Luis Suarez is set to miss the majority of the season after the Barcelona and Uruguay forward underwent surgery on an injury to his right knee.

Manchester United or Real Madrid?

Ajax star Donny van de Beek is a wanted man following his exploits for the Eredivisie champions.

But the LaLiga giants are reportedly poised to get their target at the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – VAN DE BEEK SET FOR MADRID

Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek is on the verge of joining Real Madrid instead of Manchester United, claims The Mirror.

United have reportedly emerged as a suitor for Van de Beek in January due to injuries to Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay.

But a transfer to Madrid at the end of the season "is more than 80 per cent certain", according to the report.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Metro says Premier League champions Manchester City have joined the race to sign Aston Villa's Jack Grealish. Rivals United have been heavily linked to the midfielder.

Tottenham are nearing a deal to bring Benfica midfielder Gedson Fernandes to London on an 18-month loan contract, reports Sky Sports. West Ham have also been looking to sign the 21-year-old.

- United midfielder Nemanja Matic is in talks to swap Old Trafford for MLS outfit Chicago Fire, according to The Sun. Linked to Atletico Madrid, Inter and Milan, the Fire want to bring in the veteran as a replacement for Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Arsenal are considering a loan deal for Milan midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu, reports The Mirror.

- La Gazzetta dello Sport says Inter have reached an agreement with Christian Eriksen for a contract until 2024. Now, Inter must strike a deal with Tottenham for the soon-to-be free agent. Spurs reportedly want €20million (£17m) for the Dane.

- Sporting CP captain Bruno Fernandes has agreed personal terms with United for a contract until 2025 with yearly wages of €6m, according to Italian journalist Nicolo Schira.

Ajax star Donny van de Beek ruled out a January transfer amid growing links to Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Van de Beek has reportedly emerged as a target for United, who are desperate for midfield reinforcements following injuries to Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay.

LaLiga giants Madrid have previously contacted Ajax over a possible deal, though a transfer did not materialise at the start of the season.

Despite interest, Netherlands international Van de Beek has no plans to leave Eredivisie champions Ajax.

"It is not that I can or want to do something at the moment," the 22-year-old told FOX Sports Netherlands.

"I have said it before and I will say it again: I will remain at Ajax this season. And maybe next season as well.

"These reports about Real Madrid or Man United are a good sign, but it is not important now. I've said I will stay at Ajax and I will do so for 100 per cent."

Links to United come as the Red Devils struggle in the Premier League – Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side are fifth and 27 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool.

Asked whether he could see positives and negatives in moving to Manchester, Van de Beek – who has scored eight goals across all competitions this season – said: "You can look at it like that.

"It is not something that is in my mind right now, but what you say is true."

Meanwhile, veteran forward Ryan Babel has returned to Ajax on a season-long loan deal from Turkish side Galatasaray.

The 33-year-old emerged from Ajax's youth system in 2004 before joining Liverpool three years later, though he made his way back to Amsterdam in 2012.

Xavi described becoming Barcelona head coach as his "dream" but insisted he respects under-pressure incumbent Ernesto Valverde.

Valverde's position has come under increased scrutiny after Barca's dramatic 3-2 defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-final.

Al Sadd boss and Barca legend Xavi confirmed reports he had met with the Camp Nou club's director of football Eric Abidal in Qatar on Friday amid speculation he will be offered the opportunity to succeed Valverde at the end of the season, or potentially before that.

But the 39-year-old was reluctant to go into detail about the meeting, insisting he respects his former club and their coach.

"Coaching Barca is my dream, I cannot hide that, everyone knows I support them from the bottom of my heart," Xavi told reporters after leading Al Sadd into the Qatar Cup final with a win over Al Rayyan on Saturday.

"Yes, Abidal is my friend. I've met him many times, so I cannot say anything, just that I respect Barcelona, I respect Valverde, I respect the players, I respect my club. 

"They [Barca] were here to talk to me and we discussed many things." 

"They were here also to check on Ousmane Dembele, that's all," Xavi added of the Barcelona forward, who is recovering from a thigh injury in Qatar.

"I cannot say anything else. Sorry, but I cannot inform you too much. I met Abidal, he is my friend, that's it. 

