Jack Grealish was the player England fans wanted to see during Euro 2020.

Now a move to a bigger Premier League club might be on the cards.

Grealish is reportedly moving closer to leaving Aston Villa.

 

TOP STORY – CITY EYE GREALISH SWOOP

It seems increasingly unlikely Aston Villa will be able to hold onto Jack Grealish.

The England winger has agreed to personal terms with Manchester City, according to a Football Insider report.

Though he grew up a Villa fan and has spent his entire career with the club, save for a season on loan to Notts County, Grealish is in demand among the Premier League's big-money clubs.

City reportedly are preparing a £90million offer that would be difficult for Villa to refuse.

ROUND-UP

- With Paul Pogba and Manchester United at a stalemate in contract talks, the Telegraph says Paris Saint-Germain believe they can sign the midfielder with a £43million bid.

- Alexandre Lacazette is entering his final year under contract with Arsenal but the Gunners are ready to move on. According to the Sun, they are hoping to net £15m for Lacazette after paying £52m to sign him four years ago.

- Arsenal remain interested in a move for James Maddison, reports the Mirror, and they could explore a swap deal with Leicester City to get it done.

- PSG want to keep Moise Kean on a permanent deal after his year on loan from Everton, but Juventus also are interested, Le 10 Sport reports.

Harry Kane looks like he might soon get his wish to leave Tottenham.

Spurs had previously dug in their heels and were determined that Kane, who is contracted until 2024, would stay.

The England captain won last season's Premier League Golden Boot with 23 goals, and now he could be heading to the champions.

 

TOP STORY – CITY SET FOR BUMPER KANE DEAL

Tottenham forward Harry Kane is poised for a £160million move to Manchester City, reports The Sun.

According to the report, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy will allow Kane to exit the club for such a sum.

Kane is said by the newspaper to have agreed personal terms on a £400,000-a-week deal with City, which is reportedly double his current Tottenham contract.

 

ROUND-UP

- Paul Pogba has rejected a £50million contract offer at Manchester United and is set to leave this summer, according to The Mirror as rumours swirl about Paris Saint-Germain's interest.

- Marca reports that Kylian Mbappe will reject Paris Saint-Germain's latest contract offer and look to seal a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid.

- Fabrizio Romano has reported that talks are ongoing between Atalanta and Tottenham for Cristian Romero with personal terms agreed and a €55m price tag on the table.

- Atalanta want Tottenham defender Davinson Sanchez included in any deal, reports Sportitalia.

- Milan are interested in signing Chelsea midfielder Hakim Ziyech on loan, claims Calcio Mercato.

- Donyell Malen 's transfer from PSV Eindhoven to Borussia Dortmund is all but done according to Dutch outlet ED, with an anticipated €30m fee.

Following the conclusion of the European Championship and the Copa America, focus has switched back to club football as the 2021-22 campaign draws ever nearer in Europe's top leagues.

Most clubs are busy strengthening their squads ahead of the new season, while for others there is a need to raise funds as the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic continue to be felt.

With six weeks of the window to go for teams in England, Spain, Germany, France and Italy, the futures of many top talents remain uncertain – not least in the case of Lionel Messi, who became a free agent on July 1.

But while Messi is widely expected to sign a new long-term deal with Barcelona, other global stars will remain in the headlines until a transfer is secured or the window shuts.

Stats Perform looks at some of the biggest names who could be on the move between now and the end of August.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)

Linked with: Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United

While Messi's future now seems certain to be with Barcelona beyond next month, fellow superstar Ronaldo's status is less clear after entering the final year of his Juventus deal.

The Bianconeri are supposedly weighing up whether to cash in on the five-time Ballon d'Or winner or risk losing him for free next year when his deal expires.

While Juve endured a disappointing 2020-21 that saw them miss out on the Scudetto for the first time in nine years, Ronaldo had another impressive season in front of goal.

He scored 29 goals in 33 league appearances to finish top of the scoring charts, becoming the first player to win the Golden Boot in Serie A, LaLiga and the Premier League.

 

Harry Kane (Tottenham)

Linked with: Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid

Kane has spent 17 years with Tottenham but admitted in May he feels at a "crossroads" in his career following another trophyless campaign last time out.

The England international, who scored four times in his country's run to the Euro 2020 final, is yet to discuss his future with recently-appointed boss Nuno Espirito Santo.

