What does the future hold for Lorenzo Insigne?

The Napoli captain is no certainty to remain at his boyhood club as his contract runs down.

A switch to Milan could be on the cards…

 

TOP STORY – MILAN TARGETING INSIGNE

Milan met with Lorenzo Insigne's agent as they eye a move for the Napoli captain, according to Gianluigi Di Marzio.

Insigne – previously linked with Liverpool – has one year remaining on his current contract and the Italy international is yet to re-sign with his boyhood club.

Serie A rivals Milan are monitoring the situation and ready to pounce.

 

ROUND-UP

- A move for Insigne depends on the future of Milan midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu. The 27-year-old is set to become a free agent and Arsenal and Chelsea are eyeing the Turkey international, reports Sky Italy. Manchester United have also been linked.

- The front page of Thursday's Gazzetta dello Sport says Inter and neighbours Milan are going head-to-head to sign Fiorentina defender Nikola Milenkovic. The Serbia international is also reportedly wanted by United, Juventus and Tottenham.

Chelsea, Barcelona and Manchester City are vying to sign Inter star Romelu Lukaku this off-season, claims Calciomercato. Lukaku has emerged as a target for all three clubs, who are also eyeing Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling HaalandReal Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, United and Liverpool have also been linked with Haaland.

- According to Corriere dello Sport, Roma and Milan both want to sign Torino captain Andrea Belotti. With Torino struggling, the Italy forward could be ready to jump at the chance for European football.

Tottenham are stepping up their pursuit of Southampton defender Jannik Vestergaard, says the Express. Spurs have long been linked with Inter star Milan Skriniar, but Vestergaard appears to be an easier option.

Lionel Messi's future is a popular topic.

Messi wanted to leave Barcelona at the start of the season but opted to remain at Camp Nou.

With his contract expiring at the end of 2020-21, the Barca superstar is continuing to make headlines.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI WAITING ON BARCA

Barcelona have yet to make a move to re-sign superstar captain Lionel Messi, according to the front page of Wednesday's Marca.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and his future is far from certain, having been tipped to join either Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City.

Led by new president Joan Laporta, Barca are determined to retain the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo reports Ousmane Dembele wants to continue with Barca, but speculation is mounting that Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar could return to Camp Nou. Neymar – who left Barca for PSG in a world-record €222million deal in 2017 – has been negotiating a new contract in the French capital. Dembele has previously been linked with Manchester United.

Manchester City are eyeing a new striker but they are unwilling to spend "crazy" money, claims Fabrizio Romano. With Sergio Aguero – linked with Chelsea, Inter, PSG and Barcelona – leaving on a free transfer, Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland has emerged as City's prime target, while Tottenham star Harry Kane is another option.

- Goal says Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli and Juventus' Federico Bernardeschi could swap clubs. Both players have struggled this season and they could reportedly be involved in an exchange deal. Romagnoli has attracted interest from Barca and Chelsea.

- Eurosport reports United and Liverpool could go head-to-head in a battle to sign RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate. The 21-year-old has been heavily linked with Liverpool, but United are also interested. Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and team-mate Raphael Varane, Villarreal's Pau Torres and Napoli star Kalidou Koulibaly are also reportedly being monitored at Old Trafford.

- Romano claims there are "huge chances" for Hector Bellerin to leave Arsenal. The Spaniard was previously linked with PSG and Barca.

Phil Foden gave Manchester City a slender 2-1 Champions League quarter-final advantage over Borussia Dortmund after Marco Reus snatched an away goal in a frantic finish at the Etihad Stadium.

Kevin De Bruyne started and finished a rapid move to put City ahead in the 19th minute, but Dortmund were unfortunate to be behind at half-time after referee Ovidiu Hategan inexplicably penalised Jude Bellingham for a fair challenge on Ederson.

City belatedly hit their stride in the final quarter of the game, although Foden looked like being the villain as he missed two golden opportunities before Bellingham and Erling Haaland combined for Reus to coolly equalise six minutes from time.

Fortunately for the home team, England youngster Foden kept a cool head when Ilkay Gundogan knocked down De Bruyne's majestic cross in the 90th minute.

Tuesday heralds the start of the Champions League quarter-finals and there are two mouthwatering clashes in store.

With the Premier League title surely wrapped up, Manchester City's attention turns to Borussia Dortmund and the formidable threat posed by Erling Haaland. 

The 20-year-old is in demand, with City one of the clubs reportedly interested in his services, and he could join an illustrious group of goalscorers if he finds the net at the Etihad Stadium. 

The other game sees a repeat of the 2018 final, with Liverpool travelling to face Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid. 

The Reds have endured a torrid Premier League title defence, but a resounding win over Arsenal at the weekend could provide them with the impetus to produce an eye-catching result in the Spanish capital.

