Diego Simeone said LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid are poised to confirm the signing of Lyon forward Moussa Dembele.

Atletico and Lyon have been in "very advanced" negotiations regarding a deal that will see Dembele move to the Wanda Metropolitano on loan with an option to buy.

Atleti will reportedly be able to secure Dembele for a €35million fee should the former France Under-21 international impress on loan before the end of the season.

Dembele has scored just once in 16 Ligue 1 games for Lyon this season, having hit 24 in 46 across all competitions in 2019-20.

Simeone was asked about Dembele following Tuesday's 2-0 LaLiga victory over Sevilla in the Spanish capital.

"It is very advanced," Atletico head coach Simeone said post-match. "We are going to confirm it."

Atletico extended their lead atop LaLiga to four points thanks to goals from Angel Correa and Saul Niguez against visiting Sevilla.

Correa broke the deadlock in the 17th minute before Atletico team-mate Saul put the result beyond doubt with 14 minutes remaining.

Of Correa's goals for Atletico, 19 out of 39 across all competitions have been the opening goal of a match, per Opta.

Atletico, meanwhile, are one of the two teams with the most clean sheets in the top five European leagues this season (11 in 16 fixtures) – level with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

On Saul, who has only started seven of 13 LaLiga games this term, Simeone said: "Like everything in life, the first one who has to want to get out of the difficulty is oneself and Saul loves it.

"He knew he was not well and has always worked. Since he was 18 years old, he has had to live things very good and now he has to live another and Saul is helping himself and is already getting out of the situation he was in."

Simeone was named the best coach of the decade by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) this week.

"I am not aware of that," said Simeone, who guided Atletico to LaLiga glory in 2014 and Champions League finals in 2014 and 2016.

"We focus on improving the team, we work daily, we have made an important change in the game. That is healthy and gives us great joy for the number of players who have joined us and that allows us to be.

"With the energy of the first day I got on the plane with the mentality of taking the team to the top of Europe."

Atletico Madrid extended their lead at LaLiga's summit to four points as they saw off Sevilla 2-0 at the Wanda Metropolitano on Tuesday.

Sevilla could have become the first team to draw three successive away games at the Wanda, but Atletico produced a vintage display of clinical finishing and resolute defending as they improved their position at the top of the table.

Atletico edged an even first half and went ahead through Angel Correa's clinical finish with just over quarter of an hour played, though Sevilla did trouble Jan Oblak through Ivan Rakitic and Youssef En-Nesyri.

The visitors dominated proceedings in the second period but struggled to find a way through Atletico's famously shrewd defence, who ultimately claimed an 11th clean sheet in LaLiga this term as Saul Niguez put the game beyond Sevilla in the latter stages.

Sevilla looked bright in the opening exchanges as Rakitic tested Oblak early on, but they found themselves trailing in the 17th minute – Correa picking out the bottom-right corner with a snapshot on the swivel that caught Yassine Bounou unsighted in goal.

Atletico were fortunate at the other end soon after.

Oblak initially rushed out to thwart En-Nesyri and the ball fell kindly to Marcos Acuna, but the left-back shot wide of the empty net with the hosts' goalkeeper stranded.

Luis Suarez then threatened before the half-hour mark, but his close-range volley was well blocked by Bounou.

En-Nesyri tried his luck from a tight angle early in the second half, but Oblak had little issue making the save.

But while Sevilla saw much of the ball, that En-Nesyri effort was hardly the start of an onslaught and Atletico picked them off 14 minutes from time.

Marcos Llorente found space behind Acuna and Oscar Rodriguez failed to intercept his cutback, which came to Saul and he swept in from 20 yards to seal the points.

Atletico Madrid are close to signing Moussa Dembele from Lyon, Diego Simeone has confirmed.

The striker is expected to move to the Wanda Metropolitano on a loan deal with an option to buy, having told Lyon he wanted a new challenge.

The agreement has not yet been finalised but Simeone seems confident the move will be completed sooner rather than later.

"It's still not confirmed, but it's very advanced," the Atletico coach told reporters ahead of Tuesday's match with Sevilla.

