Marc-Andre ter Stegen is desperate for more trophies after committing his future to Barcelona by signing a new contract.

The Catalans announced last month that Ter Stegen, Gerard Pique, Frenkie de Jong and Clement Lenglet had all agreed to extensions.

The Germany goalkeeper's new deal runs until 2025 and contains a release clause of €500million.

Ter Stegen, who returned to action this month after a knee injury, has been one of Barca's few major transfer success stories in recent seasons.

The 28-year-old, who signed from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2014, has won 12 trophies with Barca including four LaLiga titles, four Copas del Rey and the 2014-15 Champions League.

Ter Stegen has felt at home in the city since his arrival and is now keen for more silverware – and to celebrate in front of fans again.

"Barcelona has become a home for my family and I," he said in a video published by the club. "Both on and off the pitch, we are very happy.

"So, it was clear, the direction to take. The ambition from both myself and Barca has always been to reach a renewal agreement, to continue our story, which we started together in 2014.

"It's not just about playing for the biggest club in the world; it's more than that. The city and the fans have treated me like one of their own since the beginning, and this is important to me. A feeling I will never forget.

"I want to be a player at Camp Nou for many more years and keep winning trophies. There is no greater motivation. Hopefully, in the near future, with our fans once again."

Since his LaLiga debut, Ter Stegen has kept 64 clean sheets in 152 games, a tally bettered only by Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak (110 clean sheets in 198 games).

He has maintained a save percentage of 74.4 per cent, which is the fourth-best in Spain's top flight among keepers to make at least 100 saves, and a passing accuracy of 83 per cent – the highest in the division for his position.

Ronald Koeman is backing Antoine Griezmann to find consistent form for Barcelona but will not rule out a bid to sign Memphis Depay.

France star Griezmann, a €120million signing from Atletico Madrid last year, has struggled to impress on a regular basis alongside Lionel Messi at Camp Nou.

The forward, who missed a penalty against Real Betis last week before scoring in Barca's 5-2 victory, has just two goals, one assist and four chances created to his name in seven LaLiga appearances this season.

Koeman thinks the 29-year-old is bound to hit top gear, though, as long as he maintains his strong work ethic.

"He needs a bit more confidence and scoring goals always gives you that confidence," Koeman told Mundo Deportivo.

"You can't say he doesn't work, he works a lot, but maybe he feels a little more free when he's with the national team, having been with them a long time and always playing in the same position.

"There's are many more things besides, but a player who is working and trying so much to change things, I think in the end he'll get to where he wants to be.

"His best position is maybe more central, as a number nine, a number 10 behind a nine, with a lot of freedom on the right wing cutting in, with [Ousmane] Dembele playing more outside.

"They're positions in which he can give a lot to this team."

With Griezmann out of sorts and Ansu Fati sidelined for four months after meniscus surgery, Barca have been tipped to make a new move for Lyon forward Depay.

The Catalans agreed terms with Depay during the previous transfer window but a deal could not be struck between the clubs, and the Ligue 1 side's president Jean-Michel Aulas insists they will not sell the player in January even though his contract expires at the end of the season.

However, Koeman will not discount the prospect of signing the Netherlands international, with whom he worked while in charge of the national side and who has been directly involved in eight goals in Ligue 1 this season, a tally bettered only by Kylian Mbappe.

"Now is not the moment to talk about players who aren't here. For me, it's not good," he said.

"It's true his name has come out and he's played every game with our national team as a number nine.

"Everyone can have their opinion, but not here, and we'll see what happens in the future."

Koeman also suggested a deal could yet be struck to sign Eric Garcia from Manchester City, adding: "Well, I don't know. It depends on Manchester City."

Speaking to Sport, Koeman admitted captain Lionel Messi had been "unhappy" when he first arrived at the club, the forward having tried unsuccessfully to leave in the wake of the 8-2 Champions League destruction by Bayern Munich, a club-record defeat in the competition. 

Messi's form has been questioned in 2020-21, the Argentina star having failed to score from open play or register an assist in his first six LaLiga matches.

He produced a star turn off the bench against Real Betis, however, scoring twice, assisting another and playing a key role in Griezmann's goal as Barca claimed a 5-2 victory.

