Real Madrid are reportedly preparing for a rebuild and Erling Haaland and Sadio Mane are their top transfer targets.

The LaLiga club appear set for a busy close season amid links to numerous players.

While Arsenal forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is said to be a target, it seems Madrid have other priorities.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND, MANE TOP TARGETS FOR REAL MADRID

Borussia Dortmund forward Haaland and Liverpool star Mane are Real Madrid's top targets, according to the Daily Express.

The report says Aubameyang is also wanted at the Santiago Bernabeu, but is behind Haaland and Mane.

Real Madrid were two points behind LaLiga leaders Barcelona when the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Real Madrid and the LaLiga giants are tracking Sao Paulo midfielder Igor Gomes, according to AS. A Brazil youth international, Gomes, 21, has been compared to former AC Milan star Kaka.

- Ousmane Dembele is seemingly unwanted at Barcelona and could be set for a move. Sport reports Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp want Dembele, who has struggled with injuries since joining the LaLiga club.

- Barcelona are continuing their bid to land Lautaro Martinez. Sport claims left-back Junior Firpo could be part of a deal to bring the Inter star to Camp Nou. It says Inter, and Roma, are interested in the left-back and Barca would want the €18million they paid Real Betis for Junior last year.

- Manchester United could be set to make a big move this close season. The Daily Star reports the Premier League club are confident of landing Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez for a club-record £135m (€150.8m).

- Perhaps Manchester United had another target. However, Sport says Real Madrid have told United that midfielder Federico Valverde is worth his incredible release clause – £448m (€500m).

- Henrikh Mkhitaryan is loving life in Rome. The Daily Mail reports the midfielder, who is on loan at Roma from Arsenal, wants to stay at the club and hopes they can agree to a €11.2m (£10m) deal.

Has there ever been a football player you've loved watching so much that you could be confident of writing down a long list of reasons for your adoration?

For me, that player is Ronaldinho, and seeing as the two-time FIFA World Player of the Year and 2005 Ballon d'Or recipient turns 40 on Saturday, I wanted to pay tribute.

The former World Cup winner will celebrate his birthday in a maximum-security Paraguayan prison after being accused of entering the country on a fake passport – and he apparently continues to rack up goals and assists in kickabouts behind bars. Only Ronaldinho.

In honour of the legendary Brazilian on this landmark day, here are the 40 reasons why I love him.

 

1. Within three minutes of kick-off in a Paris Saint-Germain versus Marseille game I recorded on VHS in March 2003, he flicked the ball over the heads of two players and won a free-kick when dribbling away. When he scored with a dink over the keeper later in that game, a love affair was born.

2. He was the master of the no-look pass. And it didn't even need to be necessary.

3. Whether you call it an elastico or a flip-flap, Ronaldinho loved them. It was the trick I was most beguiled by as a teenager and, to my endless frustration, could never get right myself.

4. He marked his debut for Barcelona with a stunning 30-yard drive that crashed in off the underside of the crossbar. It was gone 01:00 local time!

5. Ronaldinho had arrived in Catalonia with the reputation of a party lover firmly established. Who can blame him – if you were that good, wouldn't you just want to constantly celebrate?

6. That goal against Chelsea.

7. He assisted Ludovic Giuly in a 3-0 win over Osasuna in October 2005 using his back. I mean, who does that?!

8. He picked Barcelona over Manchester United. Nothing against the Red Devils, but it would have been tough to watch him play for a Premier League team that wasn't mine.

9. That samba shuffle celebration and the thumb-and-little-finger hand gesture.

10. He got a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu – as a Barcelona player.

11. Those cascading locks and gummy smile.

12. He scored directly from a corner for Flamengo during a 3-2 defeat to Avai in 2011. Anyone with a 'gol olimpico' on their resume gets the utmost kudos.

13. As a keen follower of Brazilian football, I was delighted when Ronaldinho signed for Fluminense – the team I'd chosen to support during a three-month stay in Rio de Janeiro. It was somehow even better when he terminated his 18-month contract after just nine appearances.

14. Alongside former Everton striker Jo and current Everton winger Bernard, he helped Atletico Mineiro win their first Copa Libertadores title in 2013.

