Could Matthijs de Ligt leave Juventus?

De Ligt joined Juve from Ajax in 2019 but his future has been a topic of discussion.

Barcelona were strongly linked with him before he left the Eredivisie and are reportedly still keen admirers.

 

TOP STORY – DE LIGT A BARCA TARGET

Barcelona are keen on signing Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt, according to Le10 Sport.

LaLiga giants Barca have already brought in Manchester City duo Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia, while they are also said to be interested in Memphis Depay of Lyon and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

But it is claimed they are particularly eager to further bolster their defence in addition to Garcia's arrival, though they could face competition for De Ligt – Manchester United have long been linked with the Netherlands international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo reports Leicester City are considering a move for Barca outcast Philippe Coutinho. It would be a reunion for Brendan Rodgers and Coutinho after working together at Liverpool.

Atletico Madrid are eyeing Hakan Calhanoglu as an alternative to Udinese star Rodrigo de Paul. LaLiga champions Atletico want De Paul, who has also been linked with JuveInter and Leeds United. Should they miss out on the Argentina international, Calhanoglu is an option – the Milan star's contract expires at the end of June.

United have held further talks with Borussia Dortmund in their pursuit of Jadon Sancho, says Fabrizio Romano. Dortmund reportedly want £81million (€95m), though United are currently unwilling to pay more than £60m (€70m). Liverpool and Chelsea have also been linked previously.

- Romano also reports Gianluigi Donnarumma's contract with Paris Saint-Germain until 2026 has been agreed. The Italy international goalkeeper is set to join PSG on a free transfer following the end of his Milan deal.

- According to Corriere dello Sport, Milan are in talks to sign Real Madrid pair Brahim Diaz and Alvaro Odriozola on loan. The Rossoneri have also been linked with Luka Jovic and are seemingly poised to secure the permanent signing of Fikayo Tomori from Chelsea as well.

Achraf Hakimi is a player in demand following his first season with Inter.

Hakimi helped Inter to Serie A glory for the first time in 10 years, but his future could be away from San Siro.

Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly determined to beat Chelsea and Bayern Munich to the full-back.

 

TOP STORY – PSG CHASING HAKIMI

Paris Saint-Germain remain interested in signing Inter star Achraf Hakimi, according to Gianluca Di Marzio.

PSG had a €60million (£51m) bid turned down by Serie A champions Inter, who are facing financial problems due to the coronavirus pandemic amid speculation over stars Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez, Alessandro Bastoni and Hakimi.

Ligue 1 giants PSG are still keen on Hakimi as Champions League winners Chelsea hold talks with the Morocco international's agent, while Bayern Munich have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

Bernardo Silva wants to leave Premier League champions Manchester City, reports Duncan Castles. The Portugal international has already been linked with Atletico Madrid and Barcelona after finding himself out of favour under Pep Guardiola.

- Fabrizio Romano claims Gianluigi Buffon is close to re-joining Parma. Buffon will leave Juventus in the off-season and the Italy great is reportedly on track to return to Parma, where the 43-year-old emerged from the youth team in 1995 before eventually moving to Turin in 2001. Parma were relegated from Serie A in 2020-21.

Arsenal have turned their attention to Real Betis attacker Nabil Fekir but Diario AS says the Gunners and LaLiga side remain apart in his transfer valuation.

- Calciomercato claims there are still concerns over Paulo Dybala's future at Juventus. Dybala is out of contract in 2022 and no closer to renewing after struggling for game time. The possible departure of Cristiano Ronaldo – who has been linked with PSG and Manchester United – could solidify Dybala's position in Turin.

Leicester City are the latest team to join the race for Salzburg's Patson Daka, according to the Mirror. Liverpool, Chelsea and RB Leipzig have also been linked.

- The Mirror reports Everton and Leeds United are considering moves for veteran Real Madrid star Marcelo.

Is Cristiano Ronaldo's time in Turin coming to an end?

Juventus reportedly feel the end could be nigh.

Paris Saint-Germain are waiting in the wings…

 

TOP STORY –  RONALDO HEADING FOR EXIT?

Juventus are convinced Cristiano Ronaldo is considering his future with the Serie A giants, according to Goal.

Ronaldo has been tipped to leave Juve amid growing speculation, with Diario AS reporting Paris Saint-Germain have opened talks with the superstar.

Juve and Ronaldo – also linked with his former clubs Manchester United and Real Madrid – reportedly met on Thursday following the return of head coach Massimiliano Allegri, who has replaced Andrea Pirlo.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester City are the team most interested in Tottenham's Harry Kane, says Fabrizio Romano. Kane is reportedly looking to leave Spurs and the England striker has been linked with Premier League champions City, United, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona. City are eyeing a replacement for Barca recruit Sergio Aguero, with Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Eintracht Frankfurt forward Andre Silva also targets.

Tottenham are in talks with Son Heung-min over a contract extension, reports Romano.

- BBC Sport claims Alisson is set to hold contract talks with Liverpool. The Brazil international goalkeeper's current deal does not expire until 2024.

- Football Insider reports Everton's Richarlison is on Madrid's radar following the appointment of ex-Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti. Madrid have long been tipped to prise Kylian Mbappe from PSG.

Juventus and PSG are in the race to sign Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. City and Inter have also been linked.

