Mikel Arteta officially started work at Arsenal on Sunday and appears set to get busy in the transfer market.

The Gunners reportedly have two targets in their sights, including a Serie A star.

Arsenal could do with an injection of excitement after slipping to 11th in the Premier League following their lacklustre goalless draw at Everton.

 

TOP STORY – GUNNERS EYE MERTENS AND VOLLAND

Among the players Arsenal admire is Napoli mainstay Dries Mertens, according to CalcioMercato.

Mertens, on target five times in the Champions League this term, will be available on a free at the end of the season.

Borussia Dortmund are also said to be interested in the 32-year-old, potentially forcing Arsenal to look elsewhere for reinforcements.

That could result in them launching a bid for Kevin Volland. Sky Sports News says the Gunners have sent scouts to watch the Bayer Leverkusen forward and will put his name to new boss Arteta for consideration.

 

ROUND-UP

- Paolo Maldini's position as Milan technical director is "in the balance" following the embarrassing 5-0 loss to Atalanta, claims CalcioMercato. The Rossoneri are languishing in 11th.

- Manchester United and multiple Bundesliga clubs are tracking teenage Birmingham City midfielder Jude Bellingham, reports The Telegraph.

- German newspaper Bild believes goalkeeper Alexander Nubel will join Bayern Munich at the end of the season after announcing his decision to leave Schalke on a free. According to Sport1, his arrival at Allianz Arena could lead to Sven Ulreich's exit.

- Ligue 1 side Monaco have identified Marcelo Gallardo, Laurent Blanc and Marcelino as potential replacements for the under-pressure Leonardo Jardim, according to L'Equipe.

- Juventus outcast Mario Mandzukic is set to seal a switch from the Serie A champions to Qatari side Al-Duhail, reports Sky Sport Italia.

Marcelo Gallardo has confirmed he will stay on as River Plate head coach in 2020.

Barcelona had been linked with an approach for Gallardo but the 43-year-old signalled his intention to remain with River at a news conference on Wednesday.

"At the end of the year I usually stop to see where I'm going, what stimulates me, my state, what gets me going and what works with my professional and personal priorities," said Gallardo.

"Something began to be generated regarding the decision I was going to make. I don't want that to continue. On January 2 I will be here and I will start the pre-season, which may be in Uruguay, Buenos Aires on the south of the country.

"I am not interested in generating any kind of uncertainty. My wish is to continue with this team.

"I never had doubts about staying. Being here is hard with the requirements you put on yourself and what it means to be in charge of this club. That's why you have to stop and reflect.

"Beyond my contract, which expires in December 2021, there is no clause. The leadership and I have a very cordial relationship."

Gallardo, who won six league titles and the Copa Libertadores as a River player, took over in 2014 and has led them to 10 trophies, including a pair of Libertadores triumphs.

The last of those continental successes came in memorable fashion in 2018 with a 5-3 aggregate defeat of arch-rivals Boca Juniors after extra time in a final second leg that was moved to the Santiago Bernabeu.

River were unable to defend the Libertadores trophy last month, however, as they fell to a dramatic 2-1 loss to Flamengo late on in Lima.

Gallardo's side sit fifth in the Superliga, three points off the top, and will play their final match of the year when they take on Central Cordoba in the Copa Argentina final on Saturday.

River Plate head coach Marcelo Gallardo is not happy with the timing of Exequiel Palacios' proposed transfer to Bayer Leverkusen as he questioned the club.

Linked to LaLiga powerhouse Real Madrid previously, River star Palacios is reportedly set to join Bundesliga outfit Leverkusen.

The 21-year-old midfielder – also believed to have attracted interest from Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Inter and Ajax – has established himself as a key member of Gallardo's squad.

And Gallardo vented his frustration after the in-demand coach was asked about Palacios' future amid a potential January switch to Germany.

"I don't know exactly what is going to happen," Gallardo told reporters. "We haven't finished the year and we already have an almost sold player [Exequiel Palacios].

