Arsenal appear to have strengthened their interest in Nuno Espirito Santo.

Just over two weeks after dismissing Unai Emery, the Gunners are reportedly ready to hold talks with one of the top contenders to take over at Emirates Stadium.

But the Portuguese is not alone when it comes to candidates with Premier League experience.

 

TOP STORY – GUNNERS STEP UP NUNO CHASE

Arsenal will ask Wolves for permission to conduct formal discussions with Nuno next week, according to the Daily Mail.

The north Londoners are reportedly ready to "set to accelerate their interest" in the 45-year-old former Valencia and Porto head coach.

Belgium boss Robert Martinez is also said to have been approached, while Mauricio Pochettino, Mikel Arteta and Patrick Vieira continue to be linked.

Freddie Ljungberg has overseen two draws, a defeat and a solitary victory since taking charge on an interim basis.

ROUND-UP

- Like his former employers, ex-Arsenal boss Emery will not be rushed into a decision on his next move. Marca says the Spaniard has turned down the chance to speak to two Chinese clubs and managerless Everton since becoming a free agent on November 29.

- Premier League champions Manchester City hope to bring wantaway winger Jadon Sancho back to the Etihad Stadium after losing him to Borussia Dortmund in 2017, reports the Daily Mail.

- On the outer at Chelsea, Olivier Giroud appears to be moving closer to the Stamford Bridge exit door. L'Equipe claims the France striker is close to agreeing personal terms on a January switch to Inter, where he would reunite with Antonio Conte.

- Serie A side Milan will be offered the chance to sign Luka Jovic on loan from Real Madrid in January, according to Tuttomercatoweb.

- Barcelona will listen to offers of €10million for teenage defender Jean-Clair Todibo, reports Mundo Deportivo. The Spanish newspaper claims Bayer Leverkusen, Milan, Monaco, Southampton and Watford have submitted bids.

- Real Betis have sealed a deal to sign former Atletico Madrid winger Yannick Carrasco from Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang, according to Deportes Cuatro.

Eden Hazard is the Michael Jordan of football as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez tipped the Real Madrid star to win the Ballon d'Or.

Hazard – regarded as one of the best players in the world – swapped Premier League outfit Chelsea for LaLiga powerhouse Madrid in a blockbuster transfer prior to the start of the season.

The Belgium international has showed flashes of his brilliance, earning praise for his performances prior to suffering a small ankle fracture.

Asked about Hazard, Martinez likened the Red Devils captain to Chicago Bulls great and NBA Hall of Famer Jordan.

"I see Hazard winning the Ballon d'Or," Martinez told Cadena Ser program El Larguero. "He has the role of being a Ballon d'Or winner.

"What he has done is the level of the Ballon d'Or and he is always eligible for the prize.

"He has done it at Chelsea, in France. It is difficult for a foreigner to be at the reference of a project that works to win the league.

"He is a last-pass player, a Michael Jordan. Hazard is the Michael Jordan of football."

Hazard – who has scored once this season – will miss El Clasico against Barcelona on December 18 due to a small fracture in his ankle.

The Madrid forward was forced off in the 2-2 Champions League draw with Paris Saint-Germain last month.

"It's more the process of the injury," Martinez said on Thursday. "In the game against PSG, he had a setback and now we've discovered that he will spend a bit more time out than expected.

"There's nothing to worry about. You want a player like Eden to be 100 per cent, and now he'd established himself in the team and he was playing well.

"He's in very good physical condition and he'll be back very soon. You don't want to lose players of his level, but a team always has to deal with injuries, suspensions... Real Madrid are well prepared for this."

Real Madrid shot-stopper Thibaut Courtois is the best goalkeeper in the world, according to Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.

Courtois was dropped to the bench for Real Madrid's 2-1 win over Deportivo Alaves in LaLiga on Saturday amid criticism of his performances.

However, his international boss Martinez labelled the 27-year-old the world's best despite admitting the goalkeeper was going through a "difficult period".

"Thibaut is for me the best goalkeeper in the world, as he showed at the [2018] World Cup," Martinez said on Saturday.

"From there, he is the best person for me to defend Real Madrid's goal.

