The unique competition between the Champions League last eight in August is likely to produce a surprise winner, according to Abel Xavier.

Former Portugal international Xavier is thrilled the country's capital city of Lisbon will host one-off matches from the quarter-final stage onwards as the competition ends with a mini-tournament.

Atalanta and RB Leipzig are among the teams already to have secured their place in the last eight, along with Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid.

Lyon and Napoli are hoping to upset Juventus and Barcelona respectively when the last-16 stage is concluded, while Bayern Munich and Manchester City – who lead their own ties – are rated as favourites to win the competition.

But Xavier feels the unique format and environment could benefit the sides who are not used to playing in the final stages.

"Yes, I think from my analysis of what I've seen with surprising results that have been happening in the [domestic] leagues, there is an extra buzz with the top teams because of the fans," Xavier said to Stats Perform News.

"There is a moment where fans give a buzz to the top teams. I think there is going to be a surprise in this last stage. 

"There are teams who are in the group and they can surprise because the teams are more exposed. 

"The teams who aren't used to being in this stage, they are more strong mentally because they play more freely, they play more open and the gap [in quality] will reduce, making games more competitive.

"For that reason, I honestly believe that it is going to be difficult and there will be a surprise in the end."

Xavier hopes the Champions League conclusion will be a fitting reward for those who have worked hardest during the coronavirus pandemic.

The former Liverpool defender added: "It's a completely different environment because of the pandemic situation and everybody readjusts. There is sporting reasons and also economic reasons.

"When you're looking at the leagues and what options they have to play and finish the leagues, there are a few countries that have decided to not continue playing, repeating the health issues.

"They for me are the priority - before football comes health. Of course, everyone must be protected and safe. 

"Portugal is one of the countries that has managed the [COVID-19] crisis very well. I think when you look at the impact, now things are becoming better, I think it's a safe place [to play football]. 

"For that reason, I believe that the opportunity to receive the eight best teams and play this kind of format in Lisbon is also a way to appreciate and say thanks for all those who made these events possible. 

"We are talking about people who work in health, hospitals because we are talking about health matters. If you are not safe you cannot have football either. 

"For that reason, I think Portugal, if things keep going the same way [with COVID-19], the teams will come here and it's going to be a great competition in a positive way.

"It's also going to attract a very positive image in Portugal because when you look back, Portugal was able to organise the big events in the best way possible. 

"For that reason, I think the final stages will be possible and I hope we can have a percentage of the public in the stadium, that would also be an upgrade if things [with COVID-19] stay like this with safety."

Premier League champions Liverpool will emerge at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday to a guard of honour from previous title-holders Manchester City.

It will be the latest episode in the captivating rivalry between Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.

We run the rule over two men whose tactical approaches and high levels of achievement have – and it does not feel too grandiose to suggest this – changed football in the 21st century, as well as one another.

THE BUNDESLIGA YEARS

Guardiola's arrival to take the reins of a treble-winning Bayern for 2013-14 came shortly after their rivalry with Klopp's Dortmund reached its peak.

Arjen Robben's 89th-minute winner saw Bayern down BVB 2-1 in the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley – a game played out against a backdrop of Dortmund's star playmaker Mario Gotze agreeing terms to move to Bavaria.

In hindsight, Klopp's gegenpressing machine – winners of back-to-back Bundesliga crowns in 2010-11 and 2011-12 – were coming off the top of their curve, having finished 25 points behind a relentless Bayern domestically that season.

The decline continued over the next two seasons. Dortmund were remarkably in relegation trouble halfway through 2014-15, before a post-Christmas recovery preceded Klopp's emotional farewell.

Nevertheless, there was still time for telling blows to be landed. Guardiola's first competitive game in charge saw Bayern beaten 4-2 in the 2013 DFL-Supercup at a delirious Signal Iduna Park.

Stung by that loss, Guardiola sprung a notable surprise in the first league encounter between the sides that November, where he broke Dortmund's rabid press by playing Javi Martinez as an attacking midfielder and repeatedly targeting the rangy Spain international with long balls.

