On August 9, 2016, Manchester United completed a deal that was expected to transform them back into title regulars.

Paul Pogba – who had left United in 2012 – arrived in an £89.3million (€105m) deal from Juventus, a then-world record transfer fee.

Five years on, Pogba seems to be at something of a crossroads in not just his United career, but as a player altogether.

Like in 2016, Pogba heads into the 2021-22 season on the back of an impressive European Championship with France.

Unlike in 2016, Les Bleus failed to go deep in the competition, dropping out in the last 16 stage to Switzerland.

That game in June perhaps provided the perfect summary of Pogba the player. A global superstar in his own right, the 28-year-old has perhaps never hit the heights his talent suggested, or at least not on a consistent basis.

An exquisite long-range strike put France 3-1 up against Switzerland, yet it was Pogba who dawdled on the ball and was robbed of possession as Les Bleus contributed to their own downfall in Bucharest.

But just how has Pogba fared in the five years since he arrived back at Old Trafford, and what could come next?

 

HIS UNITED RECORD

Pogba has made 199 appearances in all competitions for United in his second spell at the club, with Marcus Rashford (252), David de Gea (216) and Anthony Martial (208) playing more games in that time.

Indeed, only De Gea and Rashford have played more minutes than Pogba's 15,708. While he has struggled at times with niggling injuries, he has more often than not been consistently available throughout his time at Old Trafford, with De Gea and Rashford the two players to start more games than the former Juve star (174).

Pogba has played 134 times in the Premier League since 2016, helping United to 73 victories –  a win percentage of 54.5 per cent.

He has missed 56 league games, with United's win percentage dropping down to 50 per cent in those matches, underlying that he is perhaps more crucial than some of his critics would suggest.

It has to be said, however, that Bruno Fernandes' arrival in 2020 did see Pogba take a back seat.

The Portugal playmaker has already netted more goals (40) in all competitions than Pogba (38), in 119 fewer appearances, though 21 of Fernandes' goals have come from the penalty spot.

Rashford, with 39, is the only United player to record more assists than Pogba, who has teed up as many as he has scored, while the Frenchman's 301 chances created is a team-high, 66 clear of second-placed Rashford.

Pogba ranks in the top three for dribbles attempted (624), with 393 of these being successful, displaying his ability to carry the ball through the thirds, and his total of 11,723 passes is way clear of Nemanja Matic in second (9,849).

 

PARIS FOR PAUL?

With just 12 months left on his contract, talks of a move away for the Frenchman at the end of his deal continue – Paris Saint-Germain his most likely destination, given their reported interest last year.

PSG already have a wealth of midfield options, though, including former team-mate Ander Herrera, Euro 2020 winner Marco Verratti and Leandro Paredes.

Pogba completed 1595 passes last term, yet the PSG trio, along with Idrissa Gueye, averaged out at 2126 successful attempts – perhaps aided by their domination on the ball in Ligue 1.

Despite this, only Paredes (322) completed more passes in the final third than the United midfielder's 282, suggesting a different dimension Pogba could bring to Mauricio Pochettino's midfield.

Pogba also won 255 duels, recovering possession 242 times when doing his defensive duties for Solskjaer. Idrissa Gueye, PSG's best performer in this area, only managed 201 successful duels and 208 recoveries in two games more.

However, Verratti, who featured in 11 fewer games than Pogba, was victorious in 233 duels and made 174 recoveries  – could the pair form Pochettino's pivot next season?

While Pochettino now also has Georginio Wijnaldum, who made 262 recoveries albeit in six more games for Liverpool last year, to call upon, Pogba would add undoubted quality to the French giants in every midfield aspect.

Trent Alexander-Arnold is fit and raring to go as Liverpool prepare for their Premier League opener against Norwich City on Saturday.

The right-back, who signed a new long-term contract at Anfield in July, suffered a thigh injury in June, forcing him to pull out of England's Euro 2020 squad.

