Harry Wilson has ended a 16-year association with Liverpool to join Championship outfit Fulham ahead of the 2021-22 season. 

Wilson – who has signed a deal that could see him stay at Craven Cottage until 2026 – progressed through the ranks of the Reds after joining at the age of nine. 

The 24-year-old made just two appearances for Jurgen Klopp's first team, however, and has spent much of the past four seasons out on loan. 

Spells at Crewe Alexandra and Hull City were followed by a successful stint at Derby County in the 2018-19 season.

He spent a season in the Premier League with Bournemouth in 2019-20, scoring seven goals as the Cherries were relegated, while last term he was on loan with Championship side Cardiff City. 

Wilson has been capped 29 times by Wales and featured for the Dragons in their Euro 2020 campaign, receiving a red card in the closing stages of their 4-0 last-16 defeat to Denmark. 

Fulham also announced the signing of goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga on Saturday after he left Tottenham last month, the 29-year-old Argentine signing a two-year deal.

Jurgen Klopp revealed Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have looked "really good" in pre-season training with Liverpool, though made clear the need for patience over the returning duo.

Van Dijk and fellow centre-back Gomez were long-term absentees during the Reds' unsuccessful title defence in the 2020-21 campaign, making a combined total of just 12 Premier League appearances.

Both are closing in on a comeback but Klopp insisted after the 1-0 friendly win over Mainz on Friday that neither are likely to feature in the next fixture, which sees Liverpool take on Hertha Berlin.

Asked by the club's official website if the defenders could play next Thursday, he replied: "Yeah, it would still be a surprise, unfortunately. But they look really good.

"Look, I think, they do everything, they play football, we keep them in training, we do the things we can do, they don't do too much and stuff like this.

"We just have to be patient – we prepare for a full season, not for a pre-season game. I will not risk it for a game here, so we have to see.

"We have a lot of games still coming, pre-season games, but I don't see them being involved for the next one."

Liverpool recorded a first win during pre-season action thanks to a late own goal against Mainz, Luca Kilian turning Owen Beck's cross into the net in the 86th minute.

Klopp had included a host of first-team regulars in his starting XI, which saw Harvey Elliott utilised in a midfield role, before a much younger line-up were introduced after half-time.

A number of the squad remain absent following their exertions at Euro 2020 and the Copa America, though Scotland captain Andy Robertson has joined up with his team-mates in Austria.

"I am happy about a lot of situations I saw," the Liverpool boss said of the game against Mainz.

"I saw in the first half some really good football where we came through, we passed, we passed the ball quite quickly, quick enough against a good, organised side, a deep-defending side and this kind of stuff. It was far away from being perfect, but it is absolutely okay.

"Second half I saw the boys, the kids, fought for a result and they got it. They forced it and I am happy about that."

Sadio Mane feels he has benefitted from an extended break as he looks to regain his best form for Liverpool in 2021-22.

Mane scored 11 times in the Premier League last season as Liverpool failed to defend their title.

That was his second-lowest tally for Liverpool since he joined from Southampton in 2016-17, with the Senegal forward only netting fewer league goals in the 2017-18 season (10), while last term also featured a run of just three strikes in 20 games before helping himself to a double against Crystal Palace on the final day.

Mane did however keep up his creativity, supplying seven assists from 61 chances created – the most opportunities he has crafted in a Premier League season since his arrival in England seven years ago.

Only in 2018-19 (3,085) did Mane play more minutes than in 2020-21 (2,810), and the 29-year-old believes the longer break he was able to have before he joined up with the Reds' pre-season training camp in Austria has provided a much-needed boost.

Asked if he felt in better shape compared to before the 2020-21 season, Mane told Liverpoolfc.com: "Yes, sure.

"I think it's always important as a player to have a break because I can say since I came to Liverpool this was the first time I have had four weeks or more holidays, so I think that sometimes helps a lot. 

"I could see from day one that everybody was looking sharp, which for me was unbelievable! I am not complaining about having one week or two weeks' holiday, but I think it's always extra [helpful] for us to have this long period of holiday. 

"At the same time, we have been working in individual training, which is also important because you could see from day one that everybody was looking sharp and ready to go for the new season.

"To be honest, everybody, and myself for sure, feels more ready. I always say tiredness is here [in the head] and obviously you have to be mentally strong to cope with it, but at the same time I think resting is the best thing.