The high priest of tiki-taka (a label Guardiola famously loathes) had presided over "more long balls than in the last three years combined" from a Bayern team, according to Klopp, who bristled after Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller added to Gotze's inevitable second-half opener in a 3-0 win.

A depleted Munich were similarly reactive when they won the DFB-Pokal final 2-0 in extra-time, even if flooding midfield numbers was a more recognisably Guardiola tactic.

Diverting from his dizzying 4-3-3 of swirling triangles has remained something the Catalan tactician has frequently done across his meetings with Klopp, and not always with the success he enjoyed in Germany.

HOLLOW VICTORIES AND THE PHONEY WAR

Klopp ended his homeland head-to-head against Guardiola with three victories, making it back-to-back Supercup triumphs in 2014, having claimed a 3-0 Bundesliga result at Allianz Arena earlier that year – the authority of which was dimmed by the fact Bayern had already cantered to the title.

Guardiola had four victories to his name, with one draw ultimately falling in Dortmund's favour as Bayern failed with all four of their penalty attempts in a 2015 DFB-Pokal semi-final shoot-out.

However, Klopp was denied a glorious farewell as his team lost in the final to Wolfsburg and the fact Robert Lewandowski had followed Gotze to Munich by this point underlined a deck stacked against him.

Liverpool came calling for Klopp in October 2015 and he helmed helter-skelter runs to the EFL Cup and Europa League finals. Manchester City and Sevilla prevailed respectively.

That was Manuel Pellegrini's final honour as City boss as he made way for Guardiola, who collected a third successive Bundesliga title in 2015-16. Thomas Tuchel's Dortmund finished closer in terms of position and points (second, 10 behind) than Klopp's version had managed when in direct competition.

With the stage presumably set for renewed hostilities between Guardiola and incoming Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, the similarly newly installed Antonio Conte did not read the script as Chelsea romped to 2016-17 Premier League glory.

Klopp got the better of his head-to-heads with City as a Georginio Wijnaldum goal sealed a 1-0 New Year's Eve win at Anfield before Sergio Aguero rescued a point for the hosts in the return game.

Guardiola laid it on thick after that 1-1 draw, declaring it to be "one of the most special days of my life".

"He is Spanish. They are a little bit more emotional than the Germans," Klopp chuckled in response.

TON-UP BUT NOT INVINCIBLE AND THE ROAD TO KIEV

Liverpool beat City three times in 2017-18, when most other teams could barely lay a glove on Guardiola's record-breaking side.

But the game where City prevailed, an unusual 5-0 thrashing at the Etihad Stadium where Liverpool subsided meekly after Sadio Mane's red card for clattering Ederson with a high boot, arguably had the biggest influence on the campaign.

When that game was 11 v 11, Guardiola's back three was horribly exposed. Aguero's opener arrived against the run of play, with an unusually wasteful Mohamed Salah having tormented Nicolas Otamendi.

City never used 3-5-2 in the league again that season, reverting to a swashbuckling 4-3-3 that churned out 19 consecutive wins and made the second half of the schedule a virtual procession.

Liverpool halted their designs on invincibility however, claiming a raucous 4-3 Anfield win in January. Klopp hailed "pressing from another planet" by his front three as Roberto Firmino, Mane and Salah were all on target in a euphoric nine-minute spell after half-time.

Guardiola had again seen a swift avalanche of goals bring the roof in during a big match and his tweak to a 4-4-2 diamond, eyeing avenues around those Liverpool pressing lanes, backfired in that season's Champions League quarter-final.

A 3-0 first-leg loss at Anfield, with all the goals arriving during the first half, left City with a mountain to climb and a death-or-glory approach in the return fixture – deploying a formation probably best described as 3-CHARGE!!! – eventually ran out of steam in a 2-1 loss.

But it was Liverpool who came up short in the Kiev final on Loris Karius' nightmare outing against Real Madrid, while City sauntered to a 100-point haul as dominant Premier League champions. Sitting 25 points back in fourth, the Reds had a considerable gap to bridge.

