Rafael Leao has plenty of admirers, having scored three goals in six Serie A appearances for Milan this term.

The 23-year-old provided an assist for Portugal's first goal in Saturday's 4-0 win in the Czech Republic.

The forward was voted the Serie A Most Valuable Player last season as the Rossoneri won the Scudetto.


TOP STORY – MILAN EAGER TO EXTEND RAFAEL LEAO DEAL

Milan have put forward an offer to tie down Manchester City and Chelsea target Rafael Leao on a new contract, reports Calciomercato.

The report claims that the Rossoneri are willing to increase his salary beyond the €2million he currently receives, up to €6.5m, as they look to fend off rival interest.

Milan understand that it may be difficult to convince the Portuguese to stay at the San Siro, although he is contracted until 2024.


ROUND-UP 

Barcelona will cut their losses with Antoine Griezmann on a deal to sell him back to Atletico Madrid, according to Mundo Deportivo. The initial agreement included a purchase clause of €35-40m but Atletico have avoided triggering that, creating a stand-off. The Blaugrana are now prepared to lower their asking price with Atletico set to offer €25m in January.

– The Mirror claims Atletico are considering a move to sign Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez as Jan Oblak's successor, with the Slovenian out of contract at the end of this season.

– The race for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham's signature continues, with The Sun claiming Manchester City are confident they will beat Liverpool and Manchester United to him. It is understood Dortmund are willing to sell the 19-year-old for £83m.

– Manchester United are weighing up whether to move to extend goalkeeper David de Gea's contract another year, reports the Sunday Telegraph. The Spaniard is out of contract at the end of this season.

Barcelona have confirmed Ronald Araujo suffered a thigh injury while on international duty with Uruguay, adding to the Blaugrana's defensive problems after Jules Kounde sustained a hamstring injury.

Araujo was substituted just five minutes into Uruguay's 1-0 friendly loss to Iran in Austria on Friday, having pulled up less than a minute into the match. 

Earlier on Friday, the French Football Federation announced Jules Kounde was to leave Didier Deschamps' squad after being replaced during their Nations League win over Austria on Thursday.

Barcelona have now revealed the nature of the duo's injuries, with Araujo suffering an avulsion fracture in his right thigh and Kounde having a biceps femoris injury in his left hamstring.

A statement from the Blaugrana did not specify a timeframe for the return of either defender, but reports in Spain have suggested both could be out of action for around a month.

Losing both Araujo and Kounde for any significant period of time would be a major blow for Xavi, who has made the pair defensive mainstays in his new-look team.

Araujo has started all six of Barca's fixtures in LaLiga this season, while Kounde – who has filled in at right-back since his move from Sevilla – has recorded two assists in three league outings for the Catalan giants.

Jules Kounde and Mike Maignan have withdrawn from France's squad for their trip to Denmark after sustaining injuries, leading Didier Deschamps to call up Rennes' Steve Mandanda.

Goals from Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud ensured France picked up the first win of their Nations League campaign against Austria on Thursday, but their injury crisis worsened at the Stade de France.

Deschamps' team were already without Karim Benzema, Kingsley Coman, N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and others for their final Nations League fixtures, and Juventus midfielder Pogba is a doubt for the World Cup after undergoing knee surgery.

They were further depleted when Barcelona new boy Kounde was withdrawn after 23 minutes against Austria, and it has now been revealed Maignan was in pain before his own half-time exit.

A statement issued by the French Football Federation on Friday read: "Mike Maignan had to give up his place to Alphonse Areola at half-time in France-Austria on Thursday evening at the Stade de France, due to pain felt in the left calf.

"The Milan goalkeeper will not be able to play against Denmark on Sunday in Copenhagen. To replace him, Didier Deschamps called on Steve Mandanda. 

"Maignan will leave the group during the day, as will Jules Kounde, who is suffering from a left hamstring injury. Both players will take exams in the morning before being released to their club.

"Kounde will not be replaced in the group that will arrive in Copenhagen on Saturday."

