Kylian Mbappe wants time to make a decision on his future as Real Madrid await a signal from the Paris Saint-Germain star.

Mbappe, 22, has been linked with a move to Madrid and his contract at PSG ends in 2022.

But will the forward end up at the Santiago Bernabeu?

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID WAIT FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid are waiting for a signal from Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to Marca.

The report says Mbappe has asked for time to decide his future.

While Madrid have been most strongly linked with a move for Mbappe, Liverpool are also reportedly interested.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Madrid and Fabrizio Romano says a new contract for midfielder Luka Modric is imminent. The Croatian midfielder's current deal expires at the end of the season.

- Dele Alli's future is set to be a constant talking point until at least the end of this transfer window. ESPN claims Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is reluctant to let the midfielder leave for PSG. Romano reports Spurs are still looking for a replacement and were working on re-signing Christian Eriksen, but Inter wanted a loan fee and the midfielder's salary paid in full.

- Lyon star Houssem Aouar was linked to Arsenal last close season, but the midfielder could head elsewhere. Gianluca Di Marzio reports Juventus are looking at the 22-year-old as an option ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

- Lucas Torreira seems set to move on from Atletico Madrid. Diario AS says Monaco are favourites to sign the midfielder, who is on loan at Atletico from Arsenal.

- Said Benrahma has made an impression at West Ham. Sky Sports reports West Ham have converted their loan for Benrahma from Brentford into a permanent move, paying £20million plus add-ons. The report says West Ham are also in talks to sign RB Leipzig forward Hwang Hee-chan.

Frank Lampard's appointment as Chelsea head coach was widely heralded by the club's fanbase, who were desperate for a returning hero to succeed in the dugout.

Just 18 months later and Lampard – the club's record all-time leading goalscorer who won 11 major honours at Stamford Bridge – has been sacked.

The Blues have proven in the past there is little time for sentimentality or to dwell on past successes and not even a player with the stature Lampard holds at the club has been granted extra time.

Lampard's first season in charge brought a top-four finish and an FA Cup final but a run of just two wins in eight league matches saw Chelsea wield the axe with the team ninth and 11 points off top.

A huge close-season recruitment drive that saw the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell arrive perhaps gave the Blues hierarchy itchy feet and brought about the end for Lampard.

With that in mind, we have looked at some hits and misses when players have returned to a club as boss.

HITS

Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping down in May 2018, only to return 10 months later. He has already won LaLiga and the Supercopa de Espana in his second stint, though a slump this term has left his long-term future shrouded in doubt.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job in 2014. Conte is now battling to end the Bianconeri's domestic dominance as head coach of Inter.

Roberto Di Matteo

Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern, but he was discarded early in the following season.

MISSES

Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try to save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning just 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league position in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a relegation play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

JURY'S OUT

Mikel Arteta

Arteta served Arsenal with distinction as a player between 2011 and 2016, captaining the club and winning the FA Cup twice. Success in football's oldest cup competition followed last term, with Arteta having replaced Unai Emery in December 2019. After finishing eighth, Arsenal defeated Liverpool on penalties to win the Community Shield but eight defeats from 19 league games in this campaign have left Arsenal 11th and 13 points off top spot.

Andrea Pirlo

Lampard's opportunity at Chelsea arrived when Maurizio Sarri departed for Juventus, but his stint in charge at the Bianconeri lasted just one season despite winning the Serie A title. Pirlo won four Scudetti, the Supercoppa Italiana twice and the Coppa Italia during a four-year stint as a player in Turin and was appointed head coach just a week after being installed as Under-23 boss. So far it has been a mixed bag in Juve's hunt for a 10th straight title, with six draws and two defeats in 18 matches leaving them seven points back of league leaders Milan – albeit they do have a game in hand. Pirlo also collected a first trophy courtesy of victory over Napoli in the Supercoppa Italiana last week.

Paris Saint-Germain will visit either Guingamp or Caen when they begin their Coupe de France defence in the round of 64.

