Borussia Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc insisted there had been "no offers at all" for reported Arsenal target Julian Brandt.

Brandt, 24, has been linked with a move to the Premier League club in January.

But Zorc said no offers had arrived for the midfielder, who is contracted at Dortmund until 2024.

"I don't want to answer any rumours that were made by the media. Now there is permanently a name [Brandt] coined that we don't even think about giving up on," he told a news conference.

"Overall, we look at many different scenarios primarily due to an economical background that is simply not the best due to the ongoing pandemic.

"But I can only repeat myself again. We have no offers at all."

Dortmund, who are fourth in the Bundesliga, visit RB Leipzig on Saturday.

Julian Nagelsmann has no intention of swapping RB Leipzig for Borussia Dortmund despite being suggested as a permanent successor to Lucien Favre. 

Leipzig boss Nagelsmann is considered one of the most promising coaches in European football and led his team to the Champions League semi-finals last season. 

The 33-year-old, who has a contract at the Red Bull Arena until 2023, has been touted as a candidate to take over Dortmund next season, with Edin Terzic having replaced Favre on an interim basis in December. 

However, Nagelsmann insists there is no need for anyone associated with Leipzig to worry about what the future holds because he intends to stay put. 

"There is no reason to be tense regarding Dortmund," Nagelsmann said ahead of a Bundesliga meeting with BVB on Saturday. 

"The situation with Dortmund has remained the same as it was during my time as Hoffenheim coach. There was and there is no match. 

"I am comfortable and I have big targets to achieve with Leipzig. As I said, there is no reason for anyone at RB Leipzig to get nervous regarding Dortmund."

Leipzig sit second in the Bundesliga table, six points ahead of fourth-placed Dortmund and two adrift of leaders Bayern Munich. 

Asked about Nagelsmann during a pre-match news conference on Thursday, BVB sporting director Michael Zorc said: "Despite his age, Julian has had a remarkable managerial career. With Hoffenheim, he was able to work sensationally well, now he's having a just as sensational season with Leipzig. 

"I believe, it is undisputed that he's a complete football expert. He always implements innovation into his coaching technique. He is always able to get his team to work well. 

"We need to try to fight against that on Saturday. We already came up against each other a few times and it's not like we had no success at all in these match-ups. 

"I see ourselves, also due to the position in the table, in the role of the hunter. We want to minimise the gap between us and to the top of the table."

Erling Haaland should follow the example of Robert Lewandowski and stay at Borussia Dortmund until he is "world class", according to Hans-Joachim Watzke. 

Striker Haaland has been a revelation since joining the Bundesliga club, scoring 16 goals in the second half of the 2019-20 season following his January arrival from Salzburg.

The Norway international has continued to be prolific during the current campaign – he has 17 goals in 15 appearances in all competitions – and, unsurprisingly, that has led to speculation he could leave in the near future.

Josep Maria Minguella, advisor to Barcelona presidential candidate Emili Rousaud, had claimed a deal was lined up to take the 20-year-old to Camp Nou if they triumph in the upcoming election. 

However, Mino Raiola – Haaland's agent – rejected the claim, and Dortmund CEO Watzke has urged the player to remain at his current club until ready for the next step.

"Erling and Mino Raiola know what they have in us. I can only advise him to do it like Robert Lewandowski," Watzke told Kicker.

Lewandowski had four successful seasons with BVB – including winning the Bundesliga title twice – before moving on to Bayern Munich in 2014, by which time he had established himself as one of the leading strikers in the game.

Watzke believes Haaland can "mature into an absolute world-class player in Dortmund", with the club aware that – eventually – the talented forward will likely want to move on elsewhere.

He added: "It is clear that if Erling should leave us at some point, he will only go to an even bigger club, so many are not considered. 

"If you go to a club like - just to name an example - Real Madrid, you have to be world class."

Haaland was injured prior to the mid-season break in Germany but was back in action on Saturday, playing 81 minutes of Dortmund's 2-0 win over Wolfsburg.

He is averaging an impressive 1.23 goals per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga this term, though that is still behind Lewandowski (1.57), who has scored 19 in 13 appearances for the reigning champions.