Memphis Depay is on the verge of completing a move to Barca on a three-year deal, per Diario Sport. Depay is available on a free transfer, with his Lyon contract expiring.

- The Yorkshire Evening Post claims Liverpool are among the teams interested in Leeds United's Raphinha. Manchester United and City are also believed to be among the possible suitors.

The Premier League race is run. A season that has seemingly been a never-ending story finally concluded on Sunday with the focus centred on the top four.

Chelsea lost but still ended up securing Champions League qualification, Liverpool won to astonishingly end an eventful campaign in third and poor Leicester City missed out after a crazy game at home to Tottenham as Harry Kane clinched the Golden Boot.

West Ham finish above Spurs in sixth to make the Europa League, while Manchester United ruined Nuno Espirito Santo's last game in charge of Wolves. There was yet another goal for Joe Willock, while David McGoldrick made sure he will no doubt be the subject of a pub quiz question in years to come.

Manchester City had clinched the title long ago, but a home game with Everton offered a chance for their returning fans to say farewell to a club legend.


Aston Villa 2-1 Chelsea: Tuchel slips up on the road as Blues lose

Thomas Tuchel's side held on to their top-four spot thanks to the result at the King Power Stadium, with the German coach able to celebrate despite suffering his first away defeat in the league since taking charge at Stamford Bridge.

Bertrand Traore scored the opener for Villa, in the process becoming the 25th different player to manage a Premier League goal against Chelsea having previously been at the Blues. Anwar El Ghazi doubled the lead with the 100th penalty scored in the competition this season, the first time a campaign has reached triple figures.

On the subject of penalties, Jorginho finished with the most goals for Chelsea in the league with seven – all from the spot. It is the lowest number for the club’s leading scorer in a top-flight season since 1974-75, when Ian Hutchinson also managed seven.

Liverpool 2-0 Crystal Palace: Mane helps Reds prosper at Anfield

Jurgen Klopp has now finished in the top four at the end of the five full seasons he has had in charge of the Reds, who handed their former boss Roy Hodgson a 2-0 defeat in his Palace swansong.

Sadio Mane got both goals, the second with the aid of a huge deflection. He has scored 10 or more in all seven of his Premier League campaigns, including his two with Southampton before moving to Anfield in June 2016.

Liverpool won their meetings with Palace by a combined 9-0 score; only against Ipswich in 2001-02 (11-0) have they enjoyed a bigger aggregate margin across two Premier League games in the same season. While he had no need to conjure up another last-gasp goal this time, Alisson Becker did manage to keep a clean sheet on his 100th league outing for Klopp's side.

Leicester City 2-4 Tottenham: Foxes run into trouble against Bale and Kane

Leicester spent 242 days in the Premier League's top four this term, only to end the final one sitting in fifth place. For a second successive year, a late loss of form has cost them a Champions League place.

A sixth defeat in 13 matches did not appear on the cards when they twice led against Spurs thanks to Jamie Vardy, who scored two penalties in a match for a third time this season. However, a Kasper Schmeichel own goal – his second in the top tier – levelled matters, with the visitors then moving clear in a frantic finish.

Gareth Bale scored twice late on in potentially his final game for Tottenham, but will Kane still be there when the transfer window shuts? The striker's 41st-minute effort lifted him to 23 for this term as he became only the third player to win the Golden Boot award as many as three times, following in the footsteps of Thierry Henry (four) and Alan Shearer (also three).

Aguero at the double, Willock matches Shearer (yes, really)

In scoring twice after coming on as a substitute, Aguero ended his City career as he had started it – with a brace off the bench (he had done just the same on debut against Swansea City, way back in August 2011). His double takes his final tally to 184 Premier League goals, in the process surpassing Wayne Rooney (183) for the most by a player for a single club.

As for Manchester United, a 2-1 triumph at Wolves sees them become just the fourth side to remain unbeaten away across an entire top-tier season, a feat most recently achieved by Arsenal in 2003-04. The current-day Gunners beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0, though still finished eighth for a second year in a row.

At Fulham, Willock was on target once more in a 2-0 win for Newcastle United. It means the on-loan Arsenal midfielder becomes only the second Newcastle player to score in seven consecutive Premier League appearances, after hall-of-famer Shearer in 1996.

West Ham secured a top-six finish for only the second time in the Premier League era thanks to a 3-0 win over a Southampton team who do not prosper on their travels – they ended up losing 10 of their 11 away fixtures in 2021, during which they leaked 33 goals and scored just seven times.

There was a win for Leeds United at home to West Brom, taking them up to 59 points – the most by a promoted club since Ipswich Town (66) in 2000-01. Sheffield United finished bottom, but at least signed off on a winning note. Striker McGoldrick grabbed the only goal against Burnley to earn his own place in history: it was the 1,000th scored in the Premier League during the 2020-21 season.

Harry Kane has won the Premier League Golden Boot award for the third time in his career after edging out Mohamed Salah.

The Tottenham forward netted in the dramatic 4-2 win over Leicester City on Sunday, while Salah did not find the scoresheet as Liverpool defeated Crystal Palace 2-0.

That meant Kane emerged triumphant from a season-long battle, both players having gone into the final weekend locked on 22 goals.