He finished as the Premier League's top scorer last season, making him the third player to win the Golden Boot on three occasions after Thierry Henry (four times) and Alan Shearer.

Kane also set up 14 goals to become only the second player in the Premier League era to top the charts for both goals and assists, the other being Andy Cole for Newcastle United in 1993-94.

 

Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)

Linked with: Manchester City, Real Madrid, Chelsea

Alongside Kylian Mbappe, who Paris Saint-Germain will refuse to sell this window despite his delicate contract situation, Haaland is arguably football's hottest property.

The Norway international has been superb for Dortmund since arriving in January 2020, breaking a number of Bundesliga and Champions League goals records along the way.

That includes becoming both the quickest and youngest player to hit 20 goals in the Champions League, doing so in just 14 matches for Dortmund and former side Salzburg.

Last season alone, Haaland netted 27 times in 28 Bundesliga games. That included two or more goals on 11 occasions – only Gerd Muller (12 in 1971-72) has done so more times in a season.

 

Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Linked with: Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid

Having won it all during his time with Bayern, including seven successive Bundesliga crowns, could the time be right for Lewandowski to seek a new challenge elsewhere?

Recently-appointed Bayern boss Julian Nagelsmann admitted last week teams are interested in signing the 32-year-old, but that should of course come as no surprise.

Lewandowski is coming off his finest campaign yet for the Bavarian giants, having scored 41 times in the Bundesliga in 2020-21 to break Bayern great Muller's record for goals in a single season that had stood for 49 years.

The Poland striker's 48 goals in all competitions last time out were the most scored by any player in Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21, meanwhile, followed by Mbappe (42) and Haaland (41).

 

Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)

Linked with: Manchester United

With the signing of Jadon Sancho as good as wrapped up, Man Utd are rumoured to be closing in on a second big-money signing of the window in long-serving Madrid defender Varane.

The Frenchman has spent a decade at the Santiago Bernabeu, but it looks as though both the player and club are ready to cut ties with less than a year to run on his contract.

United are seeking a partner for Harry Maguire and Varane ticks plenty of boxes for what the Red Devils are after, not least in terms of his passing accuracy (89.58) and headed clearances (60) in 31 LaLiga games last term.

That compares to a passing accuracy of 89.82 for Victor Lindelof, 88.26 for Eric Bailly and 87.29 for Maguire in the Premier League last term. Maguire led the way with 86 headed clearances, meanwhile, some way in front of Lindelof's 40 in 29 games.

Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

Linked with: Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Juventus

United have been linked with an array of top talent, though they could have a battle on their hands keeping hold of one of their own star men in Pogba.

Following a couple of years of speculation, the World Cup-winning midfielder is supposedly eager to head home to France with Paris Saint-Germain.

Pogba has undoubtedly struggled for consistency in his second spell with United, but showed exactly what he is capable of in his four appearances for France at Euro 2020.

He scored a stunning goal against Switzerland and set up another against Portugal, while his eight chances created was second only to Antoine Griezmann (10) among France players.

Eduardo Camavinga (Rennes)

Linked with: Real Madrid, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, Arsenal

A number of Europe's top clubs are on red alert after Rennes president Nicolas Holveck admitted this week that in-demand midfielder Camavinga may be sold this window if a new contract cannot be agreed.

Camavinga made his debut for boyhood club Rennes in April 2019 and has gone on to make 82 appearances in all competitions, with 67 of those outings coming in Ligue 1.

The 18-year-old leads the way in the French top flight for tackles attempted (226) and tackles won (138) since his debut, followed by Marseille's Valentin Rongier in both categories (194 and 125 respectively).

To further underline exactly why so many teams are keen on the youngster, he was one of only two current teenagers – along with Barcelona's Pedri (1,485) – to complete more than 1,000 passes in Europe's top five leagues last term with 1,418.

 

Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo)

Linked with: Juventus, Arsenal

Euro 2020 acted as a shop window for a number of players, and not many of them saw their stock rise in such a way as Italy midfielder Locatelli.

The 23-year-old featured five times for the Azzurri in their successful European Championship campaign, including an appearance from the bench during extra time in the victory over England in the final.

He scored twice in the 3-0 group-stage win over Switzerland and had the second best goals-per-90-minutes ratio of any Italy player (0.66) after Matteo Pessina, who scored twice in four games (0.95).