15. He always seemed to be playing with a smile on his face, or at least not far away from it.

16. Ronaldinho may have been in decline and far from his twinkling best when he rocked up at Liga MX side Queretaro, but a double against Club America earned him a standing ovation at the iconic Estadio Azteca.

17. He posed for a photo with me in Barcelona. OK, it was via a green screen, all right?!

18. That was during an October 2003 visit to the city that included going to watch Barca take on Real Murcia. Ronaldinho made sure to treat me to a goal in a 3-0 win.

19. He made England's elimination from the 2002 World Cup a little less painful with the most outrageous of goals. (I reckon he meant it, too.)

20. For starring in Nike's iconic 'The Cage' and 'Ole' adverts.

21. Somehow, he scored from behind the goal during a training session with Flamengo. It was the kind of sorcery most can only dream of.

22. Before going viral was a thing, Ronaldinho went viral. Footage of him juggling the ball and volleying it against the crossbar FOUR times in succession without it hitting the ground wrote him into folklore. I still don't know whether it was real or not…

23. When Ronaldinho dribbled, he did it at electric pace and with startling agility, and although he often took several knocks he did his utmost to stay on his feet.

24. It was a Champions League semi-final against Milan: chest control, the ball lifted over Gennaro Gattuso's head, flicked past Andrea Pirlo with two more touches, and when Alessandro Nesta deigned to get in his way, Ronaldinho stretched a leg out behind him and used his heel to square to Samuel Eto'o.

25. In the days before Ousmane Dembele and Martin Braithwaite struggled with freestyle tricks at Barcelona presentations, Ronaldinho was balancing the ball on his head, rolling it forward to give it a little kiss, then sending it back to rest on his forehead. That's how you do it.

26. He made great use of his shoulder; either to deftly bring the ball down or flick it on to a team-mate.

27. His 360-degree spin to get between two Werder Bremen players. It doesn't even matter that he was tackled by the next defender.

28. He did not join Manchester City after leaving Barcelona. (See point eight.)

29. For filling countless hours of my time at university with his YouTube highlights.

30. Ronaldinho was able to baffle defenders without even touching the ball.

31. Because he scored one of the most jarring chips during his time at Atletico. From 16 yards out on the left side of the box, with the Arsenal de Sarandi goalkeeper seemingly in a good position, Ronaldinho clipped a beautiful effort into the top-left corner.

32. Most of the greats excel from free-kicks. The sight of Ronaldinho stepping up to one in a central area from a 90-degree angle to the goal was a thing of beauty.

33. Because he did not retire straight away after leaving Fluminense. He said he wanted to continue playing (but only after Rio's famous carnival, of course) and ended up going on tour, playing in exhibition games for whoever would pay him.

34. For teeing up Lionel Messi's first senior goal for Barcelona, and doing it with a scoop pass.

35. Against Villarreal at Camp Nou in the 2006-07 season came one of his most memorable strikes. After controlling Xavi's cross with his chest, he span 180 degrees and sent a bicycle kick back across goal. *chef's kiss*

36. For scoring under-the-wall free-kicks at Barcelona, Flamengo and Atletico.

37. His 'water bottle trick' when Atletico took on Sao Paulo. Go and look it up. He showed zero shame in punishing Rogerio Ceni's goodwill.

38. Throughout his career Ronaldinho kept trying to score by stealing the ball away from goalkeepers as they took a drop kick.

39. Another El Clasico moment from April 2004. This time it was an outrageous scoop in behind for Xavi to lift beyond Iker Casillas in the 86th minute and secure a 2-1 win.

40. Because in my lifetime, no other player has made watching football as enjoyable as he did.

Flamengo head coach Jorge Jesus returned a negative result for coronavirus, the Brazilian champions announced.

Jesus tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, though it was weak or inconclusive and being checked.

The 65-year-old Portuguese was cleared of the virus on Wednesday amid the pandemic, which has claimed almost 9,000 lives globally.

"Flamengo inform the new exam carried out by coach Jorge Jesus confirmed a negative result for COVID-19," the club said via Twitter.