"I'm doing my job here, I'm doing my best. I was focused on the semi-final and now we play the final so I'm very happy. I'm very happy to coach Al Sadd and I am focused on my team."

Xavi endured a long and distinguished playing career with Barca, with his incredible list of honours including eight LaLiga titles and four Champions League triumphs. 

Liverpool broke yet more records in their latest Premier League triumph over Tottenham, achieving a benchmark that not even Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain or Bayern Munich have previously managed. 

Roberto Firmino scored the first-half winner as the unbeaten Reds recorded their 20th top-flight victory in 21 games to take their tally to 61 points this term.

In the three-points-for-a-win era, that is the biggest points haul any team in Europe's top five leagues has ever managed after 21 games.

The likes of Barcelona, PSG, Juventus and Bayern Munich have enjoyed spells as all-conquering giants in their respective domestic leagues, yet none of those sides have been able to achieve such a total at the same stage.

In avoiding defeat, Klopp's side also extended their unbeaten Premier League run to 38 games, the equivalent of a full season.

They have accrued 104 points in that time, winning 33 times and drawing on five occasions, bettering the previous record totals Manchester City and Chelsea (both 102) managed across 38-match spells in 2017-18 and 2005 respectively.

Luis Suarez will have knee surgery on an external meniscus this Sunday, Barcelona have announced.   Suarez, 32, is said to have been struggling with a niggling problem in his right knee for several weeks and it has finally been determined he will have an operation to prevent complications ahead of the season's run-in.   Media reports began circulating on Friday suggesting Suarez was set for a prolonged period of absence due to the problem.   And, following examinations on Saturday, Barca have confirmed the Uruguay striker will be operated on by renowned knee specialist Dr. Ramon Cugat.

Losing Suarez will come as a significant blow to Barca, who are not blessed with depth in the central striking position, with Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Ansu Fati and the currently injured Ousmane Dembele preferring to operate support roles either out wide or off a main forward.

Despite reports suggesting Barca have been identifying potential long-term replacements for the experienced Suarez, he has been enjoying another solid season in LaLiga.

His 11-goal haul is only bettered by Messi and Karim Benzema, while he also has a league-high record of seven assists to his name.

While Barca have not confirmed how long they expect him to be out, reports suggest Suarez will be sidelined for around a month.

He's likely to miss games against Granada, Valencia, Levante and Real Betis, but is not thought to be at risk of missing Barca's Champions League last-16 first-leg clash with Napoli on February 25, or El Clasico four days later.
 

Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone has saluted "absolute winner" Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid's winning mentality ahead of the Supercopa de Espana final.

Madrid and Atletico go head-to-head in Jeddah on Sunday as they tussle for the first trophy of the Spanish season.

The revamped Supercopa has received plenty of criticism due to it taking place in Saudi Arabia and including teams that otherwise would not have been involved in previous years, as the competition used to be contested between the winners of the Copa del Rey and LaLiga.

Neither Madrid nor Atletico won either competition last term, yet they will play out the final, with Simeone well aware of Los Blancos' obsession with winning.

Zidane may be without several high-profile players but, after they dispatched Valencia easily, Simeone does not think such absences will be a factor.

"Madrid are a team we know very well, they have a coach who is an absolute winner," Simeone told reporters on Saturday.

"Every time they play, they transmit that they have to win and they do win. They are without [Karim] Benzema, [Gareth] Bale and [Eden] Hazard, but that doesn't change a thing, they'll be looking to field their strongest side.

"Their distribution is excellent and they'll have players arriving to join the attack from midfield.

"They've got Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo [Goes], and if they play the team will have more velocity and more possession, so we will have to think about how we can attack those positions and punish them in the way we want."

In Zidane's pre-match news conference, the Frenchman insisted he is a better coach now than when he guided Madrid to three successive Champions League crowns – beating Atletico to lift the first of those in 2015-16.

Simeone has a similar feeling for his own abilities, convinced he is getting better with age.

"It's like life itself, we improve with age," he said. "All of the experience you build up with time helps you to develop.

"I think I've grown in life and in sport, and I'm a believer that you can't really separate the two."

Zinedine Zidane believes he is a better coach now than he was when he led Real Madrid to three Champions League successes.

Zidane returned for a second spell in charge at the Santiago Bernabeu in March 2019, 10 months after departing the club in the aftermath of guiding them to a third successive continental crown.