 

Manchester City v Borussia Dortmund: Can Guardiola's stubborn defence keep Haaland out?

City's hopes of making the semi-finals could rest on keeping Haaland quiet. 

The Norway striker Haaland is the Champions League's top goalscorer this term, finding the back of the net 10 times.

If he scores in this game, he will become just the fifth player in the competition's history to score in seven matches in a row, after Cristiano Ronaldo (twice), Robert Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

A goal on Tuesday would also take him to seven in his first five Champions League knockout matches for Dortmund, overtaking Lewandowski's record of six in his first five matches in the latter stages of the competition for Bayern Munich. 

He will come up against a defence in fine form, however. City have not conceded a goal in any of their last seven games in the Champions League – only Arsenal in 2005-06 have ever had a longer run of consecutive clean sheets in the competition (10).

City will also be buoyed by their excellent record against Bundesliga opposition, winning 10 of their last 11 Champions League matches against German sides. 

They will need to improve on a poor quarter-final record, though. City have lost four of their five matches in the last eight under Pep Guardiola, with the Premier League leaders going out at this stage in each of the last three seasons.

Prep done for Dortmund! 

  @marathonbet
  #ManCity   |   https://t.co/axa0klUGiM   pic.twitter.com/H85QRGPXxi

— Manchester City (@ManCity)   April 5, 2021

Real Madrid v Liverpool: Klopp's men hoping to halt losing streak against Los Blancos

This will be the first Champions League meeting between the two sides since Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1 in the 2018 final. 

That was the Reds' third consecutive defeat to Los Blancos in the competition. They have only suffered four losses on the spin against the same opponent across all European competitions once before, with Benfica putting together such a streak between 1984 and 2010. 

The LaLiga champions will be in confident mood, having won the first leg in eight of their last nine Champions League knockout ties. 

Karim Benzema is likely to lead the line and the Frenchman has a stellar record against the Premier League outfit. In the history of the Champions League, no player has more goals against them than Benzema's four – level with Didier Drogba.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp will hope to continue his fine recent record at this stage of the competition, the German winning each of his last five quarter-final games, including all four of his games at this stage while in charge of Liverpool.

Central to their hopes of taking a lead back to Anfield for the second leg will be Sadio Mane. The Senegal international has scored 19 goals in 40 games in the Champions League and could become just the third player in the club's history to reach 20 goals in the competition after Mohamed Salah (24) and Steven Gerrard (21).

David de Gea's future at Manchester United has been the topic of conversation for months.

The situation has become muddied in recent weeks during the Spaniard's period of paternity leave but De Gea is back in England and playing second fiddle to Dean Henderson.

De Gea has been at Old Trafford since 2011 but United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has started Henderson for seven games in a row.

 

TOP STORY – DE GEA TO EXIT UNITED

De Gea's representatives are already sounding out potential buyers and he is set to leave Manchester United this off-season, according to the Daily Mail.

The 30-year-old is contracted with the Red Devils although no transfer fee has been mentioned yet.

The report claims Real MadridParis Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid are potentially interested clubs.

ROUND-UP

- ESPN reports Barcelona will continue to pursue Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland but a source has said a deal will be "very difficult".

- Tottenham defender Juan Foyth is on loan at Villarreal this season and the Spanish club want to sign him permanently for less than the €15.3million (£13m) option fee, according to Football Insider.

Jerome Boateng will leave Bayern Munich as a free agent at the end of this season with the club opting not to offer him a new contract, reports Kicker.

- Sky Sports are claiming that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is ready to ink a one-year extension with Milan.

Erling Haaland remains content amid swirling transfer rumours ahead of Borussia Dortmund's Champions League showdown with Manchester City.

Premier League leaders City are one of a host of clubs to have been linked with the 20-year-old Norway striker.

Speculation over a blockbuster close-season transfer mounted during the international break when Haaland's agent, Mino Raiola, accompanied his father – and former City player – Alf-Inge on trips to Madrid and Barcelona.

Speaking on the eve of Tuesday's quarter-final clash at the Etihad Stadium, Dortmund interim boss Edin Terzic insisted such matters could not be ones to cause him too much concern.

"It has no impact on me because I can't stop Mino Raiola and Alfie Haaland from travelling. It's up to them, they're grown-ups and they can choose whatever they want to do," he said.

"I just can have an impact on Erling and we are happy to have him in our team.

"He's been back with us since last Thursday, when he came back from the Norway national team

"The feeling we had from the start was that he was very happy to see us and we're very happy to have him around.

"He's a lovely guy, his qualities are well known all over the world and we are proud and happy he's part of our team."

Haaland has scored 33 goals in 32 club appearances across all competitions this season, although he will not have Jadon Sancho to provide service in the first leg.

