England goalkeeper Tom Heaton has joined Manchester United on a two-year contract.

Heaton, who won the last of his three international caps in 2017, was available on a free transfer after his contract expired at Aston Villa.

The 35-year-old began his career at Old Trafford, graduating through the youth ranks and spending 13 years on the club's books.

He did not make a first-team appearance and embarked upon several loan spells before joining Cardiff City in 2010.

He arrived at Burnley via Bristol City, with his career taking off under Sean Dyche. Heaton played 188 league games for the Clarets and earned all his England caps while at Turf Moor.

A serious shoulder injury saw him lose his place for club and country to Nick Pope, while Heaton's injury curse struck again midway through his first season at Villa in 2019-20 when he suffered anterior crucial ligament damage.

"For me to have the opportunity to come back after spending 13 great years here as a kid, it’s an incredible feeling and I’m really, really excited to get started.

“I'm just seeing it as a fantastic opportunity as I still feel I’ve got an awful lot to give and I’ve got the bit between my teeth.

“I'm looking forward to hitting the ground running. I feel in great shape and I’m looking forward to coming in to compete with the other goalkeepers."

Heaton is likely to begin the season as third choice, with David de Gea and Dean Henderson vying for the number one spot under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after Sergio Romero's departure

Of goalkeepers to have played 100 or more Premier League games since the start of the 2013-14 season, Heaton has the seventh-best save percentage at 70.7. De Gea is fifth on the list (71.6 per cent), with Pope (73.9 per cent) top.

Kylian Mbappe has long been linked with a blockbuster move to Real Madrid.

Mbappe is out of contract at the end of next season and is yet to re-sign in Paris.

Madrid are reportedly preparing their next steps in an attempt to recruit the France international.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID STEPPING UP MBAPPE INTEREST

Real Madrid are hoping to sign Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe after Euro 2020, according to the front page of Friday's Marca.

Marca detail Madrid's timetable to prise Mbappe from PSG in the report, with Los Blancos focusing on a post-European Championship transfer.

Mbappe – also linked with Liverpool – is out of contract at the end of the 2021-22 season.

 

ROUND-UP

Cristiano Ronaldo's future remains undecided and it is blocking Juventus' plans in the transfer market, according to Tuttosport and Corriere dello Sport. Ronaldo has been linked with PSG and Manchester United as Juve eye Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli.

- The Sun claims Jack Grealish's agent expects the Aston Villa captain to join Premier League champions Manchester City. The England international has previously been linked with United, who are believed to be closing in on a deal to sign Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho.

Arsenal are nearing a deal to sign Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White, reports Goal. Brighton are demanding around £50million for the England international, who has also reportedly attracted interest from United and Liverpool.

- Sampdoria midfielder Mikkel Damsgaard is wanted by Barcelona, Milan and Tottenham, says Marca and Sport.

Milan and Inter are both looking to sign Barca goalkeeper Neto, according to Sport. Neto has served as a backup to Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

- Tuttosport reports Inter have opened negotiations with Sassuolo for Giacomo Raspadori, while the Serie A champions are also interested in Lazio's Manuel Lazzari.

The Premier League's big-money clubs are circling for Aston Villa's Jack Grealish.

The England midfielder is drawing interest from multiple suitors keen to lure him away from Villa Park.

Could a move be on the cards after the Euros? 

 

TOP STORY – BLUES WANT GREALISH

Chelsea are strong contenders to sign Jack Grealish from Aston Villa, Football Insider reports. 

The England international has also drawn interest from Manchester City, but the Blues' involvement could change the dynamic. 

Football Insider claims owner Roman Abramovich has approved the type of expenditures that would be necessary to land players like Grealish, and winning the Champions League will only loosen the reins on Chelsea's spending. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Kylian Mbappe wants to move on from Paris Saint-Germain, according to RMC Sport, which says the France international will depart on a free transfer when his contract expires next year if he does not move during this window. 

- Lionel Messi's long-anticipated new contract with Barcelona could be announced as soon as Thursday, according to Le 10 Sport. 

- If Man City are to complete a deal to land Harry Kane from Tottenham, they will need to do it without using Raheem Sterling in a swap deal. Sterling has no interested in joining Spurs as part of the reported £100million move for Kane, ESPN said. 

- Sergio Ramos plans to join PSG, AS reports, spurning interest from City and Manchester United

- Chelsea see Villarreal's Gerard Moreno as a fall-back option if they cannot sign Erling Haaland, according to Fichajes. 

