Pep Guardiola said it would be an "incredible mistake" to criticise his Manchester City players after they played "really well" in a 2-0 Premier League defeat at Tottenham.

Champions City remain a mammoth 22 points behind runaway leaders Liverpool after second-half goals from Steven Bergwijn and Son Heung-min boosted Spurs' bid for a top-four finish.

Oleksandr Zinchenko was sent off for a second bookable offence before debutant Bergwijn opened the scoring at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Ilkay Gundogan had a first-half penalty saved by Hugo Lloris as misfiring City fired another blank four days after a 1-0 derby defeat to Manchester United in the second leg of their EFL Cup semi-final.

Guardiola kept his players in the dressing longer than usual after their loss in North London, but the City boss revealed he had been talking to his staff and wife rather than reading the riot act.

"On this performance, how should I be critical?" The Spaniard, who was unable to give a diagnosis of an injury obtained by Raheem Sterling, told Sky Sports. "On this performance it would be an incredible mistake to say how bad they are.

"We created chances and conceded few. I always feel good football is when you create more chances than the opposite team. I always believe in this concept, you are close to winning the games."

The former Barcelona coach added: "We played good but lost the game. It happened again. They had two shots and scored two goals. I don't have too many things to say about the performance.

"It happened before, against United. They created I don't know how many chances, only a few, we had a lot and didn't score. We have to accept it and analyse it, sometimes it is not easy. We did really well, honestly."

Guardiola pointed to the dismissal of Zinchenko as being a pivotal moment.

"The sending off was a key point, having 10 and 11 is completely different. We said at half-time be careful."

An ecstatic Steven Bergwijn reflected on a "dream that has come true" after he scored a wonderful goal on his Premier League debut to help Tottenham to a 2-0 win over Manchester City.

Bergwijn, who joined Spurs from PSV earlier this week for a reported fee of £27million, opened the scoring in the second half on Sunday with a glorious volley on the turn, three minutes after City's Oleksandr Zinchenko had been sent off for a second bookable offence.

Spurs then added another goal through Son Heung-min to claim a crucial win that lifts them to within four points of fourth-placed Chelsea in the race for Champions League qualification.

Asked about his debut strike, Bergwijn told Sky Sports: "It's unbelievable. It's a dream for me that has come true and I'm so happy to be here and to make a goal for the Spurs.

"As a little kid, you want to be here, you want to play in the Premier League and if you can score on your debut, it's unbelievable."

An eventful match featured plenty of refereeing controversies, with Raheem Sterling perhaps lucky not to see red for a 12th-minute foul on Dele Alli.

City were then awarded a penalty by VAR, only for Hugo Lloris to deny Ilkay Gundogan from 12 yards, while Spurs boss Jose Mourinho was left enraged when Sterling appeared to go to ground easily following up, but avoided a second yellow card despite VAR determining he had not been fouled by Lloris.

Spurs nevertheless prevailed and Son hailed the importance of the victory ahead of a 14-day break from top-flight action.

"We have a cup game, but [to get this win] before the winter break, it gives us very good confidence," said Son.

"Look at the fans, they are happy, and look at the players' smiles after the games. I think this is very important to win.

"Sometimes we had to defend all together but in the second half we came out strong, this guy [Bergwijn] scored an amazing goal and I think the lads have done a really good job."

While Liverpool extended their lead at the top of the Premier League to record-breaking levels with an easy win over Southampton, the battle beneath them for places in the top four heated up.

The Reds thumped the Saints 4-0 at Anfield to open up a 22-point gap over Manchester City - the biggest lead any team has ever held at the top of the English top-flight - and Pep Guardiola's men lost 2-0 in a chaotic game at Tottenham a day later.

Fourth-placed Chelsea looked set to narrow the gap to Leicester City above them when they took the lead at King Power Stadium but the Foxes fought back in a 2-2 draw, while Sheffield United briefly moved up to fifth before Spurs' win after a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace.

Two sides just outside the European qualification places, Manchester United and Wolves played out a goalless draw at Old Trafford but there was no shortage of goals at West Ham or Watford.