Former City youngster Sancho has remained in Germany for treatment on a thigh problem and Terzic conceded next week's second leg could also come too soon for the England winger – another presumed transfer target for some of Europe's big hitters.

"He started with a bit of running for the last couple of days and we hope that it won't take a long time to get back to team training, but he won't be ready for the next week, let's say," Terzic said.

“For the future it's hard to tell. First of all, we still have seven games left in the Bundesliga to qualify for the Champions League.

"Of course it's a bit difficult now at the minute, but it's still possible. We're going to try our best to make it possible and then at the end of the season we'll see what's going to happen next."

Dortmund's dwindling domestic form – a 2-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt last time out left them seven points behind their weekend opponents in the Bundesliga's final Champions League qualification spot – has left them with nowhere to hide from criticism and Terzic was in no mood to unduly protect his players.

"We are disappointed with the performance and Saturday's result. The criticism has been justified," he added.

"We've shown before we can do better and the task now is to face that criticism, to accept it and show a reaction on the pitch.

"We have to prove we don't give up and show our quality and potential again. We are responsible for showing that.

"We haven't been able to over the last weeks and that's why the criticism is justified."

Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund's keenly anticipated Champions League quarter-final could hinge on the battle between Erling Haaland and Ruben Dias.

That is the view of former City favourite Shaun Wright-Phillips, who anticipates an intriguing contest due to the attacking firepower boasted by both sides.

Norway youngster Haaland has rattled home a remarkable 33 goals in 32 appearances across all competitions this season, averaging a goal every 82.8 minutes thanks to a shot conversion rate of 31.4 per cent.

The 20-year-old has also supplied seven assists, although he will be faced with one of Europe's most formidable centre-backs in Dias.

If speculation proves accurate, Haaland might replace the Portugal defender as City's record signing at the end of the campaign but Dias' impact has been undeniably transformative since his arrival from Benfica last September.

City have won 31 of the 39 games in which Dias has played, losing only two and conceding 18 goals – an average of 0.5 per game.

"It's going to be hard, it's going to be a great battle for me between [Haaland] and Dias," Wright-Phillips, who played alongside Haaland's father Alf-Inge during his time at City, told Stats Perform.

"Dias doesn't like to lose, let alone concede goals – he hates that as well so it will be a good competition.

"And it stands out to be a good game, with the firepower and the way Dortmund play, and the way City play.

"So it’s going to be a good footballing match and I am looking forward and am very excited to see it myself."

Another intriguing battle that fans will be denied is a face off between England youngsters Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho in each team's creative departments.

Foden and Sancho were team-mates in City's youth team before the latter moved to Dortmund in 2017, where he has scarcely looked back.

Remaining with his boyhood club, Foden had to bide his time among a talent-stacked squad but has established himself as a key man for both Pep Guardiola and England boss Gareth Southgate this season.

However, a thigh injury means Sancho will miss out on a return to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday and faces a race to be fit for next week's return at Signal Iduna Park.

"It would be great to see them both on the field. But they’re very different players," Wright-Phillips said.

"Although [Foden] does go and dribble past people, he’s got a very good eye in seeing passes, linking up play and he presses harder.

"I think Sancho is a very, very good player as well but he's more of a dribbler, committing players, taking them on, putting the ball into the box and also scoring goals."

Along with Liverpool, who take on 13-time winners Real Madrid this week, Chelsea – another of Wright-Phillips' former clubs – complete a trio of Premier League sides in the last eight.

Thomas Tuchel's men saw off Atletico Madrid in impressive fashion in the previous round, although they must bounce back from a shock 5-2 weekend loss to relegation-threatened West Brom before taking on Porto.

"As we know it’s one of the toughest competitions," Wright-Phillips added. "And on the few times City have been on a run in it, they have not had the rub of the green.

"And Chelsea had been playing well with their defensive record, also. I would be happy if it was an all-England final, so I'll be supporting all English teams in Europe."

Pep Guardiola is primed for Manchester City's showdown with Erling Haaland and Borussia Dortmund, suggesting even a blind person could see the Norwegian's talents.

City host Dortmund in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Tuesday, with Haaland unsurprisingly one of the main topics of conversation.

The Norway star has been in lethal form ever since joining Dortmund in January 2020 and boasts a remarkable haul of 10 goals in six Champions League outings this term, including two in each of their meetings with Sevilla in the last round as the German's narrowly progressed 5-4 on aggregate.

Since then, reports linking Haaland with Europe's biggest clubs have been frequent, as Barcelona and Real Madrid seemingly positioned themselves as interested parties following meetings with his agent Mino Raiola.