"I spoke to him on the first day, totally frankly, and I've never doubted him," Koeman said of the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"I see him training every day and enjoying playing. I said on the first day that he's the best player in the world and of course I prefer to have the best in the world in my team.

"As I said after the game against Betis, if he's well, he'll always start."

Jack Grealish may still be some way off living up to the outlandish Paul Gascoigne comparisons unloaded on him recently, but there can be little doubt of the Aston Villa star's supreme abilities.

Few players in elite football possess the grace and effortlessness on the ball of Grealish, who has come to establish himself as one of the Premier League's finest technicians.

But there is even more to his game than just simply looking graceful – his influence on high-flying Villa has been phenomenal.

It seems remarkable that his first call-up was as recent as August – even then, he was not included in the initial list, only getting his break after the withdrawals of Marcus Rashford and Harry Winks.

It was not until October that Grealish was handed his full debut, impressing in the 3-0 friendly win over Wales as he offered the kind of off-the-cuff creativity that has so often been missing from England's largely monotonous style of play under Gareth Southgate.

Yet Southgate's trepidation seemed to remain – Grealish did not play a single minute in their next two games against Belgium and Denmark.

But the man who Rio Ferdinand believes is the Premier League's most influential player respective to their own team is showing the kind of form that would make him virtually undroppable for any other manager.

Creator-in-chief

The problem with Grealish – and one must assume this is at least partly why Southgate has been holding him back – is that his defensive output is pretty poor, and he is particularly ineffective with regards to winning possession back as a consequence of pressing.

But sometimes you have to accept a player's deficiencies because of his other abilities. Similarly, Grealish is not in the Villa team to win possession back, so why should we judge him too harshly on this?

The fact is, Villa have been one of the revelations of the season in the Premier League, winning five of their seven matches, and Grealish has been central to so much of what they do.

First of all, his haul of four goals and five assists from seven games is truly excellent, but we can delve much deeper to understand the extent of his influence.

Grealish has been involved in 10 goal-ending sequences this term, second to only Harry Kane and Son Heung-min (both 13), while he also ranks third in the division for involvement in sequences that end with a shot (51).

This shows his importance to Villa going forward, with Grealish routinely involved in their most rewarding moves.

Panache and productivity

Still require evidence of Grealish's impact? There is plenty more to come, and this gives us the chance to highlight his ability on the ball but also how he is using that to Villa's advantage.

Ball carriers or players who like to dribble can be among the most frustrating on a pitch – you can become accustomed to expecting them to succeed every time, but in reality holding on to the ball, particularly when under pressure, is one of the toughest parts of the game.

It is normal to see centre-backs and full-backs rank well with regards to ball carries as they are often the players with the most space when in possession, yet Grealish bucks the trend.

The Villa virtuoso has performed 149 carries this season, making him the only non-defender in the top five, an impressive feat as it show he carries the ball frequently despite operating in – theoretically – the most congested area of the pitch.

His ball carries equate to 1,980 metres, second only to Adam Webster (2,032m) despite 48 fewer attempts than the Brighton and Hove Albion defender. However, Grealish comes out at the top with respect to progressive carry distance (1,269m) and 15 of them have included a take-on, a tally bettered by just five players.

But most importantly, Grealish is actually making an impact at the end of them as well. A league-high nine of his carries have resulted in a key pass, another nine have led to a shot (ranked third) and three of those produced a goal (ranked second).

The form and focus Grealish has been showing in the Premier League – in which he is the fourth most creative player this term with 19 key passes – should ensure he is one of the first picks in this England side, a team that is too often overly cautious.

But it remains to be seen if he has done enough to eradicate Southgate's caution.

A likely start in Thursday's friendly with the Republic of Ireland, whom Grealish represented at youth level, might be a relatively meaningless contest on the face of it, but for Villa's captain it could provide the opportunity to induce a long-awaited epiphany in the mind of Southgate.

Several stars will hope to make their first senior appearances for their countries this week as international football returns.

While most European nations will prepare for their final Nations League matches with friendlies in the coming days, South America is straight back into competitive action with the latest rounds of 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

A host of players are celebrating call-ups and will be doing their utmost to win their first caps, particularly with less than a year to run until the delayed Euro 2020 and Copa America finals.