Alexander-Arnold has been eased back into pre-season action and finally completed a full 90-minute outing in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao.

"Yes, definitely," the 22-year-old responded when asked if he was 100 per cent ready. "I’ve started pre-season quite well, in training I've been putting the work in, got the all-clear from the medical staff early doors in pre-season and have been able to push on, get fit and get the full 90 under my belt today.

"I think we've timed it well and it gives us a good couple of days to recover and then go on to Norwich next week."

Jurgen Klopp provided Alexander-Arnold his opportunity down the right flank and the wing-back has appeared in over 40 games a season for the last three campaigns – in which time the Reds have won the Champions League and the Premier League.

Since the start of 2018-19, no Liverpool player has created more chances than Alexander Arnold's 212, while he also leads the assist charts with 32 in that period.

Despite failing to recreate his best form from the 2019-20 season which saw him net four times and provided 13 assists, Alexander-Arnold still managed 34 starts and two goals last campaign but was part of a defence hampered by the absence of Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez as Liverpool failed to retain their top-flight crown.

But Klopp has potential problems ahead of the Norwich opener on the other flank, with Andrew Robertson sustaining a suspected ankle injury in Sunday's outing against Bilbao.

"No, I haven't seen him, to be fair, but I think you know it’s going to be quite bad if Robbo has to come off," Alexander-Arnold said after being asked if he had spoken to his full-back partner.

"It's not something that he normally does so it’s disappointing to see, but I’m sure he will bounce back as soon as he can."

With or without Robertson, after a taste of the Anfield crowd returning for the Bilbao friendly, Alexander-Arnold is excited to perform in front of them during the 2021-22 term.

"This is the moment we’ve been waiting for," he added on seeing a near-full Anfield. "Obviously last season it was very quiet in here but to have the fans back today was special for us all. We've all been waiting for this moment."

Christian Eriksen has returned to Inter's training ground for the first time since his cardiac arrest at Euro 2020 in Denmark's opener against Finland.

In worrying scenes in June, Eriksen was given CPR after collapsing on the pitch, while his team-mates formed a protective screen around him, before subsequently receiving successful heart surgery.

Eriksen, 29, was then fitted with a pacemaker before going home to recover in Denmark, where he has undergone a host of further medical tests to discover why the cardiac arrest happened.

The former Tottenham midfielder visited Inter's training ground on Wednesday and the 2020-21 Scudetto winners said he was in "excellent physical condition".

A statement released on the club's official website said: "Eriksen, who greeted managers, coaches, team-mates and all the staff present, is fine and in excellent mental and physical condition.

"Eriksen will follow the recovery programme proposed by the Danish doctors in Copenhagen, who will coordinate all the clinical follow-up and will always keep the Inter Milan medical staff informed."

If Eriksen did want to return for Inter, however, he would have to have his ICD – a device connected to his heart to regulate abnormal rhythms – removed due to Italian restrictions preventing people playing contact sport with such devices in operation.

Other European countries, though, do not follow the same protocols as seen in the example of Daley Blind, who continued to regularly feature for Ajax after he had an ICD fitted in 2019.

Eriksen joined Inter, who open their new campaign against Genoa on August 21, in January 2020 and made 26 appearances in their title-winning season.

UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against England's Football Association following an investigation into the chaotic scenes that marred the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.

Last month, UEFA confirmed an investigation had been launched into "events involving supporters which occurred inside and around the stadium".

An ethics and disciplinary inspector was appointed by UEFA to look into the events that took place around the 1-1 draw between England and Italy, who prevailed on penalties.

And a brief statement released on Tuesday confirmed proceedings had been opened against the FA for a "potential violation of Article 16(2)(h) of the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations for a lack of order or discipline by its supporters".

Damage was caused prior to the match as a number of supporters were seen clashing with security as they tried to enter the stadium in north London without tickets.

