Raheem Sterling has completed his move to Chelsea from Premier League rivals Manchester City, the Blues have confirmed.

The England forward moves for a reported fee in the region of £45million and is Chelsea's first major signing since Todd Boehly's consortium acquired the club.

Sterling – who had just one year remaining on his contract at the Etihad Stadium – has signed a five-year deal with Chelsea.

The 27-year-old scored 17 goals in all competitions for Pep Guardiola's team last season, a tally only bettered by Riyad Mahrez (24) and Kevin De Bruyne (19), as they conducted a successful defence of their title.

But an exit for the England star always looked possible after City signed Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, with fellow attacker Gabriel Jesus also being allowed to join a Premier League rival in Arsenal earlier this month.

Now, Sterling will link up with Thomas Tuchel's side for their pre-season tour of the United States, as they look to build on a third-placed finish last season.

"First and foremost, it's a pleasure to be here," Sterling told Chelsea's official website.

"I've obviously achieved a lot in my career so far, but there is still so much more to achieve and I'm really looking forward to doing that in a Chelsea shirt, under Thomas's management.

"London is my home and where it all started for me, and it's amazing I now have the opportunity to play in front of friends and family week in, week out at Stamford Bridge. I'm really looking forward to meeting the fans there soon.

"I do want to take the opportunity to thank Todd, Behdad, the ownership group, Thomas, and all involved in the process of getting me here.

"I can't wait to get going now and continue to do my talking on the pitch."

Sterling's move will see him return to London, where he grew up and spent time in QPR's youth system before joining Liverpool as a 15-year-old.

The forward, a key part of the England side that reached the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and the Euro 2020 final, will hope a move to Stamford Bridge provides a guarantee of first-team football ahead of the World Cup in Qatar after he started just 23 of City's 38 league games last season.

Sterling won four Premier League titles, one FA Cup and four EFL Cups in Manchester after joining from Liverpool in 2015.

Raheem Sterling has completed his move to Chelsea from Premier League rivals Manchester City, the Blues have confirmed.

The England forward moves for a reported £45million fee and is Chelsea's first major signing since Todd Boehly's consortium acquired the club.

Sterling – who had just one year remaining on his contract at the Etihad Stadium, has signed a five-year deal with Chelsea.

The 27-year-old scored 17 goals in all competitions for Pep Guardiola's team last season, a tally only bettered by Riyad Mahrez (24) and Kevin De Bruyne (19), as they conducted a successful defence of their title.

But an exit for the England star always looked possible after City signed Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, with fellow attacker Gabriel Jesus also being allowed to join a Premier League rival in Arsenal earlier this month.

Now, Sterling will link up with Thomas Tuchel's side for their pre-season tour of the United States, as they look to build on a third-placed finish last season.

"First and foremost, it's a pleasure to be here," Sterling told Chelsea's official website.

"I've obviously achieved a lot in my career so far, but there is still so much more to achieve and I'm really looking forward to doing that in a Chelsea shirt, under Thomas's management.

"London is my home and where it all started for me, and it's amazing I now have the opportunity to play in front of friends and family week in, week out at Stamford Bridge. I'm really looking forward to meeting the fans there soon.

"I do want to take the opportunity to thank Todd, Behdad, the ownership group, Thomas, and all involved in the process of getting me here.

"I can't wait to get going now and continue to do my talking on the pitch."

Sterling's move will see him return to London, where he grew up and spent time in QPR's youth system before joining Liverpool as a 15-year-old.

The forward, a key part of the England side that reached the 2018 World Cup semi-finals and the Euro 2020 final, will hope a move to Stamford Bridge provides a guarantee of first-team football ahead of the World Cup in Qatar after he started just 23 of City's 38 league games last season.

Sterling won four Premier League titles, one FA Cup and four EFL Cups in Manchester after joining from Liverpool in 2015.