His return has not always been plain sailing with Madrid ending last season third in LaLiga, 19 points adrift of arch-rivals Barcelona while both Spanish giants - who are tied atop the table - have been largely underwhelming this term.

He has found some joy in the Supercopa de Espana, however, with his team through to Sunday's final against Atletico Madrid following Wednesday's 3-1 defeat of Valencia.

And Zidane suggested he has learned from both his time away from the game and the club's recent, relative struggles.

He told reporters: "Yes, I think I'm better. I feel like I have developed. In life too, as a person.

"You learn from situations, from the people around you. I make sure to listen to the people who are alongside me, and my aim to is to keep on progressing."

Atleti beat Barca 3-2 in Thursday's second semi-final and Zidane is expecting a difficult encounter.

"They're a side who have always shown how strong they are," he said.

"They defend well, but they also attack very well, too. Both Atletico and Barcelona are very strong teams, so we were always going to have to be on our mettle."

Zidane refused to dwell too deeply on the story dominating the sporting agenda in Spain: Xavi's potential return to Barca as coach at the end of the season.

The Frenchman said the speculation surrounding his Barca counterpart Ernesto Valverde came with the territory.

He told reporters: "That happens to all of us as coaches. What he's going through is something we all go through as coaches."

Xavi seems set to return to Barcelona as head coach, replacing Ernesto Valverde.

Valverde is under pressure again at the helm of the LaLiga giants after Thursday's Supercopa de Espana semi-final loss to Atletico Madrid.

And, it seems Barca are wasting no time finding a replacement.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA OFFER XAVI DEAL TO REPLACE VALVERDE

Barcelona have offered Al Sadd boss Xavi a two-and-a-half-year deal to replace Valverde, according to AS.

Xavi's potential return to Camp Nou, where he won eight LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues in a glittering playing career, is dominating headlines in Spain.

The cover of Sport reads 'Earthquake Xavi', while Marca also reports that Barcelona have offered the job to the former midfielder.

ROUND-UP

- Bruno Fernandes. Manchester United. Here we go again. Record reports Sporting CP officials met with the Premier League club with a move potentially going ahead in January. The Daily Mail says United are considering a £55m (€64.6m) move for Fernandes, who they were reportedly interested in during the close season.

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Sun reports Manchester United are eyeing a £40m move for West Ham defender Issa Diop, who is also apparently a target for Chelsea.

- Manchester United are at the centre of plenty of speculation this month, including a potential exit for Ashley Young. CalcioMercato reports Inter want the 34-year-old and the Serie A side are offering Young – who is out of contract at season's end – a deal until 2021.

- Gedson Fernandes is seemingly set for a move to London, but to which club remains to be seen. The Guardian reports West Ham fear they will miss out on the Benfica midfielder to Tottenham.

- Out of contract at the end of the season, Hugo Vallejo appears set for a Malaga exit. AS reports Real Madrid are considering making a move for the forward this month before sending the 19-year-old out on loan until the end of 2019-20. Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Valencia are also reportedly interested in Vallejo.

- Meanwhile, Barca have had an offer of €6m for midfielder Matheus Fernandes rejected by Palmeiras, according to Globo Esporte.

Ernesto Valverde appears to be running out of time at Barcelona, with Xavi reportedly poised to take over as head coach at Camp Nou.

Barcelona lost 3-2 to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals on Thursday, piling more scrutiny on Valverde.

Spanish media widely reported on Friday that Barcelona officials including chief executive Oscar Grau and technical secretary Eric Abidal had travelled to Doha.

The purpose of the trip was said to be a meeting with former Barcelona and Spain midfielder Xavi, who is currently in charge of Qatari club Al Sadd.

Reportedly, the meeting was scheduled in order for Barcelona to offer Xavi the position as coach for the next two seasons, starting at the end of the current campaign.

However, Spanish sports dailies Marca and AS both reported that Thursday's chaotic defeat to Atletico led Barca to propose Xavi takes over immediately, replacing Valverde.

Xavi, now 39, won eight LaLiga titles and four Champions League trophies during his time at Camp Nou.

Al Sadd issued a statement insisting Xavi remained fully focused on the team's match against Al-Rayyan on Saturday.