The FA launched its own independent review into what it described as "disgraceful scenes".

UEFA previously fined the FA €30,000 (£25,600) for three offences stemming from England's semi-final win over Denmark, which saw a laser pointer directed at Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel prior to a penalty for the hosts.

 

Giorgio Chiellini is convinced Massimiliano Allegri is the right man to reclaim the Scudetto for Juventus following the failed Andrea Pirlo experiment.

Celebrated former midfielder Pirlo failed to guide the Bianconeri to a 10th successive Serie A title last season and was sacked in May, before the halfway point of a two-year deal.

Allegri was named as Pirlo's successor on the same day for a second spell in charge, having previously guided Juve to five league titles, four Coppas Italia and two Champions League finals.

Juve amassed 142 wins in their 190 league games under Allegri – only Giovanni Trapattoni has overseen more matches – giving him a win percentage of 74.74, clear of second-placed Antonio Conte (72.81), who managed 83 triumphs from 114 matches.

During his five seasons with Juve, Allegri suffered just 20 league defeats, with his team scoring 380 goals and conceding 125 in return, averaging 2.39 points per game.

Allegri is responsible for three of the seven Juventus seasons during which they have netted 100 goals or more, meanwhile, alongside Pirlo, Conte and Jesse Carver.

Chiellini was a part of that successful period at the club and will likely play a key role in this latest new era for Juventus after penning a two-year contract extension on Monday.

Allegri's immediate aim is to win back the title from Inter, while also seeing off competition from the likes of Milan and Atalanta, and experienced centre-back Chiellini is ready to do his bit.

"I am happy to see him again," Chiellini told Juventus TV. "He gave me and everyone a great deal. 

"I've kept in contact with the lads, and they've told me he's really fired up for the start of the season. I'm convinced he is the right man to take this team back to the top and create a new cycle.

"I am here to give my contribution, above all on the field, but off it too."

 

Chiellini has made 535 appearances for Juventus since joining in 2004 but has played just 21 times in Serie A since the start of 2019-20, partly due to injury.

He showed his quality at Euro 2020 as he helped Italy to their first continental crown in 53 years, starting five of the Azzurri's seven matches in the tournament.

The Livorno product produced six clearances, which was four more than any other Italy player, while also leading the way for interceptions (three) and aerial duels (seven).

After putting an end to potential retirement talk by putting pen to paper with Juve, Chiellini is now eyeing up a place in Italy's World Cup squad for Qatar 2022.

"The World Cup is just over a year away, so we'll see," he said. "I always want to enjoy every moment and to think of the present. 

"If I am fortunate enough to be in good shape and able to participate in the World Cup, then I'll be happy. If I don't, then I'll be happy anyway.

"I've learned over the last few years that the only secret is to live in the moment and without thinking of faraway objectives.

"Now we need to get the engine going again after these few weeks when I needed time to recover, then we'll take it one week at a time, game by game, and see where we end up."

England defender Tyrone Mings has revealed his mental health "plummeted" during Euro 2020 when he was labeled the side's "weakest link".

The 28-year-old Aston Villa man was drafted into the England XI in Harry Maguire's absence for the side's opening two Euro 2020 games against Croatia and Scotland.

Mings revealed he spoke to a psychologist to cope with the pressure in the build-up as his mental health plummeted due to the public's doubts about his ability.

“I did have a tough time in the lead-up to the opening game against Croatia," Mings told The Sun. “I think I’m a lot more hardened to outside influences now, but my mental health did plummet.

"And I have no shame in admitting that because there was so many unknowns about me going to that game.

“I was probably the only name on the teamsheet that people thought, ‘Not sure about him’. And that was something I had to overcome.

“When 90-95 per cent of your country are having doubts over you, it’s very difficult to stop this intruding on your own thoughts.

“So I did a lot of work on that with my psychologist. I was given a lot of coping mechanisms — whether it was breathing, meditation, or just learning how to bring yourself into the present moment. To stop letting your subconscious take over.