Mandanda has won 34 senior caps since making his France debut in 2008, and was part of the squad which won the 2018 World Cup in Russia. 

France could still be relegated from the top tier of the Nations League and cannot progress to the competition's finals, with Croatia and Denmark locked in a battle for top spot in Group A1.

Ronald Koeman claimed an attempted move to bring Georginio Wijnaldum to Barcelona fell through after president Joan Laporta delayed a deal.

The Dutchman, who was fired by the LaLiga outfit last October after 14 months in charge at Camp Nou, struggled at times on the Barcelona bench and was replaced by Xavi.

Koeman, who will embark on a second spell as Netherlands head coach after the World Cup in Qatar, has confirmed he attempted to bring in compatriot Wijnaldum during the final transfer window of his Barcelona tenure.

However, Koeman contends that president Laporta, then recently returned to the position as Josep Maria Bartomeu's successor, stymied any move by dragging his heels.

"I tried to sign Wijnaldum for Barca, but I failed because the president wanted to play with me more than bring in a player," Koeman told Dutch newspaper AD.

"That delayed the operation, and for that reason, he opted for PSG. Otherwise, he would have played for Barcelona."

Wijnaldum left Liverpool in June 2021 to join Paris Saint-Germain, but he struggled across a dismal first season, resulting in him being loaned out to Roma for the current campaign.

A serious leg injury has since left Wijnaldum sidelined, however, making it highly unlikely he will be included in the Netherlands' squad for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Arguably the most in-demand teenager in world football, Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham reportedly has Real Madrid as his preferred destination.

Bellingham, who only turned 19 in June, has already racked up 68 Bundesliga appearances and 18 Champions League games since arriving from Birmingham City ahead of the 2020-21 season. He has scored in both of his Champions League games this campaign, including one against Manchester City.

While he has already been awarded 15 senior international caps for England, and is preparing for his first World Cup, Spain's El Chiringuito TV has made the shocking claim that Bellingham will shun the Premier League altogether and head to Madrid.

 

TOP STORY – SPANISH MEDIA BELIEVES BELLINGHAM HAS CHOSEN REAL MADRID

It has been strongly suggested this will be Bellingham's last season with Dortmund, with Liverpool being consistently linked through this past transfer window, and even querying to see if he would be available in January.

His status as one of England's top teenagers has guaranteed the interest of all of the Premier League's top sides, although a report from The Athletic UK claims Dortmund will hold firm at an asking price of €150million, leaving few with the capabilities to get a deal done.

One team guaranteed to have the required spending power are Spanish giants Madrid, and while his popularity in England is already locked in due to his international status, it might be a case of believing his best chance of becoming a truly transcendent star in the game is to do it at one of the traditional powerhouse clubs.

With that being said, Liverpool have been proactive in their chase of Bellingham, and both they and Manchester City boast the necessary level of worldwide fame, recent success and deep pockets to convince any budding superstar that they are the right choice.

 

ROUND-UP

– Sport is reporting Barcelona's Sergio Busquets will head to MLS and join Inter Miami at the end of the season.

– According to Calciomercato, Milan will make a move for Salzburg striker Noah Okafor in January as their forward depth has been impacted through injuries.

– Sports Today claims Juventus have been in contact with Tottenham's Antonio Conte as they weigh up potentially parting ways with Massimiliano Allegri, with Conte said to be open to the idea after this season.

Arsenal are being linked with 24-year-old Juventus midfielder Manuel Locatelli, who has reportedly not impressed Allegri since arriving from Sassuolo, according to Calciomercato.

– L'Equipe is reporting that Ousmane Dembele – who was signed for a base fee of €105m in 2017 – has a €50m release clause in his new contract that will be active at the end of the season, with Dembele set to receive half of that €50m if a deal gets done to compensate him for accepting no signing bonus.

Raphael Varane has hailed Ousmane Dembele's "extraordinary qualities" and believes the 25-year-old is finally "blossoming" at Barcelona.

