Is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer running out of time at Old Trafford?

Manchester United are already five points off the pace in the Premier League and pressure is mounting.

United, though, are believed to be firmly in favour of sticking with their manager.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER WANTED AT THE WHEEL

Manchester United are still backing under-fire manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to Fabrizio Romano.

United slumped to a 4-2 Premier League defeat to Leicester City at the weekend, which has left the Red Devils with just two wins from their past seven games across all competitions.

As pressure mounts on Solskjaer, United still reportedly have faith in the Norwegian amid links with the likes of Antonio Conte, Zinedine Zidane and Erik ten Hag.

 

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- Calciomercato reports Serie A champions Inter are ready to battle Arsenal for Madrid forward Luka Jovic. The Serbia international has struggled for form and fitness in the Spanish capital.

PSG want to swap Mauro Icardi for Barcelona's Sergio Aguero, claims El Nacional. The reports says Lionel Messi wants to reunite with countryman Aguero, who left Manchester City for Barca, only for Messi to join PSG.

- Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni, Borussia Dortmund's Axel Witsel, Denis Zakaria of Borussia Monchengladbach and Ajax's Ryan Gravenberch are among Juventus' transfer targets as they look to add options in midfield, per Tuttosport. Tchouameni has also been linked with Chelsea, Manchester United, Madrid, Liverpool and Manchester City, while Roma have been eyeing Zakaria.

Real Madrid's pursuit of Paris Saint-Germain's 22-year-old forward Kylian Mbappe has been widely observed.

Los Blancos could not prise the France striker away from PSG during the last transfer window but may be ready to enter the market in a major way next year.

Carlo Ancelotti took over as Madrid head coach in June and is beginning to build his side.

 

TOP STORY –   REAL CONFIDENT OF HUGE DOUBLE SIGNING

The Sun reports that Real Madrid are confident of signing both Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe next year.

The report claims securing Pogba's signature would help Los Blancos clinch a deal for the Paris Saint-Germain star who is a France team-mate.

Pogba is out of contract with Manchester United at the end of this season, while Mbappe has stalled on an extension with PSG and appears set to exit.

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- Madrid are also interested in signing Italy international Federico Chiesa from Juventus, reports Fichajes.

- Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Tottenham are keen on Fiorentina's Serbian forward Dusan Vlahovic, but Mundo Deportivo reports La Viola have set a €70million (£59m) asking price for him.

- Roma are willing to offload Everton target Gonzalo Villar in the January transfer window in order to raise funds to move for Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria, claims Tuttomercatoweb.

- Liverpool are leading the race to sign highly sought-after Belgian talent Jeremy Doku who is currently with Rennes, reports RTL.

- Sky Sports reports that Atletico Madrid are eager to complete new deals for Jan Oblak and Thomas Lemar, with talks under way.

- Tottenham's Ryan Sessegnon could be offered a fresh start by Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, according to Takvim.

Dusan Vlahovic decision not to extend his Fiorentina contract is set to spark a bidding war.

Fiorentina had been hopeful of re-signing their star forward.

Now, Europe's elite are reportedly queuing up to sign the Serbia international.

 

TOP STORY – VLAHOVIC EYEING JUVE MOVE

Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic is dreaming of a move to Juventus, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

Vlahovic's future is a hot topic after Fiorentina announced the Serbia international will not re-sign in Florence.

Contracted to Fiorentina until 2023, Vlahovic has been tipped to make the move to Juve like former Viola team-mate Federico Chiesa, while Manchester City, Tottenham, Atletico Madrid, Inter and Arsenal have also been linked.

 

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- Sport says City forward Raheem Sterling is open to a loan move to Barcelona in January. Sterling has found himself out of favour under Pep Guardiola in Manchester.

Manchester United are prioritising a new right-back in January to provide competition for Aaron Wan-Bissaka, reports 90min. Rangers' Nathan Patterson and Max Aarons of Norwich City have been linked.