“It was hard. I didn’t really sleep very well before that first game.”

England kept clean sheets in both games, before first choice Maguire returned to the England starting line-up after injury at Mings' expense.

Mings, whose comments come in the wake of US Olympian Simone Biles' withdrawal from Tokyo 2020 citing mental health, said comments made by ex-Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand on BBC about him being the weakest part of the team impacted him.

“Rio DM’d me after the tournament. He’d said I was the weak link, and that Croatia should be targeting me," Mings said.

“He messaged me saying something like, ‘Top-class response — matched your performances on the pitch.’ What a lovely guy.

“It’s just great that we are playing in a time now when you can speak about mental health, and how you are feeling.

“We have seen with Simone Biles you can speak on how you are feeling and hopefully feel supported by many people.”

Andriy Shevchenko has left his role as head coach of Ukraine after a five-year spell in charge following the expiration of his contract.

The 44-year-old stepped up from his position as assistant to take over the Ukraine senior side in July 2016.

After missing out on qualification for the 2018 World Cup, Shevchenko guided his country to the delayed Euro 2020 finals, where they reached the last eight for the first time in their history.

However, the legendary former Milan striker announced on Sunday that he will not be extending his contract to stay on as Ukraine boss.

"Today, my contract with the Ukrainian Football Association came to the [sic] end," he posted on Instagram. "I spent five years with the national team. 

"It was hard work that proved that we are capable of playing modern football. I am grateful to the president and the executive committee of the UAF for the opportunity to work with the Ukrainian National team.

"I am thankful to every player, every person who helped and was involved in the team. Many thanks to all the fans for their support and criticism.

"Together, we managed to show that our football can be competitive, productive and exciting. With faith in Ukraine."

Ukraine advanced as one of the best third-placed finishers in the group stage of Euro 2020 and beat Sweden 2-1 after extra time in the last 16.

However, their campaign was ended in the next round with a resounding 4-0 defeat to eventual runners-up England.

Cristiano Ronaldo joined Juventus' pre-season training on Monday ahead of the 2021-22 Serie A campaign.

The former Real Madrid forward had been on holiday after Portugal's Euro 2020 last-16 exit against Belgium but has now returned as Juventus prepare to attempt to regain their Serie A title, which Inter won last time out.

Ronaldo, whose five goals and one assist powered him to the Golden Boot at Euro 2020, is set to become a free agent at the end of the following campaign and speculations persists surrounding his future.

The Portugal captain is due to sit down with Massimiliano Allegri, who was in charge when he initially joined from Madrid in 2018, as the pair prepare for the upcoming season.

Allegri, who won five straight Serie A titles and four league and cup doubles during his previous tenure, was reappointed following Andrea Pirlo's dismissal and will be grateful to be able to call upon the experience and quality of the 36-year-old.

Last season, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner scored 29 times to win the Capocannoniere and added to his top-scorer awards from the Premier League and LaLiga with Manchester United and Madrid respectively.

 

Since joining Allegri's men in 2018, only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (103) has outscored Ronaldo (73) in all competitions among players in Europe's top five leagues.

Ronaldo's 83 goal involvements over that period rank fourth behind Lewandowski (121), Lionel Messi (106) and Kylian Mbappe (97).

Yet, despite his Serie A dominance, Juventus could only muster a fourth-place finish in 2020-21 and questions have arisen as to how far Ronaldo's patience will stretch, given he is progressing towards the end of an illustrious career.

Nevertheless, Ronaldo and Allegri prepare for their Serie A opener against Udinese on August 22 with a friendly against Monza on Saturday before a potential meeting with old foe Lionel Messi on August 8 at Camp Nou against Barcelona.

Team GB sprint star Dina Asher-Smith hailed Marcus Rashford and his England team-mates for "showing a really good sense of moral leadership for our nation".