That works out as a goal every 57 minutes for the Poland international, whose shot conversion rate (66 per cent) is also slightly better than Haaland's mark of 59 per cent. They are the only duo to reach double figures for goals in the competition so far this season, Andre Silva and Wout Weghorst next on the list with nine.

Lionel Messi's wages are not sustainable but the superstar forward can be persuaded to stay at Barcelona with a sporting project that appeals to him, according to presidential candidate Emili Rousaud.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner was unsuccessful in his attempt to leave Camp Nou ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, but he is now free to discuss an end-of-season transfer with clubs after entering the final six months of his contract.

He was strongly tipped to reunite with former boss Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, while Inter and Paris Saint-Germain – now coached by fellow Argentinian Mauricio Pochettino – have also been linked.

But while reiterating Messi will have to take a pay cut if he is to stay on at Barca beyond this season, Rousaud has outlined his plan to tempt the one-club man to put pen to paper on fresh terms.

"He did not want to leave the club for economic reasons. It was down to the lack of a sports project," Rousaud told Sport.

"I will look him in the eyes and say: 'Your salary is unsustainable, the club cannot pay you. But we are going to launch a project to surround you with young talent'.

Despite Barca's financial concerns in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Rousaud has previously outlined his intention to bring in prolific striker Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund if he succeeds Josep Maria Bartomeu in this month's elections.

Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe is another possible target and Rousaud believes the prestige of playing for Barcelona could give the LaLiga giants an advantage in the transfer market.

"The market prices in which the players move now are not those of two years ago," he said. "In addition, Barca has something very important: a shirt that has a lot of weight in the world. But off course, we will not stretch the arm more than the sleeve.

"My advisor Josep Maria Minguella has spoken with [Haaland's agent] Mino Raiola to find out the conditions in which he would come and we have started talking. 

"For a player like him, being in a club like ours would give him a great showcase worldwide."

Rousaud has also vowed to attempt to bring Neymar back to Catalonia should he be elected, despite the Brazilian forward leaving Barca for PSG under a cloud that has since seen him embroiled in a court battle over an alleged breach of contract.

However, rather than condemning Neymar for leaving the club for a record €222million fee in 2017, Rousaud feels Barca only have themselves to blame for wasting the money on two players who have been blighted by injury problems.

"The money left by Neymar was invested in two players: [Philippe] Coutinho and [Ousmane] Dembele, who have not given the expected sporting result," he said. 

"And since they didn't work, we signed others. And since we no longer have cash, we started to get into debt.

"They say that Neymar humiliated us. I respect that opinion, but it left us €222million. If with that money we had signed Mbappe, maybe we wouldn't talk about Neymar anymore."

Jadon Sancho was once top of Manchester United 's wish list but now Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wants to move for the Borussia Dortmund star's teammate  Erling Haaland .

Solskjaer had solidified his position at United heading into the January window following a 10-match unbeaten run and the Norwegian manager is determined to recruit his countryman.

After tracking ex-Manchester City youth product Sancho before the season, United are ready to switch their attention to Haaland, with reports suggesting he has a £70million release clause.


TOP STORY – UNITED TO SWITCH ATTENTION TO HAALAND AND CASH IN ON POGBA

The Mirror report Solskjaer is so keen on Haaland, he flew to Salzburg and attempted to hijak the goalscoring sensation’s move to Dortmund last January.

Borussia Dortmund have had no contact from Arsenal over a potential move for Julian Brandt.

The Gunners are looking for midfield reinforcements in the January transfer window and reports in Germany suggest Brandt is one option.

Arsenal technical director Edu craves creativity in the centre of the pitch, with Mikel Arteta's side having fashioned just 120 chances in the Premier League this season, more only than Sheffield United, Newcastle United, Burnley and West Brom.

Brandt would appear to provide that spark, having played a key role in a Dortmund side who have forged 162 opportunities in 2020-21 to lead the Bundesliga in this regard.

The Germany midfielder has accounted 18 of those key passes, ranking third for BVB behind Raphael Guerreiro (26) and Jadon Sancho (22). Left-back Kieran Tierney, with 17 chances, is Arsenal's top creator.

If Brandt is to move this month, though, Dortmund are still waiting to hear more - according to Michael Zorc, their sporting director.

