Sadio Mane scored on his Bayern Munich competitive debut as the Bundesliga champions withstood a late fightback to beat RB Leipzig 5-3 in the DFL-Supercup.

Julian Nagelsmann's side lost Robert Lewandowski to Barcelona recently, but Mane – a €41million signing from Liverpool – suggested he will not have any problems filling the void left by the Poland international.

He slid home from close range in the first half to double Bayern's advantage at the Red Bull Arena after Jamal Musiala had given the Bavarian giants an early lead.

Benjamin Pavard made it 3-0 on the stroke of half-time, with Serge Gnabry adding a fourth after Marcel Halstenberg pulled one back for Leipzig. Christopher Nkunku crashed home from a penalty and Dani Olmo powered home late on as Domenico Tedesco's men rallied, before Leroy Sane hit a fifth for Bayern with the last kick of the game.

Bayern were rewarded for a bright start in the 14th minute when Musiala steered past Peter Gulacsi from 10 yards after Leipzig failed to clear a corner.

An unmarked Mane made it 2-0 in the 31st minute with a simple finish from eight yards after he had been picked out by Serge Gnabry. Bayern then appeared to put the game to bed on the stroke of half-time when Pavard slotted home from the impressive Musiala's pull-back.

Halstenberg reduced the deficit moments after Andre Silva hit the crossbar, the defender sending a looping header into Manuel Neuer's far corner.

Gnabry restored Bayern's three-goal lead in the 65th minute with a close-range strike after Gulacsi kept out Thomas Muller's initial effort. 

Nkunku scored Leipzig's second in the 77th minute with a powerful penalty after Pavard fouled Olmo, before Spain international Olmo added a third with a cool finish in the 89th minute.

Bayern had the final say, though, when Sane raced clear and slotted past Gulacsi deep into stoppage time to seal a third consecutive DFL-Supercup triumph.

With the end of one transfer saga comes the start of another. 

Robert Lewandowski has secured a long-awaited move to Barcelona, fulfilling a "dream" in the process and leaving Bayern Munich in the market for a new striker to lead their line.

But just how do you go about finding a like-for-like replacement for the most prolific marksman anywhere in the world?

One suggestion is that Bayern will make do with what they have, with Sadio Mane – a wide forward rather than a striker – having already been recruited from Liverpool this window.

While that may work, there are other potential options out there for Bayern to consider ahead of their latest title defence as they aim to win the Bundesliga for an 11th time in a row.

Here, Stats Perform takes a closer look at exactly what the Bavarian giants are losing in Lewandowski, and where they could go next.


LEWY LEADS THE WAY

Labelling Lewandowski as the best striker in European football is not hyperbolic when assessing the cold hard facts. 

The Poland international is coming off the back of a campaign that saw him register 50 goals in 46 games in all competitions, which is six goals more than the next-best Karim Benzema among players from Europe's top five leagues.

 

It is not like Lewandowski's output levels were dropping, either. The 35 league goals he registered last season are second only to the record-breaking 41 netted in the 2020-21 campaign across his 12 seasons in the German top flight with Borussia Dortmund and then Bayern.

Indeed, he has finished as the league's top scorer in each of the past five seasons, scoring 161 goals across that period, with no other player managing such a long streak in the competition's history. 


BEST OF THE REST

Put simply, Bayern surely cannot match those numbers with one player alone. If it is a pure goalscorer the German champions are after to fill the void, the aforementioned Benzema would be their best bet, the Real Madrid striker having scored 44 goals in 46 games last time out.

Persuading Madrid to let go of their focal point in attack would be nigh-on impossible, of course, likewise with Kylian Mbappe – Europe's third most prolific player in the 2021-22 season (39 goals in 46 games) – at Paris Saint-Germain.

Next on that particular list is RB Leipzig's highly-rated talent Cristopher Nkunku, who scored 35 goals in 52 matches last season and also chipped in with 16 assists. When purely weighing up goal involvements, Nkunku was only five short of Lewandowski last season, in a team with far less quality.

 

Indeed, Nkunku's 35 strikes last season came from an expected goals (xG) value of 28.23, meaning that he found the net 6.77 times more than he should have judging by the quality of the chances. Only Benzema (9.9) can better than across Europe's top five leagues.

Nkunku is not strictly a number nine, though, and his arrival – even if Bayern could tempt Leipzig into selling – would mean Julian Nagelsmann having to adapt his system in the final third of the field.


