Ousmane Dembele's signing for Barcelona had become emblematic of Josep Maria Bartomeu's turbulent presidency.

An untenably ballooning wage bill saw the club face bankruptcy in the aftermath of Covid-19 restrictions and in a need to cut wages, the French attacker has become an expendable asset.

However, Dembele is reportedly determined to make keeping him at Barcelona more feasible, despite being set to leave at the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – DEMBELE OPEN TO BARCELONA WAGE CUT

With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Ousmane Dembele is prepared to reduce his salary in order to sign a new contract at Barcelona, Sport reports.

Dembele's agent Moussa Sissoko and the Barcelona board reportedly met and the assertion was made that the France international was willing to take a pay cut to continue playing under Xavi.

Return on investment has always lingered over the 24-year-old attacker following his €140million transfer from Borussia Dortmund in 2017. 

Dembele has provided one goal in all competitions this season for the Blaugrana, but leads the team in assists with 11 from 28 appearances.

 

ROUND-UP

- Roma are looking to the Premier League to bolster their squad for next season, with Granit Xhaka, Douglas Luiz and Nemanja Matic all being considered, Calciomercato reports.

- Barcelona are also keen to sign Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski but no opening bid has been made yet, per Fabrizio Romano.

- The Athletic is reporting Manchester United are considering a £50m move for Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips.

- Wayne Rooney has become to top candidate to replace the dismissed  Sean Dyche at Burnley on a permanent basis, according to the Sun.

Wayne Rooney suggested he would like to remain with Derby County in League One, saying he was proud of his team despite seeing their relegation from the Championship confirmed on Monday. 

The Rams will play in the third tier for the first time since the 1985-86 season after falling to a 1-0 defeat to Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.

That result, coupled with rivals Reading recovering from 4-1 down to earn a remarkable 4-4 draw with Swansea City, means Derby have been relegated with three games to play after a season fraught with crisis.

Derby have been deducted a total of 21 points this season – 12 for entering administration in September and nine for breaching the Football League's financial rules under former owner Mel Morris – and were unable to overcome that significant hurdle despite producing promising results on the pitch.

Asked for his initial thoughts after relegation was confirmed, former Manchester United and England captain Rooney said he was "proud" of his players' efforts and stressed the importance of the club's takeover being completed as quickly as possible.

"[I'm] proud," Rooney told Sky Sports. "It's a strange feeling because [despite] everything we've been through as a group, the lads on the pitch, the staff, the fans, the development of the team has been really positive.

"Yeah, we've been relegated, but I've never seen a team get relegated and have a reaction from their fans like that. I thought it was incredible, the support the fans gave the lads all season.

"Of course, I'm disappointed, sad, upset, but proud. In some ways, now we can draw a line under everything that's happened and really start the rebirth of this club and try to move the club forward.

"We need the takeover to happen, it has to happen quick. The quicker that happens, the quicker we can start to develop the squad and bring in players that can bring us back up."

Prospective owner Chris Kirchner is reported to be close to completing a deal for the Pride Park club, and Rooney hinted he wants the chance to lead the Rams back to the second tier if the takeover goes through.

"The takeover has to happen. If it doesn't then I fear for the club, I fear for where the club will end up," he added. "The club's future is in doubt and my future is in doubt if it doesn't happen, so it has to.

"If it does then I want to rebuild the club. You see what it means to the fans, it's a big club, a special club, and I want to be the one to try to bring those happy days back."

Derby would be sat in lower mid-table on 52 points if not for their points deductions, and Rooney expressed regret that his players had been penalised for off-pitch events.

"I feel for the players because we've picked up 52 points, and we'd be safe now in normal circumstances," he said. "We've paid the price for what the former owner has left behind.

"It's no one's fault, not mine, not the staff, not the players', it's no one's fault other than the previous owner. We're paying the price, and I'm sure it's a sad day for him as well."

Wayne Rooney considered links to the vacant Burnley job "a compliment", but he has reiterated his commitment to Derby County.

Derby manager Rooney was one of the names cited as a possible option for Burnley after the Premier League club sensationally sacked long-time boss Sean Dyche on Friday.

Dyche had overseen 425 matches in charge of the Clarets, including 258 in the Premier League. Only six other managers have taken in more games with a single club in the competition.

At nine years and 167 days, Dyche's tenure was the longest among Premier League coaches prior to his dismissal; Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool reign (six years and 189 days as of Friday) was a distant second.

Dyche leaves Burnley 18th in the top flight and four points from safety with eight games remaining, leaving little time to hire a replacement.

Burnley Under-23s coach Mike Jackson, supported by a staff including injured captain Ben Mee, will lead the first team at West Ham on Sunday, but Sam Allardyce has been linked with the post – along with Rooney.