While City – whom his father Alf-Inge Haaland played for – have been rather more coy on the matter, few strikers have been focused on as much as Haaland with respect to potential replacements for Sergio Aguero following last week's announcement of his end-of-season departure.

After all, in the spell since Haaland scored a 23-minute hat-trick on his Dortmund debut, his 49 goals across all competitions has been bettered by only Robert Lewandowski (67) and Cristiano Ronaldo (52) among players in the top five leagues. City's leading scorers in the same period are Raheem Sterling (24) and Gabriel Jesus (22).

Guardiola appreciates Haaland is a fine talent, though he would not be lured into making any grand statements about a potential future for him at City.

When asked if Haaland was the sort of player who could command a transfer few of over £100million, Guardiola said: "I don't know, it's a question for Dortmund, his agent.

"I understand completely why people ask about Haaland, of course he's an exceptional striker, but it's not appropriate for me to talk about a player for another club.

"All I can say is he's an exceptional striker. The numbers speak for themselves. A fantastic player, that's all."

 

On those "numbers", Guardiola was pressed for an opinion on how City might be able to stop Haaland, given his conversion rate of 33.6 per cent is better than any other player in the top five leagues with 20 goals or more since his Dortmund bow.

For comparison, Bayern Munich's Lewandowski – widely regarded as the best striker around – has converted 27.8 per cent of his chances over the same period.

"The striker who scores goals, they are going to score when they are in our box," Guardiola continued. "If they're far away from our box, they have fewer chances. It's a question of mathematics.

"Not just Haaland. [Jamie] Vardy, [Sadio] Mane, Aguero, all the strikers, they want to be there [in the box] as much as possible. This is the best way is to avoid [conceding].

"In that age to score that amount of goals is not easy to find in the past, honestly, so I think he's 20 – the numbers speak for themselves.

"He can score right [foot], left, on the counter-attack, in the box when you dominate, headers. He's a fantastic striker, everyone knows it.

"A blind guy could realise he's a great striker. It is not necessary to be a manager to realise that."

Keeping Haaland quiet will surely go a long way to ensuring City finally get past the quarter-finals, having been knocked out at this stage in each of the past three seasons, losing four of their five games at this point.

Borussia Dortmund do not have an "alternative plan" should Erling Haaland leave the club, but they would listen to an "exceptional" offer for Jadon Sancho, according to managing director Hans-Joachim Watzke.

Norway international Haaland is in high demand after netting 49 goals in 50 appearances for Dortmund, attracting interest from the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Manchester United.

He has scored 21 goals in 22 Bundesliga games this term, adding another 10 from six games in the Champions League, a competition in which he tops the scoring charts.

Haaland's agent, Mino Raiola, is reported to have been in contact with a number of clubs as speculation over the 20-year-old's future grows.

But, according to Watzke, the Bundesliga outfit are not prepared to envisage life without him.

"We do not have a parallel plan," he told Goal. "We will discuss this in peace with Erling, his father and his advisor Mino Raiola. 

"We also want him to be happy to stay with us, to score goals for BVB next year with conviction. There is no alternative plan."

Another player heavily linked with a move away from the club is England international Sancho. 

Manchester United were reported to be close to a deal for the 21-year-old before the start of the 2020-21 season, but Sancho stayed in Germany. 

He has played 31 games across all competitions this term, scoring 12 goals. 

While Watzke expects a quiet off-season following the turmoil inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic, he said the club would not dismiss a significant bid for Sancho.  

Asked what the likelihood of Haaland and Sancho both playing for Dortmund next season is, Watzke responded: "I'm not getting involved in probabilities, it's no good. 

"Jadon Sancho has been with us much longer than Erling Haaland. We'll have to speak to Jadon, too. If there is an exceptional offer, we will discuss it with the player and the agent, as always. 

"Nonetheless, I am very sure that the transfer market will only run to a very limited extent this summer. Especially with the really big clubs, you can see what kind of wounds coronavirus has inflicted. They are not small ones that heal within two weeks."

Dortmund travel to Manchester City for the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final clash on Tuesday.

The first time Pep Guardiola was drawn to face a Bundesliga team in the Champions League as Manchester City manager, the match was postponed after a torrential pre-match downpour soaked the Etihad Stadium.

Twenty-four hours later, Borussia Monchengladbach were swatted aside 4-0 but there were some other, more incongruous storm clouds hovering.

Sergio Aguero scored a hat-trick, already his second of the campaign to move on to nine goals in his first five outings under Guardiola.  A brace that weekend at Swansea City took him to 11 in six, but his manager was not completely satisfied with the bigger picture.

"Sergio just has a talent to score goals that is natural, I cannot teach him that," Guardiola said.