The weekend's Opta data tells the story of 15 goals across four of the most entertaining clashes of matchweek 25, with fortunes affected at both ends of the table.

BUTTERFINGERED FOXES FRITTER LEAD AGAINST BLUES

Leicester City came from behind to lead 2-1 against Chelsea but the trend that has seen them regularly drop from winning positions continued.

Antonio Rudiger, who opened the scoring after 46 minutes, became the first defender to score twice for Chelsea in a Premier League match since John Terry against Fulham in April 2013 to ensure the points were shared.

Leicester have dropped eight points from winning positions in their last four league outings, more than they had in their previous 59 matches since the start of the 2018-19 campaign (six).

Chelsea have failed to win six of the games in which they have scored the first goal this season (D5 L1), pegged back as they were by Harvey Barnes' third goal in three league games and Ben Chilwell's 64th-minute strike.

Those goals took the Blues' tally of goals conceded on the road to 22 in 13 games, and manager Frank Lampard must address his side's defensive frailties if they are to keep their place in the Premier League top four.

CHERRIES EXPLOIT VILLA'S PROBLEMS ON THE ROAD

Back-to-back victories have moved Bournemouth up to 16th and they leapfrogged Aston Villa after beating Dean Smith's men 2-1 at Vitality Stadium.

Prior to their wins over Brighton and Hove Albion and Villa, the Cherries had only won two of their previous 17 Premier League matches but Eddie Howe's side took advantage of a defence that does not travel well to make it two wins from two.

Villa are the only side in the division yet to register a clean sheet away from home this season and they fell behind when Phillip Billing scored his first league goal for Bournemouth in his 23rd appearance for the club.

Nathan Ake extended Bournemouth's lead before Mbwana Samatta scored Villa's first headed Premier League goal in almost four years.

The consolation strike came on Samatta's league debut, making the Tanzanian attacker Villa's first first player to score on his league bow since Rudy Gestede scored against Bournemouth in August 2015.

JOY OF SIX FOR MOURINHO AFTER BERGWIJN'S DEBUT DELIGHT

Jose Mourinho enjoyed his sixth victory over Pep Guardiola after goals from Steven Bergwijn and Son Heung-min helped Tottenham beat the champions at home.

Mourinho has now beaten Guardiola's sides with Inter, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Spurs, with Sunday's victory Tottenham's first over City in the Premier League since they won by the same scoreline in October 2016.

City had Oleksandr Zinchenko sent off as they slipped to a sixth Premier League defeat of the season - their joint-most in a single campaign under Guardiola (six in 2016-17).

Bergwijn became the Premier League's 13th Dutchman to score on his debut and the competition's 250th player to do so, before Son scored his fifth goal against City in all competitions since the start of 2016-17 - only Jamie Vardy (six) has scored more against them in that period.

 

HAMMERS IN THE DROP ZONE AFTER POINTS SHARED IN THRILLER

West Ham were 2-0 up at half-time against Brighton but left London Stadium still winless in the Premier League against the Seagulls, who fought back to draw 3-3.

The Hammers have drawn three and lost three of their six Premier League clashes with Brighton and this was not the first time they have dropped points from a winning position this season.

In fact, David Moyes' team have lost more points from winning positions than any other top-flight team this season (19) but the last time they failed to win a game in which they led by two goals was back in October 2017 when they drew 2-2 with Crystal Palace.

Brighton have avoided defeat after trailing by two goals on three occasions, the first two coming in September 2018 when they drew 2-2 with Fulham and Southampton.

Jose Mourinho felt Raheem Sterling was lucky to avoid a "clear red card" in the opening stages of Tottenham's 2-0 home win over Manchester City.

Second-half strikes from debutant Steven Bergwijn and Son Heung-min sealed a valuable victory for Mourinho's side on Sunday, with City having seen Oleksandr Zinchenko dismissed for a second booking on the hour mark, shortly before the opening goal.

Ilkay Gundogan had a first-half penalty saved for City, who had 18 shots to their opponents' three, but Mourinho believed it would have been a very different contest had Sterling been shown red for a 12th-minute challenge on Dele Alli that was reviewed by VAR, only for a yellow card to be awarded.