We've picked out six of the biggest names hoping to make an impact on their debut this week...

 

ENGLAND: JUDE BELLINGHAM

Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham was called up by England boss Gareth Southgate after injuries to Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Ward-Prowse.

The 17-year-old, who will be England's third-youngest debutant if he plays this month, has enjoyed a strong start to life in the Bundesliga and beat the likes of James Maddison and Ross Barkley to a spot in the Three Lions squad.

Key Fact: Bellingham is averaging 68 successful passes per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga this season for Dortmund, the highest figure for any teenage midfielder in Europe's top five divisions.

FRANCE: MARCUS THURAM

Didier Deschamps said Ruben Aguilar could also make his debut this week, but it is Borussia Monchengladbach's Marcus Thuram who is capturing much of the focus on the France squad.

The son of 1998 World Cup winner Lilian Thuram, who holds the record for France caps on 142, striker Marcus Thuram scored both goals in Gladbach's 2-2 Champions League draw with Real Madrid.

Key Fact: Thuram has been directly involved in 20 league goals since the start of last season (11 goals and nine assists) – the only Gladbach player with more in this period is fellow Frenchman Alassane Plea.

GERMANY: FELIX UDUOKHAI

Along with Philipp Max of PSV and Wolfsburg's Ridle Baku, Augsburg's Felix Uduokhai is a new face in Joachim Low's Germany squad, having been a runner-up at the European Under-21 Championship last year.

The 23-year-old defender joined Heiko Herrlich's side permanently after impressing on loan from Wolfsburg last season and has performed well in a mixed start to the season for the Bavarians.

Key Fact: Uduokhai has already amassed 43 clearances in Augsburg's opening seven Bundesliga matches this season, the most of any player in the division.

ITALY: PIETRO PELLEGRI

Roberto Mancini named a handful of uncapped players in his typically expansive Italy squad, but Pietro Pellegri's debut has been eagerly awaited for some time.

Having missed out through injury after his previous call-up two years ago, the 19-year-old forward - who cost Monaco €25million in January 2018 - is getting his career back on track after a raft of fitness problems.

Key Fact: Pietro Pellegri is the third-youngest player to score a Serie A goal, doing so aged 16 years and 72 days for Genoa against Roma in May 2017. He is also the youngest player to score a Serie A brace at 16 years and 184 days old for Genoa against Lazio in September 2017.

SPAIN: MARCOS LLORENTE

At 25, it feels as though Marcos Llorente's Spain debut has been a long time coming, but his performances in a more attacking role for Atletico Madrid this season have truly caught the eye.

The former Real Madrid man, who famously scored twice at Anfield in extra time to knock Liverpool out of last season's Champions League, has helped Atleti to an unbeaten first seven games in LaLiga in 2020-21.

Key Fact: Llorente has been directly involved in 11 goals in his past 21 appearances in LaLiga (six goals and five assists) – prior to this run, he had a total of zero goals and two assists in 69 appearances in the competition.

BRAZIL: DIEGO CARLOS

Diego Carlos played a key role to help Sevilla win the Europa League in his first season in Spain. Indeed, having conceded penalties in the quarter-final, semi-final and final, it was his overhead kick that Romelu Lukaku turned into his own net to hand Julen Lopetegui's side the trophy.

The 27-year-old centre-back, who joined after three years with Nantes, is now bidding to become a mainstay in Tite's plans as the Copa America and 2022 World Cup loom on the horizon.

Key Fact: Diego Carlos has started seven sequences of play that have ended with Sevilla attempting a shot in LaLiga this season, the joint-most of any centre-back in the division alongside Gerard Pique.

Tampa Bay Rays boss Kevin Cash was named American League (AL) Manager of the Year for 2020, while Miami Marlins counterpart Don Mattingly reeled in National League (NL) honours.

Cash was crowned the AL's best after leading the Rays to their first division title since 2010 and first MLB World Series appearance in 12 years.

An AL Manager of the Year finalist in 2018 and 2019, Cash received 22 of the 30 first-place American League votes for 126 points, ahead of the Chicago White Sox's Rick Renteria (61) and Toronto Blue Jays skipper Charlie Montoyo (47).