"I don't know what the rush was to close this. I've a player now thinking on his departure and we still have three games ahead. They could have waited a little bit, we could have waited a little bit. I don't handle those kinds of things.

"Now I must think on a player who's going to play these three matchdays. Because he's a valuable player for us. But already whit his mind elsewhere. I don't handle those kinds of things. So, I don't know what it's going to happen. I don't know." 

Palacios, who was sent off in the Copa Libertadores final loss to Flamengo earlier this month, has scored three goals for River this season.

 

Flamengo became champions of South America on Saturday as two goals in the last five minutes from Gabriel Barbosa snatched a 2-1 win over River Plate in the Copa Libertadores final.

The one-off match, relocated to Estadio Monumental in Lima due to civil unrest in Santiago, looked set to be settled by a first-half strike from Rafael Santos Borre.

Marcelo Gallardo's men, bidding to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since Boca Juniors in 2001, had the game largely under control until Gabriel levelled in the 89th minute.

The striker then smashed home on the half-volley in the second minute of injury time before being sent off along with Exequiel Palacios in one of the most dramatic finales to the competition's recent history.

A shot at the sporting immortality of back-to-back continental titles against a formidable opponent in the form of Flamengo.

River Plate face a Brazil v Argentina blockbuster in the first Copa Libertadores final to be staged as a one-off game – a change now mired in the logistical nightmare of moving the showpiece from Santiago to Lima at short notice.

Yet all of this is nothing to fear when compared to the bigger picture.

"All us River fans are scared that Marcelo Gallardo could leave," midfielder Exequiel Palacios told Infobae.

"No one wants him to leave. We hope that he'll stay for many more years and keep giving joy to River fans."

Increasingly, for Palacios, his team-mates and a fervent fanbase, this looks like a forlorn hope.

Since returning to coach the club he represented across three spells as an attacking midfielder during his playing days, Gallardo has inspired one of the most successful periods in River's decorated history.

Witheringly nicknamed Las Gallinas by sworn enemies Boca Juniors due to their reputation for choking on the big occasion, River have doubled their number of Libertadores triumphs under Gallardo's leadership, from two to four.

Number four, of course, arrived unforgettably at Boca's expense last season. River prevailed 5-3 on aggregate after a 3-1 extra-time win in the unfamiliar surroundings of the Santiago Bernabeu – the second leg of the final having been moved to Madrid after Boca's team bus was attacked en route to El Monumental for the originally scheduled fixture.

If growing speculation is to be believed, it is LaLiga's other major footballing coliseum where Gallardo might soon by plying his trade.

Barcelona bound?

"Gallardo will be coach of Barcelona in December," former River midfielder and 1986 World Cup winner Claudio Borghi told TNT Sports this month, in comments unlikely to have been welcomed by under-fire Blaugrana boss Ernesto Valverde. "He is one of the best coaches in the world.

"[River Plate president Rodolfo] D'Onofrio said he'd only leave by quitting his post, but I know this from a direct source."

Irrespective of the veracity of Borghi's information, while acknowledging the man himself has sought to quell the rumours, the prospect of Gallardo landing another of the biggest jobs in world football is compelling.

His record on the big occasion is outstanding, as evidenced by the 11 trophies lifted during his tenure.

A directive from the River board to focus on continental success has been carried out to the letter, with the 2014 Copa Sudamericana and three Recopas Sudamericana sitting alongside the 2015 and 2018 Libertadores.

This return has come amid a huge turnover in playing staff – a long-accepted reality for South American teams turning out high-quality football before the prying eyes of European scouts.

Of the side that won the 2015 Libertadores, only Leonardo Ponzio, Jonatan Maidana, Gonzalo Martinez, Camilo Mayada and Rodrigo Mora remained among the squad that tasted glory in Madrid. The Camp Nou powerbrokers would do well to spot Gallardo's astute ability to rebuild, given their uneven and expensive record in the transfer market over recent years.