Dembele has been a player reborn since Xavi took charge in November 2021, with his 17 assists in all competitions bettered only by Lionel Messi (22) and Kevin De Bruyne (21) among players in Europe's top five leagues, while his 15 LaLiga assists during that time represent a league high.

The former Borussia Dortmund man also leads Barca's charts for chances created (63), chances created from open play (52) and touches in the opposing box (126) under Xavi in LaLiga.

Dembele signed a new two-year deal with Barca in July, and Varane thinks the best is still to come from his compatriot.

"I'm very happy to see him at this level," he said. "We see him blossoming. He has extraordinary qualities.

"As a person, I always find him with the same joy of living, he brings this freshness to the group.

"He is also more calm, always quiet. He has managed to find the recipe for physical recovery, to feel better, and we are very happy.

"He had some difficult moments with some injuries that followed one another, but now we have the chance to see him having fun and enjoying himself on the field, so we are all very happy."

 

Varane also praised the impact of France team-mate Aurelien Tchouameni at his former club Real Madrid.

Tchouameni, who joined from Monaco in June for a fee that could rise to €100million, has started the season in impressive form for Carlo Ancelotti's side, and Varane believes he has the maturity to keep on getting better.

"I think we can welcome his lightning adaptation in a club like Real Madrid," the Manchester United defender said.

"I know from experience how difficult it is. He has the maturity and the qualities for it, so hats off to him. He is a very complete player. He has the ability to defend well, protect the defence, and also the ability to organise the game.

"He does not hesitate from his first selections to ask for the ball, to impose the tempo in midfield. For his young age, he is already very mature, and I wish him to stay the course, to continue like this, because what he is doing is already extraordinary."

Frenkie de Jong "always wanted to stay at Barcelona" despite heavy interest from Manchester United during the transfer window.

Netherlands international De Jong was the subject of a long-running saga, with the midfielder's former Ajax boss Erik ten Hag reportedly desperate to build his new-look United side around him. 

A move looked likely after it was suggested De Jong was owed €17million in deferred wages and had been asked to sign a new contract with a salary reduction of around 40 per cent.

The switch never materialised, though, with United instead signing Casemiro from Real Madrid in a bid to strengthen their midfield.

Speaking on international duty this week, De Jong acknowledged not everything has gone smoothly between himself and Barca, but he never thought about leaving Camp Nou.

"I always wanted to stay at Barcelona, and this is why I always remained calm in the summer," the 25-year-old said.

"I can't give too much details away. But look, the club has its own ideas, and I have my own ideas, too, and sometimes this clashes with each other. But at the end of the day, things went okay."

De Jong is part of the Netherlands squad for the upcoming Nations League matches against Poland and Belgium. 

Ousmane Dembele has revealed he told Barcelona coach Xavi he would sign a new contract with the club as far back as December.

France international Dembele looked to be heading out of Barcelona in January when acrimonious wrangling over his future led to him being ordered to find a new club.

At the time, Dembele had refused an extension to his deal, which ran through to the end of June, and Barcelona wanted to recoup some of his value rather than see him leave on a free transfer.

Despite reported interest from Paris Saint-Germain and a number of Premier League clubs, the 25-year-old signed a new two-year deal in July.

Having tallied the most assists (13) and expected assists (9.2 xA) in LaLiga last season, Dembele has recorded four league goal contributions this term (two goals, two assists).

 

The former Borussia Dortmund man is loving life at Camp Nou and revealed he told Xavi last year he would sign fresh terms with the Catalan giants.

"With Xavi's confidence, I had to stay. I remember a meeting between him and me in December, and I told him that I was going to sign my contract," he told RMC Sport.

"I feel good in the locker room, with all these young people. This whole team is developing well.

"I've always told Xavi that I wanted to stay at the club. There were negotiations and I didn't settle, but I didn't tell myself that I was going to leave the club.

"I've been here for the past five years, and it's better now because everyone is talking about football.