CHASING PERFECTION

Despite that deficit, their efforts in going blow-for-blow with City over 90-minute periods left the impression Liverpool were the best placed of the pretenders to overthrow the champions.

Both teams reconvened on Merseyside undefeated in October 2018 and remained that way as the free-flowing nature of recent meetings gave way to a cagey 0-0 draw.

Reprising the theme of those early Klassiker meetings, Guardiola took his foot off the throttle as City played at a controlled tempo – an approach that would have ended the club's Anfield hoodoo but for Riyad Mahrez's ballooned late penalty.

Fire and brimstone returned the following January, though, with a wobbling City recovering their poise and avoiding a 10-point deficit at the top. Aguero and Leroy Sane were on target either side of Firmino in a bravura display, where Aymeric Laporte took on the unfamiliar role of left-back to stifle Salah.

That was Liverpool's only loss of the season as they finished on 97 points, agonisingly one shy of City. However, their subsequent Champions League final win over Tottenham improbably propelled them further along.

Just as Guardiola has tempered some of his more cavalier tendencies when faced with Klopp, the challenge of an unrelenting City also forced the Liverpool boss into subtle and decisive tweaks.

In bringing in Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, he spent big for what many see as the finest goalkeeper and centre-back on the planet. Their very presence means risk can be reduced.

Heavy metal football has given way to a steady pulsing beat that never wavers. In the city of Merseybeat, Klopp has gone electro.

Amid their steamrollering of the opposition this season, Liverpool have 19 wins by a solitary goal in all competitions. They are frighteningly and ruthlessly clinical. A profligate City trail in their wake, although Guardiola has used this relative freedom from pressure to thumb intriguingly through his tactical playbook in 2020.

Both men have inspired the other to reach beyond their comfort zones and the result is the two best teams in world football. With Klopp contracted to Liverpool until 2024 and Guardiola talking up an extended stay, the thought occurs that they are each other's motivation for sticking around. There is nowhere better to measure their greatness than against one another.

Pep Guardiola is not looking to bring Jadon Sancho back to Manchester City as Leroy Sane's replacement as the manager plans for a rebuild he insists is "a normal situation".

Stats Perform News understands Sane is set to sign for Bayern Munich after an initial €49million (£44.5m) deal - potentially rising to €60m (£54.5m) - was agreed between the clubs.

Sane has missed much of the season due to injury but had previously been linked to Bayern and has now played his last match for City.

Yet if City are to recruit a winger in the Germany international's place, Sancho – who has been linked with a Borussia Dortmund exit – does not appear a viable candidate.

Sancho left City for Dortmund in 2017 in pursuit of first-team football, soon establishing himself in the Bundesliga.

The England star has been linked with Manchester United, among a host of other elite clubs, but Guardiola does not foresee a return to City.

"No, he decided to leave," Guardiola said of Sancho. "Why should he decide to come back?

"We wanted him to stay - like Eric [Garcia] and Phil [Foden], like Leroy now. So when he decided to move to Dortmund, it's not because he's going to decide to come back a year later.

"He didn't want to be here, so I don't think he wants to come back here."

He added: "Players are being considered important by the club but they decide to leave.

"They don't want to be here, which is the case of Jadon Sancho and especially Leroy - Sancho was in the academy, but especially Leroy.

"I said many times: if a player doesn't want to stay, they have to leave, because we are not getting the best out of a player in his mind if they are not happy here."

Guardiola acknowledges City have work to do in the transfer market, though, saying: "It's part of another process.

"We would like to stay with the players who give this club what they gave us for the last decade. We grow and sometimes we have to replace them, and we are going to do it and replace with new players.

"In some [positions, City need to rebuild] - not for a lack of quality, but for the absences of Vinny [Vincent Kompany] and now David [Silva, out of contract at the end of the season].