FORGET KANE... GO FOR KALAJDZIC

The likes of Timo Werner, Patrick Schick and Harry Kane are other names to have been touted as possible replacements for Lewandowski. Kane in particular would suit Bayern's system, and Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn admitted last week it would be a "dream" signing – while at the same time completely dismissing a move for wantaway Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

With another couple of years to run on Kane's contract, however, and Tottenham demanding a nine-figure sum from Manchester City this time last year, the Bavarians would have to spend big to bring in the England international.

For a club that has only once spent in excess of €40m on an attacking player – Leroy Sane from Manchester City two years ago – and having already splashed the cash to bring in Mane from Liverpool, that seems unlikely to happen.

 

There is more than goals alone to judging just how good a striker is, of course, and some players are certainly more attainable than others. Look no further than Sasa Kalajdzic, who boasts a number of qualities suited to Nagelsmann, not least his presence in the box.

At six foot and seven inches, Kalajdzic is one of the tallest players around and knows how to put that to good use, with exactly half of his 22 Bundesliga goals coming via his head.

Despite playing just 22 top-flight matches since his Stuttgart debut at the end of the 2019-20 season, those 11 headed goals are bettered only by Andre Silva (12) and – him again – Lewandowski (13), who have played 45 and 83 games in that period respectively.

Kalajdzic may have missed most of last season through injury, but six goals in 15 games for a side involved in a relegation scrap suggests he is a player with plenty of potential and, just as importantly, likely to be gettable, as Stuttgart director Sven Mislintat recently admitted given the 25-year-old is out of contract next year.

 

MANE AND GNABRY TO STEP UP?

Away from the dream options and outside picks to take over from Lewandowski, Kahn himself said last week that in Mane his side already have a ready-made replacement.

Position wise that is not technically true, of course, but there is no doubt that Mane's goals return across his six seasons with Liverpool was mightily impressive.

With 120 goals in all competitions for Liverpool, he averaged a goal every 189 minutes – exactly one every two matches. Mane also assisted 37 goals, meaning he was directly involved in a goal every 137 minutes. 

In the Premier League, only Kane (134), former team-mate Mohamed Salah (118) and Leicester City's Jamie Vardy (104) scored more goals than Mane (90) over the course of his Liverpool career.

 

Unlike with Liverpool's front three, Bayern have been used to having one focal point up top in Lewandowski.

Serge Gnabry, who recently signed a contract extension at the Allianz Arena, can also play through the middle if called upon, and has done so to good effect for the Germany national side.

If reports from the German media are to be believed, that is the route Nagelsmann will have to go down for the 2022-23 season until a big-name number nine can be recruited further down the line.

Whether it will work will be intriguing to see, with the only certainty in all this being that Bayern can no longer turn to go-to man Lewandowski in their time of need.

Christopher Nkunku insists his decision to commit to RB Leipzig is not merely delaying a move to a bigger club next year.

Nkunku signed a new deal in June, extending his contract with the Bundesliga team by two years until 2026 despite being linked with a host of Europe's biggest teams.

France international Nkunku joined Leipzig from Paris Saint-Germain in 2019 and has gone from strength to strength in Germany, netting 35 goals and adding 16 assists across all competitions last season. Of players in Europe's top five leagues, only Robert Lewandowski, Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe scored more times in the 2021-22 campaign.

The 24-year-old was a part of the Leipzig side that in May won the club's first ever DFB-Pokal, and after that cup triumph they will be aiming to challenge for Bundesliga supremacy, with Bayern Munich presently on a run of 10 consecutive league titles.

Previously linked with the likes of Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester United, Nkunku could become the subject of fresh interest should he play a starring role at the World Cup or continue to build on his excellent club form.

However, he said on Thursday: "For me, it was a given to extend my contract here. I feel right at home in this city and at this club. I still don't see my work here as finished. So I'm not thinking about leaving the club next year either.

"We did really well as a team last season, but there's still more to come. I want to continue the success with RB Leipzig."

Nkunku's individual performance earned him the Bundesliga player of the season award. He took that ahead of Bayern's Lewandowski, who scored 35 goals in the competition.

"The numbers look outstanding but in the end it was a team performance," Nkunku told reporters. "The lads helped me a lot. Without them, I wouldn't have been able to get any goals or assists.

"Together we are working to make this season even better. And I'm convinced that we can achieve something even greater."

Leipzig begin the new season with a DFL-Supercup clash against Bayern on July 30, with their Bundesliga campaign commencing away to Stuttgart on August 7.

