Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti thinks last season was the best of his illustrious career, after celebrating success in LaLiga and the Champions League.

Ancelotti was appointed as successor to Zinedine Zidane in June 2021 in something of a surprise move.

The Italian had seemed satisfied with life at Everton, though he had only managed to lead the Premier League club to 12th and 10th-placed finishes in his 18 months at Goodison Park.

Ancelotti was a popular figure with fans and players alike during his initial spell at Santiago Bernabeu, taking Madrid to 'La Decima' - their tenth Champions League title - in 2014, but he was dismissed in 2015, with Los Blancos having finished second in LaLiga and exiting the Champions League in the semi-finals.

Having triumphed in every other major European league, LaLiga success had evaded Ancelotti until his return to Madrid, who cruised to the title in Spain's top flight last season.

European glory then came in the form of a 1-0 win over Liverpool at the Stade de France at the end of May, making Ancelotti the first coach in history to win the Champions League four times (twice with Milan, twice with Madrid).

Ahead of the Super Cup against Europa League champions Eintracht Frankfurt in Helsinki, Ancelotti reflected on last season as his best as a coach.

"I think so, it was the best I had in my career. I was never able to win the league and Champions League [double]," he told a news conference.

"My players were able to reach this through a fantastic combination – spirit, attitude, quality, experience and enthusiasm of the youngsters.

"For all these reasons we were able to beat strong teams."

Asked what Madrid's goals are heading into this season, Ancelotti replied: "We're going to battle on all fronts in every competition, I have no doubts about that.

"I am confident in all of the players here, considering last year, I think the squad has improved further."

Madrid have brought in Antonio Rudiger from Chelsea and Aurelien Tchouameni from Monaco, but neither of their new signings will start on Wednesday against Frankfurt, with Ancelotti revealing the same team that lined up against Liverpool in Paris will take to the field.

"We are here down to the hard work of the players who won the Champions League," said Ancelotti, who was joined in his news conference by Luka Modric and Karim Benzema.

"We didn't just win with 11 players who are going to start tomorrow, of course there are others who deserve to play, but we can only start 11, and I'm going to play the team that started in Paris."

With a smile and trademark lift of an eyebrow, he quipped: "I think the two players who are next to me are going to start, if they want to!"

Oliver Glasner is disappointed to see Filip Kostic leave Eintracht Frankfurt, but is happy that the Juventus-bound winger will leave the club a hero.

Kostic looks set to have played his last match for Frankfurt, with the versatile winger having been left out of the Bundesliga side's squad to face Real Madrid in the Super Cup on Wednesday.

Since he signed for Frankfurt from Hamburg in 2018, Kostic has played more games (167) and started more matches (161) than any other player for the club in all competitions.

His 30 goals trails only Andre Silva (45) and Luka Jovic (31), while he is way clear in terms of assists (56) and chances created (420), with 269 of them coming from open play.

Indeed, Kostic's tally of 1,702 passes played into the opposition's box, including crosses, is almost 1,300 more than second-best Daichi Kamada.

Glasner knows Kostic, who has excelled as a wing-back, will be a huge miss as he explained why he feels the move is bittersweet.

"Today it's as if I'm laughing and crying," Glasner told a news conference at Helsinki's Olympic Stadium. "Filip left his mark on our attack, it's never nice to lose such a player.

"It definitely weakens us, but I also have this laugh, thinking about how the season started last year with Filip when he went on strike and didn't want to play.

"I had a lot of conversations with him about playing 100 per cent for the team. I asked him that when he left Frankfurt, to please leave as a hero, and now he's leaving as a hero, he was the player of the year and he won the Europa League. I'm really happy for him, but yes it's sad [that he is leaving]."

 

Glasner acknowledged he was surprised at how swiftly Kostic's move, which has been speculated on for weeks, transpired between Frankfurt's 6-1 defeat to Bayern Munich on Saturday and Wednesday's encounter with Champions League winners Madrid.

As such, he suggested Frankfurt's system will not change for upcoming games, but that it may be open to tweaks over the coming weeks.