- It is only a matter of weeks before Lautaro Martinez extends his Inter contract, per Fabrizio Romano. Inter are also set to open talks with midfielder Marcelo Brozovic.

- Roma have re-opened talks to sign Denis Zakaria from Borussia Monchengladbach, claims Gianluca Di Marzio. Zakaria is out of contract at the end of the season, though Roma are set to try to bring in the Gladbach star in January. 

- The Daily Mail claims Tottenham are eyeing Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger. The Germany international is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked with Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Juve, Real Madrid and Atletico.

Milan are monitoring Salzburg trio Luka Sucic, Brenden Aaronson and Maurtis Kjaergaard, according to Calciomercato.

Could a Premier League switch be on the cards for Kingsley Coman?

Coman is reportedly disgruntled at Bayern Munich amid talks over a new contract.

Liverpool and Chelsea are believed to be ready to pounce.

 

TOP STORY – COMAN WANTED IN ENGLAND

Premier League giants Liverpool and Chelsea are monitoring Bayern Munich star Kingsley Coman, according to The Mirror.

Coman is contracted to Bundesliga champions Bayern until 2023 but the Frenchman has been previously linked with Manchester United.

The 25-year-old is tipped to leave Bayern as clubs reportedly queue up.

 

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- Mundo Deportivo says Barcelona are dreaming of signing RB Leipzig's Dani Olmo, Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and United midfielder Paul Pogba, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Haaland has been linked with United, Bayern, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Liverpool, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain. Pogba is also reportedly wanted by PSG, Madrid and Juve.

Paulo Dybala is close to signing a new contract at Serie A giants Juventus, reports TyC Sports.

- Tuttomercatoweb claims Roma are trying to prise Denis Zakaria from Borussia Monchengladbach.

- Jaime Ojeda claims Bayern are among the teams interested in United States and Dallas sensation Ricardo Pepi.

Could Jurgen Klopp and Robert Lewandowski be set to work together again?

The pair enjoyed a successful partnership at Borussia Dortmund.

Now, Klopp is reportedly trying to lure the Bayern Munich forward to Liverpool.

 

TOP STORY – KLOPP WANTS LEWANDOWSKI REUNION

Liverpool are targeting Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski, according to Fichajes.

Lewandowski worked with Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund before joining Bundesliga rivals Bayern in 2014.

There has been talk Lewandowski could be ready for a new challenge amid links to Real Madrid and Manchester City, though Klopp is reportedly determined to reunite with the Poland international.

 

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- Bild claims Dortmund have identified Chelsea forward Timo Werner as a possible option to replace Erling Haaland. Club are queueing up to sign Haaland, with City, Manchester United, Bayern, Liverpool, Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain all reportedly interested. Should Haaland leave Dortmund, the Bundesliga outfit reportedly see former RB Leipzig star Werner as a potential successor.

- Fabrizio Romano says Inter forward Lautaro Martinez is nearing a contract extension at San Siro. He has reportedly turned down offers from Tottenham and Atletico Madrid.

Bayern, Inter, Real Madrid and Tottenham are interested in Borussia Monchengladbach defender Matthias Ginter, reports Calciomercato.

Chelsea are looking to sign Jorginho, N'Golo Kante, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen to new contracts, according to Romano.

Borussia Dortmund's England international Jude Bellingham has been in Germany more than 12 months.

He has regularly been linked with moves back to England, having impressed in the Bundesliga.

Liverpool had a quiet transfer period, with only French defender Ibrahima Konate signed.

TOP STORY - LIVERPOOL TO LAUNCH RECORD BELLINGHAM DEAL

Liverpool will launch a record £80million (€93m) deal to secure central midfielder Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund claims the Daily Star.

The report says the England international is Reds manager Jurgen Klopp's top transfer target.

Theproposed deal would make 18-year-old Bellingham the club's most expensive ever signing.

