New Paris Saint-Germain signing Georginio Wijnaldum says he "would love" for Paul Pogba to play alongside him in the French capital.

PSG have been linked with 28-year-old midfielder Pogba, who is off contract at Manchester United in 2022.

Wijnaldum, who joined PSG from Liverpool last month, added fuel to the speculation fire, labelling Pogba an "extraordinary player".

“I would love to have Pogba with us,” Wijnaldum told RMC Sport. “He’s fantastic. I have played against him several times – what a player!

“If you ask any player from another team if he would like Pogba to join him, everyone will say yes because he is an extraordinary player, full of qualities.

"He has it all, one of the best midfielders in the world.”

Pogba said earlier this month that United were yet to table a "concrete proposal" for a new deal yet the Red Devils are understood to be keen to tie him down beyond 2022.

PSG have been linked with a cut-price €58 million (£50m) swoop for ex-Juventus man Pogba.

The Parisians have already signed Wijnaldum, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos and Achraf Hakimi this off-season after finishing as 2020-21 Ligue 1 runners-up.

Sergio Ramos, Achraf Hakimi, Georginio Wijnaldum and Gianluigi Donnarumma have all joined Paris Saint-Germain this transfer window - a haul of signings Mauricio Pochettino feels are befitting of the Ligue 1 giants.

Having been appointed in January to replace Thomas Tuchel, the Argentine led his side to semi-final elimination in the Champions League at the hands of Manchester City and they finished second to Lille domestically.

After bringing in numerous big names, Pochettino is preparing to bounce back in the 2021-22 season and has surrounded himself with some stars of European football.

"A club like Paris Saint-Germain deserves players of the highest level", Pochettino told the club's in-house media on Monday.

"And when you talk about players like Wijnaldum, Ramos, Hakimi or Donnarumma, these are all players who have shown their quality at other clubs and who have proven that they have the quality to play for Paris Saint-Germain."

Donnarumma, whose shoot-out heroics led Italy to their first European Championship triumph since 1968, will provide additional defensive solidarity - a characteristic synonymous with Ramos.

The former Real Madrid centre-back kept 206 clean sheets during his time with Los Blancos, while he is the only defender to score 100 goals in one of the top-five European leagues since the turn of the century.

Hakimi offers further quality at both ends for PSG. The wing-back contributed seven goals and nine assists last season for Inter, a total bettered by four defenders across Europe's top-five leagues.

 

And Pochettino appreciated the impact that experience could have on his team preparing for their next campaign.

"What we are looking for in all players that we want to see in the Paris Saint-Germain shirt is personality and a winning mentality," the former Southampton and Tottenham boss said.

"These players that we have signed have won things at different clubs, but most importantly, they haven't won anything here yet and they will do everything they can in order to do so."

Last season, PSG ranked 11th in Ligue 1 in terms of the number of times they recovered possession and Pochettino insisted this is an area that his team must improve if they are to succeed.

While PSG recorded 2,250 recoveries across the Ligue 1 campaign, champions Lille were the hardest working, recovering possession 2,460 times. The signing of Wijnaldum, who ranked fourth in terms of recoveries for Liverpool last season, may help their cause.

"The key lies in the way we recover the ball, the commitment and desire that each of the 11 players that are out on the pitch show when we don't have the ball", Pochettino added.

"That we have that aggression and collective effort in order to leave the opposition with very few options. I think that will be the key."

Georginio Wijnaldum struggled to explain the Netherlands' "off-day" against the Czech Republic as their Euro 2020 campaign ended at the last-16 stage.

Frank de Boer's side were the favourites to reach the quarter-finals after three wins from three games in the group stage, but they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat in Budapest as a red card to Matthijs de Ligt proved costly.

The Juventus man was sent off for a deliberate handball and the Czech Republic capitalised on their advantage, Tomas Holes and Patrik Schick scoring the goals to send them through.

The Netherlands failed to attempt a shot on target for the first time in a European Championship or World Cup match for the first time since at least 1980 as they struggled to replicate the attacking flair they showed previously in the tournament.

Captain Wijnaldum was an isolated figure throughout in the number 10 role, completing just 10 passes in the contest, the fewest of any Oranje outfield player in a Euros knockout match for at least the past 41 years.

Wijnaldum pointed to a good chance for Donyell Malen, which was missed barely 30 seconds before De Ligt's red card, as a key point in the contest but admitted his side deserved little for their performance.

"In the second half, we had a good chance and you have to finish that," he told NOS.

"The goals we gave away, the chances we didn't take... all that goes through your head. After the red card, we found it difficult to put them under pressure. Things just got more difficult for us.

"The whole match was tough going. Somehow we couldn't deal with the way they pressurised us. We couldn't create spaces. We fashioned a few chances in the first half, but not enough.

"Before the tournament, there was a lot of criticism around our way of playing, and we turned that around. Today was an off-day. I can hardly explain it. It's very difficult, but it's the reality."