"When I think about this award, it feels like a team award," Cash, whose Rays fell to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the showpiece clash, said. "I feel like it's an organisational award, because it's really your staff and your players have to buy in.

"We've taken our lumps for a couple years, and it looks like we're starting to turn the corner a little bit."

"I do think it's an organisational award," Cash, who became the second Rays skipper to win the award, joining Joe Maddon (2008 and 2011), continued. "But it certainly means a lot to me personally.

"When you look at these awards, there's only two that are given out every year, and to be recognised as one of the better ones on that given season means that a lot of things went your way."

In the NL, Mattingly and the Marlins capped a remarkable season with a managerial gong.

Mattingly received 20 of the 30 first-place votes after guiding the Marlins to their first playoff appearance in 17 years, despite a coronavirus outbreak that threatened to derail their campaign.

He became the third Marlins manager to receive the honour, along with Jack McKeon (2003) and Joe Girardi (2006), following Miami's run to the NL Division Series.

Mattingly is also the fifth individual to claim both the MVP Award and Manager of the Year title, joining Don Baylor, Frank Robinson, Kirk Gibson and Joe Torre.

"As I look back to the season, I think about all the people that paid the price for this," Mattingly, who beat Jayce Tingler of the San Diego Padres to the award, said.

"It starts at home with my wife and my little five-year-old. I didn’t see 'em for 110 days."

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick described his decision to leave the New York Jets in 2000 as one of the greatest moments of his illustrious career.

Belichick has enjoyed a remarkable career in the NFL, leading the Patriots to six Super Bowl titles since his appointment two decades ago.

The most successful head coach in NFL history, Belichick resigned on the day he was due to front the media as the Jets' new coach 20 years ago.

After the Patriots (3-5) topped the winless Jets (0-9) 30-27 on Monday, Belichick recalled his stunning departure from New York.

"That was one of the not only most defining, but one of the great moments of my career," Belichick WEEI in Boston on Tuesday.

"That combined with Robert [Kraft] giving me the opportunity to come here, I couldn't have asked for anything more."

Belichick had joined the Jets in 1997 and served as the team's assistant head coach and defensive co-ordinator before Bill Parcells stepped down at the end of the 1999 season.

Parcells had arranged for Belichick to succeed him in New York however, the latter went on to take charge of the Patriots in a bizarre turn of events – New England giving up a first-round draft pick to prise the former Cleveland Browns coach.

Belichick added: "That wasn't a good situation for me and I didn't want to be a part of it, so I wasn't. The other half was Robert giving me the opportunity to come [to New England].

"Trading, he gave up quite a bit for me to come here, that was a big trade. I'm very thankful that it worked out.

"I appreciate all the support from Robert, the Kraft family, the Patriots' organisation and all the New England fans. I'll keep trying to do my best for this team, and this organisation, giving the very best that I can.

"I'm very thankful for the opportunity to come here and I just wasn't going to stay there in that situation."

Nick Folks' 51-yard field goal was the longest game-winning field goal with no time remaining in the fourth quarter in Patriots history as New England snapped a four-game losing streak, per Stats Perform.

Patriots quarterback Cam Newton completed 18 passes to undrafted wide receivers in the victory over the Jets (Jakobi Meyers 12, Damiere Byrd five and Gunner Olszewski one). It was the most completions to undrafted wide receivers by any QB in a win during the Super Bowl era.

Spain head coach Luis Enrique backed Barcelona sensation Ansu Fati to pick up from where he left off once he has recovered from a knee injury.

Fati will spend four months on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on a tear to the internal meniscus of his left knee – an injury sustained in Saturday's 5-2 LaLiga win over Real Betis

The 18-year-old has been in great form for Barca this term, scoring five goals and assisting two more in 10 appearances in all competitions.

Among a number of other records, he became the youngest ever scorer for Spain with his goal against Ukraine in September.

That was one of four caps earned under Luis Enrique and the former Barcelona coach is confident the teenage attacker will find his best form once he returns to action.

"Regardless of how old you are, injuries are part of football," Luis Enrique said at a news conference ahead of Wednesday's friendly with the Netherlands. 

"It is a sad moment but he will overcome it. He will be the old Ansu again."