"The issue of Xavi going to Barcelona is normal and expected because he will be at his club and it's his first home and he must return there in the future, but as of today, Xavi is the coach of Al Sadd," general manager Turki Al-Ali said in a statement released on the club's official website.

"Xavi and his team are focusing on Saturday's match against Al-Rayyan, and we know that a club with the size and professionalism of Barcelona will take to official channels to speak of such matters."

Xavi has long been touted to follow in the footsteps of fellow former Blaugrana midfielder Pep Guardiola and take over at Barcelona.

Valverde, meanwhile, appeared to be close to losing his job at the end of last season, following Barca's capitulation in the Champions League semi-finals and a defeat to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman was among the names linked to replacing Valverde, but the former Athletic Bilbao boss – who has guided Barca to successive LaLiga triumphs – retained his position.

Ernesto Valverde appears to be running out of time at Barcelona, with Xavi reportedly poised to take over as head coach at Camp Nou.

Barcelona lost 3-2 to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-finals on Thursday, piling more scrutiny on Valverde.

Spanish media widely reported on Friday that Barcelona officials including chief executive Oscar Grau and technical secretary Eric Abidal had travelled to Doha.

The purpose of the trip was said to be a meeting with former Barcelona and Spain midfielder Xavi, who is currently in charge of Qatari club Al Sadd.

Reportedly, the meeting was scheduled in order for Barcelona to offer Xavi the position as coach for the next two seasons, starting at the end of the current campaign.

However, Spanish sports dailies Marca and AS both reported that Thursday's chaotic defeat to Atletico led Barca to propose Xavi takes over immediately, replacing Valverde.

Xavi, now 39, won eight LaLiga titles and four Champions League trophies during his time at Camp Nou.

Al Sadd issued a statement insisting Xavi remained fully focused on the team's match against Al-Rayyan on Saturday.

"The issue of Xavi going to Barcelona is normal and expected because he will be at his club and it's his first home and he must return there in the future, but as of today, Xavi is the coach of Al Sadd," general manager Turki Al-Ali said in a statement released on the club's official website.

"Xavi and his team are focusing on Saturday's match against Al-Rayyan, and we know that a club with the size and professionalism of Barcelona will take to official channels to speak of such matters."

Xavi has long been touted to follow in the footsteps of fellow former Blaugrana midfielder Pep Guardiola and take over at Barcelona.

Valverde, meanwhile, appeared to be close to losing his job at the end of last season, following Barca's capitulation in the Champions League semi-finals and a defeat to Valencia in the Copa del Rey final.

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman was among the names linked to replacing Valverde, but the former Athletic Bilbao boss – who has guided Barca to successive LaLiga triumphs – retained his position.

Tottenham appear close to landing a replacement for Harry Kane, while Thomas Lemar could also be set for the Premier League.

Kane needs surgery on his left hamstring and is not expected to return to training for Spurs until April.

It seems the Premier League club are nearing a move for Milan forward Krzysztof Piatek, although there are contrasting reports over the status of the deal.

And, Atletico Madrid midfielder Lemar could also be heading to London.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS CLOSE TO LANDING PIATEK AS KANE REPLACEMENT

Tottenham have agreed a deal worth £28million (€32.95m) for Piatek, according to The Sun.

However, the Mirror reports Spurs have had a loan bid for the 24-year-old Poland international rejected, although talks are continuing.

After netting 11 times in 21 games for Milan last season following a January move from Genoa, Piatek has four goals in 18 this campaign.

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea and Tottenham are both trying to sign Atletico's Lemar on loan until the end of the season, according to The Telegraph. Lemar is linked with an Atletico exit after just nine LaLiga starts this season.

- While Christian Eriksen's possible Spurs exit will dominate headlines this month, it appears the midfielder will not be heading to Old Trafford. Sky Sports reports Manchester United have ruled out making a bid for the Denmark international this month.

- Searching for a right-back, Tottenham are keen on signing Barcelona's Nelson Semedo, according to the Mirror. The position has been a problem for Spurs since Kieran Trippier's off-season move to Atletico.

- Javier Hernandez's stay at Sevilla could be coming to an end. Marca reports the club could let the forward, who has one goal in nine LaLiga games this season, leave amid apparent interest from LA Galaxy.