Sterling's foot appeared to brush the top of the ball before making firm contact with Alli's ankle, leaving the Spurs boss unimpressed.

"I'm so pleased for the boys," Mourinho told Sky Sports. "We can look at the perspective that we were a bit lucky in a couple of situations, they [City] hit the post or they missed a good chance.

"But we can see it from the other perspective and say that we were very, very unlucky that the VAR didn't decide for a Sterling red card, which is a clear red card.

"From that moment obviously it is a completely different game if you have to play 75 minutes or something like that against 10 men. So 11 v 11, [it was] really difficult, hard, but my boys were very well organised, great effort, great discipline."

Mourinho also appeared enraged when Sterling took a tumble immediately after Hugo Lloris had kept out Gundogan's spot-kick, only to avoid a second yellow card for simulation even though VAR ruled he had not been fouled by the goalkeeper.

However, he had high praise for midfielders Giovani Lo Celso and Harry Winks, and goalkeeper Lloris.

"Against City, they love the ball, they know better than anyone to know what to do with the ball, so when they have the ball for the majority of the time it's hard, but I think [we had] fantastic performances, great concentration," the Portuguese added.

"The way Lo Celso and Winks, they controlled Kevin De Bruyne, the movements that he does in these areas, and Lo Celso, the way he controls also that position where Sterling comes inside and Gundogan supports them. I think the boys were phenomenal in there, in their effort.

"The goalkeeper saved a penalty – I think it was God's will because it's not a penalty – but our goalkeeper is fantastic and he's there to try and give us points."

Bergwijn's wonderful goal saw the new signing from PSV control the ball on his chest before firing home a superb volley on the turn.

"[It was] so sharp, technically so comfortable, chest, volley," said Mourinho. "[It was] unstoppable, even for a great goalkeeper like Ederson."

Tottenham versus Manchester City. Jose Mourinho against Pep Guardiola. The Premier League champions, title hopes hanging by the most threadbare of all threads, facing the Champions League finalists chasing a route into next season's tournament.

This was a truly special occasion for none of the above. No, this was the day VAR became the undisputed star of the show, hogging the limelight with barely a hint of trying to help the football match taking place.  

February 2, 2020 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium confirmed to the watching world that FIFA's Video Assistant Referee has turned Premier League games into the Hunger Games. This sport is now 22 players and four officials thrust together at the mercy of the Stockley Park Gamemakers. For fans of farce, the odds are ever in your favour.

Credit must go to Sunday's match officials, too, the man in the middle the perfect conductor of the modern game's death march. Forget 'The People's Elbow' – the Mike Dean Mid-Air TV Screen is now the most electrifying move in sports entertainment. He is the ultimate master of ceremonies for football's silliest moments, of which VAR is now the lead actor.

It began 13 minutes in when Raheem Sterling planted studs into Dele Alli's ankle and VAR opted not to tell Dean to change the yellow card to a red. On the sidelines, Guardiola was relieved; a nonplussed Mourinho made his feelings clear.

Some 26 minutes later – it's hard to say, thanks to VAR – Sergio Aguero, who earlier hit the post, was tripped by Serge Aurier in the box and no foul was given. City seemed so certain of a mistake that they played somewhere close to two minutes of keep-ball before Dean finally intervened. First there was the whistle, then the customary touching of the earpiece, and lastly the TV monitor stencilled into the cool winter air, followed by the four-fingered thrust at the penalty spot. It was showmanship fit to grace London's West End. Mourinho could only sit in the stalls and smile.

Then the football narrative got in the way, albeit briefly. Ilkay Gundogan stepped up and saw his penalty saved by Hugo Lloris, meaning City have failed to score four of their past six attempts from the spot in all competitions. Within a second or two, it was back to VAR, Dean's decision not to give a penalty being scrutinised again after Sterling nipped in to beat Lloris to the rebound before his knees hit the turf. Players, coaches and spectators held their breath until, at last, came VAR's decree. There was to be no second penalty, no dive, and maximum exposure to the headlines.