 

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- Real Madrid have joined Manchester United and Barcelona in the race to sign Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans according to AS. The current contract of the 24-year-old Belgium international expires in 2023.

- Leicester City's Senegal midfielder Nampalys Mendy will join Istanbul giants Galatasaray on loan before the Turkish transfer window closes, reports Foot Mercato. Mendy, who has been on international duty, will rush to Turkey to complete the deal.

- Le10Sport reports that veteran Brazilian free agent David Luiz is set to ignore options with Marseille and Salernitana and instead return to his homeland.

- Roma will make another move for Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria in January after missing out on him during the most recent transfer window reports Corriere dello Sport.

Could a Premier League return be on the cards for Leroy Sane?

Sane swapped Manchester City for Bayern Munich in 2020, however, it has not gone according to plan in his native Germany.

Chelsea are reportedly trying to lure Sane back to England.

 

TOP STORY – SANE TO MAKE ENGLAND RETURN?

Chelsea are keen to sign Leroy Sane from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, according to the Express.

Sane left Manchester City for Bayern in 2020 but the Germany international has struggled for form in Munich.

Champions League holders Chelsea – led by German boss Thomas Tuchel – are reportedly targeting Sane and are willing to include Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech or Christian Pulisic in any deal.

 

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Manchester United could target Inter midfielder Marcelo Brozovic in January, per Manchester Evening News. Brozovic is nearing the end of his Inter contract, with Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona also among the Croatia international's admirers. The report has also linked United with Barca's Pedri and Borussia Monchengladbach forward Dennis Zakaria, who has been previously linked to City and Inter.

Liverpool are continuing contract talks with star Mohamed Salah, says the Liverpool Echo, which claims Salah is not asking for £500,000 per week, despite previous reports. Salah has been linked with Real Madrid and Barcelona previously.

Franck Ribery is set to join Serie A newcomers Salernitana on a free transfer, according to Fabrizio Romano. The former Bayern and France star has been without a club since leaving Fiorentina at the end of 2020-21.

- Corriere dello Sport claims Roma are hoping to sign Zenit star Sardar Azmoun on a free transfer at the end of the season.

- The front page of Monday's Tuttosport claims Inter are eyeing soon-to-be free agents Lorenzo Insigne of Napoli and Bayern midfielder Corentin Tolisso. Insigne has previously been linked with Milan and Liverpool, while the likes of United, Arsenal, Tottenham and Roma have been credited with interest in Tolisso.

- Calciomercato reports Inter are considering Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana as a long-term replacement for Samir Handanovic.

Borussia Monchengladbach are reluctant on selling Inter target Marcus Thuram, but sporting director Max Eberl fears they may have to do so with a "heavy heart".

Thuram has reportedly emerged as one of Inter's main candidates to partner new signing Edin Dzeko, following the departure of talisman Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea.

Atalanta striker Duvan Zapata was initially the man new head coach Simone Inzaghi was chasing, though his focus has changed to the France international after being priced out of a deal for the Colombian.

Eberl is concerned that, with no Champions League football on offer this term, the Bundesliga side may lose the 24-year-old to the Italian champions.

"I can't exclude anything until the transfer window shuts, so it's all speculation so far," Eberl told reporters in Germany.

"The fact is we would be extremely reluctant to lose Marcus, so we'd do it with a heavy heart."

Since Thuram arrived from Guingamp in 2019, only five players have played more than his 80 outings for Gladbach.

In the same period, only Alassane Plea (32), Florian Neuhaus (21) and Lars Stindl (21) have created more 'big' chances, defined by Opta, than Thuram's 20, while no player has recorded as many as his 78 shots on target.

Thuram has netted 25 goals – a feat only bettered by Stindl's 29 – and provided 13 assists, meaning he is joint-second with Plea for direct goal involvements, again behind Stindl (45).

 

While the forward has returned impressively in front of goal, he is known as more of a winger at Borussia-Park. He leads the charts for attempted dribbles by a long way with 266, completing just over half of those – Breel Embolo in second with 199.

