Already rivals on the field, Manchester United and Manchester City might be set to clash off it.

Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly and Milan Skriniar of Inter are both reportedly wanted in Manchester.

An off-season battle may therefore be set to take place between the two foes.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED, CITY EYEING DEFENDERS

Manchester United and neighbours Manchester City are going head-to-head for centre-backs, according to the Independent.

United and City are both reportedly eyeing defensive reinforcements as they look to catch Premier League champions Liverpool next season.

Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly and Inter defender Milan Skriniar – also wanted by Real Madrid – have been strongly linked to the Manchester clubs.

 

ROUND-UP

Ralf Rangnick has agreed a deal to become the head coach of Milan in 2020-21, says The Guardian. Rangnick will replace Stefano Pioli, who was only appointed in October. The German is also set to hold talks about combining the coaching role with that of sporting director – a position held by Milan great Paolo Maldini.

- Qualifying for the Champions League will be the first step of any deal to bring Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho to United, reports the Evening Standard. Sancho has been linked to Liverpool, Chelsea and Madrid.

- According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Paris Saint-Germain are poised to make an €80million offer for Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. The Ligue 1 champions, however, are wary of competition from United, Madrid and Chelsea.

Kai Havertz is aware of interest from Chelsea but the Premier League side are yet to make an offer for the Bayer Leverkusen star, claims Bild's Christian Falk. Liverpool, United, Madrid, Bayern Munich and Barcelona have also emerged as possible destinations.

Juventus, Inter and Atletico Madrid are eyeing Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette, according to L'Equipe.

- A cross-town move? Gianluca Di Marzio says Inter are continuing to pursue Milan midfielder Franck Kessie.

Nathan Ake to United? The Daily Mail claims Bournemouth could be forced to sell some of their stars as they battle to avoid relegation. The defender has previously been linked to City.

Juve are interested in Arkadiusz Milik but Napoli would prefer not to sell to their Serie A rivals, reports Calciomercato. Napoli are said to be prepared to move Milik abroad amid links to Atletico and Tottenham.

Pirelli chief executive Marco Tronchetti said the Inter shirt sponsor can "help" the Nerazzurri sign Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi but club president Steven Zhang must "make an effort himself".

Messi's future is once again in the headlines amid reports the Barca captain is ready to quit the LaLiga giants once his contract expires in 2021.

Inter have been linked to Messi previously, with former president Massimo Moratti insisting the six-time Ballon d'Or winner relocating to Milan was not a "forbidden dream at all".

Trochetti, however, warned the coronavirus crisis will impact Pirelli's ability to contribute like Italian automobile manufacturer Fiat did when it assisted in Cristiano Ronaldo's move from Real Madrid to Juventus in 2018

"Honestly, at a time like this, we're unable to invest in sports more than we are, between Formula 1, the America's Cup and Inter," Trochetti told Gr Parlamento.

"We have to ask Steven Zhang to make an effort himself. We can help, but we can't do anything significant."

Messi has scored 22 goals and supplied a career-high 19 LaLiga assists for Barcelona this season.

Across all competitions, Messi has scored 27 goals for two-time defending LaLiga champions Barca – who are set to be dethroned by bitter rivals Real Madrid.

Barca are second and four points behind Madrid with four matches left to play.

Inter, meanwhile, are third in Serie A following Sunday's shock loss at home to Bologna.

Antonio Conte's Inter are third in the table – four points behind second-placed Lazio and just a point clear of Atalanta with eight games remaining.

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta said Lautaro Martinez "must find peace of mind" amid strong links to LaLiga champions Barcelona.

Martinez – who moved to Milan from Racing Club in 2018 – has been tipped to swap Serie A side Inter for Barca at the end of the 2019-20 coronavirus-hit season.

The Argentina forward had scored 16 goals prior to the campaign being halted in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic but he has only netted once in six games since the restart, missing a penalty in Sunday's 2-1 loss to Bologna.

Inter CEO Marotta – reluctant to part with the 22-year-old – said Martinez needs to regain his focus as his struggles continue.

"There are two factors to consider, the competitive one and the one relating to the transfer market, which run concurrently," Marotta told Sky Sport Italia.

"Inter don't want to sell a 23-year-old lad like him, but this is a time when rumours are flying about.

"We saw Lautaro the great player in the first half of the season, which caught the attention of big clubs.

