RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann compared Brian Brobbey to Inter star Romelu Lukaku after the Bundesliga side agreed to sign the Ajax sensation.

Brobbey will join Nagelsmann's Leipzig on a free transfer at the end of the season after agreeing a four-year deal until 2025.

Eredivisie giants Ajax were determined to keep Brobbey, but the 19-year-old Dutch forward opted to leave for Leipzig.

Brobbey, who made his senior debut for Ajax in October, has scored twice in seven substitute appearances in Eredivisie this season, while he has netted as many goals during the 2020-21 Europa League campaign.

Nagelsmann compared Brobbey to in-form Inter forward Lukaku after being asked about the similarities between the two players.

"It is always very tough for a player, when you compare him to others as people start to grow expectations that are not good for a player at that age," Nagelsmann told reporters ahead of Sunday's showdown with Eintracht Frankfurt.

"In regards to his physique and the way he plays, he is similar to Romelu Lukaku. And we would be happy if he can manage to become a player with the same qualities. But to paint a picture for the fans, you can definitely say that he is similar to Lukaku. But it is a great wish of ours that he can develop himself in a similar way and that he will be able to become as important for the European football [as Lukaku].

"If that will be the case, then our scouting department has made a great decision. We will cross our fingers for that to happen. But please don't start saying that he will play just like Lukaku, because this won't be the case."

After Friday's announcement, Brobbey said: "RB Leipzig is a great club and is playing an amazing season. Julian Nagelsmann is a young and very good coach, who I can learn a lot from.

"The team is stable and gives off a strong feeling of unity. I'm looking forward to joining the team and of course want to play my part in helping the club be so successful."

Leipzig are second in the Bundesliga, two points adrift of leaders and defending champions Bayern Munich through 24 rounds.

But Nagelsmann is unwilling to discuss the title race, adding: "I have already mentioned that I do not want to talk about that so much. Last year, we were a bit closer to Bayern or maybe a bit further ahead and we still didn't manage to win the tile and eventually fell behind with a few points difference.

"For us it is about following through with the consistency that we currently have. There are still many games to be played, many points to get but also many points to lose in either direction. We don't gain a lot from just talking about it. We need to try to be the best possible opponent for all the teams we face.

"It is our aim to win every match. I also said on Wednesday after [Champions League fixture against] Liverpool that I find it disrespectful against many others to say that the championship will be decided on the third of April. There are still a few games to go. This would also imply that we will win every game that we come up against. But to do so we will have to go to our limits. It's not like we will win every game with ease and then say: 'It was nice of you to come for a visit. Goodbye and it was obvious that you'll lose'. There's a lot of work to be done with many narrow games. We have seen it against Freiburg where we took a lot of time to find our rhythm needed to win the game.

"Against [Borussia] Gladbach, it took us until the 93rd minute to win. We had a bit of luck against Berlin as well, but have solved it with dominance towards the end and scored the very important second goal. It is not a walk in the park for us. Therefore, it doesn't help us to talk about the aim at the end. We have to be successful from game to game and take them as they come. Now it is Frankfurt and then we will see what will happen at the end.

"Of course, we are happy when coaches or experts are honouring our success but we can't gain anything from that. It is important that we deserve to be where we are after the 34th matchday. Whatever it will be, we will take that into our holiday. In the middle of the season, it is a nice feeling but it doesn’t help us a lot at the moment."

Leipzig's 53 points from 24 games represents their best-ever return at this stage of a Bundesliga season. The club's previous best was 49 points, achieved in both 2016-17 and 2019-20.

Meanwhile, Leipzig have won six consecutive Bundesliga games for the first time since 2019. Their club record stands at eight wins in a row from September to December 2016.

Manchester City star Sergio Aguero played down growing speculation over a move to LaLiga giants Barcelona.

Aguero is out of contract at the end of the season and City's record goalscorer is yet to re-sign with the Premier League leaders.

There have been rumours that Aguero has a formal agreement with new Barca president Joan Laporta to join close friend Lionel Messi at Camp Nou.