Fati's absence could give the likes of Alvaro Morata and Marcos Llorente a chance to shine in attack against the Netherlands.

Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke is back involved for the first time in over two years, while team-mate Llorente is in line for his maiden cap this international window.

"Morata is here because he has the confidence of his coach. He has a strong profile," Luis Enrique said.

"Llorente is almost already playing as a forward at Atletico now as the second striker. 

"The normal thing is to change your position, becoming deeper in your role, but with Llorente it is the other way around."

Spain enter the midweek friendly in Amsterdam on the back of a surprise 1-0 Nations League loss to Ukraine last month.

La Roja have won only two of their five matches this calendar year but Luis Enrique insisted all that matters is that his side peak in time for next year's rescheduled Euro 2020 finals.

"These games will help us to see all the players," he said. "But after playing these three games we still won't know what we have for the European Championships. 

"That will be seen in the tournament itself, where we can do very well. We'll see. I like what I see. You have to be optimistic and positive. Spain's real level will be seen at the Euros."

Cleveland Browns star Odell Beckham Jr. underwent successful surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Beckham is expected to be ready for the 2021 NFL season following Tuesday's operation, the Browns announced.

The three-time NFL Pro Bowler was injured while trying to make a tackle after Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield threw an interception during a 37-34 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on October 25.

"Odell Beckham Jr. underwent successful surgery to repair his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee," Cleveland's statement read.

"The surgery was performed early today by Dr. James Andrews at the Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in Pensacola, Florida.

"Beckham is expected to be ready for the 2021 season."

Beckham also shared a post on Instagram – a photograph of him in hospital with the accompanying caption: "Sit back relax n watch how God work… Now let the journey begin…"

The 28-year-old wide receiver, who was traded from the New York Giants in March 2019, had 319 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 23 receptions prior to the Week 7 clash with the Bengals.

Beckham's time in Cleveland has been undermined by persistent injuries. He suffered a hip and groin problem during training camp in 2019 and underwent surgery last January in a bid to correct the issue.

Since entering the NFL as the 12th pick in the 2014 draft, Beckham has tallied 487 receptions for 6,830 yards and 51 touchdowns, while he has rushed for 156 yards and a TD.

Lionel Messi remains the best footballer in the world and makes Barcelona a better team when he is in the side, says head coach Ronald Koeman.

The Argentina international was named among the substitutes for a LaLiga game for the first time since September 2019 in Saturday's 5-2 win over Real Betis at Camp Nou.

He had failed to score or assist from open play in six league matches this term before last weekend's contest, but Koeman denied he was dropped and put his absence from the side down to a knock.

Messi ended his open-play drought by powering home as a half-time substitute against Betis, having earlier scored his fifth penalty of the campaign in all competitions.

Koeman has reaffirmed he has full faith in the forward, who failed in an attempt to move away from the club at the end of last season.

"Messi has shown me to be a person who wants to win things and continue to be the best, even though he has had his problems with the club," Koeman told Sport.

"Barcelona have been, are and will be a better team with Messi than without. When I arrived, they told me that Messi was unhappy.

"We spoke at his house and he explained his reasons to me. I was honest. I told him that the only thing is the system, his position on the field, his importance in the team.

"But the problems that he had had with the club I couldn't change. From the first day I have said the same thing. He is the best and is committed to the club.

"He has had his issues, his problems this summer, but since he returned to training he has been very good.

"He has had bad luck in some games and he has not been able to offer the usual performance, but I am sure that at the end of the season he will have scored the usual goals."

Koeman replaced Quique Setien ahead of the 2020-21 campaign and oversaw Barca's joint-worst start to a LaLiga campaign after six games in the three-points-per-win era.

But the ex-Netherlands boss has put part of his side's early struggles down to poor refereeing and is confident positive changes are being made on the field.

"We have been able to change the image of the team. We have made changes that have given another air to the group," he said.

"People are very involved, very committed. We have increased the intensity of the training sessions and we have played good games.

"It is true that we have lost many points in the league, in games that we could have achieved a better result. Refereeing decisions have influenced the final result in some.

"We know we have to improve things and we are working towards that. Now we have a break, but we are already preparing a very demanding schedule for when we return."