City players were incensed. Spurs demanded a second booking for Sterling. Mourinho leapt from his chair to argue the case with the fourth official. Dean sent everyone back to their positions, withdrew the yellow card from his pocket, and waited. He was now in his element, Milton's Lucifer from Paradise Lost made flesh: the wary fiend had emerged from Chaos to stand upon the brink of Hell, and looked a while, pondering his voyage. He first booked Toby Alderweireld, then strode further into the City half to Oleksandr Zinchenko and flashed yellow his way, too. Only then was football allowed to resume.

So it was that a top-level game became wholly, inexorably about VAR, Tottenham's potentially title-race-deciding win a mere sideshow. Zinchenko's correct second booking for a body-check on Harry Winks was only noteworthy because of the first-half nonsense. The fact Winks played one of his best games in a Spurs shirt, shackling City's midfield runners and controlling the space in which they thrive with barely a misstep, was a footnote. A sublime debut goal from Steven Bergwijn, a chest-and-volley of impudent quality, and a deflected second from Son Heung-min were simply part of the encore.

Spurs are up to fifth, four points off the top four. City have now lost six games and sit 22 points adrift of Liverpool, who can win the title on March 21. Mourinho showed he can still outfox Guardiola, still best the very best in the business. City had 18 shots yet failed to score in back-to-back league games for the first time since March 2016. Bergwijn was almost overcome in celebrating a goal he will never forget. Davinson Sanchez hit his own crossbar with an injury-time header.

So what? This was VAR's time to shine.

Steven Bergwijn scored a superb volley on his debut as Tottenham earned a 2-0 victory over Manchester City, who dominated possession but missed a penalty and had Oleksandr Zinchenko sent off.

Pep Guardiola's men were perhaps guilty of overplaying in front of goal across the course of a game that exploded into life when Hugo Lloris saved an Ilkay Gundogan spot-kick in a frenetic climax a tense first half at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The champions remained on top until Zinchenko received a second booking and his marching orders, leaving Spurs to capitalise on their man advantage almost immediately with Bergwijn's memorable strike after 63 minutes.

Son Heung-Min's seventh top-flight goal of the season left City with too much to do in the final 20 minutes and they suffered a first defeat in six league outings that all but extinguishes their already faint title hopes with Liverpool 22 points clear at the top of the table.

Kevin De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero missed early chances in the Spurs box and Raheem Sterling escaped with just a yellow card after a dangerous challenge that almost buckled Dele Alli's ankle.

Riyad Mahrez turned his back on a shooting chance when he mistakenly thought he had been flagged offside but moments later his threaded pass sent Aguero through for a shot against the foot of the post as Spurs came under fire.

The half ended in chaos, with a belated VAR review overturning referee Mike Dean's decision not to award Aguero a penalty following a clumsy challenge by Serge Aurier.

After Gundogan's spot-kick was saved by Lloris, there was an angry melee as Tottenham's players fumed over Sterling's attempt to win another penalty when he tumbled over the goalkeeper's arms, with Toby Alderweireld and Zinchenko booked for their contributions.

A mix-up between Lloris and Japhet Tanganga allowed Aguero to loop a shot towards goal that was cleared as far as Sterling and he squared to Gundogan, who blazed over the crossbar with the net gaping.

Zinchenko was shown a second yellow card for barging Harry Winks as the Spurs midfielder broke towards the half-way line and shortly after the hosts were ahead.

Lucas Moura chipped the ball to the edge of the box where Bergwijn controlled it with his chest and volleyed into the bottom-right corner of the net with exquisite technique.

Eight minutes later, Tanguy Ndombele carved an opening for Son, whose deflected shot from just inside the box beat Ederson at his near post to double Tottenham's lead and the closest City came to pulling one back was a Davinson Sanchez header against his own crossbar at the death.

 

What does it mean? Liverpool's title party plans come forward

With City trailing so far behind, Liverpool need just 18 more points to clinch the Premier League title and at the rate they are winning games that will not take long.

Tottenham, meanwhile, are up to fifth in the table and will be confident of closing the four-point gap to Chelsea above them after beating the champions.

Winks fares well in De Bruyne battle

Kevin De Bruyne tends to control games from his position in the City engine room but Harry Winks broke up the play and put Spurs on the front foot at key moments to help turn the game.