Eberl said: "Marcus can score even more goals than he did last season.

"He has incredible potential, power and dynamism, so Thuram can do much more. Doing it at Gladbach is certainly a good move for him."

Kylian Mbappe's future continues to dominate headlines.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward is out of contract at the end of 2021-22 and no closer to re-signing in the French capital.

Real Madrid are reportedly holding onto hope of securing his services before the end of the transfer window.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID STILL DREAMING OF MBAPPE

Real Madrid have not given up on signing Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, according to the front page of Thursday's Diario AS.

Mbappe is into the final year of his PSG contract and while he has been tipped to make the move to Madrid, he has reportedly told friends he will remain in Paris.

However, LaLiga powerhouses Madrid – also linked with Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland – believe it is a strategy to secure a friendly exit from PSG.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United are interested in Monaco defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, say reporters Sacha Tavolieri and Jonathan Shrager. United have also been linked with Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, who is reportedly wanted by PSG and Madrid.

- RB Leipzig star Marcel Sabitzer is interested in a move to Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich, claims Bild.

- Goal and widespread reports say Arsenal are close to signing Martin Odegaard from Madrid. Odegaard spent six months on loan at Arsenal last season.

Duvan Zapata is Inter's priority signing, according to Calciomercato. Despite signing Edin Dzeko and Denzel Dumfries after Romelu Lukaku's, the Serie A champions are eyeing the Atlanta forward. Borussia Monchengladbach's Marcus Thuram, Joaquin Correa of Lazio, Torino forward Andrea Belotti and Wolfsburg's Wout Weghorst are other options.

- Italian journalist Sara Meini reports Manchester City are stepping up their pursuit of Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic amid their struggle to prise Harry Kane from Tottenham. Atletico Madrid and Spurs have also been linked with Vlahovic.

Juventus are nearing a deal to re-sign Miralem Pjanic from Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo. Juve, according to Di Marzio, are also listening to offers for Weston McKennie.

Manchester City's interest in signing Tottenham's Harry Kane is widely known but a deal appears no closer to materialising. 

The 28-year-old forward was absent for the two sides' Premier League game on Sunday, when Spurs took the points.

City have reportedly bid up to £125 million to sign the England international, who reportedly requested a move late last season.

TOP STORY - KANE FRUSTRATED AS SPURS REJECT CITY BID

Kane has grown frustrated with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy and thrown down the gauntlet with a proposed move to Manchester City, reports The Telegraph.

According to the report, the England forward feels that Levy has not honoured their meeting at the end of the 2019-20 season when he requested to leave Spurs if they underachieved.

Kane is also frustrated that Levy's tactics have seen fans turned against him and that the chairman is also refusing to sell or even accept calls from City.

The report claims that City have submitted a fresh £125m bid for Kane, which Spurs have turned down.

 

ROUND-UP

- El Larguero claims that Paris Saint-Germain director Leonardo has informed the players that Kylian Mbappe will stay to see out the remainder of his contract, due to expire in mid-2022, scuppering Real Madrid's hopes of signing him this month or in January.

- Samuel Umtiti, Martin Braithwaite and Miralem Pjanic are all on the chopping block at Barcelona, according to Diario AS, which claims the Catalans must sell three players this month to reduce their salary bill despite Lionel Messi's exit.

- Martin Odegaard is set to re-join Arsenal on a permanent deal from Real Madrid, says Fabrizio Romano. Talks are at their final stages with a deal until 2026.

- Tottenham are keen on Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma, reports Sky Sports. The Blues would demand a £25 million fee for the Frenchman.

- Internazionale are in talks to sign forward Marcus Thuram from Moenchengladbach, claims Sky Sport Italia.

- The Sun reports that Wolves are talking to Olympiacos about signing Portuguese defender Ruben Semedo on a one-year loan.