Between the 2020-21 season and the start of last term, Leizpig lost head coach Julian Nagelsmann, while defenders Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konate went to Bayern and Liverpool respectively. Midfielder Marcel Sabitzer also headed to Bavaria early in the season.

There has been nothing nearly as dramatic this time around, so far.

"The team has hardly changed. There was no great upheaval this summer, and that's a good thing," Nkunku said.

"I can't say whether we're good enough to win the league, but we will be in the hunt and we will give it our best shot. We all want more and in the end we could achieve something really great."

Christopher Nkunku has signed a new deal with RB Leipzig, extending his deal with the club until 2026.

The two-year agreement for the France international comes amid recent reported transfer interest from a number of clubs, including Chelsea and Manchester United, but cements his immediate future to the Bundesliga side.

Signed from Paris Saint-Germain in 2019, Nkunku has excelled at Leipzig, and broke a club record last season for most goal contributions in a single season with a direct hand in 54 goals.

Nkunku was also a part of the Leipzig side that won the club's first ever DFB-Pokal last season.

Despite reported interest from elsewhere, Nkunku has committed his future to the German side and is targeting further honours.

 

"I’m pleased to continue wearing the RB Leipzig shirt. After our great achievement in winning the DFB-Pokal, it remained clear that my story here isn't over yet – we want more!" He told the club's official website.

"I was really impressed with the club's efforts to keep me, so a big thanks goes to those responsible for the trust in me and especially to [CEO] Oliver Mintzlaff, with whom I was always in close contact. 

"RB Leipzig have made a name for themselves on the international stage in recent years and have shown time and again that we can compete for titles. We want to build on that going forward and go one step further.”

Leipzig begin the new season with a DFB Supercup clash against Bayern Munich on July 30, with the new Bundesliga campaign commencing away to Stuttgart on August 6.

Manchester United must start being active in the transfer market amid links to the likes of Frenkie de Jong and Christopher Nkunku, otherwise they risk failing to rebuild under Erik ten Hag.

That is the message from United great and television pundit Gary Neville, who warned that late transfer activity will only make Ten Hag's task tougher.

Ten Hag faces a sizeable rebuilding job after inhering a United side that finished with their lowest ever points tally in the 2021-22 Premier League campaign.

The Red Devils also failed to end a league campaign with a positive goal difference (zero) for the first time since the 1989-90 season.

Paul Pogba is heading for the exit door at the end of June when his contract expires, along with Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata, as Ten Hag looks to leave his mark at Old Trafford.

Reports have linked United to numerous players, such as Nkunku, De Jong and Christian Eriksen, while Ten Hag's former Ajax players Jurrien Timber and Antony have also been floated as options.

West Ham midfielder Declan Rice and Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres may appear more far-fetched options, but Neville says United must get to business otherwise their already difficult task will become even harder.

 

"The others seem set and ready, yet United can't get moving," Neville wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

"[Ten Hag] needs his group together [as soon as possible] to mould them. Bringing them in late will only make it harder for him. [Fingers crossed] it happens soon!"

Ten Hag will hope to have a busy transfer window ahead of the first Premier League game of the 2022-23 season when United will host Brighton and Hove Albion on August 7.

It will be the Dutchman's first competitive game in charge of the Red Devils, who will play their opening top-flight match at home for a sixth straight season – the longest current run of any Premier League side.

Manchester City are looking to make a big midfield signing in this transfer window, with Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips reportedly at the top of their wish-list.

Phillips, 26, has been with Leeds his entire senior career, and excelled on the world stage when he started every game in England's run to the Euro 2020 final.

He was rewarded for his excellent international play with England's 2020-21 Senior Men's Player of the Year award, and may have the opportunity to parlay that into Champions League football at the Etihad Stadium.

 

TOP STORY – CITY SETS SIGHTS ON LEEDS' PHILLIPS

Phillips' stats of one goal and three assists in his past two Premier League campaigns do not tell the story of his impact, as he is arguably England's best defensive midfielder.

After 12 years with Leeds, Phillips has reportedly played his last game for the club, with The Sun claiming City have prepared a £60million bid.

ESPN mentions a factor working in Phillips' favour with City is that he will count as a homegrown player for Champions League purposes, and that Pep Guardiola views him as a strong fit for both the number-six and number-eight roles in his set-up.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Manchester Evening News is reporting Manchester United remain in discussions with Barcelona for Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong, but they are not willing to pay the current £85m price-tag.

Liverpool and City are both monitoring 17-year-old Barcelona midfielder Gavi, despite his release clause reportedly coming in at £85m, according to Marca.

