Louis van Gaal does not believe he has placed added pressure on his Netherlands squad by targeting World Cup glory, instead suggesting the players are on board with his ambitious aims.

Van Gaal talked up Oranje's chances right from the start of this tournament and has continued to do so, even if their performances in beating Senegal and drawing with Ecuador have not been entirely convincing.

The Netherlands still have work to do in their third match against Qatar to book a last-16 place, but the coach does not regret being so open with his goals for the finals.

"I hope this is no pressure at all, because I think you always have to identify the goal, the purpose for which you are here," he said. "Then you can work towards that purpose.

"If you don't identify that purpose and say the quarter-finals is enough, that is not the right way to do things. The right thing is to say you want to become champions.

"I set out the reasons why we can become champions. I didn't say we would become champions, but we can. The players believe in that."

That belief is evident in Frenkie de Jong, appearing alongside Van Gaal on Monday, as he said: "I think we have an excellent squad. We have demonstrated that on more than enough occasions.

"We are 17 matches unbeaten, that is telling. We have four points, and we played two excellent opponents. We're well positioned despite the fact the last match we didn't play as well as we could.

"We talked a lot in the squad about what we want to do, what we want to improve. Everyone is full of confidence, so it's up to us to show you."

Van Gaal plans to stay up to date with the score from the other game in Group A on Tuesday – the Netherlands will advance even with a defeat if Senegal also lose – but he is not overly concerned whether his side top the pool and secure a supposedly easier draw.

"If you want to become a world champion, you will have to be capable of beating everyone," he said. "Particularly those countries you don't suspect will progress very far, they are progressing or making it difficult."

The Netherlands will also need their key players fit and firing if they are to go all the way.

Van Gaal is "not surprised at all" by Cody Gakpo's form at the finals, believing he can "evolve even further, much further", but he knows Memphis Depay can be decisive.

"To become world champion, we need Memphis," said Van Gaal. "That's how I see it."

Depay has not started yet as he works his way back from injury, but the coach added: "We're going to do anything and everything to progress to the next match. We're still in the group stage, but in the knockout stage every match is important."

If Van Gaal is able to guide the Netherlands to glory, could he yet stay on as coach into 2023?

The coach himself pointed out that would be unlikely, given Ronald Koeman has been appointed as his successor, but he added: "If we become world champion, then the football world is a very opportunistic world. You never know."

Frenkie de Jong blames Barcelona's hierarchy, rather than head coach Xavi, for the uncertainty which has surrounded his Camp Nou future in recent months.

De Jong – who is set to make his World Cup debut when the Netherlands face Senegal in their Group A opener on Monday – was strongly linked with a move to Manchester United in the last transfer window.

Despite the midfielder repeatedly stating his preference to stay put, Barca reportedly viewed him as the club's most saleable asset as they looked to fund big-money moves for Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde and Raphinha.

With Xavi making a series of vague statements on De Jong's future at the time, the Netherlands international believes the Barca boss was put in an uncomfortable position by those above him.

Asked whether Joan Laporta's administration was responsible for the transfer saga, De Jong told De Telegraaf: "I blame these people, but I have nothing to do with them.

"Yes, for me they are Barca because they run it. I don't see them when I'm at the club during my daily routine.

"Xavi, it's true that he left the door open to the possibility of me leaving because he never said 'Frenkie stays'. But I don't blame Xavi. 

"I never had the feeling that Xavi was against me, and I think it was difficult for him to talk about all this."

Despite reports suggesting Barca were willing to let him leave, De Jong has continued to play a central role for the Blaugrana this season, making 17 appearances for Xavi's team in all competitions.

De Jong revealed he is targeting an extended stay at the club he joined from Ajax in 2019, adding: "I am very happy in Barcelona. 

"When I play it is great and in terms of living here life is perfect. I see myself at Barca. Personally, I see myself here eight or 10 more years."

Barcelona eased to a 2-0 win against Almeria in Gerard Pique's final game at Camp Nou before retirement.

Goals from Ousmane Dembele and Frenkie de Jong made up for an early missed penalty from Robert Lewandowski, but it was always going to be Pique's occasion.

The 35-year-old centre-back played 82 minutes before being substituted, leaving the field to a standing ovation from every one of the 92,605 in attendance on Saturday as he tearfully hugged each of his team-mates.

Barca's win was their 11th in their last 12 league games and sent them back to the top of LaLiga before Real Madrid's trip to Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.

A VAR check saw Barca rewarded a sixth-minute penalty when Ferran Torres' header hit Kaiky Fernandes' arm but Lewandowski saw his spot-kick clip the outside of the left post after a stuttered run-up.