"With Fernandinho and [Sergio] Aguero, next season's the last year of their contracts and we don't know if they're going to extend or not, so partly yes, some players we have to rebuild a little.

"But it's not like a disaster or a bad thing, it's part of the age, it's a normal situation and circumstances. It happens in all the clubs."

Pep Guardiola wished Leroy Sane all the best at "fantastic" Bayern Munich as he confirmed the Germany winger's return to the Bundesliga is almost done.

Stats Perform News understands a fee was agreed between the clubs on Tuesday, with the Germany international to cost an initial €49million (£44.5m), rising to €60m (£54.5m) and he is expected in Munich on Wednesday.

It brings a four-year stay in the Premier League to an end and will leave a overriding sense of what might have been – the 24-year-old missed virtually all of 2019-20 due to a serious knee injury.

Prior to that he had shown immense abilities in back-to-back Premier League title triumphs for City, winning the Professional Footballers' Association's (PFA) Young Player of the Year award in 2017-18.

But Bayern had emerged as suitors last year before his knee injury and, with his City contract set to expire next year, the Bundesliga champions have managed to secured a cut-price deal.

While the move is not yet complete, Guardiola confirmed it is close and he wished the former Schalke talent well.

"It looks like it," Guardiola said of Sane joining Bayern in Wednesday's news conference ahead of facing Liverpool on Thursday.

"It's not already done, there are still some little issues, but it looks like he'll go to Munich. I wish him all the best.

"I give him big thanks for these years together and I wish him all the best in a fantastic club.

"He wants to leave - everyone has their own life. I would have loved him to stay here, but he decided to leave, he thinks he'll be better and happier, so I've nothing to say."

Sane's absence has been seen viewed as a reason for City's inability to challenge Liverpool for the Premier League title this season, with the Reds wrapping it up with a 23-point cushion last week.

Guardiola admits Liverpool have simply been the better team, but he vowed to ensure the Reds "feel" 2020-21, as he plots to overthrow Jurgen Klopp's men.

"First of all, there was a team that was better, they played at an outstanding level in every game and you have to do more," he said.

"The supporters help you understand, it's an incredible part of our education to accept another is better, then you have to try to reduce this gap. From the last game to the future seven eight, nine games left through to next season, we must work harder and do better.

"We are going to make Liverpool feel next season, and other opponents will try to fight for the next chapters in the Premier League as well."

Bayern Munich have completed the signing of defender Tanguy Kouassi from Paris Saint-Germain. 

The 18-year-old has signed a four-year contract with the Bundesliga champions, who confirmed the move on Wednesday. 

Kouassi made his first-team debut for PSG in December 2019 and went on to make 13 appearances across all competitions, scoring three times. 

However, he rejected a new contract with the Ligue 1 side and his deal expired on June 30. 

"I'm very happy to be able to play for FC Bayern," Kouassi said to his new team's website. 

"It's a big club, rich in tradition. I really hope I'll be able to establish myself here and play a lot of matches. For that I'll work hard." 

Ahead of Kouassi's presentation to the media, sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic expressed his view that the versatile defender is one of the continent's brightest prospects. 

"We're very happy that we've been able to bring Tanguy Nianzou Kouassi to FC Bayern," he said. 

"In our opinion he's one of the biggest talents in Europe. His best position is central defender, but he can fill several positions.  

"We're sure he'll have a great career in Munich and will strengthen our team." 

Leroy Sane's long-mooted switch from Manchester City to Bayern Munich has been agreed.

The Germany international will initially cost Bayern €49million (£44.5m), rising to €60m (£54.5m) and is expected in Munich on Wednesday, Stats Perform News understands.

Sane joined City from Schalke in 2016 in a deal reportedly worth an initial £37m (€40m) and he went on to show flashes of immense ability during his first campaign.

He elevated his game to the next level in 2017-18 and won the Professional Footballers' Association's (PFA) Young Player of the Year award as Pep Guardiola's side clinched the Premier League title.

Sane helped City to another top-flight crown the following year and scored 16 goals across all competitions, though links with Bayern became commonplace towards the end of 2018-19.