"It has been a difficult period, but I think that the opportunity to return with the national team has helped him to regain the good feelings, in the same way that we hope that the successes he has at Real Madrid can help us in the Euros."

Belgium were drawn alongside Denmark, Finland and Russia in Group B for Euro 2020.

Eden Hazard's time at Real Madrid will develop into something "very special", according to Belgium coach Roberto Martinez.

Hazard appeared to be finding some form for Madrid before suffering an ankle injury in a Champions League draw against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.

The former Chelsea star has just one goal and two assists in 13 games this season, but Martinez believes the Belgium playmaker will become a Madrid star.

"I saw Eden at the [Santiago] Bernabeu against PSG and I have to say that we saw a fascinating hour," Martinez said on Saturday.

"He taught us how his season with Real Madrid will be and the truth is that it makes your mouth water.

"Too bad he had to come off because of the injury, but we see an Eden Hazard that is going to contribute more and more, that his mates know him more and more and the truth is that the project of Eden at Real Madrid will be very special."

Martinez was speaking after Belgium were drawn to face Denmark, Finland and Russia in Group B at Euro 2020.

Another player sure to be key to possible success for Belgium at next year's tournament is Romelu Lukaku, who has scored 11 goals in 17 games for Inter this season.

"The truth is that he had a very difficult period in Manchester United, especially the last six months," Martinez said about the striker.

"He is now leading a project with Antonio Conte and it will be very interesting to see its evolution."

Roberto Martinez believes Belgium deserve to win Euro 2020 but acknowledges that will count for little if they do not perform at the finals.

Belgium completed their qualification campaign on Tuesday, thrashing Cyprus 6-1 to end with 10 wins from 10 in Group I, scoring 40 goals in the process.

Martinez has already seen enough to suggest Belgium are worthy of a maiden major international title, yet he knows there is plenty of work to do.

"Whether we can win the European Championship, that is something that we have in our hands," head coach Martinez said. "We need to get even better and then we see if we can play another great tournament.

"We have set the standard at the World Cup [finishing third] and we are continuing to develop into a team with a great deal of togetherness. And the fans are also important.

"We now have seven months to become as good as possible. This team deserves to win the European Championship but, in football, it's not that simple."

Reflecting on qualifying, he added: "I think everyone just worked really well this year. The players know what to do and they do it with an incredible focus.

"Scoring six times and then playing again in this way is very good."

Kevin De Bruyne, who scored twice in a playmaking masterclass against Cyprus, added: "It's always beautiful. Nobody has given it to us.

"Once you start the qualification, you have to go match by match and we did. It's very nice to finally get there [with 10 wins]."

Roberto Martinez has confirmed neither Thomas Meunier nor Jan Vertonghen are fit for international duty, but Kevin De Bruyne has returned to the Belgium squad.

The Red Devils, who have already qualified for Euro 2020, have limited defensive options for upcoming matches against Russia and Cyprus.

Wing-back Meunier suffered a thigh strain in Champions League action for Paris Saint-Germain against Club Brugge last month and is yet to return.

Meanwhile, Tottenham defender Vertonghen, who has struggled for form this season, was last seen on the bench at Liverpool at the end of October.

Vissel Kobe's Thomas Vermaelen is included but will be assessed as he deals with his own fitness issues, while Jason Denayer is brought in.

Anderlecht left-back Elias Cobbaut also profits from the various injuries, earning a first senior call-up.

"[Goalkeeper] Koen Casteels, Meunier and Vertonghen are injured," explained Martinez. "We are not sure if Vermaelen will be available. He will be assessed on Monday.

"Cobbaut has had a good transition with Johan Walem and the under-21s. The European Under-21 Championship last season was a key moment for him. For his club, he shows that he is growing all the time."

The return of De Bruyne is a boost, meanwhile, having last played for his country against Scotland in September due to a subsequent groin strain.

Brighton and Hove Albion forward Leandro Trossard is also fit again and in the squad.