"I'm going to turn my head towards the game, which is what interests me, and when there's something [on Dembele], if there is something, I'll give an opinion."

Atleti will reportedly be able to secure Dembele for a €35million fee should he impress on loan before the end of the season.

The former France Under-21 international has scored just once in 16 Ligue 1 games this season, having hit 24 in 46 across all competitions in 2019-20.

Simeone's more pressing concern is Tuesday's match with Julen Lopetegui's side, which comes after Atleti's previous game with Athletic Bilbao was called off.

The match, which was due to take place in Madrid on Saturday, was postponed after Storm Filomena brought significant snowfall to the Spanish capital.

Training was severely disrupted over the weekend and Atleti will hold an extra session before facing Sevilla to make sure they are fully prepared.

"With the difficulties we've had, everyone has been at home," Simeone said. "We had no option of getting together or leaving the house. We worked at home on Saturday; on Sunday, a group was able to train together.

"There are no excuses. They're circumstances to which we have to adapt. The most important thing will be tomorrow and what happened before will not matter in terms of the criticism and opinions we receive.

"There'll be two training sessions because tomorrow we'll have another one at midday to finish fine-tuning what we have to do, making the most of the fact the game is in the evening.

"[The pitch] is very good. It looks really good, with a normal condition to be able to compete and I'm sure there won't be any difficulty with the surface."

Simeone also confirmed Kieran Trippier "is really good, he's really excited to play, focused as ever" after being cleared to play.

The full-back was hit with a 10-game ban by the Football Association due to breaches of betting regulations, but he is allowed to feature again in LaLiga after FIFA put his punishment on hold amid an appeal from Atletico.

Barcelona presidential candidate Agusti Benedito has outlined his plans to bring in transfer guru Monchi should he succeed Josep Maria Bartomeu in next month's elections.

Monchi is arguably the most revered sporting director in football thanks to his impressive business across two stints with Sevilla, either side of a less successful spell with Roma.

And Benedito, who has twice run unsuccessfully for the club's presidency, would happily give Monchi free rein to revolutionise Barca's transfer policy.

"We met in 2015 several times with Koeman and he had strong ideas. I think he will open a spell that lasts several years at the helm," Benedito told Goal. 

"In terms of sporting direction, back then we bet on Monchi and we spoke to him, too. I still think he is in the top three in the world and would be a brilliant addition.

"Back then it seemed he would never leave Sevilla and then he went to Italy and came back. The first thing I will do if I am president will be to call Monchi and try to convince him."

But would Monchi really be the right fit for Barca, who are clearly in need of some sort of overhaul? We look at his transfer hits and misses across two decades working behind the scenes.

THE HITS

Dani Alves

Alves was plucked from the obscurity of Bahia while still a teenager, initially joining Sevilla on loan before signing permanently for a reported €550,000 fee.

The attacking full-back formed a fine partnership on the right with Jesus Navas and played a crucial role in back-to-back UEFA Cup triumphs. 

He joined Barcelona for €41.5m in 2008, winning every title possible in one of the greatest eras in the club's history, before spells with Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Sao Paolo.


Freddie Kanoute

In the Premier League with West Ham and Tottenham, Kanoute was effective but by no means a star.

Sevilla were said to have parted with €6.5m to bring him to Spain, and after a decent first season, he really found his groove with 21 LaLiga strikes in the 2006-07 campaign. 

He formed one of the best striker partnerships in Europe with Luis Fabiano and was vital in their back-to-back UEFA Cup triumphs. The club never turned his form into a transfer profit, but he became a Sevilla icon and one of their greatest ever players.


Ivan Rakitic 

A little like with Kanoute, Monchi brought Rakitic to Sevilla when the midfielder appeared to be struggling to live up to his early promise. The club paid Schalke just €2.5m for the Croatian in January 2011 and the midfielder enjoyed an excellent first few months. 

His first full season showed why doubts about him had arisen in Germany, as he failed to score a single goal in LaLiga, but Unai Emery's arrival in the 2012-13 campaign saw his fortunes transform.

