Aaron Ramsey will miss Wales’ November Euro 2024 qualifiers, according to his Cardiff manager Erol Bulut.

Ramsey had already been ruled out of October’s qualifier against Croatia with a knee injury sustained in training last month.

But Wales boss Rob Page, announcing his squad for that fixture on Wednesday, said he was hopeful Ramsey would recover in time to play in the final two group games against Armenia and Turkey in November.

However, Bulut has said Ramsey faces at least two months on the sidelines, and that timescale will be increased should the 32-year-old require surgery.

“Aaron, we were talking about how many weeks he would be out, we were waiting also,” Bulut said at his pre-match press conference for Cardiff’s home game against Watford on Saturday.

“Hopefully without surgery, he will be out at least eight to 10 weeks.

“If he does get surgery, it will be up to 12 weeks. If something happens in these weeks, it will add 12 weeks.

“You could see, when he was on the field, he was great. He linked the game. We will miss him.”

Former Arsenal and Juventus midfielder Ramsey rejoined hometown club Cardiff in July and had been in fine form for club and country.

He scored from the penalty spot in the two games before his injury, for Wales in their Euro qualifying victory over Latvia and against derby rivals Swansea in a 2-0 Sky Bet Championship win.

Tottenham defender Ben Davies, the Wales vice-captain, will lead the Dragons in Ramsey’s absence.

Wales realistically need to draw against World Cup semi-finalists Croatia and win both games of their November double-header to secure automatic qualification for next summer’s Euro 2024 finals in Germany and avoid the play-offs.

Wales captain Aaron Ramsey and Brennan Johnson will miss next week’s vital Euro 2024 qualifier against Croatia.

Both players have been omitted from Rob Page’s squad for their friendly against Gibraltar on October 11 and Group D qualifier at Cardiff City Stadium on October 15.

Ramsey damaged his right knee in training last month and there are fears the 32-year-old midfielder may need surgery after missing Cardiff’s last five games.

Tottenham midfielder Johnson sustained a hamstring injury in his side’s recent 2-2 draw at Arsenal and sat out Saturday’s win against Liverpool.

The pair’s absence is a huge blow to under-pressure Page, whose side sit fourth in their group after winning only two of their first five matches.

Johnson had been expected to be included after Spurs boss Ange Postecoglou said before the Liverpool game that his injury was “nothing too serious”.

Wales are also without QPR defender Morgan Fox and Rangers winger Rabbi Matondo (both knee), while Reading midfielder Charlie Savage and Liverpool defender Owen Beck have received their first senior team call-ups.

Leeds winger Daniel James returns to the squad after missing last month’s Euro 2024 qualifying victory in Latvia.

Bournemouth striker Kieffer Moore is available for the Croatia game after missing the last two Euro qualifiers due to the red card he received against Armenia in June.

Page eased some of the pressure on him last month with Wales’ 2-0 victory in Latvia.

But his side still face an uphill battle to secure automatic qualification for next summer’s finals in Germany through a top-two finish.

Wales realistically need to avoid defeat against 2022 World Cup semi-finalists Croatia and win their final two games in Armenia and at home to Turkey in November to do so.

Oblique Seville continued his good form Sunday post last month's 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest when he finished second in the 100m at the Boris Hanžeković Memorial in Zagreb, Croatia.

Seville, who clocked 10.88s for fourth place in the 100m final in Budapest, clocked 10.04 finishing just behind Kenya’s Ferdinand Omanyala, who won in 9.94.

Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs finished third in 10.08.

Jamaican 100m champion Rohan Watson was seventh in 10.32.

 

Spain held their nerve to win the UEFA Nations League final by beating Croatia 5-4 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes in Rotterdam.

Real Madrid defender Dani Carvajal converted the winning spot-kick after Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon had saved efforts from Croatia’s Lovro Majer and Bruno Petkovic.

Spain’s triumph saw them seal a fifth major trophy and become the second nation after France to have won the World Cup, European Championship and the Nations League.

