Arsenal have set their sights on Nuno Espirito Santo.

Incumbent head coach Unai Emery is running out of time and the Gunners are reportedly plotting to replace him.

Succession planning could result in a raid on Premier League rivals Wolves.

 

TOP STORY – NUNO THE NUMERO UNO FOR ARSENAL

Impressed with his work in the Midlands, Arsenal chiefs have identified 45-year-old Nuno as their preferred replacement for the under-fire Emery.

The Daily Mail reports Raul Sanllehi, the club's head of football, has a "long-standing relationship" with Nuno's agent Jorge Mendes and claims the former Porto boss is now the leading contender for the job.

Nuno guided Wolves to promotion from the Championship two seasons ago and achieved a top-seven finish last term.

ROUND-UP

- LaLiga rivals Barcelona and Real Madrid are monitoring Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's situation as the striker stalls on an Arsenal contract extension, says The Daily Star.

- Jorge Jesus has emerged as a candidate to replace Marco Silva at Everton. The former Sporting CP coach guided Flamengo to Copa Libertadores glory over the weekend and his name has been put forward at Goodison Park, reports The Telegraph.

- Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich have held fresh talks with Leroy Sane's agent but are unlikely to lodge a transfer bid for the Manchester City winger until the end of the season, according to Goal.

- On-loan Roma defender Chris Smalling's impressive adjustment to Serie A has inspired Juventus to make enquiries to Manchester United, reports Italian broadcaster Radio Radio.

- Zlatan Ibrahimovic's latest transfer hint might not be what it seems. ESPN suggests the Swedish free agent is considering investing in Hammarby, rather than playing for the Allsvenskan side. On Tuesday, Ibrahimovic tweeted an image of a Hammarby shirt sporting his name on the back, sparking rampant speculation.

Diego Simeone blamed Atletico Madrid's scoring woes on wasteful finishing rather than chance creation following the Champions League loss to Juventus.

The Rojiblancos drew a blank in Turin as Paulo Dybala's stunning free-kick before half-time wrapped up a 1-0 win and top spot in Group D for the Serie A side.

Alvaro Morata squandered a good late opportunity, albeit from a seemingly offside position, while Thomas Partey and Saul Niguez missed decent chances as the visitors hit the target with two of their 15 shots.

Atletico have now been restricted to six goals in five Champions League games and are the least prolific of all bar one team among LaLiga's top 12.

Simeone said: "I think we played a good game against a really great team.

"I think we are lacking precision in the forward areas as we are generating enough dangerous situations to score goals. We worked very well tactically."

He continued: "We need to work on improving our numbers, which are bad.

"Obviously we all need to work more, have patience and do our best in order to generate more chances.

"Vitolo and Morata put in a great effort and Felipe played an extraordinary game. We improved as the game went on. In the first half we tried to be strong at the back and then play on the break.

"We did well as [Juve] hardly created chances in the first half, except the goal, and in the second half we also improved as the period went on but could not score, which is the most important thing in football."

Atletico splashed €126million on Joao Felix in the close season but have struggled to replace Antoine Griezmann's goals.

The loss of Diego Costa for up to three months with a neck injury has further depleted Simeone's attacking stocks, but the Argentine head coach would not commit to further spending in January.

"I work with the players I have," he said.

"I'm doing my best in order to make them better and I will not change that mentality. Then, we will see what decisions will be made regarding the needs the team have."

Kylian Mbappe is "100 per cent" staying at Paris Saint-Germain amid links to Real Madrid insisted sporting director Leonardo, who revealed contract negotiations are progressing.

PSG star Mbappe scored as the visitors salvaged a dramatic 2-2 draw away to Madrid in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane reaffirmed his admiration for Mbappe on the eve of the Group A blockbuster, saying: "I am already in love with him".

Mbappe made an impact against his reported suitors at the Santiago Bernabeu, where PSG sealed top spot ahead of LaLiga giants Madrid.