Rodrigo fades after promising start

Rodrigo showed glimpses of his silky passing abilities early on but by the second half was little more than a bystander as Spurs turned the screw.

What's next?

City are back at Etihad Stadium on Sunday when West Ham are the visitors, while Spurs travel to Aston Villa in the league after their midweek FA Cup replay against Southampton.

Dele Alli admitted Tottenham have lost an "unbelievable player" in Christian Eriksen.

Eriksen, 27, finalised a long-awaited move to Inter on Tuesday in a deal reportedly worth €20million (£16.8m).

Spurs accepted the cut-price offer after the Danish playmaker entered the final six months of his contract.

Jose Mourinho claimed Eriksen lacked motivation but England international Alli had nothing but praise for his former team-mate, who spent six-and-a-half seasons in north London.

"He's a worldie," Alli told Sky Sports. "I sent him a sad face on message, but I'm sure I'll speak to him.

"He's an unbelievable player. Yeah, he'll be missed here, but this is a different step in his career.

"Since the start of the season there's been a lot of speculation and now it's gone through I wish him all the best, because he's a great friend and a great person."

Eriksen struggled to cement a regular place in Mourinho's starting side but Alli has had no such trouble, fast becoming a favourite under the former Manchester United manager.

The 23-year-old's form has improved since Mauricio Pochettino made way in November and he said was "feeling good" after a difficult start to the campaign.

"The more mature I'm getting, the more I'm playing and learning not just about football but about life," Alli said.

"It's nice to be praised, but the same people can be waiting to shoot you down. So you keep working hard, and listen to the right people. Whoever you choose to listen to is the main thing – the manager, players, team-mates and people around the club, their opinion is important.

"I think I can always do better. I've played well in some games, and in others I know I haven't played good enough."

Giovani Lo Celso has said he now feels completely comfortable at Tottenham following a bumpy introduction to the Premier League.

The Argentina international lost almost two months to a hip injury in the early part of his Spurs career and the manager who brought him in on loan from Real Betis, Mauricio Pochettino, was sacked in November.

Yet suggestions crafty left-footer Lo Celso might not fit under new boss Jose Mourinho have been quashed through a run of four consecutive starts.

Tottenham turned his temporary stay into a permanent, long-term contract on Tuesday, enabling the midfielder to look forward with optimism.

"Right now I'm really enjoying the moment of being at such a big club like Spurs," Lo Celso told the Guardian.

"In the beginning it wasn't so easy for me. I was coming to a new league, a new language, a new culture, and then I got injured shortly after arriving. But right now I couldn't feel better."

The 23-year-old's ability to unlock opposition defences became more valuable to Spurs when Christian Eriksen finally completed a long-rumoured move to Inter.

Lo Celso distanced himself from comparisons with the Danish playmaker and instead set his focus on beating Manchester City on Sunday.

"We know that it's going to be a really difficult match against a team with fantastic players who have been at the top of the game for the last few years," he said.

"But for us it's really important to win and to put a good performance out there and take home the three points.

"We're at a big club. We've got high expectations. We go out to win all our matches.

"Now, of course, we are coming up against a big opponent but we know we have all the weapons to hurt them and win the match."

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola hailed Jose Mourinho as an "incredible manager" and said it will take time for Tottenham to get going under the Portuguese.

The pair, who know each other well from their time in Spain and England, are set to renew acquaintances on Sunday when City travel to Tottenham in the Premier League

Mourinho has endured a largely underwhelming tenure since succeeding Mauricio Pochettino in November, winning eight and losing five of his first 17 games in charge.

Spurs are 17 points behind second-placed City and were held 1-1 by Southampton in the FA Cup fourth round last weekend, but Guardiola can already see a difference in their playing style.

Asked how Tottenham differ under Mourinho compared to Pochettino's time in north London, Guardiola told reporters: "They are incredibly aggressive. 

"I saw the last game against Southampton and I saw a team completely alive. 

"They conceded in the last minutes but I saw a team that I think is there. Every manager has different ideas. Both are incredible managers. 