Robert Lewandowski acknowledged Bayern Munich made "a lot of mistakes" in Julian Nagelsmann's first Bundesliga match at the helm as the champions drew 1-1 with Borussia Monchengladbach on Friday.

Bayern were deservedly trailing after 10 minutes, as a poor start was compounded by Alassane Plea beating Manuel Neuer.

They soon sorted themselves out and eventually levelled just before half-time through Lewandowski, who tied a personal record of 11 successive goal-scoring Bundesliga appearances for the club, but Bayern were unable to add to that.

Their wastefulness was underlined by the fact that Bayern's chances had an accumulative expected goals (xG) value of 3.1, with Yann Sommer having an impressive game between the posts for the home side.

 

Sommer's eight saves – a single-match figure that was only bettered six times across all of 2020-21 – ensured Gladbach had a fighting chance in the latter stages and they were arguably denied two clear penalties as Dayot Upamecano clumsily tripped Marcus Thuram twice, and Lewandowski accepts they have lots of room for improvement.

"It's a difficult question, whether we are satisfied or not," he Sat.1. "What we played wasn't perfect football.

"We lacked speed and consistency. We could score, but Gladbach also had great opportunities. Now we have to look to the next game and prepare.

"It's not that easy to play here and the atmosphere was really great. A game like this is something special with spectators and it was always problematic for us here. We have to do a lot of things better."

 

Gladbach players and coaching staff were angered by the two contentious non-penalty calls late in the game, with Adi Hutter adamant Thuram was fouled on at least one occasion.

Referee Marco Fritz did not go to a pitchside monitor to watch a replay, which Hutter felt was "weird", but Nagelsmann thinks the situations were exaggerated by the crowd.

"I think if we have the referee and the video evidence [not calling for a penalty], it's fair," he said.

"Then, of course, the crowd also makes noise and reinforces the subjective feeling. I think there is less discussion in such scenes without a crowd."

In preventing defeat, Nagelsmann avoided becoming the first permanent Bayern coach to lose his first league game in charge since Franz Beckenbauer in 1994.

Now he will set his sights on his first silverware at the club, with Bayern set to face Borussia Dortmund in Tuesday's DFL-Supercup.

Julian Nagelsmann's reign as Bayern Munich head coach began with a 1-1 draw at Borussia Monchengladbach in the first match of the 2021-22 Bundesliga season, with Yann Sommer frustrating the champions.

Nagelsmann, who joined from RB Leipzig during the close season, will have been largely pleased with the overall dominance exerted by Bayern but they were unable to make the most of their chances.

Die Roten looked shaky at the start and were deservedly behind in the 10th minute thanks to Alassane Plea, though Robert Lewandowski – who had previously been thwarted three times by Sommer – volleyed home the equaliser to equal his longest Bundesliga scoring streak (11 matches).

More presentable chances came and went after the interval, with Sommer loving his personal duel with Lewandowski, but the best opportunity of all fell to Gladbach as Bayern were arguably fortunate take a point back to Munich.

Bayern had two lucky escapes early on as Patrick Herrmann shot wide from the edge of the box before then surging on to an exquisite Florian Neuhaus ball only to make a mess of his eventual squared pass to Lars Stindl despite having only Manuel Neuer to beat.

Stindl was picked out by Christoph Kramer, however, with the Gladbach skipper nudging his throughball past Bayern debutant Dayot Upamecano and Plea was on hand to slam past Neuer.

Lewandowski somehow failed to level in the 26th minute when shooting straight at Sommer from point-blank range, but the Pole found his range just before the break as he met Joshua Kimmich's corner with a controlled volley.

 

Bayern had firmly established dominance and that continued into the second half, with a desperate block by Sommer denying Alphonso Davies a near-certain goal and he then stuck out a foot to prevent Lewandowski getting his second of the day soon after.

But Gladbach began to create openings on the break towards the end and Marcus Thuram should have sealed the three points 13 minutes from time when he only got the faintest of touches on Stefan Lainer's pass across the face of goal.