The Czech Republic will face Denmark in the quarter-finals next Saturday.

 

The Netherlands are looking to win their opening four games of a European Championship for just the second time when they take on the Czech Republic in the last 16 of Euro 2020 on Sunday. 

Head coach Frank de Boer played every minute when they last achieved that feat in 2000, the Oranje ultimately losing on penalties to Italy in the semi-finals. 

The Netherlands, who will be without Luuk de Jong after he was ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury, do not have a successful record in the knockout stages of this competition, progressing from just two of their seven standalone games since they won the tournament in 1988. They beat Yugoslavia 6-1 in the 2000 quarter-final and overcame Sweden on penalties at the same stage in 2004. 

Standing in their way of a quarter-final clash against either Wales or Denmark is a Czech Republic side who have a miserable record of their own when it comes to European Championship knockout games. 

Jaroslav Silhavy's side have been eliminated in three of their last four games in the knockout stages of the tournament – versus Germany in the final in 1996, Greece in the semi-final in 2004, and most recently, Portugal in the quarter-final of Euro 2012.

They will be without left-back Jan Boril after he picked up a second yellow card of the tournament in the final group game against England, with Ales Mateju in line to deputise.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Netherlands – Georginio Wijnaldum

Wijnaldum made a reasonably slow start in finding the back of the net at international level, scoring 10 goals in his first 53 appearances for the Oranje. He has accelerated in recent years, though, with no player scoring more for the Netherlands than his 15 in 25 games since the start of 2019. 

The new Paris Saint-Germain midfielder scored three goals in the group stage, including a brace in the 3-0 win over North Macedonia. The Czech Republic have been warned.

Czech Republic – Patrik Schick

Schick lit up Euro 2020 with his stunning long-range strike against Scotland in his side's opening game in Group D. 

The Bayer Leverkusen forward was responsible for six of his side's nine shots on target in the group stage – the highest percentage of any player for his team in the tournament (67 per cent).

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- This will be the first meeting between the Netherlands and the Czech Republic since October 2015, when the Dutch were beaten 3-2 in a Euro 2016 qualifier. Indeed, they have lost each of their last two games against the Czech Republic – both coming in qualifying for the previous European Championship in 2016.
- The Czech Republic and the Netherlands will face each other at the European Championship for the third time (excl. Czechoslovakia meetings), with both sides winning one game apiece previously. Their last meeting in the competition was a thriller at Euro 2004, in which the Czechs came from two goals down to win 3-2, following an 88th minute winner from Vladimir Smicer.
- The Netherlands completed more high turnovers (open play sequences that start within 40 metres of the opponent’s goal line) than any other side in the Euro 2020 group stages (44), while only Spain (60) forced more pressed sequences (sequences where the opposition has three or fewer passes and the sequence ends within 40m of their own goal) than the Dutch (58).
- Memphis Depay has been directly involved in 13 goals in his last 10 appearances for Netherlands in all competitions (nine goals, four assists), while only Robert Lewandowski (12) attempted more shots than Depay (11) in the group stage at Euro 2020.

With the group stage of Euro 2020 now over, we can get down to the important business: arguing over who have been the best players until now.

The first three matchdays produced some enthralling spectacles, a handful of shocks and one or two rather forgettable encounters of which there is no need to speak any more.

We have seen some rather obvious star turns, such as a certain Portugal striker equalling the record for international goals in men's football, while other standout performers have flown a little more under the radar.

Here, using Opta data for added insight, Stats Perform presents the Euro 2020 team of the group stage. Please do read on for a few explanations before starting on those angry comments...

 

 

GK: DANNY WARD

Wales battled their way into the knockout rounds after finishing second in Group A, ahead of Switzerland on goal difference. Much of that is down to Danny Ward's form.

The Leicester City man saved 86.7 of the shots on target he faced, the best record among keepers to make at least five saves.

 

LCB: DALEY BLIND

The Netherlands surprised a few people with three convincing wins in Group C, with Daley Blind's calm yet authoritative presence at the heart of their performances.

Blind completed 221 passes in the group stage, more than any other Oranje player, with more than half of those (115) coming in opposition territory.

 

CB: ANDREAS CHRISTENSEN

Quite rightly celebrated for that thunderbolt of a goal in Denmark's key victory over Russia, Andreas Christensen's all-round displays make him worthy of inclusion here.

The Chelsea defender won 79.2 of his duels in the first three rounds, a tally bettered only by Oleksandr Karavaev (80 per cent) and Thomas Vermaelen (90 per cent) among those to contest at least 10.

 

RCB: LEONARDO BONUCCI

Italy's 1.3 expected goals against was the lowest figure of any side in the group phase, underlining the imperious nature of their form not just at these finals but in the whole of their 11-game winning run in which they have not let in a single goal.

Leonardo Bonucci has been the rock at the back, particularly with Giorgio Chiellini battling injury. He has won possession 11 times, the most of any Azzurri defender, and has yet to be beaten by a dribble.