"[On Monday] it became more and more clear that Filip could leave. You won't see a big system change [against Madrid] but it is possible we change things in the next weeks or months, that is the job of the coach, to find the best system," he added.

"I didn't maybe expect it to be so quick. I had a feeling, even after the Bayern match, that he would play. Well, this dream was broken.

"But every time someone leaves it's an opportunity and I prefer to see the opportunities, not what is missing. It will be an opportunity for other players. It's not like it's a complete shock, the club is prepared and the transfer window is still open."

Goalkeeper Kevin Trapp echoed Glasner's sentiment, but was confident his team-mates have not been shaken by Kostic's departure.

Trapp said: "The topic of Filip, we've had it every year at the beginning of the season. It's sad, Filip did something historic for the club, did a lot with the club, he's leaving as a hero who was a big part of this achievement.

"But it's part of football, part of businesses. We have a team capable of showing good performances without Filip, but it's nothing that shocked us or has shaken us after the speculation of the last weeks. It's a departure that hurts but nothing that will shake us too much."

Eintracht Frankfurt have confirmed wing-back Filip Kostic will not feature in Wednesday's UEFA Super Cup clash with Real Madrid, with the Serbia international reportedly close to joining Juventus.

Speculation linking Kostic with a move away from the Europa League holders has been rife throughout the transfer window, after he starred with seven goals and 13 assists in all competitions last season.

Kostic, who joined Frankfurt in 2018, also created 112 chances from his left wing-back role during a terrific 2021-22 campaign – almost double the highest tally managed by any of his team-mates (Jesper Lindstom created 57).

With reports now suggesting the 29-year-old is set to join Massimiliano Allegri's Juventus on a permanent deal, the German side will be without him when they face Champions League winners Madrid in Helsinki.

Frankfurt sporting director Markus Krosche told the club's website: "Filip behaved in an exemplary manner last season and played a large part in winning the UEFA Europa League. 

"We've always said that we wouldn't put any obstacles in his way if the offer was good for all parties and that we were willing to talk. We are currently in promising talks with another club and a solution is emerging. 

"We have a broad squad and we have a lot of confidence in the lads, who all deserve their chance and are excited about the challenges ahead. 

"Against this background, we decided – also at the request of the possible new club – to play the game against Real Madrid without Filip."

Kostic now appears likely to join a host of new faces at Juventus, who have already recruited the likes of Paul Pogba, Angel Di Maria and Gleison Bremer as they seek to regain the Serie A title. 

Sadio Mane scored his first Bundesliga goal as Bayern Munich opened the new campaign with a stunning 6-1 victory at Eintracht Frankfurt.

Europa League winners Frankfurt seemed a tricky first opponent for the champions, but Julian Nagelsmann's side swept them aside in sensational style.

Having defeated RB Leipzig 5-3 in the DFL-Supercup in their first competitive match after Robert Lewandowski's departure last week, Bayern were five up by half-time on Friday – Joshua Kimmich, Benjamin Pavard, Jamal Musiala and Serge Gnabry joining Mane on the scoresheet.

Manuel Neuer's sloppiness gifted Randal Kolo Muani a consolation, yet it was a minor blip in a supreme Bayern display, and Musiala capped things off with his second late on.

Bayern had full control by the 10th minute. Kimmich fooled Kevin Trapp with a long-range free-kick that clipped in off the right-hand upright, before Pavard lashed in his second goal in as many games.

Juventus-linked Filip Kostic teed up a golden chance for Frankfurt to drag themselves back into contention, only for Tuta to head against the woodwork, which then denied Bayern a third after Gnabry's poor pass sold Thomas Muller short in front of goal.

Another glorious Eintracht chance went begging due to Jesper Lindstrom's profligacy, but Bayern had their third after Trapp had parried Musiala's effort onto the crossbar – Mane stooping low to head in Gnabry's cross.

Mane turned architect for Bayern's fourth six minutes later, drawing out the Frankfurt defence and finding Muller, who squared for Musiala, and it was five before half-time when Gnabry squeezed home.

Kristijan Jakic, one of three half-time Frankfurt substitutes, thought he had pulled a goal back in the 56th minute, yet it was disallowed for offside.

