Axel Witsel could have joined Real Madrid, Juventus, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain at various points in his career but feels vindicated in his decision to sign for Borussia Dortmund last year.

Witsel is in his second season at Dortmund, having joined the Bundesliga club from Chinese side Tianjin Quanjin on a four-year contract.

He narrowly missed out on the Bundesliga title in his debut campaign. However, Witsel believes he is at the right club after possible moves to other European heavyweights did not come to pass.

Speaking to Goal and DAZN, the former Zenit midfielder detailed how he missed out on joining Madrid from Benfica before electing to return to Zenit ahead of moving to Juve.

"I could have joined Real Madrid when Jose Mourinho was there," Witsel said. "But then Real signed Luka Modric, so a transfer to Madrid made no sense to me.

"Shortly before the end of the transfer period Zenit called. I had good discussions with the people responsible and finally agreed. I am an open person and was not afraid of Russia.

"My contract with Zenit expired and I wanted to move to Turin to Juventus. I had already passed the medical check and actually only had to sign the contract.

"I waited all day in the office and Zenit told me to come back. In retrospect, that was perhaps a twist of fate. Maybe it was just not the right time."

United and PSG were said to be in the running for his signature in 2018, but the prospect of regular first-team football convinced Witsel to choose Dortmund instead.

"First [Dortmund sporting director] Michael Zorc approached me, then [coach] Lucien Favre called me," Witsel added.

"I also had other offers, maybe I could have gone to Paris or Manchester, but I did not want to wait. And I had the feeling that I was the first choice for Dortmund. It is important to feel good when you go to a new club.

"So after the talks with Zorc, Favre and [CEO] Hans-Joachim Watzke, I decided to join BVB. Dortmund is a top club - and I really wanted to join a top European club.

"Maybe it was my last chance at 29 years old. It was the right decision."

Prising Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain is proving difficult.

After Barcelona had an offer turned down by PSG, LaLiga giants Real Madrid are the latest club to be rejected.

With the transfer window set to close on September 2, time is running out to meet PSG's demands.

 

TOP STORY – MONEY PLUS BALE, NAVAS AND JAMES NOT ENOUGH FOR PSG

Paris Saint-Germain have rejected €100million plus Real Madrid trio Gareth Bale, Keylor Navas and James Rodriguez for Neymar, L'Equipe claims.

After Barcelona's initial loan bid was turned down by PSG, Madrid tried to jump the queue, but it was not enough to satisfy the Ligue 1 champions.

PSG spent a world-record €222m on Neymar two years ago and it will take a lot more to sign the wantaway star as Barca and Juventus circle.

 

ROUND-UP

- Talk of Navas being included in a deal comes as Marca reports the Costa Rica goalkeeper has asked to leave Madrid after being told he will be back-up to Thibaut Courtois.

- Barcelona forward Luis Suarez is open to joining Inter Miami in MLS. Miami – owned by David Beckham – are set to enter the league in 2020 and they are keen to make a big-name signing. Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani has been linked, while Mundo Deportivo has now talked up Uruguay team-mate Suarez.

- According to Calciomercato.com and Corriere della Sera, PSG are interested in Paulo Dybala and Juventus team-mate Miralem Pjanic. Dybala has been tipped to leave the Serie A champions, while Pjanic could depart Turin as Juve look to raise funds following the arrivals of Matthijs de Ligt, Aaron Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot and Merih Demiral.

Atletico Madrid have no doubts that they will sign Rodrigo Moreno from Valencia, says Marca. Rodrigo will arrive once Angel Correa completes his protracted move to AC Milan.

Roma are in talks with Juve over a move for defender Daniele Rugani, claims Goal. Initially linked to Liverpool's Dejan Lovren after Kostas Manolas' switch to Napoli, Roma are now keen to bring in Rugani, who is valued at between €20-25m.

- The Sun reports Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea could wait until January before signing a new contract. The Spanish star has reportedly agreed in principal to extend his deal, which expires next year.

- Inter have accepted an offer from Napoli for former captain and outcast Mauro Icardi, according to Corriere dello Sport. However, Sky Sport Italia and Sportialia insist Icardi is not interested in moving to Napoli as he eyes Juve. With that in mind, Napoli are reportedly pushing to sign free agent Fernando Llorente.

Barcelona and Chelsea are leading the race to sign 16-year-old Las Palmas midfielder Pedri. That is according to Marca, which says Pedri could be available for €10m (£9m).

Cristiano Ronaldo says he discovered he belonged to a "world of stars" upon comparing himself to the rest of Manchester United's strong squad in 2003.

