Liverpool forward Sadio Mane was more deserving of the Best FIFA Men's Player award in 2019 than Barcelona star Lionel Messi, according to France great Alain Giresse.

After guiding Barca to LaLiga glory and the semi-finals of the Champions League last season, Messi won the accolade for a sixth time back in September – he was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 2009 and claimed four Ballons d'Or while it was backed by world football's governing body.

Mane finished fifth in the voting, behind Liverpool team-mates Virgil van Dijk and Mohamed Salah, and Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

But Giresse, who coached Mane during his time in charge of Senegal between 2013 and 2015, insists the 28-year-old should have finished top after starring for Liverpool on their way to Champions League success.

"I definitely would have put Sadio Mane ahead of Messi, in terms of the season they had last season," he told ESPN.

"When I was head coach of Senegal, Sadio was still young but he had ahead of him an enormous potential, a technical potential, and a moral potential to go on to become a great player, as he has become today."

Giresse, named French Player of the Year three times in the 1980s, was Tunisia head coach until August and should have been eligible to vote.

"I didn't receive the ballot sheet, so it wasn't me who voted [on Tunisia's behalf]. I can't say who did, but it wasn't me," he said. The top pick credited to Giresse was Ronaldo, with Van Dijk second and Messi third.

Former Bordeaux and Marseille midfielder Giresse also managed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at international level with Gabon. 

Aubameyang shared the Premier League Golden Boot with Mane and Salah last season and Giresse believes the Arsenal striker is now among the world's best.

"I launched Pierre-Emerick with the Gabon national team, at the start of his development, his expansion and his progression," he said.

"We can all see his pathway and the level he's reached now. We're talking about [him moving to] Real Madrid, so it shows how this player has reached a world-class level, and you could say the same about Sadio."

Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann has no interest in leaving the LaLiga giants.

Speculation over the France international's future has increased amid his, and Barca's, struggles.

But the 29-year-old seemingly wants more than one season at Barcelona.

 

TOP STORY – GRIEZMANN NOT INTERESTED IN BARCELONA EXIT

Griezmann has no interest in leaving Barcelona, according to Le Parisien.

Since arriving from Atletico Madrid for €120million, Griezmann has managed just 14 goals in 43 games this season.

Griezmann was introduced as a 90th-minute substitute in Barca's 2-2 draw with his former club on Tuesday.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Camp Nou and Quique Setien's future as Barcelona head coach remains a talking point after one win in four games. AS reports Setien is not in immediate danger but is far from safe, while Sport says his future is uncertain, although the club are hoping to keep him at the helm until the end of the season.

- Manchester City look set for a rebuild in the close season. The Guardian claims Bayern Munich defender David Alaba, who is out of contract next year, is a target for the Premier League giants.

- After making a stellar start to the season with Lyon before suffering a serious knee injury, Memphis Depay has been linked with a move. Le 10 Sport reports Arsenal want the attacker, who has 14 goals in 18 games this season.

- Carlos Tevez's future remains uncertain. Ole says the former Manchester United and Manchester City forward, 36, could retire as he struggles to agree to a new contract with Boca Juniors.

- With Bruno Lage on his way out as Benfica coach, the Portuguese giants are searching for a new boss. According to A Bola, Benfica have looked at the likes of Mauricio Pochettino, Ernesto Valverde and Laurent Blanc, but are now considering former Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal coach Unai Emery.

- Tottenham defender Serge Aurier could be set for a move. Sky Sports reports Monaco are interested in the Ivory Coast right-back.

Bukayo Saka has ended speculation around his future at Arsenal after signing a new "long-term" contract, the club confirmed.

Saka, 18, made his Premier League debut last season as a 17-year-old and has established himself as a regular first-team member in 2019-20.

Although most at home on the left wing, Saka has also deputised as a left-back for the Gunners this season and done so to great acclaim.