Belgium squad in full: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Hendrik Van Crombrugge (Anderlecht), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge), Matz Sels (Strasbourg); Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Dedryck Boyata (Hertha Berlin), Elias Cobbaut (Anderlecht), Jason Denayer (Lyon), Brandon Mechele (Club Brugge), Thomas Vermaelen (Vissel Kobe); Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang), Timothy Castagne (Atalanta), Nacer Chadli (Anderlecht), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Leander Dendoncker (Wolves), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund), Dennis Praet (Leicester City), Youri Tielemans (Leicester City), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge), Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund); Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Maxime Lestienne (Standard Liege), Romelu Lukaku (Inter), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Divock Origi (Liverpool), Leandro Trossard (Brighton and Hove Albion), Yari Verschaeren (Anderlecht).

Roberto Martinez described his team as great ambassadors for Belgium after they maintained their perfect record in Euro 2020 qualifying by beating Kazakhstan.

Martinez's men had already secured their place at the finals, becoming the first team to do so with Thursday's 9-0 defeat of San Marino.

A 2-0 victory away to Kazakhstan on Sunday kept Belgium's winning streak going and they have kept clean sheets in seven successive qualifiers.

Goals from Michy Batshuayi and Thomas Meunier sealed their latest victory, but Martinez wants his side to remain focused despite sealing a Euro 2020 spot.

"We have an incredible group," Martinez said. "You may have been born with a lot of talent, but the unbridled commitment they show every time, chapeau.

"It is a pleasure to work with these players. They are great ambassadors for Belgium and I am proud of them.

"If we really want to be critical, we should have scored more goals. But that didn't bother me.

"Now we have to celebrate to work towards that important match in Russia. We have to end this campaign strongly there."

Dennis Praet set up Batshuayi for the opening goal on his full debut for Belgium.

"It was not always easy here," said the Leicester City midfielder.

"The Kazakhs played aggressively and we had to adjust for the artificial grass.

"Of course it is always easier to start in a team that is winning."

Roberto Martinez applauded the discipline and camaraderie in his team as Belgium battered San Marino 9-0 to qualify for Euro 2020.

The world's top-ranked side cruised to victory in Brussels on Thursday, maintaining their 100 per cent record in Group I.

A run of seven wins from seven means Belgium are the first team to guarantee their presence at next year's finals.

Romelu Lukaku scored twice - the first was his 50th international goal - while substitutes Christian Benteke and Yari Verschaeren were also on the scoresheet.

And teenage midfielder Verschaeren being allowed to score a late penalty for his first Belgium goal particularly impressed Martinez.

"We said in advance that our attitude and attitude would be important today," Martinez told reporters.

"We remained disciplined and it was also important that we gradually became not more selfish.

"I am very happy with the game delivered, with how we came up with opportunities and with the group feeling.

"If you see Yannick Carrasco giving the ball to an 18-year-old for the penalty, it is that human quality of this group that gives me the most pleasure."

Martinez handed a start to Hans Vanaken, whose performances for Club Brugge, in addition to Verschaeren coming through at Anderlecht, show it is not necessary for players to leave Belgium to develop, according to the coach.

"You are never too young for this and you do not have to go abroad to fully use your potential," Martinez added. "Vanaken is still growing, in Belgium, with an ambitious and well-structured team.

"His performance today was full of knowhow, timing and quality. And as far as Verschaeren is concerned, it is as if he has been walking around here for years.

"[It is] unbelievable that he was still with the under-21 team three months ago and still with the under-18s a year ago. This is a wonderful example of the future of Belgian football."

Belgium boss Roberto Martinez has dismissed concerns about Eden Hazard being overweight at Real Madrid.

A report in Sport in July claimed Hazard was seven kilograms too heavy when he joined up with the Madrid squad for pre-season duty.

The Belgium star has found it difficult to kick-start his career in LaLiga since joining from Chelsea in the transfer window, only scoring his first goal for the club in last weekend's 4-2 defeat of Granada.

Martinez, though, does not believe Hazard's physical condition is a particular concern given the talent he has.

"He is a really calm person, not someone who looks for individual glory," he told Deportes Cuatro."Whether he's carrying weight or not, Hazard can break past and unsettle defences and make a difference.

"His innate talent doesn't depend on whether his weight is this or that."

Martinez also spoke in defence of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

The 27-year-old was taken off at half-time of the 2-2 Champions League draw with Club Brugge with what Madrid described as a stomach problem.

The club was forced to deny Courtois had become ill due to anxiety, having conceded twice to Brugge in the first half to compound a difficult run of form at club level.