PSG won the competition last season as former head coach Thomas Tuchel masterminded a treble triumph, beating Saint-Etienne 1-0 in the final.

That successful campaign started away to sixth-tier Linas-Montlhery and Mauricio Pochettino's PSG will be on the road again after being drawn against Guingamp or Caen.

The Ligue 2 sides are set to face one another on January 20 for the right to host the French champions in February.

PSG have won the trophy a record 13 times, including five of the past six editions.

Saint-Etienne are also away - to Nancy or Sochaux - but Ligue 1 leaders Lyon will welcome Chateauroux or Ajaccio to the Groupama Stadium.

Marseille will visit Troyes or Auxerre, while Monaco are heading for Clermont or Grenoble.

Lille face Ligue 1 opposition in the form of struggling Dijon, and fourth visit seventh as Rennes go to Angers.

Cesc Fabregas said it is difficult to imagine "humble" Lionel Messi ending his long association with Barcelona – and claimed Cristiano Ronaldo is a inspiration for players over 30.

Fabregas will be a keen observer of Barcelona's Champions League fixture with Juventus on Tuesday, which is set to revive the longstanding rivalry between his friend Messi and Ronaldo.

Monaco midfielder Fabregas was a team-mate of Messi's during his rise through Barca's La Masia youth academy and played alongside him in the first team between 2011 and 2014.

The pair won LaLiga, the UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup, Copa del Rey and Supercopa de Espana together during Fabregas' stint with the Blaugrana.

Argentina forward Messi, 33, has been at Barca for two decades but rumours overs his future persist with his contract due to expire next year.

When asked if he thinks Messi will remain at Camp Nou, Fabregas struggled to contemplate the prospect of him playing elsewhere.

"Barcelona is his home," Fabregas said in an interview with Tuttosport. "They have been his team since he was little [but] they are very personal choices, I don't interfere.

"What I myself often say to him: 'Leo, you don't realise how big you are''. Messi does not really have the perception of being a God of football, he is a very humble, sunny boy.

"He loves to live like normal people so much that, despite being a star, he would like to move without the security men. He also has a great heart, he is always ready to help sick children and the poorest people."

The 33-year-old acknowledged that Juventus forward Ronaldo, 35, is an inspiration for all players as they reach the twilight of their careers.

Messi and Ronaldo have previously met in five Champions League encounters, with Messi 3-0 up on Ronaldo in goals. 

The game on Tuesday would be their first duel in the competition since the May 2011 semi-final between Barcelona and Real Madrid and the first with the Portuguese in a Juventus shirt.

"I don't know Cristiano personally, but everyone tells me that he is super professional and has an incredible mentality," Fabregas explained.

"It will no longer be the CR7 that jumps over players with his dribbling, but he still scores a lot. I hope to reach the age of 36, so that I have a 20-year career.

"Now it is less complicated than in the past because we players have more information and we manage ourselves better: from rest to recovery, to nutrition.

"For example, I never drink alcohol and carbonated drinks. The only time is a beer on vacation!"

Fabregas also revealed he nearly moved to Serie A before he left Chelsea for Monaco in January 2019.

"I was close to three Italian teams before coming to Monaco," Fabregas added.

"I spoke with [Carlo] Ancelotti, when he was coaching Napoli, and also with [Ivan] Gazidis, when he moved to Milan. But I preferred to choose Monaco."

December 2 marks five years since Kylian Mbappe made his debut in Ligue 1.

Only 16 at the time, the forward came in the 88th minute of a 1-1 home draw with Caen, becoming Monaco's youngest player in history, breaking the record previously held by Thierry Henry.

Eight major club trophies (and a Trophee des Champions), a World Cup winners' medal and a reported €180million transfer to Paris Saint-Germain have followed since for a player already considered one of the greatest in the world even before his 22nd birthday later this month.

He can also make history on Wednesday if he finds the net in a key Champions League match for PSG against Manchester United...

COMPARED TO FRANCE...