Kane, who finishes the season with 23 goals from 35 games, also won the Golden boot in 2015-16 and 2016-17 campaigns.

Salah had won the award in 2017-18 and shared it the following season with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane.

But he falls just short of another triumph after netting 22 times from 36 top-flight matches this season.

Jamie Vardy was last season's winner but it was Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes who finished third with 18 goals.

Another Tottenham star, Son Heung-min, shares fourth place with Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford on 17.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin (16), Vardy (15), Ollie Watkins (14), Ilkay Gundogan and Alexandre Lacazette (both 13) round out the top 10.

Kane's accomplishment comes amid huge speculation over his future after he reportedly asked to leave Spurs at the end of the season.

The England captain is now one away from the record of four Golden Boots held by Arsenal great Thierry Henry, with Alan Shearer the only other player to have won it three times in the Premier League era.

Kane also had 14 assists in a fine individual season, giving him 37 total goal involvements, his best-ever return.

It all comes down to this.

Whether you're flying high at the top of your local leagues, battling for the top 100 nationally or just desperate not to lose face with friends, matchday 38 of the Premier League is a decisive moment for fantasy football players the world over.

Amid last-minute transfers, wildcards and triple-captaincies, it can be difficult to find true value in selections that could give you the edge over your rivals.

That's where we come in.

Using Opta data, we have compiled a final selection of seven recommended players to draft in for this most dramatic of weekends...

 

MARTIN DUBRAVKA

If you were considering a Newcastle United goalkeeper but just didn't have the guts previously, now is the time to be bold.

Martin Dubravka kept his first clean sheet of the season last time out as the Magpies beat Sheffield United 1-0.

Next up, they face another relegated side in Fulham, who have scored a league-low nine goals at home in the whole of 2020-21 – and only one since February.

 

AARON CRESSWELL

West Ham's unlikely quest for Europe looks set to end in success, and Aaron Cresswell has played no small part.

The full-back has recorded eight assists this season, the most of any defender in the division. The last time a West Ham player assisted more was when Dimitri Payet set up 12 goals in 2015-16.

The Hammers conclude their campaign at home to Southampton, who haven't beaten David Moyes' side in their most recent six attempts.

STUART DALLAS

Only Patrick Bamford (16) has scored more league goals for Leeds United this season than Stuart Dallas (eight).

On Sunday, Marcelo Bielsa's men host West Brom, who have the leakiest defence in the whole of the division, conceding 73 times in 37 matches.

Leeds are also unbeaten in four against the Baggies, winning three of those games by 10-0 on aggregate, while they have not lost a league game at home to this weekend's visitors since January 2007.

JESSE LINGARD

Part of the reason Jesse Lingard found getting regular football tricky at Manchester United was the arrival of Bruno Fernandes, so it's fitting he should be chasing a record held by the Portugal star.

Last season, Fernandes set a Premier League best by registering 15 goal involvements (eight scored, seven assisted) despite not appearing in the competition until as late as February.

Lingard, who made his Hammers debut on February 3, has recorded nine goals and four assists for Moyes' men, a tally bettered only by Kelechi Iheanacho (12 goals, two assists) over the same time frame. Two more direct goal involvements against Southampton would see Lingard match Fernandes' exploits in 2020.

 

JOE WILLOCK

With his midweek winner for Newcastle against Sheffield United, Joe Willock became the youngest player to score in six consecutive Premier League appearances.

Remarkably, the Arsenal loanee – who is being tipped for a permanent move to the Magpies – has the best minutes-per-goal rate (127) of any Newcastle player in the league this season with at least three goals.

Should he net against Fulham, Willock will become only the second player for the club to score in seven Premier League games in a row, after Alan Shearer in 1996.

HARRY KANE

Whether he stays at Tottenham or not, Harry Kane will be eager to get on the scoresheet at Leicester and boost his chances of claiming the Golden Boot.

His record against the Foxes is promising. Kane has managed 14 goals in 11 Premier League meetings with the team now bossed by Brendan Rodgers, more than he has scored against any other opposition. Those goals have come at an average of one every 65 minutes.

He has hit seven of those at the King Power Stadium, including four in one game in May 2017.

 

CHRISTIAN BENTEKE

Could Liverpool's top-four hopes be dashed by a former Reds player?

Christian Benteke has scored 10 league goals this term, his first double-figure return since he got 15 in 2016-17.

That season's haul included a double away to Liverpool in April and, throughout his career, Benteke has enjoyed facing his old employers: only Andy Cole (eight) has scored more Premier League goals as a visiting player at Anfield than Benteke (five in four games).

Chelsea edged towards Champions League football for next season, but Leicester City's fate is now out of their hands.

The Blues gained swift vengeance for their FA Cup final defeat, running out 2-1 winners over Leicester at Stamford Bridge, meaning the Foxes are now reliant on results elsewhere as Liverpool have a game in hand to play.

Champions Manchester City surrendered a two-goal lead against Brighton and Hove Albion, meanwhile, and Edinson Cavani's stunning goal was not enough for Manchester United. Elsewhere, Leeds United defeated Southampton.

We take a look at the best facts, courtesy of Opta, from across Tuesday's Premier League games.