Martinez says Courtois is still recovering from illness and insists he is the world's best in his position.

"It wasn't true that he had anxiety," Martinez said."He is still feeling the effects of a stomach bug and needs to regain a kilogram or two. That's what can happen with a stomach bug.

"He is a player who dreamed of playing for Real Madrid from a young age and he is ready to define an era there. I am convinced that he is the best goalkeeper in the world."

Injured Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne has been left out of Belgium's squad for their Euro 2020 qualifiers against San Marino and Kazakhstan.

De Bruyne missed City's 2-0 Champions League win against Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday with a groin injury sustained against Everton last week.

The 28-year-old has been ruled out of Sunday's home Premier League match against Wolves and will play no part in Belgium's double-header this month.

Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois and Thomas Meunier have all been called up by Roberto Martinez, despite each being fitness doubts.

"Thibaut, Romelu and Thomas are a little bit in doubt," Martinez told reporters. "Monday we will see if they can be involved in the camp."

Maxime Lestienne was a surprise inclusion for the games against San Marino and Kazakhstan, six years on from his last call up.

The 27-year-old has five goals in eight league appearances for Standard Liege this season and is in line for his senior Belgium debut.

Asked about his decision to include Lestienne, Martinez said: "He is a very talented footballer. He shows good consistency for Liege.

"He is an attacking player who can fit in our system, who deserves to be with the national team."

Belgium top Group I with a perfect record of six wins from six.

Belgium squad in full: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Hendrik Van Crombrugge (Anderlecht), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge), Matz Sels (Strasbourg); Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Dedryck Boyata (Hertha Berlin), Leander Dendoncker (Wolves), Brandon Mechele (Club Brugge), Thomas Meunier (Paris Saint-Germain), Thomas Vermaelen (Vissel Kobe), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham); Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang), Timothy Castagne (Atalanta), Nacer Chadli (Anderlecht), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund), Dennis Praet (Leicester City), Youri Tielemans (Leicester City), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge), Axel Witsel (Borussia Dortmund); Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea), Christian Benteke (Crystal Palace), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Maxime Lestienne (Standard Liege), Romelu Lukaku (Inter), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Divock Origi (Liverpool), Yari Verschaeren (Anderlecht).

Steve Clarke admitted Scotland's hopes of automatically qualifying for Euro 2020 are over and urged his side to claim third place after their humbling by Belgium at Hampden Park.

Goals from Romelu Lukaku, Thomas Vermaelen, Toby Alderweireld and Kevin De Bruyne saw the world's number-one ranked side romp to a 4-0 success in Group I – leaving Scotland fifth on Monday.

With the top two positions which offer automatic qualification effectively beyond Scotland – who are 12 points behind leaders Belgium and nine adrift of Russia – Clarke's team's only real hope of qualification is via the play-off spot they secured by winning their Nations League group.

Clarke said it is vital Scotland now build momentum and finish as high as possible in their group ahead of those March games which will determine whether they reach a first major tournament in 22 years.

"The group's over in terms of qualification," head coach Clarke told Sky Sports. "We have to target third position, there's 12 points up for grabs and between now and the end of the campaign we have to make sure we finish third in the group - it's important for ranking and seeding. 

"It'll mean we'll have performed well, won a few games and picked up points which should give us confidence heading into the play-off games in March."

Clarke added: "It's obviously difficult to try and sugar coat a 4-0 defeat. It's very difficult to take positives.

"But you have to look at the way the team's set up, the way we tried to press, which we did really well at times. We had good possession, almost 50-50, and some chances. We looked at times like a good team but you can't run away from the scoreline."

"Defensively we have conceded too many goals - one against Cyprus, three in Belgium, two against Russia and four tonight," he continued.

"If you concede goals it's very difficult to win matches."

Meanwhile, Belgium boss Roberto Martinez was delighted with his side's display as they maintained their 100 per cent record in Group I.

"We have now virtually qualified, playing San Marino next," he said. "Now it is important to come first in the group. It was a really pleasing performance. We combined the quality we have with hard work from the start."

De Bruyne, who made three goals before claiming a deserved one of his own late on, added: "It was not a world-class performance, we just did what we had to do. I just did my job. We knew that with a win we would almost certainly qualify, and that is most important."

Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez said this is the first time he has seen Romelu Lukaku "free and happy" as he backed the Inter star to lead the way for club and country.

Lukaku became Inter's most expensive signing when he joined from Manchester United for a fee understood to be €80million in August.

The 26-year-old, who spent two seasons at United following his Everton exit before moving to Milan, has scored two goals in his first two matches for Inter in Serie A.

Speaking ahead of Monday's Euro 2020 qualifier against Scotland in Glasgow in Group I action, Martinez heaped praise on striker Lukaku.

"This is the first time I have seen him free and happy. Going back to many camps I have not seen Rom so focused, so happy, so refreshed by the new challenge," Martinez told reporters.

"I think he is now ready to face one of the biggest footballing chapters in his career with the Inter Milan move. And he is very driven to be as good as he can for the national team, so I have been very impressed with his happiness and the way he is looking forward to the football ahead.

"Romelu is one of the modern footballers in that he was born with the attention, with the media following him at the age of 16 in Belgium – he had media crews following him around seeing what he was doing.

"He was in a team with expectations to win at Anderlecht with Champions League participation [on top of that].

"Then he had a big transfer to Chelsea. As you know he had his time at West Brom, then a big transfer fee to Everton, another big transfer fee to Manchester United and now to Inter.

"Romelu does not get affected, he is one of the most driven boys you are going to see. His life is football, he just lives to score goals and to be effective for the national team and at club level."

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez acknowledged his side produced an unacceptable display against San Marino despite a 4-0 victory.

Martinez’s side are top of Euro 2020 Group I after they made it five victories from as many qualification matches.

However, Belgium’s performance against a spirited San Marino side, especially in a first half, was sluggish.

San Marino are bottom of the FIFA world rankings and have not earned a qualification point since November 2014 while Belgium are top of the rankings and reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup.

The scoreline was goalless for the first 43 minutes until Belgium opened the scoring for the penalty spot through Michy Batshuayi.

Second-half goals from Dries Mertens, Nacer Chadli and a second from Batshuayi sealed the result but Martinez was far from satisfied.

"I'm not happy with the way we played," said Martinez, whose acknowledged his side must improve when they play Scotland at Hampden Park on Monday.

"It wasn't good enough or up to our standard. It's true in the first half we didn't look like a team with direction.

"There was a lot of misunderstanding about what we asked for. It is true that it was not the usual team, but it's crazy as we had to work to make the difference and keep the clean sheet. 

"We wasted 45 minutes. It's not what we are. We played as a group of individuals in the first half and as a team second half.

"It is not acceptable to see this kind of game. I take responsibility for that. I'm still happy to pocket the three points."

San Marino frustrated Belgium for long periods although Batshuayi felt the margin of victory could have been greater had the he been sharper.

Batshuayi has played just seven minutes for Chelsea this season when he came on as a late substitute in their 2-2 draw with Sheffield United.

"The most important thing is that we won," said the 25-year-old striker.

"San Marino was a tough opponent. We played a bad first half. On a good day I could have scored four or five goals, but I have not played for a while."

Eden Hazard will not feature in Belgium's upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers as expected, with brother Thorgan also absent this week.

The elder Hazard is yet to make his competitive debut for Real Madrid following a €100million move from Chelsea, having sustained a thigh injury on the eve of the new LaLiga season.

The 28-year-old was still named in Belgium's squad for the first international break of the season, although head coach Roberto Martinez insisted: "We will not take any risks."

Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane subsequently announced Hazard would not be fit to feature for his country against San Marino and Scotland.

So it has proven, with Hazard leaving the Red Devils camp on Tuesday, along with Borussia Dortmund star Thorgan.

Thorgan Hazard's departure similarly does not come as a surprise after being substituted late in his second Bundesliga appearance for Dortmund against Cologne.

A rib injury was set to rule the former Borussia Monchengladbach man out for "several weeks" just days before he was called up by Martinez.

Belgium, who are top of their Euro 2020 qualifying group with four wins from four, visit minnows San Marino on Friday and then go to Hampden Park to play Scotland next Monday.

They had already lost back-up goalkeeper Koen Casteels to injury, with Hendrik Van Crombrugge called up in his place.

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