LaLiga has seen a lot of upheaval over the past few months, none more so than since the start of August as Lionel Messi's future unravelled.

This will be the first season that LaLiga has been without Messi since 2003-04, and as such there are plenty of people suggesting Spain's top tier has subsequently lost much of its appeal.

Be that as it may, even with spending significantly limited among clubs this year, there are still some interesting new arrivals to LaLiga.

Below, Stats Perform uses Opta data to look at five of them…

Memphis Depay, forward - Barcelona, free transfer from Lyon

Granted, Barcelona's rocky financial situation means it is yet to be confirmed if Depay will be registered for the start of the season.

But assuming Depay is involved as Barca begin the campaign against Real Sociedad, he will be under pressure to help make up for the loss of Messi.

His record at Lyon at least shows he should carry a threat, and in theory he will be surrounded by better players at Camp Nou.

Depay scored 76 goals in 178 appearances for Lyon after joining from Manchester United in January 2017 and enjoyed a particularly impressive final season in Ligue 1, finishing with 20 goals to trail only Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe (27).

 

The former PSV youth product's 12 assists and 94 chances created were more than any other player managed in France's top flight in 2020-21.

In all competitions, meanwhile, Depay scored 22 goals last term at an average of one goal every 141.5 minutes, making it his second-best season since arriving.

He massively exceeded his expected goals (xG) tally of 12.38, so perhaps he shouldn't be expected to be quite as prolific, but if he can reach double figures in goals and assists once again, Depay would have to be considered a shrewd signing.

David Alaba, centre-back - Real Madrid, free transfer from Bayern Munich

It has been a difficult few months for Madrid. While caught up in plenty of off-field controversy, they have also lost the centre-back partnership that guided them to so much success. Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane, as well as their former head coach Zinedine Zidane, are no longer around.

The one signing Madrid have managed to bring in does at least offset one of those losses, as Alaba will offer experience, versatility and all-round quality at centre-back. After all, he made 298 Bundesliga appearances for Bayern, and a player does not reach such figures without being excellent.

 

He helped Bayern keep 111 clean sheets across those games, did not receive a single red card in the league, and made only two errors leading to goals in the competition, according to Opta data.

Bayern team-mate Thomas Muller is the only other player in Bundesliga history to have won 10 titles, and Bayern had counted on Alaba as their Mr Dependable. Carlo Ancelotti will hope he can form a great partnership with Eder Militao.

Rodrigo De Paul, central midfielder - Atletico Madrid, €35m from Udinese

While Diego Simeone has perhaps been a bit hit and miss when it comes to making the most of creative talents, De Paul appears to be ideal schemer for his new coach.

Providing creativity is De Paul's bread and butter, with his 82 key passes in 2020-21 bettered by only Hakan Calhanoglu (98) in Serie A.

Of those chances, 34 came from set-pieces, highlighting his prowess from dead-ball situations and ranking him fourth in Italy's top flight.

 

Only five players got more assists than his nine, but all of them massively out-performed their modest expected assists records, which ranged from 3.4 to 6.7. De Paul topped the charts for expected assists with 10.3 xA, evidence that his assists reflected the quality of his service rather than him getting lucky or benefiting from unusually good finishing by team-mates.

Yet the area which highlights a particular compatibility with Atleti is the fact he won more duels (294) than anyone else in Serie A in 2020-21.

Combine that with his league-leading completed dribbles (122) and it paints a picture of a hard-working player who also possesses the quality to get his team on the front foot.

Jose Macias, striker - Getafe, on loan (with purchase option) from Guadalajara

It is fair to say Getafe are not particularly one of LaLiga's most-fashionable sides. Under Jose Bordalas they were more renowned for their aggression and physical style of play, though new boss Michel has significantly different ideas.

In theory, that should immediately make them a more likable proposition for the neutral, and the signing of Macias will only add to the intrigue.

The 21-year-old Mexico international had been linked with numerous clubs with greater status than Getafe, such as Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla, but Los Azulones pulled off something of a coup in bringing him to the Coliseum Alfonso Perez on loan with an option to buy.

 

Macias is the first forward that Guadalajara have sold to a European side since Javier Hernandez left for Manchester United in 2010 and he heads to Spain having netted 12 times in the most recent Mexican Apertura and Clausura campaigns.

His 20 shots on target in the 2021 Clausura was the most by a Mexican player, though it was during a loan spell with Leon where Macias really announced himself, netting 24 times in 38 Liga MX matches.

He didn't quite hit those heights again upon returning to Guadalajara, so the jury is still out to a degree, but there is lots of potential for Getafe to tap into.

Yusuf Demir, winger - Barcelona, €500k loan fee (€10m purchase option) from Rapid Vienna

Barcelona fans need not fear life without Messi, for they have signed the 'Austrian Messi'… or something like that.

Obviously that is a fair bit of pressure for an 18-year-old to have, particularly given he was initially signed for the B team, but he's produced some positive performances in pre-season for the senior side and arrived from Rapid with a burgeoning reputation.