Boca would certainly be delighted to see the back of him. The ultimately futile 1-0 win in this season's Libertadores semi-final second leg at La Bombonera, after going down 2-0 in the initial match, was their first in seven Superclasicos.

Gallardo's shrewd tactical flexibility was to the fore during last season's final, with a switch from his favoured and fluid 4-4-2 to a back three for the away leg providing extra width that Boca struggled to deal with.

Injuries in attack forced him into a 4-5-1 for the return, but slick combination play and the feature of midfield runners supplementing the attack remained in fine working order on River's night of nights.

Admired by Guardiola and Messi

"What Gallardo has done is unbelievable. He gives them consistency year after year, even though they lose players," Pep Guardiola told TNT last month.

"I don't understand how he's never nominated for manager of the year. It's as if only Europe exists."

That seal of approval from a Barcelona great comes alongside a potentially more significant one from Lionel Messi, who included Gallardo behind Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino in his top three when voting for the 2019 Best FIFA Men's Coach award.

Of course, Barcelona have gone down the route of appointing a coach from Messi's homeland fairly recently and his fellow Rosario native Gerardo Martino finished the 2013-14 season without a major trophy or his job.

An acclimatisation process would be necessary, not least in terms of week-in, week-out combat in LaLiga. River's superb recent Libertadores record has come at the expense of seriously competing for the Superliga. Key men are routinely rested either side of major knockout matches and their last league success was in 2014, immediately before Gallardo's arrival.

There would be these and more questions to answer. If he is able to see off Flamengo and lift the third Copa Libertadores of his coaching career, the chances of Gallardo having to provide the answers might increase considerably.

Are we about to see a Jose Mourinho and Zlatan Ibrahimovic reunion?

Mourinho and Ibrahimovic worked together at Inter, before the Portuguese manager brought the Swedish star to Manchester United in 2016.

Now, new Tottenham boss Mourinho is reportedly eyeing the 38-year-old striker.

 

TOP STORY – MOURINHO TARGETING IBRA

Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho is poised to make a move for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, according to the Telegraph.

Ibrahimovic is on the lookout for a new club after opting to leave MLS outfit LA Galaxy following two seasons in the United States.

The 38-year-old has been linked to AC Milan, Bologna, Napoli, Manchester United and Australian team Perth Glory; however, Mourinho reportedly wants to reunite with Ibrahimovic at Tottenham.

 

ROUND-UP

- Spanish newspaper Sport reports a close friend of Flamengo coach Jorge Jesus predicting he will get the Barcelona job if his side win Saturday's Copa Libertadores final against River Plate, who are led by another reputed Catalan target in Marcelo Gallardo. Ernesto Valverde is under pressure at the LaLiga champions.

Real Madrid are set to open talks with star striker Karim Benzema over a new contract, Marca reports. The 31-year-old's current deal expires in 2021.

- Out-of-favour Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic is wanted by LaLiga's Atletico Madrid, according to ESPN FC. Matic has struggled for game time under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, with AC Milan and Inter also interested.

- With Tottenham reportedly looking to hijack AC Milan's pursuit of Ibrahimovic, Sky Sport Italia says the Rossoneri are rivalling Inter and Borussia Dortmund for Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud.

- The Daily Mail reports that Leicester City have opened talks with James Maddison over a new contract. The 22-year-old England international has been heavily linked to Manchester United.

- Partizan Belgrade sensation Strahinja Pavlovic is on the verge of joining Ligue 1 outfit Monaco. Sportski Zurnal says the 18-year-old defender has undergone a medical ahead of a €10million transfer plus add-ons.

Marcelo Gallardo played down rumours he could take over as Barcelona coach, saying his focus was on River Plate.

Gallardo has been linked with a move to Camp Nou amid reports Ernesto Valverde will leave no later than the end of the season.

However, the River coach discussed the rumours ahead of a big finish to the year, including a Copa Libertadores final clash against Flamengo on November 23.

"No party came forward to start a conversation, especially knowing that we are in a very important phase for our club, playing decisive matches," Gallardo told a news conference on Friday, via Globo Esporte.