Despite essentially being played out of position for much of the campaign, he has still managed to weigh in with 11 assists, making him the first teenager to reach 10 in a single season since Cesc Fabregas in 2006-07.

An England youth international and product of Arsenal's academy, Saka looks destined for a bright future and the next few years are set to be with the Gunners, who had grown concerned about the prospect of losing him on a free transfer next year, when his previous deal was due to expire.

Head coach Mikel Arteta said: "Bukayo is a talented and intelligent young player. He has impressed me with his work ethic and attitude to learn and adapt, and it has paid off in his performances.

"I am excited to continue working with him to develop him further, and for him to help us achieve our goals."

And technical director Edu added: "This is something everyone involved wanted to happen and we are delighted that Bukayo has signed a new long-term contract.

"He's making great progress and is one of a number of young players who have developed through our academy. This is so important for us as we move forward as a club."

 

Arsenal issued a strong response to Saint-Etienne after the French club criticised them over negoations concerning William Saliba ahead of the Coupe de France final. 

Saliba signed for Arsenal in a reported £25million deal last year before being loaned back to Les Verts for the 2019-20 campaign. 

Although Ligue 1 was ended prematurely due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Coupe de France final is to go ahead on July 24. 

Saint-Etienne will face Paris Saint-Germain in that contest and had hoped Saliba, 19, would be available for it, while Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta also expressed a desire for the France Under-20 international to have that opportunity. 

But Saint-Etienne confirmed on Tuesday they were unable to reach an agreement with the Gunners, who they claimed tried to impose "absolutely unacceptable sporting and financial conditions" on any extension. 

Arsenal insist they were willing for Saliba to extend his stay, but they wanted him to be on a specific training schedule and to not lose out financially. 

"Throughout our discussions with Saint-Etienne, our aim has been to protect the welfare of William Saliba as well as the interests of Arsenal Football Club, while honouring the terms of the loan," a statement read. 

"Despite the loan ending on June 30, we were willing to find a way for William to play in the [French] cup final on July 24, despite having no contractual obligation to do so. 

"As William is returning from injury, we asked that Saint-Etienne follow a clear training plan with William in close collaboration with us, to ensure he is fully fit for the start of next season.

"To our surprise we were unable to reach agreement to this plan which was proposed by our medical experts, and we are simply not prepared to risk the welfare of an Arsenal player.

"While it was not our primary concern, and ultimately not relevant as our training plan was not accepted, we also expected not to be financially disadvantaged by extending the loan. This was also not acceptable to Saint-Etienne.

"We know this is a disappointment for William, but he understands we are working to protect his long-term interests and those of Arsenal."

Henrikh Mkhitaryan will remain on loan at Roma for the rest of the season, with the Serie A club also revealing he is set to stay in Italy for a further year. 

Mkhitaryan has made 19 appearances in all competitions since joining from Arsenal in September and has recently returned from injury. 

Roma will have the Armenia international available for the closing weeks of a campaign that was delayed for several months due to the coronavirus pandemic, while there is also a preliminary agreement for 2020-21 in place. 

"I'm very pleased," Mkhitaryan - who has started the previous two games - said. 

"I'm happy to extend my stay here, because I still have things that I haven’t achieved yet that I want to achieve. 

"I'm looking forward to it." 

Mkhitaryan moved to the Gunners from Manchester United in January 2018 as part of the deal that sent Alexis Sanchez in the opposite direction. 

Roma sit fifth in the Serie A table but are nine points adrift of fourth-placed Atalanta. Paulo Fonseca's squad are still in the Europa League too, with a one-off tie against Sevilla to come early next month. 

"We are happy that Henrikh has decided to stay with us, and help us continue to grow," Roma CEO Guido Fienga said. 

"The club's targets have not changed and we always want to have players at our club, like Micki, who show their desire, professionalism and determination, who represent our club and our fans in the right way." 

Add Tottenham to the list of Sergej Milinkovic-Savic admirers.