The following season Rakitic inspired Europa League success, earning his €18m move to Barcelona where he enjoyed great success before returning to Sevilla in September.


Ever Banega

The early years of Banega's career were mired by fitness issues and negative headlines, such as the time he ran himself over with his own car.

When he first joined Sevilla in 2014, there was an air of 'now or never' for the gifted Argentina international, who cost just €2.5m as Valencia reportedly just wanted rid of him. 

After a slow start he became one of the first names on the team sheet, playing arguably the best football of his career and winning two Europa Leagues. He left for Inter in 2016 but returned a year later, with Monchi counting him as one of his best buys.


Jules Kounde

Monchi returned for a second spell with Sevilla in 2019 and, perhaps needing to prove himself again after his underwhelming stay in Rome, he pulled off another transfer coup by bringing in Kounde from Bordeaux for a reported €25m.

That is a substantially higher fee than the other names mentioned, granted, but it is a club-record transfer that has more than paid off thus far.

The centre-back was a key member of Sevilla's latest Europa League-winning squad and attracted interest from numerous clubs during the close season, with his valuation said to have doubled in the space of a year.


THE MISSES

Patrik Schick

Monchi spent around €230m on a raft of signings while at Roma as they looked to replace the likes of Mohamed Salah, Alisson Becker, Antonio Rudiger and Leandro Parades.

The biggest single outlay was on Schick, who struggled to justify his transfer fee - and the hype surrounding his arrival - in his two whole seasons at the Stadio Olimpico.

Schick headed to the Bundesliga in 2019, initially on loan with RB Leipzig before joining Bayer Leverkusen permanently earlier this year for another large fee.


Javier Pastore

Arguably the most disappointing of Monchi's signings, Pastore struggled to adapt to life under Eusebio Di Francesco and little has changed since Paulo Fonseca took over last year.

He started a combined 12 Serie A games in his first two seasons with the club and has yet to play a single minute in all competitions this term.

What made the transfer all the more bizarre for a player past his prime was that Monchi awarded him a five-year deal, making it difficult for the Italian side to offload him.


Steven Nzonzi

This was a signing that perhaps made sense on the face of it as Nzonzi followed Monchi from Sevilla to Roma. He was part of France's successful World Cup squad a month earlier - but it proved to be another example of Roma splashing out big on a player with little resale value.

Nzonzi was a shadow of the player many hoped he would be in the Italian capital and he lasted just one full season before heading out on loan to Galatasaray and then Rennes, all while still on Roma's books.

Tottenham are keeping an eye on Sergio Ramos' situation at Real Madrid, while Georginio Wijnaldum is set to decide his future.

Ramos, 34, is coming out of contract at Madrid at the end of the season.

With the defender yet to re-sign, he has been linked with a move away from the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – TOTTENHAM KEEPING AN EYE ON RAMOS

Tottenham are keeping an eye on Ramos' situation at Real Madrid, according to the Evening Standard.

Spurs boss Jose Mourinho worked with Ramos at Madrid between 2010 and 2013.

Ramos has been at the Spanish giants since 2005, winning five LaLiga titles and three Champions League trophies among numerous other honours.

 

ROUND-UP

- Also out of contract at season's end, Wijnaldum is set to make a decision on his Liverpool future. Sky Sports reports the midfielder will decide this week whether to sign a new deal with the Premier League champions amid links to Barcelona.

- Diego Costa is set to leave Atletico Madrid, who are eyeing a replacement. Marca reports Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik is best placed to replace Costa.

- Crystal Palace star Wilfried Zaha is again linked with a move. The Sun reports Serie A leaders AC Milan are chasing Zaha in January.

- Arsenal look set to be busy in January. The Sun reports the Premier League club want Sevilla midfielder Joan Jordan in a £32million (€35.3m) move. Meanwhile, The Athletic says Arsenal are unlikely to rekindle their interest in Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar.

- Could Marcos Alonso be returning to Spain? The Independent reports Atletico Madrid are in talks to sign full-back Alonso on loan from Chelsea in January. Alonso has played just three Premier League games for Chelsea this season.