Manchester United 1-1 Fulham: Cavani delights Old Trafford crowd, but Cottagers hit back

United have now dropped 10 points from winning positions at Old Trafford this season – their highest ever such total at home in a Premier League season – after Joe Bryan cancelled out Cavani's sensational opener.

Cavani became only the third United player over the age of 33 to reach 10 goals in a single Premier League season, after Teddy Sheringham in 2000-01 and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2016-17, with a sublime 36.4-yard effort in the first half.

The Uruguay forward is the 25th different United player to reach double figures in a Premier League campaign, but it was not enough for the Red Devils as relegated Fulham gained a point from a losing position at Old Trafford for only the second time in their history in the competition, previously doing so in February 2014.

United have conceded 28 home goals in the Premier League this season – they last conceded more at Old Trafford in a single league campaign back in 1962-63 (38) – with Bryan's first top-flight goal, in his 43rd such appearance, snatching a share of the spoils.

Southampton 0-2 Leeds United: Bielsa's charge continues

There could feasibly still be a European place for Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds, who are just three points behind seventh-placed West Ham heading into the final game of the season after a 2-0 win over Southampton.

It was Leeds' 10th league win on the road this season, their best effort in a top-flight campaign since 1973-74, when they won 12 on the way to winning the title.

Southampton are without a clean sheet in their past 10 home league games (15 goals conceded) after keeping shutouts in six of the eight before that.

Patrick Bamford netted his 16th goal of the season, which is the most by a player from a promoted side since Charlie Austin scored 18 for Queens Park Rangers in 2014-15, with Tyler Roberts' maiden Premier League goal rounding off the success.

Leeds are only the second team in Premier League history to finish a campaign without a single away draw (W10 L9), after Tottenham in 2018-19.

Brighton and Hove Albion 3-2 Manchester City: Seagulls seal famous comeback

Brighton picked up their first ever Premier League victory over City, and their first in the league since 1989, as they came from two goals down to win 3-2 at the Amex Stadium.

Graham Potter's side fell behind to Ilkay Gundogan's early goal – the 10th City have scored in the opening two minutes under Pep Guardiola in the Premier League – but were buoyed by Joao Cancelo's red card.

Timed at 09:03, Cancelo's dismissal was City's second-earliest from the start of a Premier League game, after Dedryck Boyata was sent off after 04:28 against Arsenal in October 2010.

This was just the second time in Premier League history a team starting the day top of the table has led by two goals and lost, after City themselves did so against Man Utd in April 2018.

Their possession figure in this match was just 37 per cent – the lowest recorded by a side managed by Guardiola in a single top-flight match.

Phil Foden has scored 15 goals in all competitions this season. Among players in the top five European leagues currently aged under 21, only Erling Haaland (39) has scored more, but his stunning effort was not enough.

Leandro Trossard and Adam Webster pegged City back, before Dan Burn's first Brighton goal, and his first in the league for any team since April 2018, completed the turnaround.

Chelsea 2-1 Leicester City: Tuchel's team clinch Champions League qualification

After their FA Cup disappointment, Chelsea took a step towards Champions League football, getting revenge in the process.

Jorginho's penalty sealed the win, with Kelechi Iheanacho's goal ultimately proving a consolation, though the Leicester striker is the first player in Premier League history to score a goal on all seven weekdays within a single season. 

No player has scored more Premier League goals in a single campaign with 100 per cent of them coming from the penalty spot than Jorginho's seven this season (level with James Milner in 2016-17). 

Leicester have won just two of their past 30 away league games against Chelsea (D11 L17), winning 1-0 in December 2018 and 2-0 in September 2000.

And the win for Thomas Tuchel's men means that City, United and Leicester, the top three teams starting the day, all failed to win. It is the first time it has happened since January 2017 (Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea).

Europe's top five leagues all conclude this week and there are still plenty of matters to be resolved – not least who will be crowned champions in Spain and France.

Every division has something riding on the final days of the season, whether it be top spot, European qualification, or relegation.

Ahead of what is set to be a dramatic conclusion to the Premier League, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Serie A and the Bundesliga campaigns, we look at the state of play in each league.

 

PREMIER LEAGUE

Manchester City wrapped up the Premier League title with three games to spare, making them the first team in the competition's history to win the title despite being as low as eighth on Christmas Day.

All three relegation places were also decided with three games remaining – a Premier League record – with Fulham joining Sheffield United and West Brom in dropping down a division.

That leaves just the European spots to fight for, and it is shaping up to be an entertaining end to the English top-flight season in that regard. Manchester United are guaranteed a top-four finish, but five other teams – Leicester City, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and West Ham – are in the mix for the two other Champions League berths with two rounds of games to go.

There is also the small matter of the Europa League places for the teams finishing in fifth and sixth, as well as a spot in the inaugural Europa Conference League, which goes to the team in seventh, meaning everyone from 10th-placed Leeds United to Leicester in third have something to play for. That includes Arsenal, who have not missed out on European football of some sort in 25 years.

LALIGA 

The Spanish title race appeared to take a dramatic twist on Sunday as Real Madrid leapfrogged Atletico Madrid at the summit for around 20 minutes. However, Atleti scored two late goals to beat Osasuna, meaning they are two points ahead of their city rivals heading into the final round of games.