Transfers between the Premier League's so-called 'big six' have become something of a rarity in recent years, but the trend has re-emerged with Raheem Sterling's switch to Chelsea.

The Blues confirmed on Wednesday that Sterling has moved to Stamford Bridge on a five-year contract, with Manchester City accepting a reported £45million offer for the England international.

He made at least 46 appearances in each of his seven seasons at City, yet it was claimed Pep Guardiola was unable to provide assurances over his playing time next term.

That, apparently, is what led to Sterling seeking an exit, and Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea appear a fine fit stylistically.

With that in mind, it's a deal that will perplex many, given how important Sterling has been for City over the course of his stay in Manchester.

On top of that, City appear to be strengthening a team who would regard themselves direct rivals of the Premier League champions.

Sterling hasn't depreciated this significantly since Brexit, with City taking a sizeable risk wilfully offloading such a player.

A transformed talent

It would be fair to suggest Sterling has been a little inconsistent over the past two years, with his respective goals hauls of 14 and 17 across all competitions a bit of a drop-off.

Yet both of those are respectable figures and only serve to highlight just how good Sterling – very much approaching his peak at 27 years old – can be in the right context.

After modest returns in his first two years at the club, Sterling hit 20-plus goals in three successive campaigns, including 31 in 52 games in the 2019-20 season.

 

With Chelsea allowing Romelu Lukaku to return to Inter and the underwhelming Timo Werner seemingly available for transfer, the Blues are crying out for a dependable source of goals. Sterling could be that player.

While Guardiola's management style may be what's made Sterling look for pastures new, it was also the Catalan's coaching that helped transform Sterling into the player he is now.

As mentioned, Sterling was nowhere near as decisive at Liverpool or in his first two years at City as he has been over the past five years. Of course, part of that can be explained simply by development and progression. After all, he was 20 when he left the Reds.

 

But Guardiola's coaching, and how he has utilised Sterling, shouldn't be glossed over. Since he became City coach in 2016, Sterling has scored 27 Premier League goals from inside the six-yard box, which is five more than anyone else (Harry Kane, 22).

He knows how to be in the right place at the right time, and that requires supreme intelligence.

No one-trick pony

The fact Sterling's been able to make himself such a goalmouth threat despite not being regarded as an out-and-out striker is impressive, and it speaks to his well-roundedness as an attacker.

Under Guardiola, he's essentially averaged a goal every other game (one every 179 minutes) in the Premier League, with his haul of 85 bettered by only five players since the start of the 2016-17 season.

 

But his creativity shouldn't be ignored. Over the same period, he has laid on 296 chances for team-mates. That sees him ranked 10th overall in the Premier League.

Additionally, only three players have a better expected assists (xA) record than Sterling (34) since August 2017 (when Opta started collecting the data), and two of those are regular set-piece takers.

Sterling's strengths don't begin and end there, though. 

He's quick, strong despite his size, a leader and clearly very experienced. On his last Premier League appearance for City, he was aged 27 years and 165 days – only four players have had more Premier League goal involvements at that age than Sterling.

 

Just 11 players in Premier League history have reached 200 goal involvements, and he's already only 35 off that. In fact, he's potentially just one very good season from reaching the milestone.

Of course, it shouldn't be just blindly accepted that Sterling will be an incredible signing for Chelsea. They've had their fair share of expensive flops over the years, with Lukaku the most recent – few expected him to have such a minimal impact.

But Sterling's tremendous arsenal of attributes may give him greater scope to be influential. Maybe he won't create as much, but he could still be a primary goal threat, and he also appears to be a good fit for the kind of high-tempo football Tuchel likes to play. 

The over-riding feeling is that Sterling's sale suggests a degree of underappreciation for him, particularly given City aren't selling him for anything more than they paid seven years ago.

Chelsea, on the other hand, appear to be getting a bargain.

Raheem Sterling says he leaves Manchester City "as a man" as he bid farewell to the club ahead of his transfer to Chelsea.