Manchester United striker Rashford earned plaudits for his work lobbying the government to provide free school meals during the height of the coronavirus pandemic last year, while he and the rest of the Three Lions squad who reached the final of Euro 2020 this month were also vocal in the fight against racism, continuing to take a knee throughout the tournament in a united showing against racial prejudice.

Asher-Smith, who will be going for gold in the 100 and 200 metres at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, has herself spoken out about her experiences of racism and in March she received the column of the year award by the International Sport Press Association for an article she wrote in the aftermath of George Floyd's murder.

She has also been a vocal supporter of the protests taken by Naomi Osaka and Lewis Hamilton in the past and the 25-year-old, a die-hard Red Devils supporter, hopes to do more in the area of social activism once the Olympics have finished.

"I think what Marcus and all the other players have been doing is fantastic and it made me so proud to watch them and see how they conducted themselves," Asher-Smith told a roundtable of journalists at a pre-Games Team GB call.

"I think they've done fantastically throughout the Euros. I think they surpassed all our expectations in the nicest way.

"They are actually a credit to our nation and showing a really good sense of moral leadership for our nation and I think as sports people we are really proud and definitely as a Brit, and a black Brit, especially throughout the Euros I was really proud of them. I think they represented both the nation and our community incredibly well.

"Social activism is something I'd love to increase, but with the Olympics and everything I've been one-track minded towards Tokyo. But definitely once we're past this point, because I definitely compartmentalise things, when I'm over this little compartment of my life that's definitely something I want to increase because you do have to give back.

"I think it's an essential part of being not only an athlete but someone who has had an opportunity and the only reason I'm here today is because of the good will and hard work of so many other people in teams and throughout my community and so many opportunities I've had, whether that's grants or school teachers taking extra time to take me to a club or telling me about a club.

"It's goodwill of other people so it would be entirely selfish to not give back when you have the opportunity to in your career and I'm really proud of how the footballers have done that throughout the year and how they conducted themselves throughout the Euros." 

 

Athletes competing in Tokyo are set to have more scope to protest at the upcoming Olympics after the IOC relaxed its controversial Rule 50, which previously forbade any "demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas".

The IOC will allow athletes to make protests prior to competitions starting, though anyone doing so on podiums or medal ceremonies – similar to the famous Black Power salute made by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics – could face sanctions.

Asher-Smith always expected a climb down, adding: "I think to see the IOC lifted the ban, I was entirely unsurprised. 

"Protesting I see as a fundamental human right, so if you were to penalise someone for standing up against racial inequality how on earth would that go? You know what I mean? How on earth would you enforce that? 

"Would you revoke somebody's medal for saying racism is wrong? I honestly thought that was always going to happen otherwise they would have just been faced with loads of athlete protests at the Games and it would have been really embarrassing, you can't really tell people not to.

"Unless they want to say they're against people saying they're against racism I didn't know how that was going to go.

"Some of the Olympics' most iconic moments have been the Black Power salute by Tommie Smith way back when, and that is something people remember the Olympics for, that's something they're very proud to see at the Olympic Games."

Asher-Smith, the reigning 200m world champion, also hopes she can play her part in inspiring young women to take part in sports over the course of the next two weeks.

"I think the next fortnight has great potential to inspire an entire generation of young women as we do with every Olympics," she said.

"But I think it's becoming increasingly important nowadays. We have significant drop-off rates of young women.

"They hit teenage years, they're all very active in the sporting field or active world, then they hit between 11 and 15 and drop out in their droves.

"Then it's under 10 per cent get enough exercise or get the government recommended guidelines of exercise and engage on aesthetic grounds rather than having fun. 

"I hope the next fortnight shows not only can you make a viable career out of this. Being a sportswoman in whatever you want to do is a viable career it's not just track and field, it's not just tennis, it's not just football there are many avenues you can go down to be a career sportswoman. 