"I think now we have all rested properly so this is another advantage for us. We are looking to be ready for the season now."

Liverpool fell way short of competing with Manchester City for the title, though Jurgen Klopp's side will point to the impact injuries to key players – mainly in defence – had on their efforts.

The Reds lost Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip to season-ending injuries, while Jordan Henderson also failed to return after sustaining a problem in February.

"I think not only me, I think everybody [is excited]!" Mane said when asked how positive it was to see Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip back in training.

"As a player we all become like fans because if you see your team-mate getting back in training and fit, you just say, 'Wow!' 

"When I see Virgil, Joe and Joel, after every training session I say, 'My friend, how are you feeling?' because I think to have everybody back in the team is just incredible.

"Because we know what they are capable of doing for the team and for us the most important thing is the team, so having those players fit, 100 per cent – I think you can always see the smiles of the boys and say: 'Wow, what a season it’s going to be for us again.'"

Eden Hazard has struggled for impact at Real Madrid two years into his five-year deal.

The 30-year-old signed with Madrid for a reported €100 million (£86m) from Chelsea in 2019.

Hazard has battled against injuries and poor form in Spain, making 43 appearances and scoring five goals in two seasons.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA WEIGH UP SHOCK HAZARD RETURN

Eden Hazard could make a sensational return to Chelsea and end his underwhelming spell with Real Madrid, reports AS.

Chelsea are weighing up a shock move for the Belgium attacking midfielder, who spent seven years with the Blues.

The report did not disclose any financial details but cited Hazard's strong connection with Chelsea's squad and desire to re-discover his best football.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Sun claims Manchester United are plotting a cut-price move for Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka as a replacement for Paul Pogba, who has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain in recent days.

- Tottenham's swap deal for Bryan Gil from Sevilla in exchange for Erik Lamela will soon be finalized according to Sky Sports. Spurs will also pay £21.6 million (€25m) for the winger.

- Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowsk is "interested" in a contract offer from Chelsea after his agent spoke to the Blues, claims Bild. Lewandowski is seen as Chelsea's alternative option should they fail to land Erling Haaland.

- Switzerland international Xherdan Shaqiri could be among those sold by Liverpool in an off-season clear-out, according to the Liverpool Echo. Divock Origi and Nat Phillips were also mentioned in the report.

- talkSPORT reports that Arsenal are preparing a £30m bid to sign Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale . The Times claims the Gunners have been told to raise their offer.

A youthful Liverpool side played out a 1-1 draw with Wacker Innsbruck in their first 30-minute friendly in Austria before a stronger Reds side were held to the same scoreline by Stuttgart.

Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and new signing Ibrahima Konate were included in the line-up for the second shortened friendly against the Bundesliga side, while fit-again Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip and January signing Ben Davies featured for the younger team against Innsbruck.

Alexander-Arnold returned to the playing squad for the first time since suffering a thigh injury on England duty in June against Austria, which subsequently ruled him out of the Three Lions' Euro 2020 campaign that ended in shoot-out heartbreak to Italy.

Divock Origi opened the scoring with a spot-kick in the first game as the Belgian forward profited from a handball that came from full-back Owen Beck's cross.

But Origi's penalty was swiftly cancelled out by Ronivaldo's header past Loris Karius and that meant it was honours even between Jurgen Klopp's men and the Austrian side.

In the follow-up game against Stuttgart, Philipp Forster capped a slick move off to give Pellegrino Matarazzo's men the lead as he finished past Adrian inside the opening 10 minutes.

Liverpool, though, responded through Mane, who squeezed a shot in from close range after Kostas Tsimikas had initially got on the end of James Milner's cross.

And with neither team finding a winner inside 30 minutes, the Reds had to settle for two draws in their two run-outs at their camp in Austria.

Klopp's team next face Mainz on Friday before friendlies against Hertha Berlin, Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna round off their pre-season preparations.

Liverpool midfielder Marko Grujic has joined Porto on a permanent deal.

The 25-year-old spent 2020-21 on loan with the Primeira Liga club, making 39 appearances in all competitions.

That was Grujic's latest spell away from Liverpool, whom he joined from Red Star Belgrade in 2016, having also previously spent half a season with Cardiff City and two years at Hertha Berlin.

He was the first signing of ​the Jurgen Klopp era at Anfield but featured just 16 times for the Reds in all competitions.