– RB Leipzig have set a price of £100m for teams chasing Christopher Nkunku due to the Frenchman not desiring a move away this transfer period, with the Independent reporting interest remains from Arsenal, United and Paris Saint-Germain.

– According to the Telegraph, Newcastle United are moving on from Lille defender Sven Botman after the asking price was raised from £30m to £36m.

– The Telegraph is reporting that Tottenham have joined the race for Everton's Richarlison, with the asking price set at £50m.

Robert Lewandowski's transfer away from Bayern Munich is becoming an increasingly likely scenario this off-season.

Leaving Bayern for Barcelona has always been the intent for the striker, but other things need to fall into place for it to happen.

In the event the deal falls through, though, there is a reported suitor looking to take advantage.

 

TOP STORY – MANCHESTER UNITED JOIN RACE FOR LEWANDOWSKI

Manchester United will look to swoop if Lewandowski's move to Barcelona falls flat, according to The Sun.

The Poland striker has his heart set on a move to the Camp Nou, despite having a year left on his deal at Bayern.

The move to Barcelona will be dependent on the Blaugrana moving on some of their higher earners first, with Frenkie de Jong and Ousmane Dembele linked with transfers elsewhere.

The 33-year-old is still scoring with intimidating regularity, bagging 50 goals in 46 games for Bayern in all competitions last season.

ROUND-UP

Christopher Nkunku is set to sign a new contract with RB Leipzig, warding off interest from United and Chelsea, Leipziger Volkszeitung reports.

Paris Saint-Germain are insisting on a move for Inter's Milan Skriniar, although the clubs are yet to agree on a transfer fee, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Tottenham are in advanced negotiations to sign Everton and Brazil forward Richarlison, per UOL Esporte.

Paul Pogba will return to Juventus on a four-year deal following his contract expiry with United, Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting.

The end of the club season means individual awards are dominating the discourse right now in European football. Well, if you can't beat them, join them.

Rather than just run through the usual categories highlighting the best player and best coach – although we will do that, too – why not focus on some alternative prizes?

The NBA Awards provide a fine blueprint, rewarding superstars alongside breakout performers, recovering veterans and valuable bench players.

Relying heavily on Opta data, we'll steer clear of team honours – a blow to Wout Weghorst, whose eight blocks (leading all forwards in Europe's top five leagues) might have carved out a spot leading the All-Defensive First Team – but there remains plenty to go at...

Most Valuable Player

Only one player had more goal involvements than Karim Benzema (39) in the top five leagues this season, and Real Madrid would really rather not talk about the man top of the charts. That other leading France forward had a hand in 45 goals, yet the value of Benzema's contributions to a LaLiga title triumph separates him from the rest.

Benzema's goal involvements were worth 29 points across the season, the most of any player, with Kylian Mbappe, of course, second on 28. Just considering Benzema's 27 goals, he accounted for 20 points – trailing Dusan Vlahovic (22 points) alone.

 

Required to perform repeated rescue acts in the Champions League, too, Madrid's number nine played only 2,596 minutes in LaLiga – or 75.9 per cent of the full season. He was therefore involved in a goal every 67 minutes, narrowly second in this regard behind Erling Haaland (66 minutes) among those to play 1,000 minutes or more across Europe.

Coach of the Year

Were this the NBA, Carlo Ancelotti would surely also qualify for the Lifetime Achievement Award. In guiding Benzema and Madrid to the LaLiga title, the Italian became the first coach to win each of Europe's top five leagues, following successes in Serie A with Milan, the Premier League with Chelsea, Ligue 1 with Paris Saint-Germain and the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich.

Ancelotti, also the oldest LaLiga-winning coach at 62, earned only two more points than Zinedine Zidane had in finishing second in the prior season, but Madrid maintained this high standard despite losing both of their senior centre-backs heading into the campaign as they seemingly saved for the now failed pursuit of Mbappe.

Meanwhile, Everton, the team Ancelotti left for his second Madrid stint, finished 20 points short of their 2020-21 total, spending the season battling relegation rather than chasing Europe and perhaps putting his work at Goodison Park in context.

Rookie of the Year

Given the differences between the NBA and Europe's top five leagues, it is difficult to quantify exactly how many players might be considered 'rookies', let alone identify the best of them. Someone like Luis Diaz, for example, played his first minutes in the top five leagues this season, yet he had already scored goals in the Champions League and Copa America so surely doesn't fit the bill.

On the other hand, Hugo Ekitike definitely does.