Neuer hardly covered himself in glory in that incident, and Bayern's captain was entirely at fault eight minutes later when he was bundled off the ball by Kolo Muani.

Musiala had the final say, though, tucking in after Leroy Sane's exquisite pass to add further gloss to a statement win.

What does it mean? No Lewy, no problem

Bayern have now gone unbeaten in their opening league fixture for 11 straight seasons – they went on to win the title in each of the previous 10.

Although Bayern have lost more times away to Frankfurt than they have any other team (23), they were in top gear from the off, and there was never any danger of another defeat.

Lewandowski may have gone, but Bayern's attack – spearheaded by Mane and the evergreen Muller, who matched Hans Georg Schwarzenbeck's 416 Bundesliga outings for Bayern (the second-most among outfield players) and finished with two assists – looks scintillating. 

Magical Mane off to a flyer

In five of his six Premier League campaigns for Liverpool, Mane scored in his first away game of the season, including on his Reds debut in a 4-3 win at Arsenal in August 2016.

The Senegal forward always seemed likely to start fast in Germany, and he has done just that. He is the first player to score in his maiden Bundesliga away game for Bayern since Joshua Zirkzee did so against Freiburg in December 2019, while Mario Mandzukic, in 2012, was the last Bayern player to score in his first two appearances for the club in all competitions.

Few home comforts for Frankfurt

Friday's game was the ninth example of an away team scoring five before half-time in Bundesliga history, and Bayern are responsible for four of those occasions.

But in truth, they were helped by a woeful defensive display from their hosts. Frankfurt picked up just 19 points at home (W4 D7 L6) last season, bettering only the two relegated sides in Arminia Bielefeld and Greuther Furth, and Oliver Glasner must strike a better balance.

What's next?

Bayern host Wolfsburg in their second Bundesliga game of the season, while Frankfurt travel to Helsinki for the small matter of facing Champions League winners Real Madrid in the Super Cup.

Death, taxes and Bayern Munich winning the Bundesliga title.

It is slightly paraphrasing the old idiom to say these are the only three things certain in life.

Such is the optimism of football fandom, though, the question always arises ahead of the new campaign whether this year will be the one where someone steps up and takes Bayern's throne.

The 2021-22 season saw the Bavarian giants claim their 10th Bundesliga title in a row, with Julian Nagelsmann leading Bayern to the championship by eight points in his first season at the Allianz Arena.

Since Jurgen Klopp's exciting Borussia Dortmund side of 2011-12, no team has been able to halt the relentless Bayern dominance of German football.

In fact, in the last decade, only the 2018-19 campaign saw anyone finish closer than the eight points Dortmund were behind last season, when BVB were just two points shy of their Der Klassiker rivals.

How can anyone seriously make the argument that their run will halt any time soon then? Well, let Stats Perform have a go as we take a look at some of the reasons why Bayern might struggle to maintain their stranglehold in 2022-23.

 

Loss of Lewy means new Bayern approach

Bayern's signing of Robert Lewandowski from Dortmund in 2014 was one of the catalysts for their concerted period of dominance.

However, after eight years of service and 238 goals in 253 Bundesliga games for Bayern, the Poland striker wanted to move on and eventually sealed a transfer to Barcelona.

His goals-per-game ratio in the German top flight of 0.94 bested even the great Gerd Muller (0.85), and his loss was certainly not one Bayern had planned for, with the club initially indicating they expected him to honour the final year of his contract, before finally relenting.

Despite being 33 years old, Lewandowski's impact had not waned at all, with him scoring 50 goals in all club competitions last season, making it seven consecutive seasons with at least 40 goals to his name.

Nagelsmann has insisted his team will evolve in Lewandowski's absence, though, and the signing of Sadio Mane appears to suggest that.

After Lewandowski's sale was confirmed, Nagelsmann told BR24: "I'm not worried right now, we are very well-equipped offensively and I'm still spoiled for choice. We have a possibility of building FC Bayern without a striker that can reliably score 40 goals."

With 120 goals in all competitions for Liverpool, Mane averaged a goal every 178.3 minutes for the Reds – a return of one in slightly under two matches. He also assisted 37 goals, meaning he was directly involved in a goal every 137 minutes.