While Demir only started in six of his 25 Austrian Bundesliga appearances (825 minutes) last season, he finished the campaign with a highly respectable seven goal involvements, which averages out at one every 117.9 minutes – only 10 players to play at least 825 minutes had a better record.

Despite only getting the one assist, Demir was a regular source of creativity when he did feature, as highlighted by the fact his 2.7 key passes per 90 was the sixth highest among those to play at least 825 minutes.

 

But arguably his most notable asset, and the one that inspires the comparison with Messi, is his ability on the ball.

A dynamic and exciting player, Demir attempted 6.3 dribbles per 90 minutes on average, a figure matched by no one who featured for more than 108 minutes last term.

Similarly, he was successful with 3.8 dribble attempts per game, which was also a league high. It was that kind of flair that helped him realise a childhood dream by moving to Camp Nou, and he could have a more prominent role than he may have initially predicted upon his arrival.

Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland? How about both? The questions are the same as Real Madrid enter each transfer window. As in 2020, though, such queries are wholly unrealistic.

Prior to last season, which began just six months into the coronavirus pandemic, Madrid were not able to make a single first-team signing. Their most significant business was the €40million sale of Achraf Hakimi to Inter.

It is a similar story 12 months on, having failed to deliver silverware in front of an empty Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium. Free agent David Alaba is Los Blancos' sole recruit and even his arrival is offset by the departures of fellow centre-backs Sergio Ramos – at the end of his contract – and Raphael Varane – with a sale to Manchester United agreed for €50m.

Financial results earlier this month reported a loss in revenue of "close to €300m" due to the pandemic. A post-tax profit of €874,000 for 2020-21 was achieved due to "intense spending saving measures in all areas", read a statement, which added: "With regard to the economic situation, current forecasts indicate that the recovery from the pre-pandemic situation will not be immediate. In this context, the club will continue in the effort so far to contain spending."

One of the world's grandest clubs are doing things on the cheap. A change of coach was only initiated by Zinedine Zidane, whose replacement, Carlo Ancelotti, has been plucked from mid-table Everton – although Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri claimed this week he was offered the position.

Ancelotti has been here before, of course, having led Madrid to 'La Decima' in 2013-14 after a 12-year wait. How he raises the club again without this time breaking the world transfer record two months into the role is another question – one Stats Perform attempts to answer with the aid of Opta data.

Return of rapid Real?

Just as Ancelotti is returning to Madrid, so too is Gareth Bale. It was he who Madrid splashed out €100m on to inspire Ancelotti's first side to Champions League glory. Now he could be handed a starring role again.

The winger appeared to have no future under Zidane but will surely be the chief beneficiary if Ancelotti returns the team to the attacking approach he employed previously at the Santiago Bernabeu. Across his two seasons at the helm, Madrid scored 222 LaLiga goals – 22 more than across the past three campaigns combined now.

That would mean a significant shift, though. Zidane's men have not just scored fewer goals, they have moved at a slower pace. Madrid averaged 4.7 passes and 12.7 seconds per sequence in the league in 2020-21, with 662 open-play sequences of 10 passes or more. In 2013-14, with Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria leading a rapid forward line, Madrid's sequences typically lasted only 3.9 passes and 10.3 seconds, with just 475 10-plus pass sequences. Those numbers only marginally increased in Ancelotti's second season.

 

This change in style is also evidenced by Madrid's direct speed, having moved 1.93 metres upfield per second in 2013-14 but just 1.41 in an average sequence last term. Making the most of the attributes of Bale, Ronaldo and Di Maria, that Madrid team had 122 direct attacks but only 112 build-up attacks – figures that have altered drastically in opposite directions to 87 and 165 respectively.

The football under Ancelotti was undoubtedly exciting and appeals again. Even as he was sacked in 2015, president Florentino Perez said: "The affection that the players and the fans have for Carlo is the same as the affection I myself have for him." Implementing that system again may not be entirely straightforward, though.

Ancelotti arrived in 2013 only a year removed from the 121-goal 2011-12 LaLiga campaign – the most Madrid have ever scored in a season. The Italian gave his superstars the freedom to play but did not need to reconfigure their approach. That tallies with the rest of a glittering career to date, which has chiefly seen him credited with man-managing big names rather than introducing the sort of tactical tweaks that might almost double a team's attacking output.

If that is Ancelotti's desire, though, between Bale, Vinicius Junior and Eden Hazard, Madrid should at least still have the players to tear through teams at pace. Indeed, getting Hazard fit and firing two years and four goals into his LaLiga career will be as crucial as rehabilitating Bale. The former Chelsea forward may put the famed 'diva whisperer' to the test, but Madrid cannot afford to have a €100m man not contributing.

Age is against Ancelotti

Madrid's play without the ball has also changed in the time Ancelotti has been away, and getting them to perform in this regard as they did during his first stint will be more difficult still. Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro – Madrid's long-standing midfield trio – were on board when Ancelotti left the club six years ago. Modric will be 36 in September. Class and experience are on their side, but the energy of youth is not.