Sterling is set to end his seven-year association with City and join Premier League rivals Chelsea in a reported £50m move.

The former Liverpool forward is said to have flown out to Los Angeles to complete the transfer and link up with Chelsea's pre-season tour.

Sterling won four Premier League titles, the FA Cup and four EFL Cups during his time at the club.

He also developed into one of the most dynamic attacking threats in European football under Pep Guardiola, scoring 85 Premier League goals since the former Barcelona boss took over as manager in 2016.

The England international will look to have a similar impact for Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea but made clear his affection for City in a post on Twitter on Wednesday.

He wrote: "To the coaching staff who have played a massive role in my development over the years, to my team-mates who have become more than just those I share a pitch with, to the backroom staff, to the office staff, to the fans who have tirelessly supported the team, and to everyone involved with Manchester City my respect for you couldn't be greater. What a ride it's been.

"I am thankful for the ups and the downs. as it's the downs that have, at times, tested my strength and resolve and enabled me to stand here in front of you as the best possible version of myself.

"I arrived in Manchester a 20-year-old, today I leave as a man. Thank you for your endless support. It's been an honour to wear the shirt of Manchester City."

Barcelona have confirmed they have agreed a deal with Leeds United to sign Raphinha.

The deal is reportedly worth up to €67million (£56.57m). Raphinha's move is subject to a medical being completed.

Chelsea and Arsenal were both heavily linked with the former Sporting CP attacker, with the Blues striking a deal with Leeds in late June to bring the winger to Stamford Bridge.

However, reports suggested that Raphinha was prioritising a move to Barca, with Blaugrana president Joan Laporta announcing "he wants to come".

 

Xavi's side are contending with well-documented financial issues, with Laporta revealing new signings Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen could only be registered after salary adjustments. 

But Barca have seemingly made further alterations to secure the services of Raphinha, who is set to sign a five-year deal.

Raphinha scored 11 times in the Premier League for Leeds in his last season, after netting six goals in the 2020-21 season following his arrival from Rennes.

That marked his best return in front of goal since he struck 15 times in the 2017-18 campaign Portuguese side Vitoria Guimaraes.

Indeed, since making his Leeds debut, he has directly contributed to 29 Premier League goals, scoring 17 times and managing 12 assists, at least five more than any team-mates in the period.

Xavi will hope Raphinha can continue his scoring form when Barca open their LaLiga campaign at home to Rayo Vallecano on August 13.

Cristiano Ronaldo's future at Manchester United remains unclear after stepping away from their pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia.

The 37-year-old Portuguese has reportedly told United he wants to leave this off-season, although new boss Erik ten Hag said the Portuguese is in their plans for the upcoming campaign.

Ronaldo is one season into a two-year deal at Old Trafford, having re-joined United in August last year.

TOP STORY – RONALDO OFFERED TO PSG IN MESSI LINK-UP

Le Parisien claims that Manchester United's Ronaldo has been offered to French champions Paris Saint-Germain by his agent Jorge Mendes.

PSG, however, were not interested in the 37-year-old as they felt he was not the right fit and would put strain on their bulging wage bill, headlined by Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Mendes has also held talks with Bayern Munich and Chelsea as he seeks a move away from Old Trafford for Ronaldo.

ROUND-UP

–  Chelsea are homing in on a €40 million (£34m) deal for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly with the two parties in talks on a five-year deal, claims Sky Sport Italia. The Blues are looking for defensive reinforcements after Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger's departures.

–  Manchester United are closing in on a deal for Ajax's Lisandro Martinez with negotiations entering key stages reports Fabrizio Romano. The two clubs will meet on Wednesday, with Ajax having turned down United's previous approach, but the Argentinian is keen to move to the Premier League.

– The Telegraph claims that Newcastle United have held discussions with Real Sociedad about a deal for Swedish striker Alexander Isak with the fee believed to be a club record.