Serbia international Grujic linked up with the Liverpool squad for this month's pre-season training camp in Austria, but the Merseyside outfit confirmed on Tuesday that he has officially ended his five-year association with the club.

"Everyone at Liverpool FC thanks Marko for his contributions to the club and wishes him the best in his future career," the 2019-20 Premier League champions said in a statement.

Porto are reported to have paid an initial €12.15million (£10.5m) for Grujic, who was also rumoured to be a target for fellow Portuguese side Sporting CP and Italian club Sassuolo.

Grujic scored twice as Porto finished second to Sporting in the Primeira Liga last season and featured eight times in Sergio Conceicao's side's run to the Champions League quarter-finals.

The 6.94 aerial duels Grujic won per 90 minutes in the Portuguese top flight last season was behind only Pedro Henrique (7.94) and Rio Ave's Ronan (8.62) among those to have featured more than three times in the competition.

Grujic also won more tackles per 90 minutes than any other Porto player who started six or more games in the league last season, the Serbian's tally of 1.32 putting him slightly ahead of Otavio (1.31).

A Liverpool stalwart might make an early exit from the club.

Jordan Henderson is under contract for two more years and is said to want an extension.

But talks have reportedly not progressed, potentially opening the door for outside suitors.

 

TOP STORY - HENDERSON COULD LEAVE ANFIELD

Completing a new deal for Henderson is reportedly not a priority for Liverpool's ownership this off-season, and The Athletic says a move could be on the cards for the England international.

The report cites Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino as a long-time admirer of the midfielder and notes Henderson's close friendship with Atletico Madrid's Luis Suarez as potentially weighing in favour of a move to one of those clubs.

Liverpool are said to be eager to get something in return for Henderson, should he leave, after watching Georginio Wijnaldum move to PSG on a free transfer last month.

 

ROUND-UP

- If the rumoured swap deal that would send Saul Niguez to Barcelona and Antoine Griezmann to Atletico falls through, the Daily Mail reports that Liverpool and Manchester United could swoop for the 26-year-old Spaniard.

- Raphael Varane's expected move to Old Trafford is gaining momentum, as Fabrizio Romano reports the Real Madrid centre-back has told United he is "ready" to accept their contract offer should the clubs agree to terms.

- Tottenham are set to acquire Pierluigi Gollini from Atalanta on loan through next season with a €15million option to make the move permanent, says Romano, and Football London reports Atalanta defender Cristian Romero also is in talks to join Spurs.

- Manchester United's Donny van de Beek could be headed to Barcelona on loan, according to Mundo Deportivo.

- Villarreal are the leaders to sign Arnaut Danjuma away from Bournemouth, the Sun reports, with Villa and Southampton also possibilities for the Dutch forward.

- Burnley winger Dwight McNeil is Everton's top transfer target according to the Mirror, though the Liverpool Echo says Aston Villa may also be in the mix.

Liverpool youngster Harvey Elliott has been challenged to take the "next step" at Anfield this season by manager Jurgen Klopp.

Elliott has played nine times for Liverpool and impressed last season when he was loaned out to Blackburn Rovers in the Championship.

The 18-year-old had seven goals and 11 assists in 41 Blackburn outings in the league, a spell he hoped would increase his chances of getting "in and around" the Liverpool first-team in 2021-22.

Only two players registered more assists than Elliott in the Championship last season – Emiliano Buendia (16) and Michael Olise (12).

Elliott is poised to be involved in Liverpool's two 30-minute friendlies against Wacker Innsbruck and Stuttgart on Tuesday, with another warm-up fixture against Mainz on Friday.

"Harvey made a step, I have to say. He looks in a proper shape, really, really fit," Klopp told Liverpool's official website.

"He came back in a good shape and is here now in full training obviously.

"You can see last year really worked well for him. Now let’s make the next steps together."

Elliott became the youngest player to ever start a competitive game for Liverpool at 16 years and 174 days when featuring against MK Dons in the Carabao Cup in September 2019.

The former Fulham product, who signed a new long-term contract with the Reds earlier this month, has been taking tips from Liverpool's top stars as he eyes a breakthrough season in the Premier League.

Liverpool assistant manager Pep Lijnders recently detailed how Mohammed Salah gave Elliott some advice about eating habits to the teenager during their pre-season training camp in Austria which pleased Klopp.

He added: "What is really nice about the story is that we created really an atmosphere where the boys care about each other as well, they really want to help each other.

"Most of these players were not in the same place like Harvey is in that age. 