"Pochettino was five or six years there and Mourinho just months, so every manager needs time to make their team play the way they want. It is still too early."

Guardiola has already conceded City are out of the Premier League title race, with runaway leaders Liverpool opening up a 19-point lead by winning at West Ham in midweek.

But the Spaniard insisted it is not for him to determine whether his fourth season at the Etihad Stadium will be considered a failure if they also miss out on winning the Champions League.

"It is down to you lot to judge my season," he said. "It is a perfect season if you win all the titles, a nice season if you win the biggest title.

"I'm proud of my team and we're still competing every single game. We won the first title in the summer and now we're in another final against Aston Villa. 

"We are far away from Liverpool because they would be champions in Timbuktu, Australia and everywhere. 

"We're not close but are in a good position to qualify for the Champions League and now face the kings of the cup - Real Madrid have won it 13 times - so we will see.

"If you ask for my opinion on the season, I would tell you let us finish and after we will see."

How close did Gareth Bale come to reuniting with Tottenham on transfer deadline day?

According to reports, the Premier League club went so far as to send representatives to Spain in an audacious attempt to lure the Wales international back to north London.

But even Jose Mourinho's backing could not force the deal over the line on Friday.

 

TOP STORY - SPURS INVESTIGATED AUDACIOUS BALE BID

Tottenham's interest in re-signing Bale prompted chairman Daniel Levy to skip across Europe for talks with Real Madrid counterpart Florentino Perez, according to the Times.

Spurs reportedly believed a "breakthrough" had been made in the hours before the window closed and had "growing confidence" a deal could be agreed.

But, per the Daily Mail, Bale's reluctance to take a pay cut on his £600,000-per-week wages meant negotiations came unstuck.

The report claims head coach Mourinho was "fully behind" the ultimately fruitless attempt to pull off what would have been a statement of intent.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tottenham's near misses did not end with Bale. Sky Sports say Spurs and Antonio Conte's Inter attempted to sign Odion Ighalo before the Nigerian striker sealed his last-gasp loan switch to Manchester United.

- Serie A champions Juventus are certain to maintain their interest in United star Paul Pogba and Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali, claims CalcioMercato.

- Arsenal made two January additions but boss Mikel Arteta still wants a holding midfielder to arrive before next season, reports The Athletic.

- Crystal Palace called off their deal for Nathan Ferguson after the West Brom defender's medical revealed a knee issue, according to the Evening Standard.

- MLS expansion side Nashville are set to capture West Ham defender Winston Reid on a six-month loan, reports the New Zealand Herald.

Barcelona signed Brazilian midfielder Matheus Fernandes and Portuguese forward Francisco Trincao on transfer deadline day, but both players must wait for their chance to shine at Camp Nou.

Fernandes will join Quique Setien's squad from Palmeiras in July after a €10million package was agreed for the 21-year-old, who has played for the Brazil Under-20 team.

Braga accepted a €31m offer from Barca for 20-year-old forward Trincao, and he will also formally join the Catalan club's ranks at the end of the season.

Both players have agreed five-year contracts, the Blaugrana announced, with Fernandes' contract including a €300m buy-out clause and Trincao's deal showing a €500m clause.

Braga will take Barca's 18-year-old striker Abel Ruiz on loan until the end of the season and then make the deal permanent for €8m, with the LaLiga club having a buy-back option.

Barca were not the only Spanish club busy in the market though, with Celta Vigo signing striker Fyodor Smolov on loan from Lokomotiv Moscow until the end of the season.

Atletico Madrid re-signed Belgian winger Yannick Carrasco, almost two years after he left to join Chinese side Dalian Yifang. The 26-year-old joined until the end of the season on loan.
 

STAYING PUT

Deadline day was as notable for the deals that looked to have fallen through as those that were completed.

Paris Saint-Germain ruled out allowing Edinson Cavani to leave, as a host of clubs fancied taking the Uruguayan off their hands, while Chelsea refused to let France striker Olivier Giroud depart Stamford Bridge.

Tottenham were among the clubs keen on Giroud, but Jose Mourinho looked like missing out on the striker he wanted to strengthen a front-line depleted by the loss of injured England captain Harry Kane.