Thomas Tuchel's tenure as Paris Saint-Germain head coach is all but over.

Tuchel will reportedly be replaced by Mauricio Pochettino, despite leading PSG to Ligue 1 glory last season and the Champions League final.

Can former PSG defender Pochettino help the French giants conquer Europe?

 

TOP STORY – POCH SET FOR PSG

Mauricio Pochettino has agreed terms to take charge of Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Thomas Tuchel's sacking is set to be announced after striking a deal with PSG to leave immediately – the compensation worth €6million, reports Bild.

Former Tottenham manager Pochettino is now poised to return to PSG, where he played between 2001 and 2003.

 

ROUND-UP

Diego Costa has requested to leave Atletico Madrid in January, claims Diario AS and Marca. If Costa is unable to depart during the next window, the veteran striker will farewell Atletico on a free transfer at season's end.

Wolves have joined the chase to sign Real Madrid outcast Luka Jovic, says The Athletic. Wolves are keen to bolster their attack following Raul Jimenez's serious injury and Jovic has emerged as a loan option for the Premier League side. Milan have also been heavily linked with the Serbia international.

Georginio Wijnaldum wants time to reflect on Liverpool's contract offer, reports Fabrizio Romano. Wijnaldum is set to become a free agent amid links to Barca.

- The Mirror reports Arsenal are circling for Brighton and Hove Albion full-back Tariq Lamptey should Hector Bellerin depart for Barcelona. Lamptey has been linked to Manchester City and Bayern Munich.

Sevilla are eyeing a January swoop for Marseille star Florian Thauvin, according to Andaluz Estadio Deportivo. Milan have also been tracking the Frenchman.

- Corriere dello Sport says Juventus and Inter remain keen on signing Udinese's Rodrigo De Paul. Meanwhile, Ilbianconeri claims Juve have been offered Arsenal outcast Mesut Ozil.

Manchester United remain in contact with Moises Caicedo's agents to sign the Independiente del Valle sensation, says Romano. The 19-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder wants to move to Old Trafford.

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane revelled in the struggling LaLiga champions' "hugely important" win over Sevilla as the under-fire boss celebrated a timely victory.

Madrid snapped a run of back-to-back losses with a 1-0 success away to Sevilla in LaLiga on Saturday, alleviating some pressure on Zidane.

Zidane's position at the helm has been questioned following defeats to Deportivo Alaves and Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League, but Yassine Bounou's 55th-minute own goal gifted the Frenchman some respite.

The result moved Madrid within six points of leaders Atletico Madrid, though Real Sociedad could return to the summit and open up a seven-point advantage ahead of Los Blancos if they beat Alaves on Sunday.

"It's important," Zidane said during his post-match news conference. "The recent days have been difficult and this team is full of character, it thrives on challenges and this win is hugely important for what is to come."

Madrid kept a clean sheet in consecutive LaLiga away games against Sevilla for the second time in the competition's history – the first one was in 1967.

Zidane's Madrid have not lost any of their 25 LaLiga games with Ferland Mendy in the starting XI since last season, compared with their six defats in their 24 league games without the full-back.

Bounou also became the only goalkeeper to score an own goal in LaLiga this season and the first Sevilla shot-stopper to score an own goal in the competition in the 21st century.

Zidane, who has won eight games against Sevilla in all competitions – more than any other opponent – added: "They're three hugely important points for us but beyond just the points, it's about our performance. From the first minute until the last. We had to dig in a bit in the second half but we were superb before the break, creating a load of chances. 

"It's a deserved victory over a very good side who we know can cause you problems at any moment. We've come through it and I'm thrilled for the lads.

"We haven't changed because the team was fine and wanted to keep going as we are. It's important for the next game.

"It was crucial that we picked up points today and to perform well. We're going through a bit of a tough spell lately and we have to be happy. Now it's time to rest up well and think about what's to come."