The former Manchester United and England captain was also reported to be a candidate for boyhood club Everton before they appointed Frank Lampard, yet he remains for now at Derby, attempting to beat relegation from the Championship.

"I think it's a compliment to me and the staff, what we've been trying to do here," Rooney said after a 2-1 win over league-leading Fulham on Friday. "[It was] the same with Everton, when you get linked with Premier League clubs.

"I was surprised when I saw that Sean Dyche had been sacked, he's been brilliant for Burnley over the last 10 years.

"Obviously, I've seen the links, I've seen in the news, various news articles that I've been linked.

"But for me what's important is I focus on trying to keep this club in this division. And the future, my future depends on this takeover, that needs to be completed."

Wayne Rooney insisted his focus remains on Derby County but acknowledged he would "love" to manage Manchester United or Everton in future.

Rooney has overseen a tumultuous period at the Championship club, who were docked 21 points earlier this season due to financial mismanagement.

In the challenging circumstances at Pride Park, Rooney has excelled and the Rams are now just four points away from escaping the relegation zone with 16 games left.

Derby's survival hopes were boosted after both Peterborough United and Reading lost on Wednesday, while the former England striker was attending the premiere of his Amazon documentary, 'Rooney'.

His progress has already been noted by those at Goodison Park, with the 36-year-old claiming he turned down the opportunity to interview for the Everton manager's job last month as he did not want to walk away from Derby.

But Rooney would be open to joining one of his former clubs after he has navigated his current challenge with Derby.

"I didn't go to the [Everton] interview, which I was asked to go to," Rooney said on the red carpet at his film premiere. "I've always been one who likes a challenge and is willing to put the work in and fight.

"I've stood in front of my players and told them, 'I'm with you, trust me, I'm fighting with you'... what type of person would I be if, at the first opportunity, I left them?

"True to my word, I am fighting for the club. I am trying to get us out.

"And then Everton, Manchester United – two clubs close to my heart. Of course, one day I'd love to manage either of them clubs."

Derby cruised to a 3-1 victory over Hull City on Tuesday and next visit Middlesbrough, with Rooney believing his side's performances are resonating with the unwavering Rams support.

While he was overseeing yet another Championship victory, United were held to a 1-1 draw at lowly Burnley, but Rooney called for patience at his former club.

"I obviously haven't seen the [United] game – we [Derby] were playing. But I've seen the result and I think they're going through a tough period," he added.

"And you can see a few things off the pitch. It's a tough one. I think it's been going on for a while, if I'm being honest. These are things I brought up in 2010.

"They've tried everything. They've tried very experienced managers in Louis van Gaal. They've tried Jose Mourinho, David Moyes, Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] – one of their own – and now they've tried more of the 'professor' type in the new manager.

"I really think they need to bring someone in and give them time. Give them the opportunity to build the squad, let them compete and get back to the levels we all think they should be at."

Pressed on potentially becoming the United manager, Rooney replied: "As I've said before, Manchester United and Everton are both clubs I'd love to manage one day, but I've got a commitment to Derby County.

"I'm fighting for them, so my focus has to be on Derby."

Wayne Rooney believes he is already capable of managing a "top club" in the Premier League after his experiences at Derby County.

Rooney has been Derby boss since 2020 in a tumultuous period for the Championship club, who face financial difficulties that have put their future at risk.

In testing circumstances, former Manchester United and England captain Rooney has excelled.

Despite starting the 2021-22 season with a limited squad and then suffering a 21-point deduction, Derby retain survival hopes, now within seven points of safety.

Rooney was linked to the Everton job before Frank Lampard was appointed, but the former Goodison Park favourite rejected an approach to stay at Derby.

Even so, the 36-year-old foresees a big future for himself as a top-flight coach.

"Everything that has happened at Derby has made me think even more that I can have a good career in management," Rooney told the Daily Mail.

"I believe that 100 per cent. I believe we will stay up. I think I could go into the Premier League and manage at a top club now. I have no worries about that.

"I know what my strengths are and, more importantly, I know what my weaknesses are."

Rooney revealed his late-career stint in MLS with DC United was "almost training" to adapt to the standard of the Championship, "to almost get to understand that level of player more".

It is an approach that has paid off, although the situation at Derby has presented additional challenges.

"I was a bit disappointed because I saw Neil Warnock say I wouldn't get an easier job because there's no pressure," Rooney said. "If he came in here, he'd drive in, have a look around and drive straight back out."

Comparing the emotions of leading a team from the sidelines rather than on the pitch, Rooney added: "When you lose as a manager, it's worse than when you lose as a player, because you're making all the decisions.

"You think: 'Should I have played this player, should I have done this?' There's a lot going through your mind.

"But when you win a game as manager, it's better than when you won as a player."

Wayne Rooney has revealed the difficulty he had adapting to life as a Premier League superstar, which led to locking himself away to drink and "raging" on the football pitch.