Barcelona have agreed to a five-year deal with Raphinha, with the move from Leeds United worth €67m (£55m) according to Fabrizio Romano.

– Marca reports that Real Madrid will beat Barcelona to the signature of 17-year-old Algeciras winger Alvaro Leiva.

Sanctions placed on Roman Abramovich as a consequence of Russia's invasion of Ukraine plunged Chelsea into uncertainty earlier this year, but an ownership change has seen a degree of stability return.

Despite the departures of Romelu Lukaku, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen this off-season, Todd Boehly's consortium has allowed Chelsea to resume with their preparations for the new season.

And it appears they are close to clinching their first signing of the new era, with a transfer for one of the Premier League's best attackers seemingly imminent.

 

TOP STORY – RAHEEM STERLING SET FOR CHELSEA

Chelsea have reached a deal with Manchester City to sign Raheem Sterling, according to David Ornstein of the Athletic.

The 27-year-old is set to sign a contract until 2027 with the option of an extra season, signalling the first major signing under new ownership.

Starting his senior career with Liverpool, Sterling moved to City in 2015, scoring 131 times in 339 appearances for them in all competitions.

The England international's status under Pep Guardiola became less secure in the past season however, with Phil Foden and Jack Grealish seeing increased time on the left wing.
 

ROUND-UP

– Meanwhile, Barcelona have matched Chelsea's offer of €70.1million (£60m) plus add-ons for Leeds United's Raphinha, Goal is reporting.

– Frenkie de Jong is hoping to remain at Barcelona and will reject an approach from Manchester United, per Sport.

– Bayern Munich have met with the representatives of Matthijs de Ligt, but Juventus are yet to receive an opening bid, according to Fabrizio Romano.

– Brighton and Hove Albion are in talks with Marc Cucurella over an improved deal amid interest from Manchester City, the Athletic reports.

It may feel like men's football has hardly been away, but Europe's top leagues are already into pre-season, meaning it promises to be a busy few weeks as teams ramp up preparations for the 2022-23 campaign.

Of course, pre-season is a little more compact this year because of the first ever mid-season World Cup, which is due to begin in November.

The World Cup's place in the calendar means the domestic season is starting earlier and finishing later than usual.

You can expect plenty of noteworthy games before the end of July. They may not mean a great deal in the grand scheme, but these games can offer a degree of intrigue, whether bitter rivals are facing each other or new signings are beginning their integration.

Below, Stats Perform has identified some notable matches that may be worth keeping tabs on before the end of the month.

Manchester United v Liverpool - July 12, 14:00 BST

Erik ten Hag's first match in charge of United will be against fierce rivals Liverpool in Bangkok on Tuesday. The Dutchman may not have made all the signings he would surely have liked before jetting out for pre-season, but seeing his new squad in action on the pitch for the first time may give him a better idea of what the club's transfer priorities should be.

RB Leipzig v Liverpool - July 21, 18:15 BST

The first of successive friendlies against 'Red Bull' clubs (they play Salzburg six days after this), and some Liverpool players will find themselves in familiar surroundings when they go to Leipzig. This should provide a good test of the Reds' fitness ahead of facing Manchester City in the Community Shield nine days later.

Bayern Munich v Manchester City - July 23, 00:00 BST

Pep Guardiola faces his former team in what will be the first ever soccer game played at the famous Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Arsenal v Chelsea - July 23, 01:00 BST

London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea are the main attractions in the Florida Cup, which confusingly is not just being played in the Sunshine State. However, the Gunners and Blues will be playing their contest in Orlando.

Tottenham v Roma - July 23, 19:15 BST

Spurs versus Jose Mourinho. Say no more.

Barcelona v Real Madrid - July 24, 04:00 BST

This Las Vegas clash will be by no means the first time Barca and Madrid have played a Clasico during pre-season. Their clashes are always worth watching, regardless of the stakes.