In the Premier League, only Harry 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.

His scoring rate has never been close to that of Lewandowski, though he has played a significant amount of his career on the left of a front three rather than through the middle, where he ended last season for Liverpool and is expected to mostly play at Bayern.

That means the likes of Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman, Jamal Musiala and Thomas Muller will need to step up and contribute more goals, while it will be interesting to see if 17-year-old striker Mathys Tel will feature much in his first season after signing from Rennes.

The club has also added Ryan Gravenberch and Noussair Mazraoui from Ajax, while former Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt has arrived from Juventus to replace the outgoing Niklas Sule, who chose to swap Munich for Dortmund when his contract expired.

Will Dortmund finally solve flakiness issue?

Marco Rose looked to be a very astute appointment in 2021, but the former Borussia Monchengladbach boss just did not work out at Dortmund.

Rose has been replaced by Edin Terzic, who enjoyed a spell as caretaker boss in the second half of the 2020-21 campaign, winning the DFB-Pokal.

Terzic now has the reins permanently and has two big jobs on his hands.

The first is fixing a leaky defence, which conceded 52 goals in the Bundesliga last season, more than any other team to finish in the top eight, and only one goal fewer than relegated Arminia Bielefeld.

The club may have addressed the issue in the transfer market as they have essentially procured the German national team's central defence by adding Sule from Bayern on a free transfer and the highly rated Nico Schlotterbeck from Freiburg.

Schlotterbeck won 69 per cent of his duels in the Bundesliga last season, the joint-most of all players who contested at least 100 duels, while Sule was third with 68 per cent.

Another issue that needed addressing was similar to Bayern's Lewandowski issue, with Erling Haaland having departed for Manchester City.

The Norwegian scored 86 goals in 89 appearances at Dortmund, including 22 of their 85 league goals last season, though he was only able to feature in 24 games due to injury.

Sebastien Haller was signed to replace Haaland but will unfortunately miss the first few months of the campaign after undergoing surgery for a testicular tumour.

The addition of exciting young talent Karim Adeyemi from Salzburg will give them a dynamic in attack they have missed since selling Jadon Sancho to Manchester United, while in Haller's absence it will be interesting to see if Youssoufa Moukoko, still just 17-years-old, can add to the five Bundesliga goals he already has to his name.

Having also signed defensive midfielder Salih Ozcan from Cologne to provide some steel alongside Jude Bellingham, who it appears they will be keeping hold of for another season at least, the balance of a frequently wobbly side could be there for Terzic to build some momentum.

Best of the rest

Bayer Leverkusen enjoyed a strong campaign last season and have replaced Lucas Alario with promising Czech striker Adam Hlozek.

They also appear to have fought off interest in Moussa Diaby so it would not be a surprise to see them go well again, but with Champions League football to contend with, questions remain whether they have the depth of squad to excel on all fronts.

RB Leipzig will hope to provide a challenge and have also kept hold of their star player in Christopher Nkunku, though losing Tyler Adams and Nordi Mukiele will be a blow, while Eintracht Frankfurt will want to build on last season's Europa League success.

It would be churlish to write Bayern off, of course. They go into the season as heavy favourites and rightly so.

 

Mane might not have the same goalscoring output as Lewandowski, but football has proven time and again that having one player who scores lots of goals is not the only way to be successful.

The African Football Player of the Year has the chance to be the face of the new Bayern, where everyone will be expected to chip in and Nagelsmann can truly cement his ideas on the team.

However, while Bayern have been somewhat forced into a new era, Dortmund appear to have reached theirs more by design and if everything clicks early on for Terzic, an exciting title race could develop.

After all, the only thing that is certain about football is that nothing is certain.

Sadio Mane has yet to kick a ball in the Bundesliga and already the former Liverpool striker is facing jibes – including a tongue-in-cheek volley from Bayern Munich's opening-day opponents.

Eintracht Frankfurt president Peter Fischer is relishing Friday's tussle between his team, who lifted the Europa League trophy in May, and German champions Bayern.