With Di Maria occupying a key role in the 4-2-3-1 formation and Modric finding his feet in Spain, Madrid pressed relentlessly in 2013-14. Opponents were allowed only 9.3 passes per defensive action (PPDA) amid Los Blancos' 499 pressed sequences. As a result, Madrid's attacks started 42.3 metres upfield on average, boosted by their 179 high turnovers, of which 45 led to shots and nine to goals.

Even Ancelotti could not maintain these standards the following year, as Di Maria departed for the Premier League while a thigh injury restricted Modric to 16 games. Madrid regressed in every category.

In 2021, it is not that Madrid do not press, it is that they do not do so with the same intensity. There were 430 pressed sequences last term and still an impressive 178 high turnovers, but opponents were allowed 11.3 PPDA, with Madrid unable to harry at a comparable rate. It is unlikely that statistic improves as Kroos also moves through his thirties and yet more minutes are pumped into the legs of one of modern football's great midfields. The emergence of Federico Valverde – young and versatile – helps, but Ancelotti may well face the unenviable task of dismantling a unit he helped put together.

 

Alaba alters the complexion

To this point, with a former coach returning to guide the same players, Madrid's approach appears closer to devolution than evolution or revolution. The defence at least will ensure this team has a new sheen, albeit not one that necessarily improves Ancelotti's chances of success at home or abroad.

Alaba is a fine player with vast experience, six years younger than Ramos but with 10 Bundesliga titles and two Champions League triumphs to his name. It is a like-for-like change that makes sense, even with Ramos' emotional ties to the Bernabeu. However, asking Alaba to also replace Varane, the outgoing captain's stalwart defensive partner, feels like a tough ask.

Rather than settle into a new club in a new country alongside a World Cup winner – "Varane, of course, I would like to play with him," Alaba said as recently as last week – Madrid's sole signing seems set to be asked to perform the role of the senior man alongside Eder Militao, who has made just 23 LaLiga starts across two seasons.

Yet Militao crucially has attributes Alaba does not, with the converted full-back far less combative than the two departed defenders. At Bayern, in the Bundesliga last season, Alaba contested only 5.0 duels per 90 minutes – fewer than Varane (5.4), Ramos (6.4) and Militao (7.9) in LaLiga. He won just 55.4 per cent of those, another low as Varane (67.9 per cent) led the way.

Militao could then be tasked with getting tight to opposition forwards, but Alaba might find it tougher to avoid being picked on in the air. He contested a meagre 1.2 aerial duels per 90, down on 2.3 for Varane, 4.3 for Ramos and 5.2 for Militao. As Varane won a league-leading 76.0 per cent of these duels and Ramos came out on top in 63.8 per cent, opponents faced a scrap against either centre-back. Alaba's 51.4 per cent success rate shows why he tends to avoid such encounters.

An area of real strength for Madrid could now become a weakness. Only Sevilla (four) conceded fewer headed goals than Madrid (five) in the league last term, while Real Betis (five goals conceded) were the sole side to be tighter from set-pieces than Zidane's outfit (six). With Ramos and Varane marshalling the area, Madrid faced the fourth-fewest headed attempts (58). They are unlikely to rank as impressively again with 5ft 11in Alaba at the heart of the defence.

Madrid are unlikely to make the most of Alaba's versatility – well stocked at left-back but now short in the middle of the back line – yet his ability on the ball, honed in different roles, should at least help to keep Ancelotti's men on the front foot. Part of a dominant Bayern team, Alaba was involved in 4.6 shot-ending sequences and 0.7 goal-ending sequences per 90, having a bigger hand in such opportunities than Ramos (3.9 and 0.4) or Varane (2.9 and 0.3).

Being able to start attacks from the back plays into the idea Madrid should be set up to again thrill supporters under Ancelotti. Whether they can combine entertainment with results, as the 2013-14 team did so successfully, might be another matter.

Real Madrid have confirmed new signing David Alaba has tested positive for coronavirus.

Alaba, who played in all of Austria's Euro 2020 matches, agreed to join Madrid following the expiration of his contract with Bayern Munich, where he had spent his entire career, winning 27 trophies.

The 29-year-old – who has taken Madrid's number four shirt vacated by Sergio Ramos – was officially unveiled at the Santiago Bernabeu on July 21.

However, his pre-season preparations have been hit by a positive COVID-19 test.

Madrid revealed the news in a brief statement on their official website. They did not clarify whether Alaba was asymptomatic. 

Alaba, who has signed a five-year deal with Los Blancos, is the second Madrid player to test positive in as many weeks, after Karim Benzema also contracted the virus.

With Madrid having agreed to sell Raphael Varane to Manchester United, Alaba is set to lead a new-look defence this season.

Carlo Ancelotti's team were beaten 2-1 by Rangers in a pre-season friendly on Sunday – Alaba did not feature, but has been training with the squad.

Carlo Ancelotti is glad to have reunited with David Alaba at Real Madrid and has backed the "complete player" to thrive in whatever position he is used in.

