United look set for a particularly busy close-season, with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hinting on more than one occasion that several players could depart Old Trafford, while Manchester City and Liverpool will be eager to keep pushing themselves.

Tottenham have reached the Champions League final this term despite not adding to their first-team squad since January 2018, so presumably Mauricio Pochettino will be liaising with Daniel Levy about what business can be done this time around.

Then there will be those eager to bridge the gap to the top four, others wanting to move further away from the relegation zone and the promoted clubs desperate to stay up.

Money is not a problem for most Premier League clubs, though it is always more satisfying when you strike a bargain…

 

Pablo Sarabia (Sevilla) - £19m release clause

One of the standout players in LaLiga this term, Sarabia would represent remarkable value. With 25 goal involvements, the Spain Under-21 international is the only player in the division other than Lionel Messi to reach double figures for goals (12) and assists (13) this term. Even when not performing particularly well, the winger has the ability to produce out of nothing and has been involved in a goal every 109.12 minutes. Sevilla are desperately trying to sign him to a new contract, but in the meantime his release clause stands at just under £19m.

 

Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen) - £21m release clause

Long tipped as one of Germany's next great hopes, Brandt is finally expected to depart Leverkusen for bigger things at the end of the season. A winger who can also feature centrally, Brandt has been involved in 17 Bundesliga goals (six scored, 11 assists) this season and is a real creative hub, laying on 85 chances for team-mates. He is also a fine dribbler, attempting 100 and completing exactly half of them. According to reports, a clause in his contract means he will be available for just £21m, making the apparent interest of Liverpool and Spurs understandable.

 

Ander Herrera (Manchester United) – Free

With his contract at Old Trafford set to expire, tireless midfielder Ander Herrera – who would otherwise likely command a substantial fee – is available on a free transfer. The Spaniard is a well-rounded player, completing 87.76 per cent of his passes and 66.67 per cent of his attempted dribbles. Despite only playing 22 Premier League games for United this term, he has still managed 54 tackles and 37 interceptions, meaning he could be a useful option in an all-action midfield role. However, Paris Saint-Germain are said to be circling, so any potential suitors will have to act quickly.

 

Pablo Fornals (Villarreal) – £23m release clause

Villarreal have done just about enough to retain their top-flight status after a dire season, but they will likely be forced into player sales and Fornals is arguably their prized asset. With just five goal involvements in 35 games, the 23-year-old winger has been a little disappointing, but he has laid on 45 chances to team-mates, completed 53.42 per cent of his 73 attempted dribbles and made 49 tackles. Fornals might suggest he has been affected by the turbulence surrounding his team's campaign, as the Malaga youth product led the assist charts with Messi and Luis Suarez (12) in 2017-18 when things were going better for the club. With a £23m buyout clause said to be in his contract, many clubs could do a lot worse than Villarreal's star man.

 

Juan Mata (Manchester United) – Free

Mata's United career has been somewhat unfulfilling. After joining from Chelsea in 2014, the club arguably should have built their team around him, as his best period at Stamford Bridge showed he could be world class. But he has rarely been played in his favoured attacking midfield role, often shunted out to the wing. As such, that has seen him score just three and set up another two in 22 Premier League games this term, but the Real Madrid product has crafted 30 chances and found a team-mate with 86 per cent of his 700 passes. In the right team, the 31-year-old could thrive again.

 

Kostas Manolas (Roma) - £31m release clause

There aren't many world class centre-backs available for less than £50m these days, but Manolas is one of them. The Greece international has developed into a fine player who is capable from a physical and technical point of view. Manolas has completed 87.36 per cent of his 1,038 passes this season, highlighting his proficiency on the ball, while the 27-year-old succeeded with 75 per cent of his tackles. He came out on top in 67 of his 105 aerial duels and made 116 clearances. A £31m release clause should make him a very attractive target for those keen to bolster their defensive options.

The match-up between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Toronto Raptors is one of the most intriguing of the entire NBA playoffs.

Milwaukee easily advanced to the Eastern Conference finals by topping the Boston Celtics. Meanwhile, Toronto managed to squeeze past the Philadelphia 76ers in seven games.

Top-seeded Milwaukee and Toronto were the two leading teams in the East throughout 2018-19. Both have at least two All-Stars and multi-dimensional offenses.

The Bucks beat the Raptors three of the four times the teams met during the regular season.

Ahead of Game 1 in Milwaukee on Wednesday, we pick out three things that could be crucial in the series.