Despite Barca's dominance, a sloppy pass from De Jong was pounced on by Largie Ramazani and Marc-Andre ter Stegen reacted quickly to close down his shot.

It took less than three minutes of the second half for the hosts to find the opener as a long ball out to the right from Sergio Busquets found Dembele, who cut inside onto his left foot and beat two defenders before calmly rolling his shot into the far corner of the net.

Their lead was doubled just after the hour as a cross from the left by Jordi Alba found Ansu Fati, whose shot was saved well by Fernando Martinez before De Jong lashed home the rebound to seal the win as the Camp Nou bid farewell to Pique with a victory.

The Frenkie de Jong transfer rumour mill is heating up once again as we get closer to January, with Chelsea and Liverpool reportedly set to join Manchester United in the pursuit of the Barcelona midfielder.

De Jong, 25, was one of the most ubiquitous names in the most recent transfer window, with United and Barcelona in regular communication as Erik ten Hag tried to recruit his former Ajax pupil.

After deciding to remain at Camp Nou, despite the LaLiga club urging him to leave to help ease their finances, De Jong has started six out of 14 matches for the Blaugrana so far this season.

With their Champions League campaign looking headed for an early exit, and more playing time likely on the table in the Premier League, it may seem more palatable for the Dutch international to make the jump in January.

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE GIANTS PREPARE BIDS FOR BARCELONA'S DE JONG

Barcelona and United agreed on a deal starting at €65million plus add-ons before De Jong decided to veto the move by refusing to sign a contract with the Old Trafford side.

With his contract still tying him to Barcelona until 2026, there is no reason to believe that figure would dip unless the Catalan outfit are desperate to get a deal done.

ESPN's report claims Chelsea have had their interest spurred by the injury status of N'Golo Kante, who will apparently miss around four months after undergoing surgery on his hamstring, while Liverpool have made no secret about their desire for midfield reinforcements, and are said to have contacted De Jong's representatives.

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– According to Football Italia, Juventus will be willing to sell 24-year-old American midfielder Weston McKennie for €20m in January.   

– The Evening Standard is reporting Arsenal are interested in 23-year-old Eintracht Frankfurt centre-back Evan Ndicka, with the French international set to become a free agent at the end of the season.

Wilfried Zaha is likely to reject a new contract from Crystal Palace so he can join a top-six Premier League side when his deal expires at the end of the season, per the Daily Mail.

– Football Insider claims 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund forward Youssoufa Moukoko has caught the eye of the world's elite clubs, with interest coming from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool.

– Le 10 Sport is reporting Inter view Sevilla centre-back Tanguy Nianzou and Valencia's Mouctar Diakhaby as potential replacements for Milan Skriniar, with the Slovakian expected to leave in January.

Harry Kane's future at Tottenham is at a curious stage, having become more settled during Antonio Conte's tenure.

Kane has scored 10 goals in all competitions this term, including nine in the Premier League with Spurs starting strongly to sit third.

The England international had pushed to move to Manchester City in mid-2021 but ultimately was convinced to stay.

TOP STORY – SPURS PUSH TO OPEN KANE CONTRACT TALKS

Tottenham are eager to commence talks with Harry Kane on a new deal, but the England forward is holding off, claims Football Insider.

Antonio Conte's future at Spurs is a factor for Kane, with the Italian out of contract at the end of this season.

Bayern Munich have been linked with Kane who signed a six-year deal with Spurs in June 2018, tying him down until 2024.

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– Fabrizio Romano says Liverpool are not considering a move for Barcelona's unsettled midfielder Frenkie de Jong, following reports to the contrary.

Napoli are weighing up a potential move for Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele who is on loan with the Italian club, reports Inside Futebol. The Frenchman's release clause is €30 million, which Napoli are willing to trigger.

– Calciomercato claims Denis Zakaria is set to return to Juventus in January with Chelsea planning to terminate his loan deal, having failed to play a minute of first-team football since joining on deadline day.

– Italian champions Milan may make a move for Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek in January, reports Calciomercato.

Frenkie de Jong's future at Barcelona remains up in the air after a drawn-out saga ahead of the season.

The Dutch midfielder had interest from Barcelona but wanted to stay at Camp Nou.

However, De Jong's opportunities have been limited this season, perhaps encouraging further bids.

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL MOVE IN FOR BARCELONA'S DE JONG

Liverpool have entered the race to sign the unsettled De Jong from Barcelona, claims SPORT.

De Jong resisted interest in from United with a strong desire to play Champions League football, which Jurgen Klopp's side can offer.