 

LWB: JORDI ALBA

Jordi Alba was Spain's standout performer until the rest of the team somewhat caught up on matchday three as they turned on the style to thrash Slovakia 5-0.

The Barcelona left-back completed 247 passes, the most of any defender after Aymeric Laporte (259), while leading the way for possession won (30 times).

 

CM: GEORGINIO WIJNALDUM

With three goals in three games, Georginio Wijnaldum surpassed the great Marco van Basten on the all-time Netherlands scoring charts to reach 25 for his country.

Enjoying a more advanced role at these finals, Paris Saint-Germain fans are being given a glimpse of what the midfielder could provide for them next season.

 

CM: PIERRE-EMILE HOJBJERG

Alongside Kevin De Bruyne, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is one of only two midfielders to create nine goalscoring chances during the group stage.

The Tottenham man set up two Denmark's goals in the 4-1 hammering of Russia to move to three assists at these finals, a tally matched only by Switzerland's Steven Zuber.

 

CM: MANUEL LOCATELLI

His two goals against Switzerland were the highlight of his group-stage displays and made Manuel Locatelli just the third Italy player to score twice in a single European Championship match.

The Sassuolo star was rested against Wales, but the quality of his performances in the first two games prompted rumours that Juventus have redoubled their efforts to sign him.

 

RWB: DENZEL DUMFRIES

Full-back Denzel Dumfries became an unlikely goalscoring hero for Frank de Boer, becoming just the second Netherlands player to score in his first two European Championship games (the first was Ruud van Nistelrooy).

Denmark wing-back Joakim Maehle was the only nominal defender with more touches in the opposition box (20) during the group stage than Dumfries (17).

 

CF: ROMELU LUKAKU

Continuing his spectacular Inter form at these finals, Romelu Lukaku scored three times in Belgium's group games from a total of just four shots on target.

He would probably be the favourite for the Golden Boot were it not for the form of the only man to outscore him in Serie A last season...

 

CF: CRISTIANO RONALDO

With five goals in three games, Cristiano Ronaldo became the leading goalscorer at the World Cup and European Championship combined (21).

The Portugal captain needs just one more to surpass Ali Daei as the top-scoring international men's footballer of all time.

We had to wait an extra year, but the Euro 2020 group stage threw up drama and records – and in terms of goals it delivered magnificently.

With the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku hitting their stride, it was a feast for the strikers, with 94 goals scored across the 36 games.

That represented a massive raising of the bar after only 69 goals were netted at the same stage in the 2016 tournament.

Here, Stats Perform looks at the most eye-catching numbers that defined the first 13 days of this delayed tournament – ahead of the do-or-die knockout stage getting under way.

 

Ronaldo making up for lost time

Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score as many as five goals in the group stages of a single European Championship since Michel Platini bagged seven for France in 1984, on his way to a nine-goal tournament tally. Three of Ronaldo's goals for Portugal at this tournament have been penalties, while Platini netted just one spot-kick during France's run 37 years ago.

Impressively, Platini's goals in 1984 came from an expected goals (xG) rate of just 3.32, while Ronaldo has recorded his five from a total of 4.71 so far. Opta builds its expected goals data by measuring the quality of an attempt based on variables such as assist type, shot angle and distance from goal, whether it was a headed shot and whether it was defined as a big chance. It means Ronaldo has put away approximately the number of goals he should have expected to score.

Ronaldo scored twice from the penalty spot in Wednesday's 2-2 draw with France, the first game in the history of the Euros to see three spot-kicks scored, excluding shoot-outs.

Defending champions Portugal have been far from perfect, however, dropping a competition-high five points from winning positions.

While Ronaldo has the most goals of any player so far in these finals, he has not been able to keep up with the rising tide of own goals. There have been a staggering eight, as many as were scored between the 1980 and 2016 editions combined.

 

Firing range

Why wait until seeing the whites of the goalkeeper's eyes before offloading a shot?

Patrik Schick had one quick glance towards David Marshall's goal and let fly from 49.7 yards at Hampden Park to put the Czech Republic 2-0 in front against Scotland. That incredible moment gave Schick the longest-range strike on record at the European Championship, with such measured distances available from the 1980 tournament onwards.

There were 304 shots from outside the penalty area in the group stage, but only 12 goals scored from such long range. That ratio of one goal for every 25.3 shots from long distance was nevertheless an improvement on the Euro 2016 numbers, when just 16 goals from outside the area were scored from 638 attempts across the whole tournament – one every 39.9 shots.

 

Low Countries, tall targets

Belgium and the Netherlands are nations who have experienced mixed fortunes on the football field in the 21st century, but both will feel a big moment could be arriving.

The Belgian Red Devils were absent from all major tournaments between their appearances at the 2002 and 2014 World Cups, while the Dutch were conspicuous by their absence from Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

Lukaku, with three goals so far, has been a terrific spearhead of the Belgium side, netting 50 per cent of the goals their players have netted (excluding own goals) at Euro 2020 despite only taking 22 per cent of their shots – seven of 32 attempts.