"I read that, too," Zorc said of the Arsenal rumours. "I cannot say more about that. Nobody has contacted us. There is nothing on the table yet or even in the fax machine."

Discussing the January window in general, Zorc added: "We don't have any big plans right now.

"However, my years of activity have taught me that, at the beginning of the transfer window, I don't rule out anything."

Speaking on Saturday, Zorc was also asked about the troubles of rivals Schalke, who are bottom of the Bundesliga and winless in 29 matches, just two shy of Tasmania Berlin's all-time top-flight record.

"We have our own problems, in somewhat higher realms than Schalke," the Dortmund chief said.

"Basically, I would like Schalke to stay in the league. The traditional competition in this region is good for us all. We want that for next year as well."

Zorc was appearing alongside interim head coach Edin Terzic prior to Sunday's meeting with Wolfsburg.

Terzic and Dortmund will be without 16-year-old striker Youssoufa Moukoko but can welcome back Erling Haaland following a hamstring injury.

Haaland has averaged a goal every 65.1 minutes in the Bundesliga this season yet has not played since November and will not be rushed on his return.

"Erling is known for always being hungry," Terzic said. "So, we still have to be careful, slow it down a bit. But he makes a very good impression.

"Every team in the world depends on the player who has the last touch in front of the goal. Erling is extremely important to us - and not just because of his goals.

"He was missing, of course, but we tried to make up for it. Borussia Dortmund is not just Erling Haaland."

Wolfsburg's visit will be Edin Terzic's first home game in charge of Dortmund. Bert van Marwijk, in 2004, was the last BVB coach to lose on their home bow, although that also came against Wolfsburg.

Real Madrid are reportedly close to agreeing a deal with David Alaba, while Manchester United are expecting the asking price for Jadon Sancho to drop.

Alaba, 28, is set to leave Bayern Munich with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

The defender is free to speak to other clubs, and Madrid are making their move.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID CLOSE TO ALABA SIGNING

Real Madrid are close to landing Bayern Munich defender Alaba on a four-year deal, according to Marca.

Alaba is likely to have offers from multiple clubs after establishing himself as one of Europe's leading defenders.

The Austria international has won nine Bundesliga titles and two Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies with Bayern.

 

ROUND-UP

- With Jadon Sancho yet to hit top form for Borussia Dortmund this season, Manchester United may be able to land the attacker later this year. 90min reports United believe they can land Sancho for less than £100million (€112.7m) after not meeting Dortmund's valuation of £107m (€120m) in the close season.

- Lionel Messi's future remains a major talking point. Sport reports the Barcelona star – who is out of contract at the end of the campaign – will wait until the end of the season to decide between the LaLiga giants, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and MLS.

- Real Madrid are apparently eyeing a replacement for Marcelo. AS reports the LaLiga giants are tracking Sporting CP left-back Nuno Mendes, who is also linked to Liverpool, Manchester United, Juventus and PSG.

- Liverpool are also linked with centre-backs after long-term injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, while potential exits have been mentioned. However, the Liverpool Echo reports the Premier League giants are not expecting any senior departures in January, which would mean Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi remain despite speculation over their futures.

Finally, 2020 is history - there won't be many people who aren't happy to see the back of a difficult year.

While the coronavirus pandemic shows no sign of making a swift exit, the turn of the year at least gives us the chance to look forward, and the same is true in the world of sport.

2020 saw many promising young players make the step up, some undoubtedly down to the absences caused by coronavirus or the packed schedule that the pandemic has led to.

We've picked out 21 under-21 players to keep an eye on in 2021 - and while you may already be familiar with some of them, there's good reason to give them your attention this year...

 

Illan Meslier, 20 - Leeds United

Few goalkeepers can come away from a 6-2 defeat having impressed, but Meslier did so against Manchester United recently. His eight saves prevented Leeds' crushing loss from getting even more embarrassing, while only three goalkeepers have produced more in a single Premier League match this term. His total of 63 is also the second most in the division – the France Under-21 talent, who joined on a permanent deal from Lorient last year, appears to have a big future ahead of him.