Aguero, who has been hampered by injuries and is struggling to break into Pep Guardiola's starting XI this season, responded to the speculation.

"They are all writing Barca, Barca, Barca," the 32-year-old Argentine forward said via Twitch.

"Let's hold on a little, have a look. Stop. We are still with City."

It is now 13-and-a-half months since Aguero – fourth on the competition's all-time scorers list – added to his 180 Premier League goals.

A meniscus injury requiring surgery during Project Restart ended his 2019-20 campaign and further knee soreness, a hamstring injury and a bout of coronavirus have restricted him to a bit-part role this time around.

Aguero came off the bench in the 5-2 rout of Southampton, playing the final 18 minutes on Wednesday.

City are 14 points clear of neighbours Manchester United, who have a match in hand, atop the table ahead of Saturday's fixture against lowly Fulham.

Angel Di Maria has signed a new one-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain.

The Argentina international, 33, has agreed to a new deal that will keep him at the club until the end of next season, with the option of an additional year.

Di Maria has won 16 trophies with PSG since signing from Manchester United in 2015 for a fee in the region of €63million.

In 248 games in all competitions, the midfielder has scored 86 times and provided 99 assists, the second-highest figure in the club's history behind Safet Susic on 103.

Speaking last month, sporting director Leonardo confirmed Di Maria was one of four key contract extensions PSG were keen to complete.

As well as high-profile talks over new deals for Kylian Mbappe and Neymar, Les Parisiens are also eager for Juan Bernat to sign a new deal.

"On Kylian Mbappe's contract, we've been talking for a long time," Leonardo told France Bleu.

"Before, it was mainly to be clear about our position and what we want. I think we are getting to the point where we must take a position and a decision. We have a good open dialogue.

"It's on the right track [with Neymar], but in the end he decides when to sign and it is not yet the case. We are on the same page, I think; same for Di Maria and Bernat.

"These are the four issues we are discussing. The idea is to get there as quickly as possible, because on our side, we have the intention to renew all four."
 
Di Maria has made 27 appearances in all competitions this season, providing four goals and 10 assists.

He is PSG's fourth-most productive player in terms of direct goal involvements in 2020-21, behind Moise Kean (16), Neymar (17) and Kylian Mbappe (35).

Angel Di Maria has signed a new one-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain.

Sergio Ramos and Eden Hazard have been named in Real Madrid's 20-man squad to face Elche.

Club captain Ramos, who is out of contract at the end of the season, has not played since suffering meniscus damage in January.

Hazard has endured an injury-plagued existence since joining Madrid from Chelsea for €100million before the start of last season, with a problem in his left thigh serving as the Belgium attacker's latest setback.

Asked at a pre-match media conference whether each man was ready to play a part against Elche, Zidane replied: "Yes, of course. And we are very happy. Our idea is that they have minutes."

And both are in the 20-strong party, with conjecture ongoing over whether Ramos will extend his deal in the Spanish capital.

Hazard is under contract until 2024, giving him plenty of time to turn around an underwhelming stint to date.

Zidane has every confidence the 30-year-old will do so.

"I see him 100 per cent physically and emotionally well," said the Frenchman. "He has overcome the injuries and discomfort he may have had.

"I see him well, he will be with us and I hope he can play."

The Madrid boss dismissed concerns that the catalogue of injuries suffered by Hazard could have a similarly debilitating impact as Gareth Bale's woes had over recent seasons.

"Eden has had his discomfort, it's true. He had never had a long injury before coming to Madrid," he added.

"Now here he had a lot of discomfort. But he has a long player and when he gets well, Damn, he is going to have an impressive performance.

"I speak to the fans: when a player is not at 100 per cent it is complicated, but he is going to do very well here "

Zinedine Zidane has refused to offer any guarantee over the future of Sergio Ramos, but he remains convinced Raphael Varane will stay at Real Madrid. 

Club captain Ramos is out of contract at the end of the season and stated on Thursday that there was "nothing new" to report around a possible extension. 