Mbappe has established himself as one of the most lethal strikers in Ligue 1 since his Monaco debut five years ago.

In 125 appearances in France's top flight, he has scored 89 goals and provided 33 assists, giving him at least seven more direct goal involvements than any other player in that time at an average of almost exactly one per match.

Since December 2, 2015, only former PSG team-mate Edinson Cavani (96) has scored more goals in Ligue 1 than Mbappe, while only Angel Di Maria (54) and Memphis Depay (36) have more assists.

Mbappe has managed 212 shots on target in his Ligue 1 career, at least 32 more than any other player in that time, while he sits third for attempted shots overall on 383 (behind Di Maria on 400 and Andy Delort on 414).

The 21-year-old has attempted 562 dribbles, a tally bettered only by Neymar (594), Florian Thauvin (622) and Allan Saint-Maximin (696). He is fifth for successful dribbles, his 272 behind those three players and Hatem Ben Arfa.

 

COMPARED TO EUROPE...

Across Europe's 'top five' leagues, Mbappe is 14th for goals since his Ligue 1 debut.

Only eight players have scored more than 100 league goals in that time, with Lionel Messi top on 158, ahead of Robert Lewandowski (143) and Cristiano Ronaldo (137).

For combined goals and assists, Mbappe (122) is ninth among Europe's elite, six short of eighth-placed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (128). Again, Messi is top by a distance (227), above Luis Suarez (177) and Ronaldo (171).

 

KYLIAN IN THE NAME OF

Mbappe made history in February 2019 when, against Nimes, he became the youngest player to reach 50 Ligue 1 goals in the past 70 seasons (at the age of 20 years, two months and three days).

In that 2018-19 season, Mbappe scored 33 league goals, becoming the top-scoring French player for PSG in a single campaign and the leading French goalscorer in a Ligue 1 season in the 21st century.

Last October, Mbappe broke Messi's record to become the youngest player to score 15 Champions League goals at the age of 20 years and 306 days. Erling Haaland has since achieved the feat at a younger age.

If he scores against United at Old Trafford, Mbappe will reach 100 goals for PSG in all competitions. It will also be his first goal in the tournament in 2020.

Thomas Tuchel hopes to see "another" Paris Saint-Germain against Manchester United after again condemning a perceived poor attitude in their draw with Bordeaux.

PSG let a two-goal lead slip to lose at Monaco last week and Tuchel said afterwards his side "did not play seriously enough" and "completely stopped playing football".

Although the reigning Ligue 1 champions bounced back by scraping past RB Leipzig in the Champions League in midweek, it was more of the same against Bordeaux.

PSG trailed to debutant Timothee Pembele's 10th-minute own goal but looked to be cruising after Neymar scored a penalty - his 50th Ligue 1 goal - and Moise Kean quickly added a second.

However, former PSG player Yacine Adli equalised and Tuchel's men were perhaps fortunate to escape with a 2-2 draw.

Ahead of a vital European trip to United on Wednesday, this was not ideal preparation.

"We can not play without effort as we did in the second half," Tuchel told Canal+. "The first half was okay, we played simple.

"But we lacked the seriousness to finish this match, to kill it. We lacked determination in the area.

"We lacked everything in the second half: discipline, effort... everything. It was worse than against Monaco. We lacked effort, discipline, attitude.

"Normally I always protect my team but today I totally disagree. It is not necessary to lose points a second time like that after Monaco. We lost the second half and it is absolutely our responsibility - mine, too.

"We must see another PSG against Manchester; it is not possible to play a match of this level.

"I don't understand why we don't take our responsibilities, why we don't play more seriously."

PSG had just five shots in the second half to Bordeaux's 14, despite leaving Neymar and Kylian Mbappe on the pitch for the duration.

Neymar, playing his 58th Ligue 1 match and reaching 50 goals in 21st-century record time, could shoulder little of the blame.

He had 97 touches, fewer only than Leandro Paredes (112), and created three chances on top of his five shots.

The Brazil forward offered a more considered assessment of the stalemate than his coach but agreed PSG had to improve against United.