"Now, he must find peace of mind to guarantee Inter the performance levels he showed in the first half of the season."

Marotta also said Inter must be patient with January signing Christian Eriksen, who has struggled for consistency since arriving from Tottenham.

Eriksen has netted three goals across all competitions and supplied two assists in Serie A, where Inter sit third in the table – four points behind second-placed Lazio and just a point clear of in-form Atalanta with eight matches remaining.

"Eriksen joined in January, obviously with problems in an area of the pitch that is suffering from some absences," Marotta added. "He's a great player and he can certainly give much more. We have to be patient with him.

"There are eight games left and 24 points up for grabs. We've suffered 4 defeats, so many for what Inter represent but not that many in context of our project.

"As for the Europa League, we'll try to win it. We don't know how the other teams in the competition are faring right now, but we must believe. We play to win and this is a big objective for us."

An audit into Barcelona's relationship with I3 Ventures has determined the club did not conduct a smear campaign against third parties.

Barca's agreement with PR company I3 ventures came under scrutiny in February following claims the firm was hired to clean up club president Josep Maria Bartomeu's image on social media and disparage current and former players critical of his regime.

Both Barca and I3 Ventures denied the allegations and a report following an audit conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) found that the club did not conduct "any defamatory campaigns" against any individual.

Summarising the report's findings on their official website, Barca wrote that "the contracting of various services related to monitoring and analysis of social networks on behalf of FC Barcelona did not include any defamatory campaigns directed at third parties."

PwC also found no evidence of corrupt financial conduct and determined that the price paid by Barca I3 Ventures' services was "within market range".

Responding to the report's findings, Barca said: "The Board of Directors instructs the Club's legal services to continue and, if necessary, bring the relevant legal action against those who have made false and unfounded accusations that have gravely damaged the institution's image and those who form part of it.

"The contents of this report, and its conclusions, will be also be brought forward in those proceedings launched against the Club based on alleged irregular behaviour that this document clarifies and denies."

Real Madrid get more penalties than other teams because they attack more, according to Atletico Madrid boss Simeone.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique and club president Josep Maria Bartomeu have suggested Madrid, who sit four points clear of the Catalan giants at the top of LaLiga, are benefiting from favourable decisions from referees.

Zinedine Zidane said has was "tired" of hearing such comments after his side beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 on Sunday, the second straight game they have won courtesy of a Sergio Ramos penalty, which was awarded after a VAR review spotted Dani Garcia's trip on Marcelo.

Iker Muniain was critical of the officials after the match because Athletic did not receive a spot-kick for Ramos appearing to step on Raul Garcia's foot off the ball or for another incident involving the Madrid captain and Dani Garcia.

Madrid have been awarded nine penalties in LaLiga this season – only Athletic and Real Mallorca have earned more (10 each) – and Simeone thinks it is natural for a team that plays on the front foot to get such decisions.

"VAR exposes everything. Before we didn't have the possibility of seeing some things that we now see. The referees are people who can be wrong as well," Simeone told a news conference.

"It is fairer. If they give you more penalties, it's because you are in the opposition's area more. If they attack more, like Real Madrid, it means you are there longer.

"In the speed of the game it's difficult to see what happens, but now another referee sees it with calmness on television. People too, from their homes.

"Then there is a person who decides, which is the VAR. It can hurt you or help you, but now we are all clear on if its offside, if it's a penalty… we are all more exposed."

Atleti face Celta Vigo on Tuesday and will be without Joao Felix due to an ankle injury.

Joao Felix has scored eight goals and supplied three assists in 34 appearances in all competitions since joining from Benfica for €126million last year.

Simeone intends to remain patient with the 20-year-old Portugal international when he is available for action again.

"Joao is in his first year at Atletico. I am not surprised by anything that is happening to him," said the Atleti boss.

"He has to be patient and not disengage. The anger he has because of what he wants to show, because of his qualities, sometimes costs him.

"Few footballers at 20 or 21 are the finished article. He has undoubted talent. He's a humble, respectful boy who gets along with everybody."

Gennaro Gattuso is not yet turning his focus to Barcelona in the Champions League, wanting Napoli to finish the Serie A season strongly.

Napoli recorded a 2-1 win over Roma on Sunday to be sixth in the table, having won four of their past five games.

They will face Barcelona in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie next month, having been held to a 1-1 draw at home in February.