With Madrid said to be keen to sign Ramos to a new deal but only on reduced wages due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Paris Saint-Germain have been linked with the 34-year-old, who has won 22 trophies in 16 years with Madrid including five LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues. 

Head coach Zidane admitted on Friday he has little knowledge of Ramos' contract situation, although he would be keen for the Spain veteran to stay in the capital. 

Speaking ahead of Saturday's LaLiga clash with Elche, he said of Ramos: "I can't really answer that question because I don't know. 

"I hope that Ramos remains at the club, he's a key player with everything he's done in the past and hopefully he can remain here and play." 

Meanwhile, the future of long-time centre-back partner Varane is also uncertain. The 27-year-old, whose contract runs out at the end of next season, is said to be considering a new challenge and is reportedly a target for Manchester United. 

However, Zidane appears confident his compatriot has no particular desire to move elsewhere and only has positive things to say about life at Madrid. 

"I don't think that's his first option, to play elsewhere," said Zidane. "He always speaks highly of the club. He's very happy here. I can't see him playing anywhere else." 

Madrid face Elche needing a win to put pressure on top two Atletico Madrid and Barcelona. 

The champions are two points behind Barca and eight adrift of leaders Atletico following last weekend's 1-1 derby draw.

Cristiano Ronaldo has been linked with a sensational return to Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane faced questions over the Juventus star's future on Friday.

It was reported this week that Ronaldo's agent, Jorge Mendes, had contacted Madrid over a potential switch back to the LaLiga champions.

Portugal captain Ronaldo is Madrid's all-time leading goalscorer after finding the back of the net a staggering 451 times in 438 matches before joining Juve on a four-year deal in July 2018.

Madrid boss Zidane could not escape the speculation at his latest media conference as talk over the possibility of the 36-year-old rejoining Los Blancos continues to rumble on.

"We all know what he means for the club, what he did for the club," he said.

"I coached Ronaldo, he's part of the club's history, his contribution was magnificent but right now he's a Juventus footballer and he's doing very well for the club and there's not much more I can add to all the things that have been said.

"He's a Juve footballer and I have to respect the club and the player."

Madrid host struggling Elche on Saturday knowing they have no margin for error in the title race, as they trail Atletico Madrid by eight points.

Zidane says relegation-threatened Elche must not be taken lightly.

"We know in the Spanish league there are no easy games really," said the former France playmaker. "You look at the league table and it doesn't tell the whole story.

"It's a club that are down near the bottom, but they are a very good side and have put in some very good performances this season in the league.

"Now with the new manager [Fran Escriba] things have changed. We expect a tough game and we know we've got to put in a great performance if we want to take all three points and that's our aim."

Manchester United are in talks with Eric Bailly over a new contract, manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has confirmed.

The centre-back, who played in his 100th game in all competitions for the Red Devils as they drew 1-1 with Milan in the Europa League last-16 first leg on Thursday, sees his deal expire next year.

Bailly joined for a reported £30million from Villarreal in 2016, making him the club's first signing under Jose Mourinho, but persistent injury troubles mean he has started just 27 league matches in the past four seasons.

The Ivory Coast international, who turns 27 next month, has largely impressed when called upon this season, with United keeping eight clean sheets and conceding 12 goals in the 15 matches Bailly has played.

Indeed, since his debut in August 2016, United have won 65 per cent of matches with Bailly in the starting line-up compared with 53 per cent without him. They have also averaged more points per game (2.1 compared to 1.8) and fewer goals against (0.8 compared to 1.0).

Solskjaer is expected to pursue the signing of a new central defender in the transfer window but he appears keen to keep Bailly at the club regardless of potential incomings.

"We've started talking to Eric and Eric's representatives," Solskjaer said. "Eric's been keeping fitter for longer and you can see Eric's performances as well. I've been very happy with him.

"His playing style has sometimes made him lose too many games because 100 games is not enough for the period he's been here. He's getting more and more robust, so he's one we're talking to."