Memphis Depay will not leave Lyon in the January transfer window despite Barcelona maintaining their interest in the attacker, according to Jean-Michel Aulas.

Barca were heavily linked with a move for Depay after former Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman took over in August, but the ex-Manchester United forward remained at the Ligue 1 side.

The Catalan giants are said to be looking to step up their efforts to sign the 26-year-old after Ansu Fati was ruled out for around four months with a knee injury.

Depay's contract with Lyon is set to expire in June and club president Aulas insists he will not be allowed to depart beforehand.

"Memphis is an exceptional player. It is him who is pulling the club, along with a number of other players," Aulas said on RMC.

"I was the first to say he would not go to Barcelona. Nobody listened to me during the transfer window because everybody thought he would leave.

"From the start, I told you, they will not leave because in a year when we were unfairly deprived of European competition, we absolutely have to make a success of the season. So, he will stay."

Depay has continued to perform in Ligue 1 despite failing to complete his move to Barca.

He has been involved in eight goals (five scored, three assisted) in the top flight this season, a tally that can only be bettered by Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe (seven scored, four assisted).

Furthermore, no player has created more chances in Ligue 1 than Depay, who has a league-leading 27 alongside Leo Dubois.

Depay has set up 35 league goals since his Lyon debut on January 22, 2017, level with Angel Di Maria for the most in the division in that time. Mbappe (110) is the only player to have been involved in more goals than the Dutchman (83) in the same timeframe.

Mumbai Indians rounded off a dominant campaign with a five-wicket victory over Delhi Capitals to win a record-extending fifth Indian Premier League title.

The Rohit Sharma-led side finished two points ahead of the Capitals to win the group phase and their superiority once again told at the Dubai International Stadium on Tuesday.

Shreyas Iyer (65 not out) and Rishabh Pant (56) helped Delhi finish with a respectable 156-7 after a poor start but their opponents had little trouble in chasing down that tally.

Rohit Sharma (68) reached another milestone as he moved past 4,000 runs for his franchise with a fine knock on his landmark 200th appearance in the competition. 

A late fightback from the Capitals was not enough to stop Mumbai from becoming just the second side after Chennai Super Kings to win back-to-back IPL crowns, as they triumphed with eight balls to spare.

Delhi were competing in their maiden final and were in serious trouble after electing to bat first, losing their top three for just 22 runs.

All-rounder Marcus Stoinis has enjoyed an impressive tournament, scoring 352 runs and taking 12 wickets ahead of the final, but he was sent packing from the very first ball.

Trent Boult (3-30) removed Stoinis and then Ajinkya Rahane (2) soon after and Shikhar Dhawan (15) offered little respite as he was castled by off-spinner Jayant Yadav.

Captain Iyer and Pant helped steady the ship, however, putting together 96 runs for the fourth wicket.

The loss of Pant proved important as Mumbai seized the initiative, with Shimron Hetmyer (5) and Axar Patel (9) quickly following - the last five overs yielding only 38 runs

Quinton de Kock put 20 runs on the board for Mumbai before Stoinis, desperate to make amends for his disappointing batting display, got a wicket off his first ball.

But skipper Rohit kept the runs flowing, registering four maximums, while Suryakumar Yadav also contributed until he was run out for 19.

Rohit registered another half-century before a fine catch from Lalit Yadav ended his season, though it was too little too late for the Capitals.

Ishan Kishan (33 not out) moved his side closer to the 157-run target and it was left to Krunal Pandya to stab an Anrich Nortje yorker away for the trophy-clinching single.

While 2020 has been testing for most, Jude Bellingham will surely look back on it as the year that changed his life.

Having sealed a big-money move to Borussia Dortmund from Birmingham City in pre-season, he subsequently got himself straight into the first-team picture at Signal Iduna Park and has now been rewarded with a first call-up to England's senior side at the age of 17.

It caps a remarkable rise for the young midfielder, who was representing England's Under-16s as recently as April 2019.

His promotion from the Under-21s comes as a result of James Ward-Prowse pulling out of the squad due to injury, with Bellingham set to become the third-youngest England debutant of all-time behind Wayne Rooney and Theo Walcott if he features in any of the Three Lions' three games this month.