If Lukaku keeps firing, with Kevin De Bruyne and co prompting from midfield, then Belgium, who have never won a World Cup or European Championship, have a strong chance to show why they are ranked by FIFA as the world's number one team.

Belgium exceeded their collective xG tally by 3.15 – scoring seven against xG of 3.85 – the highest number by which any side surpassed their expected goals in their opening three games.

Their neighbours, the Netherlands, have also caught the eye. Ronald Koeman lifted the Oranje from their doldrums and successor Ronald de Boer has guided the team through the group stage as top scorers and with a 100 per cent record.

That Group C success, with eight goals scored and two conceded, came on the back of Georginio Wijnaldum scoring three times. In doing so, he has overtaken Marco van Basten and Dirk Kuyt on the list of the Netherlands' leading international goalscorers, moving to 25, one ahead of the former Milan and Liverpool forwards.

Or, to put it another way, Wijnaldum is halfway to matching Robin van Persie's record haul of 50 international goals.

 

Boring, boring England?

England, by netting only twice, became the lowest-scoring side to ever finish top of a group at a European Championship. They did not so much storm through Group D as plod a methodical path through to the last-16 stage, although an xG of 4.45 suggests England have at least been creating chances, albeit not finishing as well as they might.

Yet England might yet go far. Germany visit Wembley next Tuesday and will encounter English players who have only been dribbled past 12 times in the group stage, the lowest number among all competing teams. England's expected goals against (xGA) tally is a miserly 1.33, the second lowest in the tournament behind an Italy side (1.3) who have got it right at both ends of the pitch to.

Turkey's players were dribbled past on 36 occasions, a group-stage high, and only North Macedonia (8.85) had a higher xGA than Senol Gunes' team (7.69), who failed to live up to 'dark horse' expectations.

 

Riding their luck? Or being all out of it?

Wales conceded just twice, defying an xGA total of 5.47, and reached the knockout stage on the back of that. The gap of 3.47 between expectation and reality with that metric was the highest among all competing teams.

Conversely, Scotland scored just once against an xG of 4.00 – with 3.00 the highest negative difference between xG and goals scored.

Russia bowed out, and could hardly blame anyone but themselves. Their players made three errors leading to goals – more than any other side and the joint-most by any nation at a finals going back to 1980, the point from which records are available.

Hungary also exited the tournament. They predictably finished last in the 'group of death' – adrift of France, Germany and Portugal – but Hungary were surprisingly ahead for more minutes and trailed for fewer than any other team in that Group F campaign.

Denmark squeezed through in second place behind Belgium in Group B, becoming the first team in European Championship history to reach the knockout stages of the competition having lost their first two group stage games. After the alarm of the Christian Eriksen situation, many would love them to go further.

Would you Luka that!

Luka Modric became the oldest player to score for Croatia at the Euros, netting a gorgeous strike in the 3-1 win against Scotland at the age of 35 years and 286 days. That made it an unusual double for the veteran playmaker, who also holds the record for being Croatia's youngest scorer at the tournament (22 years 73 days versus Austria in 2008).

Modric continues to marvel, and there was a slice of history for another midfielder in the group stage as Switzerland's Steven Zuber became only the third player since 1980 to register three assists in a single European Championship game – doing so against Turkey – after Portugal's Rui Costa in his rampaging 2000 display that tormented England and Denmark's Michael Laudrup in 1984 against Yugoslavia.

Georginio Wijnaldum will wear a rainbow-coloured armband when he captains the Netherlands against the Czech Republic in Budapest on Sunday and has declared that he and his team-mates could leave the field if they are subjected to any form of abuse.

Hungary has faced criticism over its treatment of LGBTQ people after passing a law that prohibits the sharing of content in schools that could be deemed to promote homosexuality and gender change.

Football's attempts to show support have also created controversy, with UEFA launching an investigation into Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer's use of a rainbow armband - a nod to the flag of the LGBTQ community - before acknowledging the motif as "a team symbol for diversity".

However, the governing body did not allow Munich's Allianz Arena to be lit up in those colours for Germany's final Group F game against Hungary on Wednesday, ostensibly due to its rules regarding political neutrality.

But that has not discouraged Wijnaldum from plans to wear an armband featuring the words "One Love" for the first time in the tournament when the Dutch head to the Hungarian capital.

"It is not just against Hungary," he said. "The armband means a lot because we stand for diversity – one love means everybody is a part of it and everybody should be free to be who they are.

"In our opinion [the right to be yourself] has been encroached upon. As players we have a podium to do whatever we can to help."

UEFA launched an investigation into allegations that France star Kylian Mbappe and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo faced racist and homophobic abuse during their appearances in Budapest.

And Wijnaldum has warned that he will be ready to take his team off the pitch should any such incidents occur during Sunday's last-16 clash.