Liverpool midfielders Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and James Milner are all out of contract at the end of this season, when Arthur's loan will also expire, so the club are assessing their options.

The domestic struggles of the Reds could precipitate January transfer activity, given their need for midfield reinforcements.

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Liverpool may try to hijack Chelsea 's move for RB Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku, claims The Sun. The Reds sent scouts to watch the French forward against Celtic in the Champions League in midweek but fear Chelsea are well down the line with Nkunku, and they have missed the boat.

– Talks between Everton and Chelsea target Anthony Gordon on a contract extension have stalled, according to The Sun. Gordon reportedly wants approximately £100,000 per week.

Manchester United have reached out to Lautaro Martinez's agent about the Inter forward's availability, claims Gazzetta dello Sport. Martinez is contracted until 2026, while Barcelona are also interested.

United have joined Chelsea and Manchester City in having an active interest in Milan's Portuguese attacker Rafael Leao, claims The Mirror. United sent scouts to watch him against Chelsea in the Champions League.

Chelsea are interested in Napoli's Slovakia international Stanislav Lobotka, reports Calciomercato. Napoli and the midfielder are close to sealing a new deal.

– Newcastle United have commenced discussions with the agent of Vasco da Gama midfielder Andrey Santos, reports Torcedores. Barcelona are also interested in the Brazilian, who has a release clause of £34.6million (€40m).

Frenkie de Jong says president Joan Laporta put him under pressure to leave Barcelona but he had no intention of moving.

De Jong was strongly linked with a move to Manchester United during the last transfer window as Barca tried to offload players after splashing out on the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde.

The Netherlands midfielder, who was also said to be a target for Paris Saint-Germain, made it clear he wanted to remain at Camp Nou.

De Jong knew the Catalan giants were eager for him to depart, but he was not affected by so much talk about his future.

He told Ziggo Sport: "I was calm. I decided in May that I wanted to stay. My opinion has never changed during this entire period. I stayed calm.

"But then you know the pressure would start to come...from the newspapers, from the president, from everywhere. But I wanted to stay at Barca so it never bothered me."

Former Ajax man De Jong has made only four starts for Barca this season, but hopes to be included in the side for the Clasico clash at Real Madrid on Sunday. 

He added: "I knew that he [Xavi] would play fewer minutes at the beginning of the season. I want to be a starter again. I hope to be against Real Madrid.

"Maybe he [Xavi] has already decided, but normally we don't know until the day of the game.

"Of course we are disappointed after the game against Inter, but we have to change our state of mind. We have to show that we are still a good team."

Reports have surfaced that Joao Felix is unhappy at Atletico Madrid having fallen out of favour in recent games.

Atletico have reportedly moved to reiterate that they do not want to sell the Portuguese, who it is claimed has requested a January move.

Joao Felix joined the Colchoneros on a seven-year deal in 2019 from Benfica for a fee of €126 million.

 

TOP STORY – PSG AND BARCA KEEN ON JOAO FELIX

Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona are both considering moves to sign wantaway Atletico Madrid forward Joao Felix.

AS claims PSG are weighing up a move for the 22-year-old as they make plans for the potential departure of Lionel Messi at the end of this season.

El Nacional reports that Barcelona are in the race for the Portuguese too, as they fear Ousmane Dembele will exit. A Bola has also linked Manchester United with Joao Felix.

 

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Barcelona want to sell Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong in the near future to raise funds to invest in the squad according to Sport. De Jong was linked with Manchester United over the off-season.

– The same Sport report claims that Barcelona are set to release long-term duo Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba to free up funds too.

Real Madrid are targeting Bayern Munich's Canada international Alphonso Davies, claims Marca. Los Blancos are eager to bolster their left-back options and are monitoring Davies.

Inter are looking to sign on-loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku permanently, while the Nerazzurri are also interested in Everton's Yerry Mina claims Calciomercato.

–​ Barcelona will rival Real Madrid in pursuit of Inter's Italy international forward Nicolo Barella, reports Calciomercatoweb.

–​ Newcastle United are keen to lock down Brazilian midfielder Bruno Guimaraes on a new long-term deal before the end of this season, reports 90min.

Joao Felix is increasingly frustrated with life at Atletico Madrid after dropping out of the starting XI in recent games.

The 22-year-old Portuguese is yet to score for the side in LaLiga or the Champions League this season and was an unused substitute in the midweek 0-0 draw with Club Brugge.

Atleti boss Diego Simeone has preferred Antoine Griezmann, Alvaro Morata, Matheus Cunha and Angel Correa in attack recently.

 

TOP STORY – JOAO FELIX WANTS ATLETICO EXIT

Joao Felix has requested to leave Atletico Madrid in January, reports Fichajes.