"We played a tentative match; we managed to score goals but missed some details," Neymar said. "We have to improve that. It's a championship in which we usually win a lot of matches.

"Yes, we know the importance of Wednesday's match; as against Leipzig, it's decisive. We will try to play our best game, play well.

"We have to improve certain details, play as a team, organise better."

Thomas Tuchel condemned Paris Saint-Germain's attitude in their shock collapse to Monaco but could at least use the match to prepare for RB Leipzig, where Neymar will start.

PSG were cruising at half-time on their return to Ligue 1 action on Friday as the fit-again Kylian Mbappe scored twice.

But a third effort from the France international was ruled out and the half-time introduction of Cesc Fabregas changed the game.

Kevin Volland swiftly pulled a goal back for Monaco, before Fabregas teed up the German forward's second and then swept in the winner from the penalty spot after Abdou Diallo was sent off.

Fabregas created three chances - no player managed more despite the midfielder only playing 45 minutes - and also had three shots, trailing only Volland.

The former Chelsea midfielder completed 32 of his 36 passes, including 86.4 per cent of his attempts in the PSG half, but Tuchel said his side were to blame as they ceded control.

Diallo's costly foul was one of 12 from the visitors in the second half, while Monaco won five more duels than their opponents across the 90 minutes.

"We controlled the first half with two goals scored and two others [disallowed], I think the third was valid," PSG boss Tuchel told Telefoot after the 3-2 loss.

"In the second half, we lacked the same concentration, we did not play seriously enough, we did not take the ball with the same quality and we didn't defend seriously enough either.

"This is why we are completely responsible. Maybe it was too easy and the players got the impression that it was already 3-0 or 4-0 when it was only 2-0.

"We have to accept the criticism because we have completely stopped playing football.

"We have not done what is necessary to win a match: defending in a block, remaining aggressive, remaining attentive in behind.

"We have lost also a little strength in the midfield but we had to make changes. It's always possible to lose but losing a match like that is very weird.

"In the first two minutes of the second half, we had two very high recoveries but then we stopped completely. It was not possible to win the duels; we were always late. It is not normal."

It was the first time PSG had let a two-goal slip to lose in the league since January 2015, a 4-2 reverse against Bastia.

Tuchel acknowledged the champions were hamstrung a little by the looming home Champions League clash with Leipzig, though.

Neymar was returning from injury and had to appear from the bench, while Mbappe lasted only 68 minutes. Marquinhos did not play at all.

"The match against Leipzig is going to be very difficult, but it would not have been much different if we'd won," Tuchel said of Tuesday's continental clash.

"We had to get Kylian out, not take any risk with Marquinhos and make Neymar play for a few minutes.

"The mix between the two matches, Monaco and Leipzig, is perhaps also a reason which explains why we lost our concentration."

He added: "Neymar is determined. He will start against Leipzig."

Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain threw away a two-goal lead against Monaco as Kevin Volland's second-half brace and a late Cesc Fabregas penalty secured a remarkable 3-2 win at Stade Louis II on Friday. 

Thomas Tuchel's side had looked to be cruising to a ninth consecutive top-flight win thanks to Kylian Mbappe's double against his former side before the interval. 

Monaco were a team reborn in the second half, though, and claimed a stunning three points thanks to Volland's close-range strikes and Fabregas' 84th-minute spot-kick, with PSG's Abdou Diallo was sent off in the penalty incident.

The result means PSG's lead at the Ligue 1 summit can be cut to just two points if Lille overcome Lorient on Sunday.

 

Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Moise Kean have been included in the Paris Saint-Germain squad for the Ligue 1 meeting with Monaco on Friday.   A groin injury forced Neymar to miss PSG's previous three games and he was released from Brazil duty after it was deemed he would not be ready to feature in their World Cup qualifier against Uruguay on Tuesday.   Kean sustained a muscular problem while representing Italy during the international break, and Mbappe made his return for France on Tuesday after suffering a hamstring issue against Nantes on October 31.   The trio will all be available to Thomas Tuchel when the Ligue 1 champions take on Monaco at the Stade Louis II, though.