Atleti, who have led the way at the top for 29 matchdays, now need to match Madrid's result against Villarreal when they travel to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid on the final day of the season. It is worth noting that Los Blancos have the superior head-to-head record, so a draw would not be enough for Atleti if Madrid win.

Barcelona are officially out of the title race, meanwhile, but they are assured of a top-four finish along with Sevilla. Real Sociedad and Real Betis occupy the Europa League spots, while Villarreal are in a Europa Conference League berth, though just one point separates the three teams so that could all yet change.

To complicate matters, Villarreal could still qualify for the Champions League by winning the Europa League final against Manchester United.

At the bottom end of the division, Eibar are already relegated and they will be joined by two of Valladolid, Elche or Huesca. Valladolid must beat Atletico in their final game to have a chance of staying up, while the onus is on Elche to better Huesca's result as they are level on points but have an inferior head-to-head record.

LIGUE 1

The Ligue 1 title battle is also going right down to the wire in a three-way dogfight. After a thrilling race that has lasted the course of the season, underdogs Lille lead heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain by one point with one matchday left.

Monaco have won seven of their previous eight games and are three points off leaders Lille, though they require both Les Dogues and PSG to slip up on the final day, as well as beating Lens. Should it come down to goal difference, PSG hold a big lead over their two title rivals.

Incredibly, PSG are still not yet technically assured of a Champions League place as Lyon in fourth are only three points worse off, although it would take a defeat for the reigning champions and victory for Lyon, plus a goal swing of 16, for them to miss out.

Monaco's opponents Lens, incidentally, also have plenty to play for at the weekend as they are sixth – enough for Europa Conference League qualification – but can still be caught by Rennes in seventh, while they could yet overtake Marseille in fifth if results go their way.

At the opposite end of the table, there may only be one spot left to be settled in the bottom three – Dijon and Nimes are both already down – but six teams are still very much in danger of the drop. Nantes occupy the relegation play-off spot, with Lorient, Brest and Strasbourg just a point better off, and Bordeaux and Reims only two points clear.

SERIE A

With Inter being crowned Scudetto winners for the first time in 11 years at the start of the month, the biggest storyline in Serie A regards Juventus' top-four fate. The dethroned champions, who had finished top nine years running before this season, are currently down in fifth.

Juve are one point behind Napoli and Milan in the two spots directly above them, while Atalanta are three points better off in second and have the better head-to-head record against the Bianconeri.

Andrea Pirlo's side are therefore in need of favours on the final day in what is poised to be a nail-biting finale in terms of those Champions League places. Lazio will finish sixth, so they are assured of Europa League football next term, while Roma hold a two-point advantage over Sassuolo in the Europa Conference League position.

Parma and Crotone are both down already and one of Benevento or Torino will join them, the latter currently three points outside of the relegation zone and with a game in hand to play on Benevento.

BUNDESLIGA

RB Leipzig provided Bayern Munich with some stern competition for a while, but the Bavarian giants' quality eventually told and they are Bundesliga champions for a ninth year running.

It's not only the title race that's done and dusted in Germany, in fact, as RB Leipzig are certain of second place, and both Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg will join them in the Champions League next season.

Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen, meanwhile, will finish in fifth and sixth respectively regardless of events later this week.

However, Union Berlin have work to do if they are to finish seventh for a place in the Europa Conference League play-offs as Borussia Monchengladbach are a point further back, while Stuttgart and Freiburg are two behind with a game to go.

Seven-time German champions Schalke will be competing in the second tier of German football next season, but Cologne and Werder Bremen are hanging on in there, sitting two and one point behind Arminia Bielefeld respectively in 15th place.

Aymeric Laporte is set to represent Spain at Euro 2020 after switching his allegiance from France.

Manchester City centre-back Laporte has represented Les Bleus 51 times in total across the under-17 and under-21 age groups.

However, the 26-year-old was never handed his senior debut, despite being called up three times by Didier Deschamps.

Laporte came through the youth ranks at Athletic Bilbao and made 222 appearances for the Basque club until joining City in January 2018.

He was granted Spanish citizenship earlier this week and FIFA has confirmed he can play for Spain with "immediate effect".

A report by Marca earlier this week claimed Spain boss Luis Enrique lobbied the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to look into the possibility of Laporte changing allegiance, so it feels safe to assume he will be a key part of the former Barcelona head coach's plans for Euro 2020.

But how does Laporte compare to Spain's other options at centre-back?

Regular game time

Despite scoring the winner in last month's EFL Cup final against Tottenham and collecting a third Premier League title in four seasons at City, it has been a mixed campaign for Laporte on a personal level.

He went into 2020-21 as Pep Guardiola's go-to centre-back but the arrival of Ruben Dias and John Stones' resurgence means he is no longer first choice at the Etihad Stadium.

Nevertheless, the packed schedule undertaken across all competitions by the Champions League finalists means he has still played 27 games, starting 24 and completing 2,250 minutes.

Of centre-backs used by Luis Enrique this season, that places Laporte third behind Villarreal's Pau Torres (41 games, 3,675 minutes) and Athletic's Inigo Martinez (32 games, 2,914).

Sergio Ramos, who is now widely expected to have a new centre-back partner for La Roja, has been restricted to 21 games and 1,790 minutes by injuries this season, while Diego Llorente (14 games, 1,160) was compromised by a serious groin injury after joining Leeds United.