"I've always dreamed of playing for Barcelona. I have realised my dream, and I'm very happy."

Dembele is likely to be in action for France over the next week as Didier Deschamps' side take on Austria and Denmark in the Nations League. 

Real Madrid midfielder Marco Asensio says he "can't give an answer right now" on the possibility of making a shock move to bitter rivals Barcelona.

The Spain international, whose contract expires at the end of the season, was repeatedly linked with a move away from Santiago Bernabeu during the transfer window.

And with Asensio appearing no nearer to a new deal at Madrid, he was this week said to be a target for Catalan giants Barca.

Asked about whether he could ever see himself playing for the Blaugrana in an interview with El Partidazo de COPE, Asensio replied: "Honestly, I don't know.

"I have not thought about it or weighed it up. I can't give an answer right now."

Should Asensio sign for Barca, he would join a select group of players to turn out for Spain's two biggest clubs, including Luis Figo, Ronaldo and Samuel Eto'o.

Madrid academy graduate Marcos Alonso is the most recent example, having just joined the Camp Nou side from Chelsea. 

"[The speculation] is normal," Asensio added. "In seven months, well, from January, I am free to sign for another club. A lot more will come out.

"I had 200 messages this morning [regarding the Barcelona speculation]. I am in a world where there are a lot of rumours, I can't control that."

Asensio is yet to start a game for Madrid this season, featuring for only 48 minutes across four appearances in all competitions.

He did score against RB Leipzig in the Champions League last week but then featured only as an 86th-minute substitute in Madrid's 2-1 victory over Atletico Madrid at the weekend.

Everything appeared to be heading towards Barcelona and Ousmane Dembele parting on poor terms after a largely unsatisfactory association.

"Either he renews, or we look for an exit," Xavi said in January, fielding the latest in a series of questions about the winger.

With Dembele failing to agree to a new Barcelona contract at the start of 2022, director of football Mateu Alemany was even more forthright, declaring: "He must leave the club immediately."

Fast forward eight months, and the unpredictable attacker has emerged as a key cog in a revitalised Barca side, one tipped to compete with Real Madrid after making an unbeaten start in LaLiga.

Having been in the cold since Euro 2020, Dembele is also back in the France squad for their upcoming Nations League matches, with his sights set on claiming a spot in Didier Deschamps' party for the World Cup in Qatar.

Football loves a redemption arc, and that of Dembele in 2022 is up there with the very best in recent memory.

On the eve of his France return, Stats Perform looks at Dembele's journey from €105million flop to the creative hub of Xavi's side, asking whether a World Cup flourish is next for the winger.

Injury woes and the long shadow of Neymar

Barcelona's failings following Neymar's 2017 move to Paris Saint-Germain have been well-documented, with Dembele long viewed as the ultimate personification of the shambolic recruitment policy during Josep Maria Bartomeu's tenure.

The Blaugrana parted with an initial €105m for Dembele, who recorded 30 goal contributions (10 goals, 20 assists) and created 100 chances in his lone season with Borussia Dortmund.

That substantial fee saw Dembele, a talented yet raw 20-year-old, touted as a replacement for Neymar, a pressure that appeared to weigh heavily on the Frenchman; he needed over seven months to score his first goal in LaLiga, finally finding the net at Celta Vigo in April 2018.

While Ernesto Valverde led Barca to a domestic double in 2017-18, Dembele's own contribution was limited by a series of injury setbacks, which represented a sign of things to come.

 

Dembele made just 17 league appearances and 12 starts in his debut campaign, having been ruled out until January 2018 after suffering a serious hamstring injury within a month of his arrival.

In three of Dembele's first five campaigns at Barca, injuries ruled him out for 100 days or more. Between the beginning of 2017-18 and the end of 2020-21, meanwhile, he started just 36 per cent of the club's league games.

On the rare occasions Dembele did stay fit, meanwhile, his output was negligible in a side increasingly reliant on Lionel Messi's brilliance. Dembele's tally of 17 league goals and 14 assists in his first four seasons hardly represented value for Barcelona's mammoth investment, meaning the winger was considered ripe for a sale as the club's economic position worsened.