Tuchel said on Thursday: "Kylian has a very positive mindset. There was good communication between us and the France national team, so we know exactly what they did with him in training.

"So, that is all fine. He had a full training session with us [on Wednesday]. That was very good, so I'm very confident that he can play. We will have to decide how many minutes he will get, but he feels fit.

"With Neymar, it is a bit different because he didn't play for Brazil. He has been back for a few days.

"He started training [on Wednesday] but didn't do the full training session. He just took part in the first part, so we will step that up. We will do a bit more.

"I am confident that he might be able to play some minutes, but we will have to wait and see how he reacts in training."

PSG have struggled with injuries throughout the 2020-21 season and will be continue to be without Marco Verratti, Mauro Icardi, Julian Draxler, Idrissa Gueye, Thilo Kehrer and Juan Bernat.

Ander Herrera will sit out the trip to Monaco after taking a blow to his calf during a training session on Thursday.

Kylian Mbappe and Neymar could return to the Paris Saint-Germain line-up against Monaco on Friday, but Thomas Tuchel acknowledges he must consider the midweek meeting with RB Leipzig.

Mbappe and Neymar have five and four Ligue 1 starts respectively this term, with Tuchel's options limited by injuries, suspensions and positive coronavirus tests.

PSG remain top regardless – with Mbappe their leading league marksman on seven goals – but their Champions League position is rather more perilous after defeats to Manchester United and Leipzig.

Therefore, even with Mbappe and Neymar back in training, the chances of the pair starting together in the league for just the third time this season appear remote.

Tuchel's men host Leipzig on Tuesday after visiting Monaco and the coach told reporters: "It is no secret that it is a very tricky time.

"We know we have a difficult game ahead of us against Monaco, because it is always tough to go there and they have plenty of qualuty. It is one of the most difficult games in France.

"But at the same time, we know that it is a tricky situation in our Champions League group, and we certainly want to win against Leipzig.

"We want to win [on Friday] while carefully managing the players and the playing time so that the team can be as fresh as possible on Tuesday. It is a really important game for us.

"We have to manage the two games. We have to do that together. I usually take it game by game, but at the moment, the situation in our Champions League group means we have to consider both games."

Discussing his star pair, Tuchel said: "Kylian has a very positive mindset. There was good communication between us and the France national team, so we know exactly what they did with him in training.

"So, that is all fine. He had a full training session with us [on Wednesday]. That was very good, so I'm very confident that he can play. We will have to decide how many minutes he will get, but he feels fit.

"With Neymar, it is a bit different because he didn't play for Brazil. He has been back for a few days.

"He started training [on Wednesday] but didn't do the full training session. He just took part in the first part, so we will step that up. We will do a bit more.

"I am confident that he might be able to play some minutes, but we will have to wait and see how he reacts in training."

Marquinhos, Leandro Paredes and Angel Di Maria have all been in South America for 2022 World Cup qualifiers and Tuchel described relying heavily on the trio before the Leipzig game as "a big risk".

Meanwhile, Marco Verratti and Mauro Icardi will not be involved and the Italy midfielder has suffered "a small reaction" as the pair aim to return for Leipzig.

Amid the constant selection headaches, Tuchel was at least boosted last week by words of support from Leonardo.

"It is always good if the sporting director is on the coach's side," Tuchel said. "That goes for me as well, of course.

"We are always working together and there is never a problem. We know what we are doing and the way that we work together, so that is all fine."

Niko Kovac has defended Thomas Tuchel amid seemingly constant speculation over the Paris Saint-Germain head coach's future.

PSG retained their Ligue 1 title last season and celebrated a domestic treble by lifting the Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligue.

They also won the Trophee des Champions last August, but fell agonisingly short of Champions League glory, losing to Bayern Munich in the final.