"The club are grateful for the support of the entire Red-Black Nation to the Mister in the last days."

Jesus has enjoyed great success at the helm of Flamengo since arriving in 2019, leading the club to Campeonato Brasileiro, Copa Libertadores and Recopa Sudamericana glory.

After winning a second Libertadores title and first since 1981 in November, Flamengo were crowned Brazilian champions for the seventh time last year, having not claimed the Campeonato Brasileiro since 2009.

Flamengo then added the Recopa – which pits the Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana champions against each other – to their collection in February.

Flamengo coach Jorge Jesus said he was feeling fine after testing positive for coronavirus.

The Brazilian Serie A champions announced on Monday that Jesus, 65, has tested positive for COVID-19, although it was weak or inconclusive and being checked.

In a message posted on Instagram, Jesus said he was asymptomatic despite the positive test.

"Hello. Good afternoon in Brazil, good night in Portugal. True, my test was positive," he said.

"It is also true that I feel normal, I am feeling exactly as I felt a month ago, a year ago, two, three, four ... I am normal. I don't feel any symptoms.

"But I had a positive test. I'll be in reclusion. I want to thank the affection of my friends and the fans of Flamengo for sharing this situation with me.

"I think that in a few days everything will be back to normal, God willing. A big kiss to everyone. I am very confident."

The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) announced the suspension of all national football competitions for an indefinite period on Sunday.

Jorge Jesus said he wants to continue as Flamengo head coach amid contract talks with the Brazilian and South American champions.

Jesus has enjoyed great success at the helm of Flamengo since arriving in 2019, leading the club to Campeonato Brasileiro, Copa Libertadores and Recopa Sudamericana glory.

After winning a second Libertadores title and first since 1981 in November, Flamengo were crowned Brazilian champions for the seventh time last year, having not claimed the Campeonato Brasileiro since 2009.

Flamengo then added the Recopa – which pits the Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana champions against each other – to their collection in February.

Former Benfica and Sporting CP boss Jesus, 65, does not intend to leave Rio de Janeiro just yet after discussing his future.

"The person who brought me to Brazil already had meetings with people related to Flamengo the other week," the Portuguese told Fox Sports.

"I want to talk when things are practically defined."

Jesus added: "My dream has always been to win a Champions League. But Flamengo have already made me change that dream a little bit… My will is to continue. It is in the hands of Flamengo."

Brazilian giants Flamengo are on a 10-match unbeaten streak across all competitions.

Flamengo top the Campeonato Carioca – the annual championship of the state of Rio de Janeiro – following back-to-back victories to open the season, while the club kicked off their Libertadores defence with a 2-1 win at Junior on March 4.

Barcelona know what they want to do with Philippe Coutinho should the attacker return to the club from Bayern Munich.

Coutinho is on a season-long loan at the Bundesliga club, who have an option to buy the Brazil international at the end of the campaign.

But Barca reportedly already have plans in place if the 27-year-old comes back to Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA PLAN TO USE COUTINHO AS MAKEWEIGHT IF HE RETURNS

Barcelona will use Coutinho as a makeweight in any of the huge deals they are planning in the close season, according to Sport.

The LaLiga giants are reportedly again targeting Neymar, who was linked with a return but ended up staying at Paris Saint-Germain last year.

PSG and Liverpool are rumoured to be interested in Coutinho, although Bayern have a €120million option to buy the playmaker.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus' interest in Mauro Icardi is ongoing. CalcioMercato reports Juve still want the forward, who is on loan at PSG from Inter, with the Ligue 1 club holding a €70m purchase option. Goal reports Juventus are also monitoring Santos teenager Kaio Jorge, who has a €50m release clause.

- Linked with a move to Bayern Munich, Leroy Sane may yet remain at Manchester City. The Telegraph reports the attacker, who has been sidelined with a serious knee injury, will consider staying at the Premier League club beyond this season.

- Hirving Lozano's Napoli stay may be short-lived. Corriere dello Sport reports Atletico Madrid have their sights set on the Mexico international, who is out of favour under Gennaro Gattuso in his first season at the Serie A club.