- Milan are looking at Rafinha of PSG as a potential addition as Hakan Calhanoglu moves on, Calciomercato reports. 

- England defender James Tarkowski is drawing interest from Wolves and West Ham, the Telegraph reports, while the Mail says Leicester City also are eyeing the Burnley man. 

- Scott Parker is set to depart Fulham and become Bournemouth's new manager, The Athletic reports. 

European champions Chelsea and French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain have both been in hot pursuit of Achraf Hakimi.

Morocco international Hakimi, 22, helped Inter win the Serie A title.

The former Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid full-back is a star on the rise.

 

TOP STORY – HAKIMI AGREES TO CHELSEA MOVE

Chelsea appear to have won the race for Inter defender Hakimi after he "verbally agreed" to join the European champions, according to Calcio in Pillole journalist Ekrem Konur.

Konur claims Inter want £43million (€50m) and full-back Marcos Alonso from Chelsea as part of the deal.

Footmercato reports PSG will table a second bid for Hakimi worth €70m.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United have made their move for Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane with a £50m (€58m) bid for the French defender, claims the Manchester Evening News. It is alleged Madrid want £80m (€93m) for Varane.

- Roma will turn their attention to Aston Villa's Brazilian midfielder Douglas Luiz should they fail to sign Arsenal's Granit Xhaka, claims Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Football Insider reports Everton are keen to pursue Wolves defender Conor Coady.

- Wolves are weighing up a move for ex-Chelsea forward Diego Costa , who is a free agent, according to UOL.

Aston Villa have signed Ashley Young on a free transfer following the winger's exit from Inter.

Young has agreed a one-year contract at Villa Park, a decade after departing the club for Manchester United.

The former England international spent four and a half years with Villa during his previous spell and made 190 appearances in all competitions.

Villa confirmed Young's arrival on their official website on Thursday and the versatile wide player added: "It feels amazing to be back, it feels like I've not left.

"I'm just delighted to be back, seeing some old faces, being back at the training ground, seeing the facilities and how well they've grown.

"You can see how much the club has evolved since my time and I'm just ready to get down to work now."

Young featured 34 times for Scudetto winners Inter in the 2020-21 campaign, including 26 outings in their successful Serie A campaign.

He scored one goal – coming in last month's 5-1 win against Udinese – and set up four more in the Italian top flight last season.

Prior to joining Inter, Young won the Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup and Europa League with United.

The 35-year-old is Villa's second signing of the close season following the club-record capture of Emiliano Buendia last week, while it has been reported they had a bid in the region of £25million for Emile Smith Rowe rejected by Arsenal.

Aston Villa have confirmed the signing of Emiliano Buendia from Norwich City in a club-record transfer.

The Midlands club saw off competition from Arsenal to sign the 24-year-old for a fee believed to be in the region of £35million with a further £5m of add-ons also included in the deal.

Reacting to the news, Villa manager Dean Smith told the club's official website: "Emiliano has just completed an outstanding season in a Championship-winning Norwich side with 31 combined goals and assists and was named Player of the Season across the league.

"He is equally capable as a wide attacker or as a number 10 and is a great addition to our attacking options. We are delighted to have made such an exciting signing so early in the summer and look forward to Emi joining up with us for a full pre-season."

As Smith alludes to, Buendia was named Championship Player of the Year for his part in Norwich's successful promotion a year after dropping down from the top flight.

And, while £35m may sound like a significant fee for a player whose most recent campaign was in the second tier, it is easy to see why Buendia has commanded such an outlay.

Impressive despite relegation

When Norwich were relegated last year, it was a widely held belief that they had several players who were likely to stay in the Premier League by joining other teams.

While Ben Godfrey was sold for approximately £25m to Everton and Jamal Lewis moved to Newcastle United, Norwich managed to keep hold of their other major assets: Todd Cantwell, Max Aarons and, perhaps crucially, Buendia.

That they were able to resist the sale of Buendia was arguably the most surprising of all, considering he had enjoyed a promising debut campaign in the Premier League.

His ability to find and exploit pockets of space made him a real creative nuisance and something of an anomaly as well, given he – a player in a relegated team – was up there with the league's best in key creative metrics

 

Buendia created 55 shooting opportunities in open play in 2019-20, a figure that only Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Sadio Mane could better. He was level with Mohamed Salah and ahead of Roberto Firmino, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva, among others.