Manchester City pair Rodri and Aymeric Laporte, who scored and missed for Spain respectively in the shoot-out, have won a fourth major trophy of the season.

Croatia, who beat the Netherlands 4-2 after extra time in their semi-final on Wednesday, had been hoping to win their first major tournament.

Spain did not have one shot on target in a poor first half of regulation time, while Laporte’s last-ditch tackle thwarted Andrej Kramaric, and Ivan Perisic’s header forced Simon into a diving save.

Spain went close in the 58th minute when Marco Asensio headed their best chance up to then just over from the over-lapping Jordi Alba’s cross.

Croatia responded through Mario Pasalic’s header, after another ball in from Perisic, before Spain stepped it up, with Fabian Ruiz’s chipped effort and Asensio’s shot on the turn both going close.

Spain went closest to breaking the deadlock in the 86th minute when Perisic blocked Ansu Fati’s shot on the goal-line following fellow substitute Mikel Merino’s cut-back.

Croatia substitute Majer was also denied by last-ditch defending as his shot after a counter-attack was blocked by Nacho in the first period of extra time.

Spain threw caution to the wind in the second period and finished the game on top.

Dani Olmo and Asensio had shots deflected for a corner and Rodri’s effort was blocked as the third Nations League final went to penalties, with Carvajal converting a nerveless winner.

Earlier on Sunday, Italy beat the Netherlands 3-2 in the third-place play-off in Enschede.

Roberto Mancini’s side, who sealed Nations League bronze for the second tournament running, made a flying start as Federico Dimarco and Davide Frattesi put them 2-0 up in 20 minutes.

Steven Bergwijn reduced the deficit for the Netherlands midway through the second half, but Federico Chiesa struck Italy’s third four minutes later.

Georginio Wijnaldum ensured a nervy finale with the Netherlands’ second goal in the 89th minute, but it was not enough to prevent a third defeat in four games under boss Ronald Koeman, in his second stint in charge.

Substitute Bruno Petkovic scored and won a penalty in extra-time as Croatia secured a first Nations League final appearance with a 4-2 victory over the Netherlands in Rotterdam.

The Dinamo Zagreb striker was introduced at the start of the additional period – just seconds after the Dutch had snatched an equaliser in the sixth minute of added time – and delivered a game-changing performance.

Petkovic’s driving run and shot from 25 yards put Croatia in front again before the 28-year-old, who scored an extra-time equaliser in the World Cup quarter-final against Brazil, won a penalty for Luka Modric to make it 4-2.

He also had a second goal ruled out for offside by VAR seconds before the final whistle.

Croatia, who reached the 2018 World Cup final and finished third last year in Qatar, are one win away from their first major trophy, with Spain or Italy standing in the way in Sunday’s final.

They had to do it the hard way as they recovered from Borussia Dortmund midfielder Donyell Malen’s first-half opener by scoring with their first two shots on target after the break.

Mario Pasalic’s 72nd-minute goal capped a turnaround started 17 minutes earlier by Andrej Kramaric’s penalty.

But just when it looked like they could celebrate a place in the final, Noa Lang pounced to force extra-time.

Eight minutes into the additional period Petkovic made his introduction count with the goal which put his side ahead again.

Netherlands’ desperation saw them send Liverpool centre-back Virgil van Dijk up front but their hopes were ended when Manchester United defender Tyrell Malacia pulled down Petkovic and Modric sent goalkeeper Justin Bijlow the wrong way from the penalty spot.

Luka Modric has reaffirmed his commitment to Real Madrid amid rumours he is wanted by Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr.

The 37-year-old is into his 11th campaign at the Santiago Bernabeu, during which time he has won 22 trophies, but he is due to be out of contract at the end of the season.

He has been touted as a possible target for Al Nassr, who sensationally signed Cristiano Ronaldo in December following his release from Manchester United.