The future Real Madrid and Juventus forward rose to a prominence after moving to Old Trafford from Sporting CP as a skinny teenager.

Then a flashy winger, Ronaldo scored four goals from 29 appearances in his debut Premier League campaign.

Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Ruud van Nistelrooy were among United's most prominent players at the time and Ronaldo quickly gained belief he too was destined to reach the top of the game.

"When I started playing for Manchester United at 18, 19, because I was as good as the players who were there I realised 'I'm close to achieving great things'," Ronaldo told Portuguese broadcaster TVI.

"Of course, I was a kid and I had a lot to learn – and I learned a lot from them – but I was in that world of stars.

"I saw that they were not doing anything that I couldn't do.

"There were better players than me: Giggs had more experience and was a better player than me at the time, Rio Ferdinand, Roy Keane, [Ole Gunnar] Solskjaer... but I felt that if I worked, with the talent I had, I could be the best player in the Premier League, for example."

Ronaldo spent six seasons at United, winning a first Ballon d'Or the before a €94million (£80m) transfer to Madrid in 2009.

The Portugal captain has since scooped European football's foremost individual honour a further four times.

Barcelona superstar and long-time rival Lionel Messi is the only other player to have claimed the Ballon d'Or on five occasions.

"I know that I am one of the best in my work and that I am in the history of football," Ronaldo said.

"It is no coincidence that only Messi and I have five. It is no accident. And I still feel motivated to try to win collective and individual prizes."

Ronaldo and Juventus commence their Serie A campaign away to Parma on Saturday.

Cristiano Ronaldo believes a 25-year-old version of himself would be worth up to €300million in today's transfer market.

Juventus splashed out €112m including add-ons when they signed the Portugal captain from Real Madrid in 2018.

Only five players – Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Joao Felix, Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho – have commanded larger fees.

Two members of the quintet made their mega-money moves as teenagers and Ronaldo, now 34, has reservations about the increasing prices for youngsters who are yet to prove themselves at the top level.

"Today there is a lot of focus on potential and the football industry is different," the superstar forward told Portuguese broadcaster TVI.

"I'll put the case of Joao Felix aside. Nowadays any player is worth €100m, even without proof. There is more money in football.

"Central defenders and goalkeepers are worth €70million, €80million.

"I do not agree with it, but this is the world we live in. The market is like that, we have to respect it."

Ronaldo formerly held the all-time transfer fee record after Madrid forked out €94m to prise him away from Manchester United in 2009.

Asked how much he would be worth aged 25 in modern terms, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner replied: "It is hard to calculate.

"If a goalkeeper is worth €75m, a player who has done what I had must be worth three to four times more. Easy.

"But I have no such illusion."

Barcelona are officially making a move for Neymar and Paris Saint-Germain are set to reject their offer.

The Neymar saga is seemingly no closer to ending as the Brazil star looks to leave the Ligue 1 champions before the transfer window closes on September 2.

Barca are set to at least make a bid as they aim to get a deal done for their former star, but it will be rejected.

 

TOP STORY – PSG TO REJECT BARCELONA'S LOAN BID FOR NEYMAR

PSG have no interest in initially loaning Neymar to Barcelona, according to Le Parisien.

It was reported the bid from LaLiga's champions would be for a temporary move, but PSG want an outright transfer so they can find a replacement for the forward, amid reported interest in Juventus playmaker Paulo Dybala.

Barcelona are willing to accept a purchase option if €160million can be paid in instalments, according to Sport.

Meanwhile, the cover of Marca says Neymar is entering "Zone Florentino", referencing Real Madrid president Perez as Barca's rivals maintain hope of signing the 27-year-old.

ROUND-UP

- There could be plenty of movement at Barcelona late in the window. Juventus are discussing a potential swap deal to land Ivan Rakitic and see Emre Can head to Camp Nou, according to Tuttosport, which says the Catalans also put Luis Suarez on the table.

- One midfielder not leaving Turin is Blaise Matuidi. RMC Sport reports the France international will stay at Juventus amid links to PSG and Bayern Munich, with Can seemingly more likely to depart the Serie A champions.

- Mariano Diaz's future is uncertain. AS claims Mariano is not in Real Madrid's plans for this season, but no club has come close to meeting a €20m valuation of the forward.

- Franck Ribery is set to become a Fiorentina player. The former Bayern Munich star has agreed to a deal with the Serie A club, according to Sport Bild and Gianluca Di Marzio, with the Frenchman set to sign on Thursday.

- Amid reported interest from Manchester City and Manchester United, Jadon Sancho is said to be re-signing with Borussia Dortmund. The 19-year-old England international has sealed a £190,000-per-week long-term deal with Dortmund, according to the Daily Mail.