"But also that it's fun, that it can completely change your life, develop lifelong friendships, it's not just about doing sport for a physical goal to lose weight, to gain this, to alter your body but also for self-esteem, your mind, your mental health and to live a fulfilled and enriched life. 

"I think the Olympic Games has an incredible chance to inspire so many women and also women who have had babies, and the Paralympics as well, women who have very different life circumstances to all of us, so I think it's a great platform and showcase for all the sports we love."

Mesut Ozil says he felt the pain suffered by Bukayo Saka after missing a penalty in England's Euro 2020 final defeat and has urged the youngster to stay strong following the racist backlash he received.

The versatile winger was one of three England players to miss in the shoot-out loss to Italy on July 11, along with Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, who were also racially abused on social media.

Gianluigi Donnarumma's save from Saka's spot-kick was the decisive moment in the match, which finished 1-1 after extra time, as England fell to a 3-2 defeat on penalties at Wembley.

Ozil, who played alongside Saka for two seasons at Arsenal before joining Fenerbahce in January, believes the 19-year-old deserves praise for stepping up and taking a penalty in such a pressurised environment. 

"I felt very much for Bukayo," he told Sky Sports News. "I know from my own experience how it feels to miss a penalty.

"In a final, as the last one, to take on the responsibility of an entire nation as a young player – respect. Not many players would dare to do that."

Speaking last week, Saka said he will not be broken by his Euro 2020 final penalty miss and the subsequent vile messages as he called on social media bosses to do more to tackle problem users.

But former Arsenal playmaker Ozil fears that such abuse will never be completely eradicated.

"There will always be people who racially abuse and scapegoat people of different backgrounds and skin colour when they lose," he said.

"Unfortunately there will always be a small part of our community that racially insults and threatens players. We should focus much more on the positive messages that keep players strong."

Saka has featured regularly for Arsenal over the past two seasons and was used four times for runners-up England at Euro 2020, starting three matches.

"Bukayo is a modest young player," Ozil added. "I have gotten to know him as a very determined young man who works very hard for his dream and does everything he can to achieve it.

"Bukayo is blessed with a talent that not many have. If he remains as humble and determined as he already is, I am a hundred per cent convinced that he has a great future ahead of him and can become a great player.

"He's really a great talent, and I'm sure that there are going to be many more big matches for the English national team for him in the future."

Real Madrid midfielder and former Arsenal loanee Dani Ceballos is relishing the prospect of combining with Spain's Olympic head coach Luis de la Fuente in Tokyo, having previously worked with him at Under-19 level.

Spain head into the Tokyo Olympics as one of the favourites for the gold medal, given De la Fuente has been able to call upon six players that reached the semi-final stages at Euro 2020 with the senior national side.

The names of their star-studded line-up would be enough to frighten any Olympic opposition as they have included Pedri, Unai Simon, Dani Olmo, Mikel Oyarzabal, Eric Garcia and Pau Torres.

While the players on the pitch paint an attractive picture that could see Spain win their second gold and first since 1992, Ceballos explained how his relationship with De la Fuente could help him thrive.

"I have had great coaches, but with Luis [de la Fuente] we have a different relationship. We have linked up very well from the first tournament (Under-19 European Championship in 2015)", the former Arsenal midfielder said in Tuesday's press conference.

"From then on we have forged a great relationship. He has given me confidence and I have been lucky to give it back to him on the field."

De la Fuente's men get their campaign underway versus Egypt on Thursday before subsequent fixtures against Argentina and Australia and Ceballos, who played 49 times across his two-year loan spell at Arsenal, is aware of the different challenges that the Games provide.

"It is a completely different competition than what we football players are used to. It is a unique opportunity", he said.

"It is really difficult to qualify for it because it has a lot of requirements that are really tough to meet. But this team has done a lot of things to deserve it, and now it is the time to enjoy it."

Barcelona youngster Pedri did not misplace a pass in normal time during the Euro 2020 semi-final against Italy and created 11 chances at the tournament, one more than fellow squad member Olmo (10) and one fewer than first-placed Jordi Alba (12).