"UEFA should be there to protect the players and make the decision," he said. "It should not be left to the players. Players often get punished for protecting themselves so UEFA needs to take a lead role in this.

"I have said I don’t really know how I will react in such a situation. I thought first that I would walk off the pitch but maybe not now because maybe the opponent will think: ‘Let them [in the crowd] throw racist slurs and they will walk off the pitch'.

"It could be the case that I will walk off the pitch but I will speak with the players about it first."

Denmark lit up Euro 2020 on Monday as they thumped Russia 4-1 to finish second in Group B and progress to the last 16.

Belgium ran out winners in that group after a 2-0 win over Finland, with Markku Kanerva's side finishing third by virtue of an inferior goal difference to Denmark.

In Group C, the Netherlands sealed top spot with a 3-0 victory against rock-bottom North Macedonia, with Austria joining them in the knockout stages after overcoming Ukraine, who finished third. 

Using Opta data, Stats Perform takes a look at some of the best facts from Monday's games.

Russia 1-4 Denmark: Hjulmand's side progress in spectacular fashion

Denmark produced one of the standout displays of the tournament so far to set up a last-16 clash with Wales in Amsterdam on Saturday. 

The sensational win meant Denmark became the first team in European Championship history to reach the knockout stages of the competition having lost their first two group-stage games.

It also marked the first time Denmark had scored four goals in a major tournament game since a 4-1 victory over Nigeria at the 1998 World Cup.

Mikkel Damsgaard put Denmark ahead shortly before the interval to become his country's youngest ever goalscorer at a major tournament, with the forward also the first player born in the 2000s to score in the European Championship. 

Yussuf Poulsen added a second, the RB Leipzig man netting in consecutive games for Denmark for only the second time, also doing so in June 2018 against Mexico in a friendly and Peru at the World Cup.

Artem Dzyuba then scored his 30th international goal to move level with Aleksandr Kerzhakov as the all-time joint top-scorer for Russia – since the dissolution of the Soviet Union (USSR), but Andreas Christensen and Joakim Maehle wrapped up a memorable win for Kasper Hjulmand's side.

Finland 0-2 Belgium: Martinez's Red Devils march on in style

This latest victory means Belgium have won all three group games at back-to-back major tournaments, while it is the first time they have won all of their group fixtures at a single European Championship tournament.

Belgium went ahead in the 74th minute when Thomas Vermaelen's header from a corner bounced up onto the post and went in off the unfortunate Lukas Hradecky's hand.

Hradecky became just the second goalkeeper in European Championship history to score an own goal after Wojciech Szczesny for Poland against Slovakia earlier in the tournament.

Belgium's Romelu Lukaku then netted his third goal of the tournament seven minutes later.

Since making his major international tournament debut for Belgium in 2014, the Inter forward has scored 10 goals in such competitions – only Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and France's Antoine Griezmann have scored more major tournament goals for a European nation during this period (11 each).

Belgium's Jeremy Doku (19 years and 25 days), meanwhile, became the second youngest player to appear for the nation at a European Championship tournament after Enzo Scifo (18 years and 115 days).

North Macedonia 0-3 Netherlands: Oranje make history in third consecutive win

Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum starred as the Netherlands won all three of their group-stage games at the European Championship for the third time (also 2000 and 2008) – more than any other side in the competition.

Their latest win meant the Oranje have scored two goals in 10 successive games for the first time ever, while they now have 65 goals at the European Championship finals, leapfrogging France into second place to sit behind only Germany (76) in the competition's history. 

Barcelona-bound Depay got the Netherlands on their way with his 50th goal involvement in 67 appearances for the national team (28 goals and 22 assists). He has now been involved in 13 goals in his last 10 games for the Oranje in all competitions (nine goals and four assists).

In his 78th appearance for the Netherlands, Paris Saint-Germain recruit Wijnaldum scored his 24th and 25th goals. Fifteen of these strikes have been in his 25 games since the start of 2019, with no player scoring more for the Dutch during this time.

North Macedonia, meanwhile, are just the fourth team to lose 100 per cent of their matches at their first appearance in the European Championships, after Turkey in 1996, Denmark in 1964 and France in 1960.

Ukraine 0-1 Austria: Baumgartner seals last-16 spot

This win meant Austria progressed to the knockout stages of a European Championship for the first time in their history. 

They were in dominant mood against their meek opponents, taking 18 shots – a tally they have only bettered twice before in a European Championship game (23 against Iceland in 2016 and 20 against Croatia in 2008).

Austria only found the back of the net once, though, Christoph Baumgartner becoming the youngest player ever to score for the nation at the European Championship, aged 21 years and 324 days.

He was teed up by Real Madrid's David Alaba, who registered his third assist in six appearances for Austria in the competition – two more than any other Austrian. 

Ukraine, meanwhile, have failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their nine games at the European Championship – the most matches played in the competition by a team without having their defence breached.