Upamecano was then lucky to avoid conceding two late penalties for clumsy collisions with Thuram, as the spoils were ultimately shared.

Alphonso Davies is back for Bayern Munich, but Julian Nagelsmann has been hit by another injury blow ahead of his belated bow with Benjamin Pavard ruled out.

Nagelsmann will get his Bayern reign under way at Borussia Monchengladbach in the Bundesliga on Friday, having seen last week's DFB-Pokal opener against Bremer postponed due to coronavirus-related quarantine measures imposed on the lower-league side.

That time has allowed left-back Davies to recover, though, making a swift return from ankle ligament damage suffered on international duty with Canada last month.

Davies played only 23 league games last season but led all Bayern defenders in recoveries (201) and boosts a back line that will now miss Pavard due to a training-ground ankle setback of his own.

"Phonzie did quite well and made a good impression," Nagelsmann said in Thursday's pre-match news conference. "It is an advantage that he is a model athlete.

"He won't be able to play the full 90 minutes yet, but I already have in mind that he will start.

"We will see how far his legs carry him. He is definitely a candidate for the first XI. We're glad he's back.

"That [injury] with Benji is very, very annoying because he played a good pre-season. He's a player I've scheduled for his position. Now he's gone for a few weeks.

"When he comes back depends on the healing process. We don't know exactly how long.

"We have players in the squad like Bouna [Sarr], Niki [Sule] or Josip [Stanisic] who can replace him."

Pavard's absence will be particularly frustrating for Nagelsmann as he has identified the defence as an area in which Bayern must improve.

While Nagelsmann's RB Leipzig boasted the best record in the Bundesliga last term (32 goals conceded), Bayern shipped 44 goals – their most since 1995-96 (46).

It ultimately did not cost the champions as they picked up 22 points from losing positions, more than any other club, but their new coach insists this approach is not sustainable.

"This is a decisive factor that we want to improve," he said. "Nobody wants to always chase after a 0-2 deficit.

"We would do well to bring in more stability defensively. Defending always has to do with attitude."

Bayern have already made a change at the back, replacing David Alaba with Dayot Upamecano, but additional transfer activity may occur further up the field.

Nagelsmann acknowledged the Bavarian giants were currently reliant on "13 or 14 players" staying healthy, and they have been linked with Leipzig midfielder Marcel Sabitzer to add further depth.

"I know Marcel very well, I've worked with him for a long time," Nagelsmann said. "He is a very good player.

"Basically, we handle this, as in recent years, that we do not comment on rumours that are floating around anywhere in the transfer market."

Manuel Locatelli won plenty of admirers for his displays at Euro 2020.

Locatelli played a key role in Italy's tournament triumph, including two goals against Switzerland.

The former Milan midfielder has established himself with Sassuolo over the past two seasons in Serie A and is now on the radar of several leading European clubs.

 

TOP STORY - LIVERPOOL HIJACK LOCATELLI PURSUIT

Liverpool have joined Juventus and Arsenal in the race to sign Italy international Manuel Locatelli , reports 90min.

The Reds are close to making their opening bid for the Sassuolo midfielder who helped Italy win Euro 2020.

Liverpool are looking to replace Georginio Wijnaldum who has left for Paris Saint-Germain.

 

ROUND-UP

- Aston Villa have countered Manchester City's £100million bid on Friday for midfielder Jack Grealish with a club-record contact offer, reports The Daily Star. The deal is believed to be worth £200,000 per week.

- Real Madrid are set to act fast on replacing Manchester United-bound Raphael Varane, with a €60m move for Villarreal defender Pau Torres, according to El Gol Digital.

- Granit Xhaka may stay at Arsenal despite strong links with a transfer to Roma, with the Gunners strongly considering a new contract offer for the Swiss midfielder, reports The Athletic.

- Hector Bellerin is close to exiting Arsenal, with his agent flying to London for talks with the Gunners about a move to Inter, claims Calciomercato. Inter are looking to replace Achraf Hakimi who left for Paris Saint-Germain.