Locatelli also won more tackles per 90 minutes (2.32) at the Euros than any other Italy player, followed by Marco Verratti (2.02) and Federico Bernardeschi (1.42).

Arsenal have already made a €40million (£35m) bid, but Juventus are considered the favourites to land the Milan youth product.

Manchester City's pre-season preparations suffered a double blow on Wednesday as a friendly against Troyes was cancelled due to a change in quarantine rules and another fixture against Preston North End will now take place behind closed doors. 

City's plans of playing in France have been scrapped after the UK government announced that anybody arriving from the country must quarantine for a 10-day period. 

A City statement on the club's official website said: "Both clubs explored all avenues to be able to play the game, but the recent UK government changes to quarantine rules for travellers returning from France, has made the required restrictions too difficult to overcome.

"Pep Guardiola's first-team squad will remain in Manchester and continue their pre-season preparations at the City Football Academy. There are no plans to replace the [Troyes] friendly with another pre-season fixture."

That leaves the Premier League champions with just the sole friendly against Preston before they challenge Leicester City in the Community Shield on August 7.

And no supporters will be present for the game against Preston next Tuesday, with coronavirus-enforced closures to the academy building at City due to end on Monday and the close proximity to the match prompting the club to take a "precautionary approach". 

 

Scott Carson has signed a one-year deal with Manchester City after spending the past two seasons on loan with the Premier League champions from Derby County.

Former England goalkeeper Carson will once again provide cover for Ederson and Zack Steffen, with City boss Pep Guardiola praising him as being "like a captain behind the scenes".

Those efforts were rewarded when the 36-year-old made his first Premier League appearance since May 2011 when City beat Newcastle United 4-3 after securing the title.

The gap of 3,645 days between top-flight outings is the sixth-longest in the competition's history and the longest for a goalkeeper.

"It's a pleasure and a privilege to be part of the setup here at City," Carson said.

"To be around Pep and his backroom staff is fantastic and I feel I have learnt so much since I joined in 2019.

"I want to continue pushing the other goalkeepers we have here and I want to make sure my experience rubs off on them."

City's director of football Txiki Begiristain added: "Scott brings a wealth of knowledge to the squad. The lads love him, and I know his experience has been a huge help to Ederson and Zack Steffen."

Carson was one of a handful of senior City players, alongside Steffen, Fernandinho and Riyad Mahrez to return to training this week, with the majority of Guardiola's squad still recuperating following their exertions at the European Championship and Copa America.

City face Leicester City in the Community Shield at Wembley on August 7 before beginning their Premier League defence at Tottenham eight days later.

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. 

Cristiano Ronaldo's future has been widely discussed this off-season.

The 36-year-old five-time Ballon d'Or winner has only one more year on his existing Juventus contract.

Ronaldo has been linked with several suitors among Europe's elite clubs as well as a switch to MLS after Juve failed to win the 2020-21 Serie A title.

 

TOP STORY - RONALDO SET TO EXTEND JUVE STAY

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to remain with Juventus amid talk of a new cut-price deal, reports Gazzetta dello Sport.

The Portugal international has attracted interest from Paris Saint-Germain and former club Manchester United this off-season.

However, Ronaldo is close to extending his Juve stay with a fresh one-year contract, taking a pay cut.

 

ROUND-UP

– Manchester City are determined to sign Aston Villa's Jack Grealish, according to The Athletic, although the Birmingham Mail claims the England winger is expected to sign a new deal at Villa Park.

– The Sun reports Inter are ramping up their bid to sign Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin on a one-year loan deal with the option of a permanent switch.

– Real Madrid have not received any offers for Gareth Bale, who is expected to remain in the Spanish capital for another season, according to Mundo Deportivo.

– Goal claims Juventus have had their initial €30million offer for Manuel Locatelli rejected by Sassuolo, who have a higher price in mind.

Arsenal are set to land Brighton's Ben White, having agreed to a deal in principle, worth around £50m, reports The Athletic.

Tottenham fans would understand if Harry Kane pushed for an exit from the club in this transfer window, according to former Spurs star Chris Waddle.

Kane is yet to win a major trophy despite a prolific Premier League career and this year is seen as a pivotal one to determine his long-term future.

Spurs finished seventh last season which was only good enough to reach the new UEFA Conference League, with the forward being open with the media on thinking seriously about his future.

Manchester City are rumoured to have already had a £100million offer knocked back by Tottenham, while Manchester United have also been linked with the England captain.