Rooney, Manchester United and England's record goalscorer, is releasing a documentary on Amazon Prime.

And the now Derby County manager has discussed all aspects of his career, including how he struggled to deal with the pressure of playing for United.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, Rooney said becoming a top player at a young age was "something I wasn't prepared for" after growing up in his council estate in Croxteth, "always getting into fights and arguments".

"It took a long time for me to get used to that and figure out how to deal with it," Rooney told the newspaper. "It was like being thrown in somewhere where you are just not comfortable. That was tough for me. 

"I had made a lot of mistakes when I was younger, some in the press and some not in the press, whether that's fighting or whatever.

"For me to deal with that, deal with stuff that was in the newspapers, deal with the manager at the time, deal with family at the time, was very difficult.

"In my early years at Manchester United, probably until we had my first son, Kai, I locked myself away really. I never went out. 

"There were times you'd get a couple of days off from football and I would actually lock myself away and just drink, to try to take all that away from my mind."

On the pitch, it meant playing with anger – although Rooney suggests that made him a better player.

"Early on in my career, I played with a lot more anger and picked up the odd red card," he said. "The anger was all the time when I was drinking, when I was having these moments. Still constantly in my head, I was raging. 

"When I learned to control it, it took that away from me. It was almost as if being right in my head took a bit away from my game. Not being right in my head gave me that added unpredictability."

Yet one notable example of a costly red card saw Rooney sent off for England in a World Cup quarter-final against Portugal, which ended in defeat on penalties.

United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo played a prominent role in appealing for Rooney's dismissal – for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho – and was famously then caught on camera winking to the Portugal bench.

While that incident prompted plenty of discussion as they returned to United, Rooney says: "After I was sent off in the World Cup quarter-final against Portugal and we lost on penalties, I got Ronaldo out into the tunnel. 

"I said: 'Listen, you're going to get a lot of stick from the press, I'm going to get a lot of stick from the press, my focus now is on Man United. There is no issue with me whatsoever, I would have done exactly the same trying to get England a win against Portugal and this is a big year for us and we have every chance of winning the league.'

"My attention, once we were out, completely flipped back to Manchester United.

"There was never any issue. I actually tried to get him booked in the first half for diving. I'm playing for England, he's playing for Portugal, do whatever you can to win."

Everton's managerial search is over, with Frank Lampard having agreed to take over at Goodison Park.

Lampard's appointment comes just over two weeks after Rafael Benitez, who managed the former England international at Chelsea, was sacked following a 2-1 defeat at Norwich City.

Everton lost to Aston Villa last week under the temporary stewardship of Duncan Ferguson, and sit 16th in the Premier League, just four points above the relegation zone.

There is no doubting Lampard has taken on a big job, unlike anything so far in his fledgling managerial career. 

He took Derby County to a play-off final in his first season in management in 2018-19, only to lose to Aston Villa. Then, Chelsea came calling, with the allure of his former club too strong to turn down.

Lampard's first season, in which he was unable to sign players due to a transfer ban imposed on Chelsea, saw the Blues reach the FA Cup final, where they lost to Arsenal, and qualify for the Champions League.

Big investment followed ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, but Lampard was unable to get the new signings to click and was dismissed in January 2021 with Chelsea ninth in the Premier League, 11 points adrift of the top.

While his replacement Thomas Tuchel went on to win the Champions League, Lampard has been out of management for just over a year. But now he is back, Stats Perform uses Opta data to assess what he might be able to bring to Everton.

OVERALL RECORD 

Lampard's win percentage stands at 48.2 across his two roles so far.

He oversaw 57 matches in all competitions at Derby, winning 24 and suffering 16 defeats for a win percentage of 42.1.

Lampard's Derby scored 90 goals and conceded 70 in return. Meanwhile, he had a 52.4 per cent win ratio while in charge of Chelsea.

Relying on youngsters such as Reece James, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham – as well as being able to call on Chelsea's more-experienced stars – the Blues netted 163 goals across 84 games, at an average of 1.9 per match.

Lampard won 44 matches in charge of the Blues, losing 23, while he had 17 draws (the exact same as at Derby), with his team conceding 106 times.

His Premier League record stands at 28 wins from 57 games, with 11 draws and 18 defeats. Chelsea had a top-flight win percentage of 49.12 and registered 1.67 points per game.

That win percentage would put Lampard well clear of any manager Everton have had in the Premier League era.

Indeed, Carlo Ancelotti – with a win percentage of 43.1 from 58 league matches – is Everton's best manager in that regard, with David Moyes (40.5) and Ronald Koeman (40.4) the only Toffees bosses to have won over 40 per cent of their games in charge in the competition.

In contrast, Benitez's win ratio of 26.3 per cent was better only than Mike Walker's (19.4).