One would-be international colleague Laporte knows very well is club team-mate Eric Garcia. The 20-year-old is set to leave City after declining to sign a new contract last term.

While running down the clock to his anticipated move to Barcelona, Garcia has become a marginal figure in Manchester, despite Guardiola continuing to profess his admiration of his talents.

His 10 appearances and eight starts amount to 693 minutes, not significantly more than 514 minutes across seven caps for Spain this season.

Indeed, Luis Enrique started Garcia in all three of the March internationals, suggesting his lack of club action is not overly hindering his case.

Keeping it tight in Manchester

City's defensive improvements have been central to their success this season and, although no longer an automatic selection, Laporte has more than played his part.

The 14 goals conceded with him on the field are just four more than Guardiola's side have let in amid Garcia's sporadic outings. Only Torres (13) has amassed more than his 12 clean sheets.

Laporte ranks well across all of the key defensive metrics this season, with 18 tackles placing him level with Ramos and Torres.

Martinez has made 24, while Marcelo Bielsa's famously intense style of play might be largely responsible for Llorente going into 31 tackles during his relatively smaller workload.

Laporte's duel success rate of 63.7 per cent is the best of the bunch, with Martinez contesting and winning the most overall (263 and 149), while Torres is out in front in terms of recoveries (232).

In the air and on the ground

Standing at 6ft 3ins, Laporte will provide the kind of imposing presence Spain have perhaps lacked.

He has contested 100 and won 69 aerials, similar numbers to the 103 and 62 returned by Torres, who is of similar stature. Martinez's 136 contested and 82 won again show the Athletic man getting through plenty of work.

Perhaps Laporte's most celebrated quality is his capacity to start moves from the back via his superb left foot.

Centre-backs completing a high proportion of their passes is not unusual, given the generally simple nature of them, but Laporte generally plays in a notably progressive manner.

He has made 244 passes into the final third this season, more than any of the Spain centre-backs mentioned (Torres 240, Martinez 235), a trait that is sure to be welcomed by the attacking talents in Luis Enrique's squad.

Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland together at Camp Nou?

Barcelona are among a host of clubs interested in Borussia Dortmund's Haaland.

Joan Laporta is reportedly fighting to bring Haaland to Spain.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA NOT GIVING UP ON HAALAND

Erling Haaland remains Barcelona's number one transfer target, according to Diario Sport.

Borussia Dortmund star Haaland has been linked with Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester CityChelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite their financial problems and cheaper alternatives, Barca are determined to prise Haaland to Camp Nou, though Inter's Lautaro Martinez and Tottenham star Harry Kane remain possible options.

 

ROUND-UP

- Le10Sport claims Arsenal are desperate to lure Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga to London. Camavinga is in demand amid reported interest from Madrid, United and PSG. Mundo Deportivo, meanwhile, reports Barca are eyeing the France international as a replacement for Sergio Busquets.

- Milan intend on signing Fikayo Tomori on a permanent deal from Chelsea, reports Fabrizio Romano. Tomori has impressed since arriving at San Siro on loan. It comes as Chelsea work to extend Thiago Silva's contract.

- FT says Bayern star Kingsley Coman wants to double his wages in a contract extension. The France international has previously been linked with United.

- Liverpool have shown interest in Leeds United forward Patrick Bamford, according to The Athletic.

- Calciomercato reports Serie A champions Inter and Lazio are targeting Chelsea veteran Olivier Giroud, who is set to leave Stamford Bridge amid the Blues' links with Bayern star Robert Lewandowski and City free agent Sergio Aguero.

Manchester City will have to wait to get their hands on a third Premier League title in four years after they fell to a 2-1 home defeat against Chelsea on Saturday.

Sergio Aguero in particular will want to forget the game in a hurry after a failed Panenka attempt, which he later apologised for on social media.

Liverpool kept their first home clean sheet in nine top-flight games as they overcame Southampton 2-0, while Leeds United cruised past Tottenham 3-1 at Elland Road.

Elsewhere in Yorkshire, Crystal Palace inflicted yet more misery on Sheffield United, running out 2-0 winners at Bramall Lane.

Stats Perform News uses Opta data to take a look at the best facts from the four games.


Manchester City 1-2 Chelsea: Aguer-woe for leaders as Blues hit back

City suffered more penalty woe as they missed the chance to be crowned Premier League champions.

It had started well for the hosts, however, with Raheem Sterling giving them the lead with his 10th Premier League goal of the campaign. The England international has now reached that total in four successive seasons, with only Aguero (nine) hitting double figures more regularly in the competition for City.

Aguero should have doubled their advantage before the interval, but his woeful Panenka attempt from the spot was comfortably gathered by Edouard Mendy. City have now failed to score more penalties (four) than any other side in the Premier League this season, while they are the first to miss at least four spot-kicks in consecutive top-flight seasons since Tottenham in 1993-94 and 1994-95.

Hakim Ziyech made the most of that reprieve, levelling with his first Premier League goal in 18 appearances since scoring against Burnley in October.

There was worse to come for Pep Guardiola, who has now lost four home league games this season – twice as many as he had lost in any other campaign in his managerial career.