- Michy Batshuayi is not ready to give up on his Chelsea career. The Belgium striker wants to stay and fight for a place in Frank Lampard's team, according to the Evening Standard.

Juventus and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo remains unsure when he will retire, saying it could be as soon as next year or he could play into his 40s.

Ronaldo, 34, has continued to star after joining Juve last year, scoring 28 goals in 43 games in all competitions and helping the Italian giants win another Serie A title in 2018-19.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is uncertain when he will stop playing, although the star forward said it may not be far away.

"I don't think about that," Ronaldo told TVI on Tuesday.

"Maybe I can leave my career next year … but I can also play up to 40 or 41.

"I don't know. What I always say is to enjoy the moment. The gift is excellent and I have to continue to enjoy it."

Along with numerous individual honours, Ronaldo has won a record five Champions League titles (four with Real Madrid and one with Manchester United), three Premier League crowns and two LaLiga trophies.

Ronaldo wants to make history and is seemingly motivated by setting records.

"Are there any soccer players who have more records than me?" he asked.

"I don't think there are any footballers who have more records than me."

Ronaldo's Juventus begin their Serie A campaign with a trip to Parma on Saturday.

Merih Demiral wants to live up to the example of his idol Giorgio Chiellini during the early stages of his Juventus career.

Turkey international Demiral joined Juve from Sassuolo in an €18million deal last month – the centre-back having impressed following his move to Serie A from Alanyaspor midway through the 2018-19 season.

The 21-year-old's style has been compared to former Juventus and Uruguay favourite Paolo Montero.

However, despite arguably posing a threat to the club's much-vaunted old-guard at the back along with standout close-season recruit Matthijs de Ligt, Demiral insists he need only look to the likes of Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci for inspiration.

"To be compared to Montero is an honour for me," he said on Tuesday.

"I hope to be able to show the fans that I'm a strong defender and live up to that expectation. My real idols are the players that I'm playing with now, like Chiellini.

"Chiellini and Bonucci have been helping me a lot to settle in here as well as the other players, I hope to learn a lot from them.

"[Head coach Maurizio] Sarri looks over the defensive side of play personally and this allows me to train in the best possible way and work on my weaknesses."

Demiral is the first Turkish player to sign for Juve, something he described as an "absolute honour", although he is grateful for the presence of Emre Can in Turin – the Germany midfielder of Turkish descent having helped him adjust to new surroundings.

"Emre Can is helping me a lot to settle in both on and off the pitch and I'd like to thank him publicly for that," he added.

Neymar continues to dominate the headlines and Barcelona look set to finally get serious in a move for the Paris Saint-Germain star.

The Brazil international, 27, has been linked with a move from PSG, but progress has seemingly been slow amid links to Barca and Real Madrid.

It appears Juventus are now ready to join the race, too, as Barcelona prepare to submit an offer.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA TO SUBMIT NEYMAR BID

Barcelona have decided to submit a formal offer to PSG for Neymar, according to RAC1.

The cover of Sport reads 'Offer Offical' as Barcelona continue their pursuit of the star they sold to PSG for €222million two years ago.

They say Barca are hoping to get a deal done and have an option to buy Neymar next season.

 

ROUND-UP

- There may yet be a bit to play out in the Neymar saga. AS report Juventus have opened talks with PSG and are keen to sign the Brazil star, willing to offer Neymar the €37m per year net he currently makes at PSG.

- Paulo Dybala could be part of a Juventus move for Neymar. Dybala was reportedly close to a Premier League switch earlier this month and is valued at €80m and a target for PSG, according to Sport and the Daily Mail, giving the Ligue 1 champions an ideal replacement for Neymar.

- Christian Eriksen's Tottenham future remains unclear. However, ESPN FC report the Denmark international is only interested in moving to Barcelona, Real Madrid or Juventus if he leaves Tottenham.

- As Barcelona try to find a deal for Neymar, Nelson Semedo has been one of the players mentioned as part of a potential package. However, Marca report the defender does not want to go to PSG and Barca are aware.

- Roma are still trying to strengthen their defence and Arsenal's Shkodran Mustafi has emerged as a target, according to TuttoMercatoWeb. The Serie A giants would consider an initial loan move for the defender.

- Franck Ribery could be close to making a decision on his future. According to Fabrizio Romano, the former Bayern Munich star is in advanced talks with Fiorentina.

Juventus coach Maurizio Sarri has been diagnosed with pneumonia, the Serie A champions have confirmed.