"What I can tell him is there is a team behind him that is going to help him. I want to convince him to help them and, if it happens in that way, he's going to score a lot of goals."

Those fraught moments in Guardiola and Aguero's early relationship at City, one that looked to be hurtling towards an early end when Gabriel Jesus arrived in January 2017 and displaced the Argentina striker from the starting line-up, were long forgotten in the glowing tributes paid last week.

Aguero will leave City when his contract expires in June as the club's all-time record goalscorer and the top scoring overseas player in Premier League history.

Bundesliga opponents are back on the agenda this week, with Borussia Dortmund in town for the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final. Erling Haaland, presumed by many to be Aguero's most suitable heir, will be the focus of much pre-match attention.

Should City emerge from the pack of European heavyweights to claim Haaland's signature, the experience of Guardiola's previous centre forwards – from those who eventually thrived like Aguero, to those who fell by the wayside – suggest there would be plenty of hard work ahead for the Norwegian youngster.

False nines and harsh truths

Guardiola's most celebrated innovation during his trophy-laden stint in charge of Barcelona was Lionel Messi's deployment as a false nine, helping Aguero's compatriot to flourish into he world's finest player.

However, more traditional centre-forwards experienced collateral damage. Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry flanked Messi in the 2009 Champions League final triumph over Manchester United. A year later they had both left Camp Nou, as had Zlatan Ibrahimovic after a year under Guardiola most notable for his string of subsequent withering comments about the Catalan tactician.

If the assumption was these supreme strikers were simply victims of playing second fiddle to Guardiola's star pupil, his stint at Bayern Munich suggested something more baked in to his football philosophy that meant centre forwards would adapt to the coach and not the other way around.

After a season under Guardiola in 2013-14, Mario Mandzukic stomped off to Atletico Madrid and accused the coach of a lack of respect. Robert Lewandowski took his place but the returns that now make the Poland superstar the most feared number nine in Europe were not immediately forthcoming.

A haul of 17 Bundesliga goals in 2014-15 was way below the levels he would go on to set. The breakout moment of his Bayern career came in September 2015, when he ravenously rattled home five goals in a mind-boggling nine minutes against Wolfsburg. An often-forgotten plot point of those Lewandowski heroics is they came as a substitute. Guardiola had started Mario Gotze, Thomas Muller and Douglas Costa in the sort of fluid forward line that did for the likes of Ibrahimovic and Mandzukic.

Since August 2011 – the month of Aguero's City debut and the first season Lewandowski was a regular starter at Dortmund - only Messi (483) and Cristiano Ronaldo (460) have scored more goals across all competitions among players from the top five European leagues than Bayern's star striker.

Lewandowski (380) is the only other player above 300, with Aguero seventh overall (257) behind Luis Suarez (295), Edinson Cavani (278) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (264).

If Haaland were to link up with Guardiola, history suggests these are the sort of levels he will have to hit. The signs of the past 18 months point promisingly in that direction.

The boy wonder

There were echoes of Lewandowski's Wolfsburg heroics – and, for that matter, Aguero's "anything you can do…" efforts of five goals in 20 minutes against Newcastle United a month later – in Haaland's sensational Bundesliga debut last January 18.

The 20-year-old came on as a second-half substitute and fired a 23-minute hat-trick to inspire Dortmund's 5-3 win over Augsburg.

In the spell from that game onwards, Haaland has 49 goals in all competitions, a haul only bettered across the top five leagues by Lewandowski (67) and Ronaldo (52). Despite being in contention for four major honours this term, City's leading scorers during the same period are Raheem Sterling and Jesus, with 24 and 22 respectively.

It seems Haaland would offer an obvious uplift, thanks in large part to his remarkable efficiency in front of goal. At Dortmund, he boasts a shot conversion rate of 33.6 per cent – better than any other player with 20 or more goals during this time.

For context, Lewandowski is back on 27.8 per cent and Romelu Lukaku and Andre Silva – each speculated alternatives should City be unable to land Haaland – convert just under a quarter of their attempts with 23.7 and 24.5 per cent respectively. Jesus (17.5) and Sterling (16.9) are about half as reliable as the man they will face this week.

A look at Haaland's expected goals (xG) figures for this season suggests judicious shot selection is a key part of his lethal makeup.

In the Bundesliga and Champions League combined, he has 29 non-penalty goals from 93 shots that have a cumulative xG value of 21.2.

By way of comparison, in 2018-19 – the campaign that will stand as his last truly great one in City colour – Aguero scored 24 times from open play in the Premier League and Champions League, outperforming an xG of 20.6 accumulated from 144 attempts.

Haaland's efficiency is again illustrated but a higher xG figure from 51 fewer efforts shows he is coldly selective when it comes to taking on shots, usually only pulling the trigger when a clear opportunity presents itself and to great success.