"This team has got a lot of character," Zidane continued. "I don't think the same way as you, but it's true that there are moments when playing every three days at a high level, from time to time it's difficult for us. In the end that will always happen to us because we never stop.

"The important thing is to recover well and switch out focus to the next game because this isn't going to slow up. Every match is going to be important for us and we know that from time to time things won't go our way and we have to correct some things. When we fix things we can be very competitive like today."

Zinedine Zidane could breathe a sigh of relief as an own goal from Yassine Bounou gave Real Madrid a 1-0 win at Sevilla.

Madrid’s head coach has come under mounting pressure after an unsteady start to the season in LaLiga and in the Champions League.

His side carved out plenty of chances to beat Sevilla comfortably but could not find a decisive finish, until the home side's goalkeeper ran out of luck in the second half.

Ferland Mendy's low cross looked sure to be turned home by Vinicius Junior, but he made only the slightest of connections and the ball deflected in off Bounou, with Thibaut Courtois' late save from Lucas Ocampos at the other end securing a valuable victory.

Bruised by a midweek defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk that has put Madrid in a European pickle, Zidane needed a reprieve going up against former Los Blancos boss Julen Lopetegui at Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan.

Madrid spurned a glorious first-minute chance when Rodrygo found Vinicius unmarked in the penalty area, but a low shot towards the far corner bounced just wide.

Bounou then almost gifted Madrid an opener when his attempted clearance rattled against Vinicius and looped across goal.

Karim Benzema was waiting to nod in from close range but was beaten to the ball by defender Diego Carlos, who cushioned a header to the relieved Bounou.

Toni Kroos and Benzema went close before the break, but Sevilla's resistance was ended on the 55th-minute mark.

Benzema's clever pass picked out Mendy on the left, and his low centre should have been ideal for Vinicius but turned out to be far from it for Bounou.

His head-in-hands moment made Bounou the first Sevilla goalkeeper to score an own goal in LaLiga in the 21st century.

Suso went close to a spectacular equaliser but sent his shot just too high, with Courtois thankful to see it zip off target, before Madrid's goalkeeper saved well from Ocampos' acrobatic volley to seal the points.

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has been left of their squad for the LaLiga clash with Sevilla on Saturday. 

The defender has returned to training following the hamstring injury he sustained while on international duty with Spain in November. 

Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane, however, had told a media conference prior to the squad announcement on Friday that the 34-year-old would only make the trip if he was fully fit. 

"We're not going to take any chances with Sergio Ramos," Zidane said. 

"I don't want to play a player who has a problem and then he makes it worse. We want all the players back". 

Without Ramos, Madrid have drawn 1-1 with Villareal and lost 2-1 to Deportivo Alaves in league action.

In the Champions League, Zidane's side managed a 2-0 away win over Inter but suffered a defeat by the same scoreline at Shakhtar Donetsk in midweek, putting their progression to the knockout stages in the balance. 

Serbia striker Luka Jovic is also not included by Zidane, despite having recently recorded a negative test for COVID-19. He had a positive test while away with his national team, requiring him to spend a period in isolation.

Madrid sit fourth in LaLiga on 17 points - seven behind leaders Real Sociedad and six behind second-placed Atletico Madrid, who they face in the derby next weekend.

Under-fire Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is convinced he retains the full support of the club and his players amid a difficult run of results.

Madrid head to Sevilla on Saturday having failed to win any of their previous three LaLiga matches, suffering losses to Valencia and Deportivo Alaves either side of a draw with Villarreal.

Los Blancos have never endured a winless run of four league games under Zidane, and the champions are already seven points adrift of pacesetters Real Sociedad – though arguably the greater concern is second-place Atletico Madrid.

Diego Simeone's men are unbeaten this term and, although a point behind La Real, they have two games in hand on them and one on their city rivals.

Tuesday's 2-0 defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk increased the pressure on Zidane as their Champions League progression hopes were left hanging in the balance, but the Frenchman continues to put on a brave face.

When asked if he felt he had the club's backing, he told reporters: "Yes, completely, I feel the support of the club. I can't be happy when we lose a game, but we know where we are.