There is a feelgood factor around Eintracht as the new season arrives, with a UEFA Super Cup clash against Real Madrid coming up next Wednesday.

Confidence is surging, and even the prospect of facing Bayern is not intimidating the team that trailed in 11th in last season's Bundesliga.

Bayern have lost Robert Lewandowski since he hit 50 goals last season, and few would expect new addition Sadio Mane to come close to that tally.

Not many would see it wise to be hurling insults his way, though, however light-hearted the intention.

Fischer, in an interview with broadcasters RTL and n-tv, did just that though, as he said: "Who the f*** is Mane?"

 

Fischer added: "By the way, we always did relatively well with Robert Lewandowski."

That is debatable, given that Lewandowski scored 15 goals in 18 appearances against Eintracht, prior to his close-season switch to Barcelona. They came at a rate of one every 91.53 minutes.

Fischer predicted there would be "an exciting mood in the stadium" as Eintracht host the 10-in-a-row champions.

"And of course we have a chance. If it ends in a draw, I won't start to cry either."

Eintracht head coach Oliver Glasner worked with Mane when the Senegalese forward moved from Metz to Salzburg in 2012, and he has since admired the 30-year-old from afar, particularly during his stellar six-year Liverpool career.

"I am happy that Sadio is in the Bundesliga now," Glasner told a news conference. "It's been 10 years since I got to know him. He was just a young boy that was relegated from the French second to third division. He only spoke French but had enormous talent.

"He was very ambitious and had a clear idea. When we talked about learning German, he said he wants to learn English because he wants to go to the Premier League.

"I am very happy for him. And for Bayern to sign a player from Liverpool is evidence of the attractiveness of the Bundesliga which they were afraid of losing."

Glasner said his team would not be "raising the white flag" of surrender against Bayern and would "do everything we can" to score the upset win, even if he sees Bayern as champions in waiting once again.

After Bayern comes the Madrid game for Eintracht in Helsinki.

"This morning I said it's actually cool for us," Glasner added. "We play the Champions League winners three years ago on Friday and the current Champions League winners on Wednesday. Quite a cool start. Nevertheless, I think that over the course of the Bundesliga season, Bayern will have the edge again."

Another Bundesliga campaign kicks off on Friday after a frantic close-season saw Germany's top flight robbed of its two biggest stars.

Bayern Munich superstar Robert Lewandowski left for Barcelona, while fellow striking sensation Erling Haaland departed Borussia Dortmund as expected for Manchester City.

What do these moves do to shake up the Bundesliga, then? Perhaps not an awful lot...

Stats Perform AI has predicted the outcome of the coming campaign, estimating the likelihood of teams finishing in each position informed by their expected results in each match.

These are calculated using betting odds and Stats Perform's team rankings – based on historical and recent team performances – and have thrown up some interesting results, even if the title race is a little too predictable.

MANE TO MAINTAIN BAYERN DOMINANCE

Lewandowski's exit was offset by the arrival of Sadio Mane at Bayern, and Stats Perform AI expects Julian Nagelsmann's side to again charge clear at the top of the table.

Bayern have won 10 consecutive titles, so perhaps it is no surprise they are given an 84.93 per cent chance of taking the trophy home again in May.

That figure makes Bayern the most likely champions across all of Europe's top five leagues, with nearest contenders Dortmund only in with a 6.01 per cent shot.

RB Leipzig (4.64 per cent), Bayer Leverkusen (3.38 per cent) lead a group of 10 other clubs who are given at least a slim hope of winning the championship.

For six teams – including 2003-04 champions Werder Bremen and 2006-07 victors Stuttgart – their title tilt is over before a ball has even been kicked.

 

SCRAMBLE OUTSIDE THE TOP FOUR

Unfortunately, the top-four tussle appears as predictable as Bayern's coronation.

The champions will of course occupy one Champions League spot – their 99.53 per cent chance again the greatest across the top five leagues – while Dortmund (76.78 per cent), Leipzig (72.2 per cent) and Leverkusen (62.98 per cent) also look secure, forecast second, third and fourth respectively.

That means a return to Europe's elite competition for all of those who have qualified this year, even if Leipzig have leapfrogged Leverkusen.