  Kawhi v Giannis

This is the match-up everyone wants to see.

Raptors wing Kawhi Leonard and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo are two of the game's brightest stars.

Each has delivered for his team time and again this postseason. Antetokounmpo is difficult to stop around the rim, and Leonard hit the biggest shot in Raptors history when he knocked down a dramatic fourth-quarter buzzer-beater in Game 7 against Philadelphia.

Leonard and Antetokounmpo are go-to scorers who can also change a game defensively. It will be enormous fun to watch them face off multiple times.

Battle of the benches

The Bucks' bench is one of their strengths. The Raptors definitely cannot say the same.

Milwaukee will rely on their second unit for long stretches and can depend on as many as nine players. Ersan Ilyasova, George Hill and Pat Connaughton have all made an impact for the Bucks so far in the playoffs, and Malcolm Brogdon returned from a foot injury in Game 5 against the Celtics.

Toronto, on the other hand, have received little from their reserves, which has forced coach Nick Nurse to play his starters heavy minutes throughout the postseason. The Raptors will hope that trend does not continue.

  OG Anunoby’s status

It is unclear whether OG Anunoby will return in this series.

The 21-year-old Toronto forward underwent an emergency appendectomy in mid-April and has yet to play in the playoffs. He did some light work at practice earlier this week.

Anunoby, however, is still at least a week from ramping up activities, which means he will not make it back onto the court until the latter part of the series.

He is only likely to feature if the series stretches to Game 6 or 7, scheduled for May 25 and 27.

If he does manage to make his 2019 postseason debut and is healthy against the Bucks, the towering Anunoby would provide the Raptors with another player capable of guarding Antetokounmpo.

That could make all the difference.

Arturo Vidal's trophy-laden run has continued at Barcelona after the Chile international collected an eighth straight league winners' medal.

Ernesto Valverde's team sealed LaLiga glory by beating Levante 1-0 at Camp Nou, with Vidal - a four-time Serie A winner with Juventus and a three-time Bundesliga champion at Bayern Munich - having appeared in 30 of Barca's 35 games in his first campaign in Spain.

Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini won the league for an eighth successive occasion with Juve this season, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the only other man to have clinched eight successive titles across multiple major European leagues.

Ibrahimovic's run from the 2003-04 season until 2010-11 featured triumphs with Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona and AC Milan, although his two successes with the Bianconeri were later revoked following the Calciopoli investigation.

We take a look at the role he played in each of his eight triumphant campaigns.

Juventus 2011-12

Vidal, a three-time league champion in his native Chile with Colo-Colo, guided Bayer Leverkusen to second in the 2010-11 Bundesliga before helping start Juve's ongoing dominance of Serie A. Vidal featured in 33 games for the Bianconeri, not ending up on the losing side once.

Juventus 2012-13

Half of Vidal's 10 Serie A goals came in April and May as he scored winners against AC Milan and Palermo in a campaign where he finished as the club's joint-top scorer along with Mirko Vucinic. The midfielder also chipped in with eight assists.

Juventus 2013-14

The best return of Vidal's career in Europe came as he scored 11 times when the Bianconeri claimed a 30th Scudetto. Juve won 33 matches that season, with the Chilean featuring in 27 of them.

Juventus 2014-15

Vidal's header against Sampdoria in May sealed a fourth straight title, though the midfielder missed out on a treble in his final campaign in Turin as Barca beat Juve in the Champions League final. Vidal won the Copa America with Chile before returning to Germany.

Bayern Munich 2015-16

Pep Guardiola's Bayern signed Vidal for an initial €36million (£25.5m) in 2015 and he featured 30 times in the Bundesliga as the Bavarian club clinched a fourth straight title. Having amassed 38 yellow cards and one red in four years in Italy, Vidal was booked just three times.

Bayern Munich 2016-17

Vidal only started 21 games under Guardiola's successor Carlo Ancelotti as Bayern made it five in a row. As was the case in the season before, he scored just four times.

Bayern Munich 2017-18

Jupp Heynckes, Vidal's coach at Leverkusen, replaced Ancelotti in October and guided Bayern to yet another title. Vidal, who scored in four successive league games in November and December, had his final Bayern campaign cut short by a knee injury suffered in April.

Barcelona 2018-19

Having been a key figure for Juve and Bayern, Vidal has been utilised more as a squad player by Valverde, coming off the bench on 10 occasions in LaLiga. His first Barca goal came in the 5-1 thrashing of Real Madrid in October.

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