The speculative strike is not something he has a need to call upon too often, which holds an obvious appeal for a coach like Guardiola, who places such an emphasis on his team controlling every aspect of matches.

Attackers going rogue and firing off shots from all over the place is not high on the list of things he enjoys to see, placing a big tick next to Haaland.

Running and pressing until the end

Kevin De Bruyne's midfield masterclass to inspire a 2-0 weekend win at Leicester City was something of an archetype for what is required from City's big hitters.

Along with moments of high artistry such as his immaculate throughball to make Jesus' game-sealing goal possible, the Belgium international regained possession 14 times and contested 20 duels.

"This is one of our identities. When the most talented players in the world are able to do this kind of job," Guardiola said.

"There is no negotiation on this. You can play really badly but in terms of running and pressing for your team-mates until the end, we have to do it. Do it for your mates, because in the next action your mates are going to do it for you.

"We cannot deny that in the five years we were together the players we had run and fight every single game. That is one of the things I am proud of the most."

So, how would Haaland shape up to this non-negotiable part of the job description?

In 2020-21, the Dortmund centre-forward has won possession in the final third 31 times, made 65 recoveries overall, nine interceptions and contested 195 duels.

Even taking into account a BVB playing style that can be more chaotic than Guardiola's finely grooved City, these efforts stack up well compared to peak Aguero.

Only once under Guardiola has he won back the ball deep in opposition territory more frequently – 33 times in 2018-19, when he made his sole foray into double figures for interceptions (13) during the Catalan's tenure.

Aguero made 122 recoveries and contested 481 duels during Guardiola's first season at the helm in 2016-17, when City were some distance from their present model of efficient dominance. His recoveries/duels returns of 86 and 310 and 89 and 325 during the subsequent back-to-back Premier League triumphs are more in line with where Haaland might be at the end of the current campaign.

This begins to demonstrate that Guardiola's running and pressing until the end is not quite as advertised. Much as with Haaland's shot selection, there is an emphasis on picking your moments to lay down maximum effort. His is not the Heavy Metal Football under which the Dortmund of a previous era thrived, more Post-Rock Football laced with frequent and precise tempo changes.

In his final two seasons under Manuel Pellegrini, when City's sole major honour was the 2015-16 EFL Cup, Aguero won back possession in the final third 35 and 40 times – returns never bettered in the Guardiola era despite an improvement in his work off the ball being rightly lauded. A total of 126 recoveries in 2015-16 is one he has not topped, while 24 interceptions back in 2011-12 showed Roberto Mancini benefitting from the youthful enthusiasm of his record signing.

The idea that Guardiola strikers have to run themselves into the ground for scant reward is a horror story Mino Raiola might try to spin for his new favourite client. But Aguero's experience shows it is more of a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" relationship.

In 2018-19, he averaged 8.15 touches in the opposition box per 90 minutes. This figure increased to 9.08 last season, one only bettered by 9.99 in 2013-14 during his City career. During Pellegrini's final year in charge, Aguero's touches in the area were down to 6.67 per game.

Taking some time to adapt to Guardiola's methods is neither unusual nor limited to strikers, with Joao Cancelo and Rodri's second-season improvements this time around standing as the latest examples.

If Haaland became a blockbuster signing, there is no reason to think his rewards would be anything other than plentiful after a period of assimilation. For the next week or so, however, Guardiola's only concern will be keeping his precocious talents under wraps.

Romelu Lukaku has starred for Inter since arriving from Manchester United in 2019.

Lukaku is spearheading Inter's quest for a Serie A title, with Antonio Conte's side clear atop the table.

His exploits, however, have not gone unnoticed in Europe.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU HAPPY AT INTER

Inter star Romelu Lukaku is flattered by Barcelona's interest but is not looking to leave the Nerazzurri, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Lukaku has been linked with Barca, Real Madrid and former club Chelsea following his exploits for Inter, who are closing in on the Scudetto.

But Lukaku is happy at Inter, with the Belgium international only possibly leaving San Siro should the Italian powerhouse seek to raise funds.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuttosport reports Cristiano Ronaldo wants to see out his Juventus contract, which runs until June 2022. Ronaldo has been tipped to leave Turin, where Juve are struggling under Andrea Pirlo this season. Former clubs Madrid and United have emerged as possible destinations, as well as Paris Saint-Germain. However, Ronaldo is keen to continue at the club, should they qualify for the Champions League.

- PSG star Kylian Mbappe remains a priority signing for Madrid, claims Diario AS. Mbappe has been a long-term target in the Spanish capital, though the economic fallout following the coronavirus pandemic appears to have derailed Madrid's pursuit. But Los Blancos – also linked with in-demand Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland – are still determined to prise Mbappe from Paris.