The forward is frustrated that he has been used sparingly, largely outside the starting XI this term.

Joao Felix's contract runs until 2026 and it will likely require a hefty fee to sign him from Atleti, who paid €126 million for him in 2019.

Relevo claims that Atleti are not considering selling the Portuguese any time soon.

 

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– ​ Frenkie de Jong is growing frustrated at his lack of first-team opportunities at Barcelona and will look to exit the club in January should the situation not improve, claims SPORT. De Jong was at the centre of a drawn-out off-season saga, amid links to Manchester United.

Granit Xhaka will earn a contract extension at Arsenal, reports Football Insider. Xhaka, who is out of contract in 2024, has been in top form this term and will be rewarded after the World Cup.

Chelsea have an interest in RB Leipzig's Austria international midfielder Konrad Laimer, reports Bild. Laimer is out of contract at the end of this season and the Blues will look to sign him for free if he is not sold in January.

Chelsea along with Arsenal are now also keen on pursuing Rennes winger Jeremy Doku, claims Fichajes. The 20-year-old is already being chased by Liverpool, Napoli and Juventus.

– Bild also claims Chelsea are monitoring versatile Bayern Munich defender Benjamin Pavard.

– The Telegraph reports Thomas Tuchel is interested in the England managerial role should Gareth Southgate depart after this year's World Cup. The German has reportedly declined two Premier League jobs since leaving Chelsea last month.

Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly prepared to activate the €150million release clause in the contract of Milan forward Rafael Leao.

Leao, 23, has emerged as one of the top attacking players in the Serie A since arriving for €35million back in 2019, tallying a career-high 14 goals in all club competitions in the 2021-22 season before starting this campaign in blistering form.

The Portuguese star with 11 international caps has four goals and four assists from his first eight league games, as well as three assists from three Champions League fixtures, and it seems Paris Saint-Germain have seen enough to justify a substantial investment.

TOP STORY – PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN TO PULL THE TRIGGER ON MASSIVE LEAO RELEASE CLAUSE

French outlet Media Foot is reporting Paris Saint-Germain will return with bids for multiple big names they were unable to land in the past transfer window, and they could come in January.

The report mentions Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Luis Campos was responsible for bringing Leao to Lille in 2018, and as a result he has been monitoring the young talent for years.

With the futures of Lionel Messi and Neymar uncertain, Leao could represent the future of the club going forward, with Kylian Mbappe, and he is not the only big-money target mentioned in the report.

Paris Saint-Germain are said to also be returning with another offer to Inter for Milan Skriniar, and remain interested in Manchester City's Bernardo Silva.

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– Sky Sports Germany is reporting Real Madrid have plans to replace Karim Benzema with City star Erling Haaland in 2024.

– According to The Independent, Manchester United are only going to make a move for one of Jude Bellingham or Frenkie de Jong, with the target yet to be decided.

– Liverpool's Naby Keita is a target for Barcelona, with the 27-year-old's contract set to expire at the end of this season.

– The Daily Mail is reporting Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli is demanding his wages be tripled before he agrees to a new contract.

– According to The i, Newcastle United are preparing bids for Leicester City midfielder James Maddison and Bayer Leverkusen winger Moussa Diaby.

Xavi revealed Frenkie de Jong could start in defence on his return from injury when Barcelona welcome Celta Vigo in LaLiga.

The Blaugrana are aiming to remain at the LaLiga summit as they seek a response from the midweek Champions League defeat by Inter.

De Jong is back in the squad having missed his side's last two matches after sustaining a thigh injury while on international duty with the Netherlands last month.

Though he did not confirm the midfielder would start at Camp Nou, Xavi indicated he could fill in at centre-half in the absence of the likes of Ronald Araujo and Andreas Christensen.

When asked about De Jong at his pre-match press conference, the head coach said: "He's 100 per cent. We'll see what we decide tomorrow.

"Frenkie can play centre-back, we've already tried it. He is powerful and fast, but there are other alternatives. There is versatility in the dressing room."

One of those alternatives could be 19-year-old Chadi Riad, who would make his senior Barca debut should he feature against Vigo.

"We know him from last year and the pre-season," Xavi said. "He is aggressive, with good output ... he has a future. We follow him. He can prove things, he can become important."

Xavi also urged his players to lend leading marksman Robert Lewandowski a hand on the goalscoring front. 

The Poland skipper has scored nine of their 19 goals in LaLiga this term, with his nearest challengers Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele both netting just twice apiece thus far.

"We have to improve the goals without him," the head coach observed. "And also improve fouls, shoot from outside the area... everyone must contribute goals. We have to improve the scoring ability of those at the top.