At 91 minutes and 54 seconds, Marcos Alonso's scuffed finish was the latest winning goal scored by the visitors in a Premier League game at City since Paul Scholes for Manchester United in April 2010 (92:41).

Liverpool 2-0 Southampton: Mane helps sink former employers

Liverpool kept their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League alive with victory at Anfield in the late kick-off.

Sadio Mane opened the scoring in the first half with his second goal in three Premier League games, having found the net just once in his previous 14 outings in the competition before that.

He was teed up by Mohamed Salah, marking the first time the pair have combined for a top-flight goal this season.

Thiago Alcantara added a second in the 90th minute to become the 140th player to score a Premier League goal for Liverpool, though the first to get off the mark for the Reds from outside the box since Divock Origi in December 2015.

Southampton, meanwhile, have now earned just 11 points from their 18 Premier League games in 2021, fewer than any other side this calendar year.

Leeds United 3-1 Tottenham: VAR bars Kane as Spurs suffer

Leeds' superb record against the Premier League's 'big six' continued.

Marcelo Bielsa's side became the first to remain unbeaten at home in the top flight against each of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs in a season since West Ham in 2015-16, and only the third newly promoted team to do so, after Ipswich Town in 2000-01 and Birmingham City in 2009-10.

Stuart Dallas broke the deadlock to become the first Northern Ireland player to score as many as eight Premier League goals in a season since Chris Brunt in 2008-09.

Son Heung-min equalised for the visitors, but Patrick Bamford restored Leeds' advantage to move onto 22 Premier League goal involvements this term (15 goals, seven assists). Harry Kane is the only Englishman to have been involved in more (34).

Rodrigo then added a third late on as Spurs suffered a fifth defeat in 10 top-flight away games in 2021 – more than they experienced in the entirety of 2020.

Sheffield United 0-2 Crystal Palace: Benteke helps Eagles deal with blunt Blades

After a run of three consecutive defeats, Palace could not have wished for more accommodating opponents than the already relegated Blades.

Christian Benteke opened the scoring after just 66 seconds, registering the club’s earliest Premier League goal since James McArthur's strike against Everton in November 2017 (51 seconds).

Benteke has now scored more goals this season (seven in 27 appearances) than he managed in his previous three Premier League campaigns combined (six in 71).

Eberechi Eze continued his impressive season with a second late on. Only Wilfried Zaha (12) has been directly involved in more Premier League goals for Palace this season than Eze (four goals, five assists), while no Eagles player has laid on more goals than the former Queens Park Rangers man.

The result meant United have failed to score in 20 matches within a single league season for the first time in their history, while in terms of the Premier League, only Derby County in 2007-08 (22), Leeds United in 1996-97 (21) and Huddersfield Town in 2017-18 (21) have failed to score in more games in a single campaign.

Tottenham interim boss Ryan Mason felt the officials on the field and elsewhere dealt his team a cruel hand in the 3-1 defeat to Leeds United.

Goals from Stuart Dallas, Patrick Bamford and Rodrigo gave Marcelo Bielsa's men the points in a pulsating contest at Elland Road – a defeat that all-but ends Spurs' hopes of sneaking into a top-four Premier League spot.

Son Heung-min equalised for the visitors during the first half and Harry Kane thought he had given Spurs the lead, only to be pulled back for offside.

Replays showed the call to be marginal in the extreme, but the video assistant referee delivered bad news for Tottenham, leaving Mason frustrated.

"My first look, my second look and my 10th look tells me it’s not an offside decision," Mason told Sky Sports.

"At 1-1, it's a big moment. In my opinion they got that one wrong. I can't believe it was given offside, to be honest.

"I don't think people understand the momentum shifts decisions like that can have in a game of football."

Despite Opta's expected goals projections from an open game landing 2.49-1.05 in Leeds' favour, Mason also bemoaned missed chances from his team.

"We had opportunities and weren't clinical enough at times," Mason said, Kane having struck the crossbar with a 72nd-minute free-kick when the score was 2-1.

"We had big opportunities and big openings and it wouldn't go in for us, then the last 10 minutes they get one on the counter."

Spurs have three matches remaining this season and trailed fourth-placed Chelsea by five points ahead of Thomas Tuchel's Champions League finalists facing Manchester City later on Saturday.

Patrick Bamford's 15th Premier League goal of the season helped Leeds United to a 3-1 win over Tottenham, all but ending their opponents' tenuous Champions League hopes.

Leeds laid siege to their visitors in typical fashion and led through Stuart Dallas' eighth league goal of the campaign.

Son Heung-min levelled and Harry Kane had a goal disallowed for offside before Bamford again pressed his claims for joining the England captain in Gareth Southgate's Euro 2020 squad.

Kane hit the crossbar with a free-kick inside the final 20 minutes at Elland Road but chasing the game left Tottenham increasingly vulnerable on the break and Rodrigo completed the misery for Ryan Mason's side at Elland Road.

Hugo Lloris got down and across to his left well to deny Bamford after Jack Harrison slid a pass into the Leeds striker's path in the seventh minute.

Lloris again excelled himself as Sergio Reguilon turned Harrison's virtually undefendable cross towards his own goal, but Dallas was on hand to smash home and give Leeds a deserved advantage.

Spurs' much-vaunted front four led the response impressively.