But when probed on his future while away on international duty with Croatia on Friday, a frustrated Modric made clear his priority is to agree fresh terms with Madrid.

"My wish is known: to stay at Real Madrid," he said at a pre-match press conference ahead of Saturday's meeting with Wales. "I believe and hope that it comes true. 

"The rest of what's said is just assumptions and rumours. I repeat the same thing for the hundredth time: I hope and believe that I will stay at Real Madrid."

Modric, who has previously said he wants to feel as though he has deserved a new deal, also rubbished claims Madrid have asked him to retire from Croatia duty.

"Short and clear – no," Modric said when that suggestion was put to him.

The former Zagreb and Tottenham midfielder is in line to earn his 163rd cap for Croatia when they face Wales in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier in Split.

Having elected not to retire following Croatia's World Cup semi-final defeat to France, Modric will overtake Drazen Ladic as his country's oldest ever player.

"I didn't know that before the conference and I don't know if it's good or bad!" Modric said. "I feel great with the national team and I'm glad to be here. I feel happy when I'm here.

"We are all focusing on the Wales game. Hopefully we can get a positive result and take that confidence to Turkey.

"The most important thing is that we win tomorrow. We know we are the favourites and are expected to win, but football is unpredictable and you need to be at 100 per cent."

Zlatko Dalic has been rewarded for Croatia's third-place finish at the 2022 World Cup with a new contract that runs through the 2026 edition.

Initially appointed on a short-term deal in 2017, Dalic has proven highly successful in the role.

He first secured qualification for the 2018 World Cup, which earned him a full-time contract, and then led Croatia's 'golden generation' all the way to the final before a 4-2 defeat to France.

But arguably more impressive was their run to the World Cup semi-finals in Qatar last year, going deep into the tournament despite a perception of their squad being significantly less talented than four years earlier.

Croatia's hopes of lifting the trophy were ended by eventual winners Argentina, though their 2-1 win over Morocco in an entertaining third-place play-off ensured they went home with the bronze medal.

"Zlatko Dalic absolutely fulfilled all of the goals that were set before him in these five and a half years, and at the same time he signed two magnificent achievements at the World Cup in Russia and Qatar and led Croatia to silver and bronze medals, thus becoming our most successful coach in history," Croatian Football Federation president Marijan Kustic said.

"Therefore, I am extremely pleased that we have agreed on the continuation of the cooperation that has been absolutely brilliant so far."

Dalic added: "I have pointed out many times that this job is the greatest honour and the greatest pleasure I can have as a coach, and I am truly looking forward to the future with the Croatian national team.

"Regardless of the wonderful successes we have already achieved, I have great passion and ambition to continue working with Croatia and I believe that there are still many great challenges ahead."

Dalic will now hope to make a strong start to Euro 2024 qualification when Croatia face Wales and Turkey later this month, before turning their attention to the Nations League finals – they face Netherlands in the semi-finals in June.

Zlatko Dalic accused FIFA of showing "a lack of respect" for Croatia's World Cup heroes and revealed he refused to vote in the world body's The Best awards.

Croatia playmaker Luka Modric was a nominee in the men's player category, but Dalic did not make the five-man list for coach of the year.

In a fiery blast to Gianni Infantino's FIFA, Dalic argued Mateo Kovacic, Josko Gvardiol and Dominic Livakovic deserved recognition, suggesting all would have been in the frame for nominations if they belonged to a more fashionable footballing nation.

Dalic's team beat Brazil in the Qatar 2022 quarter-finals before falling to Argentina in the semi-finals. They then rebounded to beat Morocco in the third-place play-off, following their runner-up finish at the 2018 World Cup.

Scornful of Croatian players being left off voting lists, Dalic said: "If English, Brazilian, Spanish, German or Italian players and coaches had the kind of results that we do, they'd be on the shortlist for every possible football award.

"I want more respect for us, for our national team, for our players, and for myself, because with two medals, we more than deserve it. FIFA should promote the fact that a tiny country such as Croatia can play against the biggest nations in the world because that's the most beautiful message for the whole football world."