PSG are five points clear at the top of Ligue 1 10 matches into the 2020-21 season, but face a battle to qualify from Champions League Group H following defeats to Manchester United and RB Leipzig.

Tuchel's strained relationship with the Parisian giants' sporting director Leonardo has also led to further questions over the German's position, but Monaco boss Kovac – who endured similar attention during his time with Bayern Munich – does not believe he should be under such scrutiny.

"It's difficult. The coach is always responsible for everything. If you win, it's not because of you, and if you lose, it's your fault," Kovac said ahead of the Ligue 1 clash between Monaco and PSG on Friday.

"From my point of view, it's too easy to always point the finger at the coach. I know Thomas is a great guy, a great coach. What more could he have done last season?

"He won four trophies and led his team to the Champions League final. He could only have done more if he had coached Bayern Munich and won five."

 

Cesc Fabregas still considers his former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho "a friend" but has revealed he is not on speaking terms with Pep Guardiola despite considering him an idol.

Fabregas, now 33 and playing for Monaco, has been one of European football's most recognisable midfielders since breaking into the Arsenal first-team as a 16-year-old in 2003.

His emergence as one of the world's best saw him switch back to Barcelona – whom he had represented as a child – in 2011 and he played under club icon Guardiola, winning six trophies across three seasons.

It was around this time that the Clasico divide with Real Madrid was arguably at its most vociferous in a generation, stoked by off-pitch – and occasional mid-match – barbs thrown by either Guardiola or his Los Blancos counterpart Mourinho.

But despite the fierce backdrop of the Clasicos of this era, which were said to have led to issues within the Spanish national team, Fabregas was ultimately lured away from Barca in 2014 by Mourinho and Chelsea.

"Mourinho was the one who inspired me the most to leave Barca," Fabregas explained to Tot Costa.

"He told me that we had them on the pitch when he was at Chelsea and I at Arsenal, and then when he was training for Real Madrid and I was at Barcelona, ​​but for him it all ended there.

"He told me about his project. I prioritised the professional side, and today I continue to write with him and consider him a friend, he helped me a lot at the time and maybe with him I played one of my best seasons."

It is easy to see why Fabregas feels such a way – in his year and a half under Mourinho, who was sacked in December 2015, the Spaniard was highly influential and won the 2014-15 Premier League title.

He attempted more passes (3,832) than anyone else in the Premier League during this time, while his 3,238 completed passes was not matched by anyone.

On top of that, he also recorded a league-high 20 assists and 4,698 ball touches in this period, highlighting his importance.

Similarly, his 120 chances created was bettered by only three players.

But Fabregas' time working with Guardiola did not inspire the same kind of friendship despite previously idolising the former midfielder.

"With Guardiola, I have not spoken again," he said. "There are things that happened that I do not have to talk about.

"He was my idol in my childhood, perhaps he is the person from whom I have learned the most as a player, as an idol and later as a coach, but that's it."

Monaco full-back Ruben Aguilar has earned his first call-up to the France squad for their upcoming triple-header.

It marks the end of the 27-year-old's long wait for an international selection…Or at least a first legitimate selection.

Aguilar, who was born in France to a French mother and Spanish father, claimed in 2017 that he had been put in the awkward position of fielding a seemingly nonsensical attempt by Bolivia to persuade him to represent La Verde.

He surmised it to have been a consequence of an error in the database of the Football Manager video game, which he said gave him French-Bolivian dual nationality.

Following good performances with Montpellier at the time, Aguilar received significant attention from Bolivians on social media and even became a topic on TV, with interview requests coming in from the South American nation.

Aguilar had no genuine connection to Bolivia and it proved to be just as well – he could make his first appearance at any level of international football for the defending world champions.

France face Finland in a friendly on Wednesday, before Nations League clashes with Portugal and Sweden.

Aguilar fills the squad place vacated earlier on Monday by Houssem Aouar, who sustained an injury for Lyon at the weekend.

Uncapped attacker Pietro Pellegri has returned to the Italy squad after two years away, while Davide Calabria and Matteo Pessina have been called up for the first time.