But, while Bellingham's momentous call-up is a cause for celebration, it has posed questions for manager Gareth Southgate – namely, why not the more experienced options?

Too soon for Bellingham?

There is no doubt Bellingham has started brightly at Dortmund – after all, he has attempted more passes (292) than any other under-18 player in Europe's top five leagues this term, while his dribble success rate (58.3 per cent) is third among players in the same age bracket to have tried 10 or more.

Similarly, no other under-18 player can match his 12 tackles. He has fitted in well with Lucien Favre's high-pressing, attacking style and his adaptation is all the more impressive given his age.

But at the same time, it has been pointed out by Southgate's critics that Bellingham has made just four top-flight starts in his career – can a player truly show the required level of consistency across such a small sample size?

The counter to that argument is, this is by no means a new phenomenon. Raheem Sterling, Harry Winks and Dele Alli are just three of the players to have received senior England call-ups before starting five matches in one of Europe's top five leagues.

Nevertheless, Bellingham's call-up does – on the face of it – seem somewhat premature given there are comparable players of greater experience who have either been excelling recently or have impressed for England in the past.

Maddison and Barkley in the lurch

James Maddison and Ross Barkley appear to be seen as the two most hard done by in being ignored by Southgate.

Bellingham is certainly a more like-for-like replacement of Ward-Prowse than the aforementioned pair, but England have often looked short of creative ideas in the past few months – perhaps Barkley or Maddison would have been welcome additions in that sense.

After all, Barkley is averaging 2.9 chances created per 90 minutes for Aston Villa this term, compared to Bellingham's 1.6, a decrease one might expect for a player who usually occupies a pivot role.

Similarly, Barkley has been involved in three goals (two scored, one set up) to Bellingham's solitary assist, but the choice likely comes down to Southgate's trust – or lack thereof – in the Villa star or Maddison to effectively play a deep role.

While Maddison's distribution accuracy of 90 per cent may be an improvement on Bellingham's 86 per cent, the youngster is averaging many more passes per game (79 to 46). Likewise with Barkley, who plays 40 passes every 90 minutes with an accuracy of 83 per cent.

It also seems likely that Maddison is not helped by the fact he has made just two Premier League starts this term, though he was bright against Wolves at the weekend.

It is the sequence data that arguably gives us the greatest insight to Southgate's thinking with regards to this trio, however.

Southgate has a penchant for deep-lying midfielders who are tidy in possession, and Bellingham has been involved in 57 open-play passing sequences per 90 minutes this term, far more than Barkley (39) and Maddison (41).

He also starts such sequences (12 per game) more often than his rivals (11 for Barkley, 7 for Maddison), while 1.4 per 90 minutes end in a shot. This is also greater than the output of Barkley (0.9) and Maddison (0.7).

So, while Barkley and Maddison might offer more in the final third, Bellingham's role as a midfield pivot for Dortmund this term has seen him shine in terms of passing and recycling possession.

England fans may not like Southgate's apparent reliance on deep midfielders, but the fact he has chosen Bellingham to fill in for Ward-Prowse does make sense stylistically.

Manchester United have confirmed that left-back Luke Shaw is facing a month on the sidelines with a hamstring injury sustained against Everton.

The 25-year-old was substituted in the 67th minute of United's 3-1 win at Goodison Park - a game in which he set up Bruno Fernandes for the Portugal international's second goal of the day.

That was the second game in a row in which the eight-cap England international has assisted a goal, having failed to do so in his previous eight outings this term.

His 39 passes played into the opposition box is bettered by only five other players in the Premier League this term, but he has created just one big chance - for Fernandes' goal - across those seven top-flight outings.

Shaw is now set to miss United's Premier League games with West Brom, Southampton and West Ham, as well as the Champions League clashes with Istanbul Basaksehir, Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig.

However, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be able to call upon Alex Telles, who has been restricted to only one appearance since joining from Porto in October after testing positive for coronavirus.

Victor Lindelof and Marcus Rashford were also struggling towards the end of the Everton match, with Solskjaer hitting out at the Premier League schedule.

"We were set up to fail," he told BT Sport on Saturday. "I said to you before, when I talked to you about the kick-off time, it's set up the boys to fail. 