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane said Gareth Bale would not be leaving the Santiago Bernabeu.

Manchester United remained linked with Bournemouth forward Joshua King, but time was running out for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to add new faces to his Old Trafford squad.

United made one signing, but it was a low-profile deal as England Under-20 goalkeeper Nathan Bishop arrived from third-tier Southend United.

Arsenal brought in defender Cedric Soares on loan from Southampton.

In Scotland, champions Celtic shipped out Scotland international Lewis Morgan to Major League Soccer side Inter Miami, who are part-owned by David Beckham.

Belgian side Genk allowed attacking midfielder Ianis Hagi, son of Romanian great Gheorghe Hagi, to join Scottish giants Rangers on loan.
 

KOUAME, DUNCAN IN

Serie A transfer activity was dominated by Fiorentina, who signed Ivorian forward Christian Kouame from Genoa, initially on loan. The deal will be made permanent at the end of the season.

They also brought in Ghanaian midfielder Alfred Duncan from Sassuolo in a similar deal, a loan with an obligation to buy.

Reports in Italy said Kevin-Prince Boateng was set to leave Fiorentina among the incomings, with Besiktas his destination. Turkish giants Besiktas also snapped up 18-year-old Croatian midfielder Ajdin Hasic from Dinamo Zagreb on permanent terms.

Atalanta agreed a loan deal with Nice, acquiring defender Adrien Tameze from the Ligue 1 outfit with a purchase option.

World Cup winner Steven Nzonzi cut short a season-long loan from Roma to Galatasaray, returning to his French homeland with Rennes on a six-month loan with an option for a further year.
 

HERTHA BUSY

In the Bundesliga, Emre Can left Juventus for Borussia Dortmund on Friday evening, initially on loan until the end of the campaign but with a €25m fee agreed for a potential permanent transfer.

Elsewhere, Hertha Berlin followed up Thursday's signing of Krzysztof Piatek by prising 20-year-old Brazilian winger Matheus Cunha from table-toppers RB Leipzig, for whom he scored nine goals in 52 games.

Hertha managing director Michael Preetz said on the club's website: "We wanted to increase the quantity and improve the quality up front, which we have been able to do with the Piatek and Cunha transfers."

Leipzig also offloaded Austrian midfielder Stefan Ilsanker to Eintracht Frankfurt. He spent four-and-a-half years at Leipzig, joining them in the second tier.

Werder Bremen signed striker Davie Selke on an 18-month loan from Hertha, the 25-year-old returning to the club where he began his professional career.

Willian Jose has apologised to Real Sociedad and the club's fans after failing to force through a "dream" move to Tottenham.

The 28-year-old striker emerged as a reported Spurs target this month as Jose Mourinho sought cover for the injured Harry Kane.

Willian Jose has missed Sociedad's past three matches amid the uncertainty over his future, having asked to be excused from the Copa del Rey win over Espanyol on January 22 while hoping to leave the club.

However, the forward appears set to stay in LaLiga for at least the rest of the season after talks broke down with Spurs, who were reportedly unwilling to match Sociedad's €30million asking price.

Manchester United were also mentioned as suitors but the Red Devils are not expected to make an offer, meaning Willian Jose's focus for now is on winning back the supporters at Anoeta.

"I apologise to the fans for everything that has happened in the last few days," he told the club's media channel. "A lot of things happened, and I have to apologise to the fans, my team-mates, the coach as well, who are supporting me.

"I saw that it was a great opportunity for me to leave and play in the Champions League for a Premier League team. I have a dream of playing in the Premier League. It didn't happen, but I'm very happy.

"I'm always grateful to Real for everything they've given me, for how they have backed me, and now I just have to work as I was working in the last few weeks to win back my place.

"I said I wouldn't be called up for Espanyol. I don't know if it was the best decision, but it was how I thought at that moment. I had a lot of information in my head and I ended up telling the president that it wasn't in my head to go to the game.

"I apologise to everyone for what happened and now, I'll keep working every day to regain people's trust.