Bon diaaaaaaa!  pic.twitter.com/JdnE523QIs

— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) July 9, 2022

Barcelona v Juventus - July 27, 01:00 BST

After tussling with Madrid in a Clasico, Barca face another European heavyweight in Juventus at the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas, Texas.

Arsenal v Sevilla - July 30, 12:30 BST

The Emirates Cup is usually a solid option for pre-season entertainment. Arsenal's visitors this year are Julen Lopetegui's Sevilla, who finished fourth in LaLiga last season.

Real Madrid v Juventus - July 31, 03:00 BST

Having signed Angel Di Maria and seemingly being about to announce Paul Pogba's arrival, Juventus will be under pressure to pose more of a threat in Serie A and Europe next season. In that case, who better to test themselves against than Champions League winners Madrid? This game will be played at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles.

Manchester United v Rayo Vallecano - July 31, 16:00 BST

This one may buck the trend in that it is not necessarily a clash between two current European high performers, but it is noteworthy as being Ten Hag's first Old Trafford game.

Saul Niguez is eager to demonstrate his growth upon returning to Atletico Madrid after a "complicated" loan spell at Chelsea last season.

Despite racking up 24 appearances across all competitions, the midfielder endured a difficult temporary stint with the two-time Champions League winners.

Indeed, he made just five starts in the Premier League, while only completing a full 90 minutes on three occasions under Thomas Tuchel.

Nevertheless, Saul insists that his stint with the Blues was hugely beneficial experience for him – both as a player and a person.

And upon returning to his parent club, the Spain international is hoping to use those learnings to his advantage as he fights for a place in Diego Simeone's side.

"I'm looking forward to coming back home and I'm mentally at my best," Saul told the club's official website.

"I know that I come from a loan period in which I haven't had many minutes, and that I have to work hard, persevere and make a lot of sacrifice to get a place in the team.

"There is a very high level of competition; we have an enormously competitive team. 

"I can only be grateful to all the people at Chelsea for their trust and to my team-mates for making the year so easy for me and helping me, and to Atleti for making it easier. 

"I come with a lot of humility, thinking about working and helping the team in whatever way I can and from wherever I can. 

"I really want to show that, despite having had a complicated year, it has been very good for me to improve and grow in many aspects, both sporting and personal."

Chelsea are looking to swoop in and scoop up Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who has been Manchester United's primary midfield target since the appointment of new boss Erik ten Hag.

De Jong, 25, has 44 international caps for the Netherlands, and has spent the past three seasons with the Spanish giants.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has been adamant the club does not want to part ways with the star they paid €75million for back in 2019, but the club's financial position may force their hand.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA LOOK TO STEAL UNITED TARGET WITH CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ALLURE

De Jong is reportedly been hesitant about a move to United due to the fact that they could not offer Champions League football, and that is where Chelsea will have their advantage in negotiations.

The Metro is reporting the Stamford Bridge club are preparing an offer that will include both players and cash, with €60million as well as Spanish duo Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso said to be on the table.

The elephant in the room regarding a De Jong move is that Barcelona reportedly owe the Dutchman £17m in deferred wages, and the Daily Mail claims he wants the balance fully paid before he signs off on any transfer.

 

ROUND-UP

United have been told they will need to pay £106m in order to secure the signings of Ajax duo Lisandro Martinez and Antony, according to the Daily Record.

– According to i Sport, Chelsea are working on a new contract extension for Reece James, despite three years still remaining on his current deal, in an effort to fend off interest from Manchester City and Real Madrid.

– The Daily Mail is reporting Wolves will send 19-year-old Fabio Silva on a season-long loan to Anderlecht after purchasing him for £35m two years ago.

– The Mirror claims Leeds United are preparing a club-record offer of £32m for 21-year-old Club Brugge midfielder Charles De Ketelaere, who already has eight senior international caps for Belgium.

– According to Fabrizio Romano, the likely departure of Raheem Sterling has put City in a position to offer Riyad Mahrez a contract extension.