Bayern were rumoured to have been interested in bringing the winger back to the Bundesliga last year, however they were said to be unwilling to match City's asking price.

Sane then suffered a serious knee injury in the Community Shield last August and only returned to the pitch in June.

Much of his time on the sidelines coincided with strengthening reports of Sane desiring a move to Munich, and on June 19 Guardiola confirmed the 24-year-old had informed the club he would not be signing an extension to his contract.

As such, Guardiola accepted Sane was either to be sold this year or leave on a free transfer in June 2021.

City have at least avoided the latter scenario, though the reported fee of up to €60m is significantly less than the £137m (€150m) asking price they are alleged to have set in 2019.

Bayern Munich could be set to match their 2012-13 treble this season, according to former club president Uli Hoeness.

Hansi Flick's side rounded off their Bundesliga campaign with a 4-0 win at Wolfsburg at the weekend, leaving them with a final 13-point margin over Borussia Dortmund at the top of the table. 

This season was Bayern's eighth consecutive success in Germany's top flight – a run that began under Jupp Heynckes in 2012-13, when the club swept the board by also picking up the DFB-Pokal and Champions League. 

They face Bayer Leverkusen in this season's Pokal final on Saturday, while a 3-0 advantage over Chelsea leaves them handily placed for the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie. 

"If our team can preserve this form, we have a good chance of winning everything," Hoeness told Blickpunkt Sport. 

"I hope that the team can keep the rhythm. 

"It is something very special to score 100 goals in a Bundesliga season. It is a sensational achievement." 

Hoeness balked at the suggestion Bayern's dominance was an unhealthy state of affairs for German football and called on their rivals to do more.

"The others have to put in even more effort," he added.

"You can't expect Bayern to work only half a day to make the Bundesliga more exciting."

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.

Arjen Robben's retirement lasted just a single season, as the Netherlands and Bayern Munich great announced on Saturday he is to return to boyhood club Groningen for the 2020-21 campaign.

Robben, 36, brought an illustrious playing career to an end last July shortly after his 10-year spell with Bayern came to an end.

Although at the time he was linked with a potential return to the team that gave him his professional debut, Robben - who suffered with numerous injury problems throughout his career - opted to retire.

But now he looks set to return, not only to top-tier football, but at the place where it all began.

In honour of Robben's return to his first club, we identified some other high-profile players who went to finish their careers back home.

Juan Roman Riquelme - Argentinos Juniors

Perhaps more synonymous with Boca Juniors, where he made his professional debut and also spent most of his final years, Riquelme also had a strong affinity with Argentinos Juniors. He came through the club's academy in the early-to-mid 1990s, before then finishing his immense career at Estadio Diego Maradona in 2014, having also played for Barcelona, Villarreal and Argentina. Although the iconic attacking midfielder appeared close to joining Paraguay's Cerro Porteno the following year, the move never materialised.

Dirk Kuyt - Quick Boys

Kuyt briefly came out of retirement two years ago to help Quick Boys, with whom he spent 13 years as a youth. Playing in the Derde Divisie Saturday league, Kuyt was already working as assistant at the time, but made himself available for selection during a striker shortage and he made three appearances. The former Netherlands and Liverpool forward had retired the year before following a second spell with Feyenoord, where he had made his initial breakthrough in the mid-2000s, his form at the time earning a move to Anfield.

Rafael Marquez - Atlas

One of Mexico's greatest players, Marquez's longevity at such a high level was nothing short of incredible, as he accumulated 147 international caps. After breaking into the Atlas team as a teenager having come through their academy, the elegant centre-back enjoyed a sparkling career in Europe, winning 14 titles across spells with Monaco and Barcelona. Time with New York Red Bulls, Leon and Hellas Verona followed, before a final two-year stint back at the Jalisco ended in 2018. Although plagued by off-field allegations towards the end of his career, Marquez went on to become the club's sporting president, before standing down last year to focus on other areas of the sport.