The Lazio star and Serbia international has teams queuing up for his services, with Paris Saint-Germain reportedly tipped to secure his signature.

However, Premier League outfit Spurs are now eyeing Milinkovic-Savic.

 

TOP STORY – MILINKOVIC-SAVIC WANTED BY SPURS

Jose Mourinho is interested in bringing Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to Tottenham, according to Foot Mercato.

Milinkovic-Savic is a player in demand, having been linked with the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Juventus, Manchester City and Chelsea.

While a move for Milinkovic-Savic appears out of reach for Spurs, Jose Mourinho is still dreaming.

 

ROUND-UP

- While Milinkovic-Savic is a dream for Spurs, The Telegraph says Tottenham are confident of signing Southampton's Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Mourinho, however, must raise transfer funds through sales from his squad.

Inter are in advanced talks with Brescia to finalise a deal for star Sandro Tonali, according to journalist Nicolo Schira. Inter have agreed a five-year deal with Tonali.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's future at Milan beyond the 2019-20 season is complicated, says Calciomercato. Ibrahimovic is out of contract at the end of the campaign and the 38-year-old striker is no closer to signing an extension. While he would like to remain at San Siro, an extension looks set to be postponed until the proposed arrival of Ralf Rangnick as head coach.

- Sport Bild reports Bayern Munich are hopeful of extending David Alaba's contract, despite failing to come to an agreement at a meeting last week. Alaba has been linked to Chelsea recently. Meanwhile, Sky Sport says Bayern are not prepared to exercise their option to sign Ivan Perisic permanently from Inter following his loan spell.

- ABC says Real Betis have been in negotiations with former West Ham, Real Madrid and Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini about their coaching vacancy.

Milan and Napoli are both interested in Fiorentina defender Nikola Milenkovic, claims Le10 Sport. The Serbian could be a replacement for Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, who has been linked to the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Real Madrid.

- The Daily Mail reports Arsenal are ready to use out-of-favour midfielder Matteo Guendouzi as a bargaining chip in a potential swap deal. United, PSG, Madrid and Barca have emerged as possible destinations.

Manchester City could be ready to challenge rivals Manchester United for Aston Villa star Jack Grealish.

Grealish, 24, has been linked with a move away from Villa, with Old Trafford seemingly his most likely destination.

But City may be primed to join the race for the attacker.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY CONSIDER MOVE FOR MAN UTD TARGET GREALISH

Manchester City will consider a move for Grealish if they receive their asking price for Leroy Sane from Bayern Munich, according to The Telegraph.

Sane is set to leave the Premier League giants this close season amid continued links to Bayern.

And City could challenge Manchester United for Grealish – who has scored nine goals and provided eight assists in 35 games this season – if their asking price is met.

ROUND-UP

- Quique Setien is under increasing pressure at Barcelona. RAC1 reports Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu, chief executive Oscar Grau, sporting director Javier Bordas and technical secretary Eric Abidal met at Setien's house on Monday to discuss the current situation. Trailing Real Madrid by two points in LaLiga, Esport3 says Setien could be fired as early as this week.

- Arsenal have made a decision regarding Dani Ceballos. The Sun says the Premier League club will not make a move to buy the midfielder from Real Madrid when his loan deal expires at the end of the season.

- With Serie A promotion secured, Benevento could be set to strengthen. Gianluca Di Marzio reports the club are set to sign former Chelsea forward Loic Remy, who is coming out of contract at Lille.

- Real Sociedad are leading the chase to sign Real Madrid midfielder Takefusa Kubo on loan next season, according to AS. The 19-year-old has been on loan at Mallorca this season, while Milan are also reportedly interested in the Japan international.

- With Timo Werner joining Chelsea, RB Leipzig have seemingly found a replacement from the forward. According to Sky, Hwang Hee-chan will join Leipzig from Salzburg for about €10million. Hwang has been linked to the likes of Liverpool and Wolves.