His seven assists, only one of which came from a set-piece situation, was another notable feat, and his 6.2 expected assists (xA) figure suggests he was not benefiting from astonishing luck throughout the season either. He was simply a very effective creator.

Learning on the job

It would have been easy to write Buendia's Premier League season off as a fluke. There must have been those expecting him to endure a disappointing 2020-21 back in the Championship, perhaps a consequence of not getting a move away.

After all, he did have a spell out of the Norwich team in 2019-20, with Norwich boss Daniel Farke suggesting there were concerns over his work rate and lack of goals.

"Believe me there is probably no-one here in this room who knows [better] how good Emi is and how big his potential is," Farke said in February 2020. "If he is just there with 95 per cent [effort] then it was definitely possible to bring him back [into the team] at Championship level and he could still make the difference.

"But at this [Premier League] level, let's be honest when he is not 100 prepared — you could realise it at Newcastle when we brought him in. Not to accuse him but our game looked poorer when we brought him in.

 

"When I think about his ability to assist, he is already there with seven. It is perhaps not world class on this level for a winger, but for our level it is top class and it is the best of all our players in these terms. Let's be honest, we've had the 26th game day and he is there with no goals. There are several losses of the ball and also sometimes he lacks running in behind."

But Buendia stuck around, seemingly accepting he still had plenty to learn, and his improvement in front of goal has been notable.

In the Premier League he averaged just 1.46 shots per game, but he has more than doubled that frequency to three every 90 minutes in the Championship, likely a consequence of the fact he has spent more time in the central areas of the pitch and closer to the penalty area.

 

As a result, his goals haul shot up from one to 15 and his xG of 11.8 shows that, while he may have been lucky on occasions, he would still have expected to reach double figures. Even if you take into consideration the drop in quality from the Premier League to the Championship, that is still a commendable improvement and highlights his willingness to take on criticism and use it to better himself.

Creating his own luck?

Buendia's even greater tendency to work centrally seemed to benefit his creative talents as well. As shown in his xA map, many of his 16 assists came from the middle vertical of the attacking half.

 

Granted, he has outperformed his 9.3 xA (open play) by approximately seven, which is significant and suggests some of those assists have benefited from particularly good finishing or a slice of fortune, yet his overall xA of 12.4 is still at least four more than any other player in the Championship this term.

Similarly, his 93 key passes in open play was – remarkably – 31 more than anyone else in the division.

 

It will be intriguing to see what role Buendia is deployed in at Villa and whether both he and Grealish are compatible in the same side. Even if they line up on opposite flanks, they will want to do much of their work in similar areas as they drift inside.

But regardless of any potential teething issues, Buendia looks set to be another smart acquisition by Villa – and potentially the one who got away for Arsenal.

Jack Grealish is taking inspiration from international team-mate Harry Kane ahead of England's Euro 2020 campaign.

Aston Villa playmaker Grealish is preparing for his first major international tournament after being selected as part of Gareth Southgate's 26-man squad.

The 25-year-old is coming off the back of an impressive Premier League campaign for Villa and is in strong contention to start England's Group D opener with Croatia.

Kane seems certain to feature from the beginning in Sunday's clash at Wembley and Grealish, who captains his club side, is hoping to continue learning from the Three Lions skipper.

"I speak to Harry a lot," Grealish said at a news conference on Wednesday. "I speak to everyone in the changing room. 

"I think it's good when you do come away with England to get different opinions off people, see what certain people do, what certain people don't do.

"But when you come away here there's no better person to look at than Harry Kane, to see the way he looks after himself and stuff like that.

"I think the main thing is you come here and you see the likes of Jordan Henderson and Harry Kane, and what they do off the field.

"Obviously what they do on it we can all see that, but what they do on the training pitch and around the place and how they look after themselves, and you sit there and you think it's no wonder why they've had the careers that they have had.

"And that's I think one of the main things that has made me mature as a player, as a person and as a captain."

Kane topped the scoring charts in Euro 2020 qualifying with 12 goals and also finished as top scorer in the Premier League in 2020-21.

That made the Tottenham striker the third player after Thierry Henry (four) and Alan Shearer to win the Golden Boot three times or more.

He also set up 14 goals to become just the second player in the Premier League era to top the charts for both goals and assists (also Andy Cole in 1993-94).

Kane was edged out by Manchester City pair Kevin De Bruyne and Ruben Dias for the two main Premier League Player of the Year awards, and Grealish believes the Spurs man deserves more recognition for his incredible campaign.

"For me, he's at the very top of his game right now," Grealish added. "I think he's had one of the best Premier League seasons I've seen. 