In a contemptuous statement issued through the Croatian FA, Dalic said: "I am disappointed with FIFA's attitude towards the Croatian national team because I strongly maintain that, based on everything we've achieved as a national team, we deserve more respect from the head governing body of world football than we have received.

"We are the only national team that was among the top four teams at both the World Cup in Qatar and in the current UEFA Nations League cycle.

"We made the front pages worldwide by winning a match against the world's greatest team Brazil, and along with France, we are the only team to have won two medals at the two most recent World Cups.

"This year, we beat France in Paris and Denmark in Copenhagen, we took Brazil and Belgium out of the World Cup. In the 23 matches we've played since Euro 2020, we've only lost twice. And yet even after all of that, look at the list of the 14 candidates for The Best FIFA Men's player – aside from the great Luka Modric, where are other Croatian players?"

He asked: "Was there really no place for Mateo Kovacic on that list, even though he's won the FIFA Club World Cup and played a brilliant World Cup in Qatar? Where is Josko Gvardiol's name? After all, he was listed among the Top 11 for both the World Cup and for the Bundesliga by most sources. And did Dominik Livakovic not deserve to be one of the five finalists for the Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper after everything he did in Qatar?"

Contenders for the coach award were Real Madrid's Carlo Ancelotti, France boss Didier Deschamps, Pep Guardiola of Manchester City, Morocco's Walid Regragui and Lionel Scaloni, whose Argentina won the World Cup. Scaloni took the honour.

Dalic said: "With all due respect for Morocco's head coach and their success at the World Cup, in the two matches we played against them, we tied once and Croatia won the bronze medal the second time."

The 56-year-old Dalic claimed this was not the first instance of feeling a lack of recognition.

He said: "I feel that we have not been extended the respect we deserve, and both the time slots of our matches at the World Cup and the quality of refereeing – especially at the semi-final match – made me feel that there was a lack of respect towards the Croatian team. I fully believe that our national team's performance on the pitch and conduct off of it has made us deserving of the very same respect that we show our opponents at every match."

Croatia defender Dejan Lovren has retired from international football at the age of 33.

The Lyon centre-back announced on Thursday that he has played his last game for his country.

Lovren won 78 caps, the last of which coming in a 3-0 World Cup semi-final defeat to an Argentina side that went on to be crowned champions in Qatar in December.

The former Liverpool man, who made his Croatia debut in 2009, was an unused substitute for a victory over Morocco's in the third-place play-off.

Lovren played his part in Croatia's run to the World Cup final in 2018, when they were beaten by France.

He said in a lengthy open letter: "I want to tell every single young football player in the country that they must look at the Croatian national team as a completely other dimension of football – look at these players as your superheroes. 

"The most beautiful chapters of my national team story were the ones that we wrote during the past five years. This is, if I’m being honest, still a complete dream to me.

"So many emotions went through me, especially in 2018 and 2022, and I find it difficult to put these experiences into words.

"I lived my life in hope that I would get to experience moments like those and, when they did come, I lived them with immense pride. These memories will remain in my heart forever."

The lasting image of Josko Gvardiol's campaign in Qatar isn't one that his performances warranted.

Gvardiol enjoyed a fine World Cup as Croatia reached the semi-finals, but like so many defenders before him, the 21-year-old came unstuck against Lionel Messi.

If one were to fall on British footballing parlance to describe how Messi turned Gvardiol one way, then the other, and then back again en route to teeing up Argentina's third goal in a 3-0 win, then the term "sent to the shops" would probably be fitting.

Gvardiol might be stronger, more athletic and 14 years younger than Messi, but the latter is considered by many to be the best player of all time, and his nimble feet and speed of thought left Croatia's star defender clutching at thin air on that night at Lusail Stadium.