Jesse Marsch has revealed Raphinha is showing "urgency" in trying to secure a move away from Leeds United, and could miss the club's upcoming pre-season tour of Australia amid links to Barcelona.

Raphinha has become the subject of a high-profile transfer tussle since helping Leeds secure Premier League safety on the final day of last season, with Barca, Chelsea and Arsenal touted as possible destinations.

Chelsea appeared set to secure the tricky wideman's signature after reportedly agreeing to a deal worth over £60million last week, but that move has stalled amid Raphinha's apparent desire to join Barca.

Blaugrana president Joan Laporta is certain of Raphinha's intention to move to Camp Nou, announcing on Saturday: "He wants to come".

Raphinha returned for pre-season training with Marsch's side on Thursday, but did not feature in their 4-0 friendly win over Blackpool in York, after which the American said the winger's presence on their upcoming tour – which begins on Sunday – was uncertain.

 

"My guess is… I don't know [if he will travel]," Marsch said. "We just have to wait and see what happens in the next couple of days.

"There's urgency from his end, I think, to come up with a solution. We have to in the next couple of days see how things stand and see how we go.

"It hasn't been an easy time for him this summer. Things have come and gone and there have been a lot of little discussions. Right now he's our player.

"He showed up today and trained with everybody, he had such a good attitude. We had a very open and honest conversation about while he's here, he's part of us, and then we'll see what happens. It's still a long way to go in the transfer window.

"I know he has hopes and dreams. I know he loves this team and this club and he loves being here. We'll see how things progress day by day."

Leeds secured the signing of Feyenoord winger Luis Sinisterra for a reported fee of £21.3million (€25m) on Thursday, in a sign the Yorkshire club could be planning for life without the Brazilian.

But Barcelona must overcome their financial difficulties in order to strike a deal for Raphinha, with Laporta acknowledging this week that salary adjustments were necessary in order for the Blaugrana to register new signings Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen. 

Andreas Christensen hopes he is not the only defender to leave Chelsea for Barcelona this close season, with Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso both appearing to be targets for the Catalan club.

Christensen was presented as a Barca player on Thursday after departing Stamford Bridge at the end of his contract.

Spain internationals Azpilicueta and Alonso have been linked to the Camp Nou giants, too, and Christensen revealed he had discussed the move with both players.

"I spoke to them and told them I was going to Barca," he said in a news conference. "They are great friends, and hopefully I can play with them.

"I haven't met my team-mates here yet, who have a lot of quality, but I do want to play with [Azpilicueta and Alonso] again next season."

Barca sporting advisor Jordi Cruyff was also asked about the Blues pair and said: "It is true that the change of ownership at Chelsea delays everything a bit.

"We want to reinforce several positions of the team, and we have several names on the table.

"What has struck me the most is that all the players open their eyes when they hear the name of Barca and are willing to lose money to adapt to the salary scale.

"We are proud to see how people are willing to lose money to come to this club. The new wage structure must be fair and stable.

"We don't want to talk about names, because they have a contract with their clubs, but it is true that we are looking to reinforce positions that we consider fundamental."

With his departure from Manchester United on the horizon, Paul Pogba had been free to discuss his future with other clubs since January.

Failing to ever really match his then world-record price tag with performances on the pitch, the World Cup winner's next destination always seemed limited to a few options.

Reports suggest a return to Serie A and Juventus is imminent.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA SET FOR FOUR-YEAR DEAL AT JUVENTUS

Paul Pogba is expected to complete medical in Turin this weekend to open the path for a free transfer to Juventus, according to Sky Sports.

Leaving Manchester United at the end of June upon the expiry of his contract, the move to Juve would see him return to the club where he spent four years and established his reputation.

Upon completion of his medical, the 29-year-old is reportedly set to sign a four-year deal with the club.