"I don't know how he didn't get more awards than he did, with the most goals and the most assists."

Despite missing 12 matches, Grealish was by far and away the most fouled player in the English top flight last season with 110 fouls won.

His 2.68 dribbles completed per 90 minutes was bettered by just six players to have played at least 20 times, meanwhile, with his skills on the ball and ability to win free-kicks both likely to come in handy for England at the Euros.

"I got a few kicks last week in the two friendlies," Grealish said. "But like I said after those games, if I'm doing something to help the team, I'll do that.

"You look around our team here and you see the set-piece takers here that we've got - especially Trips [Kieran Trippier]. 

"Obviously it was unfortunate that Trent [Alexander-Arnold] went home - but there's still so many people that have just got unbelievable set-piece ability here.

"So if I'm getting fouled or whatever, I'll take the hits for the team. That doesn't really bother me."

Manchester City's ambitions are showing no end after missing out on the Champions League title.

City have been linked with star England pair Harry Kane and Jack Grealish to further bolster the Premier League champions.

But the price tags on the duo from Tottenham and Aston Villa may be their stumbling blocks.

 

TOP STORY – CITY SALE TO FUND KANE AND GREALISH MOVES

Manchester City will offload several fringe players to raise £70million in order to fund their moves for Tottenham star Harry Kane and Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, claims the Daily Mail.

With Sergio Aguero departed, City manager Pep Guardiola wants a frontline striker and those surplus to requirements will reportedly be let go.

First-team players Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez all have admirers and could move on.

But also fringe talent like Yangel Herrera, Ivan Ilic, Jack Harrison, Pedro Porro and Lukas Nmecha, who have had loan spells elsewhere, could be cashed in.

Bernardo Silva has been linked with a move to Atletico Madrid in exchange for Saul Niguez, while Juventus are reportedly eyeing Gundogan.

 

ROUND-UP

Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain are both keen on Inter's Achraf Hakimi and have lodged €60m (£52m) offers, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. Inter's asking price may be higher, while Chelsea may utilise Emerson Palmieri or Andreas Christensen as part of a swap deal.

- Bild says Borussia Dortmund will sell Jadon Sancho to United if they receive a suitable offer by the end of July. Sancho has long been tipped to swap Dortmund for United.

- Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin is being linked with LaLiga champions Atletico and Real Betis by CBS Sport, while Sport have also claimed Juve are interested in the Spaniard, utilising Aaron Ramsey in a swap deal.

Liverpool are looking to replace Georginio Wijnaldum, lining up Roma skipper Lorenzo Pellegrini, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- The Sun claims West Ham are ready this month to step up their bid to sign Jesse Lingard permanently from Manchester United after his excellent loan spell.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Arsenal are set to finalise the details on a new contract for young talent Emile Smith Rowe.

Crystal Palace are closed to appointing former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo as their new manager to replace Roy Hodgson, claims The Telegraph.

Chelsea won the Champions League last month but they are not sitting still.

Thomas Tuchel is determined to strengthen his attack as he seeks to dethrone Premier League champions Manchester City in 2021-22.

Erling Haaland is reportedly Chelsea's number one target.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA WANT HAALAND

Chelsea are "working intensely" on a deal to sign Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to the Telegraph.

Haaland has been linked with Real MadridManchester CityBarcelonaParis Saint-GermainManchester UnitedJuventusLiverpoolChelsea and Bayern Munich.

Tottenham's Harry Kane and Inter forward Romelu Lukaku have emerged as options for Chelsea, though the Champions League winners appear set on Haaland.

 

ROUND-UP

PSG are poised to sign Italy international goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma on a free transfer, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. Out of contract at Milan, Donnarumma was also linked with Juve and Barca.

- The Times says United are moving closer to reaching an agreement with Dortmund for Jadon Sancho. The England international was heavily tipped to move to Old Trafford ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

City are chasing Spurs star Kane and Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, per ESPN. Pep Guardiola's side are willing to buy both if they are able to do so. Kane and Grealish have also been linked with Manchester neighbours United.

Atletico Madrid have offered Saul Niguez to City in exchange for Bernardo Silva, according to the Times. Unsettled at LaLiga champions Atletico, Saul has also reportedly caught the attention of United, Chelsea and Bayern.

- The Daily Mail claims Brighton and Hove Albion are looking to keep England international defender Ben White by demanding £50million amid interest from clubs such as United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

Milan are eyeing Chelsea trio Olivier Giroud, Fikayo Tomori and Hakim Ziyech, claims the Gazzetta dello Sport. Ziyech has also been linked with Napoli.