Juan Pablo Angel - Atletico Nacional

Angel perhaps never quite lived up to the expectations he set during his early days as part of River Plate's so-called 'Fantastic Four' with Javier Saviola, Ariel Ortega and Pablo Aimar, having joined from Colombia's Nacional. Nevertheless, he became a fan favourite at Aston Villa in the Premier League, before spending six years in MLS with New York Red Bulls, Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA. In 2013 he returned to Nacional for two seasons, having left them in 1997. He called it quits in late 2014, just a few days after losing to his former club River in the final of the Copa Sudamericana. "I am ending my career with a final between the two clubs I love the most," he said.

Henrik Larsson - Hogaborgs

While the Swedish club most may associate with Larsson is Helsingborgs, he actually made the breakthrough at a smaller side – Hogaborgs. It was here where he trained from the age of six, before eventually becoming a regular in the senior side and earning a move to Helsingborgs. A trophy-laden career followed, taking him to Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United. Although he retired in 2009, he returned to the pitch for Raa in the Swedish third tier three years later, before then finding himself back in the team at Hogaborgs in 2013, helping out due to an injury crisis despite him only previously being registered to a casual team for 'seniors'. This gave him the chance to play alongside his son, Jordan.

Carlos Tevez - Boca Juniors

The Tevez-Boca love affair has dominated most of the striker's successful and complex career. After coming through their youth ranks, the feisty forward was seen as the heir to Maradona. A brief stint in Brazil with Corinthians followed, but Europe had long since beckoned, even if West Ham was by no means the expected destination. He went on to play for Manchester United and Manchester City, increasing tension between the clubs, before then going to Juventus, but throughout this time Tevez seemed to long for a return to Boca. He went back to La Bombonera in 2015, his homecoming interrupted by a brief spell with Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 in the Chinese Super League, though even Tevez acknowledged he saw his time in China as a "holiday". "He filled Santa's sack with dollars and now he has returned to Boca" was Maradona's assessment upon 'El Apache's' return from the CSL.

Thomas Muller admitted his latest Bundesliga title winners' medal was "special" given he had to force his way back into the Bayern Munich team.

Muller and his team-mates lifted the trophy on Saturday having rounded off their 2019-20 league campaign with a 4-0 win at Wolfsburg.

The 30-year-old has been a key part of Bayern's eighth successive title having contributed a Bundesliga-record 21 assists to go along with eight goals.

However, Muller only started half of Bayern's first 10 games under Niko Kovac, before becoming a leading light again under current boss Hansi Flick.

The improved form led to Muller signing a new contract in April and he noted that his journey to a ninth title with Bayern meant he was all the more grateful for the medal he collected.

"Autumn was not easy - both for the club and for me," Muller told Sky.

"So after my first championship it was perhaps the most special, the most intense, the most emotional. 

"You noticed that the young players are listening to you somehow. I'm usually a long way from pride, but maybe people would call it that."

The Bundesliga was the first of the major European leagues to resume in May following the coronavirus-enforced break and Bayern picked up where they left off by winning each of their nine matches after the restart.

Such consistency after a long period without games delighted Flick.

"I am just proud of how we presented ourselves in the past months," he added.

"The season went perfectly for us. We were of course very relieved that we could continue playing after the corona break.

"The Bundesliga went ahead in Europe, which was also an outstanding achievement. In this respect it is a very special championship for us."

The 2019-20 Bundesliga top scorer Robert Lewandowski is "the best centre-forward in the world", according to Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

Lewandowski scored a second-half penalty as Bayern, already confirmed as champions for an eighth successive season, thrashed Wolfsburg 4-0 to finish their league campaign on a high.

That took Lewandowski's tally for the season to 34 - six more than RB Leipzig's Timo Werner - a figure that represented the Polish striker's best ever return in Germany's top flight.

It is the fifth time former Borussia Dortmund man Lewandowski has finished as the Bundesliga's top scorer and he now has Gerd Muller in his sights, with the Bayern legend having finished as the leading marksman on seven occasions.