Alaba's free transfer to the Santiago Bernabeu was confirmed in May after bringing an end to his 13-year association with Bayern Munich.

The 29-year-old, who featured four times for Austria at Euro 2020, has built a reputation for his versatility with an ability to play centre-back, left-back or in midfield.

Ancelotti knows all about Alaba's adaptability, having previously worked together for one full season at Bayern, and is looking forward to getting the most out of the 10-time Bundesliga champion.

"Alaba is a complete player, with a lot of quality and tactically intelligent in defence," the coach told Real Madrid TV.

"I put him at centre-back in my last games at Bayern Munich, but sometimes he plays in midfield for Austria and can also play on the left. 

"He is a complete player who is going to do very well this season."

Alaba will also bring experience to the Madrid squad, having racked up 448 appearances for Bayern and won 27 trophies during his time in Bavaria.

He is expected to plug the void left by long-serving centre-back Sergio Ramos, who ​last week completed a move to Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

 

Marcelo has succeeded Ramos as captain and returned to pre-season training last week along with some other familiar faces.

Ancelotti, who is in his second spell as Madrid head coach, praised the dedication of some of the team's more senior pros.

"We have worked a lot," he said. "The players have done very well. There is a lot of quality in the youngsters and a great commitment from the veterans. 

"I really liked the commitment of Dani Carvajal, Nacho, Marcelo, Lucas Hernandez and Isco.

"They are players who have won everything and still have the desire, enthusiasm and hunger to have a great season as we would all like to have."

Ancelotti was sacked by Madrid during his first stint six years ago, despite winning the Champions League, Copa del Rey, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup.

Los Blancos averaged 2.7 goals per game during Ancelotti's previous two-year reign, a number aided by the presence of the club's all-time leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo.

In LaLiga, Ancelotti's side led the way in terms of goals, scoring 104 in 2013-14 and then 118 in the following campaign, eight more than a treble-winning Barcelona squad led by Luis Enrique.

His Madrid averaged 18.1 shots per game – the same number as Zinedine Zidane's side during the Frenchman's first stint – with a conversion rate of 14.9 per cent.

With Ronaldo long gone, Ancelotti may struggle to match the offensive numbers of his previous version of Madrid, but he is acutely aware of what is expected from his team.

"We have to take into account the history of this club," he said when asked to describe his preferred style of play.

"The team has to play well, showing the quality they have. Real Madrid's history is about energetic football, with intensity with the ball and without the ball, which is what today's football requires."

Roberto Mancini has urged his Italy players to "have fun" as they bid to set two national records in their Euro 2020 last-16 clash with Austria at Wembley Stadium on Saturday. 

The Azzurri shone in the group stage, scoring seven goals – the most they have scored across their first three games of a major tournament since 1998 – in wins over Turkey, Switzerland and Wales.

Mancini's team have won 11 games in a row without conceding a goal, their clean sheet streak lasting 17 hours and 35 minutes since Donny van de Beek scored for the Netherlands in October 2020.

One more clean sheet will see them equal their record for consecutive games without conceding (12), set between 1972 and 1974, while also surpassing the previous total of minutes (1,143) without letting a goal in.

Their run of 30 games without a defeat, meanwhile, also matches a record set under Vittorio Pozzo between 1935 and 1939.

A quarter-final tie against Belgium or holders Portugal in Munich awaits should they overcome Austria, and Mancini wants his side to enjoy the occasion at one of the world's most iconic stadiums. 

"I've enjoyed my time as Italy coach and I would like to continue doing it. I thank the players, as they allowed me to have fun with this experience too," Mancini told a media conference. 

"Playing at Wembley should always be a pleasure. There are players in this squad who have never experienced it and they ought to relish this opportunity in a beautiful stadium.

"When you play football, it's because you want to do it in stadiums like this. I think this team needs to keep feeding the joy and at the same time respect a temple of football like this. I am sure the lads will play well tomorrow."

Austria have not beaten the Azzurri in their last 13 meetings, a run dating back to December 1960.

Mancini, though, has warned his players to expect a tough game against a side who are making an appearance in the knockout stages of a major competition for the first time since the 1954 World Cup. 

"We need a great performance, as Austria have quality," he added. "They are aggressive and we cannot get anything wrong.

"That's the beauty of these tournaments, you have to win and there's no other option. We have to continue playing our football, hopefully for another four games at Euro 2020."

Austria captain David Alaba, meanwhile, said it is a "dream come true" for his country to take on Italy in the knockout stages.

Alaba – who joined Real Madrid on a free transfer in May after leaving Bayern Munich – created nine chances in the group stage, at least four more than any other Austria player. 

"It is a special game and we want to do well," he said.

"I've won at Wembley, so I have very good memories of this stadium. I expect a wonderful game and I remember the atmosphere from the Champions League final, but tomorrow will be special for Austria and we can't wait to get out there.

"I don't need to tell the lads how to treat certain situations. Some might ask me for advice, but we have others who have played at this level and I am not concerned.