Asked about Mbappe's future, Leonardo told RMC: "Mbappe will stay here, 100 per cent. He is a PSG player. The rest is the rest."

"We will see. We are advancing, advancing slowly but we are advancing," Leonardo added when asked about a contract extension.

France international Mbappe dazzled last season with 39 goals in all competitions as PSG won the Ligue 1 title.

This term, World Cup winner Mbappe has 10 goals across all competitions – including five in Ligue 1 for Thomas Tuchel's side.

Sporting CP captain Bruno Fernandes has ended speculation over his future by signing a new contract with the Portuguese club.

Fernandes, 25, had been a reported target for Premier League pair Manchester United and Tottenham, as well as LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

The Portugal international midfielder's contract with Sporting still reportedly runs until 2023, though his buyout clause is said to have been increased to €100million.

Fernandes been named Primeira Liga's Player of the Year for the past two seasons, after joining Sporting from Sampdoria in 2017.

"For me it is a great source of pride and recognition of my work, it is a sign that I am doing well," Fernandes told Sporting's official website.

"I have been doing everything possible to do my best for the club. 

"[The new contract] is because of what I have done on the pitch, but it also shows that I love being at Sporting and I am proud to represent this club."

Fernandes added: "You can expect more and even better things from me. I promise to show the same commitment and dedication so we can have more moments of glory than last season."

Eden Hazard will go for a scan on the ankle injury he sustained during Real Madrid's breathless 2-2 Champions League draw against Paris Saint-Germain.

The excellent Belgium forward limped off with 21 minutes remaining of the Group A fixture that saw Madrid blow a two-goal lead at the Santiago Bernabeu after Karim Benzema's double.

Madrid, who can now no longer finish top of Group A after late goals from Kylian Mbappe and Pablo Sarabia, will hope the damage is not too severe with Hazard continuing an upward trend in terms of his form against PSG.

"Hazard has an ailment in his ankle. They will test him. We have to wait," Madrid director Emilio Butragueno said in quotes reported by Marca.

Madrid were thwarted on several occasions by former goalkeeper Keylor Navas and Butragueno heaped praise on the Costa Rica star.

"Keylor is a man who left a great mark here," he added. "We all have a lot of love for him. He deserves all the applause."

LaLiga president Javier Tebas believes compromises must be made regarding El Clasico kick-off times to cater for viewers in Asia and the United States.

Since Tebas' appointment in April 2013, LaLiga fixtures have been staggered in an attempt to maximise viewing figures across the globe.

The decision to stage matches on Mondays led to protests from supporters, forcing the Spanish Football Federation (SFF) to intervene earlier this year and scrap games taking place on that day.

And Tebas suffered another blow when the clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona was moved from Saturday October 26 to Wednesday December 18, with kick-off scheduled for 8pm CET.

That means viewers in Asia staying up into the early hours of the morning on a midweek day, but Tebas insists the high-profile fixture should have been rescheduled with a foreign audience in mind.

"Of the two Clasicos there are in a season, one should always be so people in Asia can watch without being asleep and the other should always be so people in the US can watch without being asleep," he told The Guardian.

"It is important to recognise that the followers of Spanish football are not just people who live in Spain.

"We must also respect the fans who are in Asia and the Americas – they are also contributing because they pay for their TV subscriptions, which in turn allows the clubs to pay big stars and helps turns LaLiga into a global product."

Tebas is taking a forward-thinking approach as part of his plans for LaLiga to overtake the Premier League as the most lucrative division in the world.

"Our cumulative global audience figure is more than 3.2billion but what that means is hard to say given the concept of an audience is changing," he said.

"Now it is also about 'users' and the minutes they are consuming your content. It could be people who are watching LaLiga matches but it could also be people who are watching highlights on another device. 

"This is a growing trend and why, as well as working to grow our audience, we are working towards having more users.

"I'm convinced in 10 years nobody will be taking about audience figures – instead we'll be taking about users."

Former Liverpool and Bayern Munich midfielder Xabi Alonso has been acquitted of tax fraud by a court in Madrid.