Georginio Wijnaldum explained he joined Paris Saint-Germain as they were "faster and more decisive" after talks with Barcelona stalled.

Wijnaldum's Liverpool contract expires at the end of the month and his next move to PSG has been confirmed.

But the Netherlands captain, who led his team with eight goals in Euro 2020 qualifying, was expected to link up with former Oranje coach Ronald Koeman at Barca.

Following weeks of speculation, though, there was no deal, allowing PSG to make their move.

Wijnaldum said on Saturday: "I negotiated with Barcelona for four weeks and unfortunately we didn't [agree].

"Paris Saint-Germain were faster and more decisive. And the project they have there appeals to me very much.

"It was a tough choice. I have to say that I too thought I would go to Barcelona, also because Barcelona was the only club that was really interested at the time.

"But we couldn't [agree] and with PSG we did."

Wijnaldum is moving on after playing 235 times for Liverpool in five years, scoring 22 goals and assisting 15, but his focus is now on the Euros.

Facing Ukraine first up on Sunday, the Netherlands are aiming to win a finals match at the competition for the first time since 2008.

"I'm very happy to have been able to arrange it before the European Championship," Wijnaldum said of his move.

"With the European Championship, you just want to be 100 per cent focused on the tournament. It was a hectic week, though, where I had to make choices.

"But I'm glad that this doesn't play during the European Championship anymore."

Jurgen Klopp paid a fond tribute to "Liverpool legend" Georginio Wijnaldum after the midfielder's move to Paris Saint-Germain was confirmed.

The Dutchman has agreed a three-year deal with Mauricio Pochettino's side ahead of the expiry of his Reds contract at the end of June.

The news officially brings the curtain down on Wijnaldum's five-year stay at Anfield, which saw him win the Premier League, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.

And that has prompted Klopp to highlight the 30-year-old's contributions to a glorious era in Liverpool's history.

“As a team we said our goodbyes to Gini at Anfield after the final game of the season. There was the public farewell on the pitch with the guard of honour. But then a more private occasion also,” Klopp told the club's official website.

"It was difficult for all of us because of how much this astonishing person means to the group. He's been a big part of our lives for so long. There is nothing I won't miss about him."

Wijnaldum made 237 appearances for Liverpool across all competitions, scoring 22 goals.

"I will miss the player he is like crazy – highest-quality ability, one of the smartest players I have ever had the privilege to coach. His contribution was off the scale, a manager's dream," Klopp said.

"But as a person he'll leave just as big a hole. A more giving individual you could not wish to meet. Gini is very strong and opinionated, but his motivation is only to help the team – always. His team-mates adored him and respected him in equal measure.

"His smile lit up our workplace. He was a huge part of our beating heart. Of course, he is now someone else's and on behalf of the team we wish him great success in France with PSG.

"It is no surprise he's joined such an amazing club. Knowing his personality, he will fall in love with the city and the team – and they with him. Farewell, Gini: you came, you saw, you won the lot. You're a Liverpool legend now and forever."

Georginio Wijnaldum has agreed a deal to join Paris Saint-Germain despite looking poised to link up with Barcelona for several months.

The Netherlands international has signed a three-year contract at Parc des Princes, with his salary said to have been increased dramatically by the Parisians.

Wijnaldum joined Liverpool from Newcastle United in 2016 and quickly established himself as a key man for the Reds, only failing to appear in 11 Premier League matches over that five-year spell.

Liverpool had tried to keep the 30-year-old but he acknowledged last month that the two parties had been unable to agree on a new contract.

It seemed a given he would subsequently turn up at Barcelona, with transfer links between the two emerging as early as last year when Ronald Koeman replaced Quique Setien in August.

He was expected to be Barca's third free transfer of the close season after Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia, with Memphis Depay – who, like Wijnaldum, played under Koeman for the Oranje – expected to follow.

But PSG have pulled off something of a coup, luring Wijnaldum to Paris as the club's patchy relationship with Barca is thrust into the spotlight again.

Wijnaldum bolsters PSG's central midfield options that already include Idrissa Gueye, Leandro Paredes, Ander Herrera, Danilo Pereira and Marco Verratti.

Georginio Wijnaldum has agreed a deal to join Paris Saint-Germain despite looking poised to link up with Barcelona for several months.

The Netherlands international has signed a three-year contract at Parc des Princes, with his salary said to have been increased dramatically by the Parisians.

Wijnaldum joined Liverpool from Newcastle United in 2016 and quickly established himself as a key man for the Reds, only failing to appear in 11 Premier League matches over that five-year spell.

Liverpool had tried to keep the 30-year-old but he acknowledged last month that the two parties had been unable to agree on a new contract.

It seemed a given he would subsequently turn up at Barcelona, with transfer links between the two emerging as early as last year when Ronald Koeman replaced Quique Setien in August.

He was expected to be Barca's third free transfer of the close season after Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia, with Memphis Depay – who, like Wijnaldum, played under Koeman for the Oranje – expected to follow.