Gattuso, whose side visit Genoa on Wednesday, is in no rush to begin preparing to face the LaLiga giants.

"There is still time," he said after the win over Roma.

"We have almost one month ahead. We must think to end the league at our best, be ready and put some fuel in our legs. It is about our mentality.

"Nowadays I want the team to fit well on the pitch because many players will stay with us next year and we need to build a winning mentality."

Paris Saint-Germain have reportedly agreed to let Neymar return to Barcelona, while Borussia Dortmund have set their asking price for Jadon Sancho.

Neymar, 28, has regularly been linked with a return to Camp Nou, and that could be getting a step closer.

But can the LaLiga giants make it happen?

 

TOP STORY – PSG AGREE TO LET NEYMAR RETURN TO BARCELONA

Neymar has reached an agreement with PSG to return to Barcelona ahead of next season, according to AS.

However, the report says Barcelona must still find the means to make it happen.

Neymar starred across four seasons at the LaLiga club before joining PSG in a world-record €222million move in 2017.

ROUND-UP

- If Manchester United want Sancho, it seems they know what they need to pay. Ruhr Nachrichten reports Dortmund want £108.3m (€120m) for the star attacker and the deal must be completed before August 10.

- Amid links to Barcelona, Xavi signed a new contract with Al-Sadd until 2021. However, Mundo Deportivo says the club's former midfielder has a release clause in his new contract to be able to sign to take over at Camp Nou before his deal ends. Staying at Barcelona and the club have agreed to lower Ivan Rakitic's price, according to Sport, with the midfielder linked with a Sevilla return.

- Nemanja Matic has found form at Manchester United. According to Gianluca Di Marzio, the 31-year-old midfielder – whose contract was expiring next year – has signed a new deal with the Premier League club until 2023.

- While Hector Bellerin has a deal at Arsenal until 2023, his future is somewhat uncertain. The Daily Express reports Paris Saint-Germain are keeping tabs on the Spaniard.

- As they near promotion to the Premier League, Leeds United could be ready to strengthen. The Sun reports Leeds are prepared to sign Celtic striker Odsonne Edouard – who has been linked to Manchester United and Arsenal – if they return to the top flight.

- Valencia are searching for a new head coach after the sacking of Albert Celades. L'Equipe reports former PSG boss Laurent Blanc is on the LaLiga club's list of possible successors.

Gerard Pique urged Barcelona to continue fighting in LaLiga despite trailing leaders and rivals Real Madrid.

Having won back-to-back league titles, Barca are four points adrift of Madrid after a 4-1 thrashing of Villarreal on Sunday.

Pique called for his side to keep pushing ahead of hosting Espanyol in a derby clash on Wednesday.

"We don't like to be behind in the standings, but we will fight to turn the situation around, knowing how complicated it is," the Barca defender told Movistar.

"We will fight to the end."

After a Pau Torres own goal and Luis Suarez strike, Antoine Griezmann scored his first goal since February, and Ansu Fati sealed Barca's win late on.

Pique hopes Griezmann, who has netted 15 times this season, gains confidence from his goal.

"Playing in this way makes the three of them [Lionel Messi, Suarez and Griezmann] closer to the goal," he said.

"We feel more protected. In addition, Antoine's goal is very important so that he is confident."

Quique Setien praised Antoine Griezmann after the forward finally returned to the scoresheet in Barcelona's 4-1 LaLiga victory over Villarreal.

Griezmann netted his first goal since February to go with strikes from Luis Suarez and Ansu Fati after Pau Torres' own goal as Barca pulled back to within four points of leaders and rivals Real Madrid.

Setien was happy with what he saw from Griezmann, whose goal was his 15th in his first season at Barcelona.

"He has associated himself very well and has been gaining confidence," the Barcelona head coach said, via AS.

"I am very satisfied as I suppose he will be after the goal so beautiful that he has scored, reminded me of one of [Lionel] Messi's at [Real] Betis."

Setien praised Barca's performance as they claimed just their second win in five games.

"All teams are different. Today, we have had everything," he said.

Setien added: "Other teams like Atletico [Madrid] or Sevilla, firmer in defence created more problems for us. Perhaps they were stronger than this.

"This helps us a lot in confidence. We have pressed very well and we haven't allowed them to leave. We have made a very balanced match. I would have liked to be right before."