Stats Perform AI suggests Union Berlin (4.66 per cent) and Freiburg (8.22 per cent) – one and three points outside the top four last term – have missed their shot, with Borussia Monchengladbach (22.94 per cent) and Eintracht Frankfurt (21.5 per cent) the most likely gatecrashers despite last season finishing 10th and 11th.

Eintracht are also in the Champions League this term after winning the Europa League, but they are considered the team most likely to return to the second-tier competition (13.32 per cent).

There could be a real scrap for those final European places, though. All but four teams have at least a 1.0 per cent likelihood of qualifying for the Europa Conference League, with title favourites Bayern one of those four.

 

SCHALKE AND WERDER FACE A FIGHT

Schalke and Werder – two of the great names of German football – have returned to the top flight following successful promotion campaigns in the 2. Bundesliga last season, but they face tricky first seasons back in the big time.

The ceiling for Schalke is a little higher, so Stats Perform AI has them finishing in the relegation play-off place in 16th.

This is despite two teams – Augsburg (14.02 per cent) and Werder (13.9 per cent) – being more likely to qualify for that play-off than Schalke (13.3 per cent).

Werder are ranked 17th, while the outlook for Augsburg is awful; 14th in the Bundesliga in 2021-22, they have a new coach in ex-Dortmund II boss Enrico Maassen and are considered a strong 38.19 per cent shot for relegation.

Bochum (30.84 per cent) are also in a little trouble, with Hertha Berlin (11.62 per cent) backed to pull away and finish 12th after their play-off scare last time out.

Tottenham have reportedly entered the race for 23-year-old Roma attacking midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo, with Juventus also heavily linked to the Italy international.

Zaniolo missed the entire 2020-21 season after suffering the second torn ACL of his career, but he made a successful return this past campaign, totalling 42 club appearances, including five goals and four assists in 10 Conference League fixtures.

The man with nine senior international caps has been linked with Juventus for some time now, but with the club yet to make any breakthrough, they could face competition from the Premier League.

TOP STORY – TOTTENHAM LOOK TO SWOOP IN FOR JUVENTUS TARGET

According to Tuttosport, Juventus and Roma have been holding discussions about different constructions of a deal for Zaniolo, including an iteration that would make it a loan this season with an option to buy after. The report mentions his price tag is believed to be between £30million and £40million.

With Tottenham set to play Roma in a friendly on Saturday, it is said to be an opportunity for the two clubs to sit down and discuss the possibility of a move.

Reports have claimed Spurs are willing to include Giovani Lo Celso in their bid, with the English club said to value the Argentinian at £17million.


ROUND-UP

– L'Equipe is reporting that Marseille are investigating a potential move for Inter's Alexis Sanchez.

– Fabrizio Romano says Chelsea have yet to receive an acceptable offer for 20-year-old striker Armando Broja after turning down a £30million bid from West Ham, and that he may be competing for first-team minutes this season.

– Fabrizio Romano is also reporting that Everton have approached Paris Saint-Germain about bringing 32-year-old Idrissa Gueye back to the club after he left in 2019.

– According to 90min, West Ham are in talks with Eintracht Frankfurt about 29-year-old wing-back Filip Kostic after having their first bid turned down.

Ajax, Newcastle United and Bayer Leverkusen are tracking 18-year-old forward Giovani, playing for Palmeiras in the Brazilian top division, according to ESPN Brasil.

Mario Gotze acknowledges he was wrong to reject a move to Liverpool upon leaving Bayern Munich in 2016, when the Reds were at the beginning of their rebuild under Jurgen Klopp.

Gotze returned to the Bundesliga this month, joining Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt after spending two seasons with Eredivisie giants PSV Eindhoven.

The creative midfielder, who scored the only goal of the game as Germany overcame Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final, became one of European football's hottest properties during a four-year spell with Klopp's Borussia Dortmund between 2009 and 2013, winning two Bundesliga titles and reaching a Champions League final.

After moving from BVB to rivals Bayern Munich, where he scored 36 goals in 114 appearances, Gotze was targeted by the Reds in 2016, and now admits a move to Anfield would have benefited his career.

