Saint-Etienne know they will for ever owe a debt to Robert Herbin, their great former coach who has died, aged 81.

Le Progress, the Saint-Etienne newspaper where Herbin contributed a weekly column, reported he had been hospitalised for "several days" before his death on Monday, which is thought to be unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic.

Former France international Herbin won Ligue 1 five times as a player, along with three Coupes de France.

However, he is most revered for his subsequent decade in Les Verts' dugout, where he masterminded a similar period of success.

Saint-Etienne were French champions in 1973-74 and 1974-75, completing domestic doubles in each of those seasons.

They made it three Ligue 1 crowns in the following campaign, with another Coupe de France added in 1976-77.

Herbin's final title in charge of ASSE in 1980-81 featured Michel Platini before the superstar forward joined Juventus a year later.

Saint-Etienne were a frequent presence in the latter stages of European competitions during Herbin's reign but could not add to their domestic trophy haul.

The closest they came was in 1976, when Bayern Munich prevailed 1-0 in the European Cup final at Hampden Park.

"Living in the Saint-Etienne region, Robert Herbin was a man of few words until the end of his life," read the conclusion to a tribute piece on Saint-Etienne's website entitled 'The greatest'.

"His presence alone was enough to tell everything. Always impassive, discreet and fond of the shade, he is nevertheless the one who placed ASSE in the light.

"His priceless legacy will remain as his greatest accomplishment. Lifetime ambassador of the club, Robert Herbin, he is Saint-Etienne. His legend is eternal.

"To his family, relatives and friends, managers, players, coaches and administrative employees of AS Saint-Etienne send their sincere condolences."

The French Football Federation (FFF) also paid its respects, lauding Herbin as "one of the historical characters of our football, one of the most successful too".

Saint-Etienne's run to the 1976 European Cup final was described by the FFF as "an epic that plunged France into a green fever and sounded the awakening of French football on the international scene".

Federico Chiesa is a player in demand.

While Fiorentina would prefer to keep Chiesa, the Viola could cash-in on the Italy star.

Europe's elite from England and Italy are reportedly chasing Chiesa.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED BATTLE FOR CHIESA

Manchester United are among the clubs trying to sign Fiorentina attacker Federico Chiesa, reports Gazzetta dello Sport.

United, Premier League rivals Chelsea and Serie A duo Juventus and Inter are vying for Chiesa's signature.

The 22-year-old has also reportedly been offered a new bumper contract by Fiorentina.

 

ROUND-UP

- A reunion with former Eintracht Frankfurt team-mate Ante Rebic? Luka Jovic has struggled since swapping Eintracht for Real Madrid at the start of the season. Calciomercato claims Milan are interested in bringing Jovic to San Siro, where Rebic is on loan and reportedly set to make the move permanent. It comes amid doubts over Zlatan Ibrahimovic's future.

- RMC Sport says Paris Saint-Germain are interested in Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey, who has been linked to Arsenal.

Barcelona have made an approach to Ajax for goalkeeper Andre Onana, according to De Telegraaf. Onana spent five years in Barca's youth system before leaving in 2015 but the Cameroon international has been linked with a return. LaLiga champions Barca have reportedly offered Neto, Riqui Puig, Alex Collado or Carles Alena in a possible deal for Onana.

Donny van de Beek is free to choose his next step following the cancellation of the Eredivisie season. Mundo Deportivo reports the Ajax star is still being targeted by Madrid, while United and Juve are also monitoring the Netherlands international.

- According to The Sun, West Ham midfielder Declan Rice could be sold as part of a massive squad overhaul. The England international has been linked to Chelsea.

RB Leipzig are facing a difficult decision regarding star defender Dayot Upamecano, says BildThe centre-back has been linked to Arsenal, Tottenham, Barca and Bayern Munich but the coronavirus crisis is set to impact the transfer market and fees.

FIFA has proposed that teams will be allowed to use five substitutes per match due to a congested schedule when competitions resume.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the vast majority of leagues to a halt and the Eredivisie is among those to have been cancelled.

Teams are facing a fixture pile-up when they finally return to action and FIFA hopes to ease players' workload by permitting an additional two changes during a match, or six substitutions in total if games go to extra time.