"But everybody wants the group to be in the best shape, maybe that’s the example more for that story.

"It could happen with James Milner constantly that somebody takes something from him. That’s this team, that’s us and I really like it a lot."

Trent Alexander-Arnold is feeling pain-free and is eager to make his return for Liverpool this week after recovering from a thigh problem.

The right-back sustained the injury during England's 1-0 win over Austria in a friendly on June 2 and was subsequently ruled out of the Three Lions' Euro 2020 campaign.

He has taken part in full training during the Reds' pre-season training camp in Austria, however, and may feature in Tuesday's 30-minute friendlies against Wacker Innsbruck and Stuttgart.

"I'm fully pain-free. I've been doing a lot of rehab when we were off over the summer with the physios and the medical staff, which was good," he told Liverpool's official website.

"I feel fit, I feel healthy and I'm back in full training now, so it's good. It's good for me.

"I've done quite a few sessions with the lads now. I feel fit enough to play. But the decision comes from the manager, the staff and obviously the medical staff.

"They need to talk and see if it's worth the risk. If not, there's a game on Friday [against Mainz] as well.

"Whether it's a case of a few minutes on Tuesday and play a bit more on Friday, ease me in like that, who knows? Either way, I'll be ready to play."

Alexander-Arnold has been a Liverpool regular for the past four seasons and featured 45 times in all competitions in the last campaign.

He created an 14 Opta-defined big chances in 36 Premier League games last term, a tally bettered only by Kevin de Bruyne (19) and Bruno Fernandes (20), leading to seven assists.

Since making his debut in the competition for Liverpool in December 2016, only team-mate Andy Robertson (37) has laid on more assists than Alexander-Arnold (33) among defenders.

The academy product's return will therefore be considered a major boost for Jurgen Klopp, but the Reds will remain patient in their bid to get the defender up to full speed in time for their Premier League opener against Norwich City on August 14.

"If you give me the opportunity at any point to train at 100 per cent I would have taken it," the 22-year-old said.

"But there were still things we needed to do. We needed to finish off the last stage of rehab and make sure we ticked all the boxes before we put me back in. 

"And I think we've been able to do that. Now, being back in full training with the lads is good. It feels good and I feel good out there. 

"We've got a lot of players out here, a lot of numbers, so we've got enough players to chop and change and keep the intensity really high, which is vitally important in the early stages of pre-season.

"We've got to try to get as much intensity into the legs as possible and push each other as hard as we can without going too far."

Fellow defenders Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez are also closing in on a comeback after returning from injury lay-offs of various lengths.

The absence of Van Dijk for the majority of 2020-21 undoubtedly contributed to a poor campaign for Liverpool, though they did at least recover to finish third in the Premier League.

Alexander-Arnold has talked up the influence of the Dutchman, who also missed Euro 2020 for the Netherlands, both on the field and off it.

"In and around the team, he's such a big difference for us," Alexander-Arnold said. "He's an amazing guy, an amazing player. The impact he has on us is huge. 

"He knows that himself and knows the role he needs to play within the team, as a leader and as one of the captains. 

"He's a big part of the team and everyone is really pleased to see him back training and in and around the team."

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has confirmed new signing Ibrahima Konate will make his first appearance for the club on Tuesday.

French defender Konate arrived from RB Leipzig for £36 million (€42m) in Liverpool's first major off-season acquisition.

Konate was signed after Liverpool were hit with a series of injuries to defenders in their 2020-21 Premier League title defence, losing Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.

The 22-year-old recruit joined the club's pre-season camp in Austria and will play a part in their back-to-back 30-minute mini-games against Wacker Innsbruck and VfB Stuttgart.

“He’s had a good rest, had a normal pre-season so far, so he can play on Tuesday," Klopp told liverpoolfc.com. "For Ibou it is important that he gets minutes quickly, that’s what pre-season is for.

“All the people from outside will say there are similarities between Leipzig and us and that is true, but anyway there are differences as well and the similarities are important but the differences are more important because you see that in training.

"There are some little habits where he is doing different to what we usually do, so we work on that but that’s now not that easy because that’s only six days now.

"All fine, completely normal. The first few days are there to realise what is the boy doing when he is not thinking. Natural stuff. And then from there we start and that’s why he has to play and that’s what will happen.

"Then we will see how quickly we can get all this information together for him and then everything is fine. For a defender it’s not as difficult as it would be for other players but it’s still a job to do, and that is what we are doing."