 

Both will be team-mates of Ceballos and the midfielder praised all of his colleagues as they prepare to attempt to recreate the 1992 heroics which sealed home Olympic success in Barcelona.

"We have a really great team. On paper, I think we can be among the favourites, but in reality there are a lot of fantastic national teams. On the field it is going to be different", he said

"Playing in this Olympic Games has been a special dream and I have been reading about what happened in that [the 1992] tournament. Especially in the final, that there was extra time and that Spain won against Poland with a goal from Kiko Narvaez.

"Hopefully we can repeat what they did in their day."

Like Ceballos, De la Fuente spoke with pride about leading his nation at the Games, while he also discussed the possibility of following in the footsteps of those from Barcelona 1992.

"It is a pride being here. It is a different feeling from other tournaments because the Olympic Games are unique. It is a totally special experience, and we are wishing to start enjoying it as a competition and living the Olympic environment.", the head coach said.

"We are feeling the same they felt, a great desire to start competing, a great conviction that we have a great team to compete for everything. And feeling capable of fighting for the maximum. I am sure we are feeling what they felt.

"We are going to try to be up to the standards expected of us, and I am sure that we are going to perform to that level and fulfil the expectations we are creating."

Arguably England's best player in their last three knockout fixtures at Euro 2020, Luke Shaw reportedly struggled through games against Ukraine, Denmark and Italy with broken ribs.

The left-back was part of Gareth Southgate's side that suffered shoot-out heartbreak against Italy in the final, but it has become apparent that Shaw was playing through the pain for his country, after suffering a blow to his ribs against Germany in the last 16.

According to the Telegraph, Manchester United will now wait to assess the left-back, whose sole goal at the European Championship represented the fastest to be scored in a final since 1964, ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

The former Southampton academy product was in scintillating form throughout Euro 2020 as he recorded three assists in six games to add to his final strike past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

 

His three assists, two against Ukraine and one against Germany, could only be bettered by Switzerland's Steven Zuber (four).

The 26-year-old (10) created two more chances than any other player for England and, amongst the defenders at the tournament, only Spain's Jordi Alba (12) provided more opportunities.

Shaw was as testing down the left flank for United throughout the domestic season, too, as he created 72 chances. Bruno Fernandes (95) was the sole United player with more to his name.

The Red Devils must now wait for news of Shaw's fitness - potential another post-Euros blow for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after Marcus Rashford underwent shoulder surgery.

Jack Grealish's refusal to shy away from wanting the ball is a talent that makes him "outstanding", according to former Chelsea and Italy star Gianfranco Zola.

The Aston Villa captain led his side to an 11th-place finish in their first season back in the Premier League, before enduring a quiet summer for England at Euro 2020, where he managed two assists across 173 minutes of action.

Grealish was streaks ahead in terms of creativity last term, creating 70 chances in the Premier League from open play – 26 more than any of his team-mates and just seven fewer than Bruno Fernandes' league-high 77.

Those figures translated into 10 assists for Dean Smith's main man – making him joint-fourth in the league with Son Heung-Min - despite his expected assists being just over 6.5.

A former number 10 himself, Zola is a fan of Grealish and what he offers to both Villa and England.

"I really like Grealish for his courage and his initiatives. Maybe sometimes it could be hard to give him a tactical task because he likes to be creative in every part of the forward front.", Zola told Stats Perform.

"But he always creates something important and, again, he never flinches. He always wants the ball and creates. These are qualities that will make him even more outstanding."

Grealish's ball carrying does not solely create chances from open play either, given he won the most fouls in the final third (41) – seven more than nearest competitor Wilfried Zaha – and regularly offers Smith's side opportunities from set-pieces, too.

Villa (62) ranked third in the league in terms of chances created from set-pieces behind Manchester United (64) and Chelsea (68), which means Grealish's direct running offers another facet to the Villans' attack.