Organisers would have the option to implement the new temporary rule until the end of next season, while it would also apply to national team matches up to and including December 31, 2021.

A spokesperson for the world governing body said: "When competitions resume, such competitions are likely to face a congested match calendar with a higher-than-normal frequency of matches played in consecutive weeks.

"Safety of the players is one of FIFA's main priority then. One concern in this regard is that the higher-than-normal frequency of matches may increase the risk of potential injuries due to a resulting player overload.

"In light of this and in light of the unique challenge faced globally in delivering competitions according to the originally foreseen calendar, FIFA proposes that a larger number of substitutions be temporarily allowed at the discretion of the relevant competition organiser.

"In competitions where less than five substitutions are currently allowed, each team would now be given the possibility to use up to five substitutions during the match, with the possibility of an additional substitution remaining during extra time, where relevant."

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

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

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

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR SET FOR PSG STAY AMID BARCELONA LINKS

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

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

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

ROUND-UP

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aside from in the Bundesliga, the resumption of football in Europe's top five leagues still appears some way off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Players have had plenty of time to analyse their performances this season and we have previously used Opta data to examine some of the best attacking, passing and defending numbers from 2019-20.

Now it is the turn of the continent's top goalkeepers.

We have analysed five metrics for shot stoppers who have featured in at least 10 league games this season, thereby giving us a good summary of those who have led the way between the sticks.

The metrics include fewest goals conceded, best save percentage, fewest drops, the increasingly important passing accuracy and best keeper sweeper accuracy.

There are some familiar names, but also others you might not be expecting...
 

THE BEST GOALKEEPING STATS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Fewest goals conceded: Alexander Schwolow (20)
Best save percentage: Yann Sommer (74.58 per cent)
Fewest drops: Timo Horn, Lukas Hradecky and Manuel Neuer (all zero from 25 games)
Best passing accuracy: Manuel Neuer (87.69 per cent)
Best keeper sweeper accuracy: Timo Horn, Yann Sommer, Rafal Gikiewicz and Lukas Hradecky (all 100 per cent from 25 games)

LALIGA:

Fewest goals conceded: Ruben Martinez (14)
Best save percentage: Aitor Fernandez (75.61 per cent)
Fewest drops: Manolo Reina (zero in 26 games)
Best passing accuracy: Marc-Andre ter Stegen (85.55 per cent)
Best keeper sweeper accuracy: David Soria and Aitor Fernandez (both 100 per cent from 27 games)

LIGUE 1:

Fewest goals conceded: Runar Alex Runarsson (17)
Best save percentage: Predrag Rajkovic (79.07 per cent)
Fewest drops: Benoit Costil (zero in 28 games)
Best passing accuracy: Keylor Navas (84.55 per cent)
Best keeper sweeper accuracy: Benoit Costil, Mike Maignan, Regis Gurtner and Benjamin Lecomte (all 100 per cent from 28 games played) 

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Fewest goals conceded: Adrian (10)
Best save percentage: Alisson (80.36 per cent)
Fewest drops: Martin Dubravka and Kasper Schmeichel (both zero in 29 games)
Best passing accuracy: Ederson (86.57 per cent)
Best keeper sweeper accuracy: Jordan Pickford, Rui Patricio, David de Gea and Mat Ryan (all 100 per cent from 29 games played)

SERIE A:

Fewest goals conceded: David Ospina (13)
Best save percentage: Wojciech Szczesny (79.76 per cent)
Fewest drops: Thomas Strakosha (zero in 26 games)
Best passing accuracy: David Ospina (87.07 per cent)
Best keeper sweeper accuracy: Bartlomiej Dragowski and Thomas Strakosha (both 100 per cent from 26 games)

AND THE TOP FIVE:

Fewest goals conceded: Adrian (10)
Best save percentage: Alisson (80.36 per cent)
Fewest drops: Martin Dubravka and Kasper Schmeichel (both zero in 29 games)
Best passing accuracy: Manuel Neuer  (87.69 per cent)
Best keeper sweeper accuracy: Jordan Pickford, Rui Patricio, David de Gea and Mat Ryan (all 100 per cent from 29 games played)

Memphis Depay has rejected "a number" of contract offers from Lyon but the club is not giving up hope of securing him to a new deal, according to president Jean-Michel Aulas.