- Having dealt with defensive problems this season, Manchester City seemingly have a solution in mind. CalcioMercato reports the Premier League giants are ready to again make a move for Inter defender Milan Skriniar, a player they have been linked to previously.

- Already up to 15 goals this season, Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin appears set to be rewarded for his good form. The Times report the 22-year-old – apparently a target for Manchester United previously – is ready to sign a deal until 2025 with the Premier League club.

- Arsenal have started talks over a move for Feyenoord's 19-year-old playmaker Orkun Kokcu for £23m (€26.5m), according to the Daily Mail.

Copa Libertadores and Brazilian champions Flamengo added the Recopa Sudamericana to their collection after easing past Independiente del Valle 3-0.

Following last week's 2-2 draw away to Independiente, 10-man Flamengo triumphed 5-2 on aggregate thanks to Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa and two-goal hero Gerson.

All-conquering Flamengo have taken South America by storm under head coach Jorge Jesus, ending trophy droughts domestically and continentally.

After winning a second Libertadores title and first since 1981 in November, Flamengo were crowned Brazilian champions for the seventh time last year, having not claimed the Campeonato Brasileiro since 2009.

Flamengo sealed another piece of silverware on Wednesday in the annual CONMEBOL showdown between the previous year's Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana champions.

Gabigol – who made his move from Serie A side Inter to Flamengo permanent in January – gave the home side a 19th-minute lead after an embarrassing moment for Independiente.

Independiente defender Luis Segovia's header back to Jorge Pinos left his goalkeeper scrambling as the ball struck the crossbar and fell to the feet of Gabigol.

After team-mate Willian Arao saw red four minutes later, former Roma midfielder Gerson doubled Flamengo's lead in the 62nd minute and completed the scoring with a minute remaining following a red card to Independiente substitute Alejandro Cabeza.

Brazil great Pele allayed concerns over his health and welfare, insisting "I'm fine".

Pele's son Edinho said his iconic father felt "depressed" and was reluctant to leave the house due to problems with his hip.

However, three-time World Cup winner Pele – who turns 80 in October – rejected those health claims on Thursday.

"Thank you for your prayers and concerns," Pele said in a statement released. "I'm fine. I'm turning 80 this year. I have my good and bad days. This is normal for people my age.

"I'm not afraid, I'm determined and I'm confident in what I do. Last week, I had the honour of meeting the CBF [Brazilian Football Confederation] president in the studio I was shooting my documentary in. I had two photo sessions last month for campaigns that use my image and testimony.

"I have several upcoming events scheduled. I do not avoid meeting commitments from my always busy schedule. I continue to accept my physical limitations in the best possible way, but I intend to keep the ball rolling. God bless you all."

In an interview published by GloboEsporte.com on Monday, Edinho said: "He's very fragile in relation to mobility. He had a hip replacement and didn't have ideal or adequate rehabilitation.

"He has this mobility problem and that has set off a kind of depression. Imagine, he's the King, he was always such an imposing figure and today he can't walk properly."

Edinho added: "He's embarrassed, he doesn't want to go out, be seen, or do practically anything that involves leaving the house. He is very shy, reclusive."

Pele spent 18 years at Santos, making 1,281 appearances and scoring 1,091 goals – though not all of those came in official matches.

He remains Brazil's leading goalscorer with 77 and is considered one of the greatest footballers of all time.

Emmanuel Adebayor has reunited with former Manchester City team-mate Roque Santa Cruz at OIlimpia, and Yaya Toure is also being linked with a switch to South America.

The ex-Real Madrid, Arsenal and Tottenham attacker, 35, has joined the reigning Primera Division champions for the 2020 campaign, having played alongside Santa Cruz at the Etihad Stadium between 2009 and 2010.

Olimpia president Marco Trovato last Friday said he wanted 20,000 new members to sign up in order to announce the arrival of Adebayor on Monday, though the deadline was extended by 24 hours.

Shortly after revealing that 14,922 people had signed up with the club, Olimpia made the former Togo international's arrival official.