Alonso was accused of defrauding the Spanish tax office of almost €2million between 2010 and 2012, when he was at Real Madrid.

The Prosecutor's Office had called for a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence, but at a ruling on Tuesday, Alonso – who had always denied any wrongdoing – was found not guilty.

Two advisors to Alonso, Ivan Zaldua and Ignasi Maestre, were also acquitted.

Several high-profile names have been the subject of separate tax cases in Spain. 

In June 2018, former Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo – now with Juventus – accepted a suspended two-year jail term and total fine of €18.8million to end a dispute with authorities in relation to the taxation of image rights.

A year earlier, Spain's public prosecutor agreed to substitute a suspended 21-month prison sentence with a fine for Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Alonso joined Liverpool in 2004 and spent five years with the Reds, winning a Champions League and FA Cup during his time on Merseyside.

He won another Champions League with Madrid, as well as a LaLiga title and two Copas del Rey before seeing out his career at Bayern where he collected three Bundesliga trophies and a DFB-Pokal medal.

Ernesto Valverde has called for perspective over Barcelona's form, with his side top of LaLiga and on track to qualify for the next round of the Champions League.

Barca host Borussia Dortmund in Group F on Wednesday knowing a victory will be enough to book their progression, though they were held to a 0-0 draw at home by Slavia Prague earlier in the month.

While Barcelona have won seven of their past eight league games to sit clear of Real Madrid on goal difference, results such as a loss at Levante have raised questions over Valverde's future.

Frenkie de Jong told reporters that "we're not playing as badly as people think" and Valverde then agreed with the midfielder's assessment when he appeared at a news conference.

"Of course, when we don't play well there are things we have to improve, but you need perspective," Valverde said. 

Lionel Messi would clearly be the most deserving winner of the Ballon d'Or despite Virgil van Dijk's outstanding year, according to Barcelona team-mate Frenkie de Jong.

Liverpool centre-back Van Dijk was long considered the favourite for the prestigious individual honour having helped the Reds to Champions League glory last season.

Van Dijk has also impressed this term as Liverpool – agonisingly pipped to the 2018-19 Premier League title by Manchester City – have surged eight points clear at the summit.

However, Mundo Deportivo claimed on Tuesday that Messi has been told he has won the Ballon d'Or for the sixth time, meaning he will have edged out Van Dijk again having scooped FIFA's The Best Men's Player prize.

De Jong says there is no doubt Messi deserves the recognition.

"For me, I said it a lot but Messi is the best player in the world so he has to win it," he said. 

"Van Dijk had an amazing season, he is a great defender and one of the best players in the world.

"But Messi is above and he is by far the best."

De Jong completed his move to Camp Nou from Ajax in July and has been a standout performer in a Barca side who have failed to convince despite sitting top of LaLiga and Champions League Group F.

The Netherlands midfielder knows the team are capable of showing more consistency but is enjoying life in Catalonia ahead of Wednesday's visit of Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League. 

"I'm really happy to be here. It's everything I dreamed of. Of course we can play better, we're working as hard as we can and hopefully everyone can see [on Wednesday] that we're improving," said De Jong.

"We can play better, I think we have an amazing team, most of the best players in the world, so we know we can perform better but we're winning, first in the most difficult group in the tournament. We're not doing really, really bad but of course we can do better.

"We know we can improve, we talk about it a lot, we're training a lot. There's not a single game where a team made no mistakes so it's normal to make mistakes. I think we can improve a lot but we're not playing as badly as people think."

Ernesto Valverde's men have yet to make sure of a place in the knockout stages, although victory at home to Dortmund will get the job done. 

"We know it's really important, if we win we qualify, we're already first in the group," De Jong added.

"It's really important for us, qualifying for the next stage is the most important thing."

Antoine Griezmann revealed he is lacking confidence with decision making, while the Barcelona star said the relationship between himself and Lionel Messi is improving.

Griezmann has struggled to convince since arriving from LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid in a €120million transfer at the start of the season.