 

HOW HIS TEAMS PLAY

Lampard liked to deploy a 4-3-3 shape in his Chelsea career, and with the deep resources he had at Stamford Bridge it was never a case of square pegs in round holes, as has been the case at times at Everton lately. He was often spoiled for choice and had players, such as Kai Havertz, who were able to be effective anywhere across midfield or the forward line.

Chelsea achieved 421 high turnovers in Lampard's 18-month first spell as a boss in the Premier League, with 61 of those resulting in them having a shot and five delivering a goal. Manchester City, Liverpool and Southampton managed more over the same period, but Chelsea did well in this area. This season, Everton are low achievers when it comes to such turnovers. Only Newcastle United (127) and Watford (128) have had fewer than Everton (132), while Lampard's new side are one of just four not to score from a high turnover in the Premier League this term (together with Aston Villa, Norwich City and Burnley). It is asking a lot to transform a team in mid-season, but Lampard will want extra effort in this area.

Benitez tended to favour a 4-2-3-1 shape at Everton, but Lampard will likely revert to the shape he knows best, with the squad he inherits looking ripe for a shake-up.

 

POSSIBLE SIGNINGS

Time is running out for Lampard to make a major dent in the transfer market, but you can bet that will be a priority for the new boss before the window closes on Monday.

Reports have already indicated midfield will be a priority, with Manchester United bench-warmer Donny van de Beek close to arriving on loan, while Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley have both been linked with their former boss, along with Tottenham's Dele Alli, who seems in need of a fresh start.

Those are four major talents, who since the beginning of last season have started a mere 67 Premier League games between them (Loftus-Cheek, 29 for Chelsea and Fulham; Barkley, 19 for Chelsea and Aston Villa; Alli, 15 for Spurs; Van de Beek 4 for United) and contributed only seven goals and five assists in the competition.

Signing any one of those would be putting a lot of trust in past glories, which many would suggest is exactly the same punt Everton are taking with Lampard himself.

Wayne Rooney turned down an interview for the manager job at Everton in order to commit to Derby County's bid for Championship survival.

The former Manchester United and England captain said there was an approach from his boyhood club to his agent asking if he would discuss the prospect of taking over at Goodison Park.

The Toffees, who sacked Rafael Benitez after just over six months in charge two weeks ago, have yet to appoint a permanent successor.

Although Rooney is convinced he will manage in the Premier League in future, he took the "difficult decision" to decline talks with Everton as he wants to see through Derby's attempt to avoid relegation to the third tier.

"Everton approached my agent and asked me to interview for the vacant job, which I turned down," he said on Friday.

"They got in touch with my agent, my agent let the administrators know as well, and yes of course it was a difficult decision for me [to turn it down].

"I believe I will be a Premier League manager. I believe I'm ready for that, 100 per cent. And if that is with Everton one day in the future, that would be absolutely great. But I've got a job here that I'm doing at Derby County, which is an important job to me."

Rooney, who progressed through Everton's academy and rejoined the club in 2017 after 15 years at United, initially took on a player-coach role at Derby after Phillip Cocu was sacked in November 2020, with the club bottom of the Championship. He retired from playing to take on the permanent manager job in January last year and steered them to survival on the final day of the season.

Derby were hit with a 21-point deduction for 2021-22 after going into administration and admitting a breach of English Football League accounting rules, but while the future of the club remains uncertain, Rooney has overseen an almost miraculous battle against relegation, with eight wins and 11 draws from 27 matches leaving them a relatively modest eight points from safety.

Everton dismissed Benitez following a defeat to Norwich City left them six points above the Premier League drop zone. According to reports, their final three candidates are caretaker manager Duncan Ferguson, former Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard and ex-Porto and Fenerbahce boss Vitor Pereira.

Duncan Ferguson hailed the work Wayne Rooney has done at Derby County as the former England captain acknowledged he is "flattered" by reports of Everton's interest.

Rooney, England's record goalscorer who had two spells at boyhood club Everton either side his trophy-laden stint at Manchester United, moved into management in 2020 at Derby, where he played out his final year as a player.

In his first half season at the club, Rooney kept Derby up on the final day. However, the Championship club's financial woes came to a head in September when they filed for administration, which was subsequently followed by a 12-point deduction and then a further nine-point penalty.

Yet against the odds, Rooney has Derby off the foot of the table and eight points from safety. 

Everton, meanwhile, sacked Rafael Benitez on Sunday after a defeat to lowly Norwich City capped a dismal run of just one win in 13 Premier League games. They sit 16th, six points above the relegation zone.

 

Ferguson, as he did in 2019 before Carlo Ancelotti arrived, has taken interim charge and will oversee Saturday's clash with Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa, but Rooney – along with Frank Lampard and Fabio Cannavaro – is a reported candidate, with Belgium having rebuffed an approach for Roberto Martinez.