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Inter are hopeful of re-signing Nicolo Barella and Atletico Madrid target Lautaro Martinez by the end of the off-season.

- Juventus are interested in Roma veteran Edin Dzeko and are ready to offer a two-year deal, reports Corriere dello Sport.

Aston Villa have reached an agreement to sign Emiliano Buendia from Norwich City.

Reports over the weekend suggested Villa had a £33million offer, which could reach a total value of £40m, accepted by promoted side Norwich.

Arsenal had also pursued Buendia, but it is Villa who have confirmed they are poised to sign the Championship's Player of the Year in a deal that is a club-record signing for them and the highest ever sale for Norwich.

Villa's statement on Monday read: "Aston Villa and Norwich City have reached an agreement for the transfer of Emiliano Buendia.

"As Emiliano is currently in the Argentina national team's biosecure bubble, preparing for a World Cup qualifying match with Colombia on Tuesday evening, he will undergo a medical and complete the transfer after the game."

Playmaker Buendia, 24, played a major role in Norwich's return to the Premier League, racking up 15 goals and 16 assists in the Championship and recently earned his first Argentina call-up.

He provided seven assists the year before in a productive top-flight season, even though Norwich were ultimately relegated.

Norwich have also confirmed the transfer will go through pending a successful medical for Buendia.

Their statement read: "Norwich City can confirm that a club-record deal has been agreed with Aston Villa for the transfer of Emi Buendia.

"Buendia will complete his final medical checks following the conclusion of Argentina's World Cup qualifying fixture against Colombia on Tuesday evening.

"Final confirmation of the transfer will follow upon completion of the player's medical."

Fantastic figures

Buendia created 55 shooting opportunities in open play in the 2019-20 Premier League season, a figure that only Kevin De Bruyne, potential new team-mate Jack Grealish and Sadio Mane could better.

He was level with Mohamed Salah and ahead of Roberto Firmino, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva, among others.

His seven assists, only one of which came from a set-piece situation, was another notable feat, and his 6.2 expected assists (xA) figure suggests he wasn't benefiting from astonishing luck throughout the season either. 

 

Buendia added to his game in the Championship. In the Premier League he averaged just 1.46 shots per game, but he more than doubled that frequency to three every 90 minutes in the second tier, likely a consequence of the fact he has spent more time in the central areas of the pitch and closer to the penalty area.

As a result, his goals haul shot up from one to 15 and his xG (expected goals) of 11.8 shows that, while he may have scored more than the quality of his chances warranted, he would still have expected to reach double figures. 

Buendia had 16 assists, above his overall xA of 12.4, which was still at least four more than any other player in the Championship in 2020-21. 

Similarly, his 93 key passes in open play was – remarkably – 31 more than anyone else in the division.

 

Long gone are the days when Arsenal attracted the world's best talents, it seems, as the Gunners are reportedly set to miss out on one of their primary targets to Aston Villa.

Emi Buendia is, according to widespread reports, about to join Aston Villa from Norwich City in a deal worth in the region of £35million, a club-record purchase and sale for the two teams.

Arsenal have been linked with numerous players to fill a creative void, with Martin Odegaard and Dani Ceballos returning to Real Madrid after their respective loan spells.

Buendia had seemingly emerged as an attainable option for the Gunners, with the Argentinian – who recently received his first senior international call-up – always likely to leave Carrow Road after playing a major role in their return to the Premier League.

A creative talent capable of opening up defences with his passing and dribbling abilities, Buendia was named Championship Player of the Year for his part in Norwich's successful promotion a year after dropping down from the top flight.

While £35m may sound like a significant fee for a player whose most recent campaign was in the second tier, it is easy to see why Buendia is set to command such an outlay for Villa.

Impressive despite relegation

When Norwich were relegated last year, it was a widely held belief that they had several players who were likely to stay in the Premier League by joining other teams.

While Ben Godfrey was sold for approximately £25m to Everton and Jamal Lewis moved to Newcastle United, Norwich managed to keep hold of their other major assets: Todd Cantwell, Max Aarons and, perhaps crucially, Buendia.

That they were able to resist the sale of Buendia was arguably the most surprising of all, considering he had enjoyed a promising debut campaign in the Premier League.