The France international has scored four LaLiga goals and supplied three assists for Barca, however, his performances have been underwhelming.

Ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash against Borussia Dortmund, Griezmann told UEFA.com: "I'm in the process of learning and understanding how my team-mates play as everything is new to me.

"I'm still trying to read the runs and off the ball movement from the likes of Luis Suarez, Leo Messi and Ousmane Dembele along with the midfielders. It's my intention to get to grips with this as soon as possible so I can offer my all to the team but at times it's tricky.

"At present when I get the ball I have a certain lack of confidence in when to pass or when to shoot on goal, this I'm sure is something that will change with the passing of time."

Much has been made about the relationship between Griezmann and superstar Barca captain Messi.

Last month, Griezmann admitted to finding it "difficult" to connect with Messi as neither of them are naturally big talkers.

"I'm pretty shy and sometimes have problems talking to others," Griezmann said. "It's rare that I strike up a conversation. Luis [Suarez], Leo and myself have had meals together and the relationship can only improve over time."

On Messi, Griezmann added: "He's the type of player that we're not going to see again for at least 40 years and it's a joy to watch him in action. It really is a privilege to play alongside him."

Thibaut Courtois has no doubt that Gareth Bale is committed to Real Madrid following the Wales star's controversial return to LaLiga action on Saturday.

Bale was introduced as a second-half substitute in the 3-1 win over Real Sociedad and was greeted by a mixture of boos and applause from the Santiago Bernabeu faithful.

It marked Bale's first appearance for Madrid since October and came at the end of a week in which he celebrated Wales' Euro 2020 qualification behind a banner that read: "WALES. GOLF. MADRID…IN THAT ORDER".

The slogan originates from a chant by Wales supporters that pokes fun at perceptions of Bale among the Spanish press, who have accused the former Tottenham player of pushing Madrid down his list of priorities.

Courtois would not be drawn on whether he believes the reception that greeted Bale was harsh, but is confident the 30-year-old remains committed to playing for the Spanish giants.

Speaking at a media conference ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain, the Belgium international said: "You love your country and that comes before where you are playing, but he is involved every day and is a professional. 

"He was very involved when he came on and generated a lot of danger. [Luka] Modric's goal came from a cross of his. If he wasn't committed, he wouldn't play like that.

"We are here to win games. What has happened, has happened. He gives everything in training and matches to help us win. The Bernabeu has its opinion and I am not in a position to comment on that."

Madrid suffered a humbling 3-0 defeat to PSG in their opening Group A game in September, but Courtois insists Los Blancos will not have revenge on their minds during Tuesday's fixture.

"I wouldn't say revenge," he added. "The match helped us to learn. We have improved a lot lately and we will see where we are.

"We have to be strong and not make mistakes. It will be a great game from the first second until the last."

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are "monsters" who are convinced they are the best player on the pitch in every game, according to Argentina and Juventus forward Paulo Dybala.

The duo are among the greatest players of all time and have won a combined 10 Ballon d'Or trophies since 2008.

Dybala has played alongside Ronaldo at Serie A champions Juve since the Portugal international's move from Real Madrid ahead of the 2018-19 campaign and has teamed up with Barcelona superstar Messi for Argentina over the last four years.

Having seen both players at close quarters, the 26-year-old believes they share a lot of similarities.

"Outside the pitch they are two very quiet people, but inside they are two monsters," he told Spanish newspaper El Pais. 

"I heard Luis Scola [Argentinian basketball player] said both Leo and Cristiano enter the field convinced that they are the best and that is why they are the best. And I am sure that is so.

"My friends used to tell me: 'You have the best in the national team and now they bring you the best one at your club'. I replied: 'It is an advantage for me.'

"I can study them every day. Who doesn't want to play with the best? We are talking about two phenomenal players; two players who are one or two steps above the rest. 

"They are at the top on a football level and also at a mental level. It is not easy to keep going and score 40 goals every year. It is crazy. 

"In the history of football, great players have played at great teams and have not achieved what they did. They have been good for each other."