"We got Luke Shaw injured because we've been to Turkey, we've played loads of games this season already, and we've been to Turkey Wednesday night, [and] come Thursday morning we're back in, we're playing Saturday lunchtime kick-off. 

"It's an absolute shambles and I can't praise the boys enough for that character they've shown. That's all I want to talk about. Those boys deserve better than being thrown out here to fail.

"The authorities set us up to fail. How can they set us up, after a Champions League game, Wednesday night, in Turkey, and set us a Saturday 12.30 kick-off?"

United's first game back after the international break is a home meeting with West Brom, currently scheduled for November 21.

Pakistan spinner Usman Qadir dazzled Zimbabwe to help his side wrap up a comprehensive clean sweep in their three-match Twenty20 series.

Zimbabwe were competitive in losing the ODI series 2-1 but have struggled in the shorter format and lost by eight wickets in Rawalpindi on Tuesday, sealing a 3-0 defeat.

Electing to bat after winning the toss, Zimbabwe struggled to 129-9 in their 20 overs, with Qadir taking a career-best 4-13 and moving to eight wickets for the series.

Pakistan had no issues in the run chase, reaching their target with 4.4 overs to spare. Debutant Abdullah Shafique top scored with 41, rewarding the decision to push him up the order made by Babar Azam on the day he was named Test captain.

After Brendan Taylor (8) had picked out Khushdil Shah at square leg off Imad Wasim in the fourth over and Craig Ervine (4) fell to Haris Rauf, Zimbabwe's hopes of building a competitive total were ended by in-form Qadir.

He accounted for captain Chamu Chibhabha, the tourists' top scorer with 31, as well as Milton Shumba (11) and Wesley Madhevere (9) before striking with his last ball to remove Elton Chigumbura, who managed just two in his final international match.

Pakistan's reply saw Fakhar Zaman fall for 21 just as it looked like he would produce the big innings he is under pressure to provide, while Haider Ali chipped in with 27.

Victory never looked in doubt, with Shafique producing a steady innings from 33 balls, while Khushdil struck 36 from just 15 deliveries in a knock that included three sixes to finish it in a hurry.

Khushdil's winning runs gave Pakistan a fifth straight victory in completed T20Is at home, equalling their record run.

Frank de Boer "said bad words" upon seeing Virgil van Dijk suffer a serious injury in action for Liverpool, though he is far more relaxed about Donny van de Beek's situation at Manchester United.

Van Dijk is likely to be out for the rest of the season after sustaining significant damage to his anterior cruciate ligament in last month's Merseyside derby.

The 29-year-old centre-back was on the wrong end of a dreadful challenge from Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, who remarkably avoided a red card.

Of course, Van Dijk's absence does not only impact Liverpool, it also affects the Netherlands, who could ultimately be without him for next year's delayed European Championship.

"I saw it live. I was shocked. I said some bad words," De Boer said on Tuesday ahead of a friendly against Spain on Wednesday.

"It was a shock, because he's such an important player, our captain, and he's so important in our squad. We will miss him."

De Boer was less concerned about the position Van de Beek finds himself in at United, however.

The midfielder, a pre-season arrival from Ajax, has been a bit-part player for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this term, making only four starts across all competitions – none of those have been in the Premier League, in which he has seen just 75 minutes of action.

De Boer acknowledged that the player has reason for frustration but urged patience.

When asked if he wanted to give the 23-year-old a sympathetic hug, De Boer said: "I can't hug him right now of course! I try to give him as much confidence as possible, which I showed by starting him against Italy.

"I think he did well in the games he played, I saw him a few times at United. He's doing well, but they have a great midfield with [Bruno] Fernandes, [Paul] Pogba, Fred, [Scott] McTominay and [Nemanja] Matic.

"It's difficult, but I'm sure he will play his minutes. I can understand he wants to feature more frequently, but on the other hand, it's always normal that you have to adapt when you go to a new league.

"Let's hope he will get his playing time. I am happy that he's well-rested. We can use him here."

After the international break, Van de Beek will likely target Pogba's position in the United team.

The Frenchman has created just two goalscoring chances in the Premier League this term, only one more than Van de Beek despite playing 298 more minutes than him.

Pogba also has no goals in the top flight – Van de Beek netted his first for the club against Crystal Palace.

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