Meanwhile, there was further controversy in Real Madrid's win over Athletic Bilbao as another Sergio Ramos penalty saw Zinedine Zidane's men claim three points.

The spot-kick was awarded via the VAR and Setien said the system was becoming more confusing.

"I understand it [the VAR] less and less," he said.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu insisted Lionel Messi has always expressed a desire to retire at Camp Nou amid doubts over his future.

Messi is contracted to Barca until 2021 but a report emerged on Thursday claiming the six-time Ballon d'Or winner wants to leave next year.

The superstar captain put question marks over his future to one side on Sunday, producing a masterclass in Barca's 4-1 LaLiga rout of Villarreal.

Messi reached 19 LaLiga assists for the season – his best tally in Spain's top flight – and Bartomeu was asked about the 33-year-old post-match.

"I am not going to explain the details of what is happening every week. There are negotiations with many players," Bartomeu told Movistar.

"Messi has always expressed that he wants to end his career at Barcelona."

Bartomeu was also asked about under-fire head coach Quique Setien after Barca stayed within four points of bitter rivals Real Madrid with four games remaining.

Two-time defending champions Barca are on track to be dethroned by Madrid this season, with Setien reportedly set to be axed.

But Bartomeu said: "I know there are rumours. It is totally false.

"Quique Setien has the confidence of everyone, of the players, of the board, he is doing a great job.

"There are four games left and then we have the Champions League. We have important games to play this season."

Barca face bottom side Espanyol in Wednesday's LaLiga derby.

Barcelona reached 9,000 goals in all official competitions following their 4-1 rout of Villarreal in LaLiga on Sunday.

Barca celebrated the milestone thanks to teenage sensation Ansu Fati, who came off the bench and scored the team's fourth goal away to Villarreal.

The two-time reigning LaLiga champions, who are four points behind bitter rivals Real Madrid with four matches remaining, netted their first official goal in April 1909.

Just over 111 years later, Barca have scored their 9,000th goal – superstar captain and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi contributing 630.

Of Barca's overall tally, 6,165 goals have been scored in LaLiga, followed by the Copa del Rey (1,474) and the Champions League (543).

Antoine Griezmann ended his goal drought with a stunning finish and Lionel Messi tormented Villarreal as Barcelona cruised to a 4-1 LaLiga victory on Sunday.

Barca's grip on the title had slipped with back-to-back draws and bitter rivals Real Madrid moved seven points clear at the top with a win at Athletic Bilbao earlier in the day, but the champions responded at Estadio de la Ceramica.

An early Pau Torres own goal put Barca in front and the mercurial Messi set up sensational strikes from Luis Suarez and Griezmann after the in-form Gerard Moreno equalised, with Ansu Fati adding a fourth late on.

Griezmann had gone eight games without a goal, but silenced his critics with a moment of class in a breathtaking attacking display from Barca, with Messi – who had a goal disallowed and hit the crossbar – starring at the end of a week in which his future has been the subject of more speculation.

Previously in-form Villarreal have still not beaten the Catalan giants since 2008 and their first defeat since the season restarted is a blow to their bid for a Champions League spot.

Barca made a blistering start and they were rewarded when Torres turned the ball into his own net just three minutes in with Griezmann waiting to pounce on Jordi Alba's cross behind him.

The Blaugrana were causing the home side all sorts of problems going forward but looked vulnerable on the break and Moreno levelled clinically against the run of play with 14 minutes played after Marc-Andre ter Stegen palmed away Santi Cazorla's strike.

Barca wasted little time in regaining the lead, though, Messi running from just inside the Villarreal half and beating two players before finding Suarez, who picked out the far corner with a sublime first-time finish from the edge of the penalty area.

Arturo Vidal and Suarez came close before Griezmann added a third just before half-time, lobbing Sergio Asenjo with a superb effort after Messi set him up with a cheeky backheel following another penetrating run.

The busy Asenjo denied Suarez and Vidal after the break and Messi had a goal chalked off after VAR ruled he had been offside before tucking in Sergi Roberto's cutback.

Fati came off the bench to put the icing on the cake, cutting in from the left to fire home and Messi rattled the crossbar with a free-kick before Asenjo superbly saved Martin Braithwaite's header following up.

  

What does it mean? Relief for Setien

Barca boss Quique Setien has come under fire, but his players appear to be behind him on the evidence of this performance.