But PSG have pulled off something of a coup, luring Wijnaldum to Paris as the club's patchy relationship with Barca is thrust into the spotlight again.

Wijnaldum bolsters PSG's central midfield options that already include Idrissa Gueye, Leandro Paredes, Ander Herrera, Danilo Pereira and Marco Verratti.

The 12-month delay to Euro 2020 has provided an easy angle for debate ahead of the finals this week.

Which teams might have benefited from the postponement? Italy are back in the groove, Spain were surely buoyed by a 6-0 win over Germany, and England continue to develop exciting young talents.

It works both ways, though, as Germany might have preferred the tournament to go ahead in 2020, prior to their heaviest competitive defeat and before Joachim Low confirmed his exit plans.

Meanwhile, neither situation necessarily suits the Netherlands.

The Oranje have a youthful, talented, newly settled side, but there is the suspicion they have already peaked.

Ronald Koeman, appointed in February 2018, had the Netherlands playing some thrilling, effective football in his first 18 months in charge, narrowly losing the showpiece match at the Nations League Finals while easing to Euros qualification.

Since then, the coach has departed, a number of his young charges have seen their careers stall somewhat and Virgil van Dijk, the team's standout star, has been ruled out by injury.

It means there is plenty of scepticism as Frank de Boer leads the Dutch into their first major tournament in seven years.

 

COACH ACCUSTOMED TO CRITICISM

Koeman left the national team to be appointed by Barcelona. It is highly unlikely De Boer could walk into such a role regardless of his success with the Netherlands.

Since leaving Ajax as a four-time Eredivisie champion in 2016, the coach has endured short, miserable stints with Inter, Crystal Palace and Atlanta United.

De Boer won just 36.4 per cent of his Serie A games, the second-worst rate of an Inter boss this century.

Only Gian Piero Gasperini was less impressive as he went winless, an unfortunate feat De Boer would repeat at Palace as the Eagles did not even score or earn a point in his four Premier League outings.

Atlanta faded from MLS Cup champions to also-rans under De Boer, too, before he was handed an unlikely Oranje opportunity, only to go four without a win at the start of his tenure.

The Netherlands' fortunes have since improved, winning five of seven – albeit while losing a key World Cup qualifier in Turkey and scraping to a friendly draw against Scotland.

Off-field faux pas have also persisted, including media conference mix-ups involving Queensy Menig and Donny van de Beek while Jasper Cillessen was controversially cut from the Euros squad following a positive COVID-19 test.

"It seems clear that things need to get better," De Boer acknowledged after the Scotland game, although he was more optimistic in the aftermath of a subsequent 3-0 win against Georgia.

Having made only two changes to his 5-3-2 line-up – one in goal, the other enforced by injury – De Boer declared: "We're ready."

 

YOUNG STARS' STUNTED PROGRESS

Six players who started the Nations League Finals matches should make De Boer's XI for the Ukraine game, but these stars are not necessarily in the same shape as they were in 2019.

Matthijs de Ligt, Daley Blind and Frenkie de Jong were all coming off an outstanding campaign with Ajax in which they reached the Champions League last four, swatting aside Real Madrid and Juventus on their way before coming within seconds of the final.

Van de Beek, called from the bench against England, was also part of that superb club side.

While Blind remains in Amsterdam and will surely now only start if De Ligt is injured – as he was against Georgia – the other three, who should fit well within De Boer's fluid formation, moved on with mixed success.

De Ligt's first season with Juve was tough, including two errors that led to shots (including one to a goal) and three penalties conceded, before he improved in 2020-21.

De Jong followed a similar path of slow progress at Barca, the highlight of his Camp Nou career so far – now under Koeman – a goal and two assists in April's Copa del Rey final.

That single-game contribution matched Van de Beek's meagre haul for his entire debut season at Manchester United, concerningly. A year behind his two younger international team-mates, the midfielder joined United in 2020 and his three goal involvements came across 36 games but just 15 starts.

Van de Beek's season has ended in miserable fashion, forced to withdraw from the Euros squad this week. Far from a regular at international level, too, this might be a bigger setback for the player than for the Netherlands.

 

DETERMINED TO MAKE THEIR MARK

The absence of Van Dijk means the other Ajax graduates unquestionably maintain key roles in the defensive third, but the Netherlands are relying on older heads in attack, even if they are without the sort of superstar Dutch forward of years past.

This country once had Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooy born on the same day; now they rely on a midfielder and a converted winger for their goals.

It was effective in qualifying, though. Georginio Wijnaldum, 30, was their leading marksman with eight, while Memphis Depay, 27, either scored or assisted every 38 minutes – six goals and seven assists in 495 minutes the best rate among the 54 players to have five or more goal involvements.

Depay netted twice against Scotland and once against Georgia, along with an assist, and will be eager to establish himself on the European stage.