Asked about the rumours during Friday's media conference ahead of Derby's contest with rivals Nottingham Forest, Rooney said: "I'm the same as everyone else. I see the speculation on social media and in the papers.

"Of course, Everton is a club I grew up supporting and I'm flattered to be brought up in those conversations. But I know Everton will know for them to have any communication with me, they have to go through the administrators.

"I think it's all hearsay as there has been no approach. My focus is on Derby."

Rooney was brought up in Ferguson's own media conference, and the Scot said: "I'm not going to drag on too many names who would be a good fit, but certainly Wayne's done very well at Derby, he's an Evertonian.

"He could be one candidate of many and he's proved himself as a very good manager."

 

Ferguson – who revealed Real Madrid manager Ancelotti had contacted him this week to offer advice – was pressed on whether he would like the opportunity to manage Everton.

"Maybe, down the line, one day – I always dream about becoming Everton manager – but I've not quite got that experience," he answered.

"My job at the moment is to take the upcoming games, steady the ship and the club will go through a process of identifying the new manager. 

"You never know in football, but my job at the moment is to focus on the next game and that's it. 

"We need a winning manager. A manager who can come and win games of football, build something and get us back up the league."

Everton have taken just five points in their last 12 Premier League matches (W1 D2 L9), the fewest in a 12-game span since earning four points between August and October 1994, and asked about Benitez's departure, Ferguson replied: "I think the results weren't there, we weren't too surprised, I don't think Rafa would be too surprised."

Saturday's game with Villa has plenty of side stories. Liverpool great Gerrard was on the winning side against Everton more often than he was against any other opponent in the Premier League (16), while Lucas Digne is returning to Goodison Park just over a week after he left due to a falling out with Benitez.

Derby County's total points deduction for 2021-22 has reached 21 and relegation looks a near certainty after the Rams admitted to breaching accounting rules.

The Championship club's financial woes came to a head in September when they filed for administration, which was subsequently followed by a 12-point deduction.

That sent manager Wayne Rooney's men to the foot of the table where they remain, having won once in nine league matches since.

Their points total of six had them nine adrift of safety with 17 matches played, though they will now see that dip below zero once again, with relegation to League One practically assured.

Derby confirmed their appeal against the initial 12-point deduction had been withdrawn, while the new sanction relates to rule breaches in respect to amortisation, the accounting process of gradually writing off the initial cost of a player.

Any future breach of terms of their 2021-22 budget will see a suspended three-point sanction also come into play.

A statement released by the club and the English Football League (EFL) read: "The EFL has today confirmed Derby County has received a nine-point sporting sanction with a further three points suspended after admitting to breaches of the league's profitability and sustainability rules.

"The club, via its administrators, has also agreed, following last week's adjournment, to the dismissal of its appeal against the 12-point deduction imposed as a consequence of the club entering administration in September 2021, meaning that the sanction continues to apply.

"The new nine-point penalty has been applied immediately, resulting in the club having been deducted a total of 21 points from this season's 2021-22 Championship table.

"The suspended three-point deduction will take effect if the club does not comply with the terms of the budget as set out in the 'Agreed Decision' for the remainder of season 2021-22.

"Both decisions are now final and are not subject to any further rights of appeal under EFL regulations."

Rooney, 36, is Manchester United and England's record goalscorer and became manager of Derby, initially on a caretaker basis, in November of last year. He was subsequently appointed to the role on a permanent basis in January.

Wayne Rooney has accused Derby County owner Mel Morris of being "disrespectful" and lacking honesty after the Championship club entered administration.

The Rams' financial woes came to a head when they filed for administration this week, with a 12-point deduction sending them to the foot of the second tier.

Rooney took permanent charge in January but the former England captain revealed the difficult circumstances he has been working under amid an apparent lack of communication from Morris.

Derby's football staff were at a meeting with Morris on Tuesday but Manchester United legend Rooney was disappointed not to have one-on-one talks with the chairman as uncertainty mounted. 

"In my opinion, it wasn't sincere enough, it wasn't heartfelt enough, and it wasn't done with enough honesty," said Rooney ahead of Saturday's trip to Sheffield United.

"Obviously he has moved on and we have to move on and put Mel Morris to the back of our minds.

"I personally haven't spoken to Mel Morris since August 9. I still haven't had a one-on-one conversation, no phone call, no text message. Nothing.

"I find it a bit disrespectful, to be honest. Communication is so important, whether it’s good news or bad news, so we can deal with it.

"He doesn't have to apologise to me. I just found, as manager of this football club, getting questions from players and staff and not being able to answer, I was hurt by that.

"He's put a lot of money into the club, and he deserves a lot of respect for that, but there are ways of handling things and it has left me disappointed."

Derby face the possibility of a further points deduction due to a potential breach of the EFL's Financial Fair Play rules.