Kristoffer Klaesson, 20 - Valerenga

Goalkeepers tend to break through a little later than outfield players, but Norway youth international Klaesson has already been first-choice at Valerenga for the best part of 16 months – he only turned 20 in November. Coincidentally, he could have become a team-mate of Meslier's in 2020 as Leeds were reportedly interested, but he remains in Norway for the time being.

William Saliba, 19 - Arsenal

Saliba is certainly one of the most recognisable names on this list – after all, he has been owned by Arsenal for getting on for two years. Unfortunately, he has not been afforded much of a chance by Mikel Arteta this term, which makes him an interesting prospect to watch in 2021. Either he'll eventually get an opportunity at the Gunners, or a loan move will provide him with a crack at first-team football. After a tricky 2020, he'll want to get his career back on track.

Perr Schuurs, 21 - Ajax

Given his appearance, playing style and the fact he has come through Ajax's academy, comparisons between Schuurs and Matthijs de Ligt were to be expected. He may not reach the Juventus star's level, but he has certainly shown real promise that is reportedly interesting Liverpool. Schuurs is one of the five youngest players to have featured for at least 500 minutes in this season's Champions League, while his 47 ball recoveries was the sixth highest of any player in the group stage.

Ethan Laird, 19 - Manchester United

Aaron Wan-Bissaka was supposed to fix Man United's issues at right-back, but this season his defensive positioning has been concerning and he appears to have become even less effective in attack – his chances created and open-play crosses per 90 minutes have decreased significantly. Laird has long been considered a fine prospect at United and boasts the technical abilities to be a threat in attack. If he can stay fit, chances could be in the offing.

Tariq Lamptey, 20 - Brighton and Hove Albion

Having joined Brighton last January from Chelsea, Lamptey has quickly made a name for himself as an exciting wing-back. Last year saw the diminutive talent enjoy something of a breakthrough, but in 2021 he'll be looking to truly establish himself and potentially break into the England squad. There are few more exhilarating full-backs in the Premier League – his 3.8 dribbles per game is the third most among defenders to have featured more than twice.

Nuno Mendes, 18 - Sporting CP

Sporting have a wealth of talent coming through at the moment and left-back Mendes is arguably chief among them. Blessed with fine technical abilities, the 18-year-old is apparently a target for Man United, Liverpool and Real Madrid. Already a regular having started 10 of the Primeira Liga leaders' 11 games this term, Mendes' 10 completed dribbles is the fourth-highest among defenders in the division, while his 28 interceptions is second only to team-mate Luis Neto.

Gabriel Menino, 20 - Palmeiras

An intriguing player with a well-rounded skillset, Menino has already transitioned from centre-back to defensive midfield to right-back despite his young age. It is in the latter position where he impressed enough to earn a first Brazil call-up last year and only two players have provided more than his five assists in the 2020 Brazilian Serie A.

Moises Caicedo, 19 - Independiente del Valle

The past month or so has seen Caicedo brought to the attention of a wider audience – or, more specifically, Manchester United fans. The all-action midfielder was the teenager with the most goals (four), shots attempted (24), chances created (19), successful passes (748) and dribbles completed (23) in Ecuador's top flight in 2020, while his passing accuracy of 90.1 per cent was the highest among players to attempt 500 or more.

Billy Gilmour, 19 - Chelsea

Scottish talent Gilmour had shown real promise during his 11 Chelsea appearances last season before a knee injury in July laid him low. He returned to action last month with a few cameos off the bench, and there will be plenty hoping he can return to his previous level quickly. A loan move might be on the cards, but Frank Lampard has high hopes for the crafty midfielder.

Yunus Musah, 18 - Valencia

Valencia are going through another difficult spell, with off-field matters often overshadowing on-pitch performances. Nevertheless, in United States international Musah, they appear to have a reason for optimism. Another tricky winger, Musah's 38 dribbles is the second most among Los Che players this term and he became their youngest LaLiga goalscorer (17 years, 338 days) this century when netting back in November. He's one that got away from Arsenal.