United host West Ham in the Premier League on Sunday hoping to build on last weekend's 2-0 derby win at Manchester City, while also moving nine points ahead of David Moyes' side in fifth.

While he accepts the gap to league leaders City is perhaps too big to bridge - Pep Guardiola's men are 14 points clear, having played a game more - Solskjaer is keen to strengthen the grip on second spot.

He is also happy not to have to face in-form Jesse Lingard, who has impressed on loan at the Hammers since his January move but is ineligible to play against his parent club.

Solskjaer said: "For Jesse, it's really worked out; for David [Moyes], it's really worked out. And for us as a club as well, because we know that Jesse's position is a 10 and we've got Bruno [Fernandes] there.

"For me, it was a no-brainer to get Jesse the chance to prove himself and play some football again. He's really been bright for them. He's finding back to himself.

"I think they've been brilliant. We played them in the FA Cup not long ago as well. We went to extra time, it was a tight, even game, he's got players who score goals, creative, defend really well, really difficult on set-plays, and David's done a tremendous job that we know he's capable of.

"We're very happy for him and we know this is a big game for us. It's maybe too far ahead to City, so we need to consolidate our place in the top two or three, hopefully."

United have something of an injury crisis for the match. Paul Pogba, Donny van de Beek and Juan Mata may not be fit before the international break in the final two weeks of March, while goalkeeper David de Gea may still need to quarantine for a few more days after returning from Spain following the birth of his daughter.

Forwards Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford and Edinson Cavani are also unlikely to be fit, meaning 18-year-old Amad Diallo, who scored his first goal for the club as a substitute against Milan, could be called upon again.

"It's a big change for him, he's moved over here by himself but he's coming into training every day, he's working really hard, he knows he's got a lot to learn," Solskjaer added.

"He's an exciting talent, of course, but he'll have to get used to the tempo and the quality of the level he's playing at now.

"He didn't play much for Atalanta, either, so we're gradually giving him more and more, but he's been hungry to learn. His appetite in training has been spot on."

Hansi Flick is not interested in "speculation" he could take over as Germany head coach as he eyes more trophies for Bayern Munich.

Flick is among the names linked with the Germany job after long-serving boss Joachim Low decided to step down after Euro 2020.

Bayern supremo Flick masterminded a magnificent Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and UEFA Champions League treble last season.

The Bavarian giants have also won the FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA Super Cup and DFL-Supercup in a dream start to Flick's tenure.

Bayern are top of the Bundesliga and remain in the hunt to win the Champions League, so Flick is focused on the job in hand rather than the possibility of succeeding Low.

He said in a press conference on Friday: "I have a contract until 2023 and want to be successful and win titles with Bayern Munich. It's not the time to speculate about my future."

Flick added: "I'm interested in the here and now. I am now looking after my team and the game against Werder Bremen [on Saturday]. As I said, speculation is not an issue for me."

Asked if he was surprised Low will walk away from the job, he said. "Yes, yes. He did a very good job for German football. Can be very proud of what he has achieved."

Full-back Benjamin Pavard is back in the squad for the clash with Bremen at the Weserstadion after being out of action following his positive coronavirus test.

David Alaba missed training on Thursday due to a muscular injury, but will be monitored in a session on Friday.

Bayern have scored 13 goals in their last three games and Flick expects the leaders to show intensity from the start as they go in search of a fourth consecutive victory.

He said: "Bremen have a very good defence, they stay compact and don't give away much space. We found that in the home match. It's important that we are aggressive off the ball and find good solutions with it."

Jamie Maclaren maintained his magnificent form by scoring a first-half double as in-form Melbourne City beat Macarthur FC 3-0 to go second in the A-League table. 

Maclaren took his tally to 10 goals in his last eight games as City extended their winning streak to four matches at AAMI Park on Friday. 

The clinical Maclaren headed home Nathaniel Atkinson's cross to open the scoring after 23 minutes and finished at the second attempt when Macarthur were opened up again just two minutes later. 