Liverpool have friendlies scheduled against FSV Mainz and Hertha Berlin on July 23 and July 29 respectively.

After winning the Champions League, Chelsea are looking to add a goalscorer. 

With Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland seemingly no longer a possibility, the Blues could look elsewhere in Germany.

Robert Lewandowski has become the name to watch. 

 

TOP STORY - CHELSEA LINE UP LEWANDOWSKI BID

Robert Lewandowski has moved to the top of Chelsea's wish list, according to the Sun. 

The Poland international scored a record 41 league goals for Bayern Munich last season and is under contract through 2023.

But Thomas Tuchel wants a prolific scorer and Lewandowski would certainly fit the bill, should Bayern accept a £50million offer for the 32-year-old.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United will make an offer for Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane this week, says the Daily Mail, but not at the rumoured £50m asking price. Fabrizio Romano reports Varane wants to move to the Premier League and is ready to accept United's contract proposal. 

United also are in the mix for Real Madrid's winger Vinicius Junior, claims the Mirror. 

Mauro Icardi could leave Paris Saint-Germain for Juventus, says Footmercato.

– Barring a Lewandowski move, Chelsea could wind up as a surprise landing spot for Harry Kane if he does not end up at Manchester City, according to The Athletic.

Liverpool will extend Alisson's contract through 2026 within the next few weeks, Fabrizio Romano reports, while the Mirror says Jordan Henderson will sign a new deal at Anfield through 2023. 

Roma and Inter could lure Alex Telles away from United, according to Calciomercato. 

Arsenal are hoping to complete a deal for Anderlecht midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga within the next week, says the Daily Mail.

Tottenham are eyeing Atalanta's Pierluigi Gollini, says Calciomercato. 

Real Madrid's desire to sign a new forward is not a secret.

The Spanish giants missed out on silverware in 2020-21, much to their dismay.

Carlo Ancelotti has replaced Zinedine Zidane as head coach with big expectations.

 

TOP STORY - MADRID TARGET SALAH IF MBAPPE FAILS

Ancelotti has told Real Madrid president Florentino Perez he wants to sign Liverpool's Mohamed Salah , reports Fichajes.

The Italian believes Los Blancos needs another forward, with Salah seen as his back-up plan if they fail to land Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe.

Madrid's financial situation is complicated, with the club not making any major signings in 2020-21 amid the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, but they appear determined to land a major forward this off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

- 90min reports that Manchester United's Jesse Lingard has emerged as a target for Spanish champions Atletico Madrid, having caught Diego Simeone's eye during his loan spell at West Ham United.

- Chelsea have shopped around striker Tammy Abraham and Arsenal are interested, according to The Telegraph.

- The Athletic believes Tottenham may make a move for Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini, although he has a £26m (€30m) release clause.

-  Poor relations between Spurs and Southampton, stemming from 2020's Pierre-Emile Hjobjerg deal, may scupper a proposed move for Danny Ings, according to Standard Sport.

- Newly promoted Brentford are set to splash a club record transfer fee of £13.5m to land Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer, claims The Telegraph.

Arjen Robben's playing days are officially over (again), with the Bayern Munich and Netherlands great confirming on Thursday that he is hanging up his boots.

Of course, this is not the first time Robben has made such a decision – he initially retired in 2019 after a decade with Bayern before returning to his first club Groningen.

Although the fairy-tale conclusion he may have hoped for never quite materialised, ending his career where it all began has seen his playing days come full circle.

In honour of Robben's retirement, Stats Perform takes a look at greats who have gone back to their spiritual home in the twilight stages, starting with an overview of the king of inverted wingers…

Arjen Robben - Groningen

Robben's first retirement lasted just a single season, having announced last year he would be returning to his boyhood club Groningen for the 2020-21 campaign. Robben, now 37, initially brought an illustrious playing career to an end in July 2019 shortly after his 10-year spell with Bayern finished. Although at the time he was linked with a potential return to the team that gave him his professional debut, Robben – who suffered with numerous injury problems throughout his career – opted to retire. He then caused something of a shock as he finally went back to the place where it all began, but once again injuries blighted his availability, restricting him to just seven Eredivisie appearances. Club director Mark-Jan Fledderus wanted him to stay on for another year, but when Robben said at the end of the season that he was going to have a long think about his future, the writing was seemingly on the wall. Another U-turn appears unlikely.