Yet that incident shouldn't mar what was a stellar tournament for Gvardiol, who will be tasked with keeping more superstars on a tight leash when RB Leipzig host Manchester City in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Gvardiol has been heavily linked with Chelsea in the past. It remains to be seen whether the big-spending Blues will be back in for the centre-back, or will it be City – who might well be in need of a versatile, left-footed defender in the wake of Joao Cancelo's seemingly impending permanent departure and with speculation over Aymeric Laporte's future.

Real Madrid have also been mooted as having an interest, but Gvardiol has his eyes on a move to England.

"I want to play in the Premier League," he told The Times, while reflecting on his decision to join Leipzig over Leeds United in 2020. "Chelsea were really interested, but Leipzig told me they didn't want to sell me. My dream is to get to the Premier League one day."

This meeting with City could just be the audition Gvardiol needs to pass for that dream to come true.

The crown jewel of Croatia's next generation

Luka Modric might have been the driving force in Croatia's semi-final charge, and ultimate third-place finish, but Gvardiol was arguably just as integral.

On the ball, Gvardiol was superb, and that's something that will certainly be of interest to potential suitors. The composure and passing ability he has shown at Leipzig transitioned onto the international stage and by the end of the competition he had made 21 progressive passes – only 14 players managed more.

 

Gvardiol topped the charts for carry distance and ball carries, with his stature and pace making him difficult to stop as he moved out of defence while in possession, giving Croatia a different dimension when attacking.

He made 202 carries for a distance of 1,985.3 metres, an average of 28.8 carries per game and 283.6 metres per match, with Gvardiol playing every minute of Croatia's campaign.

Gvardiol completed 24 long balls in Qatar, behind only four other defenders, while only Argentina's Nicolas Otamendi attempted and completed more passes.

His only goal at the tournament came in Croatia's win over Morocco in the third-place play-off, though it was not just on the ball that Gvardiol impressed.

The youngster made more clearances (37) than any other player and won possession back 48 times, the most of any defender.

 

Leipzig the ideal fit

"Here in Germany I feel good, I'm in a good club and I play almost all matches," Gvardiol said in his interview with The Times.

Since he made the switch from Dinamo Zagreb, Gvardiol has made 48 appearances for Leipzig, starting 42 times. He has scored two goals, both coming this season and at home, and teed up a further two as well. For such a young player, Gvardiol boasts an impressive disciplinary record, picking up just eight bookings.

Leipzig have won 25 of the 48 matches he has played in, losing 12 and drawing the other 11. 

This season, Gvardiol, slotting in alongside Willi Orban, has played a part in keeping five clean sheets, and ranks second out of Leipzig's defenders behind the Hungary international in that regard.

Of his fellow Leipzig defenders, Orban is the only one to have won possession back on more occasions (173) than Gvardiol (132), with 65 of those regains coming in the defensive third.

When assessing Gvardiol's statistics per 90 minutes, he betters his centre-back partner for interceptions (1.44 to 1.39) and possession won (6.6 to 5.9), while he has a defensive-unit high 77.4 successful passes.

Orban is more of a stopper, evidenced by his 4.1 clearances, 2.5 headed clearances, 1.6 tackles, 8.6 duels and 4.6 aerial duels per 90 minutes. Gvardiol is an ideal folly with his progressive, accurate passing, though he averages only one tackle per game, while his tackle success rate of 57.1 is the joint-lowest out of Leipzig's defensive options.

 

Breaking the lines is a key facet of Gvardiol's play, and though Orban betters his total number of carries in the Bundesliga this season, the Croatian has taken the ball further than any of his team-mates in the competition (3,334 metres), averaging 10.23 metres each time.

Leipzig have provided Gvardiol with an ideal environment in which to thrive and develop, though he is about to face a stern test in the form of Europe's deadliest striker.

Much ado about Erling?

Erling Haaland has scored 32 goals in 31 appearances since joining City from Leipzig's Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund last year.

Such has been his rich form, that one or two games without a goal for Haaland results in speculation as to whether City actually know how to get the very best out of their striker, or if he is suited to Pep Guardiola's approach.