- Sport1 claims that Liverpool have been unable to meet Borussia Moenchengladbach's €40m (£34m) asking price for midfielder Florian Neuhaus but remain interested.

Switzerland's remarkable run to the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 has captivated fans at the grounds and at home.

Still, there is only one member of Vladimir Petkovic's squad who consistently has his own song belted out in stands and living rooms.

Striker Breel Embolo epitomises the 'golden generation' of Swiss players to have emerged in the last decade: talented, spirited, and with a story to tell. He is captivating as a player and person, so much so that his name is sung with gusto at every international match to the tune of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. "Oh Embolo, oh Embolo..."

There's no denying his popularity, but where Embolo has so far fallen short is in matching early expectations. He made his Basel debut in March 2014 and scored minutes after coming on as a substitute in his first Swiss Super League match. Links with clubs including Manchester United began to emerge as he earned a spot as the youngest Swiss player at Euro 2016 – a squad packed with talent, despite being sourced from a country roughly half the size of French Guiana with a population of around a million fewer people than Hungary.

A big move to the Bundesliga with Schalke followed, but serious injuries held him back in Gelsenkirchen as he missed the best part of 21 months of action. Matters improved after a switch to Borussia Monchengladbach in 2019, although his progress has been disrupted by some off-field indiscretions including a six-figure fine and one-game ban after he was accused by police of fleeing over rooftops after a raid on an illegal party in January this year (Embolo denied he attended the party).

His ability, though, has never been in question, even as other Switzerland players have attained greater continental acclaim. As Urs Fischer, Basel head coach in 2015, said: "I've coached Josip Drmic and Admir Mehmedi, and with Ricardo Rodriguez you could already see in the Under-15s that he was going to have a huge career.

"Ricci also had this carefreeness and calmness, only with Breel it seems to me that it's all a step higher. And he did it in a way where I have to say: very strong!"

'Strong' is certainly the word to describe his performances at Euro 2020.

 

Embolo scored his first tournament goal for Switzerland in their opening draw with Wales, a game Robert Page's men would likely admit was one they should have lost. Embolo should really have been the match-winner: he attempted at least twice as many shots (six) as anyone else in the contest, goalkeeper Danny Ward denied him another two goals, and a VAR review intervened after he set up what looked to have been the decisive third goal.

Switzerland have since scored six more goals, three against Turkey and three in that amazing last-16 tie with France, and Embolo has neither scored nor assisted any of them. And yet, his attacking influence cannot be dismissed. After all, this is a player who scored five times in 31 Bundesliga games last season, who has averaged a goal every 243 minutes in 107 games for Schalke and Gladbach in Germany's top flight, but was summed up as follows by former Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel: "He's a player who runs enough up front for three. That means we don't expect a goal a game from him."

Prior to the quarter-finals, only two players – Kylian Mbappe (25) and Joakim Maehle (23) – had attempted more dribbles than Embolo (21) at Euro 2020. Seven of those take-ons were in the opposition box, the most of anyone at the tournament. He has had 30 touches of the ball in the opponents' box in four games, a figure bettered only by Alvaro Morata (32) and Mbappe (35). That sort of dynamism on the ball has proved key for a side who have averaged 52 per cent of the ball in their matches, the 11th-highest figure of all 24 teams.

 

What we have also seen is a supreme contribution off the ball, one that perhaps is at odds with a player sometimes seen showing more spirited antics off the pitch than on it. His combined total of 41 duels won and recoveries at Euro 2020 was the highest tally among forward players over the first four rounds of fixtures. It is precisely that mixture of hard work and direct running that could be critical to their chances against Spain, who are expected to dominate possession and persist with a high defensive line.

This tournament has looked like being a watershed moment for Embolo: a showcase not just of his ability, but his commitment to the cause and, at just 24, his leadership. Keep that going against Spain, and it will really be worth singing about.

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