Ander Barrenetxea, 18 - Real Sociedad

A nimble right-footed left-winger, Barrenetxea broke into La Real's senior side last season with 17 appearances in LaLiga. His eight starts this term is already an increase of five on the entirety of 2019-20 and he has been using that extra time on the pitch to excite. He has attempted 41 dribbles in LaLiga, and his 56 per cent completion rate is bettered by only seven players – all of whom are much older – among those to have tried at least 40.

Bryan Gil, 19 - Eibar (on loan from Sevilla)

If Barrenetxea embodies the modern 'inverted winger' style, then Bryan is very much a wide midfielder of the classic variety. A direct touchline-hugger, the left-winger's aim is almost always to beat his man and get a cross into the box, and he is catching the eye on loan at Eibar this term. Only five wingers in LaLiga can better Bryan's 49 open-play deliveries, though his 22.5 per cent accuracy is better than all but one of those with more cross attempts. He's also tried 44 dribbles, his 52.3 per cent completion putting him close to Barrenetxea.

Jaminton Campaz, 20 - Deportes Tolima

Campaz may not be a household name yet, but a move to Europe or one of South America's leading leagues is surely not far away. The attacker, who can play wide or through the middle, is an explosive player but also productive. No younger player had more goal involvements (five goals and four assists) and chances created (32) in Colombia's top division than Campaz.

Amad Diallo, 18 - Manchester United

Although United splashed a reported £19million on Diallo, the young Ivorian remains something of an unknown quantity. A left-footed right-winger, he has only been given a handful of opportunities in Atalanta's senior side – though he has often caught the eye with his ability on the ball. Given United's lack of options on the right flank, he might just establish himself sooner than some expect – either way, he will be one to monitor.

Pedri, 18 - Barcelona

As each week passes, more and more Pedri looks to be settling into the role as Lionel Messi's heir at Barcelona, but whether he's ready to take up such a mantle as early as this year is another matter. Messi's contract ends in June and so he could well depart – taking on his creative burden would be an unenviable task for a teenager, though Pedri is proving effective. He is creating a chance every 45 minutes on average in the league this term, the third most frequent in the squad among those to have played at least five times.

Talles Magno, 18 - Vasco da Gama

Are you really a Brazilian 'wonderkid' if you've not been linked with every major European club? Talles Magno fits the bill there and it's easy to see why there's interest. His end product still needs work, but his ability to excite is considerable – the 18-year-old has completed more than twice as many dribbles (106) as any other teenager in Brazil's Serie A between 2019 and 2020.

 

Karim Adeyemi, 18 - Salzburg

There has been a buzz around Adeyemi for a few years now as has previously impressed scouts with Germany's youth sides and during a fruitful loan spell at Liefering. Now back at Salzburg, he looks destined to be another serious talent off the club's impressive conveyor belt. Adeyemi is the only player to have been involved in four goals in a single Austrian Bundesliga this term, scoring and getting a hat-trick of assists in the 8-2 victory over St. Polten, while he set up a goal on his league debut for the club in June. A thrilling talent with great vision and dribbling abilities, Adeyemi may get even greater responsibility in 2021 following the departure of Dominik Szoboszlai.

Marcos Leonardo, 17 - Santos

It's still early days for Marcos Leonardo, though Santos clearly rate him highly – the striker's release clause is €100m. He's already the underage player with the most minutes played (296) and goals (one) in Brazil's top division this season, while he became the sixth youngest player to net in the Copa Libertadores (17y, 173d) when scoring a winner against Defensa y Justicia.

Youssoufa Moukoko, 16 - Borussia Dortmund

There's not much that hasn't already been said about Moukoko. He became the Bundesliga's youngest ever player in November when making his debut a day after his 16th birthday, before then also setting a new record for the league's youngest goalscorer in December. New coach Edin Terzic has already given him two starts – his next target will be to break records on the international stage with Germany. He couldn't get into their Euros squad, could he?

Matias Arezo, 18 - River Plate (URU)

Stocky, technically gifted and already proving decisive in front of goal with seven goal involvements (five goals, two assists) in 15 league matches, Arezo has a lot going in his favour. Whether he has the mentality or focus to not let the 'new Luis Suarez' labels distract him remains to be seen, but he's already the youngest Uruguayan (17y, 349d) to ever score a brace in the Copa Sudamericana having done so against Atletico Nacional in November.

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