"This is a dream come true for Austria to play a round of 16 match in a Euros against Italy."

Italy are in the hunt for two national records on Saturday, as they aim to overcome Austria in the Euro 2020 round of 16 at Wembley.

The Azzurri flew through the group stages, scoring seven goals – the most they have scored across their first three games of a major tournament since 1998 – in victories over Turkey, Switzerland and Wales.

Roberto Mancini's team have won 11 games in a row without conceding a goal. Their clean sheet streak has lasted 17 hours and 35 minutes since Donny van de Beek scored for the Netherlands in October 2020.

One more clean sheet will see them equal their record for consecutive games without conceding (12), set between 1972 and 1974, while also surpassing the previous total of minutes (1,143) without letting a goal in.

Their run of 30 games without a defeat also matches a record set under Vittorio Pozzo between 1935 and 1939.

With a quarter-final tie against Belgium or holders Portugal in Munich up for grabs, Italy must first defeat Austria, who have not beaten the Azzurri in their last 13 meetings, a run dating back to December 1960.

Italy have also won four of their meetings with Austria at major tournaments.. However, they have won only two of their 13 matches played in London.

"Austria are a physical side, they keep the tempo high, but we're prepared, we are Italy and we go out there to win," defender Giovanni Di Lorenzo said in a pre-match news conference.

"I don't feel anxiety in the group, just the concentration and eagerness to get out there and play. The knockout stages begin here, this is the meat of the competition and we can't wait."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Italy – Marco Verratti

Mancini has been happy to rotate his squad, with 25 of 26 players – including back-up goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu – having appeared so far in the tournament.

Manuel Locatelli impressed in the opening two matches, but Marco Verratti turned in a star performance against Wales. The Paris Saint-Germain playmaker created a game-high five chances, led the way for passes completed (103 from 110 attempted), touches (136) and tackles (four), and Mancini has a decision to make in midfield.

Austria – David Alaba

Franco Foda's use of David Alaba has seemed strange at times in Euro 2020. Having been deployed in midfield for much of his international career, Alaba was utilised in a three-man defence in wins over North Macedonia and Ukraine, though played at the heart of the back three in a defeat to the Netherlands.

Regardless of his position, Alaba still created nine chances in the group stage, at least four more than any other Austria player. Four of these came in Austria’s 1-0 win against Ukraine last time out.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Seven of Italy's 14 knockout stage games in the European Championship have been drawn (W4 L3). Of these seven draws, they have won two and lost three by a penalty shootout, won once on a coin toss and the other went to a replay which they eventually won.
- This is Austria's maiden appearance in the knockout stages of the European Championship, and their first in the knockout stage of any major tournament since the 1954 World Cup, when they reached the semi-final.
- Italy have won two of their 13 matches that were held in London (D5 L6), and are winless in five matches there (D3 L2) since beating England 1-0 in 1997 in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley, with Gianfranco Zola scoring the only goal.
- Austria have lost four of their six games in London in all competitions (W1 D1), with this their first visit to the English capital since a 7-0 friendly defeat in September 1973 (vs England). 
- Italy had 60 shots across their three games in the group stages, with their average of 20 shots-per-game their highest on record in a single edition of the European Championship (since 1980).

Despite plenty of doubts heading into Euro 2020, Frank de Boer's Netherlands side could well just be a surprise package.

The Netherlands joined Belgium and Italy in qualifying for the last 16 as they claimed a 2-0 victory over Austria in Amsterdam on Thursday, ensuring they will top Group C.

In truth, they came up against an Austria team who are failing to get the best from the talent Franco Foda has at his disposal, though that will not dispel the positivity surrounding the Oranje after two vibrant attacking displays.

With Matthijs de Ligt back at the heart of their defence and Frenkie de Jong commanding midfield, the Netherlands looked solid at the back, and this encounter seemed to pit a team with a set system – if sometimes overly offensive – against a side with little idea as to how they want to play.

 

Austria wasting Alaba's talent

David Alaba is a player whose versatility has always come in handy both for Bayern Munich and Austria. Indeed, he has more often than not played in midfield for his country.

He managed to advance forward from a position on the left of a back three in the 3-1 win over North Macedonia on Sunday, providing the assist for Austria's second goal, but in Amsterdam, stationed in the middle of the defence, he looked a shadow of the world-class talent he truly is.

While still managing to create two chances – matching his total from game one – he was too often forced to stay deep and marshall Austria's line, subsequently becoming a victim of the Netherlands' press. It was only at 2-0 down that Foda made the decision to move his talisman into a more advanced position, from which the Real Madrid-bound left-footer went close to a stunning goal which would have set up a grandstand finish.

It rounded out a frustrating night for the 28-year-old, whose rash lunge on Denzel Dumfries led to Austria falling behind.

 

De Jong serves up midfield masterclass

As Alaba became bogged down in defence, De Jong had free rein in midfield. The Barcelona man sure made the most of it.

The Netherlands actually had less possession (46.9 per cent) than their visitors, but they always looked to have the match under control and De Jong, whose 77 touches was a team-high, was crucial.