Netherlands international Depay joined Lyon from Manchester United in January 2017 for a reported €16million and has been a key player for the Ligue 1 side.

After a difficult period in England, scoring just twice in 33 Premier League matches, Depay has rediscovered his decisive streak since moving to France, netting 43 times from 102 top-flight appearances.

He began the 2019-20 campaign in fine form before a serious knee injury had seemingly ended his season, though the suspension caused by the coronavirus pandemic may yet mean Depay can play a part in Lyon's run-in.

Throughout Depay's time in Lyon he has been a source of transfer speculation and, with a little over a year left on his contract, rumours could intensify when he returns to fitness.

Aulas, though, assured supporters the club will do everything in their power to keep him with Les Gones.

"There is no break [in the relationship]," Aulas told the club's official TV station. "We talk to his agents, I chat with him, and we will have the opportunity to meet him.

"We will do everything to evoke an extension. All the authorities in Lyon are in favour of extending his contract.

"We are working on it a lot. I have a lot of exchanges with Memphis, Rudi [Garcia, Lyon's coach] too and Juni [Juninho Pernambucano, Lyon sporting director]. Not daily, but regularly.

"We made him a certain number of proposals, which he did not accept. He was waiting to be able to resume playing. He had imagined being able to play the Euros with the Netherlands, then there was this injury. He recovered faster, but for the moment we have not agreed."

Saturday should have seen Barcelona host Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and pit Antoine Griezmann against his old club once more.

Griezmann left Atleti for Camp Nou in the second most expensive transfer of the previous close season, his €120million move eclipsed only by Joao Felix, the man bought to replace him.

Neither player has exactly enjoyed a resoundingly triumphant season, which is an affliction to hit many of the top 10 most expensive transfers of 2019.

We look at each of those players and whether their signings have, until now, been a hit or a miss...

 

JOAO FELIX: Benfica to Atletico Madrid (€126m)

Benfica and Portugal's golden boy scored in pre-season victories over Juventus and Real Madrid to give Atleti fans reason to believe the post-Griezmann future was bright.

However, just six goals in 28 competitive appearances later, doubts have been growing as to whether the 20-year-old forward will ever truly suit Diego Simeone's system.

VERDICT: MISS

ANTOINE GRIEZMANN: Atletico Madrid to Barcelona (€120m)

Griezmann vowed to stay at Atletico in 2018 only to change his mind a year later, and his performances for Barca are in keeping with a man not quite at ease in his surroundings.

Only Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez better his goal involvements for the Blaugrana in LaLiga this term (eight goals and four assists), while he is second only to Messi for chances created (26), but fans were entitled to expect more from the club's latest mega-money forward.

VERDICT: MISS

EDEN HAZARD: Chelsea to Real Madrid (€100m)

Chelsea fans feared the worst when their star man was lost during a transfer embargo, but things have hardly gone swimmingly for Hazard at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Injury problems have restricted him to just nine starts and a solitary goal and assist in LaLiga. He has also only created 14 chances, as many as James Rodriguez (who has started just four league games) and Lucas Vazquez (who has started six).

VERDICT: MISS

HARRY MAGUIRE: Leicester City to Manchester United (€87m)

The world's most expensive central defender might not be thought of as the world's best, but that should not detract from his impact on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side.

He leads the way for duels won, aerial duels won, blocks and interceptions among United defenders in the Premier League this season, helping them to eight clean sheets. Oh, and he's already been made club captain.

VERDICT: HIT

MATTHIJS DE LIGT: Ajax to Juventus (€85m)

The most coveted centre-back of the window after Ajax's remarkable Champions League run, De Ligt delivered a dreadful performance on his Juventus debut in a 4-3 win over Napoli.

He has won the most aerial duels and has the pass success rate of any Juve defender to feature more than five times in Serie A this term, but there are already doubts about his long-term suitability to Maurizio Sarri's side.