Toure could be the next big-name veteran to arrive in South America, with Rodrigo Codas, an agent who played a role in Adebayor's move to Olimpia, claiming the Ivorian's representative has asked him to help evaluate the market.

Toure, who arrived at City from Barcelona in 2010 and won three Premier League titles, spent 2019 playing in China's second tier with Qingdao Huanghai and is reportedly a target for Olimpia's rivals Libertad, though a switch to Brazil appears more likely.

"I want to be cautious about Yaya," Codas told Fox Sports Argentina. "He is a player that is willing to come to South America.

"He is very friendly with Adebayor, the same with Roque or Carlos Tevez in South America.

"I think that Yaya would be going, if all goes well, to Brazil. Because of the country and the finances, and because of the power of Brazilian football.

"The coronavirus scares many players who are in China and want to leave."

Pele feels "depressed" and is reluctant to leave the house due to problems with his hip, according to his son Edinho.

Brazil great Pele, who will turn 80 in October, has long since suffered with hip issues and requires a walking frame to get around.

Many of the three-time World Cup winner's recent public appearances have been in a wheelchair.

"He's very fragile in relation to mobility. He had a hip replacement and didn't have ideal or adequate rehabilitation," Edinho told GloboEsporte.com.

"He has this mobility problem and that has set off a kind of depression. Imagine, he's the King, he was always such an imposing figure and today he can't walk properly."

Edinho added: "He's embarrassed, he doesn't want to go out, be seen, or do practically anything that involves leaving the house. He is very shy, reclusive."

Pele spent 18 years at Santos, making 1,281 appearances and scoring 1,091 goals – though not all of those came in official matches.

He remains Brazil's leading goalscorer with 77 and is considered one of the greatest footballers of all time.

Arsenal have completed the signing of Pablo Mari on a loan deal with the option to make the move permanent at the end of the season.

Mari, 26, is Mikel Arteta's first signing since taking over as head coach in December after his switch from Flamengo was completed on Wednesday for a reported £4million loan fee.

The defender arrived in London with Arsenal technical director Edu on Saturday, who praised the Gunners' latest arrival.

"Pablo is an experienced player who will provide us with additional defensive quality," Edu said as the club confirmed the move.

"We have been monitoring Pablo's career for a while and we are very pleased to have reached agreement with Flamengo for him to join us initially until the end of our season.

"Together with Mikel and his coaching team, we are all looking forward to seeing Pablo in an Arsenal shirt."

Mari joined Manchester City in 2016 but never played for the first team, leaving for Flamengo last July having been sent out for loan stints at Girona, NAC Breda and Deportivo La Coruna.

At Flamengo, he was a key figure under Jorge Jesus, who led the Rio de Janeiro giants to the Campeonato Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores titles.

Mari also featured when Flamengo lost the Club World Cup final against Liverpool 1-0 after extra time.

Arsenal have been keen to bolster their defensive options following injuries to Calum Chambers, Kieran Tierney, Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac and have now landed their man.

"It's a massive opportunity for me to come to England, which is the best league in the world right now," said Mari.

"Being able to play in this league and having the opportunity to play for Arsenal is incredible, so I’m really looking forward to wearing the shirt as soon as possible.

"I want to help my team to win matches and give my fans something to celebrate."

Flamengo showed their gratitude to Mari as they confirmed his departure earlier in the day, saying: "The time has come for us to say goodbye.

"He is a defender who arrived at Flamengo to make his mark in our history with the Libertadores and the Brazilian Championship titles.

"Pablo Mari, thank you for everything."

Arsenal, unbeaten in six games across all competitions, sit 10th in the Premier League ahead of Sunday's away match against Burnley.

Arsenal have completed the signing of Pablo Mari on a loan deal with the option to make the move permanent at the end of the season.

Barcelona have seemingly given up on their pursuit of Rodrigo, while Manchester United are finally getting their man.

LaLiga giants Barca are eyeing a forward with Luis Suarez set to miss most of the rest of the season due to a knee injury.

But while they reportedly targeted Rodrigo, their bid to land the Valencia forward appears over.