Robin Koch blocked a Dele Alli effort from a Son pass but when the roles were reversed – the midfielder cleverly delaying his throughball – the Korea forward dispatched his 17th goal of the season.

Only a fractional offside on the end of another Alli pass prevented Kane from putting Tottenham ahead, although back came Leeds – Dallas seizing on some sloppy defending from Eric Dier and Reguilon and setting in motion a slick move from which Bamford converted Ezgjan Alioski's low cross.

Marcelo Bielsa was concerned enough by Spurs' early second-half pressure make a change before the hour, Raphinha replacing Tyler Roberts, and Mateusz Klich's snap-shot forced another superb stop from Lloris.

Opposite number Illan Meslier excelled himself to push Serge Aurier's deflected cross to safety, although he was relieved to see Kane's 72nd-minute free-kick cannon against the top of the bar.

Meslier saved with his feet from Erik Lamela before another substitute, Rodrigo, calmly collected Raphinha's pass to seal the points.

What does it mean? Spurs' Champions League hopes fade to almost nothing

Spurs lie sixth with three matches to play, five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea having played a game more. Liverpool and Everton, two and four points behind them respectively, each have two games in hand. Mathematically possible, sure, as they can still reach 65 points. But not realistically.

Indeed, Mason's men are only six points better off than Leeds, who are up to ninth and eyeing a top-10 finish on their Premier League return having hit the 50-point mark.

What's next

Leeds will continue their pursuit of a top-half finish at Burnley next Saturday, with Tottenham hosting Wolves a day later.

Gareth Bale is "performing at his best" and Ryan Mason is delighted to have the Real Madrid loan star on top form for Tottenham's run-in.

Spurs face Leeds United at Elland Road on Saturday with designs on narrowing the five-point gap to fourth-placed Chelsea in pursuit of Champions League football.

Consecutive Premier League wins over Southampton and Sheffield United have aided their cause, with Bale scoring four goals across those two games, including a hat-trick against the Blades.

That treble put Bale top of the pile in terms of his goals-per-minute ratio in the top flight, with his nine goals coming at an average of one every 81 minutes.

It marks an upturn in fortunes amid a loan spell in which the Welshman has often underwhelmed, but there is talk of Bale staying for next season if that is the wish of all parties.

Reflecting on the forward's performances on and off the pitch during his brief spell at the helm, interim boss Mason said: "I can only go off the back of the last two weeks, from what I've seen from Gareth, I experienced playing with him as well, a top professional with immense quality, he's produced on the football pitch as well, he's happy and I'm happy.

"We have to be performing at our best, at the moment he's performing at his best.

"I pick the team from training performances, certain individuals who will help that team within that match. For the game against Southampton, we needed Gareth, someone we could rely on to produce that moment.

"We have so many options at that high end of the pitch, there are difficult decisions to make. Gareth has proved in the last couple of weeks that he's got that quality in the final third."

Asked about Bale's future, Mason added: "Those questions and answers are not for me to say, Gareth and his parent club are having conversations.

"It's not right to focus on the next season, we have to focus on our next game, it's a massive match.

"When the season is done, those conversation will happen."

If Bale should add one more to his tally, it would represent the longest gap between 10-goal seasons in the competition's history (8), overtaking Paul Scholes and Nwankwo Kanu who each went seven campaigns between netting double figures.

Spurs have history on their side heading to Yorkshire, having won the last three in a row against Leeds in a six-game unbeaten run.

However, Leeds are seeking to remain unbeaten at home in the Premier League against each of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs in a season since West Ham in 2015-16, and only the third newly promoted team to do so, after Ipswich Town in 2000-01 and Birmingham City in 2009-10.

The tactical battle will be plotted by two managers with wildly varying levels of experience, as Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa is 35 years and 327 days older than Mason, representing the second biggest gap between two opposing coaches meeting in the competition, after Bobby Robson and Chris Coleman (37 years, 112 days).

The Premier League has confirmed away fans will not be allowed to attend fixtures staged in the final two rounds of the 2020-21 season.

With a further relaxing of coronavirus restrictions scheduled in the United Kingdom on May 17, up to 10,000 supporters will be allowed inside grounds to watch games again.

The penultimate set of top-flight fixtures had been pushed back to midweek dates as a result, thereby making sure all clubs have one home outing under the new guidelines.

However, visiting fans will not be permitted inside the stadiums, a decision taken to make sure there is consistency across the board for all 20 teams.

"The Premier League last week confirmed fixtures have been rescheduled to provide an opportunity for each club to host one home game with supporters before the end of the season," a statement from the governing body said.

"Match round 37 will now be played on Tuesday 18 and Wednesday 19 May with the final matches of the season kicking off at 16:00 BST on Sunday 23 May, as planned.

"Following consultation with clubs, it was agreed matches would not be open to away supporters due to varying operational challenges across the league and the need to deliver a consistent approach, while maximising the opportunity for home-fan attendance.

"The safety and security of supporters is of paramount importance. Clubs have a proven track record of providing Covid-safe environments and have operational plans in place ready to safely welcome supporters back to their stadiums.

"Fans have been greatly missed at Premier League matches and this marks a key step towards full stadiums, including away fans, from the start of the 2021-22 season."

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