VERDICT: MISS

LUCAS HERNANDEZ: Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich (€80m)

Bayern smashed their transfer record to sign defender Hernandez, but injuries have made it difficult to assess whether the money will prove to be well-spent.

A knee problem in September was followed by a serious ankle injury that kept him out for nearly four months, meaning he has started only nine games in all competitions for the Bundesliga champions.

VERDICT: MISS

NICOLAS PEPE: Lille to Arsenal (€80m)

Pepe was something of a symbol of Unai Emery's problematic final few weeks in charge as he struggled badly to find form for the Gunners.

He has certainly shown signs of improvement in 2020 – only Mesut Ozil (38) has created more chances in the league than Pepe (34) for Arsenal – but fans will have hoped for more from their record signing.

VERDICT: MISS

FRENKIE DE JONG: Ajax to Barcelona (€75m)

Another Ajax star who became coveted by clubs across Europe last year, De Jong opted for Barca and immediately became a regular in midfield.

He has not quite adapted to life in LaLiga - Ernesto Valverde's exit and Quique Setien's arrival as coach did not help - but, in turbulent times for the club, he looks to be a safe bet as the beating heart of Barca for years to come: he had created more chances (24) than any other Barca midfielder this term and only Sergio Busquets has more recoveries and interceptions.

VERDICT: HIT

RODRI: Atletico Madrid to Manchester City (€70m)

Manchester City's record signing has proved a smart bit of a business given midfield-anchor supreme Fernandinho has spent much of this season in defence.

Rodri has attempted more passes (1,996), recorded a better passing accuracy (92 per cent) and more recoveries (181) than any other City midfielder in 2019-20. He looks very much at home in Pep Guardiola's system.

VERDICT: HIT

ROMELU LUKAKU: Manchester United to Inter (€65m)

Lukaku's move to Inter seems to have been that rarity in modern-day transfers: a deal that has worked out well for everyone concerned.

United's attack is taking the more fluid shape Solskjaer wants, Antonio Conte at last got the forward he tried to bring to Juventus and Chelsea, and Lukaku has looked in the form of his career, with 17 goals and two assists in Serie A as part of a fearsome partnership with Lautaro Martinez.

VERDICT: HIT

Barcelona are not negotiating deals for Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar or Inter forward Lautaro Martinez, according to LaLiga president Javier Tebas.

The LaLiga giants have been heavily linked with moves for Neymar and Martinez amid growing speculation they could land both – or at least one – of the stars.

However, Tebas played down the rumours, saying Barca had other priorities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's not true that Barca are currently in negotiation processes in the signing of these two players," he told the Adea Conecta forum on Friday.

"They are most focused on when the season can resume as opposed to new acquisitions. There will be swap deals in the short-term future, but transfers are not high on the priority of European clubs at present.

"They want to limit the damage caused by the halt in activity, but everything is still on hold. No Neymar nor Lautaro, these names are not high on the priority list at present for Barca."

Tebas added: "The club at present don't have the capacity to make these signings, at present it's completely impossible."

The LaLiga season was suspended last month due to coronavirus, which has killed more than 22,500 people in Spain.

Another day, another Paul Pogba story.

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

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

 

TOP STORY – ZIDANE EYES POGBA

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

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

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

 

ROUND-UP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paris Saint-Germain forward Neymar is suffering from "anxiety" as he waits to find out when he can return to playing football.

Neymar returned to Brazil after most European competitions were put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic and is isolating with physical trainer Ricardo Rosa and Palmeiras midfielder Lucas Lima in Mangaratiba, south of Rio de Janeiro.

Ligue 1 is aiming to resume the 2019-20 season on June 17 and have it completed by July 25.

On Thursday, UEFA's executive committee strongly recommended that all top-flight leagues under a suspension be finished where possible.

Neymar admitted he is finding life tough without regular football and is hoping for a concrete date to get back to work as soon as possible.

"Not knowing when to return gives me anxiety," he said in quotes on his official website.

"I really miss playing, competing, the club environment, my PSG team-mates. I miss football, really!

"I'm sure the crowd also wants to see everyone back on the pitch as soon as possible. I hope the decision comes out as soon as possible."

Neymar assured he has retained match fitness thanks to the presence of Rosa and will be ready to go when required.