His ability to find and exploit pockets of space made him a real creative nuisance and something of an anomaly as well, given he – a player in a relegated team – was up there with the league's best in key creative metrics

Buendia created 55 shooting opportunities in open play in 2019-20, a figure that only Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Sadio Mane could better. He was level with Mohamed Salah and ahead of Roberto Firmino, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva, among others.

His seven assists, only one of which came from a set-piece situation, was another notable feat, and his 6.2 expected assists (xA) figure suggests he wasn't benefiting from astonishing luck throughout the season either. He was simply a very effective creator.

Learning on the job

It would have been easy to write Buendia's Premier League season off as a fluke. There must have been those expecting him to endure a disappointing 2020-21 back in the Championship, perhaps a consequence of not getting a move away.

After all, he did have a spell out of the Norwich team in 2019-20, with Norwich boss Daniel Farke suggesting there were concerns over his work rate and lack of goals.

"Believe me there is probably no-one here in this room who knows [better] how good Emi is and how big his potential is," Farke said in February 2020. "If he is just there with 95 per cent [effort] then it was definitely possible to bring him back [into the team] at Championship level and he could still make the difference.

"But at this [Premier League] level, let's be honest when he is not 100 prepared — you could realise it at Newcastle when we brought him in. Not to accuse him but our game looked poorer when we brought him in.

"When I think about his ability to assist, he is already there with seven. It is perhaps not world class on this level for a winger, but for our level it is top class and it is the best of all our players in these terms. Let's be honest, we've had the 26th game day and he is there with no goals. There are several losses of the ball and also sometimes he lacks running in behind."

But Buendia stuck around, seemingly accepting he still had plenty to learn, and his improvement in front of goal has been notable.

In the Premier League he averaged just 1.46 shots per game, but he has more than doubled that frequency to three every 90 minutes in the Championship, likely a consequence of the fact he has spent more time in the central areas of the pitch and closer to the penalty area.

As a result, his goals haul shot up from one to 15 and his xG of 11.8 shows that, while he may have been lucky on occasions, he would still have expected to reach double figures. Even if you take into consideration the drop in quality from the Premier League to the Championship, that is still a commendable improvement and highlights his willingness to take on criticism and use it to better himself.

Creating his own luck?

Buendia's even greater tendency to work centrally seemed to benefit his creative talents as well. As shown in his xA map, many of his 16 assists came from the middle vertical of the attacking half.

Granted, he has outperformed his 9.3 xA (open play) by approximately seven, which is significant and suggests some of those assists have benefited from particularly good finishing or a slice of fortune, yet his overall xA of 12.4 is still at least four more than any other player in the Championship this term.

Similarly, his 93 key passes in open play was – remarkably – 31 more than anyone else in the division.

It will be intriguing to see what role Buendia is deployed in at Villa and whether both he and Grealish are compatible in the same side. Even if they line up on opposite flanks, they will want to do much of their work in similar areas as they drift inside.

But regardless of any potential teething issues, Buendia looks set to be another smart acquisition by Villa – and potentially the one who got away for Arsenal.

Is David de Gea's time at Manchester United coming to an end?

De Gea has spent a decade with the Red Devils but his form has been scrutinised in recent years.

A swap involving Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak could solve United's problems.

 

TOP STORY – DE GEA OUT, OBLAK IN?

Manchester United are lining up a swap deal involving star goalkeeper David de Gea and Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak, according to The Sun.

De Gea's future has been uncertain since Dean Henderson signed a long-term contract extension at United, who remain uncertain about the pair.

Spain international De Gea joined United from Atletico in 2011 and the Red Devils are prepared to offer the LaLiga giants a reunion in exchange for star Oblak.

 

ROUND-UP

- TV3 reports Barcelona have offered Lionel Messi a new contract. Messi's current deal is due to expire on June 30 and the superstar captain has been linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

Saul Niguez is adamant he wants to leave LaLiga champions Atletico and Juventus lead the race to sign the Spaniard, claims Marca. United – long-term admirers – Bayern Munich and PSG are also interested.

- PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, says the front page of Friday's Mundo Deportivo. Zidane has announced his departure. Former Inter boss Antonio Conte, Castilla coach and club great Raul and Xabi Alonso – currently in charge of Real Sociedad's reserve side – are also on the list. Pochettino has also been linked with a sensational return to Tottenham.

Barca have held talks regarding goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, according to Fabrizio Romano. Donnarumma's Milan contract is due to expire and his departure is already confirmed. After talking with agent Mino Raiola, Barca are set to decide whether to sign Donnarumma, who has also been linked with Juve and United.

