Ajax boss Erik ten Hag has refused to rule out a high-profile return to Bayern Munich.

Dutchman Ten Hag coached Bayern's reserves from 2013 to 2015 before returning to his homeland to join FC Utrecht.

The 49-year-old then moved to Ajax and led the powerhouse to the Eredivisie title last term, as well as the Champions League semi-finals.

Bayern have struggled for consistency in the Bundesliga this season and sit third in the table, just one point above ninth-placed Bayer Leverkusen.

As a result, Bayern coach Niko Kovac's future has been the subject of speculation, and when asked by Kicker if he would be open to going back to the Bundesliga giants, Ten Hag said: "I do not exclude anything."

"But I'm almost 50 and [I am] not a dreamer. It comes - or it does not come."

Asked to comment on his time in Munich, Ten Hag added: "For me, it was about coming to an association like Bayern.

"Pep Guardiola was there, and more importantly, [sporting director] Matthias Sammer with his strategic approach and mentality, which he brings to a club.

"Under Guardiola, Bayern played dominant [football] … everyone on the pitch knew what he had to do."

Despite the big-money departures of Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong, Ajax have started the 2019-20 campaign in good fashion, winning eight of a possible 10 Eredivisie matches to top the table, three points ahead of rivals PSV.

Bayern Munich's missed chances at Augsburg left coach Niko Kovac and star winger Serge Gnabry frustrated as the Bundesliga champions had to settle for a point.

Kovac's side recovered from Marco Richter's first-minute opener and then led when Gnabry teed up Robert Lewandowski before scoring himself.

However, Bayern passed up two big opportunities to stretch their lead, with Augsburg goalkeeper Tomas Koubek excelling while Thomas Muller, who has made his frustration at a lack of match action clear, was guilty of a glaring miss.

This profligacy came back to bite Bayern as Alfred Finnbogason struck in second-half stoppage-time, pouncing on an error from Lucas Hernandez - another man in the spotlight following a fitness row with France.

Both the slow start and the failure to put the game to bed were of great annoyance to Kovac as he faced the media at full-time, with his side third ahead of leaders Borussia Monchengladbach's clash with Borussia Dortmund.

"We started very badly in the game. That must not happen to us, as we have previously pointed out," he said. "We have to be awake [immediately] and not be there in five minutes.

"But then we had everything under control. We had the ball and huge chances but did not score them. If you cannot do that, you cannot concede a second goal at the back.

"Two shots on goal, two goals [for Augsburg]. That annoys me."

Gnabry took a similar tact, adding: "We have moved on from the last game against Hoffenheim [a 2-1 defeat before the international break]. We came out fresh and played a great game, controlling it all the time.

"We ended up with two almost 100 per cent chances to get a third. If we score, the game is over. That's where we spoiled it.

"We had a lot of possession and a lot of chances - we should have won, but we were a bit too careless and then something happened at the back. That's football."

Niko Kovac has conceded Bayern Munich "have a very bad feeling" over Niklas Sule's condition after the defender sustained an injury in the Bundesliga draw with Augsburg.

With Bayern 1-0 down to Alfred Finnbogason's first-minute opener, Sule went down clutching his left leg after going into a challenge with Florian Niederlechner.

After receiving treatment, Sule did manage to walk off the pitch, though it is feared the 24-year-old Germany international may have sustained cruciate ligament damage.

Kovac confirmed the news was not good, though Bayern's coach still harboured some hope the ligaments had not sustained serious damage.

"It looks like he's seriously injured, so we'll have to wait for the scans, but have a very bad feeling," Kovac told a news conference.

"We hope the cruciate ligaments are spared, otherwise we would miss Niki for a while.

"The general feeling isn't good. We need to wait and see what has happened and hope for the best."

Sule, who has been one of Bayern's most consistent performers since Kovac took over, had started 12 matches in all competitions this term.

Augsburg scored after 30 seconds and again in second-half stoppage time to claim a dramatic 2-2 draw at home to Bayern Munich, as Niklas Sule suffered an injury that will have the Bundesliga champions concerned.

Richter scored in the opening minute for hosts Augsburg on Saturday as Bayern struggled to bounce back from the loss they suffered to Hoffenheim before the international break.

But after the visitors lost a distressed Sule to injury, Serge Gnabry set up Robert Lewandowski to net for a record-equalling eighth straight game at the start of a Bundesliga campaign.

Former Arsenal youngster Gnabry then scored himself in the second half.

That would not prove to be the winner, though, Alfred Finnbogason tapping in one minute into added time to stun Niko Kovac's side.

Had Bayern won, they would have returned to the top of the Bundesliga after Wolfsburg lost at RB Leipzig. Instead, Bayern were left a point off the pace, with Borussia Monchengladbach in with a chance to extend their lead when they played Borussia Dortmund later on Saturday.