Among the nine players who were teenagers at the start of the season and finished with 10 or more goal involvements, only Ekitike had never previously started a game in Europe's top five leagues. His 13 involvements in 2021-22 (10 goals, three assists) arrived every 98 minutes on average, the best rate of this group and the 18th-best overall – just behind Neymar (also 98 mins) and ahead of Son Heung-min (101 mins).

The 19-year-old Reims forward, who turned down a transfer to Newcastle United in January before sustaining a thigh injury, scored with an astonishing 32.3 per cent of his shots – second behind Wissam Ben Yedder (34.7 per cent) among players with 20 or more attempts – and has been linked with moves to PSG and Borussia Dortmund, as well as St James' Park.

 

Defensive Player of the Year

As elsewhere, many of these awards focus on offensive talents, so there is a dedicated category for the best defender – and there could really only be one winner this year.

Injury restricted Virgil van Dijk to 371 minutes in 2019-20, and he was badly missed by Liverpool in their title defence, as they conceded 42 Premier League goals – their most since shipping the same number in the season before the centre-back's 2018 arrival.

With Van Dijk fit again this term and missing only four matches, the Reds conceded the joint-fewest number of goals across the top five leagues (26, tied with Manchester City). No defender played a part in more clean sheets (21).

Those figures show the impact Van Dijk had on the team as a whole, but his performances in individual battles were equally impressive. The Liverpool man won 73.5 per cent of his duels and 77.5 per cent of his aerial duels – both the best marks of defenders to make 30 or more appearances in the top five leagues.

Comeback Player of the Year

Okay, so the NBA no longer highlights a Comeback Player of the Year, but the NFL continues to identify an individual who has overcome the adversity of the previous campaign, allowing us to recognise one of the stories of the season.

Of course, for the reasons outlined above, Van Dijk might have had a claim to this prize in any other year, yet he is beaten this time by a player who actually won Serie A in 2020-21.

Within weeks of that title triumph, Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest at Euro 2020, prompting fears for his life and then, even after his recovery, his career.

But Eriksen was fitted with an ICD, left Inter, joined Brentford in January and promptly won each of the first five Premier League games he started for the relegation-threatened Bees. Finishing with seven victories from 10 starts, only nine players in the top five leagues created more chances over this period than Eriksen (29, including four assists).

Most Improved Player

There were no shortage of players showing signs of significant improvement in 2021-22. Five-goal Euro 2020 forward Patrik Schick starred on the club stage at last, Newcastle striker-turned-midfielder Joelinton enjoyed a resurgence and Vinicius Junior was outstanding as Benzema's foil, but Christopher Nkunku stood head and shoulders above the rest as he swiftly established himself among Europe's elite.

Nkunku had scored a mere six goals and assisted the same number for RB Leipzig in the 2020-21 Bundesliga, but those goal involvements increased dramatically from 12 to 33 this season, ranking fifth across Europe's top five leagues and joint-third when excluding penalties (32). With 20 total goals and 13 assists, the newly capped France international was one of just 12 players to reach double figures in both categories.

Of players to feature in at least 20 games in each of the past two campaigns, only Moussa Dembele (20) and Schick (15) improved their season-on-season goal tallies by a greater margin than Nkunku (14); Dembele alone (24) showed greater improvement in terms of goal involvements (21).

 

In a season in which Leipzig recovered from a slow start to make the top four by a single point, Nkunku's contributions were vital. He had a hand in 45.8 per cent of their Bundesliga goals and 50.8 per cent of those he was on the field for.

Twelfth Man of the Year

The NBA's Sixth Man of the Year is recognised as the season's most impactful bench player, which feels like a nice addition here.

Were this a long-standing European football award, it might have by now been renamed in honour of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who scored 17 goals in 84 Premier League substitute appearances – one every 88 minutes on average. Given Rodrygo Goes and Eduardo Camavinga largely reserved their heroics for the Champions League, the 2021-22 equivalent in the top five leagues could be Matheus Cunha.

Ben Yedder scored the most goals from the bench this season, but those seven counted towards 25 in total as he also started 29 matches. Cunha was restricted to only eight starts for Atletico Madrid, yet he scored three and assisted four in 21 outings as a substitute, matching Ben Yedder and Ignacio Pussetto with a Europe-high seven such goal involvements.