Meanwhile, a long-running saga is set to come to an end in Manchester.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA GIVE UP ON RODRIGO

'Rodrigo no' reads the cover of Sport, which reports Barcelona have stopped negotiations with Valencia for the forward.

The report says Barca cannot reach an economic agreement with Valencia, but are considering other options in their bid to sign a forward.

Rodrigo has scored just two goals in 18 LaLiga games for Valencia this season.

ROUND-UP

- It is finally set to be over. Bruno Fernandes' move from Sporting CP to Manchester United is practically done, according to Record. The Premier League club will pay £46.5million (€55m) for the midfielder, plus £8.5m (€10m) in add-ons with the potential for a further £12.7m (€15m).

- There could be some movement at Stamford Bridge in the coming days. AS reports Roma have made contact with Chelsea regarding Pedro, who has made just five Premier League appearances this season.

- Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham are ready to launch bids for Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Lemar, according to The Sun. The LaLiga club want £51m (€60.3m) for the Frenchman.

- Also at Spurs, the Mirror reports Tottenham are set to sign PSV attacker Steven Bergwijn for £25.4m (€30m).

- Pablo Mari's move to Arsenal appears set to become official. Globo Esporte reports the Flamengo defender will join the Premier League club on loan until June, with his club receiving £4.2m (€5m) and Arsenal holding an option to make the move permanent.

Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa and Matteo Politano have agreed permanent exits from Inter, joining Flamengo and Napoli respectively.

Flamengo are said to have paid €17million to sign Gabriel, while Politano has joined Napoli on a two-year loan with an obligation to buy.

After failing to make his mark upon arriving at San Siro for a reported €25m in August 2016, Gabigol shone on loan at Flamengo last year. He scored 43 goals in 60 games as Jorge Jesus led them to Campeonato Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores glory.

The 23-year-old striker was linked with a move to West Ham but signed a five-year deal to stay at Flamengo on Tuesday.

Inter also agreed to let Politano depart after he became a peripheral figure under Antonio Conte.

Politano started 31 Serie A games for Luciano Spalletti last season, leading to the Nerazzurri exercising an option to make his loan from Sassuolo permanent.

However, after being named in Conte's starting line-up just three times in 2019-20, he was allowed to leave for Napoli.

Politano was expected to return to Roma, where he spent his youth career before joining Pescara in 2013, but the move fell through and Gennaro Gattuso's side swooped in.

Inter announced the arrival of Christian Eriksen from Tottenham on Tuesday and are now expected to push forward with a move for Olivier Giroud of Chelsea, having already signed Ashley Young and Victor Moses.

Real Madrid have long been touted as favourites to tempt Kylian Mbappe from Paris.

Mbappe idolises Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane, who has made no secret of his desire to sign the Paris Saint-Germain forward.

But should Liverpool splash the cash, Mbappe could reportedly find himself at Anfield.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE OPEN TO REDS

Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe would be open to joining Premier League leaders and Champions League holders Liverpool, according to journalist Julien Laurens.

Mbappe has long been tipped to eventually swap PSG for LaLiga giants Real Madrid, where he is coveted by fellow Frenchman and head coach Zinedine Zidane.

However, Laurens claims Liverpool could be an option, should the English side meet PSG's demands.

 

ROUND-UP 

Manchester United want Alexis Sanchez to return to the club at the end of the season, says the Daily Star. On loan at Serie A outfit Inter following a horror spell in Manchester, the Red Devils have decided to give the Chilean forward another chance to prove himself.

- West Ham have offered €40million (£33.7m) to Cagliari for Uruguay international Nahitan Nandez, reports Tuttomercatoweb.

- With Carles Perez edging closer to Roma, Barcelona could also sell Ivan Rakitic. According to Marca, Juventus are keeping tabs on the experienced midfielder.

- Sky Sport Italia claims Roma have contacted Chelsea over veteran forward Pedro, who is out of contract at season's end.

Flamengo have agreed terms with Inter to sign Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa on a permanent basis, reports ESPN Brazil, Globoesporte and Sportitalia.

Juventus are still pondering a swap deal that would see full-back Mattia De Sciglio move to PSG in exchange for Layvin Kurzawa, according to Gianluca Di Marzio.

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