Juan Roman Riquelme - Argentinos Juniors

Perhaps more synonymous with Boca Juniors, where he made his professional debut and also spent most of his final years, Riquelme also had a strong affinity with Argentinos Juniors. He came through the club's academy in the early-to-mid 1990s, before then finishing his immense career at Estadio Diego Maradona in 2014, having also played for Barcelona, Villarreal and Argentina. Although the iconic attacking midfielder appeared close to joining Paraguay's Cerro Porteno the following year, the move never materialised.

Dirk Kuyt - Quick Boys

Kuyt briefly came out of retirement three years ago to help Quick Boys, with whom he spent 13 years as a youth. Playing in the Derde Divisie Saturday league, Kuyt was already working as assistant at the time, but made himself available for selection during a striker shortage and he made three appearances. The former Netherlands and Liverpool forward had retired the year before following a second spell with Feyenoord, where he had made his initial breakthrough in the mid-2000s, his form at the time earning a move to Anfield.

Rafael Marquez - Atlas

One of Mexico's greatest players, Marquez's longevity at such a high level was nothing short of incredible, as he accumulated 147 international caps. After breaking into the Atlas team as a teenager having come through their academy, the elegant centre-back enjoyed a sparkling career in Europe, winning 14 titles across spells with Monaco and Barcelona. Time with New York Red Bulls, Leon and Hellas Verona followed, before a final two-year stint back at the Jalisco ended in 2018. Although plagued by off-field allegations towards the end of his career, Marquez went on to become the club's sporting president, before standing down last in 2019 to focus on other areas of the sport. He is expected to be taking up a youth coaching role at Barca next season.

Juan Pablo Angel - Atletico Nacional

Angel perhaps never quite lived up to the expectations he set during his early days as part of River Plate's so-called 'Fantastic Four' with Javier Saviola, Ariel Ortega and Pablo Aimar, having joined from Colombia's Nacional. Nevertheless, he became a fan favourite at Aston Villa in the Premier League, before spending six years in MLS with New York Red Bulls, Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA. In 2013 he returned to Nacional for two seasons, having left them in 1997. He called it quits in late 2014, just a few days after losing to his former club River in the final of the Copa Sudamericana. "I am ending my career with a final between the two clubs I love the most," he said.

Henrik Larsson - Hogaborgs

While the Swedish club most may associate with Larsson is Helsingborgs, he actually made the breakthrough at a smaller side – Hogaborgs. It was here where he trained from the age of six, before eventually becoming a regular in the senior side and earning a move to Helsingborgs. A trophy-laden career followed, taking him to Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United. Although he retired in 2009, he returned to the pitch for Raa in the Swedish third tier three years later, before then finding himself back in the team at Hogaborgs in 2013, helping out due to an injury crisis despite him only previously being registered to a casual team for 'seniors'. This gave him the chance to play alongside his son, Jordan.

Carlos Tevez - Boca Juniors

The Tevez-Boca love affair has dominated most of the striker's successful and complex career. After coming through their youth ranks, the feisty forward was seen as the heir to Maradona. A brief stint in Brazil with Corinthians followed, but Europe had long since beckoned, even if West Ham was by no means the expected destination. He went on to play for Manchester United and Manchester City, increasing tension between the clubs, before then going to Juventus, but throughout this time Tevez seemed to long for a return to Boca. He went back to La Bombonera in 2015, his homecoming interrupted by a brief spell with Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 in the Chinese Super League, though even Tevez acknowledged he saw his time in China as a "holiday". "He filled Santa's sack with dollars and now he has returned to Boca" was Maradona's assessment upon 'El Apache's' return from the CSL. His third spell with Boca ended in June 2021, though it remains to be seen if he ever plays for another club.

Gianluigi Buffon - Parma

Okay, he is not technically retired yet, so perhaps Buffon does not strictly qualify here. However, after departing Juventus for the second time at the end of 2020-21, the Italy great suggested he had not finished playing just yet. Parma quickly emerged as a potential destination despite their recent relegation to Serie B, and after a few weeks of contemplation, it was confirmed that Buffon was heading back to the club. Now 43, the iconic goalkeeper will wear the Gialloblu for the first time in 20 years, and he is set to remain with them until he turns 45, given he signed a two-year contract. What happens after that is anyone's guess but calling it a day with his first club could be a satisfyingly romantic conclusion.