"We are lucky to fight for this club and that's what I'm going to do until the last day, and the players too. We have to be together with what we know how to do."

Zidane was then asked if the players have given him their backing, which seemed to irk the former France international.

"In the end, you guys [the media] always try these things, asking whether the players are with me or not," he replied. "What the players want is to compete and they have always shown their care for me, but it is not the most important thing.

"I have been a player here, coach, I know the history I have with this club and sometimes it is true that things do not work out for us.

"[Criticism] doesn't bother me. It's my position, it's what it is, when you don't win it's like that, it's normal for there to be criticism, but it won't change what I think. We will continue."

Traditionally, Madrid do well against Sevilla – Los Blancos have beaten them 19 times in their previous 30 LaLiga meetings, while Zidane has not claimed more wins against any other opponent across all competitions than he has over the Andalusians (seven).

Nevertheless, Europa League holders Sevilla – coached by former Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui – are likely to be fresh having rested many first-team regulars during the 4-0 Champions League defeat to Chelsea.

They are also unbeaten in 15 league games at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, keeping seven clean sheets in their past 10 home games, and will move above Madrid with a win.

But Lopetegui remains wary of Madrid, suggesting their difficult form might make them even more threatening this weekend.

"Real Madrid are always dangerous, and even more so in these situations," he said. "They're a team that have answers for many situations and now that feeds into them to give a good performance. I'm expecting a strong Real Madrid, who will demand the best version of us."

Lautaro Martinez's future continues to dominate headlines.

Martinez was tipped to leave Inter for Barcelona at the start of the season, but a move did not materialise amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, Manchester City are emerging as a serious suitor.

 

TOP STORY – CITY WANT LAUTARO

Manchester City are continuing their pursuit of Inter star Lautaro Martinez, according to the Mirror.

Martinez has been heavily linked with LaLiga giants Barcelona, as well as Real Madrid and City, where Pep Guardiola is eyeing a long-term replacement for Sergio Aguero.

The Argentina international has made his demands clear to Inter, who are hoping to re-sign Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca are open to the idea of selling Ousmane Dembele, says Mundo Deportivo. Dembele was wanted by Manchester United prior to the previous transfer window closing and Barca are reportedly aware of contacts between the France international and the Premier League side.

Arsenal are ready to part with club-record signing Nicolas Pepe, reports the Daily Star. Unconvinced about the Ivory Coast international, the Gunners are even reportedly open to a loan move amid links to Milan.

- The Sun claims Leeds United want Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui once fan favourite Marcelo Bielsa leaves Elland Road.

- The Mirror claims United want to sign former defender Jonny Evans from Leicester City. Evans – who won three Premier League titles at Old Trafford – left United for West Brom in 2015 before joining Leicester in 2018.

- Barca have offered Philippe Coutinho to Juventus, according to Calciomercato. Barca need to raise funds as they look to recruit Lyon captain Memphis Depay and City defender Eric Garcia.

Football has produced few more divisive figures than Diego Maradona.

The Argentina great died on Wednesday at the age of 60 following a cardiac arrest and, while opinions on his legacy may differ depending on where you live, his remarkable impression on the game is undoubted.

The abiding image of Maradona for most likely stems from the 1986 World Cup quarter-final between Argentina and England.

For so many in England, he will forever be remembered for arguably the most controversial goal in the history of football, which saw the diminutive Maradona somehow rise above the comparatively towering figure of Peter Shilton and divert a sliced clearance from Steve Hodge into the empty net with his hand.

But that act of what can at best be considered deceit did not take away from the majesty of his ultimately decisive second goal, dubbed the Goal of the Century, with the balletic grace with which he weaved past the helpless England defenders before rounding Shilton and slotting home the defining memory of Maradona for his adoring fans in his home country and scores of fans around the world.

That game perhaps encapsulated the man known as El Pibe de Oro (The Golden Boy). As England striker Gary Lineker, who scored the goal overshadowed by Maradona's brace at Estadio Azteca, said in a tweet paying tribute following news of his death, the Albiceleste legend led a "blessed but troubled life".