- Premier League champions City are looking to smash their transfer record to bring in £100million-rated Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, reports the Daily Mail. City are also interested in Tottenham's Harry Kane – a target for rivals United, Chelsea, Madrid and Barca.

- The Telegraph says United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to sign a new three-year contract in Manchester. Solskjaer guided United to a second-placed finish in the Premier League, while the club were stunned by Villarreal in the Europa League final this season.

Barca are close to completing free transfers for Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Lyon star Memphis Depay, according to Mundo Deportivo. Ronald Koeman's men are also eyeing City's free agent pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.

- FootMercato reports PSG have made an approach for star Milan full-back Theo Hernandez.

Chelsea and Tottenham both have strong interest in Borussia Monchengladbach attacker Jonas Hofmann, claims Sport1.

Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta had his red card against Aston Villa rescinded by the Football Association on Tuesday following an appeal.

The defender was sent off for violent conduct in the final minute of Chelsea's 2-1 loss at Villa Park on Sunday after appearing to catch Jack Grealish in the face.

Azpilicueta was set to serve a three-match domestic ban at the start of next season, but that has now been overturned by the FA.

An FA statement read: "An independent regulatory commission has removed Cesar Azpilicueta's three-match suspension following a successful claim of wrongful dismissal."

Despite their final-game loss to Villa, Chelsea finished fourth in the Premier League to secure a place in next season's Champions League.

The Blues could yet win UEFA's primary club competition this season, with a huge showdown against domestic rivals Manchester City to come in Porto on Saturday.

Azpilicueta is in contention to start in that Champions League final, having appeared 42 times for Chelsea in all competitions so far this season.

The 31-year-old was this week named in Spain's squad for Euro 2020.

The Premier League race is run. A season that has seemingly been a never-ending story finally concluded on Sunday with the focus centred on the top four.

Chelsea lost but still ended up securing Champions League qualification, Liverpool won to astonishingly end an eventful campaign in third and poor Leicester City missed out after a crazy game at home to Tottenham as Harry Kane clinched the Golden Boot.

West Ham finish above Spurs in sixth to make the Europa League, while Manchester United ruined Nuno Espirito Santo's last game in charge of Wolves. There was yet another goal for Joe Willock, while David McGoldrick made sure he will no doubt be the subject of a pub quiz question in years to come.

Manchester City had clinched the title long ago, but a home game with Everton offered a chance for their returning fans to say farewell to a club legend.


Aston Villa 2-1 Chelsea: Tuchel slips up on the road as Blues lose

Thomas Tuchel's side held on to their top-four spot thanks to the result at the King Power Stadium, with the German coach able to celebrate despite suffering his first away defeat in the league since taking charge at Stamford Bridge.

Bertrand Traore scored the opener for Villa, in the process becoming the 25th different player to manage a Premier League goal against Chelsea having previously been at the Blues. Anwar El Ghazi doubled the lead with the 100th penalty scored in the competition this season, the first time a campaign has reached triple figures.

On the subject of penalties, Jorginho finished with the most goals for Chelsea in the league with seven – all from the spot. It is the lowest number for the club’s leading scorer in a top-flight season since 1974-75, when Ian Hutchinson also managed seven.

Liverpool 2-0 Crystal Palace: Mane helps Reds prosper at Anfield

Jurgen Klopp has now finished in the top four at the end of the five full seasons he has had in charge of the Reds, who handed their former boss Roy Hodgson a 2-0 defeat in his Palace swansong.

Sadio Mane got both goals, the second with the aid of a huge deflection. He has scored 10 or more in all seven of his Premier League campaigns, including his two with Southampton before moving to Anfield in June 2016.

Liverpool won their meetings with Palace by a combined 9-0 score; only against Ipswich in 2001-02 (11-0) have they enjoyed a bigger aggregate margin across two Premier League games in the same season. While he had no need to conjure up another last-gasp goal this time, Alisson Becker did manage to keep a clean sheet on his 100th league outing for Klopp's side.

Leicester City 2-4 Tottenham: Foxes run into trouble against Bale and Kane

Leicester spent 242 days in the Premier League's top four this term, only to end the final one sitting in fifth place. For a second successive year, a late loss of form has cost them a Champions League place.

A sixth defeat in 13 matches did not appear on the cards when they twice led against Spurs thanks to Jamie Vardy, who scored two penalties in a match for a third time this season. However, a Kasper Schmeichel own goal – his second in the top tier – levelled matters, with the visitors then moving clear in a frantic finish.