"We need to shoot more when we have the ball, find that final pass, find the right solutions. We must improve and be more competitive. You have to be more optimistic in front of goal."

 

 

 

Barcelona pair Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay are facing a spell on the sidelines after returning from international duty with the Netherlands carrying injuries.

De Jong left the field at half-time during last week's Nations League win over Poland, while Depay hobbled off later in the same game.

Neither player featured in Sunday's win against Belgium after being given permission to return to club side Barcelona early.

Barca confirmed on their official website on Monday that both players remain injured and are not being considered for selection against Real Mallorca next weekend.

Reports from Spain suggest De Jong could return within a week, but Depay is facing closer to a month out of action with an injury to his left thigh.

The news comes on the same day that Barca announced Ronald Araujo is to undergo thigh surgery on Wednesday, ruling the defender out for the remainder of the year.

Fellow centre-back Jules Kounde also suffered an injury on international duty with France and is expected to miss a month.

The Netherlands will be without Frenkie de Jong, Memphis Depay and Teun Koopmeiners for their decisive Nations League showdown with Belgium on Sunday.

De Jong and Depay have been ruled out due to thigh and leg injuries respectively.

The Barcelona duo did the damage during a 2-0 away victory over Poland on Thursday and will play no part in the final Group A4 game versus the Red Devils at Johan Cruijff Arena

Atalanta midfielder Koopmeiners also misses out in Amsterdam after suffering a concussion.

Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal has called up Ajax's Brian Brobbey and Ryan Gravenberch of Bayern Munich in the absence of the trio.

The Dutch will qualify for the Nations League Finals if they avoid defeat by three goals or more.

Frenkie de Jong "always wanted to stay at Barcelona" despite heavy interest from Manchester United during the transfer window.

Netherlands international De Jong was the subject of a long-running saga, with the midfielder's former Ajax boss Erik ten Hag reportedly desperate to build his new-look United side around him. 

A move looked likely after it was suggested De Jong was owed €17million in deferred wages and had been asked to sign a new contract with a salary reduction of around 40 per cent.

The switch never materialised, though, with United instead signing Casemiro from Real Madrid in a bid to strengthen their midfield.

Speaking on international duty this week, De Jong acknowledged not everything has gone smoothly between himself and Barca, but he never thought about leaving Camp Nou.

"I always wanted to stay at Barcelona, and this is why I always remained calm in the summer," the 25-year-old said.

"I can't give too much details away. But look, the club has its own ideas, and I have my own ideas, too, and sometimes this clashes with each other. But at the end of the day, things went okay."

De Jong is part of the Netherlands squad for the upcoming Nations League matches against Poland and Belgium. 

After making a terrific start to the season, Arsenal are reportedly looking to bolster their squad further in the January transfer window as they weigh up a move for Barcelona winger Ferran Torres.

Torres, 22, was acquired by the Spanish giants this January after emerging at Manchester City as one of Spain's top young talents, costing €55million.

With his playing time inconsistent, and the numerous questions about Barcelona's finances and their need to sell players, it appears Torres is someone the club feels comfortable parting ways with less than 12 months after his arrival.

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL WANT TO BRING TORRES BACK TO THE PREMIER LEAGUE

Torres has failed to establish himself as a regular starter, and with plenty of forward depth after the expensive additions of Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha – along with Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fati already being on the books – Barcelona are said to be looking to recoup their spending.

Fichajes is reporting Barcelona will be setting their asking price at the full amount they paid City, but for a young player who already has 13 international goals in 28 caps for Spain, it is not an unreasonable figure.

Meanwhile, 90min claims Barcelona are still looking to cash in on Frenkie de Jong after a lengthy transfer saga with Manchester United ended with no deal, indicating they may need to sell at least one player to keep balancing their books.

 

ROUND-UP

– Calciomercato are reporting Chelsea remain interested in United's Marcus Rashford, along with Atletico Madrid, if he does not receive a contract extension.

– According to The Sun, Wolves and Liverpool will both attempt to sign Benfica midfielder Enzo Fernandez, just months after he arrived from River Plate on a bargain €8million deal.

Bayern Munich 's sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has denied enquiring with Tottenham about the availability of Harry Kane, per Sport1.

– Corriere dello Sport is reporting Rafael Leao's contract demands with Milan have boosted his chances of leaving the club, with Chelsea named as the primary interested party. 

Newcastle United's hunt for a goalkeeper did not end with their signing of free agent Loris Karius, with Portuguese publication JN reporting they are considering activating the £51m release clause for 22-year-old Porto goalie Diogo Costa.

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