- Record reports United are ready to make a move for Sporting CP star Nuno Mendes, who has also been linked with Manchester City and Liverpool. United could reportedly use Alex Telles in a deal to sign the Portuguese full-back.

- Milan captain Alessio Romagnoli is eyeing a new deal amid interest from Barca and Chelsea, according to Calciomercato. Romagnoli is contracted to the Rossoneri until 2022. Barca's reported pursuit comes as they eye the likes of Bayern Munich star David Alaba, City duo Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero, Lyon forward Memphis Depay and Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.

Pep Guardiola has warned his Manchester City players to not take Borussia Dortmund and their "incredible quality" lightly in Tuesday's Champions League quarter-final first leg.

City saw off Dortmund's Bundesliga rivals Borussia Monchengladbach to book their last-eight spot, while Die Schwarzgelben edged past Sevilla. 

It will be the first meeting between the sides since the group stage of the 2012-13 season, which saw a 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium and a 1-0 win for Dortmund in the reverse fixture in Germany. 

Despite a seven-game unbeaten run in the Champions League, Dortmund have endured a difficult domestic campaign, with Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt leaving them seven points adrift of fourth place. 

Guardiola knows Dortmund well, having come up against them regularly during his time as Bayern Munich coach between 2013 and 2016, and insists he will not be taking Edin Terzic's side lightly, irrespective of their league struggles. 

"If one person in Manchester knows Dortmund, it's me," he told a media conference. "The culture of this club, the way they play, and I will not find one single player from Dortmund without quality. 

"They spend a lot of money on young players and they pay a lot of money to agents to bring these players there because they have incredible quality. Incredible. 

"Maybe they didn't find consistency in the Bundesliga this season, but in one game or two games they are able to do anything. 

"We saw this against Sevilla. Sevilla knows European competition like few teams in Europe; they won three Europa Leagues in a row. Sevilla know how to play two legs and Dortmund beat them.

"I have incredible respect for what Dortmund has done. I was in Germany for three years; I know their quality."

Central to Dortmund's hopes will be Erling Haaland, who has scored in each of his last six Champions League matches. 

Should he find the net at the Etihad Stadium, the Norway international will become just the fifth player in the competition's history to score in seven in a row, joining Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski, Edinson Cavani and Ruud van Nistelrooy in an elite group.

Guardiola is well aware of Haaland's talent, with City rumoured to be a possible destination for him at the end of the season, but he said Dortmund have plenty more players who can cause his side problems. 

"It's not just Haaland, but [Jadon] Sancho, [Marco] Reus, [Mats] Hummels," he added. "Emre Can can play seven, eight, nine positions. They have big holding midfielders in the middle and when they run, they kill you. 

"The quality is there. The players don't know it because we haven't spoken about Dortmund yet, but we're going to prepare for the game like we did against Leicester City.

"We will look at what they do, their strengths, their weaknesses, and try to be aggressive and try to win this game. And then travel in one week to Dortmund to win the second game. This is the target."

Erling Haaland continues to be linked with a move to Barcelona, but head coach Ronald Koeman has insisted the final decision over a move for the Borussia Dortmund striker will be made by president Joan Laporta.

Barca are one of a number of elite teams to have been credited with an interest in the Norway international, who has scored 49 goals in 50 appearances for Dortmund in his 15 months at the club.

Talk of a possible switch to Camp Nou intensified on Thursday when Haaland's agent Mino Raiola and father Alf-Inge were pictured in Barcelona reportedly on their way to a meeting with Laporta.

The pair were later spotted in Madrid and reports from Spain suggest talks are planned with a number of English clubs next week for arguably the most in-demand player in world football.

Koeman confirmed at a pre-match news conference on Sunday that he has held talks with recently elected president Laporta over possible targets, but he was unwilling to discuss any specific interest in Haaland.

"We discuss future plans, but the decision is made by the president," Koeman said ahead of Monday's clash with Real Valladolid.

"Everyone, including the president, is working to improve the team knowing the club's economic situation, which is not the best. 

"They have shown me from day one that they will try to improve this situation and, in terms of signings, everything depends on the possibilities we have. 

"It is normal to talk in the last part of the season about the next one. Now I am not interested in the names that come out, we have to be focused on the final games we have left to play."

Haaland has 21 goals in 22 Bundesliga games this term, adding another 10 from six matches in the Champions League, a competition in which he tops the scoring charts.

Asked again if a move for Haaland has already been discussed with Laporta, Koeman said: "I am not going to talk about players who are not ours

"We have used the break to have meetings, to talk about this season, about the next one - this happens in all the clubs in the world."

A move for Haaland could be directly linked to Lionel Messi's Camp Nou future, with the superstar forward set to be out of contract at the end of the season.