Indeed Muller is the only man to have scored more than 34 Bundesliga goals in a season, a feat he achieved on three separate occasions.

"To score 34 goals in one Bundesliga season is an incredible achievement," Rummenigge told Bayern's official website.

"Only 'Der Bomber', Gerd Muller, has ever scored more goals in one campaign.

"I'd like to congratulate and thank Robert Lewandowski. He is the best centre-forward in the world."

Lewandowski's haul came across 31 games and he suggested a full 34-game campaign meant have resulted in an ever better return.

"Unfortunately I missed three matches this campaign," the 31-year-old added.

"I am very pleased with the 34 goals, but of course thanks must go to the team."

Lewandowski has the third-most goals in Bundesliga history having registered 236 times.

Only two men - Muller and Schalke great Klaus Fischer - have found the net more often in the history of Germany's top flight.

Thomas Muller made Bundesliga history as Bayern Munich capped off their triumphant campaign by defeating 10-man Wolfsburg 4-0 on Saturday.

Having clinched an eighth straight title 11 days earlier, Bayern finally got their hands on the trophy following a comfortable victory at the Volkswagen Arena on the final day of the season.

Muller laid on a record 21st assist of the season as Kingsley Coman got Bayern up and running, before Mickael Cuisance doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time.

Josuha Guilavogui was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Cuisance and Robert Lewandowski scored the resultant penalty in the 72nd minute, with Muller adding Bayern's 100th Bundesliga goal of the season in the closing stages.

With second-placed Borussia Dortmund defeated at home by Hoffenheim, Bayern finished the season with a 13-point cushion and Wolfsburg slipped to seventh and missed out on automatic Europa League qualification.

Coman got the celebrations started in the fourth minute, latching onto a brilliant throughball from Muller and guiding a fine finish across Koen Casteels and into the bottom-left corner.

Manuel Neuer kept out Josip Brekalo, and Casteels made a good save from Serge Gnabry at the other end.

Lewandowski was denied by Casteels but there was nothing the Wolfsburg goalkeeper could do to stop Cuisance's left-footed, 20-yard curler from finding the top-left corner.

Casteels survived a VAR review of a potential handball outside the box, while the video assistant upheld the decision to rule out Daniel Ginczek's stoppage-time goal at the end of the first half for a foul on Alvaro Odriozola.

After being denied by Casteels again, Lewandowski finally hit the target in the 72nd minute. The Poland international scored his 34th league goal of the season after Guilavogui felled the impressive Cuisance.

Bayern made the most of their numerical advantage by scoring a fourth seven minutes later, Muller drilling home at the back post and the celebrations stepped up a gear after the final whistle.

 

What does it mean? Bayern maintain momentum

A treble is well and truly on the cards for the Bavarian giants, who extended their club-record winning run to 16 games.

However, after the DFB-Pokal final next weekend they face a month off before continuing their Champions League campaign with the second leg of their last-16 tie against Chelsea.

With teams from the Premier League, Serie A and LaLiga having far less time to rest before Europe's premier club competition returns, Bayern will hope to continue riding this wave during their break.

History for Muller

Hansi Flick has brought the best out of Muller since taking over at Bayern. The World Cup-winning attacking midfielder surpassed Kevin De Bruyne's Bundesliga record of 20 assists in a single season by setting up Coman for the opener.

Gnabry not on form

There was nothing riding on the game for Bayern, but it would have been a far more comfortable finale had Gnabry been able to finish the chances that came his way. He missed a pair of great openings in the first 15 minutes of the second half.

What's next?

Bayern will aim to seal the second part of a prospective treble when they face Bayer Leverkusen in the DFB-Pokal final next Saturday.

Thomas Muller broke Kevin De Bruyne's assist record as he provided his 21st of the Bundesliga season on Saturday.

The Germany forward set up Kingsley Coman to put Bayern Munich 1-0 up against Wolfsburg inside four minutes on the final day of the season.