The battle for Jadon Sancho's signature looks set to begin.

Four high-profile clubs in England and Spain are reportedly monitoring the teenager, one of Europe's brightest prospects.

Aggrieved with recent events at Borussia Dortmund, Sancho could now seek a new home for next season.

 

TOP STORY – CLUBS QUEUE UP FOR 'SCAPEGOAT' SANCHO

Barcelona, Liverpool, Manchester United and Real Madrid are the "leading quartet" of suitors for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, according to The Athletic.

Former club Manchester City have also asked to be "kept informed" following a string of events that have upset the 19-year-old England winger, notably his first-half substitution in the 4-0 Klassiker loss to Bayern Munich earlier this month.

Sancho's representatives are said to have deemed that move "disgraceful", paving the way for his Dortmund departure at the end of the Bundesliga season.

 

ROUND-UP

Paul Pogba's prolonged absence for Manchester United is part of a concerted effort to force through a January transfer to LaLiga giants Madrid, claims Spanish journalist Paco Gonzalez. Pogba, not sighted since September, is recovering from an ankle injury.

- According to Calciomercato, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is weighing up a move to AC Milan. The 38-year-old is available on a free transfer after leaving MLS outfit LA Galaxy. Ibrahimovic has been linked to Bologna, Tottenham, Napoli and Perth Glory.

West Ham are considering replacing Manuel Pellegrini with Chris Wilder, reports The Mirror. The Hammers are languishing 16th in the Premier League after 13 games, while Wilder's Sheffield United are riding high in sixth. Chris HughtonDavid Moyes and Rafael Benitez are reportedly among the other candidates should West Ham lose patience with Pellegrini.

- Wolves defender Owen Otasowie is wanted by Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Bundesliga team Schalke, reports The Sun. 18-year-old centre-back has also been watched by Liverpool and Arsenal.

- The Mirror reports Aston Villa are leading the race to sign Rhian Brewster on loan in January. Brewster, 19, has been unable to break his way into Liverpool's Premier League plans this term. The report states Villa face competition from Crystal PalaceLeeds United and Swansea City.

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane called on fans to stop booing Gareth Bale following the Wales star's return to LaLiga action on Saturday.

Bale came on in the second half of the 3-1 win over Real Sociedad at the Santiago Bernabeu and was greeted by an unhappy chorus from sections of the crowd.

Although some fans applauded the player, Bale was then subjected to jeers with every touch of the ball as Madrid saw out a win that moved them level on points with LaLiga leaders Barcelona.

It was Bale's first appearance for Madrid since October and came at the end of a week in which he risked the wrath of Madrid fans and media by celebrating Wales' Euro 2020 qualification near a banner that read: "WALES. GOLF. MADRID…IN THAT ORDER".

The slogan originates from a chant by Wales supporters that pokes fun at perceptions of Bale among the Spanish press, who have accused the former Tottenham player of pushing Madrid down his list of priorities.

Zidane, who was pleased with Bale's performance, accepts he cannot control fan reactions but called for the player to be supported for the rest of 2019-20.

"I hope this isn't constant this season. We want the fans to be with us from beginning to end, but we can't control that," he told reporters.

"The fans have the right to do what they want, but I ask that they applaud everyone. I focus on the game and the victory, and Bale came into the game very well.

"I haven't spoken with him; I've only congratulated him.

"I can't say if it's unfair or not. Everyone can say what they want. We need our fans. After that, we can't control what happens.

"There is too much noise with Bale. He wants to be with us and he wants to do well. That's why we don't want to talk too much. He is part of the group and wants to play like everyone else."

Madrid fell behind when Willian Jose scored after just two minutes following an error from captain Sergio Ramos, but they fought back through goals from Karim Benzema, Federico Valverde and Luka Modric.

"I'm happy. We didn't start well with the ball - we were very slow. Then, the end of the first half was very good and the start of the second, too," said Zidane.

"We're happy because there was a very good team facing us. We're happy for the three points."

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