The club's all-time leading goalscorer may be persuaded to sign a new deal if Barca can signal their ambitions by bringing in exciting talent Haaland.

"Messi's contract is an important matter and we are doing our all so that he stays at the club for many more years," Koeman said.

"But we are talking about tomorrow's game, which has all our thoughts right now, not next season. The future is down to the president and his team. As a coach, and as players, all we can do is focus on each game."

The 20 goals Haaland has scored in 14 games since making his Champions League debut for Salzburg in September 2019 compares to eight for Messi from the same number of outings.

Haaland's average of a goal every 53.95 minutes in Europe's elite club competition is the second best return of any player to have scored at least five times over that same timeframe, behind only Chelsea's Olivier Giroud (six goals in eight games for a return of 52.67).

Can Borussia Dortmund keep a hold of Erling Haaland for another season?

Europe's elite are queuing up to sign the Norway sensation.

Dortmund's disappointing season could be about to force their hand.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND TRYING TO RETAIN HAALAND

Borussia Dortmund will try to keep Erling Haaland for another season but their hopes are fading amid the club's struggles to finish in the Bundesliga's top four, according to Fabrizio Romano.

As it stands, Dortmund are set to miss out on Champions League qualification, with the German side fifth and seven points adrift of fourth-placed Eintracht Frankfurt following Saturday's loss.

Haaland is a player in demand, linked with Real Madrid, Manchester City, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Mirror reports United are set to part with star goalkeeper David de Gea. The Red Devils are reportedly prepared to pay a large chunk of De Gea's remaining contract, with Dean Henderson pushing to become the club's first choice.

Haaland is ahead of Lionel Messi on City's transfer list, claims The Mirror. Pep Guardiola's City have been heavily linked with Barcelona superstar Messi, who is out of contract at season's end. But City now appear determined to prise Haaland from Dortmund as Sergio Aguero prepares to leave. Aguero has been linked with the likes of Chelsea, InterBarca, PSG and Juventus on a free transfer.

Neymar has put contract talks with PSG on hold, according to Ara, which claims he is willing to return to Barca.

- It comes as Marca says PSG are eyeing Madrid forward Vinicius Junior amid Kylian Mbappe's links with the LaLiga champions.

Mats Hummels accepts it will be "difficult" for Borussia Dortmund to secure a top-four finish after losing 2-1 at home to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Andre Silva grabbed the winner in the 87th minute at Signal Iduna Park, pushing fourth-placed Frankfurt further clear of their hosts in the battle to qualify for next season's Champions League.

Dortmund sit fifth in the table but are seven points adrift. They have won just once in four Bundesliga outings and have now reached double figures for defeats in the competition this season.

With just seven games remaining, Hummels fears BVB have left themselves with too much to do during the run-in.

The centre-back - who scored just before half-time to cancel out an early own goal by team-mate Nico Schulz - felt the hosts paid the price for not taking their chances before losing control of the game.

"On the one hand, we clearly have to hold our hands up for our chance conversion. We had so many opportunities, especially situations that should be 100 per-cent chances," Hummels told Sky Sports in Germany after Dortmund had managed to get just five of their 19 attempts on target.

"In the second half, we never managed to get into central positions in front of goal or create a good situation. We also allowed the game to get really out of control.

"In that regard, there were parallels to the Cologne game [which ended in a 2-2 prior to the international break]. We were not precise, focused or just technically good enough on the ball. We obviously should have also made better use of the chances that we had.

"We now need to ensure that we pick up wins. Unfortunately, we've dug ourselves another big hole with our most recent games. Even with six or seven wins, it's going to be difficult to get fourth place.

"We need to put in the performances in the Bundesliga and then see where that gets us. In the cup competitions, we want to try to make it through."

Dortmund - who had won nine on the spin at home against Frankfurt prior to Saturday's meeting - face Manchester City next in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final tie.

The possibility of missing out on appearing in the competition again next season will raise questions over the club's ability to hang on to their prized asset in Erling Haaland, who has been linked with a host of Europe's leading clubs. 

Mino Raiola - the striker's agent - was in Spain this week to hold talks with Barcelona and Real Madrid, while he was reportedly set to do the same with a select number of Premier League teams on Friday, too.

However, Dortmund director Sebastian Kehl has made clear there is no cause for panic within the club, despite the consistent rumours surrounding Haaland's future.

"Our position is clear: we are planning with Erling," Kehl told Sky. "We are very relaxed about the situation."

City are one of those teams rumoured to be interested in Haaland - who has scored 10 goals in six Champions League games this campaign - but Pep Guardiola dismissed the possibility of signing the 20-year-old ahead of going up against him in Europe."

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