"Rica is my partner in football and in life. His work is very important in my career," said Neymar.

"We have worked together for many years, so he knows exactly the type of work I need to do to be in the best possible condition on a matchday."

Aside from in the Bundesliga, the resumption of football in Europe's top five leagues still appears some way off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Players have had plenty of time to analyse their performances this season and we have previously used Opta data to examine some of the best attacking and passing numbers from 2019-20. Now it's the turn of the defence.

We have analysed nine metrics for defenders to have featured in at least 10 league games this season, thereby giving us a good summary of those who have led the way at the back.

The metrics include success rates in duels, tackling and aerial challenges, and for these we have only included players who have completed 20 actions in each category, which accounts to two per game.

The below therefore provides a good indication of who has been excelling in defence. There are some familiar names, but also others you might not be expecting...

THE BEST DEFENDING STATS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

BUNDESLIGA:

Most tackles won: Kingsley Ehizibue (47)
Best tackle success: Rafael Czichos (90.63 per cent)
Most duels won: Christopher Lenz (180)
Best duel success: Salif Sane (73.08 per cent)
Most aerials won: Robin Koch (88)
Best aerial success: Salif Sane (87.76 per cent)
Most clearances: Dedryck Boyata (120)
Most interceptions: Nico Elvedi (58)
Most blocks: Dedryck Boyata (24)

LALIGA:

Most tackles won: Marc Cucurella (41)
Best tackle success: Jaume Costa (84 per cent)
Most duels won: Pervis Estupinan (181)
Best duel success: Jose Gimenez (72.5 per cent)
Most aerials won: David Garcia (109)
Best aerial success: David Garcia (77.3 per cent)
Most clearances: Mohammed Salisu (136)
Most interceptions: Kiko Olivas and Unai Bustinza (48)
Most blocks: Gabriel Paulista (26)

LIGUE 1:

Most tackles won: Issiaga Sylla and Fabien Centonze (49)
Best tackle success: Bafode Diakite (82.61 per cent)
Most duels won: Issiaga Sylla (207)
Best duel success: Presnel Kimpembe (68.85 per cent)
Most aerials won: Pablo (114)
Best aerial success: Leo Dubois (76.92 per cent)
Most clearances: Damien da Silva (138)
Most interceptions: Issiaga Sylla (67)
Most blocks: Jason Denayer (29)

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most tackles won: Ricardo Pereira (68)
Best tackle success: Serge Aurier (78.38 per cent)
Most duels won: Ricardo Pereira (256)
Best duel success: Virgil van Dijk (74.9 per cent)
Most aerials won: James Tarkowski (145)
Best aerial success: Bernardo (83.33 per cent)
Most clearances: Jan Bednarek (158)
Most interceptions: Diego Rico (62)
Most blocks: James Tarkowski and Tyrone Mings (37)

SERIE A:

Most tackles won: Stefano Sabelli (36)
Best tackle success: Samir (80 per cent)
Most duels won: Stefano Sabelli (176)
Best duel success: Bruno Alves (78.38 per cent)
Most aerials won: Amir Rrahmani (145)
Best aerial success: Bruno Alves (87.18 per cent)
Most clearances: Jhon Chancellor (134)
Most interceptions: Armando Izzo (58)
Most blocks: Andrea Cistana (34)

AND THE TOP NINE:

Most tackles won: Ricardo Pereira (68)
Best tackle success: Rafael Czichos (90.63 per cent)
Most duels won: Ricardo Pereira (256)
Best duel success: Bruno Alves (78.38 per cent)
Most aerials won: James Tarkowski and Amir Rrahmani (145)
Best aerial success: Salif Sane (87.76 per cent)
Most clearances: Jan Bednarek (158)
Most interceptions: Issiaga Sylla (67)
Most blocks: James Tarkowski and Tyrone Mings (37)

On this day in 2019, Shane Long grabbed a quickfire slice of Premier League history.

The Southampton striker charged down an attempted pass from Craig Cathcart before lobbing Ben Foster to give his side the lead over Watford.

It was officially clocked at 7.69 seconds into the game at Vicarage Road, making it the fastest goal ever scored in a Premier League match.