Atletico's man in times of need, Cunha contributed to vital goals, too. He was one of only two players to both score and assist in the same game as a substitute on more than one occasion (also Arnaud Nordin), with the second of those two performances seeing the Brazil forward introduced against Valencia with his side 2-0 down; Cunha scored seven minutes after his introduction and later teed up the winner in a 3-2 victory, justifying his season-long role as a super-sub.

Kylian Mbappe staying at Paris Saint-Germain can only be a positive outcome for French football, according to Les Bleus coach Didier Deschamps.

World Cup winner Mbappe appeared set to move to Real Madrid when his contract expired in June, but opted to sign a three-year extension with PSG.

That denied Madrid talisman Karim Benzema the chance to link-up at club level with international team-mate Mbappe, who insisted he stayed at PSG "because the project had changed" and for sentimental reasons.

Deschamps will have the attacking duo to call upon for the Nations League campaign, starting against Denmark next Friday, and the France coach was delighted to see Mbappe stay in Paris.

"It's his choice. It's obvious that he stays in Ligue 1, it's a very good thing for French football," he told reporters on Saturday.

"He is attached to the club, he said what he had to say but in being French, that can only be a good thing.

"We can grow by staying. Today the objective of PSG is the same as in all the big clubs, and to win the Champions League. It may be necessary one day to go abroad, but that is not an obligation.

"We are not going to speak in other periods when there was a lag compared to France. But today, the choice of players is not the same.

"It is perhaps less of an obligation to go abroad to accomplish beautiful things."

 

There were reports of tension between Benzema and Mbappe after the former uploaded a photo of late rapper Tupac Shakur that was deemed to be a veiled reference to betrayal.

Benzema has since denied those suggestions, insisting he does not feel betrayed by Mbappe, and Deschamps does not envisage problems between the pair when they arrive for international duty.

"From my position as coach, where I have the players live where I know from A to Z what is going on, the main thing is the group," he added.

"It can lead to misunderstandings. From a situation where we can all draw negative conclusions when they are not necessarily negative... It can turn into a misunderstanding, which does not reflect reality.

"Today with the connected world it can go very very quickly, the slightest photo goes quickly. Even if I'm not on there!"

Christopher Nkunku, Moussa Dembele and Wissam Ben Yedder will also join Mbappe and Benzema in France's attacking ranks, with Olivier Giroud missing out from selection.

Deschamps says he did not call up Giroud as he wanted to offer the likes of Nkunku, Dembele and Ben Yedder a chance to show their worth.

"I said that in relation to the attacking players, who will be supposed to have a little more playing time," Deschamps continued.

"Olivier Giroud is not with us, it's to give playing time to Moussa, Christopher and Wissam, who are with us regularly, who have had playing time and will have the opportunity to have a little more.

"If possible we will make sure to involve everyone, some will play more than others. Through the four meetings, we will make sure that they are active, so that they get stronger, to have more experience. It will give additional information on the final list for the World Cup."

Real Madrid have turned their attention to Milan forward Rafael Leao after being snubbed by Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe.

The 22-year-old Portuguese winger scored 14 goals and contributed 12 assists in 42 games in all club competitions this season, after 13 goals combined in his first two campaigns in Milan.

His rapid ascension has seen him fitted with an eye-opening price tag, with ESPN reporting his release clause is at €150million, and that Madrid will offer somewhere in the range of €120m.

 

TOP STORY – LOS BLANCOS CLOSE IN ON MILAN'S PORTUGUESE STAR

Leao provided an assist in Milan's Champions League loss to Liverpool, scored a goal in their defeat to Atletico Madrid, and tallied three goals and six assists in the last six games of the Serie A season to seal the Scudetto.

With his lofty price tag, it is fair to assume Leao is the Spanish giants' top target in the upcoming transfer window, although he is not the only big-money signing reportedly in the works for Madrid.

ESPN is also reporting Madrid's €80m move for Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni has been held up by a tax issue, and if it is to fall through, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are all circling.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Daily Mail is reporting Everton striker Richarlison has strong interest from Tottenham, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.

– With Burnley relegated from the Premier League, the Telegraph is reporting Everton and West Ham will compete for the services of Clarets striker Maxwel Cornet.

– According to the Evening Standard, Harry Kane no longer wishes to leave Tottenham and is now ready to open talks for a new contract.

Chelsea have been told they will need to pay £45m to pry Marc Cucurella away from Brighton and Hove Albion, according to the Sun.

– Todofichajes is reporting Liverpool would like RB Leipzig star Christopher Nkunku to be their long-term replacement for Mohamed Salah, should the Egyptian leave the club, with his contract expiring in 2023.