Pellegri, who joined Monaco for a reported €25million fee as a 16-year-old in January 2018, was summoned by the Azzurri for the first and only time in September of that year but an injury forced him to withdraw from the squad.

The former Genoa player has only made 10 appearances for Monaco due to a series of injury issues. Four of his outings have come this season, but he missed the entirety of 2019-20 due to hamstring problems and has featured for a total of 171 minutes.

His first and only goal came in a 2-1 defeat to Bordeaux in August 2018 and has only registered one shot on target for the first team since then.

But Pellegri could finally earn his first Italy cap in a friendly against Estonia next Wednesday, with Roberto Mancini naming a bumper 41-man squad.

Bologna midfielder Roberto Soriano is back in the fold four years after his previous call-up, while Domenico Criscito returns for the first time since October 2018.

Gianluigi Donnarumma, Alex Meret, Leonardo Bonucci, Alessandro Florenzi, Jorginho, Federico Chiesa, Lorenzo Insigne and Moise Kean have all been given permission to join up with the team the day before that match.

The rest of the squad will convene on Sunday, or as soon as they have completed any necessary period of isolation.

Mancini has tested positive for coronavirus and will reportedly not be in the dugout against Estonia, with assistant manager Alberigo Evani set to temporarily take charge of first-team affairs.

 

Italy squad:

Alessio Cragno (Cagliari), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan), Alex Meret (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino); Francesco Acerbi (Lazio), Cristiano Biraghi (Fiorentina), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Davide Calabria (Milan), Domenico Criscito (Genoa), Danilo D'Ambrosio (Inter), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Emerson Palmieri (Chelsea), Alessandro Florenzi (Paris Saint-Germain), Gianluca Mancini (Roma), Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham), Luca Pellegrini (Genoa), Alessio Romagnoli (Milan), Leonardo Spinazzola (Roma); Nicolo Barella (Inter), Gaetano Castrovilli (Fiorentina), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Roberto Gagliardini (Inter), Jorginho (Chelsea), Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Matteo Pessina (Atalanta), Roberto Soriano (Bologna), Sandro Tonali (Milan); Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Francesco Caputo (Sassuolo), Federico Chiesa (Juventus), Stephan El Shaarawy (Shanghai Shenhua), Vincenzo Grifo (Freiburg), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Moise Kean (Paris Saint-Germain), Kevin Lasagna (Udinese), Riccardo Orsolini (Bologna), Pietro Pellegri (Monaco).

Adama Traore is reportedly set to snub Barcelona and Liverpool to extend his stay at Wolves.

Traore has been linked with a move away from Wolves, where he arrived from Middlesbrough in 2018.

But the winger is seemingly happy at the Premier League club.

 

TOP STORY – TRAORE TO EXTEND WOLVES STAY DESPITE BARCELONA, LIVERPOOL INTEREST

Traore is set for a pay rise and is close to agreeing to a four-year deal with Wolves despite interest from Barcelona and Liverpool, according to The Sun.

The three-time Spain international is reportedly set for the new contract despite having a deal until 2023.

Barcelona and Liverpool have been linked with Traore previously.

 

ROUND-UP

- Paulo Dybala's Juventus future is again a talking point. An unused substitute against Crotone on Saturday, Dybala reportedly clashed with Juve sporting director Fabio Paratici. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A champions are preparing for Dybala to exit amid links to Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, and they are eyeing Salzburg teenager Luka Susic.

- Manchester United missed out on Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho during the close season, but there is a belief the Premier League giants will target the attacker again in January or next year, according to the Daily Star.

- Marcelo Brozovic could be set for an Inter exit. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A club are prepared to sell the midfielder in January, with interest from Tottenham and Monaco.

- As he continues to impress at Salzburg, Dominik Szoboszlai is linked with a move. Football.london says the Hungary international is a target for Arsenal.

- Compared to Portugal great Luis Figo, Sporting CP teenager Luis Gomes is a target for Manchester United, according to the Mirror.

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