Kane revealed last week towards the end of Euro 2020 that he had yet to speak to new Spurs boss Nuno Espirito Santo, who has replaced Jose Mourinho.

Fabio Paratici, now managing director at the Premier League club, has stressed Spurs have no intention of selling the "special player" while he has three years to run on his contract.

Waddle believes Spurs fans would not query Kane, who suffered heartbreak with England at the Euro 2020 final on Sunday when Italy triumphed on penalties, if he decided to move on.

"Tottenham fans I don't think would have any complaints if he left," Waddle said to Stats Perform.

"I think they've got it and accept that he's given a lot of service to Tottenham – he's enjoyed it, he supports them and he'd love to win trophies.

"Now Harry Kane can win the golden boot each year and be the top scorer of the Premier League, top scorer of the Premier League and top scorer of the Premier League again.

"When he looks back, he will say personal achievements have been great.

"Now he probably wants to say I want to stand up and lift that trophy to say Tottenham have won the FA Cup, League Cup – something! - and I think he feels he needs to win trophies.

"He has done everything he's wanted to do personally, obviously he'd love to win something with England but personal-wise I think he's probably thought I've got them [the individual accolades].

"But [he will think], 'I've not won any medals as a footballer as a team player' and it's probably getting to him now." 

Kane, who turns 28 this month, finished as the Premier League's top scorer with 23 goals in 2020-21.

He also set up 14 goals to become only the second player in the Premier League era to top the charts for both goals and assists, the other being Andy Cole for Newcastle United in 1993-94.

Kane then finished the Euros with four goals – only Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrik Schick (five each) managed more – to draw level with Gary Lineker as his nation's leading scorer at major tournaments.

Waddle understands why a striker of that calibre feels the urgency to seek a resolution on his club future, with Manchester being his likely destination one way or another.

"He's 27, 28 years old and his next contract will be the last big contract he will think where he's going to win something," added Waddle.

"And let's be honest, it's only Man City who are definitely a fair chance of winning a trophy, two or three.

"Manchester United is another club, but if you look abroad, most teams are skint.

"So I think there's only a couple of teams who can afford Harry Kane."

Waddle is certain Spurs chairman Daniel Levy will hold out as long as it takes to get a huge transfer fee for Kane, even if that results in a protracted transfer saga.

While the final transfer fee could be eye-watering, Waddle insists Kane is worth it.

Waddle said: "Tottenham will hold out for money because they want to buy their own players on their budget.

"So it's going to be an interesting two or three weeks because if he's desperate to get away, Daniel Levy as we've seen in the past does drive a hard bargain.

"He may not be forced into Harry Kane leaving on the cheap, put it that way, and if it means keeping hold of him for a longer period, then they will do that.

"They want the money and if we look at the valuation, yes, it is a hell of a lot of money.

"But you've got to say in modern-day football he is worth it."

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.

Chelsea may have been European champions in 2021, but they have not won the Premier League since 2017.

Blues owner Roman Abramovich is reportedly ready to loosen the purse strings to end their league title wait.

Chelsea have been linked with several big-name signings this off-season.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA RELEASE FUNDS TO LAND HAALAND

Chelsea are ready to ramp up their bid to sign Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland now Euro 2020 is over.

Bild reports Abramovich has released the funds required to lure Haaland to London following an impressive 18 months in Germany.

Dortmund have reportedly told Chelsea it will take £150m (€176m) to sign the Norwegian, and Chelsea may sell Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech and Tammy Abraham to fund the move.

 

ROUND-UP

Tottenham have set their sights on Southampton forward Danny Ings, making him a priority, claims The Telegraph. Manchester City are also apparently interested.

- Daily Express reports Chelsea are making plans to sign Antoine Griezmann on loan from Barcelona, with the Blaugrana attempting to reduce their wage bill in line with LaLiga salary cap rules.

- Another Barcelona player potentially on the move is Clement Lenglet. According to Sport, new Everton manager Rafa Benitez wants to build his defence around the France international.

- Monaco left-back Fode Ballo-Toure is close to signing with Milan, having already agree personal terms, according to Fabrizio Romano.

- Fabrizio Romano also claims Roma are interested in signing Alex Telles on loan from Manchester United to replace the injured Leonardo Spinazzola.

Manchester City's search to replace Sergio Aguero is well known.

Spanish reports have linked Pep Guardiola’s side with Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann.