Patrick Kisnorbo's ruthless side were three goals to the good 10 minutes before half-time, when Craig Noone was played in by Andrew Nabbout and cut inside superbly before drilling home. 

Victory for City moved them above their opponents, who have lost three of their last four games, in the table - six points behind leaders Central Coast Mariners with a game in hand.

 

 

Ronald Koeman only took charge of Barcelona at the start of the season, but his tenure could be brief.

With Joan Laporta back at Camp Nou as president, he is determined to make his mark.

And highly rated RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann is reportedly fancied in Barcelona.

 

TOP STORY – LAPORTA FANCIES NAGELSMANN

New Barcelona president Joan Laporta is eyeing RB Leipzig's Julian Nagelsmann as the club's next head coach, according to El Larguero.

Laporta was elected Barca president on Sunday and attention has immediately turned to the dugout at Camp Nou.

Ronald Koeman is currently at the helm but while Laporta respects the Dutchman, he prefers Nagelsmann.

 

ROUND-UP

Paris Saint-Germain could make a move for Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo if Kylian Mbappe leaves, claims Le Parisien. Reports in Italy and Spain say Juve will sell Ronaldo at the end of the season following their Champions League last-16 exit. With Mbappe's future unclear in Paris amid links to Real Madrid, PSG are eyeing a possible deal for Ronaldo. Barca's Lionel Messi has also been heavily linked.

- The Daily Mail reports Chelsea are keen on Bayern Munich's Kingsley Coman if Christian Pulisic leaves Stamford Bridge. Liverpool, Manchester United and Bayern have emerged as possible suitors for Pulisic, who is out of favour under Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel. Coman was linked with United during the previous transfer window.

Barca are dreaming of signing Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland, claims Mundo Deportivo. Madrid, PSG, United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Juventus and Manchester City are all reportedly keen on Haaland. City forward Sergio Aguero, Lyon captain Memphis Depay, Bayern star David Alaba and City defender Eric Garcia are also among Barca's list of targets.

- Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum is a target for Inter, according to Calciomercato. The Netherlands international has been linked with Barca previously.

- Ajax's Brian Brobbey will join Leipzig on a free transfer at the end of the season, reports Fabrizio Romano.

Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos insisted it would be easier for the LaLiga champions to sign Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland instead of Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe has long been tipped to swap Ligue 1 titleholders PSG for Madrid, but Dortmund sensation Haaland has emerged as a serious option for the Spanish powerhouse.

Haaland is a player in demand – linked with the likes of Barcelona, PSG, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Juventus – following his exploits for Dortmund in the Bundesliga and Champions League.

Ramos feels Haaland is a more realistic option for Madrid due to the financial situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, while PSG still try to re-sign Mbappe.

"I would like them both to come, but if one of them were to come, it would be easier to sign Haaland," Ramos, who is facing an uncertain future as he is yet to sign a contract extension with Madrid, told Ibai Llanos on Twitch.

"With Mbappe the economic circumstances are more difficult. Haaland wouldn't be bad because of his hunger for goals, his size, his speed... It would be easier to reach an agreement for Haaland."

Haaland became the quickest player to 20 Champions League goals after reaching the milestone in his 14th game in the competition as Dortmund drew 2-2 with Sevilla on Tuesday but advanced 5-4 on aggregate.

Aged 20 years and 231 days, Haaland also became the youngest player to score in six consecutive Champions League matches, while he is the first player in the history of the competition to score at least two goals in four consecutive appearances.

Mbappe also made Champions League history on Wednesday after PSG eliminated Barcelona in the last 16.

The PSG forward claimed Lionel Messi's record as the youngest player to reach 25 goals in the competition, aged 22 years and 80 days. 

Meanwhile, the future of Messi has dominated headlines as the Barca superstar continues to be linked with PSG and City.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season, and Ramos is cheekily prepared to welcome the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to the Santiago Bernabeu in a controversial move.

"I would be delighted to welcome Messi [to Real Madrid]," Ramos said with a smile as he dismissed the idea of leaving Madrid for bitter rivals Barca. "I'll make my house available to him for the first few weeks.