From contract rebel to key man: Spearheading the Xavi revival 

Even LaLiga's casual observers must have grown tired of discussions over the economic "levers" being pulled by Joan Laporta's regime. But before the sales of future TV rights and production companies, shifting Dembele was touted as a means by which to balance the books after the January arrival of Ferran Torres.

With a loan move for Adama Traore leaving Barcelona's forward line well-stocked, the message could not have been clearer; if Dembele would not agree to fresh terms, he was surplus to requirements.

But with Traore struggling on his return to Spain and Torres regularly deployed centrally, Xavi decided to utilise Dembele once the January transfer window closed. He was richly rewarded after reinstating him on the right of Barca's attack.

Since Xavi took charge in November 2021, Dembele's 17 assists in all competitions is bettered only by Messi (22) and Kevin De Bruyne (21) among players in Europe's top five leagues, while his 15 LaLiga assists during that time is a team-high.

Dembele also leads Barca's charts for chances created (63), chances created from open play (52) and touches in the opposing box (126) under Xavi in LaLiga, finally combining his menacing dribbling ability with genuine threat and creativity.

 

And Dembele's 68 dribbles completed in that time – also a team-high – show he has not sacrificed the individual skill that attracted Barcelona's attentions five years ago. 

Three months on from Dembele being booed by his own supporters during a Europa League clash with Napoli, Xavi said: "When he has not been involved, we have noticed."

The former midfield maestro was right. Barcelona won two-thirds of the league games Dembele started last season, and 47.8 per cent of those he didn't.

That impact meant Dembele's belated contract renewal, finalised in July, was received with enthusiasm by everyone at Camp Nou, with the winger subsequently going from strength to strength.

The tonic to Deschamps' blues?

If some thought the arrival of Raphinha might threaten Dembele's place in Xavi's side, he has made them eat their words at the start of the new campaign.

Having tallied the most assists (13) and expected assists (9.2 xA) in LaLiga last season, Dembele has recorded four league goal contributions since the August restart (two goals, two assists), forcing his way back into Deschamps' thoughts.

By the end of August, Dembele had been involved in more shots (15) as a consequence of ball carries than any other player in LaLiga, and his dynamic, unpredictable style may be just what Les Bleus require.

 

Dembele was used sparingly at Euro 2020, with Antoine Griezmann preferred alongside Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe as France won just once in four outings. However, it's easy to see why Dembele's ability to hug either touchline might appeal to Deschamps, offering him tactical flexibility when several other options appear compromised. 

Griezmann's lack of game-time at Atletico Madrid has been subject to much debate in recent weeks, while Kingsley Coman is out of France's latest squad through injury. Benzema's own injury scare, meanwhile, will no doubt have sharpened Deschamps' mind on the need for a plan B.

With France failing to win any of their first four Nations League games this time around, Dembele's Barcelona revival may have come at the perfect time.

Should Dembele carry his club form onto the international stage, potentially contributing to the first successful World Cup defence since Brazil's 1962 win, his 2022 will surely go down as one of football's most emphatic comebacks. 

Pedri revealed Luis Enrique's Spain view themselves among the favourites to win the upcoming World Cup in Qatar. 

La Roja have endured two disappointing World Cup campaigns since winning the trophy in 2010, being dumped out in 2014's group stage before suffering a last-16 penalty shoot-out loss to hosts Russia four years later.

However, the emergence of several young talents – including Pedri and fellow Barcelona midfielder Gavi – has enabled Luis Enrique to reintroduce a possession-based style of play Spain became renowned for under Vicente del Bosque.

With Spain set to begin their World Cup campaign against Costa Rica in just over two months' time, Pedri sees no reason why the class of 2022 cannot deliver a second World Cup win.

"Perhaps people don't expect so much from us, they don't see us as favourites, but inside we do see ourselves as favourites," he told Sport.