So, could City - who won the Premier League but lost the Champions League final to Chelsea – be set to bring in the France international? Possibly not...

 

TOP STORY – GRIEZMANN NOT ON CITY RADAR

Manchester City are ready to ramp up their move for a new striker during the transfer window but will not pursue Barcelona forward Griezmann, claims The Sun.

Pep Guardiola's side will instead set their sights on Tottenham's Harry Kane, while Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland is another possibility.

The Sun's report denies Spanish links between City and Frenchman Griezmann, with Barcelona understood to be keen to reduce their wage bill to free up funds to re-sign Lionel Messi.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail reports that Atletico Madrid's signing of midfielder Rodrigo De Paul from Udinese will pave the way for Liverpool's proposed move to sign Saul Niguez. De Paul's arrival means Atleti are free to sell him off, with the Reds and Barcelona reportedly interested.

- Juventus are homing in on a transfer for Manchester City's Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus, while they are also keen on bringing back Moise Kean to Turin, according to Tuttosport.

- Manchester United are edging closer to agreeing terms with French defender and long-term target Raphael Varane for a move from Real Madrid, reports the Mail.

- Jadon Sancho's move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United will be confirmed this week with a medical before his post-Euro 2020 holiday, claims The Sun.

- Fabrizio Romano claims that Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio will become Jose Mourinho's first signing at Roma imminently.

In the immediate, dazzling afterglow of England beating Denmark 2-1 over 120 minutes to secure a first major final appearance since 1966, Gareth Southgate praised his team's resilience.

That quality has always been readily associated with his country's national team. Perhaps you think of Terry Butcher's blood-stained head bandage or Stuart Pearce screaming maniacally after exorcising his penalty shoot-out demons.

Or maybe less successful iterations. Even when they've not been so accomplished on the field, there is a common perception of England being good for going down swinging, raging against the dying of the light to find glory in failure.

Raheem Sterling doesn't fit that template. The Manchester City forward is one of the most successful and decorated players of his generation, with eight major honours to his name at club level, most of which he has played a decisive role in securing.

That sounds like the sort of player who might be England's standout performer as they await Sunday's date with Italy and destiny at Wembley. And he is – at Euro 2020, Sterling has been electrifying as the driving force of Southgate's side.

But the acclaim to match that status has been hard to spot, maddeningly so at certain points of his career. Although he is cut from a different cloth to Butcher, Pearce or the archetypal English "warrior" footballer, Sterling is arguably the most resilient player England has ever seen. Whether he should have to have been so resilient is another matter entirely.

 

From the boy wonder to #TheHatedOne

On Sunday, Sterling goes back to the start, returning again to the stadium that overlooked his boyhood home, the canvas for fantastical daydreams, and to the opponents he faced on his major tournament debut at the 2014 World Cup.

Roy Hodgson's England crashed out without winning a game in Brazil, but none of the blame was pinned on a fresh-faced 19-year-old who represented a hope of better days to come.

Handed the number 10 role behind then club-mate Daniel Sturridge, Sterling dazzled early on in the 2-1 defeat to Italy in Manaus, taking his form from a breakout season at Liverpool into national colours. A now familiar scampering dribble preceded a 25-yard drive that rippled the side netting. So close to the opener and an optical illusion of a goal that sent pints flying in pubs back home.

That was only Sterling's fifth cap and the first time he completed 90 minutes for England, but any honeymoon was over a year later when he was booed during a friendly away to the Republic of Ireland. Dublin is a Liverpool stronghold and the winger's wish to leave Anfield had become laced with bitterness and acrimony.

 

His desire to join City has been vindicated through weight of trophies and achievements, although the jury remained out after a tough first season under Manuel Pellegrini at the Etihad Stadium and he was the focus of ire during England's unhappy Euro 2016 campaign.

In a social media post, he labelled himself #TheHatedOne following criticism of his performance during the 1-1 draw with Russia. Against Wales, he missed a glorious chance to score and was substituted at half-time.

Sterling returning to the side to win an early penalty was long forgotten by the time minnows Iceland completed their 2-1 last-16 win over Hodgson's beleaguered team. In the days following that debacle, one newspaper branded him "Obscene Raheem" on its front page for "showing off" his "blinging house".

It turned out Sterling bought the property for his mother, who raised him alone in Jamaica and then London after his father was murdered.