- Celtic are reportedly keen to hold onto Fraser Forster. The goalkeeper has been on loan from Southampton this season and The Sun reports Celtic want to buy the former England international.

Real Madrid or Manchester United? 

The two European giants appear to be the likeliest options for Jadon Sancho, who continues to be linked with a move away from Borussia Dortmund. 

Sancho has been tipped to make the move to Old Trafford but the England international could be set to grace the Santiago Bernabeu instead. 

 

TOP STORY – MADRID AND UNITED FIGHTING OVER SANCHO

Real Madrid and Manchester United are going head-to-head to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, according to Le10 Sport.

Sancho has been tipped to leave Dortmund for United, though Madrid, Chelsea, Liverpool, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain have all emerged as possible destinations.

Zinedine Zidane reportedly wants to bring Sancho to Madrid as Dortmund demand a huge fee.

 

ROUND-UP

- Could Sergio Aguero and Milan Skriniar be set to swap clubs? Calciomercato reports Inter are eyeing Manchester City star Aguero in a deal that would see Nerazzurri defender Skriniar move in the opposite direction. Inter could be in the market for a forward as Barca eye Lautaro Martinez, while Pep Guardiola's City are desperate to bolster their defence.

- There has been no decision on David Alaba's future, according to Bild journalist Christian Falk. The Bayern Munich star has been linked to City, Juventus, Chelsea and PSG.

Mauricio Pochettino is in talks to take over Portuguese giants Benfica, Record says. Pochettino has been out of work since he was sacked by Tottenham in November.

- Calciomercato claims Milan's hierarchy will confront Mino Raiola in the next 48 hours to try to finalise a new contract for star goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Arsenal have made an offer for Levante midfielder Enis Bardhi, reports Onda Cero. Fiorentina and an unnamed Bundesliga club are also interested.

Barca and Juve are expected to announce the swap deal involving Arthur and Miralem Pjanic on Monday after undergoing medicals, according to widespread speculation. Arthur will join Juve, while Pjanic is set to replace the Brazilian at Barca.

Manchester United will take on Chelsea as Arsenal face Newcastle United or holders Manchester City in the FA Cup semi-finals.

With five Premier League teams remaining in the hat, the draw took place at half-time during City's clash with Newcastle at St James' Park – Pep Guardiola's side having taken a 1-0 lead into the interval thanks to Kevin De Bruyne's penalty.

United - who needed extra-time to see off Norwich City on Saturday, with Harry Maguire scoring late in a 2-1 win - were drawn first and will go up against Frank Lampard's side, who defeated Leicester City 1-0 on Sunday.

It is a repeat of the 2017-18 FA Cup final, which Chelsea won 1-0 under Antonio Conte.

Arsenal required a stoppage-time effort from Dani Ceballos to book their place in the last four, with the Gunners' winner against Sheffield United coming just four minutes after David McGoldrick had struck a late equaliser.

The semi-final ties will be played behind closed doors at Wembley Stadium on July 18 and 19, with the final scheduled for August 1.

Mikel Arteta believes Nicolas Pepe has "incredible potential", having already developed a greater understanding of what is required from him at Arsenal.

The club's record signing from Lille scored the opening goal in the FA Cup quarter-final victory at Sheffield United on Sunday, converting from the penalty spot in the first half.

Pepe has now scored eight times and registered the same number of assists during a promising debut campaign, though Arteta is confident there is still more to come from the talented 25-year-old.

Arsenal's head coach has been particularly pleased with how the player has grasped his responsibilities without the ball, as well as providing a threat in attack.

"I am very excited about what he can bring and what he's bringing to the team this season," Arteta told the media after the 2-1 victory at Bramall Lane sealed by a late goal from Dani Ceballos.

"I think he's made a click. I think he realises what he needs to do as well when we don't have the ball.

"I'm so pleased today. If you see his defensive actions, it's incredible what he was doing and then with the ball he gives us that creativity. He's a player that we need. It's always unpredictable what can happen when he has the ball is at his feet.