Muller had equalled De Bruyne's haul from the 2014-15 campaign, when the Belgian was with Wolfsburg, with two assists in Bayern's 4-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen on June 6.

The 30-year-old's stunning form helped Hansi Flick's side claim an eighth successive Bundesliga title.

Achraf Hakimi appears to have found a new home.

The Morocco international has impressed during his loan spell at Borussia Dortmund, attracting plenty of interest.

But LaLiga giants Real Madrid are reportedly ready to cash in on Achraf.

 

TOP STORY – INTER AGREE ACHRAF DEAL

Inter have agreed a deal to sign Achraf Hakimi from Real Madrid, according to Sky Sport Italia.

Achraf has spent the past two seasons on loan at Borussia Dortmund, who have been interested in signing the Morocco international permanently.

Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain have been among the clubs interested in Achraf, but Madrid are set to sell the 21-year-old to Antonio Conte's Inter for a reported €40million fee.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport1 claims Leroy Sane's proposed move to Bayern Munich is on hold until 2021. The Manchester City star is tipped to leave the Etihad Stadium for Bundesliga champions Bayern, though the two clubs have been unable to strike a deal. Sane now looks likely to depart once his contract expires next year.

Arthur will travel to Turin in the coming days to undergo a medical ahead of his move to Juventus, according to RAC1. Barcelona midfielder Arthur is set to join Juve, with Miralem Pjanic moving in the opposite direction.

Roma are plotting a move for free agent Edinson Cavani, says Calciomercato. Cavani is available on a free transfer after leaving PSG, with Atletico Madrid, Inter and Napoli eyeing the Uruguayan forward.

- Sport reports the Champions League will determine Neymar's future at PSG. Neymar has long been linked with a return to Barca following his world-record departure in 2017.

- Calciomercato says Milan are focused on signing Salzburg sensation Dominik Szoboszlai. However, PSG and Arsenal are also among the teams eyeing the 19-year-old Hungarian.

Manchester United are among the possible destinations for Arsenal midfielder Matteo Guendouzi, who faces an uncertain future with the London club, according to L'Equipe.

Jurgen Klopp has done "exceptional work" in leading Liverpool to the Premier League title, according to Bayern Munich head coach Hansi Flick.

The Reds' first domestic championship in 30 years was confirmed on Thursday when Manchester City's 2-1 loss to Chelsea left Liverpool with an unassailable 23-point lead with seven games remaining.

It represents Klopp's third top-flight title in his coaching career after he led Borussia Dortmund to back-to-back championships in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

Bayern have won each of the eight titles since and Flick – the man who guided them to their most recent one this season – is full of admiration for Klopp's work on Merseyside.

"We know each other and it is completely normal that you congratulate one another," said Flick

"He has done exceptional work at Liverpool. It's great to see. Not only the way they play football, but also the way in which he mobilised the whole club and the fans with his style. He caused a lot of emotions.

"It's a shame, just like for us, that the fans could not be part of it like they used to.

"It will go down in history, but it is something that we must deal with during this corona[virus]-time. Nevertheless, we are both very happy that we could win the title."

Klopp was appointed Liverpool boss in October 2015, four months after departing Dortmund.

He steered the Reds to a Champions League final in 2018 and though they lost to Real Madrid on that occasion, Klopp delivered the club's sixth European Cup last year following a victory over Tottenham in Madrid.

They came up short in the 2018-19 Premier League title race – finishing second to Manchester City despite accruing 97 points – but this time Klopp's men could not be stopped.

Bayer Leverkusen boss Peter Bosz believes the Liverpool hierarchy deserve praise for giving Klopp time to build something special.

"If he came from the Bundesliga or not – it's just amazing what he has achieved at Liverpool," Bosz said.

"They won the league for the first time in 30 years and won the Champions League last season.

"I think the most important thing is that the club gave him time. I think it's his fourth [full] season there now. He got the time to build a team.

"So if you work with a structure at a big club – and that was Liverpool before he got there – you can do great things."

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