No player made more tackles (three) or regained possession on more occasions (12) than the former Ajax star, who was at his silky best when on the ball, effortlessly gliding through midfield and picking out his team-mates 49 times, out of 58 attempts, giving him a passing accuracy of 84.5 per cent.

With the bombarding Dumfries stretching the pitch down the right, De Jong was afforded the time and space to run the show.

Depay shows his best... and worst

Memphis Depay had five of the Netherlands' six efforts at goal in the first half, with his penalty – won by the excellent Dumfries – putting the hosts ahead after 11 minutes.

Depay has scored 27 goals for his country, five more than any other Dutch player since his debut, with Georgino Wijnaldum (22) his closest challenger.

He really should have had added more to that total. Depay lashed into the side-netting in the 24th minute, but his glaring miss came when he sliced over with the goal gaping just before half-time.

Nevertheless, his talent is there for all to see, with his six efforts a game-high – albeit the only one which hit the target was his goal.

It helps that Depay has found support in the goalscoring stakes, Dumfries putting the seal on victory in this game and becoming only the second Dutchman to score in his first two appearances at the Euros, after Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Sabitzer crowded out as Arnautovic's absence felt

Marko Arnautovic's suspension for his over-zealous celebration against North Macedonia left Austria short of one of their best options in attack, but Foda is also struggling to find a way to bring Marcel Sabitzer's creativity to the fore.

The RB Leipzig midfielder showed quality with a supreme cross for the opener against North Macedonia, yet he failed to create any chances for others throughout Thursday's match, only managing one shot himself.

Sabitzer scored eight Bundesliga goals in 2020-21 for Leipzig, setting up a further three, but like Alaba, it feels as though his ability is not being sufficiently harnessed by a coach who has guided his team to just two wins in their last eight games.

David Alaba was pleased with the character shown by Austria after they produced a strong second-half display to beat North Macedonia - but promised it was just the start for them at Euro 2020.

Late goals from substitutes Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic secured a 3-1 result against North Macedonia in Bucharest, Austria's first win at a European Championships.

Indeed, they had not triumphed at a major tournament since the 1990 World Cup, a barren run that appeared set to continue when Goran Pandev capitalised on a loose ball to cancel out Stefan Lainer's volleyed opener in the Group C contest.

Yet Austria dominated for long spells after the break and eventually found a way through, Alaba providing an inviting cross for Gregoritsch to put Austria back ahead.

"We achieved our first goal with these three points, we wanted to get this victory, but we have to stay calm and focus on our next match," Alaba told the media.

"We are not happy just with the three points. This was our first goal we wanted to achieve, now we want to continue. Of course we want to impose our game and continue to collect points, that's our target.

"This shows our character and personality, we want to continue on this path."

He added: "At half-time, we said to each other that we had to play faster, that we wanted to control the match.

"In the second half, we had some spells where we really put the foot down, where we lost the ball and directly tried to get it back. That is what we talked about at half-time, that we wanted the three points.

"You could see how hungry and willing we were. We wanted to show our character, our team spirit on the pitch – I think we managed to do that."

Alaba surprisingly lined up at the heart of a back three, though popped up on the left flank to provide the assist for Gregoritsch's crucial goal.

Austria's captain - who has ended his long association with Bayern Munich by joining Real Madrid on a free transfer - completed 93 of his 99 attempted passes in the game, a new record for his country in a European Championship fixture.

Head coach Franco Foda was delighted with Alaba's impact on proceedings, though made clear the system could change when they go up against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Thursday.

"He played in this position for Bayern a lot, we just switched to a back three. At Bayern he also played that way, so that's no problem for him," Foda said.

"In the second half, he helped us and supported us in attack, especially on the left. This was his duty and I'm very happy with his 90 minutes.

"He organised our defensive work well, talked a lot with his team-mates and this is important. In the second half, he helped us in terms of attacking."

Arnautovic did not start having gone into the tournament recovering from an injury, though he made an impact off the bench by scoring Austria's third goal in the 89th minute.

On his compatriot, Alaba said: "We players always want to play, but we can see what character he has. He came on and gave 100 per cent straight away. He's a very important player for us, both on and off the pitch. We know what he means to us."

David Alaba is eagerly awaiting his Real Madrid debut after swapping Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich for Los Blancos.

Madrid – looking for a new head coach following Zinedine Zidane's departure – confirmed the arrival of Alaba on a free transfer upon the expiry of his Bayern contract, the Austria star signing a five-year deal at the LaLiga giants.

Following Friday's confirmation, Alaba took to social media to talk up his move from Munich to the Spanish capital after winning 27 trophies with Bayern.

"I leave one special club for another," the 28-year-old Austria international Alaba wrote via Twitter.

"After so many years in Munich, I'll take on this new challenge and do my best to continue the history of this special club.

"I can't wait to play my first game in this legendary white shirt, in front of all of you, the Real Madrid fans.

"I'm convinced that this experience will be full of success."