As if the protracted transfer saga for Kylian Mbappe was not arduous enough, new transfer battle lines are being drawn for PSG and Real Madrid.

The need to rejuvenate Madrid's squad has been identified despite their LaLiga title win and progression to this season's Champions League final.

According to reports, however, they should prepare for not having everything their way again, with a new player in mind.

TOP STORY – PSG TO MAKE LATE PLAY FOR TCHOUAMENI    

PSG are preparing to make a late bid for Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni in an attempt to snatch him from Real Madrid , according to Goal.

The 22-year-old Monaco star is almost certain to leave the Principality this off-season, but his destination remains unclear.

Madrid have reportedly been in talks with Monaco over a prospective transfer for over a year, but have not yet completed the deal.

Kylian Mbappe was believed to have recommended Tchouameni when he was in talks over a move to the Santiago Bernabeu himself.

Now Mbappe has decided to stay in the French capital, it has accelerated the race to sign Tchouameni.

ROUND-UP

– Chelsea are considering a move for RB Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku, according to Goal.

Arsenal target Tammy Abraham insists he is happy at Roma but would not rule out a move back to the Premier League, per Metro.

– In need of a striker, Tuttosport reports the Gunners are also monitoring Alvaro Morata's situation, with his loan deal at Juventus expiring this off-season.

– Tottenham are targeting Inter centre-back Alessandro Bastoni, with Manchester United also interested, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport.

Ten-man RB Leipzig won the DFB-Pokal for the first time in their history after a 4-2 penalty shoot-out win over Freiburg at the end of a 1-1 draw in Berlin on Saturday.

Freiburg, who were competing in their first-ever major final, went ahead in the 19th minute thanks to Maximilian Eggestein's fine strike, despite a clear handball from Roland Sallai in the build-up.

Leipzig were reduced to 10 men shortly before the hour mark when Marcel Halstenberg received a straight red card for pulling down a clean-through Lucas Holer, yet they levelled in the 76th minute through Christopher Nkunku.

Domenico Tedesco's men had lost two finals in the last three years, but they finally got their hands on the trophy at the Olympiastadion as Freiburg's Christian Gunter and Ermedin Demirovic missed their spot-kicks in the shoot-out.

Real Madrid will have been left shaken by Kylian Mbappe's decision to snub them in favour of a new contract at Paris Saint-Germain.

It was common knowledge that Madrid wanted to bring in Mbappe and shape their team around the France striker for the next decade.

The Spanish champions have been used to getting what they want, but this time they have failed to land their number one target, with PSG's financial muscle surely a major factor.

Now Madrid president Florentino Perez must consider the club's next course of action. Do they rely on Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior next season, or has there been a back-up plan in case Mbappe reached this decision?

Here, Stats Perform looks at players that Madrid could consider if they remain intent on bringing in a forward in the close season.

Richarlison (Everton/Brazil)

After five years spent fumbling around mid-table and the lower reaches of the Premier League with Watford and latterly Everton, Richarlison seems long overdue a move to a club where he might challenge for honours. The 25-year-old has previously been linked with Madrid and Barcelona, and more recently Manchester United, and he would bring a roving threat to any side he joins. Capable of playing wide or in the centre, or flitting between roles, Richarlison has reached double figures in Premier League goals in three of his four seasons with Everton, and in a World Cup year this could be the ideal time to move for the striker. Should he dazzle at Qatar 2022, that price tag could go skywards.

Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain/Brazil)

PSG were desperate to retain Mbappe, but would they feel the same way about Neymar? Five years into his PSG career, Neymar is now 30 years old and this is the first season when he has managed more than 20 league appearances for the Parisians. Injuries have disrupted his stay at the Parc des Princes, and while he remains a wonderfully gifted player and a joy to watch at times, if PSG want to recoup a chunk of the huge outlay that brought him to Paris from Barcelona, now might be the time for that. It would be an impudent approach for Madrid to make, and Neymar's Barcelona history adds a further complication, given the rivalry, but the player himself may be tempted.

Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich/Poland)

If Madrid have a statement signing in mind to ease the pain of missing Mbappe, then joining the race for Lewandowski and gazumping Barcelona would be one way of going about that. Lewandowski has told Bayern he wants to leave, and ideally before next season. Barcelona are certainly interested, but their financial problems are well known. Could Madrid be better placed to land the highest scorer from Europe's top five leagues this season? Lewandowski hit 50 goals in 46 games across all competitions for Bayern, with Madrid's Benzema second on the list and Mbappe third. Whether Madrid would want a player who turns 34 in August when they already have a 34-year-old frontman in Benzema is a moot point.