"Of course there is nothing that takes my focus off the goals ahead."

"I can't echo the rumours," he added. "No one came to suggest a meeting or analysis of what to do in the future.

"This is not the time for that."

Gallardo has been in charge of River since 2014, winning two Copa Libertadores titles.

River are third in the Argentinian Primera Division, a point adrift of Argentinos Juniors and Lanus through 12 games.

Marcelo Gallardo was overwhelmed with pride after River Plate eliminated Boca Juniors to reach the Copa Libertadores final for the second straight season.

River prevailed 2-1 on aggregate in the Superclasico semi-final despite slipping to a narrow second-leg defeat at La Bombonera following Jan Hurtado's 80th-minute goal.

The holders will now face either Flamengo or Gremio in their bid to win South America's top continental competition for the fifth time.

River defeated their bitter rivals in last season's final, the second leg of which was moved to Madrid following an attack on the Boca bus.

"It is hard to analyse this match because I cannot deal with all this happiness," Gallardo said.

"It is hard for me to analyse the game and its development. I feel hugely happy for my players. I am so full of joy and happiness for our fans, who must feel really happy because we are going to play another Libertadores final, eliminating Boca once more.

"I cannot deal with all this happiness I feel right now, so I will give my insights about this game later, when I get able to do it more calmly."

Kick-off in Buenos Aires was delayed by 15 minutes due to excess confetti on the pitch but there was otherwise none of the fan trouble that marred last November's matches.

Gallardo saluted both sets of supporters for keeping the occasion free of trouble.

"I think we should appreciate it," he said. "This should be something natural to happen. As far as I know, there were no incidents to regret, either on the pitch or inside the stadium.

"This coming after the last time and all the damage it caused on us as a society, we must appreciate it.

"It should be normal, it should be natural. Achieving this game without any incidents is something we welcome. It means we learnt from it."

River Plate head coach Marcelo Gallardo insists nothing can compare to last year's Copa Libertadores final triumph over Boca Juniors as his side prepare to face their bitter rivals once more in the semi-finals of this season's competition.

River claimed continental glory in unforgettable style last year – winning 3-1 after extra-time at the Santiago Bernabeu for a 5-3 aggregate triumph in a second leg that was moved to Madrid after Boca's team bus was attacked en route to El Monumental for the originally scheduled return fixture.

There were no such unsavoury scenes ahead of the semi-final first leg this month, although it proved a painful experience on the field for Boca as they went down 2-0.

Rafael Santos Borre opened the scoring from the penalty spot before Ignacio Fernandez embellished River's advantage in the 70th minute and Boca's Nicolas Capaldo was sent off in stoppage time.

A comeback from such a position at a fervent Bombonera would arguably go some way to expunging the pain of last season's final for the Boca faithful, a match Gallardo ranks as a career high that will never be topped.

"The match of my life already happened last December in Madrid," he told a pre-match news conference.

"That's the match of my life, my sports life, right? This is a very important match, a new challenge. But, that's it."

Boca have not tasted victory in any of the past six Superclasicos across all competitions but Gallardo, who will field the same XI that won the first leg, feels it counts for little ahead of the short trip to the south of Buenos Aires.

"For me, 'statistics' don't matter," he said. "We don't think about statistics or recent things.

"We live in the present time, our team is focused on this match, we don't think about what happened previously.

"It's a new challenge for us, to play for a new Copa Libertadores final qualification."

Colombia playmaker Juan Fernando Quintero, a hero of the Bernabeu clash thanks to his pivotal and spectacular goal in extra time, is in line for a place on the bench having recently returned to action from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.

"Quintero is fine, he's good," Gallardo added, having introduced the 26-year-old from the bench during River's past two outings against Almagro and Arsenal de Sarandi.

"Technically he is intact and is very much looking forward to it. We saw in these last games, in which he entered in the last minutes, that he is well intact.

"You have to see what the moments of the game are that are favourable to a player of his characteristics."

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