Gareth Bale scored twice late on in potentially his final game for Tottenham, but will Kane still be there when the transfer window shuts? The striker's 41st-minute effort lifted him to 23 for this term as he became only the third player to win the Golden Boot award as many as three times, following in the footsteps of Thierry Henry (four) and Alan Shearer (also three).

Aguero at the double, Willock matches Shearer (yes, really)

In scoring twice after coming on as a substitute, Aguero ended his City career as he had started it – with a brace off the bench (he had done just the same on debut against Swansea City, way back in August 2011). His double takes his final tally to 184 Premier League goals, in the process surpassing Wayne Rooney (183) for the most by a player for a single club.

As for Manchester United, a 2-1 triumph at Wolves sees them become just the fourth side to remain unbeaten away across an entire top-tier season, a feat most recently achieved by Arsenal in 2003-04. The current-day Gunners beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0, though still finished eighth for a second year in a row.

At Fulham, Willock was on target once more in a 2-0 win for Newcastle United. It means the on-loan Arsenal midfielder becomes only the second Newcastle player to score in seven consecutive Premier League appearances, after hall-of-famer Shearer in 1996.

West Ham secured a top-six finish for only the second time in the Premier League era thanks to a 3-0 win over a Southampton team who do not prosper on their travels – they ended up losing 10 of their 11 away fixtures in 2021, during which they leaked 33 goals and scored just seven times.

There was a win for Leeds United at home to West Brom, taking them up to 59 points – the most by a promoted club since Ipswich Town (66) in 2000-01. Sheffield United finished bottom, but at least signed off on a winning note. Striker McGoldrick grabbed the only goal against Burnley to earn his own place in history: it was the 1,000th scored in the Premier League during the 2020-21 season.

Thomas Tuchel seemed relaxed about the condition of Edouard Mendy after the goalkeeper suffered a rib injury in Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa, less then a week before the Champions League final.

Mendy was replaced by Kepa Arrizabalaga at half-time, with the Senegal international having hurt his ribs after colliding with the goal frame.

Chelsea went on to secure qualification for the Champions League regardless of their defeat to Villa, though the fitness of their first-choice goalkeeper was undoubtedly a concern with such an important game on the horizon.

Mendy joined Chelsea last year and quickly established himself as the club's primary option between the posts under Frank Lampard, before retaining his place when Tuchel came in four months ago.

The German expects a firm update on Monday but is optimistic the goalkeeper will be available to face Manchester City in Porto Saturday.

Asked how they handled Mendy's loss, Tuchel told reporters: "It is easy to handle.

"He fell into the frame of the net. He feels a big pain in his ribs. We will have an update tomorrow with what's going on.

"We will see if it is possible [for him to play on Saturday] and if it is possible, we will push to do everything so he is in goal on Saturday."

Mendy has kept 16 clean sheets in the Premier League this season, a haul bettered by only Thibaut Courtois (17), Jan Oblak (18), Ederson (19) and Mike Maignan (21) across the top five European leagues in 2020-21.

His nine clean sheets since Tuchel's appointment is only behind Maignan's 11 over the same period.

Nevertheless, his xGOT (expected goals on target) conceded does leave a little to be desired, as his 26 goals let in is from a xGOT of 22.8.

This means the average goalkeeper would have expected to only let in roughly 23 goals from the quality of chances against him, therefore suggesting Mendy can do better.

Oblak has the best record (among goalkeepers to have played 15 or more games) in this regard over Europe's top five leagues, preventing LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid from conceding 8.6 goals more than they have.

However, Kepa's form from last season still shows how much of an upgrade Mendy has been.

Kepa conceded 47 Premier League goals from an xGOT value of 34.3, which suggests he was at fault for 12.7 goals – that was the third-worst such record across the top five leagues.

The Spaniard cannot be blamed too much for Sunday's defeat, though, the only goal he conceded coming via a penalty.

However, Tuchel accepts Chelsea got lucky, with Tottenham's 4-2 win over Leicester City ultimately vital in ensuring the Blues finished fourth.

"We are lucky that Tottenham did the job for us and finished the job for us today. Like I said, we came to win and to put any doubts to the side but it was not possible," Tuchel continued.

"We are in the position, were in it, that it was possible to end in the four even with a defeat and that was possible because of the team's hard work and consistently good results.

"We need to adjust details and we need to be spot on on Saturday as we want a positive outcome."

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