Raised in a poor family in Villa Fiorito, a shantytown on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Maradona's blessings were evident from an early age. At just eight years old, his promise was discovered by a scout, Francisco Cornejo, and he was signed to the youth team of Argentinos Juniors.

"He did things that I have never seen anyone else do," Cornejo, who died in 2008, later said of Maradona.

Maradona made his Argentinos debut 10 days before turning 16 and marked it in fitting fashion by nutmegging an opponent within minutes of entering the pitch.

One hundred and sixteen goals in 166 games for Argentinos followed and resulted in Maradona receiving a dream move to Boca Juniors, though his spell at La Bombonera yielded only one league title and was marked by a difficult relationship with coach Silvio Marzolini before he moved to Barcelona in a world-record transfer in 1982.

Barca did not see Maradona at his best at the 1982 World Cup in Spain that preceded his debut for the Blaugrana, yet the impact he had on his cohorts at Camp Nou was stark.

"He had complete mastery of the ball," former team-mate Lobo Carrasco remarked. "When Maradona ran with the ball or dribbled through the defence, he seemed to have the ball tied to his boots."

His time in Catalonia delivered both brilliance and tumult in equal measure. Maradona became the first Barca player to receive a standing ovation from Real Madrid fans at the Santiago Bernabeu in 1983, but sustained a career-threatening ankle injury against Athletic Bilbao and was then involved in a brawl against the same opposition in the 1984 Copa del Rey final that hastened his exit from the club.

It was perhaps no surprise that the pinnacle of his international career coincided with that of his club career at Napoli, for whom Maradona will forever be an icon.

After being named player of the tournament at the '86 World Cup, Maradona inspired Napoli to their first Serie A title and triumph in the Coppa Italia. UEFA Cup glory followed in 1989 prior to a second league title a year later.

Napoli's Stadio San Paolo was the scene of glory for Argentina in a World Cup semi-final win over Italy, in which Maradona scored the ultimately decisive penalty in the shoot-out, though he could not ensure a successful title defence as West Germany prevailed in the final.

Italian football saw the best of Maradona, whom Franco Baresi described as his toughest opponent - "when he was on form, there was almost no way of stopping him," the Milan legend said.

Yet it also saw significant off-field struggles and he left Napoli after serving a 15-month ban for failing a drug test for cocaine, battling his addiction to the drug and alcohol until 2004.

He returned to Argentina by signing for Newell's Old Boys after a turbulent spell with Sevilla, with his international career ended in the wake of a positive test for ephedrine doping during the 1994 World Cup that resulted in him being sent home from the United States.

Retirement came on the back of a second two-year stint at Boca, but Maradona was rarely out of the spotlight even as he fought addiction and struggles with obesity, undergoing gastric bypass surgery in 2005.

His post-playing career also saw a string of brief coaching tenures, which included him leading Argentina to the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Cup, where they were thumped 4-0 by Germany. Maradona made sure his departure was fittingly acrimonious, levelling accusations of betrayal at the national team's hierarchy.

Maradona had seemingly found some stability in his coaching career at Gimnasia y Esgrima de la Plata when he was admitted to hospital this month having recently renewed his contract through the 2020-21 season.

"We live an unforgettable story," Gimnasia posted in a tribute on Twitter.

Blessed but troubled, tempestuous yet utterly bewitching to watch. Gimnasia's words struck the right chord.

His story was undeniably unforgettable and it is telling that, despite Lionel Messi's otherworldly exploits, it is Maradona who stands as the symbol of Argentinian football for so many.

As Messi wrote of Maradona on Instagram: "He leaves us but does not leave, because Diego is eternal."

Whether it's the Hand of God or the Goal of the Century, his presentation to hordes of Napoli fans or that goal celebration at the 94 World Cup. Maradona was the artist behind so many of the game's indelible images. Football is mourning the premature passing of an all-time great, but his legacy and impact will endure for decades to come.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says Diego Maradona "set football alight and thrilled fans young and old" and confirmed his death would be marked with a minute's silence prior to all Champions League and Europa League games this week.