"We had to suffer Leo in his best years, so the fact of not having to face him would be good.

"He would help us win and achieve more success. It would be silly to say otherwise."

Inter vice-president Javier Zanetti "can't say" the Serie A leaders want Lionel Messi as he believes the Barcelona superstar will remain at Camp Nou.

Messi's future has dominated headlines, with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner tipped to join Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain or Premier League leaders Manchester City on a free transfer at the end of the season.

Inter have also emerged as a possible destination for Messi, who tried to leave embattled LaLiga giants Barca ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

Argentina and Inter great Zanetti, though, feels his 33-year-old countryman will continue playing for Barca beyond this season.

"We can't say that, he is a Barcelona player and he's spent the whole career there. I think he will continue there," Zanetti told ONTime Sports.

"We are focused on the group of players we have. We must be focused on ourselves, we are focused on the next game. Everyone is doing very well."

Asked to compare Messi to legendary football Diego Maradona – who died in November – Zanetti added: "I can't make comparisons, they are both great champions.

"It's always good when big players move to Serie A. When Cristiano Ronaldo arrived, it was good for the league."

Messi has scored a league-high 19 goals and supplied six assists in 24 LaLiga appearances for Ronald Koeman's second-placed Barca this season, and 25 across all competitions.

Barca are six points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid ahead of Monday's match against Huesca.

Messi has been involved in five goals in two games against Huesca in LaLiga (two goals and three assists), including two goals and two assists in his only league appearance against them at Camp Nou.

Barcelona have gone 16 games without losing in LaLiga (W13 D3) – the best current unbeaten streak of any team in the five major leagues in Europe.

Sergio Ramos believes he can play at the highest level for five more years but admits there has been no breakthrough over a new contract at Real Madrid.

Reports in Spain have claimed Ramos will leave Madrid at the end of the season, when his current deal expires. A recent offer from Madrid was said by Spanish media to be worth 10 per cent less than his existing agreement.

The 34-year-old centre-back has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain and there appears to be a significant chance of him opting to move elsewhere after 16 seasons with the Bernabeu giants.

Whether he signs a new deal with Los Blancos or decides to depart, Ramos – who has not played since January after suffering a knee injury – is in no doubt he can perform on the biggest stage for years to come.

"There is a lot of uncertainty," he told reporters on Thursday. "I wish I could say something, but there is nothing new.

"I was only thinking about coming back from injury and finishing the season in the best possible way.

"There is nothing new about the renewal. I guarantee that when there is, I will be the first to report it. But now I am calm. Now I am focused on savouring the year.

"I can perform three, four or five more years, if my body supports me and the injuries respect me.

"I can be at the highest level. I work hard for it and my mentality will always be there. I make mistakes, but I learn from everyone. I've been honest and I've always done my best."

Ramos also defended his former Madrid team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo after the Portuguese superstar came in for criticism following Juventus' early Champions League exit this week.

Juve were eliminated from Europe's elite club competition by Porto at the last-16 stage on Tuesday, going out on away goals after the tie finished 4-4 on aggregate after extra time at the Allianz Stadium.

Sergio Oliveira scored the decisive goal late on from a free-kick that went straight through the Juve wall, with Ronaldo turning his back on the effort.

Former Bianconeri boss Fabio Capello singled out Ronaldo, while ex-president Giovanni Cobolli Gigli suggested Juve should never have spent €100million to sign the forward in 2018.

Ramos, though, has backed Ronaldo and hopes Madrid can avoid a similar fate to Juve when they take on Atalanta in the second leg of their last-16 tie next week, the LaLiga side holding a 1-0 advantage.

"He is the flagship of Juventus," Ramos added. "You think of Juve and you think of Cristiano.

"If a bad streak comes, we only talk about the captain and the coach. It's something you have to stay away from. Cris makes a difference.

"Nothing guarantees success. Any team can beat you in the Champions League. Barca fell yesterday, Juventus the day before. It could happen to anyone, but hopefully not us."

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