The previous quickest was scored by Ledley King, who netted for Tottenham after 10 seconds against Bradford City back on December 9, 2000.

But do you know who holds the record for the other top-five leagues in Europe? Well, you do now.

BUNDESLIGA

DATE: 23/08/2014

PLAYER: Karim Bellarabi

GOAL TIME: 9.32 seconds

GAME: Borussia Dortmund 0-2 BAYER LEVERKUSEN

This goal showed the benefit of a bold approach to kick-off. Leverkusen got the game underway and immediately launched an attack, Sebastian Boenisch played it to Bellarabi, he turned into space and slotted the ball past Mitch Langerak.

LALIGA

DATE: 20/01/2008

PLAYER: Joseba Llorente

GOAL TIME: 7.8 seconds

GAME: REAL VALLADOLID  2-1 Espanyol

The art of the surprise attack. Llorente kicked off with Victor and raced upfield, while his team-mate turned back into his own half and then quickly spun to play a long ball over the Espanyol defence. Llorente kept his cool with a lobbed finish.

LIGUE 1

DATE: 15/02/1992

PLAYER: Michel Rio

GOAL TIME: 8 seconds

GAME: CAEN 3-1 Cannes

Rio's record is by far the longest in the top-five European leagues and helped Caen see off Cannes in convincing fashion. Whether he truly meant the inspired first-time finish, volleyed in off the crossbar after a long punt up the pitch, is less clear.

 

PREMIER LEAGUE

DATE: 23/04/2019

PLAYER: Shane Long

GOAL TIME: 7.69 seconds

GAME: Watford 1-1 SOUTHAMPTON

A start to a match that Cathcart will not want to watch too many times. He dithered on the ball just long enough to see his attempted pass blocked by Long, who held the centre-back at arm's length before clipping a fine finish over Foster. This was, though, the only goal on our list that didn't end up leading to a victory.

SERIE A

DATE: 02/12/2001

PLAYER: Paolo Poggi

GOAL TIME: 8.2 seconds

GAME: Fiorentina 1-3 PIACENZA

A goal born out of some fantastically frantic early pressing, allowing Poggi to race onto a loose ball and slam a powerful finish home from the edge of the Fiorentina box. It was one of only three he scored for Piacenza.

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar is "not a leader" and must make football his top priority as Brazil eye success, according to former Manchester United full-back Rafael da Silva.

Neymar – the world's most expensive player following his €222million move to PSG in 2017 – continues to make headlines amid speculation over a possible return to LaLiga champions Barcelona.

The Brazil forward's antics on and off the pitch, highlighted by his mocking of Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland during last month's Champions League last-16 triumph, have also made headlines.

Rafael – now playing for Ligue 1 rivals Lyon – teamed up with Neymar during the 2012 Olympic Games and believes the 28-year-old can lead Brazil to glory, if he listens.

Brazil were one of the favourites to win the 2018 World Cup but crashed out in the quarter-finals before claiming last year's Copa America in the absence of Neymar due to an ankle injury.

"We need Neymar, that's for sure," Rafael told ESPN. "We need him a lot. He needs to improve a lot of things outside the pitch. It's important for a footballer.

"He needs to improve a lot outside the pitch to come inside the pitch and do his best. I hope he can do that and if he does we have a big chance to win.

"Neymar is not a leader. I don't think he's a leader. It's not him. He can do the things he does because if he is good, if he's focused and concentrated, he is the best player in the world."

Rafael added: "Football has to the first option of your life. He has so many things around him. He thinks in his mind 'I don't need to do that' to play well but you need to.

"There are a lot of things you need to do. If he does that and someone can put this in his mind -- I know him and I've played with him -- I know he's hard guy to listen to orders. It's not good with him.

"I say the truth but sometimes people don't want to listen to the truth. They want you to say 'you are good, you are magic' they want you to say all the good stuff but life is not like that.

"I think he needs to listen more and if he does that it will be hard to stop Brazil."

Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly eager to extend Kylian Mbappe's contract, while Inter are still doing their all to keep Lautaro Martinez.

Mbappe has been heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid despite being contracted at PSG until 2022.