"Liverpool had finished eighth in their first season with Jurgen [2015-16] and had not qualified for the Champions League," he recalled in an interview with Bild.

"Even in previous years, it wasn't a club that always played at the top.

"Dortmund had previously played a top season under Thomas Tuchel, BVB was on the up. Jurgen was still building something.

"In retrospect you have to say, Liverpool would have been better."

Reds boss Klopp has won six major trophies during his spell with the Merseyside club, lifting both domestic cups during a marathon 2021-22 season which saw them narrowly miss out on a historic quadruple. 

Mario Gotze has all the qualities to return to the Germany squad ahead of the World Cup in Qatar, according to former Die Mannschaft coach Joachim Low.

Gotze has won 63 caps for his country and scored an extra-time winner against Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final as Germany lifted the trophy for a fourth time.

The creative midfielder has not appeared for the national side since November 2017, though, when he appeared as a second-half substitute in a friendly against France.

That is due to a lack of club success for the former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich star, who has traded PSV for Eintracht Frankfurt in a reported €4million move to the Europa League winners.

Appearing in the Champions League for Eintracht, alongside returning to the Bundesliga, the 30-year-old will be hopeful of making his way back into the fold for Germany.

Low, who guided Germany to that World Cup triumph in the crowning achievement of his 15-year tenure, says Gotze has the talent to earn a place in Hansi Flick's Die Mannschaft team before the 2022 tournament in Qatar in November.

"He has all the qualities for it," Low told Sky in Germany. "He will play in the Champions League again, he is the focus here in the Bundesliga and wants to impress for the World Cup."

Gotze scored 12 goals and added 11 assists across all competitions for PSV in the 2021-22 season, playing in 52 games, with reports linking him to Serie A champions Milan.

Eintracht swooped in as Oliver Glasner looked to bolster his squad to compete in Europe, but the Germany international's arrival came as a surprise to Low.

"Of course I didn't expect Mario to return to Germany, not at this point in time," he added.

"But I'm very happy for Mario and Eintracht. Mario is an exceptional player, very professional and with his great playing intelligence, he fits in very well with Eintracht."

Mario Gotze expressed his excitement at returning to the Champions League after sealing his transfer to Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt. 

The 30-year-old former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich man has returned to the Bundesliga for a reported €4million fee after spending two years with Eredivisie giants PSV.

Frankfurt confirmed the midfielder had signed a three-year deal on Tuesday, as Oliver Glasner looks to strengthen his squad for next season's Champions League campaign.

Speaking to the club's website, Gotze said: "I'm incredibly excited about joining Eintracht Frankfurt. This club have made remarkable progress and have started out on an exciting and ambitious path, on which I can now accompany them. 

"This club have a great foundation. From the stadium to the fans to the city, everything is just to my liking. I'm really looking forward to my return to the Bundesliga, as well as the chance to play in the Champions League."

Gotze, who has won 63 caps for Germany, scored the only goal of his country's 2014 World Cup final win over Argentina, earning Die Mannschaft their fourth world title.

Board member Markus Krosche told the club's media channels: "The fact that a player like Mario Gotze has chosen, with full conviction, Eintracht Frankfurt over numerous other offers, speaks volumes for the outstanding image that the club has built over the past few years.

"I don't need to say much about his footballing qualities. We've been lacking a player of his type. Mario's technical ability will help our game enormously."

As well as being seeded for next season's Champions League group stage, Frankfurt will face Real Madrid in August's UEFA Super Cup in Helsinki after beating Rangers on penalties in Seville last month.

Mario Gotze looks set for a Bundesliga second coming after being given permission to miss PSV's first training session under new boss Ruud van Nistelrooy. 

The 30-year-old former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich attacker has been strongly linked with a move to Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt. 

Serie A champions Milan were also recently credited with an interest in Gotze, but reports in Germany on Monday indicated a move to Frankfurt was close to completion. 

Sport1 said Gotze, who joined PSV in 2020 and has two years left on his contract, has a clause allowing him to leave for €4million and that an agreement with Eintracht has been broadly agreed. 