The Barca-linked Lyon forward was an under-19 international when the Netherlands last appeared at the European Championship in 2012, while he made only a single start at the World Cup two years later.

Wijnaldum was at least a regular at Brazil 2014, scoring in the third-place play-off, but both he and Depay have been robbed of a huge chunk of their major tournament careers by the team's failings.

Even with a kind group-stage draw, as they chase a first Euros win since the first round in 2008, the Oranje will need Wijnaldum and Depay to deliver. Neither should be lacking motivation.

Erling Haaland is the name on everyone's lips this off-season.

Haaland enjoyed a stunning campaign for Borussia Dortmund, earning admirers from Europe's elite.

As speculation mounts over his future, Dortmund are determined to keep the Norwegian.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND NAME HAALAND PRICE

Borussia Dortmund are demanding €200million (£172m) for star striker Erling Haaland, according to AS.

Haaland has been linked with Real MadridManchester CityBarcelona, Paris Saint-GermainManchester UnitedJuventusLiverpoolChelsea and Bayern Munich.

Dortmund previously quoted €180m (£154m) but BVB have reportedly increased their demands as they try to retain the Norway forward for at least another season.

 

ROUND-UP

- LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid are targeting Inter star Lautaro Martinez, according to AS. With Diego Simeone poised to extend his contract, the head coach is eyeing a move for Martinez, who has previously been linked with Barca.

Barca could sell Samuel UmtitiSergi Roberto and Junior Firpo to reduce their wage bill, says Mundo Deportivo. Jordi Alba could also depart for the right price as Ronald Koeman's men look to sign Lyon captain Memphis Depay.

- Fabrizio Romano reports PSG have agreed a deal to sign Georginio Wijnaldum, who had been tipped to join Barca with his Liverpool contract set to expire. As Wijnaldum looks destined for Paris, Marca claims Barca are now interested in City veteran FernandinhoPSG are also in talks with Inter to sign Achraf Hakimi.

- Staying at Camp Nou, Sport claims Barca are looking to sign City trio Aymeric LaporteGabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan, having already brought Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia in on free transfers from the Premier League champions.

- Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma will decide his future in the coming days, according to Romano. The soon-to-be free agent has been linked with JuventusBarca and PSG.

Atletico are hoping to lure Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin to Madrid, according to Marca. It comes as United reportedly try to prise Kieran Trippier from Los Colchoneros.

Is Aymeric Laporte's future away from Manchester City?

Laporte hit the ground running in Manchester, but Pep Guardiola has since preferred John Stones and Ruben Dias.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are reportedly willing to pounce.

 

TOP STORY – LAPORTE HEADED FOR SPAIN RETURN?

LaLiga pair Real Madrid and Barcelona are tracking Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte , according to Caught Offside.

Laporte left Spanish outfit Athletic Bilbao for City in 2018 but the newly capped Spain international slipped down the pecking order during the 2020-21 campaign.

As City reportedly prepare a new long-term contract for John Stones , who has been preferred alongside Ruben Dias, Madrid and Barca are waiting in the wings.

 

ROUND-UP

-  Tottenham have abandoned their plans to appoint former Inter boss Antonio Conte , reports Sky Italy. Spurs and Conte were in negotiations and while ex-Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici is poised to join the Premier League side, Conte will not reunite with his Italian compatriot. Tottenham were initially linked with former manager Mauricio Pochettino , who is currently in charge of Paris Saint-Germain. Amid ongoing speculation, Le10 Sport claims a sensational deal to bring Pochettino back to London could go ahead.

- PSG  are trying to hijack Barcelona 's move for Georginio Wijnaldum , says ESPN. Wijnaldum is available on a free transfer following the expiration of his Liverpool contract and he has been tipped to make the switch to Camp Nou.

- Mundo Deportivo reports Valencia captain Jose Luis Gaya is the on the radar for Barca , who are eyeing a new left-back.

- Gazzetto dello Sport reports  Juventus  are interested in Fiorentina defender  Nikola Milenkovic . Fiorentina could be willing to sell the Serbia international, who is out of contract in 2022. Milenkovic has previously been linked with  Tottenham Manchester United  and  West Ham Milan  could also make a move if they fail to tie up a permanent deal for Chelsea's  Fikayo Tomori .

Dusan Vlahovic  of Fiorentina, Marseille's  Arkadiusz Milik and Sassuolo's Gianluca Scamacca  are among the possible new forward signings for  Milan , says Gazzetta dello Sport. Chelsea veteran Olivier Giroud has been strongly linked with Milan.

- Marca claims  Gareth Bale  is leaning towards retirement after Euro 2020. Bale is set to return to Real Madrid following his loan spell at Tottenham.

- New Inter boss  Simone Inzaghi  wants to keep  Alexis Sanchez , per Calciomercato. As Inter look to cut costs, Sanchez has been linked with  Roma Romelu Lukaku Lautaro Martinez  and  Alessandro Bastoni  and their futures have also been questioned due to the club's financial issues.

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