This will not be the first time Gvardiol has gone up against the Norwegian, having done so previously in April last year.

On that occasion, Gvardiol formed part of a three-man defence that helped Leipzig to a stunning 4-1 win at Signal Iduna Park, with Haaland kept quiet.

 

Haaland had 27 touches, but only four of those came in Leipzig's area, while his only shot was off target (he was only limited to zero shots in a game on one occasion in the Bundesliga last term) and he finished with an expected goals of 0.15. 

Leipzig will have more than just Haaland to worry about on Wednesday, of course. Gvardiol will likely have Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez bearing down on him at some stage, but an elite performance against this calibre of opposition might just get him that dream move to England.

It could even be with City, and the two legs of this last-16 tie could go a long way to convincing Guardiola.

Luka Modric has not held contract talks with Real Madrid and vowed to only stay at the club on merit.

The Croatia captain's Madrid deal is due to expire at the end of this season, but he is eager to remain with the LaLiga, European and Club World Cup champions.

Midfielder Modric revealed on the eve of the Champions League round of 16 first-leg clash at Liverpool there have been no developments over his future.

The long-serving 37-year-old reiterated he will not remain at Santiago Bernabeu if he does not feel he can make a significant contribution.

He said: "I can't say anything about the renewal because I haven't spoken to the club. I'm very calm. I always repeat the same thing. I want to continue here. I feel well and I want to continue in Madrid.

"I have to speak and know what the club thinks. I want to deserve to continue, not to be given [a new deal] as a gift. Nobody has ever given me anything. I want to continue out of merit.

"Nothing can change my relationship or my thoughts with the club. Madrid is the club of my life and nobody can break that or change it.

"I've been here for 11 years and I know that the demand is maximum. Many things are said from outside, it's normal because it's the best club in the world. Toni [Kroos] and I played together before the World Cup and now it seems that we can't.

"We've won a lot. It doesn't bother me, I'm used to it. We have to do well."

This club makes me happy. HALA MADRID!!  pic.twitter.com/Fav5wiebYA

— Luka Modrić (@lukamodric10) February 12, 2023

Liverpool have endured a difficult season, but will face Los Blancos on a high from back-to-back Premier League wins over neighbours Everton and Newcastle United.

Modric is well aware of the task Madrid face on Merseyside.

He said: "A very important, very tough game awaits us, against a very good opponent in a historic stadium with tremendous fans and it's a lot of pressure.

"We have to play well to get a positive result for the second leg. We have to be at the highest level, being together and helping each other."

Croatia are mourning the death of their former coach Miroslav Blazevic, who led them to a third-place finish at the 1998 World Cup.

Blazevic enjoyed a coaching career spanning 47 years up until his retirement in January 2015.

He won trophies with six different clubs and described ending Dinamo Zagreb's 24-year wait for the Yugoslav First League title in 1982 as his greatest honour.

The former winger spent six years in charge of Croatia and guided them to a bronze medal at France 98 in their first World Cup finals appearance.

Croatia's Football Federation (HNS) confirmed Blazevic's passing in a statement on Wednesday, two days before his 88th birthday.

The statement added: "HNS would like to express the deepest condolences to his loved ones, on behalf of the entire Croatian football family, which lost the 'coach of all coaches'."

Blazevic coached four other national teams – Switzerland, Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina and China's Under-23s – in a coaching career that started in 1968.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin was among those to pay tribute to Blazevic, who was previously diagnosed with prostate cancer.

"He is the father of modern Croatian football, and one of our game's greatest coaches," Ceferin said. "His legacy goes beyond any trophy or victory, of which there were many.

"His success on the field earned him a place in football history, and his authenticity, charisma and unique sense of humour established for him the cult status that only true legends of the game deserve."

European champions Italy will face Spain in the last four at the Nations League Finals in June, with hosts Netherlands drawn against World Cup semi-finalists Croatia.