- Leicester City are trying to sign Juventus defender Merih Demiral, according to the Mirror. Manchester City and Everton are also reportedly interested in the Turkey international.

- Piatek aside, there may be other moves at Milan. La Gazzetta dello Sport journalist Nicolo Schira says Roma are interested in Suso and Cengiz Under could be heading to San Siro, while Milan are still eyeing Inter's Matteo Politano.

- Could David Moyes and Marouane Fellaini reunite for a third time? Sky Sports reports Moyes' West Ham are interested in signing the Shandong Luneng midfielder, who played under the Scot at Everton and Manchester United.

Luis Suarez said under-fire Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde was not to blame for the team's Supercopa de Espana collapse against Atletico Madrid.

Barca were stunned 3-2 by Atletico in the Supercopa semi-final, conceding two late goals to sensationally lose in Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

Goals from Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann cancelled out Koke's 46th-minute opener until Barca shipped twice in the final nine minutes as Atletico earned a showdown with Real Madrid.

The result plunged Valverde's future further into doubt but star forward Suarez defended the 55-year-old.

"[Valverde] is not to blame, the mistakes were ours and we can't make them," Suarez said post-match.

"I do not know if they are defeats that help us grow, [but] this defeat shows that there are things to correct.

"It shows us that there are mistakes that cannot be committed because we were in control of the game and we have allowed them to hit us on the counter-attack."

Griezmann was frustrated afterwards as the Barca forward lamented the side's errors against LaLiga rivals Atletico in Jeddah.

"I think we lost due to our own errors and they had the legs at the end," Griezmann said. "It cost us and we have to work hard in order to continue.

"We all made errors. I played a bad pass and then their goal arrived. They are errors which can cost you a Champions League or a league title."

Ernesto Valverde admitted his future would come in for fresh scrutiny after Barcelona's dramatic defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa de Espana semi-final.

Goals from Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann looked set to send Barcelona into the final, as they recovered from conceding a Koke strike in the opening 20 seconds of the second half.

But Barcelona folded in the closing 10 minutes, and a penalty from Alvaro Morata was followed by a winner from Angel Correa as Atletico, second best for almost all of the match up to then, snatched a remarkable win.

It left Diego Simeone, Atletico's hard-taskmaster coach, jumping for joy on the touchline, while Valverde was left to reflect on a damaging defeat.

He has been repairing a reputation that took a battering with Barcelona's 4-0 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in the Champions League semi-finals last term, when the Reds overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit.

But this meek surrender will not help, and Valverde said afterwards, when asked about his position: "We know what football is like and there is always instability when you lose. We will talk about this, it is inevitable.

"But I'll do my thing, which is coaching."

He added: "Of course, it was a match which we dominated. It seemed we had it in hand. It was a complete performance except in specific moments"

Valverde said Atletico throwing their quickest players forward in the closing stages "surprised" Barcelona.

"I don't think it was an accumulation of situations, but two actions that cost us dearly," he said.

He said it had been an "intense" match and that Barcelona's two disallowed goals in the second half, both after VAR reviews, had given Atletico the lifeline upon which they capitalised.

Simeone sent on Marcos Llorente for the final 18 minutes and felt he made a difference in midfield.

"From there the team looked better. It seemed that if we equalised we would win," Simeone said.

"With the best teams like Barca, Madrid, [Manchester] City ... they are on a higher level and we have to be patient. We have to play a final now."

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta admitted signing Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal in January is a goal for the Serie A club.

Vidal, 32, has been heavily linked with a move to Inter after just four LaLiga starts this season, although he has made another 11 appearances off the bench.

Marotta said signing the Chile international, who won three straight Serie A titles playing for Juventus under now-Inter coach Antonio Conte, was a priority.

"Vidal? It is one of Inter's objectives," he told reporters on Thursday.

"In this month, the most important things close at the end of January. We are working to raise the quality level of our group.

"You need to hit important goals and this means having great difficulties."

Almost halfway through the Serie A season, Inter are top of the table, but level on points with Juve.

Vidal is just one of several possible moves for Inter, who are linked to Manchester United's Ashley Young and could sell Matteo Politano to rivals Milan.

"At the moment there are many rumours," Marotta said.

"It is needless to [present] me this or that name. We are operational."

Inter host Atalanta in Serie A action on Saturday.

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