Andrew Hosking, Carl Jackson and Andrew Andronikou of business advisory firm Quantuma have been appointed as the club's administrators.

Rooney, however, insists he will stay put as long as Derby want him.

"I have said how committed I am to this job and this club. Nothing changes," he added.

"I am committed to this football club. I grew up on a council estate in Liverpool. I know how tough life can be.

"What kind of person would I be if I went and laid on a beach for a few weeks? We can stay up but if we get more points deducted, it will get a lot more difficult."

Derby County are facing a 12-point deduction in the Championship after going into administration.

Amid ongoing financial issues, it was confirmed last week that Derby had filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators.

Manager Wayne Rooney revealed he only found out after the news had broken in the media, while owner Mel Morris has claimed the club is losing between £1.3million and £1.5m per month.

The EFL said in a statement on Wednesday that "in accordance with EFL Regulations, a 12-point deduction has been immediately applied to Derby County Football Club's 2021-22 season total".

It added: "The League has already held initial constructive discussions with the administrators and will remain in regular dialogue with them as they seek to find the appropriate solutions required to assist the club as it navigates its way out of insolvency."

Derby also face the possibility of a further points deduction due to a possible breach of the EFL's Financial Fair Play rules.

Andrew Hosking, Carl Jackson and Andrew Andronikou of business advisory firm Quantuma have been appointed as the club's administrators.

"COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the finances of the club and its long-term ability to continue in its current form," a statement from Hosking, released on the club's official website, read.

"We recognise that with the commencement of the 2021-22 season last month, this news will be of concern to stakeholders and fans, in addition to the city of Derby and the wider football community.

"We are in the early stages of assessing the options available to the club and would invite any interested parties to come forward.

"Our immediate objectives are to ensure the club completes all its fixtures in the Championship this season and finding interested parties to safeguard the club and its employees."

Rooney just managed to guide two-time English champions Derby to safety on the final day of the Championship season in 2020-21.

However, there was a risk the Rams could still go down due to financial regulations, though instead they were fined £100,000 and ordered to resubmit their accounts by an EFL disciplinary commission.

Derby, who face Sheffield United on Saturday, beat Stoke City 2-1 in their previous match to move onto 10 points from eight games prior to the deduction.

Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Manchester United will help Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side mount a title challenge, according to former Red Devil Wayne Rooney.

Rooney played with Ronaldo during a five-year spell at Old Trafford, winning three Premier League crowns and the Champions League.

The Portugal captain, who blasted in 118 goals in 292 games across all competitions in his first spell with United, could make his second debut as soon as Saturday against Newcastle United, who are the only club he managed a Premier League hat-trick against during his first term in Manchester.

Now managing Derby County, Rooney said he will not be watching his former team-mate's homecoming but predicts Ronaldo to have an "enormous impact" in his second spell.

"He's one of the best players in the world," Rooney told reporters ahead of Derby's clash with Birmingham City on Friday.

"Cristiano will know himself it's not going to be as simple or straightforward for him as it was in Spain or Italy.

"Cristiano's going to be a very big player, I think he's going to have big moments in the season and I'm sure he'll score a lot of goals.

"So I think United are finally ready to go and challenge for the title, and I really feel they have to this year."

 

Ronaldo missed a 3-0 victory over Azerbaijan with Portugal after being suspended following a caution against the Republic of Ireland for his last-minute goal celebration.

Indeed, in that game the 36-year-old broke Ali Daei's all-time men's international scoring record as he netted his 110th and 111th goals for the Selecao.

And Rooney pointed to that performance as a reason why his former colleague will thrive in the Premier League.

"We saw, in the game against Ireland, what he does," Rooney continued.

"[In the] last couple of minutes, he scores a couple of goals, great headers, so he can have a massive impact on the Premier League.

"It's a physical league, but he knows that, because he's played in it before, so I'm sure he's prepared and ready to go and score goals again for United."

Facundo Pellistri got the decisive goal as Manchester United began their pre-season preparations with a 2-1 win over Wayne Rooney's Derby County.

United great Rooney took over from Phillip Cocu in November and was managing against his former club for the first time.

It was, understandably, an unfamiliar-looking United side, however. With numerous players yet to return after Euro 2020 and the Copa America, and several set to feature at the Olympics, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was without 16 players.

As such, Tom Heaton started in goal following his return to the club, and he made an important save from point-blank range just before the end of a first half that was made to look like something of a struggle due to the heat.

Nevertheless, United held a 1-0 lead at the interval as Tahith Chong – who is set to go on loan to Derby's Championship rivals Birmingham City – seized on a defensive error and bundled in from close range after seeing his initial chip attempt blocked back on to him.