Italy, who were absent from a second consecutive edition of the World Cup in Qatar last year, reached the Nations League semi-finals by edging out Hungary for top spot in a group which also contained Germany and England.

Standing between Roberto Mancini's men and the final are Spain – who beat the Azzurri 2-1 at the same stage of the competition in 2021 before losing the final against France.

Spain, who saw off Portugal to win Group A2, will be led by new head coach Luis de la Fuente after Luis Enrique departed in the aftermath of their surprise World Cup exit against Morocco.

The Netherlands, who were beaten finalists at the inaugural 2019 Nations League Finals in Portugal, will face Croatia in a home semi-final at De Kuip in Rotterdam.

The Oranje are also under new management, with Ronald Koeman returning to the role in place of Louis van Gaal after their World Cup quarter-final loss to eventual champions Argentina.

While it's all change for Spain and the Netherlands, there will be a familiar look to Croatia's side in June, with talismanic midfielder Luka Modric pledging to continue his international career after helping the team win bronze in Qatar.

The semi-final fixtures will take place on June 14 and 15, with the third-place play-off and final being held on June 18.  

Josko Gvardiol named Liverpool as his "dream" destination as the RB Leipzig defender continues to attract interest from a host of Europe's biggest clubs.

Gvardiol has been linked with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid after enjoying an outstanding World Cup campaign with Croatia, starting all seven of his country's games as they clinched the bronze medal.

The 20-year-old led all defenders for interceptions (11) and clearances (37) at the tournament, also scoring with a brilliant diving header in his team's third-place play-off against Morocco.

Gvardiol partnered former Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren at the heart of Croatia's defence in Qatar, and he is enthusiastic about the prospect of following in his footsteps by moving to Anfield. 

"My dream club? That would definitely be Liverpool," he told RTLDanas. 

"Since I was little, I watched a lot of their matches with my dad. We covered every season in detail. It is a club that has remained in my heart."

However, Gvardiol is in no rush to leave Leipzig – who sit third in the Bundesliga during the competition's mid-season break – before the end of the campaign. 

"I'm not in a hurry," he said. "I'm at Leipzig and we still have six months to finish the season and to win something. Then we will look further to the future."

Chelsea were strongly linked with a move for Gvardiol in the last transfer window before signing fellow defenders Kalidou Koulibaly and Wesley Fofana, and the Leipzig man revealed he was close to moving to Stamford Bridge. 

"Last summer a transfer was close and [Leipzig] simply kept me. I hope to spend these six months with [Leipzig]," he added. 

"Chelsea did not give up, but it was agreed that we would go for the winter. Winter has come, so we need to see what and how to proceed, but it's okay, there's still plenty of time, so we'll see.

"Nobody presented anything to me. But I'm not in a hurry, we have time, let them arrange the plan and we'll see."

Southampton have signed Croatia winger Mislav Orsic from Dinamo Zagreb in an attempt to boost their Premier League survival hopes.

Orsic – who made six appearances for Croatia at the World Cup in Qatar and scored a sublime winner in their third-place play-off success against Morocco – has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal at St Mary's.

Southampton reportedly convinced Dinamo to part ways with Orsic by making a bid of £6million plus add-ons after Everton and Nottingham Forest were also linked with the 30-year-old.

Saints sit bottom of the Premier League table and three points adrift of safety after Wednesday's 1-0 defeat to Forest, their sixth consecutive loss in the competition.

Southampton manager Nathan Jones was only appointed as Ralph Hasenhuttl's successor in November, but he is already under pressure after becoming the second Saints boss to lose each of his first four Premier League games after Nigel Adkins in the 2012-13 season.

Jones will hope Orsic can transfer his outstanding record against English teams in continental competitions into the Premier League.

Orsic scored the only goal of the game as Dinamo beat Chelsea in their Champions League opener earlier this season, while he also netted a stunning hat-trick in a Europa League win against Tottenham in 2021.

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