The 25-year-old midfielder may want to add goals to his game, though – while he did net six times last campaign, the positions he gets himself into suggest he should be scoring more.

Contrastingly, however, Grealish outperformed his expected goals (4.65), therefore criticism of his finishing may seem a tad harsh and unwarranted.

With Smith at the helm and with Grealish hopefully staying at Villa Park, Zola saw reason for optimism amongst the Villa faithful.

"Aston Villa are not a random club. They have had a great season and ended in the left part of the table, always improving.", the former Azzurri forward added.

"They have a very good manager that is making the squad grow."

Italy and England combined to produce a nail-biting finale to Euro 2020, which was enjoyed by an average audience of 6.4 million viewers in the United States.

Those staggering viewership numbers meant the 2020 showpiece became the most-watched European Championship final in the USA, surpassing the previous record from the Euro 2012 final (4.5 million for Spain v Italy). Viewership increased 43 per cent on the 2016 final.

Even the first two games of the NBA Finals failed to produce better viewing figures, with the USA appearing to have savoured a memorable European Championship.

In fact, as Gianluigi Donnarumma's shoot-out heroics clinched Italy's first European Championship title since 1968, the audience in the United States peaked at 8.1 million, according to ESPN figures.

The final, as expected, had the most American viewers glued to their screens but Euro 2020 produced wholesale improvements throughout the tournament.

Across all 51 matches at Euro 2020, ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 delivered an average viewership of 1.3 million, a 31 per cent increase on the previous edition in 2016.

The round-of-16 fixtures and semi-final clashes provided the most significant improvements from 2016, with those rounds producing 38 and 37 per cent increases to draw in 1.8 million and 2.5 million viewers on average respectively.

Roberto Mancini believes he and Gianluca Vialli came 'full circle' at Wembley Stadium, making amends for Sampdoria's European Cup final defeat against Barcelona by succeeding with Italy against England in the Euro 2020 final.

Mancini guided his country to their first European Championship triumph since 1968 with a shoot-out victory over Gareth Southgate's men, courtesy of Gianluigi Donnarumma's penalty-saving heroics.

Tasked with rebuilding after failing to qualify for the World Cup in 2018, Mancini led his side to a 34-game unbeaten run that culminated in the Euro 2020 success.

After the failure of 2018, the first year in which the Azzurri had failed to reach a World Cup since 1958, Mancini told SPORT1 "Italy was down".

"You [Italy] immediately felt that everyone wanted reparations and were ready to work their a***s for the country", the former Manchester City head coach added.

But Italy's title did not just represent success for this current crop of players, it also provided comfort for Mancini and the Azzurri's team delegation chief Vialli, who came up short with Sampdoria against Barcelona at Wembley in 1992.

"I still remember that game [the 1992 European Cup final] very well. We shouldn't have lost it, it wasn't deserved," said Mancini.

"But now the circle has come full. 30 years later. Madness! I'm also happy because this trophy also belongs to the Sampdoria fans to a certain extent. Unfortunately, they had to accept the bitter defeat at the time. Now the wounds are being healed."

Italy's impressive defence propelled them to their success as they conceded just four goals at Euro 2020, with England (two), Belgium and Finland (three each), the only teams able to boast better defensive records.

Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, whose 12 interceptions topped the defensive rankings alongside Ukraine's Mykola Matvienko, marshalled the backline in front of shoot-out hero Donnarumma and Mancini feels the pair deserve significant credit.

"Giorgio [Chiellini] and Leo [Bonucci], of course, have a very large part in our wonderful success. They deserve it so much because they represent 20 years of Italian football history," he explained.

The praise of Chiellini and Bonucci aside, Mancini batted off questions surrounding immortality and history to conclude: "This title is for all the Italians in our country.

"But it is also a gift to all Italians abroad. There is boundless joy right now."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.