The Argentina great, who played for Barcelona, Napoli and Sevilla as well as Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors and Newell's Old Boys in his homeland, died aged 60 after reportedly suffering a heart attack on Wednesday.

Ceferin said: "I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of Diego Maradona, one of world football’s greatest and most iconic figures.

"I was in touch recently to wish him well, and this news comes as a considerable shock to me.

"Diego Maradona achieved greatness as a wonderful player with a genius and charisma of his own. He was a hero in his native Argentina, with whom he enjoyed World Cup glory, and became an eternal idol for the supporters of Napoli, who will never forget the successes he brought to the club during his memorable spell in Italy.

"He will go down in history as someone who set football alight and thrilled fans young and old with his brilliance and skill. I have instructed UEFA to hold a minute’s silence in memory of Diego at this week’s matches."

Sevilla defender Jules Kounde has confirmed he held talks with Pep Guardiola over a move to Manchester City and was offered "guarantees" over playing time.

Kounde played 40 times for Sevilla in his maiden campaign with the Andalusian side, including nine games in their victorious Europa League run.

The France Under-21s international's form saw him strongly linked with a move to City during the most recent transfer window but a deal failed to materialise.

Sevilla sporting director Monchi revealed in September his side had knocked back an offer from an unnamed club, less than a week before City signed Ruben Dias from Benfica for a club-record fee.

Kounde has helped Sevilla keep two clean sheets in his five LaLiga appearances this term but has admitted he was keen on a move to the Etihad Stadium.

"Yes, I spoke with Guardiola," he told Canal Football Club. "I had him on the phone, it went very well. We had a discussion, in Spanish, he has some words in French.

"I was interested in going. It was a super opportunity. I had guarantees around playing time, but it wasn't done. 

"They [Sevilla] could have said it was a very good sum and that they were not going to do any better, but it shows what they think of me, that I am a boy who works hard and who can improve, which is why they declined I think."

Kounde was overlooked for France's latest squad, not helped by a spell on the sidelines because of coronavirus, but the 22-year-old is hopeful of being part of Didier Deschamps' plans for next year's rearranged Euro 2020.

"My objective is the European Championships," he said. "That was the case last year before the tournament had to be postponed.

"It's something that drives me. It's something I'm going to fight for. It's something that is going to guide me every day."

Lionel Messi is the only number one in football as former Barcelona star Ivan Rakitic hailed the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Rakitic won 13 trophies, including four LaLiga titles and the Champions League, alongside superstar captain Messi at Barca before returning to Spanish rivals Sevilla at the start of the season.

Messi – Barca's all-time leading scorer – is regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport and Rakitic lauded the 33-year-old attacker, who has been linked with a move away from Camp Nou.

"One hundred per cent football. It doesn't matter who you are, you just have to watch and enjoy this guy. He's on another level," Rakitic told FIFA.com.

"With all respect to the other greats, there's only one number one – it's Leo. To play 311 games next to him, it was a dream.

"I enjoyed it so, so much. I just want to say this: 'Thank you for everything, Leo, because you'll never know how much it meant to me to play next to you'."

Messi's future remains an important topic at Barca after he handed in a transfer request following a tumultuous 2019-20 season.

Argentina's all-time leading scorer and captain was tipped to join Premier League powerhouse Manchester City before opting to remain in Spain, though he has since been linked to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Inter.

Messi returned to Barca to work under new head coach Ronald Koeman after failing to engineer a move away, but 2020-21 has been far from a vintage season for him.

He has scored three goals in seven LaLiga games this term, while he has six across all competitions.

Messi's minutes per-goal-rate of 195 is only good enough for 28th among players to have featured in at least five LaLiga games this season.

Barca – eighth in LaLiga and nine points off the pace – travel to Atletico Madrid on Saturday following the international break.

Messi has scored 12 goals in 17 LaLiga appearances against Atletico under Diego Simeone, more than any other player, whilst he is also the player to have scored the most LaLiga goals against goalkeeper Jan Oblak (eight goals in 11 games).

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