Robert Lewandowski scored for the eighth Bundesliga match running, equalling a record set by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Lewandowski headed home his 12th league goal of the campaign to draw Bayern level against Augsburg on Saturday after Niko Kovac's side fell behind inside 30 seconds.

The Poland international has now netted in the opening eight Bundesliga games of the season, matching Aubameyang's impressive effort at Borussia Dortmund in 2015-16.

No Bundesliga player has scored in the first nine matches of a campaign, meaning Lewandowski will have the opportunity to make history should he feature against Union Berlin next Saturday.

Lars Lukas Mai has signed a new contract with Bayern Munich, keeping him with the Bundesliga champions until June 2022.

The 19-year-old defender joined the German giants at under-16 level in 2014 and made two league appearances for the senior side two seasons ago.

Mai's existing deal was due to expire at the end of the 2020-21 campaign, but the ex-Dynamo Dresden prospect has agreed terms to stay on for a further 12 months.

Bayern announced the renewal on Friday and Mai said: "I'm very glad about the contract extension and the trust placed in me. 

"I'd like to take the next step in my development, and I think there's no better place for that than FC Bayern."

A regular for Bayern's reserve side over the past two seasons, Mai is highly regarded at the Allianz Arena and has been named on the bench three times in the Bundesliga this term.

Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said: "Lukas is a good lad and one of our biggest talents. 

"At the age of 19, he's already one of the key players for our reserves in the third division. We're convinced he'll continue to develop."

Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac accepts he made a mistake with comments that suggested Thomas Muller would be left on the fringes of the first team.

Muller, 30, has made just three starts in the Bundesliga this season, failing to score a single goal, as Kovac appears to favour other options in attack and out wide.

Ahead of the 2-1 defeat to Hoffenheim – in which Muller appeared as a substitute – Kovac suggested the German would only get an opportunity "when we're short of options".

Muller confirmed his frustration with the situation in an interview during the international break, while he has since been linked with a move away from the Allianz Arena.

But Kovac revealed he spoke to Muller in private to clarify his comments, as he believes he chose his words incorrectly.

"I cannot say who will play at the weekend - as for the statement, it was a mistake of mine," Kovac told reporters ahead of Saturday's trip to Augsburg.

"I incorrectly articulated my thoughts, but I disproved my own statement with the fact Thomas has been coming [into matches] recently.

"I spoke with Thomas the next day, everything was cleared up and he understood it the way I meant it, so I made a mistake – it happens to me too, that's life.

"We talked about it, but no matter which player it is, everyone who doesn't play is unhappy. I have to make decisions as a coach and I can't start more than 11 players, I have to find the team I think can win the game.

"For people from the outside, a coach basically does nothing right. I won't let myself be guided. We have our own ideas and we will implement those."

Bayern go into the weekend third in the Bundesliga table, two points adrift of early leaders Borussia Monchengladbach.

Serge Gnabry will play no part in Germany's Euro 2020 qualifier against Estonia on Sunday due to a muscular problem.

Gnabry has been in fine form of late, scoring eight goals in his past 10 matches across all competitions for club and country, while he is also Germany's most prolific player in Euro 2020 qualifying with five strikes.

But he will not add to that on in Tallinn on Sunday, with Germany set to face rock-bottom Estonia in their Group C clash.

Gnabry will not be risked as a precaution, the German Football Federation (DFB) confirmed on Twitter as Germany aim to remain level on points with Netherlands at the top.

The winger will return to Bayern after Sunday's match and aim to be back in contention for their Bundesliga trip to Augsburg on Saturday.

Marco Reus comes into the team in Gnabry's place having been an unused substitute in Wednesday's 2-2 friendly draw against Argentina.

Manuel Neuer replaces Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal, with the Bayern Munich star still Joachim Low's preferred option.

The only other change sees Ilkay Gundogan come in for Robin Koch.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge expects Thomas Muller to stay at Bayern Munich beyond January despite his frustration with a lack of playing time.

Attacking midfielder Muller, 30, expressed dissatisfaction with his marginalised role in an interview earlier this month, telling Kicker he was "too ambitious" to settle for a place among the substitutes.

The 2014 World Cup winner started none of the club's final five games leading into the international break.

Reports have suggested Muller will ask for a move when the window reopens but Bayern CEO Rummenigge would be surprised to receive a transfer request.

"I cannot imagine that," Rummenigge told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.

"The relationship between Thomas and Bayern is totally intact and he will remain an important part of our club."

Muller has spent his entire professional career at Allianz Arena, winning eight Bundesliga titles.

He made 28 league starts under Niko Kovac last season but the arrival of Philippe Coutinho on loan from Barcelona has increased the competition for places in Muller's favoured position behind the striker.

Rummenigge accepted the 100-cap Germany international's decision to speak out about his concerns.

