Hugo Lloris has committed to Antonio Conte's Tottenham project by signing a new two-and-a-half-year contract with the Premier League club.

Lloris, 35, had entered the final six months of his previous deal and was entitled to discuss an end-of-season free transfer with foreign clubs.

He was linked with his boyhood club Nice, where he came through the academy before spending three years in the first team, but will be staying in north London.

Tottenham confirmed the deal that will take Lloris past 10 years with the club, with the goalkeeper set to remain at Spurs until the end of the 2023-24 season.

The news is a huge boost for Conte, who took on the Tottenham top job in November and made it clear he saw Lloris as part of the team's future.

Conte had been optimistic a deal would be agreed, recently expressing optimism Lloris would sign "because he loves Tottenham and Tottenham loves him".

Now that has come to fruition, meaning Tottenham need no immediate strengthening in the goalkeeping department, that boxed ticked by this move.

Lloris joined Spurs from Lyon in August 2012 and helped the team reach the 2019 Champions League final under Mauricio Pochettino.

He became Tottenham captain in 2015 and has worn the armband for his country since 2012, leading Les Bleus to World Cup glory in 2018.

Since skippering France to that triumph in Russia, Lloris has underlined his status as one of Europe's premier goalkeepers.

From August 2018 to the present day, Lloris can be shown to have prevented 21.3 goals. That is based on a calculation starting with Tottenham's expected goals on target (xGOT) conceded total of 180.3 and deducting the actual number of goals, other than own goals, that they have shipped during that time (159).

Only four goalkeepers from Europe's top leagues have a better goal prevention record in this same three-and-a-half-season period, Opta data shows. Those are: Thibaut Courtois of Real Madrid (25.3), Liverpool's Alisson (22.9), Sevilla's Yassine Bounou (21.6), and Atletico Madrid mainstay Jan Oblak (21.6).

Tottenham made a poor start to the season under Nuno Espirito Santo but have been revitalised in the Premier League by Conte's arrival. They have kept five clean sheets in nine games in the competition since the former Inter and Chelsea boss arrived and have soared to fifth place, with games in hand on those ahead of them.

Antonio Conte insists Chelsea have "created the gap" in quality between his former club and Tottenham ahead of their EFL Cup semi-final second leg.

Spurs were beaten 2-0 in the first leg at Stamford Bridge last week; Kai Havertz on target for the hosts before a Ben Davies own-goal.

The Blues have progressed from each of their last 13 two-legged ties after winning the first leg, last failing to do so against Liverpool in the 2006-07 Champions League semi-finals.

Meanwhile, Tottenham are looking to become only the second side – after Aston Villa in 1993-94 – to reach the EFL Cup showpiece after losing their semi-final first leg by more than one goal.

Following the defeat, Conte conceded the gulf in class by admitting there were no comparisons between the sides.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference, the Spurs head coach clarified those comments, acknowledging his former club are responsible for their superiority.

"When I speak about the gap; to reduce the gap, it means that I am not stupid to not understand the gap between the clubs," he said.

"It means that you have to improve the squad, the work and to have a project and vision. 

"The gap is a space that you have with other teams and I think that, in this moment, we are to work a lot to reduce this gap. 

"Chelsea work well, they win the Champions League and then invest a lot of money to improve their squad. This creates a gap, this is the truth. Chelsea have created this gap."

Conte also revealed that Tottenham are in negotiations over a new deal for club captain Hugo Lloris.

Now in his 10th season with Spurs, the goalkeeper's existing contract is due to expire at the end of the campaign, but the Italian is confident he will remain with the club.

"I think they have started talking," Conte added. 

"You know what I think of him, I have said previously he is our captain and a top goalkeeper. [He] has great experience and knows the club. 

"For me, he is an important player. I am not the person who renews contracts; that is the club, and they are the people that do this, but I am confident."

Antonio Conte remains hopeful that Tottenham and Hugo Lloris will be able to reach an agreement over a new contract for the Frenchman.

Lloris, 35, has entered the final six months of his contract and is now able to discuss an end-of-season free transfer with foreign clubs.

One of those he has been linked with is boyhood club Nice, where Lloris came through the academy and then spent three years in the first team before making the move to Lyon in 2008.

Lloris joined Spurs in 2012, and helped the club become a regular in the Champions League under Mauricio Pochettino, who guided them to the final of that competition in 2018-19.

The shot-stopper was made Tottenham captain in 2015, while he has worn the armband for his country since 2012, leading Les Bleus to World Cup glory in 2018.

But while Lloris has previously been maligned for being error prone, he does appear to have improved in that regard in the past few seasons.

Between 2015-16 and the end the 2018-19 Premier League season, Lloris' 25 errors leading to shots equated to 0.18 per 90 minutes – among goalkeepers to play at least 3,500 minutes in that time, only Asmir Begovic averaged more errors (0.2) each game.

Since then, he's only committed three and none of those have been this season – indeed, his eight clean sheets in 2021-22 is bettered by just Ederson (11), Aaron Ramsdale and Alisson (both nine), though Lloris' five since Conte's first game in charge is not improved on by anyone.

This season, only five goalkeepers (minimum 200 minutes played) boast a better save percentage than Lloris (71.01 per cent), and Conte is convinced an agreement can be found to take him into an 11th year at the club.

Speaking after Spurs' dramatic late 1-0 win at Watford, Conte told reporters: "You can see the level of the keeper in these circumstances, when, for the whole game, [Lloris] didn't make a save, but he continued to be focused for the team.

"For me, that's very important. The 'keeper has to follow the game and not only stay on the goal line to make saves.