Solskjaer made as many as nine changes at the break, with Axel Tuanzebe and Teden Mengi the only players to remain in the team. Jesse Lingard, Andreas Pereira, Nemanja Matic, Lee Grant and Alex Telles were among those to come into the side, with several youngsters also involved.

Two of the young hopefuls combined to put United 2-0 up.

Shola Shoretire – who became United's youngest ever player in European competition back in February – sliced through the defence with a clever throughball and Pellistri coolly rounded the goalkeeper before tucking home.

Colin Kazim-Richards pulled one back for Derby from distance, but Pellistri's well-taken goal was enough to give United a winning start to their pre-season

When FIFA announced last year they were set to introduce limits on the number of players teams could send out on loan, unsurprisingly many people's first thoughts turned to Chelsea.

At the time, the Blues had a remarkable 28 players at other clubs, though this was by no means a recent trend; in 2018-19, that figure was 41.

The 'hoarding' of talent might be a solid ploy when looking to stunt the growth of a rival team or generate long-term revenue on Football Manager, but in the real world it was a practice that had long attracted criticism.

While by no means the only club in the world to have lots of young players out on loan, Chelsea have – rightly or wrongly – arguably been the most synonymous with it.

Some feel this has directly contributed to the club's struggles in developing homegrown talent because they have so many players, whereas others point out it offers more players the chance to play first-team football at a higher level than the Under-23s.

Putting aside some of the moral issues, Mason Mount falls into the latter category and proves there is a route to the first team through the fog of war for Chelsea's loan army.

By his own admission Mount needed an extra kick when he was in Chelsea's Under-23s as an 18-year-old, and that led to his temporary switch to the Eredivisie with Vitesse, where he won the club's Player of the Year award.

But it's unlikely even he realised how important his next move would be as he linked up with Chelsea great Frank Lampard.

In at the deep end

Mount made 44 appearances across all competitions for Derby County in 2018-19 as they missed out on promotion in the play-off final, but regardless of that ultimate disappointment it proved a massive year for both he and Lampard.

With Maurizio Sarri departing Stamford Bridge to join Juventus following Europa League success, Lampard was brought back to the club as head coach. Given his status and the trust he placed in young players – and, more pertinently, young players owned by Chelsea – at Derby, Lampard was seen as the ideal candidate to guide the team through a transfer embargo by bringing through homegrown talent.

Whether or not Lampard was a success as Chelsea coach is a discussion for another time, but his faith in Mount was unquestionable, chucking him straight into the team on the first day of the 2019-20 season.

The Blues suffered a rather harsh 4-0 defeat at Manchester United, but Mount didn't look out of his depth in the Premier League.

He clearly earnt the trust of his manager, with Lampard using the midfielder in 37 league matches over the course of the season, more than any other player. Across all competitions, the young Englishman made a whopping 53 appearances, missing just two games all year.

Mount finished his debut season with 12 goal involvements (seven scored, five set up), a figure bettered by only Tammy Abraham (18), Willian (16) and Christian Pulisic (13) in the Chelsea squad.

But that doesn't quite tell the whole story. To say he was consistent throughout the season would be a lie, as after the turn of the year there was a growing sense of frustration regarding his form. Between the start of November and the final day of the season, his three assists amounted to a couple of corner deliveries for Antonio Rudiger to head home, and a free-kick against Arsenal that Bernd Leno made a mess of. Mount's one open-play assist of 2019-20 came on the final day of the season against Wolves.

Some felt Mount was being overworked by Lampard, others put his issues down to being used in a variety of roles.

The 'teacher's pet' tag began to raise its head, with Lampard's almost incessant use of Mount leading to suggestions of preferential treatment.

Getting past this was going to be Mount's Everest.

A star of his own merit

When Thomas Tuchel was hired as Lampard's replacement in January, there wouldn't have been too many particularly worried for Mount's future given he had been a fixture in the team, his 2,130 minutes played across all competitions the most of anyone in the Blues' squad.

But when Mount was dropped for the German's first game in charge, Tuchel's decision certainly made people sit up and take note.

While he explained it away as opting to go with experience, dropping Mount suggested he had to earn his place again.

And it would be fair to say he's risen to the challenge.

"I understood and wanted to get back into the team, so that motivation and that fire that I have inside me came out," Mount said at a news conference last month. "I really tried to push to get back into the team. It's been brilliant."

Since then, he's become more productive almost across the board in the final third under Tuchel than he had been for Lampard in 2020-21.

Seemingly one of the main contributing factors is his role. While Lampard used Mount in numerous positions, Tuchel has largely deployed him further up the pitch in an attempt to get him closer to the opposition's penalty area.

Touch maps show a significant change between the two coaches' usage of the 21-year-old. While Mount's touches per 90 are almost identical under the two managers, Lampard deployed Mount deeper than his German successor, while Tuchel has shown a clear desire to get him on the ball in more advanced areas.