He said: "If Thomas would sit contentedly on the bench, he would be at the wrong club.

"That's the reaction we want, but he still has to deal with the situation seriously. He does that perfectly."

Either through injuries or dips in form, Luis Suarez has started to show signs of regression at Barcelona and they are planning for a future without him.

The Uruguayan striker has been a remarkable player for Barca, but at 32 he is approaching the twilight of his career and the Blaugrana have been considering who they might want to replace him with when the time comes.

Meanwhile, one player recently heavily linked with Barca could be signing a new contract with his current employers.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA DRAW UP STRIKERS SHORTLIST

Barca have significantly strengthened several areas of their team in recent transfer windows, with Antoine Griezmann, Junior Firpo, Frenkie de Jong and Neto bolstering their options.

They are now beginning to turn their attentions to the central striker role, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The publication reports Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe is the ideal target, though Barca are said to be hopeful of getting him on a cut-price deal in 2021 after he has entered the final year of his contract, assuming he does not sign an extension in the meantime.

England and Tottenham striker Harry Kane is also said to be high up their list, despite their being acknowledgement that his wages would be more of an issue than the transfer fee.

The other two reportedly being considered are Marcus Rashford of Manchester United and Inter's Lautaro Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca missed out on securing the return of Neymar in the most recent transfer window and, according to Gazzetta dello Sport, PSG are now planning to offer the Brazilian a new bumper contract.

- The LaLiga champions are also looking at midfield reinforcements with potential. Napoli's Fabian RuizEduardo Camavinga of Rennes and Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz are all being considered, though Mundo Deportivo say Real Madrid are also tracking the trio with intent.

Christian Eriksen's future has been a hot topic for the last few months, with the Tottenham midfielder's contract ending next year. Sport1 in Germany claim Bayern Munich have already been in touch with him.

Liverpool are hoping to sign Brighton and Hove Albion-owned centre-back Ben White, 21, according to the Sun. The defender is impressing on loan at Leeds United and the Reds see him as a replacement for Dejan Lovren, who is said to be eager for a move to get first-team football.

- Despite languishing 12th in the Premier League after a wretched start to the season, the Daily Mail say Manchester United will not be splashing the cash in the January transfer window.

- But the Daily Express report United have reached a "verbal agreement" with Mario Mandzukic of Juventus, who are said to be demanding £10million for the Croatian forward.

Serge Gnabry is regarded as an automatic starter by Germany coach Joachim Low and he might have attained that status earlier had a serious knee injury not prevented him from featuring at the 2014 World Cup.

Gnabry was considered a prodigious prospect at Arsenal after signing from Stuttgart as a youngster in 2011, breaking into the Gunners' first-team squad the following year at just 17.

He then featured 14 times across all competitions before suffering a bad injury against future employers Bayern Munich in the Champions League in March 2014, ruling him out of first-team action until the 2015-16 season.

An unsuccessful loan spell at West Brom followed in that campaign, but Gnabry got his career back on track after moving to Werder Bremen, earning a switch to Bayern where he has developed into one of Europe's most exciting wingers.

Gnabry's route to the top has been rather more convoluted than many would have expected during his early days at Arsenal and, according to Low, his 2014 injury robbed him of a place in Germany's World Cup-winning squad in Brazil just before his 19th birthday.

"In spring 2014, I made a couple of trips to London," Low told reporters ahead of Sunday's Euro 2020 qualifier with Estonia.

"He played well in several matches and really impressed me. I wanted to include Serge in the squad for the 2014 World Cup, but he was unfortunately injured.

"He has been very strong in several matches for us recently. I like the way that he moves and how dangerous he is in front of goal.

"He is fortunate to have the chance to play at the very highest level. We need to encourage that and support him.

"Based on his performances over the past nine months, he needs to be on the pitch for us if he's fit and able to play."

Manuel Neuer dismissed suggestions of a rift between himself and Germany goalkeeping colleague Marc-Andre ter Stegen and also denied claims he is contemplating retirement next year.

Germany coach Joachim Low's selections between the posts have been a major talking point in recent months, with Neuer seemingly still first-choice despite Ter Stegen's form for Barcelona.

Ter Stegen has emerged as one of the world's most consistent and dependable goalkeepers, while Neuer – who is now 33 – has shown signs of regression.

Barca star Ter Stegen was criticised by Neuer last month for "inappropriate" comments about being disappointed at losing his place in the starting XI, while Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness also took aim at the 27-year-old.

But Neuer insists there is no lack of harmony among Die Mannschaft's goalkeepers.

"I hope you have watched us closely, it's a great relationship with us," Neuer told reporters ahead of Sunday's Euro 2020 qualifier against Estonia.

"[Ter Stegen] played well against Argentina. We have the right team [of goalkeepers], with Bernd Leno and Kevin Trapp as well. There is nothing to report, there was no deep conversation."