"It's not only the fans who've been hurt, but me, too. The last two weeks have been really painful for me, my wife and my family. I just want to keep working and keep helping my team-mates, scoring goals and bringing joy to the fans, and for those inside Anoeta to chant my name again - that would be a huge joy."

Jose Mourinho suggested a quick fix might have been the wrong move as Tottenham looked set to miss out on strengthening their strike force on deadline day.

The Spurs boss saw hopes of signing Chelsea's Olivier Giroud and Real Sociedad's Willian Jose fail to result in a new arrival.

It meant that barring an unexpected late signing on Friday, Tottenham appeared as though they would go into the closing months of the season with Son Heung-min continuing to deputise up front.

They have attacking midfield strength from the likes of Lucas Moura, Dele Alli and new arrival Steven Bergwijn, who joined from PSV this week.

But Mourinho wanted an extra striker and both Giroud and Willian Jose would have added more of a physical presence to his forward line.

Spurs will be without injured England frontman Harry Kane until April at the earliest, a blow to their Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup prospects.

"I have to answer that yes it would be better with a striker," Mourinho said.

"Yes, we would need a striker to have a better squad, to face the great challenges that we have in front of us in three different competitions.

"But we want to do things not to resolve the problems of today or tomorrow; we want things that are also good for the future.

"For example, Steven Bergwijn - I prefer to say Stevie - he's the kind of player that is good for now but he's also good for our future; he's also good for the direction we want to go.

"With the difficulties of the market in January, it was really hard to find the striker that is good not just to resolve the problems of today but good also for the future of the team, so probably we are not going to do it."

Mourinho jokingly opened his news conference ahead of Sunday's match against Manchester City by attempting to ward off questions about signings.

As reporters prepared to engage with the former Real Madrid and Manchester United boss, Mourinho got the first word in.

He said: "First question: are you expecting any player until the end of the market?.

"First answer: no.

"Second question: are you happy with your market?

"Yes I am.

"Third question: don't you want a striker?"

Gareth Bale's agent again quashed talk of Real Madrid's Welshman returning to Tottenham on Friday, with Mourinho seemingly set to save his transfer kitty for the close-season window.

Manchester United look set to continue scrambling for strikers throughout deadline day.

While Bruno Fernandes has finally arrived, the Red Devils were reportedly less successful in a surprise bid to bring Bournemouth forward Joshua King back to Old Trafford.

Now, with the countdown well and truly on, a Tottenham target appears to have been removed from United's radar.

 

TOP STORY - UNITED PASS ON WILLIAN JOSE

Though still without Marcus Rashford, United have rejected the chance to sign Willian Jose on loan, according to Sky Sports.

Real Sociedad reportedly failed to gain a bite after offering the Brazilian striker to the Champions League aspirants amid negotiations with another Premier League club in Tottenham.

Spurs earlier looked to be in pole position to sign the 28-year-old permanently, but may now have to settle for a temporary deal as discussions continue.

The prospect of a bolstering their attack following Rashford's injury would have appealed to United, who reportedly failed in an attempt to capture Cherries star King.

The Telegraph claims Eddie Howe's insistence on keeping the Norwegian denied Ole Gunnar Solskjaer the chance to reunite with the player he coached while in charge of United's reserve side.

 

ROUND-UP

- Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain will keep Edinson Cavani unless LaLiga side Atletico Madrid improve from €15million to €20m, according to ESPN reporter Julien Laurens.

- Juventus midfielder Emre Can will join Borussia Dortmund on loan with an obligation for the Bundesliga club to buy for €30m, reports Goal.

- Manchester City are set to beat Arsenal, Barcelona and Bayer Leverkusen to Coritiba's 17-year-old Brazilian right-back Yan Couto, claims Mundo Deportivo. 

- Ricardo Rodriguez is out the door and Milan might have settled on a shock replacement. Sky Sports suggests the Rossoneri have agreed an €11.9m (£10m) deal to take left-back Antonee Robinson from Championship outfit Wigan Athletic. The Serie A side are also said to be on the cusp of signing Anderlecht youngster Alexis Saelemaekers.

- Inter and Lazio are competing to secure Chelsea centre-forward Olivier Giroud before the transfer window shuts, claims Sky Sport Italia. 

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