Alaba made his debut in a DFB-Pokal meeting with Greuther Furth in February 2010, becoming the club's youngest player in history at the time and setting up a goal for Franck Ribery within a minute of coming on.

The Austrian was 17 years, seven months and 18 days old when he made his debut, but Jamal Musiala is now Bayern's youngest debutant.

Alaba has gone on to make 448 appearances for the Bavarian giants, scoring 35 goals and supplying 47 assists in all competitions. 

He has won 27 trophies with Bayern, lifting the Bundesliga title 10 times and winning the Champions League twice – both of those European successes forming part of trebles.  

David Alaba is to join Real Madrid on a free transfer upon the expiry of his Bayern Munich contract, Los Blancos have confirmed.

The versatile Austria defender announced back in February that this season would be his last at the Allianz Arena, having initially joined Die Roten's youth set-up in 2008.

LaLiga giants Madrid have now swooped to bring Alaba to the Santiago Bernabeu on a five-year deal, beating off a host of Europe's elite clubs for his signature.

Alaba made his debut in a DFB-Pokal meeting with Greuther Furth in February 2010, becoming the club's youngest player in history at the time and setting up a goal for Franck Ribery within a minute of coming on.

The Austrian was 17 years, seven months and 18 days old when he made his debut, but Jamal Musiala is now Bayern's youngest debutant.

Alaba has gone on to make 448 appearances for the Bavarian giants, scoring 35 goals and supplying 47 assists in all competitions. 

The 28-year-old has won 27 trophies with Bayern, lifting the Bundesliga title 10 times and winning the Champions League twice – both of those European successes forming part of trebles.  

It remains to be seen whether Alaba, who will be presented as a Madrid player after the completion of his Euro 2021 campaign, will be playing alongside Sergio Ramos next season, or acting as a replacement for the veteran centre-back.

Ramos is out of contract next month, and has been left out of Spain's squad for Euro 2020.

David Alaba is to join Real Madrid on a free transfer upon the expiry of his Bayern Munich contract, Los Blancos have confirmed.

The versatile Austria defender announced back in February that this season would be his last at the Allianz Arena, having initially joined Die Roten's youth set-up in 2008.

LaLiga giants Madrid have now swooped to bring Alaba to the Santiago Bernabeu on a five-year deal, beating off a host of Europe's elite clubs for his signature.

Alaba made his debut in a DFB-Pokal meeting with Greuther Furth in February 2010, becoming the club's youngest player in history at the time and setting up a goal for Franck Ribery within a minute of coming on.

The Austrian was 17 years, seven months and 18 days old when he made his debut, but Jamal Musiala is now Bayern's youngest debutant.

Alaba has gone on to make 448 appearances for the Bavarian giants, scoring 35 goals and supplying 47 assists in all competitions. 

The 28-year-old has won 27 trophies with Bayern, lifting the Bundesliga title 10 times and winning the Champions League twice – both of those European successes forming part of trebles.  

It remains to be seen whether Alaba, who will be presented as a Madrid player after the completion of his Euro 2021 campaign, will be playing alongside Sergio Ramos next season, or acting as a replacement for the veteran centre-back.

Ramos is out of contract next month, and has been left out of Spain's squad for Euro 2020.

Ronald Koeman's first season in charge at Barcelona was less than convincing, creating doubts about his future.

Koeman guided Barcelona to third place in La Liga in 2020-21, as well as lifting the Copa del Rey, but they bowed out of the Champions League in the last 16.

It was a season of change at Barcelona, with Joan Laporta taking over as president in March and recently stating they will undergo an off-season "renovation" and that their "cycle has ended".

 

TOP STORY - KOEMAN SET FOR BARCA SHOWDOWN TALKS

Ronald Koeman will sit down with Barcelona president Joan Laporta this week for showdown talks about his future, claims Diario Sport.

Koeman was appointed by previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu on a two-year deal in August last year.

Laporta will also likely inform the Dutchman to sell up to 10 players to fund their off-season transfer plans.

Barcelona have been linked with a host of players including Sergio Aguero, Erling Haaland and Georginio Wijnaldum this off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano claims that David Alaba will join Real Madrid irrespective of Zinedine Zidane's future. Alaba has completed and agreed to a pre-contract.

- Le10Sport claims Paris Saint-Germain are shaping as the favourites to sign Liverpool's off-contract midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum rather than Barcelona who are yet to make an offer for the Dutchman.

- Barcelona are weighing up an off-season move for Atalanta's German versatile full-back Robin Gosens, claims Diario Sport.

Milan will look to secure Fikayo Tomori from Chelsea on a permanent deal, with a €28million option to buy him, claims Fabrizio Romano.

- Arsenal have opted out of the race for Brighton's Yves Bissouma, boosting Liverpool's hopes of signing him reports The Mail.

- Leicester City are in the hunt for Sassuolo midfielder Jeremie Boga, joining the race along with Atalanta and Napoli, according to Calciomercato.

David Alaba admitted leaving Bayern Munich would be "one of the hardest steps" of his life after playing his final game for the German champions.