"I think [he is going] in the right direction."

Pepe joined Arsenal when Unai Emery was in charge but Arteta has been impressed by the Ivory Coast international - both on and off the field - since taking charge at Emirates Stadium late in 2019.

"I didn't know him personally but I think he's a player with incredible potential," Arteta - who won the FA Cup twice as a player with the Gunners - said.

"He needs to just be decisive in every game and take care of moments in the game when he disconnects himself a little bit, he cannot do that and I will be very persistent with him to try to change that because if he's at his best, he's a player that can make a difference for the team.

"He's such a nice boy, always smiling, always positive around everybody. He's a bit of a free spirit but that's good.

"You need all types of characters in the team and now he's showing his commitment to us."

Arsenal return to Premier League duty in midweek, hosting bottom club Norwich City on Wednesday.

Mikel Arteta must solve Arsenal's defensive issues if the club want to be regularly competing for trophies, according to Robin van Persie.

The Gunners made it through to the last four of the FA Cup on Sunday, defeating Sheffield United 2-1 at Bramall Lane thanks to a stoppage-time winner from substitute Dani Ceballos.

However, the late goal helped overshadow the shoddy defending that had allowed United to draw level in the closing minutes, Sead Kolasinac's weak clearance hitting Shkodran Mustafi to inadvertently set up David McGoldrick.

Arsenal have conceded 41 goals in 31 Premier League games and, while supporting Arteta's appointment, Van Persie feels reinforcements are required to strengthen a long-standing area of weakness.

"What I believe is it is very important for Arsenal and for Mikel to find a way to fix the set pieces," the former Arsenal and Manchester United forward said while speaking alongside Rio Ferdinand on BT Sport.

"Corners, set pieces, crosses, you're always holding your breath and thinking, 'Arsenal might concede'. You fix that with mental toughness.

"It's like when I played with you [Ferdinand] and Vida [Nemanja Vidic], you would die to save the ball. You would put your head first, you would give everything to block the ball.

"That mentality is needed to compete for trophies. To be honest, I don't really see that now and that's not new either, we talked about this before and it was even an issue in my time there.

"You need to find defenders who want to do absolutely everything to block that ball. They should try to find those types of defenders.

"I'm not saying these guys are bad, but there is another level up if you want to win trophies."

David Luiz made his return to action in the FA Cup following his red card in the Premier League defeat at Manchester City.

The Brazilian centre-back played 54 minutes before going off with an ankle injury - Arteta revealed the player will be assessed on Monday in his post-match interview - after signing a new one-year deal this week.

Van Persie, however, is not convinced, suggesting before kick-off he would be attempting to rough up the defender if he was in the opposing team.

"If you play against him, I would go at him, almost try to bully him and to make physical contact with him and move around him, try to tease him a little bit because he is vulnerable," the Dutchman said.

"The first job you have to do is to defend, be solid and be trustworthy. If you have extra, you can dribble, do some nice passes, perfect. But he needs to focus on his job."

Mikel Arteta is delighted with the way his young Arsenal players are "evolving" as the Gunners fought their way into the FA Cup semi-finals with a 2-1 win at Sheffield United.

It appeared the game was headed for extra-time when David McGoldrick cancelled out Nicolas Pepe's first-half penalty in the 87th minute.

Arsenal responded with an injury-time winner through Dani Ceballos, though, and head coach Arteta was impressed with the attitude of his youngsters.

"They [Arsenal's young players] are evolving and they are really willing and finding a lot of personality to play," he told BT Sport. 

"You can see the way they played and Eddie [Nketiah] the way he came on and fights with everybody, he doesn't care. I really like that."

After back-to-back defeats to resume their halted Premier League season, Arsenal have rebounded with a top-flight win against Southampton and their cup success versus the Blades.