This comes after Pogba turned down what was reported to be a 3.5 per cent increase on his wages at Manchester United.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich have reached a verbal agreement with Juve's Matthijs de Ligt amid interest from Chelsea, according to Sport1.

- Tottenham are keen on signing Villarreal's Pau Torres despite the impending arrival of Clement Lenglet, the Mirror is reporting.

- Newcastle United are willing to meet Bayer Leverkusen's asking price for Moussa Diaby, per the Telegraph.

- New Paris Saint-Germain boss Christophe Galtier hopes Neymar can stay at the club amid speculation over his future, The Sun is reporting.

Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo wants to leave Manchester United and is willing to make some allowances to secure the move.

Reports of Ronaldo's transfer request emerged over the weekend, although United are said to be holding firm in their desire to keep the superstar.

That has not stopped the rumours around a potential destination for the Portugal great, though, and he is doing all he can to get the move he wants.

TOP STORY – RONALDO WILLING TO TAKE PAY CUT

The Independent reports Ronaldo is willing to take a "considerable" pay cut in order to move to a Champions League contender.

The forward's desire to win another European crown was widely cited as key to his decision to push for a departure from United, and the report suggests the player is hopeful a reduced salary could entice leading clubs.

Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, who employ great rival Lionel Messi, are listed as potential suitors.

The Athletic also again reports Chelsea's interest following talk of a meeting between Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes and new Stamford Bridge owner Todd Boehly earlier in the close-season.

The Sun says Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel is reluctant to agree to such a transfer, though, while AS claims Mendes has also met with Barcelona president Joan Laporta.

ROUND-UP

– Corriere dello Sport claims Bayern Munich are looking to bring in Napoli striker Victor Osimhen for a fee in the vicinity of €100million if Robert Lewandowski is to leave.

– According to Fabrizio Romano, Tottenham have agreed to sign 27-year-old Barcelona centre-back Clement Lenglet for a fee of £17.2m.

– The Sun is reporting Arsenal have made a £47m bid for 27-year-old Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.

– After loaning Romelu Lukaku to Inter, Chelsea are also weighing up a potential loan move for Hakim Ziyech to Milan, according to The Athletic.

– The Mirror claims United representatives have met with Ajax to discuss a £39.6m offer for defender Lisandro Martinez.

"He wants to come."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta did not mince his words when speaking about the possibility of the Blaugrana signing Raphinha.

Last week, Chelsea struck a deal with Leeds United – reported to be worth around £55million with add-ons taking the total fee to more than £60m – to take the Brazil winger from Elland Road to Stamford Bridge.

That agreement seemingly saw Chelsea pip London rivals Arsenal to the post after a high-profile pursuit.

Yet a deal that seemed set for a swift resolution has, as of yet, not been completed, and that is because, if Laporta is to be believed, the 25-year-old is prioritising a switch not to Stamford Bridge, but Camp Nou.

Barca have been consistently linked to Raphinha, who has established himself as one of the most exciting attackers in the Premier League since his move to Leeds from Rennes in September 2020.

Yet Laporta acknowledged that, despite Raphinha's wish to join Barca – whose financial issues make matching Chelsea's offer to Leeds problematic – the race is not won.

"We've spoken to Leeds, I don't think they will be offended," he explained. "We have communication and we have spoken personally. 

"What happens is that there are other clubs that want Raphinha and they are making their proposals."

At this stage, it does seem to be a two-horse race. Previously, with Barca's interest having seemed to have cooled, Arsenal looked well set to beat their rivals Tottenham to the winger, but it was then Chelsea who stole a march.

Bayern Munich have been credited with an interest in the past, but Sadio Mane's switch to Bavaria has ruled the German champions out.

But just why has Raphinha, a somewhat under-the-radar arrival in Yorkshire under two years ago, been so coveted?
 

Brazilian stardust meets street fighter spirit

Brazil. The home of the Copacabana, festivals and beautiful football. Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Pele, Kaka, Neymar, Zico, Socrates... the list of world-class talent produced by the South American nation is endless. They are five-time world champions for a reason.