Ter Stegen should not expect an easy run at the starting role anytime soon either, as Neuer denied reports he is considering retirement after Euro 2020.

"There's absolutely nothing to announce," he said. "I'm feeling well, I'm feeling fit and I'm performing well. I'm not thinking about ending my career."

Some have tipped Schalke's Alexander Nubel – not Ter Stegen – to eventually take over from Neuer in the Germany goal, and they Bayern man sees that as a possibility.

"He could be," Neuer said when asked if Nubel may be his successor. "He has made good progress. He is a regular goalkeeper for Schalke and played a very good Under-21 European Championship.

"He is currently performing very well. Of course, he needs some experience as well, but the signs for German football are good, even in the goalkeeping department."

Serge Gnabry feels team-mate Thomas Muller deserves to be shown some respect amid reports he could be on his way out of Bayern Munich in January.

The 30-year-old has spent his entire club career at Bayern but has been linked with a move away after being reduced to a peripheral role this season.

Muller has started the German champions' last five matches on the bench and admitted earlier this week he is not happy with the current situation.

Manchester United have been tipped to move for the versatile attacker, but Gnabry claims it is wrong to speculate over his future and cannot envisage life at the Allianz Arena without his compatriot.

"Normally I shouldn't say anything about it," he said at a Germany news conference on Friday. "But when a player has been with one club since his childhood, then a Bayern Munich without Thomas Muller is difficult to imagine. 

"It is easy to relate with every player who does not play and who is angry about that. This is normal. You don't have to make the whole thing bigger than it is. 

"Thomas has got his qualities and has won everything. You have to have respect for him and must not ask stupid questions or spread negative news about him."

Muller, along with Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels, has also been overlooked at the international level since March after being told he will no longer be picked by Joachim Low.

Gnabry has more than helped to fill the void by scoring 10 goals in 11 appearances for the senior side, and the former Arsenal winger intends to keep impressing.

"I'm having a great run right now," he said. "It takes a lot of work, the right attitude. You cannot rest. The good environment here helps me a lot. The mood is relaxed-casual.

"I want to do my best in every game. You have to prove yourself again and again. 

"If I were to play three games, surely someone else would get my playing time. That's why I'm trying to focus on maintaining my performance."

France boss Didier Deschamps has insisted Lucas Hernandez is "ready" to play a part in the Euro 2020 qualifier against Iceland, despite concerns from Bayern Munich over his fitness.

Hernandez has missed Bayern's last two matches with a knee injury but is part of France's squad for their games against Iceland and Turkey.

The Bundesliga champions tried to block France calling up the versatile defender for selection, believing he would be better off resting the issue.

Club doctor Hans-Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfahrt said earlier this week Hernandez will not be able to play any part in Reykjavík, but Deschamps suggested otherwise on the eve of the game with Iceland.

"He is ready. He feels good and has good feelings," Deschamps said at his pre-match news conference. 

"We have done it gradually. He is sufficiently liberated from the injury he had. He is available. But to play 90 minutes, he must start and I can't be certain yet. But yes, he is available."

Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and Hugo Lloris are all ruled out of the double-header with Iceland and Turkey, however, with the influential trio sidelined.

Deschamps admitted it is far from ideal being without key players but has called on others to step up. 

"It is detrimental as a whole because they are very important players in the group," he said. "Also, in terms of leadership - Hugo is captain and Paul is an expressive leader. 

"But there are others who are there and used to have this role like [Olivier] Giroud, [Raphael] Varane, [Blaise] Matuidi and [Steve] Mandanda.

"But it's clear that I prefer to have everyone available. I totally trust the players who are here."

Joachim Low's decision not to select Mats Hummels for Germany must be accepted, according to former Borussia Dortmund player and coach Jorg Heinrich.

Hummels was suddenly dropped from the national team in March, along with his then Bayern Munich team-mates Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng.

The centre-back subsequently rejoined Dortmund from Bayern and has been in fine form in the early weeks of the 2019-20 Bundesliga season.

Low, though, has continued to leave Hummels out of his squad despite defensive injuries affecting his latest selection, with Freiburg's Robin Koch called up for the first time.

"Jogi Low has his strategy with dealing with this topic," Champions League winner Heinrich told Omnisport. "When Hummels played in Munich it was not a big topic for us.

"Now he's playing very well for BVB and everybody would be happy to see him in the DFB shirt, but in the end it's a decision of Joachim Low and we have to respect that."

Low has turned to youth in a bid to inspire a turnaround in Germany's fortunes after flopping at Russia 2018, where their World Cup defence ended in the group stages.

"Joachim Low is very courageous to work with such a lot of young, talented players," former Germany international Heinrich added.

"It's not an easy situation after the great success we had in 2014 to build a new team.

"He's doing very well. We have very, very talented players in Germany that have to play at a high level to improve. We're looking in a very positive way."

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