Sarri missed Juve's friendly win over Triestina on Saturday due to "the persistence" of flu, which he developed last week.

He returned to the club's training base on Monday but was unable to oversee preparation work on the pitch due to his illness.

The club conducted further examinations and Sarri has now begun a course of treatment.

A statement released by the club on Monday read: "Maurizio Sarri, after having observed rest over the weekend, was at the JTC Continassa [Juve's training facility] today where he coordinated the work of his staff.

"Unfortunately, he could not conduct the training on the field due to the persistence of his flu, which struck him over the course of last week.

"In the late afternoon, he underwent further tests that confirmed he has pneumonia, for which specific therapy has been prescribed.

"The coach has authorised the club to communicate his state of health."

Juve begin their Serie A campaign against Parma on Saturday. It is unclear whether Sarri will be in a position to take charge of the team at Il Tardini.

Juventus have sent new signing Luca Pellegrini on loan to Cagliari for the 2019-20 season.

Pellegrini joined Juve at the end of June as part of the deal that took Leonardo Spinazzola to Roma, with the 20-year-old costing the Old Lady €22million.

Juve have been forced to trim down their squad in order to meet Champions League registration rules, though, and Pellegrini is a victim of that situation.

There have also been reports claiming coach Maurizio Sarri is not entirely convinced by the youngster, who spent part of last season on loan at Cagliari.

Despite this, the Sardinian club do not have a purchase option on Pellegrini, who has a contract with Juve until 2023.

Real Madrid lead the race to sign Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar, while Barcelona are optimistic.

Neymar, 27, is set to leave Ligue 1 champions PSG before the transfer window closes on September 2, with either Barca or Madrid his likely destination.

It remains to be seen just where the Brazil forward ends up, but Madrid have apparently moved ahead of their rivals in the race.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID LEAD BARCELONA IN RACE FOR NEYMAR

Contacts intensified between the parties involved in getting Neymar from PSG to Real Madrid, according to AS.

However, the cover of Sport says Barcelona are "optimistic" about signing the star they sold to PSG for €222million two years ago.

They also report that PSG are making constant calls to the LaLiga champions as they try to find an agreement.

 

ROUND-UP

- Napoli appear to be growing tired of waiting for Mauro Icardi, who is unwanted at Inter. According to Corriere dello Sport, Napoli want an answer from the forward regarding a potential switch by Saturday.

- One more time? Real Madrid are set to make a final push to sign Paul Pogba from Manchester United, according to The Times, who say the Premier League club are expected to reject any offers for the France international.

- A player set for an exit from Old Trafford is Alexis Sanchez and more details are emerging about his move from Manchester United to Inter. Fabrizio Romano reports Inter are in talks with United to sign Sanchez on a season-long loan with an option to buy for €15m (£13.7m), with United to pay part of the Chilean's wages.

- Could Emre Can leave Juventus after just one season in Turin? Bayern Munich and PSG are interested in the former Liverpool star, according to Tuttosport, with the Serie A champions set to let a midfielder leave after the arrivals of Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot. PSG are also set to meet with Paulo Dybala's representatives on Tuesday, reports in Italy say.

- Amid fresh rumours PSG are chasing Gianluigi Donnarumma, the goalkeeper has reiterated his desire to stay at AC Milan, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Daniel Sturridge could be close to making a decision on his future. The Daily Express report the former Liverpool forward is in talks with Turkish side Trabzonspor, while Ligue 1 outfit Monaco could also make Sturridge an offer if Radamel Falcao departs.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is adamant Paul Pogba will stay at Old Trafford amid links to Real Madrid and Juventus.

Pogba said a "question mark remains" over his future following United's 4-0 rout of Chelsea in their Premier League opener on August 11.

While the Premier League's transfer window has already closed, the LaLiga and Serie A markets remain open until September 2 – prompting ongoing speculation about a possible move to Madrid or a sensational return to Juventus.

Solskjaer, however, has no concerns over star midfielder Pogba ahead of United's trip to Wolves on Monday.

"You [the media] always put question marks around Paul," Solskjaer said. "I don't think it's odd saying enjoy playing, I have fun with my team-mates, I enjoy what I'm doing, I love my job and enjoy the game.

"Of course that sentence with the question mark about him, there's always question marks about Paul.

"There's not one press conference that I've not answered a question about Paul Pogba – 80 per cent of what he said was that he enjoyed that game and his time here.

"I've got absolutely no concerns on Paul. For me, yeah, he's going to stay."

Meanwhile, Solskjaer admitted United have "too many" centre-backs following the world-record arrival of Harry Maguire from Leicester City.