He is back where he belongs.
He is back home. #SupermanReturns @gianluigibuffon @Kyle_J_Krause @ParmaCalcio_en pic.twitter.com/bh2FO6P8YX

— Parma Calcio 1913 (@1913parmacalcio) June 17, 2021

Manchester City's pursuit of a new striker is well known.

Sergio Aguero's exit has left a void for the Premier League champions.

City have been linked with a host of big names including Erling Haaland and Harry Kane.

 

TOP STORY - MAN CITY MONITORING LEWANDOWSKI

Manchester City are monitoring the status of Bundesliga top scorer Robert Lewandowski, according to the Daily Mail.

Lewandowski has two years remaining on his Bayern Munich deal but has previously indicated he may be open to a move elsewhere.

The report claims City are worried they may not succeed in their pursuit of Kane and see 32-year-old Lewandowski as an option given his quality and potentially lower asking price.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool is readying a £60million (€70m) bid for Inter and Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella according to La Repubblica. However, Fabrizio Romano claims Inter will not sell him.

- Everton have submitted a £30m (€35m) bid for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, but the Italian club have told the Toffees to double the offer, claims Calciomercato.

- The Telegraph reports that England full-back Kieran Trippier is desperate to return to the Premier League as he waits on a move from Atletico Madrid to Manchester United.

- The Telegraph also claims that Joe Willock will spend time on loan again at Newcastle from Arsenal. He will join the Magpies on a season-long deal.

- SPORT claims that Chelsea are tracking Sevilla's Jules Kounde after he recently rejected interest from Tottenham.

- Chelsea are looking to utilise Tammy Abraham as a sweetener in any deal to land Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, reports The Mirror.

- West Bromwich have turned down West Ham's offer for goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, claims The Athletic.

Rafael Benitez's appointment at Everton was a divisive one, though one of his former players believes the ex-Liverpool manager is the right choice.

Benitez was appointed as Carlo Ancelotti's replacement at Goodison Park, with the Italian having left to rejoin Real Madrid.

The 61-year-old Spaniard led Liverpool to the Champions League title in 2005, managing the Reds from 2004 until 2010.

Sections of Everton's fanbase were far from pleased with Benitez's appointment. Indeed, banners were left outside Goodison Park and, in an incident which is being investigated by Merseyside Police, a threatening message was left close to the manager's family home in Wirral.

However, Benitez has shrugged off the negativity, insisting he is confident he can lead Everton, who finished 12th and 10th under Ancelotti, to challenge.

It is a sentiment echoed by Amedeo Carboni, who played under Benitez at Valencia, winning two LaLiga titles in 2001-02 and 2003-04.

"When you join [a club] in a bad atmosphere, it is not joining through the main door," Carboni told Stats Perform.

"It makes you a bit upset and you don't feel calm. However, Rafa is a master in terms of managing groups of people. He knows how to build a squad. He might do well at Everton.

"Obviously, if the atmosphere doesn't let you work properly, it won't be easy either. It is true that he has coached Liverpool and we know how the rivalry is between Liverpool and Everton.

"If you have that weight in your shoulders every day, within training sessions and the games, because sometimes there will be bad performances and defeats, so I don't know. But he is a very good, high-profile manager and I believe he will be able to deal with all of this."

Benitez is the first manager to cross the Merseyside divide since the 1800s, with a former Liverpool boss having never taken over at Everton.

He was unveiled to the media on Wednesday, and reiterated his commitment to pushing Everton on.

"I have a great connection with the city, we support a lot of charities, have a lot of friends," he said.

"I am really pleased, really proud to be here. The connection with the city keeps me happy, to come back to the Premier League is great motivation and to do it with a team that can compete for something, I think it will be great.

"I know about the club, the tradition, the history and ambition of the owners, the fans behind the team.

"For anyone who knows the history of the club, it is quite easy. I am at home, I want to compete, to challenge for whatever you can challenge for. Enough motivation, a great opportunity for me and I'm really happy with that."

A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the future of James Rodriguez, who has been linked to Serie A giants Milan following Ancelotti's departure.

Benitez coached James at Madrid, though reports claim he did not always see eye to eye with the Colombia star.

"I am sure you [journalists] will be asking me about players, but it's more important to talk about teams rather than individuals," Benitez said when asked about James' future.

"Everyone has to keep training, do their jobs and we will continue looking for the best options for improving the team. We don't talk about individuals, it's not fair on the other players."

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