"We will not wear the medal without doing anything. If we work as we should, the opportunity will come.

"There is always pressure at Barca and the national team. You have to try to escape, be calm and enjoy. 

"Here and at Barca we have a team for everything. We work so that at the end of the season we can win everything we play."

Pedri, who does not turn 20 until November, has already won 12 senior international caps and established himself as a key player for Barcelona.

Now, he is setting his sights on competing for football's greatest individual honour.  

Asked whether he saw himself as a future Ballon d'Or winner, Pedri said: "I hope I have the opportunity to be, it is a very complicated prize. 

"You must be the best in the world, I have a lot to learn and improve so that this day can come.

"I worked a lot on the physical side, I still have to improve, but little by little I am adding small things. You can't put so much day by day because of the busy schedule, but you can always improve."

At club level, Pedri has struck up a fine understanding with Barcelona's new signing Robert Lewandowski, whose return of eight goals in six matches has helped Xavi's side to an unbeaten start in LaLiga. 

"It's crazy, he contributes a lot of goals, assists, he's a machine in the area," Pedri said of the Poland international.

"It is spectacular to work with him, he helps young players, those who enter now or have been there for more years. He suits us very well."

Spain face Switzerland and Portugal in their final two matches in Group A2 of the Nations League this month, having built a one-point lead over Fernando Santos' men ahead of those fixtures.

Barcelona have confirmed their board has approved an operating income budget of €1.255billion for the 2022-23 season.

LaLiga giants Barca have been battling financial difficulties over the course of several seasons, with president Joan Laporta aiming to steady the ship, though it has not stopped them spending big in the transfer market.

Though Lionel Messi left the club in 2021, Barca this year signed Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde and Raphinha for big money, while also adding Andreas Christensen, Franck Kessie, Hector Bellerin and Marcos Alonso on low-cost deals. Ousmane Dembele was handed a new contract, too.

Barca sold 25 per cent of their TV revenue for the next 25 years to private equity group Sixth Street in two separate deals in June and July, while they have also turned to streaming platform Spotify as their new stadium and shirt sponsor.

On Monday, a club statement outlined a €1.255billion budget for the 2022-23 season, as well as confirming the previous financial year's turnover of €1.017billion, €98million of which is said to have been profit.

The forecasted profit for the next financial year is much greater, at €274m.

Barca's board also decided the club's general assembly of delegate members would be held virtually on October 9. Xavi's team host Celta Vigo at Camp Nou on the same day.

In a subsequent statement, Barca announced the tender process for the project management of the redevelopment of the Gol Sur section of their stadium had been finalised, with contracts signed with Catalan companies Enginyeria i Arquitectura Torrella and Ingenieros JG.

According to Barca, the tender process for the construction work has not yet finished.

Jules Kounde opted to join Barcelona over Chelsea as he "preferred Xavi's speech" to Thomas Tuchel's.

The France international had looked set to sign for Chelsea during the most recent transfer window, only to put pen to paper on a five-year deal at Camp Nou.

Sevilla director of football Monchi suggested at the time that Barca pounced for Kounde after Chelsea had withdrawn their offer due to "having doubts".

However, in an interview with French outlet L'Equipe, Kounde insisted the decision was his own after being wooed by Barca head coach Xavi.

"First, I have come to a huge club, which has known good times and which, lately, has had less," he said.

"I come to a project that I would not call reconstruction, because we already have a competitive team, but rather, being upturned.

"I was interested in being part of this new wave, in search of titles, and to put Barca back where it has always been, among the best clubs. 

"Then there was the conversation with the coach. We talked about football. I felt a real confidence from him, that he had a real knowledge of myself, my game and my qualities.

"I spoke with Tuchel and I also felt that he wanted me to come, but I simply preferred Xavi's speech."

Chelsea have made a slow start to the 2022-23 season and recently brought an end to Tuchel's 20-month tenure.

Despite their high-profile financial issues, meanwhile, Barca have made a strong start to their campaign and are two points off LaLiga leaders Real Madrid after six matches.