The Austrian defender appears likely to join Real Madrid in the coming weeks, having run down his contract at Bayern.

Alaba, 28, joined Bayern in 2008 and rose through the youth ranks to become a mainstay of the first team, winning a staggering 10 Bundesliga titles and the Champions League twice.

He announced in February that he would be departing at the end of the season, and the reality of that decision has now dawned for Alaba.

The versatile player, who can perform at left-back and centre-back and has also featured in a defensive midfield role for Bayern, broke down in tears recently when watching a series of video messages prepared for him.

He posted a farewell note on Instagram, having wrapped up his Bayern career by helping the team to a 5-2 win over Augsburg on Saturday. Alaba, Javi Martinez and Jerome Boateng all featured for the final time.

Alaba's note on Sunday read: "My friends, my home, my love, all my pride. 13 years full of emotions, hard work, dedication, big moments, outstanding memories and love for the FC Bayern family.

"A time that taught me important lessons, that strengthened me and that made me the person who I am now. Season after season I learned what #MiaSanMia meant."

The club motto translates as "We are who we are", and is held in great reverence at Bayern.

"And every game I gave my best to show that. For you," Alaba added. "I will never forget, how we fought together on the pitch, celebrated our titles off the pitch and I will never forget how you, our fans, pushed and motivated us."

Alaba made 298 Bundesliga appearances for Bayern, scoring 24 goals and having 25 assists.

He helped the team keep 111 clean sheets across those games, did not receive a single red card in the league, and made only two errors leading to goals in the competition, according to Opta data.

Bayern team-mate Thomas Muller is the only other player in Bundesliga history to have won 10 titles, and Bayern have counted on Alaba as their Mr Dependable, the club stating he never served a suspension for accrued yellow cards in the league.

"I am glad and thankful that I could start here as a young boy with lots of dreams and that I could make these dreams reality," Alaba said. "Coming to Munich, joining FC Bayern was one of the best decisions in my life. Leaving this club and this city will be one of the hardest steps of my life.

"One thing for sure: I will never forget this time. @fcbayern"

 

Where will Harry Kane play in 2021-22?

The Tottenham star Kane reportedly wants out of his boyhood club.

Premier League rivals Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are ready to pounce…

 

TOP STORY – KANE SEEKING SPURS DEPARTURE

Harry Kane has told Tottenham he wants to leave the club in the off-season, according to widespread reports in England.

Frustrated at a lack of silverware in London, Spurs star Kane would reportedly prefer to remain in the Premier League amid links to champions Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Kane is believed to be open to a LaLiga switch, with Barcelona among his admirers.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Diario AS claims former Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane if the Frenchman leaves Real Madrid. Club great Raul, who is currently in charge of the Castilla team, is another option. It comes as Madrid push to bring in a franchise player in the form of Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, while Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Bayern Munich's David Alaba are also wanted amid links to Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga and United midfielder Paul Pogba.

- The Sun says City are considering a mega move for Barca superstar Lionel Messi, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Messi is reportedly open to reuniting with Pep Guardiola in Manchester on a one-year deal.

Barca are weighing up the futures of Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Antoine Griezmann and Sergi Roberto, reports Mundo Deportivo. Due to their financial situation, the players could be asked to take a pay cut as Lyon captain Memphis Depay prepares to arrive on a free transfer. City forward Sergio Aguero and defender Eric Garcia, Haaland and Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum have also been linked.

- Lille's Jonathan Ikone is Dortmund's top priority as the Bundesliga club prepare for life without Jadon Sancho, according to France Football. Sancho has been tipped to join United or Liverpool, while Dortmund are also eyeing PSV sensation Donyell Malen, Ajax forward David Neres and Pedro Goncalves of Sporting CP.

Bayern Munich claimed a record-breaking ninth consecutive Bundesliga title thanks to Borussia Dortmund's 3-2 win over RB Leipzig.

Last season's treble winners missed out on Champions League glory this term, but they remain far ahead of their closest rivals in German football.

Bayern were set to have the chance to seal glory when hosting Borussia Monchengladbach later on Saturday but goals from Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho, who struck twice after half-time, gave Dortmund victory over second-placed Leipzig at Signal Iduna Park to complete the formalities.

Before this staggering run, no team had won more than three successive Bundesliga titles.

Bayern have now matched deposed Serie A kings Juventus for the longest streak of domestic championships won by teams from Europe's top five leagues.

The latest championship success for Bayern means they have won the Bundesliga 30 times since the league was founded in 1963, with Dortmund and Gladbach next on the list with five titles each.

Bayern have a 16th title since 2000, underlining their growing domestic dominance, and stalwarts Thomas Muller and David Alaba have both been champions with the club 10 times, setting a new record.

Alaba will leave Bayern at the end of the season, and Hansi Flick has also announced he will depart after barely 18 months at the helm, with the widespread assumption he will become the new Germany national team head coach.

Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann will step in to try to continue the dynasty he was, until very recently, looking to bring down.

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