Madrid's rivals, Barcelona, meanwhile, want Martinez, but they are facing their own challenges.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE EXTENSION A PRIORITY FOR PSG AS TENSIONS RISE

Despite the coronavirus pandemic impacting clubs financially, PSG are prioritising a lucrative new deal for Mbappe, according to ESPN.

Mbappe, 21, is a reported target for Real Madrid, whose interest seemingly remains.

AS reports PSG are prepared to lose Mbappe on a free in 2022 rather than selling him to Madrid before then.

 

ROUND-UP

- It remains to be seen whether Martinez will head to Barcelona. The cover of Sport says Inter are responding to Barca's interest by offering the forward an attractive new contract, although the LaLiga club are preparing their "final assault".

- Barcelona could have other plans should they not be able to land Martinez. Mundo Deportivo reports RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner, who has been linked with Liverpool, remains a serious back-up option for Barca.

- Seeking support for Casemiro, Real Madrid are apparently considering a move for Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga. The cover of Marca says Madrid could pay €60million for the 17-year-old.

- Arthur is linked with a move away from Barcelona. Tottenham and Inter will chase the midfielder, according to Mundo Deportivo.

- Inter Miami have been eyeing a big-name signing. Goal reports owner David Beckham has been in contact with Real Madrid regarding potentially signing James Rodriguez.

- Loris Karius could be heading back to Liverpool. The Telegraph reports the goalkeeper is close to mutually agreeing a termination of his loan at Turkish club Besiktas and returning to Anfield.

Kylian Mbappe is worth €300million and would likely have joined Real Madrid this year but for the coronavirus pandemic, according to an agent who has worked regularly with the LaLiga club.

France star Mbappe has regularly been linked with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu despite only joining Paris Saint-Germain from Monaco in 2018.

Initially signed on loan, the striker made the switch to Parc des Princes permanently for €180m a year later, making him the second most expensive signing in history behind €222m team-mate Neymar.

The 21-year-old is said to be one of Madrid's prime transfer targets, although PSG are thought to be keen to keep him in Ligue 1 for as long as possible, with his contract expiring in 2022.

Yvan Le Mee, who has brokered deals for Madrid signings such as Ferland Mendy and Julien Faubert, thinks a move to the Spanish capital was on the cards before COVID-19 brought the football season to a halt.

Now, be believes such a deal will not take place until after the European Championship, which has been moved to 2021.

"Mbappe, in a normal context, without this horrible virus or the economic problem that's coming, we could think he was going to sign for Madrid this summer," Le Mee told Marca.

"It doesn't seem as though he's going to renew and he has two years left on his contract. But with all this, it seems impossible that a club is going to spend now what Mbappe costs. Because if Neymar is worth 222million, Kylian is worth 300million, because he is younger and just as good, incredible.

"He's going to be the best striker in the world and I think he's going to want to play for the best club in the world, which is Madrid, and for one of his idols to coach him, which is [Zinedine] Zidane.

"Plus, today, there is no great competition in Madrid's attack. That's where they have a greater demand. They have a great like [Karim] Benzema, but he is going into the last years of his career.

"Today, there is more competition in PSG's attack than in Madrid's and I'm sure he'd find his place without any problem.

"This year, there won't be any big transfers because they are not going to do crazy things, and I think it will come after the Euros."

Left-back Mendy joined Madrid last June in a deal worth an initial €48m, having impressed for Lyon in Ligue 1.

However, Le Mee says the move had looked in doubt until Zidane made it clear he was desperate for the signing to be completed.

"It was a very difficult transfer because Lyon didn't want to sell," he said. "They wanted him for another year, and Madrid didn't want to pay 48million [euros] plus the five [million] in bonuses.

"Negotiations lasted for months, and they already had many players in that position.

"[Chief scout Juni] Calafat and [general director] Jose Angel Sanchez did an exceptional job in the negotiations. Zidane wanted the player at all costs and, despite the problems, he never gave up and that's super important because there are times when the coach gets tired of waiting and the club changes its mind.

"Ferland also had Juve, Napoli and Inter [interested], but Madrid were Madrid, and there was no problem with him. He had a poster of Zidane in his room as a child."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.