 

"I'm not normally the person to talk but when I think I need my point heard I will speak up"

Those early challenges of Sterling's resilience – whatever undertones might have accompanied assertions that he was some sort of ungrateful money grabber – were related to his sporting performance, even if the tabloid takedown was utterly tenuous and tawdry.

Coming through failure on the biggest stages to succeed over and over demonstrates thrilling resilience that fans love to see; the sort of resilience that allows great performers to realise sport's most narratively compelling moments.

But Sterling has also frequently delved into reserves no one should have to call upon in a decent society.

"Someone called my name – my full name – so I thought, 'Oh, they probably know me'. At this point people were starting to recognise me a bit," Sterling told GQ in 2019, recalling the first time he suffered racial abuse after joining Liverpool as a schoolboy.

"He says, 'Can I speak to you for a second?' I said, 'Yeah, no problem.' So I walk across the road and then he says the n-word and he headbutts me.

"I took care of the rest. A hundred per cent he regretted it."

In some ways, it feels like Sterling has been taking care of the rest ever since. Like when he was assaulted and racially abused at City's training ground in December 2017 by a Manchester United supporter. Later that day, he scored twice in a 4-1 win over Tottenham.

Or when he was abused by fans at Stamford Bridge a year later and responded with an eloquent Instagram post calling for equal treatment of black and white footballers in the media, urging an end to any coverage that "helps fuel racism and aggressive behaviour".

Or when he was one of several England players targeted by monkey chants in Montenegro and Bulgaria in 2019, when he scored in 5-1 and 6-0 wins.

Sterling was also at the forefront of football supporting Black Lives Matter following the killing of George Floyd and received an MBE last month in recognition of his work promoting racial equality.

But there was weariness when he discussed his activism in an interview with ITV last week, one that is entirely understandable when a minority of fans boo him and his England colleagues for taking the knee before kick-off – their peaceful, dignified protest against racial injustice.

It feels even more understandable when UK government ministers who gave licence to those booing and dismissed kneeling as a "gesture" are now firing out #ItsComingHome tweets at every opportunity, wearing England shirts or standing on a massive flag.

"It's not something I'm killing myself to do anymore, I'm not going to be on the frontline speaking about it. We're adults enough now to understand these things. I just feel, when it comes to racial abuse, it's not taken seriously," Sterling said.

 

"Everything we have done in the past, without him would not have been possible"

A line of attack for those dubious on Sterling's capabilities over recent years has been to suggest his status as an inspiring role model means shortcomings on the pitch are overlooked.

That specious logic falls down when you consider Pep Guardiola's ruthlessly unsentimental approach to constructing football teams.

Since inheriting Sterling in 2016, he has signed Leroy Sane, Nolito, Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez and Ferran Torres – all players able to operate with some distinction and capped by their countries in wide attacking roles.

Until a poor run of form in the second half of last season, Sterling saw them all off – becoming as close to an untouchable as Guardiola allows. He is one of only three players to have scored 100 goals under the Catalan's management. The others are Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero. 

 

Guardiola does not pick Sterling because he is "an incredible person, incredible human being", as he said in the wake of the Stamford Bridge abuse. In January this year, when Sterling's form was questioned in a news conference, he sharply retorted: "Everything we have done in the past, without him would not have been possible."

When City won the Premier League title with 100 points and also lifted the EFL Cup in 2017-18, Sterling scored 23 goals and supplied 15 assists in all competitions. In 2018-19, when his brace in the FA Cup final helped to round off an unprecedented domestic treble, those numbers were up to 25 goals and 15 assists.

The 2019-20 season was Sterling's most prolific with 31 goals, although it ended with a horror miss in a Champions League quarter-final loss to Lyon. His conversion of opportunities Opta rank as "big chances" was down from 58.1 per cent in 2018-19 to 39.7.

Unreliable finishing remains an unwanted feature of Sterling's game and was once again the focus when goals dried up en route to a third Premier League title in four years last season.

Overall, 24 goal involvements (14 goals and 10 assists) represented his lowest since Guardiola's first season in 2016-17, but far from a disaster. For some, however, it seemed a 30-goal campaign should be the norm and Sterling was useless for falling away from three seasons of incredible consistency.

Just a tap-in merchant who'd been found out. With the likes of Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka in his squad, why on earth would Southgate persist with Sterling?

 

"Have I justified my place in the team?"