PSV confirmed Gotze's absence from training, saying that he had been "given the space... to complete a transfer to another club". 

Gotze, capped 63 times by Germany, was the 2014 World Cup final match-winner, scoring the only goal of the game against Argentina in extra time. 

He scored 12 goals and added 11 assists across all competitions for PSV in the 2021-22 season, playing in 52 games. 

Van Nistelrooy, the former PSV, Manchester United and Real Madrid striker, looks like having to plan without the experienced Gotze, and spoke on Monday of wanting to give opportunities to the club's best young players. 

The 45-year-old was announced as PSV's incoming boss in March, signing a three-year contract. 

Bayern Munich face a tricky early test when they begin their Bundesliga title defence at Eintracht Frankfurt in the season's opening game on August 5.

Whether the champions still have Robert Lewandowski in their ranks come that date remains to be seen, as the prolific Polish striker pushes for a move away, and there could be turbulent times for the Bavarian giants before the game comes around.

Frankfurt won the Europa League in the 2021-22 season, while Bayern have landed 10 consecutive Bundesliga titles, making it a tasty appetiser for the new campaign.

It will be the first time in the history of the Bundesliga that the reigning champions will have come up against the UEFA Cup or Europa League holders on matchday one, Opta said.

Frankfurt finished a modest 11th in last season's German top flight, with their form in Europe offering a striking contrast to their domestic fortunes.

They will hope that home advantage proves significant, and history tells us that Bundesliga champions can struggle early on. Teams beginning the defence of their Bundesliga title have started with an away fixture in 21 league seasons and have lost 10 of them (W6 D5).

While Julian Nagelsmann's Bayern and Oliver Glasner's Frankfurt get the season under way with their Friday night game, the standout fixture on the opening weekend is set to take place at Signal Iduna Park as Borussia Dortmund host Bayer Leverkusen.

That is a clash of the teams that finished second and third respectively last season. Dortmund will be starting life without Erling Haaland, the prolific striker who has elected to move on to Manchester City, with Karim Adeyemi signed from Salzburg as his replacement.

Strong starters in recent seasons, Dortmund have won each of their last seven Bundesliga openers.

RB Leipzig head to Stuttgart on the first weekend of the campaign, while promoted Schalke and Werder Bremen both face away trips as they tackle Cologne and Wolfsburg respectively.

Bayern face further August fixtures against Wolfsburg, Bochum and Borussia Monchengladbach, with the first Klassiker of the season against Dortmund scheduled for the long weekend of October 7-10. Dortmund will have home advantage for that one, with Bayern then hosting BVB over the weekend of March 31 to April 3.

Rangers say only the "mutual respect of both sets of fans" prevented more severe problems from occurring when the Europa League final was staged in Seville this month.

Eintracht Frankfurt were crowned champions when they beat the Glasgow giants 5-4 on penalties at Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan on May 18.

Representatives of Rangers, the Bundesliga club and Football Supporters Europe (FSE) met last Friday to debrief and discuss "several significant organisational issues" during the final.

Rangers on Monday stated that fans were not treated with the respect and dignity that they should have been.

"Supporters Europe (FSE) met to debrief and discuss several significant organisational issues during the recent UEFA Europa League final in Sevilla," a club statement said.

"These issues could easily have led to even more severe problems on the night and it was only thanks to the calmness and mutual respect of both sets of fans towards each other that there were not more severe injuries suffered. All three parties applaud the remarkable calmness of the two fan bases, given the situation they faced.

"Apart from the severe lack of food and – even more critically in the soaring temperatures – of water, there were several organisational problems around policing, body searches and beyond. Both clubs, as well as FSE, received a huge amount of complaints and witness statements from fans present in the stadium.

"All three parties will now work jointly to report back to UEFA and the local public authorities in Spain, and will make recommendations to ensure these problems can never occur again at a European final.

"Fans spend a lot of effort, time and money following their teams all over Europe and expect to be treated with respect and dignity while attending football games. This expectation was not met at all at the Europa League final in Sevilla."

UEFA have come in for criticism following chaotic scenes outside the Stade de France ahead of the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool on Saturday.

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).

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