But while Brazilian flair remains in abundance, the most recent success stories when it comes to the players that have struck gold, in the Premier League at least, have been those who have merged that national talent with steel, grit and robustness perhaps more associated with the likes of Argentina, Uruguay or the northern European nations.

Raphinha fits that bill, and like Premier League-based compatriots Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison, always seemed set to move for pastures new this off-season.

His talent cannot be doubted. Since making his Leeds debut, he has directly contributed to 29 Premier League goals, scoring 17 times and providing 12 assists, at least five more than any team-mates in the period.

 

The variety of his strikes has also been hugely impressive, with seven of his league goals for Leeds coming from outside the area. Only one player – Southampton captain James Ward-Prowse – can boast a better total (nine) in the same time frame.

Raphinha's 11 league goals last season marked his best performance since the 15 he netted in the 2017-18 campaign, when he played for Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal. He did not score as freely for Sporting CP, and only managed seven goals during his sole full season with Rennes in France.

Leeds' system, particularly under former manager Marcelo Bielsa and even still under Jesse Marsch, is physically demanding.

Raphinha, however, proved more than up to the task. Indeed, last season, he was a standout performer when it came to both targeted off-ball runs into the final third, and the number of sprints made per 90 minutes. 

A tireless runner, Raphinha offers both sides of the game.

He compares competitively when stacked up against Tottenham new boy Richarlison, one of the hardest working wide players in the Premier League across his time with Everton and a player that Raphinha competes with for a place in the Brazil side.

Raphinha's duel success rate of 42.6 per cent falls just short of Richarlison's 43.4 per cent, since the winger's league debut for Leeds on October 19, 2020, while the pair have won the same number of tackles (42), albeit Richarlison's success percentage of 59.7 compared to Raphinha's 54.1 puts him ahead in that regard.

Nevertheless, whichever club gets Raphinha is buying not just attacking output, but defensive steel.
 

Top-class creativity 

As mentioned, Raphinha's attacking output is up there with the best the Premier League has had to offer in recent seasons, especially when Leeds' struggles last season are taken into account.

Only four forwards have created more goals in the competition than Raphinha since his Premier League debut, and just one – Tottenham star Son Heung-min (131) – has created more chances in total than his tally of 129.

Of those opportunities, 85 came from open play, ranking him third in the division's attackers behind Mane (93) and Mohamed Salah (101), with his 22 big chances trailing only Salah and Harry Kane (both 26).

 

Raphinha has attempted 286 dribbles, the third-highest total in the league behind Adama Traore and Allan Saint-Maximin, though his success rate (41.3) trails some way behind that duo.

Four forwards had more than Raphinha's 155 shots, though his conversion rate of just under 11 per cent shows an area of improvement if he is to succeed at one of Europe's elite clubs.
 

World Cup hopes

It was in Portugal, not his homeland, that Raphinha made his name, but ahead of Qatar 2022, he seems a shoo-in to make Tite's squad.

He has won nine caps since his first selection in October last year, when he assisted twice on just his second appearance in a 3-1 win over Venezuela before scoring twice on his full debut in a 4-1 rout of Uruguay. Raphinha's third international strike came in a 4-0 defeat of Paraguay.

While a place on the plane to Qatar should be secured, barring injury, Raphinha will be determined to ensure he is fighting for a place in Tite's starting XI.

Brazil's coach has plenty of options to choose from for both flanks; the aforementioned Richarlison and Jesus can play central or wide, while Real Madrid star Vinicius Junior is surely a certainty to start on the left. Ajax's Antony, Madrid's Rodrygo and Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli and Everton, now back in Brazil with Flamengo, are all likely to be in that fight, too. 

Should he get his move to either London or Barcelona, Raphinha will get the opportunity to show Tite he truly can perform on the biggest stage.

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