It was easy to fear for the player with a tattoo of himself as a boy looking up at the Wembley arch, who appeared wretchedly out of form when recalled for City's Champions League final defeat to Chelsea. The moment he had spent a career and a lifetime anticipating was around the corner and he looked ill-equipped to grasp it.

Plus, England duty under the glare of the nation had previously not been too kind to Sterling. Across 12 games and 828 minutes in major tournaments heading into Euro 2020, he had no goals and one assist.

"It's not been an easy road with the national team in the past. Some, I'd say, unfair flack that I would get before touching a football sometimes," he told BBC Sport

"As a young person it was difficult to deal with. In life and football you have to challenge yourself and take it for what it is. You can't be down on yourself, you have to push yourself even more.

"That's what I've kept doing and I think that's one of my best traits."

 

Sterling performed tirelessly for the cause as England reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup, but the paucity of his return in front of goal left him on the outside looking in when it came to the feelgood factor that enveloped the bulk of Southgate's squad.

We're back to the resilience again, because the forward produced the best season of his career in 2018-19 to be named Football Writers' Association Player of the Year. He also enjoyed belated lift-off with the Three Lions.

Heading into an October 2018 Nations League showdown against Spain in Seville, he had two goals and nine assists in 45 caps. He netted two more in a thrilling 3-2 win. From cap 46 to his 67th versus Denmark he has scored 15 and laid on another seven – averaging a goal involvement every 87 minutes.

This is the version of Sterling that Southgate and England have enjoyed so much at Euro 2020, where he sealed 1-0 group stage wins over Croatia and the Czech Republic before breaking the deadlock against Germany to spark round-of-16 pandemonium in his neighbourhood.

It is perhaps a little sweeter that this purple patch for his country has come at a time when relations with Guardiola have come to appear strained. Another example of Sterling being damned with faint praise is his improvement at City being frequently cited – although, it should be said, never by the manager himself – as a triumph of coaching genius as much as his own endeavours.

He ended extra time against Denmark tearing through a shattered opposition defence to draw another save from Kasper Schmeichel. He was everywhere in a performance Gary Lineker hailed as "one of the greatest displays I've seen from a player in an England shirt".

 

Sterling has attempted (32) and completed (18) more dribbles than any other player at Euro 2020. He has never had more touches in the opposition box (38, 13.3 per cent of his overall touches) at any previous tournament. His expected goals (xG) and expected assists (xA) figures of 3.82 and 1.14 are also far in excess of past efforts and paint a picture of a player almost always involved when England create high-quality chances.

This is player-of-the-tournament form. By Sunday night, it might stand as the greatest ever showing in this setting by an Englishman.

But if it all goes wrong, a sitter is missed and the insults fly again – he's a diver now, you see, as well as a tap-in merchant – the seven years since that first tangle with Italy tell us Sterling will bounce back with all the fearlessness, brilliance and resilience we should have long since learned to cherish.

Raheem Sterling has been "unplayable" for England and one last big performance from the Manchester City star could prove to be the difference against Italy.

That is the opinion of former England captain Alan Shearer ahead of the Euro 2020 final at Wembley on Sunday.

England reached their first final at a major tournament since 1966 when they came from behind to beat Denmark 2-1 in extra-time on Wednesday.

Sterling produced an effervescent display and won the controversial penalty that was converted by Harry Kane on the rebound to settle a thrilling contest.

 

Shearer believes the City forward, who scored goals in the wins over Croatia, the Czech Republic and Germany, has been England's standout performer.

"The best two teams in the tournament have reached the final, and it is going to be an incredibly tight game," Shearer wrote in his column for BBC Sport as he previewed the final.

"Italy have gone 33 games without losing which shows how strong they are. They have got the same sort of togetherness in their squad that we have,.

"But England have put in some extremely good performances too, and so many of our players have done their bit when it has mattered.

"It was Harry Kane who put us into the final with the winner on Wednesday and he was excellent for the whole game. So was Harry Maguire, and the rest of our back four too.

"The best player on the park, though, was Raheem Sterling. He was unplayable at times and it was probably his finest game in an England shirt.

"More of the same from Sterling on Sunday, and we have got one hell of a chance.

"The other thing we have got going for us, of course, is the Wembley crowd. There will be more than 65,000 fans again at the final, and the majority of them will be behind England.

"They were immense against Denmark and stuck with the team when they were 1-0 down. The players fed off their intensity when they turned things around."