"We really needed that, we played four away games after the coronavirus [break], it's not easy to do that in the Premier League and hopefully we can get some momentum going now," Arteta said.

Arsenal are back at Wembley and two wins away from lifting a first trophy under Arteta, who was appointed Unai Emery's successor in November.

The Spaniard says Arsenal remain very much a work-in-progress, though.

"We still have a massive gap to fill in, we have to improve many departments a lot, we have to respect the process," he added. 

"It's been really difficult, stop-start, stop-start, but we'll get it right. I'm convinced of that, we just need a little bit of time that's all."

Speaking to BBC Sport, he added: "It is a great opportunity to try and win a title and play in Europe."

David Luiz returned from suspension but lasted just 54 minutes of the contest at Bramall Lane.

Providing a brief update at his post-match news conference, Arteta said: "It was his ankle. He will get it assessed tomorrow [Monday]."

Dani Ceballos scored a stoppage-time winner as Arsenal reached the FA Cup semi-finals with a dramatic 2-1 win over Sheffield United. 

Nicolas Pepe's first-half penalty appeared set to be the only goal at Bramall Lane, only for a largely forgettable game to explode into life in the closing stages. 

Sead Kolasinac's poor clearance struck team-mate Shkodran Mustafi to inadvertently tee up David McGoldrick for an 87th-minute equaliser, seemingly sending the all-Premier League tie into extra time. 

However, substitute Ceballos beat Dean Henderson with a low shot from a tight angle to secure a July trip to Wembley for Mikel Arteta's side. 

Mesut Ozil is absent from Arsenal's squad to face Sheffield United in the FA Cup on Sunday after suffering a minor back injury.

The 31-year-old attacking midfielder is enduring a difficult season with the Gunners and is yet to play following the campaign's resumption after the coronavirus-enforced suspension.

Ozil was not even named on the bench in Arsenal's first match back, the 3-0 defeat at Manchester City, though he was an unused substitute for the two following matches.

Given his lack of minutes, it was by no means a surprise to see the German absent again when Mikel Arteta's starting XI and bench were announced at Bramall Lane.

However, Arsenal quickly confirmed a "slight back injury" sustained in training a day earlier was to blame for Ozil not being selected in the matchday squad.

Arsenal are aiming to become the second team to qualify for this season's FA Cup semi-finals after Manchester United defeated Norwich City after extra-time on Saturday.

Barcelona midfielder Arthur and Juventus' Miralem Pjanic are seemingly getting closer to swapping clubs.

The LaLiga and Serie A giants have been linked with numerous moves this close season, but one may be getting close to completion.

Arthur and Pjanic are set to trade places and it could be close to reality.

 

TOP STORY – ARTHUR, PJANIC SET FOR MEDICALS IN TURIN

Barcelona midfielder Arthur and Juventus' Pjanic will undergo medicals on Sunday, according to Sport.

The Catalan sports paper says Arthur flew to Italy on Saturday accompanied by a Barcelona doctor ahead of checks in Turin.

Arthur will then return to Barcelona and finish the season with the LaLiga champions, who slipped up again in their title defence on Saturday as Celta Vigo twice came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United may still be trying to find a way to land Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho. The Mirror reports United need to sell at least four stars – including Alexis Sanchez and Jesse Lingard – if they are to get a deal done for Sancho.

- Staying at Old Trafford and United could be getting closer to signing Aston Villa midfielder Jack Grealish. The Daily Express says Grealish has found a house to buy in the North West.

- Chelsea may yet strengthen further ahead of next season. According to The Sun, they are growing confident they will sign West Ham star Declan Rice in the close season.

- Arsenal's decision to re-sign David Luiz has been criticised. However, The Telegraph reports the Brazilian defender agreed to a significant pay cut.

- Tanguy Ndombele's future may be at Tottenham. Football.London reports Spurs have no plans to sell Ndombele at the end of the season, with Jose Mourinho having denied reports of a rift with the midfielder earlier this week.

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