On a day when it was revealed Xavi, linked with the Barca hotseat, will stay at Al-Sadd, the defending champions showed they will not give up their title without a fight with four games to play.

Messi magic, Griezmann shows his class

Griezmann has had a tough first season at Barca, but he showed what he is capable of with the finish of a player who is anything but short of confidence.

It was Messi who was the star of the show, though, yet again, slipping away from defenders with ease and laying on two goals with sheer brilliance and not looking like a man eager to leave Camp Nou.

Semedo all at sea

Barca full-back Nelson Semedo looked vulnerable defensively in the first half and was hooked off early in the second. Setien's men were too open at the back in the first half and Semedo was caught out too often.

What's next?

Barca host lowly Espanyol in a derby clash on Wednesday, with Villarreal facing a tricky trip to sixth-placed Getafe on the same evening.

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta insists Lautaro Martinez has "not shown the slightest desire to leave" amid continued speculation Barcelona are interested in the Argentina international.

Martinez, who missed a penalty in Inter's 2-1 Serie A defeat to Bologna on Sunday, has been strongly tipped to make a move to Camp Nou at the end of the 2019-20 season.

Marotta was again asked about the forward prior to the defeat at San Siro and he reiterated Inter's desire to hold on to the 22-year-old.  

"Lautaro has not shown the slightest desire to leave," Marotta told DAZN.

"Aside from dates and deadlines, the clearest situation is that Inter do not want to sell their champions or interesting young talents. If the player were to ask to leave, we would evaluate that together, but so far, that request has not arrived.

"I believe that, being a young player, it can boost his career to continue playing for a while longer at Inter.

"Being an Inter player means being part of a big club and that ought to be reason enough for him to feel proud."

Marotta also dismissed rumours Inter have lodged a bid for Chelsea left-back Emerson Palmieri.

"I understand the many questions about transfer speculation, but I can say we have not had any contact or opened any negotiation for Emerson Palmieri.

"We are making evaluations for next season, but the most important issue remains this current campaign."

Athletic Bilbao captain Iker Muniain became the latest player to question refereeing decisions involving Real Madrid after Sergio Ramos scored a decisive penalty at San Mames.

Madrid were made to work hard for a 1-0 victory on Sunday - their seventh win in a row - as Zinedine Zidane's men moved seven points clear at the top of the LaLiga table.

But Athletic were unhappy with the award of the spot-kick from which Ramos clinched the points, with Dani Garcia's trip on Marcelo spotted only after a VAR review.

Muniain was particularly frustrated as there was then no similar call made at the other end of the pitch when Ramos appeared to step on Raul Garcia's foot off the ball.

He said: "Raul Garcia has been stamped on and they haven't even reviewed it. That's the difference.

"We've seen the theme in these weeks since the restart - depending on which teams it is, some decisions are given.

"Everyone can draw their own conclusions."

Barcelona stalwart Gerard Pique has previously suggested it would be difficult to stop Madrid winning the title because decisions too often go their way.

Those claims prompted Ramos to respond: "People shouldn't be imagining things!"

Xavi has ended speculation that he was set to return to Barcelona by signing a one-year contract extension with Al-Sadd.

It was reported that the ex-Barca captain was poised to replace the under-pressure Quique Setien at Camp Nou.

Xavi has made no secret of his desire to coach the Catalan giants, but the 40-year-old has agreed to remain in Qatar for at least another season.

The former Spain midfielder has won the Qatari Super Cup and Qatar Cup in his first season in charge of Al-Sadd and is hungry for more trophies.

He told the club's official website: "I am happy that the squad is complete today after the return of the remaining first-team players, in preparation for this upcoming period and the resumption of the league championship.

"I am happy to continue with Al-Sadd, and the team's goal will always be to compete for all titles."

Xavi's side are third in a Stars League that will resume later this month after being halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Al-Sadd trail leaders Al Duhail by 10 points with only five matches to play.

Barca legend Xavi recently stated that he will only return to the LaLiga champions when the time is right, having turned down the chance to replace former coach Ernesto Valverde in January.

"I'm a club man. I would like to return at the right moment to start a project from zero," he was quoted as saying by Sport.

"I've said it a lot of times, but I want to take footballing decisions at Barcelona.

"It's clear that after the [presidential] elections the stage would be set, of course. I'm not ruling anything out.

"They came for me in January, we were speaking. I told them the circumstances and timing weren't right."

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