With Maguire now at the Theatre of Dreams, Solskjaer's options also include Victor Lindelof, Axel Tuanzebe, Chris Smalling, Phil Jones, Marcos Rojo and Eric Bailly, who is recovering from a serious knee injury.

Argentina international Rojo was linked with a deadline-day move to Everton but a transfer did not materialise.

"I do have too many centre-backs to keep everyone happy," said Solskjaer. "But we need to win games, we need to perform, so we're going to pick the players that will give us the biggest chance to win games."

"They're all quality centre-backs and I know that we will need quite a few of them," added Solskjaer. "Of course, Eric's injury means that at the moment I've got six fit ones, which is maybe one too many to keep everyone involved.

"But then that's our jobs, to make the most of what we have now, and for them as well to make sure every day in training.

"And when they get the chance, because they will – we've got loads of games, play well when you get it. All of these, Marcos, Phil, Chris – they've been here for a long time and they've proven that they can do it."

Aaron Ramsey said he was "very proud" after making his debut for Juventus in a friendly match against Triestina.

Ramsey made his first appearance for Serie A champions Juventus since leaving Arsenal on a free transfer at the end of 2018-19 – the Wales midfielder coming off the bench in Saturday's 1-0 win.

The 28-year-old had been sidelined with a hamstring injury since April, but Ramsey replaced Federico Bernardeschi 20 minutes from the end at Stadio Nereo Rocco, where Paulo Dybala's 38th-minute stunner settled the game.

"I feel good. I have had a good rehab so hopefully now I can stay fit and healthy and help the team as much as I can," Ramsey said.

"I am really excited to be a part of it [Italian football] and experience the Italian league. We start now on Saturday, so I am looking forward to that and playing my first competitive match. I am really looking forward to it.

"This was a very proud moment for me to put on this famous jersey. I am happy that I got a few minutes out there tonight. I have been working hard to get back fit and hopefully now I can stay fit. I am naturally quite good physically.

"I have been working hard, and I know I haven’t had the minutes on the pitch, apart from tonight, but I feel good physically. It will take a few games to get there.

"I think I have had a good pre-season. We have got a new coach who has given us his own ideas. We have been adapting to that. I think the team is in good shape and hopefully now we can have a very successful season.

"We have been working hard on certain tactics and I think he wants to do good to the team, and we have put that into practice a few times. We are feeling quite confident."

Cristiano Ronaldo has been left out of Juventus' squad for their final pre-season friendly against Triestina.

The Portugal international sat out Wednesday's intra-squad practice match with slight fatigue to his left adductor and will not participate in Saturday's match at Stadio Nereo Rocco as a precautionary measure.

He also missed an exhibition match against Team K League in Seoul last month but had featured in Juve's other outings prior to this week, including a 71-minute appearance in the 2-1 loss to Atletico Madrid seven days ago.

Serie A champions Juventus, who begin their title defence with a trip to Parma next Saturday, can call upon new signing Aaron Ramsey for the first time since he joined the club as a free agent.

Ramsey has spent the last two weeks training after recovering from a muscle injury and is part of Juve's 24-man squad for the match with Serie C side Triestina.

Head coach Maurizio Sarri will not be present, though, having been struck down by flu this week.

Mauricio Pochettino admits he does not know if Christian Eriksen will still be a Tottenham player by the end of the European transfer window.

The Premier League's transfer window may have shut, but clubs in Italy and Spain still have time to complete their business, with Eriksen linked to Juventus and both Madrid clubs.

The Denmark playmaker is out of contract at the end of the season and in June confirmed his eagerness to "try something new".

Tottenham have since signed two midfielders, Tanguy Ndombele and Giovani Lo Celso, to further cloud Eriksen's uncertain future.

"I don't know," Pochettino told reporters when asked whether the 27-year-old would stay in London.

"My point is to help all of the players, my job is to support them all until they maybe decide to take a different way in their career."

Eriksen was used as a substitute during last weekend's come-from-behind win over Aston Villa and will be considered for a starting XI berth against Manchester City on Saturday after impressing Pochettino during training.

The Tottenham boss denied Eriksen's contract situation would have any influence over his team selection at the Etihad Stadium.

"For me it is the same between a player who has one year on his contract and one who has five years," he said.

"The selection is not for the length of the contract, it is for the performance. 

"After five years you should know to avoid this question, because you know I will take the decision based only on performance and not personal situation with the club."

Argentina international Lo Celso could make his Spurs debut against City after skipping the Villa clash, but Dele Alli remains sidelined by a hamstring injury.

Son Heung-min is set to serve the final game of a three-match ban imposed towards the end of last term.

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