So much of the positive work that Mount does with the ball is not captured in goals and assists, the baseline figures that many would deem the primary indicator of an attacking midfielder's contribution. His link play and overall involvement in Chelsea’s attack can be highlighted by sequences framework.

In the 14 games since Tuchel's arrival, only Bruno Fernandes (91) has been involved in more open play sequences (or 'passages of play') that have resulted in a shot than Mount's 86. This figure translates to 7.6 sequences per 90 minutes, which is a big increase on the 5.6 per 90 he was involved in during Lampard's 18 top-flight games this term.

Not only is Mount involved more heavily in Chelsea's attacking play under Tuchel, but his involvement is generating better quality chances. The expected goals value from these sequences has increased from 0.43 per 90 minutes under Lampard to 0.7 under Tuchel. Simply put, Chelsea are creating greater quality chances with Mount further up the pitch.

Similarly, the England international's six goal-ending sequences in the same period are more than any of his team-mates have contributed to.

Even though he's still without a single open-play assist in 2020-21, it's clear to see that Mount's strong associative talents and ability to play tidily in busier areas of the pitch make him a real asset to Tuchel, who has acted quickly to shift him into a position that seemingly suits him better. He's also proving more decisive, with four of his six Premier League goals coming since January 25 – that's more than any of his team-mates in that period.

In general, though, scoring has been a bit of an issue for Chelsea. The likes of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz haven't properly hit their stride yet, and this has undoubtedly impacted Mount's baseline assist numbers, as his expected assists total from open play is 4.1. With more clinical finishing he wouldn't still be sat on zero.

Mount's form lately suggests that once Chelsea begin to click in front of goal, he'll be key to much of their build-up if he's not the one finishing the chances.

Another string to Mount's bow is that he is a genuine set-piece specialist. His corner deliveries are consistently dangerous, and he's created more chances from set plays (38) in 2020-21 than any other player. That's six more than James Ward-Prowse and 16 more than Trent Alexander-Arnold, both of whom have received acclaim for their set-piece prowess over the years.

When thinking of players you might consider to be particularly good at dead-ball situations, Mount may not be the first that comes to mind among non-Chelsea fans, but maybe he should be.

An unsung hero

Mount's improvements certainly don't begin and end with his creativity in the final third, however. Tuchel's preference to play him more centrally is also leading to greater off-the-ball productivity.

He's always been a hard worker and certainly couldn't be accused of neglecting the less glamorous side of the game, yet his role for Tuchel seems to be harnessing his attitude and tirelessness even more effectively.

Mount is averaging 2.2 attempted tackles per 90 minutes under Tuchel, up from 1.7 across Lampard's time at the club. While he may be winning tackles at an almost identical rate (0.95 per 90 mins, up from 0.93), the increase in challenge attempts suggests Mount's work rate makes him a good fit for Tuchel's intense pressing system.

Since the German's first game in charge, Chelsea have the lowest PPDA (9.2) in the Premier League, proof that they press higher than anyone else. PPDA is the number of opposition passes allowed outside of the pressing team's own defensive third, divided by the number of defensive actions by the pressing team outside of their own defensive third. A lower figure indicates a higher level of pressing.

Mount leads Tuchel's press from the front. The midfielder has won possession in the final third 17 times in 19 games for Tuchel. Over the same period, İlkay Gundogan (20), Mohamed Salah (20) and Kevin De Bruyne (23) are the only Premier League players to have a better record than the Chelsea star across all competitions.

A homegrown beacon of hope

Throughout Roman Abramovich's time as Chelsea owner, the club has often found itself in a sort of purgatory. While they've undoubtedly wanted success and a first team full of homegrown talents, it's difficult to say they've truly struck a balance between the two.

After all, since the start of the century, Chelsea products reaching 100 Premier League appearances for the club have been a rarity.

John Terry, of course, leads the way, but beyond him it becomes a bit murky. John Obi Mikel and Nemanja Matic perhaps come closest to fitting the bill, though both did play senior football elsewhere before joining the club as teenagers.

Granted, Mount remains a little way off yet as well having played 69 times in the top-flight for Chelsea, but he's quickly making up ground.

Not too far behind him are Tammy Abraham (57), Callum Hudson-Odoi (55) and Ruben Loftus-Cheek (54), while Andreas Christensen – at Chelsea since 2013 – has featured 72 times.

What's in store for their long-term futures at Chelsea remains to be seen – they are far less certain than Mount.

But Mount especially shows that where there wasn't much hope for young talent coming through at Chelsea in the past, now there is for arguably the first time in the Abramovich era.

The accusations of Mount being a 'teacher's pet' have faded. Tuchel has no ulterior motive to keep picking Mount other than the fact he wants to pick the best side to win games. And with just two defeats in his first 21 games for Chelsea in all competitions, the German is certainly doing just that.

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