Kounde was registered by Barcelona at the end of August, a month after joining, and has helped the Catalan giants to four clean sheets in his five appearances.

Indeed, the five clean sheets Barca have kept in their opening six league matches is a tally they did not reach until 21 games played last season.

And Kounde, one of two defenders alongside team-mate Alejandro Balde to have provided two assists in a single LaLiga match this term, believes he is well suited to Xavi's style.

"When I talked to Xavi he told me that my qualities correspond to his game plan, starting from the back, playing high, using my qualities of speed and anticipation," Kounde said. 

"He also wants an aggressive team – we are one of the teams that presses high.

"He saw me in this system and I too saw myself in this team that I saw make a pretty crazy rise in the table last season. 

"With Sevilla we were 15 points ahead of them in the middle of the season. Xavi arrived and I saw the changes he made and what direction he was going in. I liked it."

Manchester United have identified Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans as a key target in January, filling one of the three gaps the club reportedly believe they need to address at the next opportunity.

Tielemans, 25, has already earned 52 international caps for Belgium and fits the bill as a creative technician in the middle of the park, with Fichajes claiming United feel Christian Eriksen is their only current option for that role.

Leicester have been unwilling to part ways with one of their best players, but with his contract set to expire at the end of this season, January will be their last chance to cash-in before he can leave on a free transfer.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED EYE TIELEMANS AS THEIR NEXT MIDFIELD MAESTRO

Due to Tielemans' contract situation, United may be able to scoop him up for well under his market value, although the player himself will ultimately have all the leverage if he chooses to wait things out and become a free agent.

As well as a central midfielder, the report also includes United are aggressively hunting another right-back – particularly in the Dutch market – and a forward.

Their January budget is said to be at £70million, but if they can find a team to take Cristiano Ronaldo off their books then that number will rise to £100m.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Liverpool Echo is reporting a bidding war is set to break out between United and Liverpool over 21-year-old Flamengo midfielder Joao Gomes, who is believed to be valued at over £30m.

– According to Ole, Moises Caicedo is keen to follow former Brighton manager Graham Potter over to Chelsea

Chelsea are locking up 18-year-old midfielder Lewis Hall on a contract that will keep him tied to the club through 2025, per Football London.

Arsenal are joining Manchester City, Juventus, Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the hunt for Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Jesper Lindstrom, who Calciomercato are reporting is worth £17m.

– Transfer Tavern is reporting West Ham will make another run at Torino full-back Ola Aina in January after having their interest rebuffed the last time around.

Barcelona head coach Xavi believes "everyone is prepared" as he highlighted the importance of squad players after the 3-0 victory over 10-man Elche at Camp Nou.

Memphis Depay's strike and Robert Lewandowski's double saw Barca cruise to a fifth win in their opening six La Liga games, while adding a fourth consecutive league clean sheet.

The three points moved them top of the table ahead of Sunday's Madrid derby, and Xavi believes squad depth will be vital as Barcelona bid to land their first LaLiga title since the 2018-19 campaign.

"We are a broad squad, in which everyone trains well. Everyone is prepared and plugged in when the team needs it, and that's what's important," Xavi said.

"It's an atypical year with a tight schedule. We won't rest for a few weeks, and we need everyone. It's about making a group. Whoever plays, the team is up to the task.

"We have plenty to choose from, many options, and in the end the squads are the ones that win the titles, not the starting 11."

Two of Barcelona's best performers against LaLiga's bottom side were youngsters Alejandro Balde and Pedri, and Xavi was full of praise for the teenage pair.

"He [Pedri] is one of the best who's come through here. He understands the game, makes a difference with the pass, doesn't lose the ball. We have to take care of him," the 42-year-old Xavi said.

"They [Elche] did a lot of individual marking and Balde can generate superiority inside and out. It is surprising that an 18-year-old boy plays at that level.

"He's in great physical condition, and he's going to give us a lot."

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