 

Shearer also paid tribute to manager Gareth Southgate, who was ecstatic on the pitch after the victory over Denmark.

Southgate has made some heavily debated calls in the tournament - including restricting flair players Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho to limited roles – but has led England to their first final for 55 years.

Shearer added: "There are several reasons why I will believe in this England team when they walk out at Wembley on Sunday, and Southgate is the biggest one.

"He's led his team brilliantly in every way since Euro 2020 started and not only has he made some big decisions, he has got all of them right.

"It's easier being a player than a supporter in the stands and, like many of you, I've found it hard in the past few weeks watching on as an England fan when our games have been in the balance.

"Just imagine how tough it is for Gareth, though. As England manager he has got 60 million people on his back because he carries the hopes of all of us, the entire nation.

"There is so much scrutiny on every single call he makes, and then he has to stand alone on the touchline waiting for them to work.

"So I could understand his relief and his reaction at the end of the Denmark game when he let his emotions pour out. He did that because he feels the same way we do when we win.

"Whatever happens next, he has given us so much joy and happiness - but I'm desperate to see that same celebration again from him on Sunday night."

 

Resurgent forward Kane will lead the line for England and he has been directly involved in 28 goals in his past 27 international appearances (19 goals and nine assists).

He has already caught and surpassed the goal total recorded by Shearer (nine) at major tournaments.

One more strike will see him become England’s outright highest goalscorer in the World Cup and Euros – he is currently level with Gary Lineker on 10.

England won the World Cup in 1966 as hosts, but each of the previous two European host nation finalists in a major tournament have lost – Portugal in Euro 2004 and France at the 2016 tournament.

Erling Haaland's future is a major talking point this off-season.

The Norwegian has been linked with several top clubs but could also stay with Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland and his representatives visited Real Madrid and Barcelona, while Chelsea and Manchester City have also been credited with interest.

TOP STORY - CHELSEA TO OFFER UP TO £150M FOR HAALAND

Chelsea are readying a bumper £150 million (€175m) move to sign Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, reports 90Min.

The Blues are prepared to offer up to that amount, believing the deal will be too hard to refuse for Dortmund.

Chelsea spent approximately £120m (€140m) last off-season on German pair Timo Werner and Kai Havertz but want an out-and-out striker.

 

ROUND-UP

- New Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti wants to sign Brazil international Richarlison from his former club Everton, reports ESPN.

- Fabrizio Romano claims Milan are still working on a deal to sign Chelsea's French veteran forward Olivier Giroud.

- RB Leipzig's Marcel Sabitzer is in the sights of Borussia Dortmund according to Bild, amid reported interest from Premier League clubs.

West Ham and Tottenham are both interested in Sassuolo's Mert Muldur reports the Mail.

- Football League World claims Southampton will sign Blackburn Rovers forward Adam Armstrong for £10m plus add-ons.

Will Kylian Mbappe move to Real Madrid?

Will Lionel Messi leave Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain?

The star pair are dominating headlines in the transfer market.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE TO MADRID?

Real Madrid believe they will be able to prise Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain if the Ligue 1 giants sign Lionel Messi, according to the front page of Wednesday's Diario AS.

Mbappe – entering the final year of his contract – has long been tipped to join LaLiga powerhouse Madrid, while Liverpool have also been linked.

Messi is out of contract at Barca and while the Catalan club remain confident of re-signing the superstar captain, PSG and Madrid are hoping to make the most of the situation.

 

ROUND-UP

Arsenal have joined PSG and Atletico Madrid in the chase to sign Lyon star Houssem Aouar, reports Le10 Sport.

- Calciomercato says Serie A champions Inter and Ligue 1 outfit Lyon are both eyeing Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana.

Milan have increased their contract offer for star midfielder Franck Kessie, per Gazzetta dello Sport. Having already lost Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu, the Rossoneri are keen to re-sign Kessie, who has been linked with PSG, Tottenham, Arsenal and Inter.

Manchester City are interested in Napoli star Piotr Zielinski, according to Tuttosport. Napoli are believed to be willing to listen to offers. Premier League champions City have also been linked with the likes of Tottenham's Harry Kane, Inter forward Romelu Lukaku, Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland and Madrid defender Raphael Varane in the transfer window.

- Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga and Varane both moving to Manchester United, while not impossible is "remote in reality", according to Sky Sports.

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