Paulo Dybala (Juventus/Argentina)

Mbappe would have arrived in Madrid on a free transfer, given his contract at PSG was coming to an end. If their priority is to pick up a forward without an initial transfer fee outlay, then Dybala becomes an option. Roma and a host of Premier League clubs have been linked with the Argentina international, whose Juventus contract is expiring. He has scored at least 15 goals in five of his seven seasons with Juve, and would bring a creative presence to Madrid, and bundles of trophy-winning experience.

Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig/France)

If Madrid cannot have Mbappe for now, then his and Benzema's France team-mate Nkunku looks like a strong alternative option. With 34 goals in 51 games for Leipzig this season (prior to Saturday's DFB-Pokal final), Nkunku has proven himself in Germany and in European competition, and the obvious next step is a move to a super-club. The 24-year-old PSG academy graduate pipped the likes of Lewandowski and Erling Haaland to be named the Bundesliga's player of the year, underlining his status as a growing force in the game.

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool/Egypt)

Would they want Salah, or would they prefer his team-mate Sadio Mane? Either way, a Madrid approach could be Liverpool's worst nightmare. Both Salah and Mane have contracts that run to the end of next season, and they have again been tearing it up this term for the quadruple-hunting Reds. They are hot property and are coming to the point where they are considering probably the last bumper contracts of their careers. Would they fit in at Madrid? Both have the flair and finishing class that suggest they would be ideal acquisitions, and Madrid will get a close-up look in the Champions League final.

Declan Rice and Christopher Nkunku have joined victorious Eintracht Frankfurt stars in headlining the Europa League's team of the season.

The selections for the competition's end-of-season awards were announced by UEFA on Friday, two days after Eintracht's final shootout triumph against Rangers.

Wing-backs Filip Kostic and Ansgar Knauff earned individual recognition, the former the player of the season and the latter the young player of the season.

But there was no room for Knauff in the best XI, with Rangers captain James Tavernier, the competition's leading scorer, preferred.

Tavernier had two Rangers colleagues in the team in Calvin Bassey and Ryan Kent, yet Kostic was one of four Eintracht players.

Penalty heroes Kevin Trapp and Rafael Borre made the cut, alongside defender Martin Hinteregger.

Perhaps the two biggest names included were beaten semi-finalists, however, with Rice and Nkunku – both set to be the subject of close-season transfer speculation – recognised.

Departing Napoli great Lorenzo Insigne did not make the side but was awarded the goal of the season his stunning strike against Legia Warsaw.

Europa League team of the season:

Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt); Craig Dawson (West Ham), Martin Hinteregger (Eintracht Frankfurt), Calvin Bassey (Rangers); James Tavernier (Rangers), Konrad Laimer (RB Leipzig), Declan Rice (West Ham), Filip Kostic (Eintracht Frankfurt); Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig), Rafael Borre (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ryan Kent (Rangers).

RB Leipzig star Christopher Nkunku has been named Bundesliga's Player of the Season for the 2021-22 campaign as speculation over a Premier League move persists.

Nkunku won the German top flight's Player of the Month award a single-season record four times - in October, February, March and April - and has been subsequently rewarded with the end-of-season accolade.

Robert Lewandowski, Manchester City-bound Erling Haaland and Bayer Leverkusen's Patrik Schick were all in contention, but only the Bayern Munich talisman (38) can boast more direct goal involvements this term than Nkunku, who has scored 20 goals and recorded 13 assists in 34 league games.

Meanwhile, across Europe's top five leagues in all competitions only Karim Benzema (59), Kylian Mbappe (57) and Lewandowski 56) have been involved in more goals than the Leipzig striker (50).

That goalscoring form and creative prowess guided Leipzig to the Europa League semi-finals, where they were defeated by Rangers, and helped them finish fourth in the Bundesliga.

Nkunku's development has not gone unnoticed by France coach Didier Deschamps, as the 24-year-old made his Les Bleus debut in a friendly against Ivory Coast in March.

He will hope to make Deschamps' squad as France aim to defend their World Cup title at Qatar 2022 in November and December.

There remains uncertainty over who Nkunku will be playing for next season, with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal all reportedly interested but Leipzig eager to keep him.

United could be the most likely destination for Nkunku, given Ralf Rangnick's association with the Bundesliga club.

Nkunku goes in search of DFB-Pokal success when Leipzig face Freiburg in the final in Berlin on Saturday.

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