"Hugo showed [on Saturday] that he's top and he's always focused.

"For us, he's very important, and I'm sure that in a short time he can find a [contract] solution with the club, because he loves Tottenham and Tottenham loves him."

Lloris is already the goalkeeper with the most Premier League appearances for Spurs (316), 76 more than Ian Walker.

January 1 ushers the start of a new year and, for many, a chance for a fresh start. That is particularly true in the world of football as it signals the day the transfer window opens and some of Europe's top talents can plot a lucrative move elsewhere.

A number of the sport's top talents, including Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, are due to be out of contract at the end of 2021-22 and can therefore open talks with teams abroad in January.

While the futures of Mbappe and Pogba will be heavily discussed in the coming weeks, other big names across the continent will also become that little more attractive to buyers given their availability on a free (notwithstanding their lucrative salaries, of course!).

Stats Perform looks at the best players soon to be out of contract and therefore available to sign pre-contract agreements elsewhere from January 1.

 

Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)

Where better place to start than with a goalkeeper potentially seeking a new destination. Lloris has spent 10 seasons with Tottenham and has captained the side for the past six years, while also skippering the France national team since 2012.

Spurs have historically been reluctant to offer long-term deals to players in their 30s and that policy could see them lose one of European football's finest goalkeepers from the past decade. He has racked up 392 appearances for Tottenham, keeping 131 clean sheets in the process.

Anthony Martial (Manchester United)

Martial did not quite transform into the superstar forward many were expecting upon joining United from Monaco six years ago, but neither has the France international been as big a flop as some would suggest.

Indeed, since making his Premier League debut in September 2015, only Marcus Rashford (57) has scored more goals for United than Martial's 56. Those goals have come from an expected goals (xG) return of 43, with that xG differential of 13 the largest of any player at the club in that timeframe.

 

Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea)

Chelsea face the prospect of losing four defenders without receiving a fee of any sort at the end of the campaign, with Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta and Rudiger all nearing the end of their respective contracts.

Tying down Rudiger to fresh terms should be the priority, given there has arguably been no better defender in the Premier League since Thomas Tuchel first took charge of Chelsea on January 27, backed up by the centre-back's Premier League-leading 17 clean sheets over that period.

Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

No player has quite dominated the transfer column inches in the same manner as Pogba in recent years and, with no sign of a new contract being signed anytime soon, it now looks certain the 28-year-old will depart United for a second time.

Pogba may have struggled for consistency at Old Trafford, not helped by niggling injury issues, but he has averaged one assist per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season – a tally not matched by any player to have played more than once.

Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)

PSG rejected multiple offers from Real Madrid in 2020, but as it stands they are powerless to stop one of the game's leading lights departing at the end of the season.

As well as breaking a number of goalscoring records, Mbappe's 215 direct goal involvements in all competitions since making his PSG debut in September 2017 – 147 goals of his own and 68 assists – is a tally bettered by only Robert Lewandowski (242) and Lionel Messi (246).

 

Marcelo Brozovic (Inter)

Inter have so far been able to persuade Nicola Barella and Lautaro Martinez to extend their stays at San Siro, but Brozovic's future remains unclear heading into the new year.

Brozovic was a key part of Inter's Scudetto-winning side last term, featuring in 33 of their 38 games, and has started all 19 of their matches this campaign. Only Ruben Dias (1,713), Joao Cancelo (1,803) and William Saliba (1,840) have played more successful passes than the Croatia international (1,681) among players from Europe's top five leagues in 2021-22.

Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

Gareth Bale and Isco are two high-profile Madrid players set to move on either in January or at the end of the season, but as well as trying to seal Mbappe's signing, Madrid's other priority might be ensuring Modric does not bring an end to his decade-long spell at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2022.

Proving that age is just a number, 36-year-old Modric has been as good as ever for LaLiga leaders Madrid this season. The six big chances created by the midfielder in 2020-21, leading to four assists, has been bettered by only four others in the division.

 

Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)

Dembele has struggled to come close to justifying his hefty transfer fee, reported to be an initial €105million, but he was recently described as having the potential to be the best attacking player in the world by head coach Xavi.

Barca president Joan Laporta is also eager to keep hold of Dembele, who has managed 30 goals and 22 assists in 126 appearances since his debut in September 2017, meaning he has been directly involved in 0.6 goals per 90 minutes. For comparison, that is an identical number to Antoine Griezmann during his short-lived stint at Camp Nou.

Denis Zakaria (Borussia Monchengladbach)

Strongly touted as a target for the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Zakaria will depart Borussia Monchengladbach in 2022 after confirming to the German club that he intends to run down his contract.

The defensive midfielder averages 52.3 passes every 90 minutes and 47.1 successful ones, the latter being the ninth-most this season among Bundesliga midfielders with at least 500 minutes played. Among the same group of players, only seven average more than his two successful dribbles every 90 minutes – all of those being more attack-minded players.

Paulo Dybala (Juventus)

Dybala has indicated that he wants to remain a Juventus player beyond this season but the longer talks over a new deal drag on, the more unlikely it appears he will still be in Turin six months from now – and that would be a major blow for the Bianconeri during an already difficult period.

The Argentina international has eight goals and four assists in 17 appearances this term, without being at what many would consider his best form – at least three more direct goal involvements than Juve's next most threatening player Alvaro Morata and double that of Federico Bernardeschi in third.

Antonio Conte is "100 per cent sure" that Tottenham must improve if they are to close the gap to the Premier League's leading teams.

Conte replaced Nuno Espirito Santo as head coach on November 2, winning six, drawing three and losing two in 11 games at the helm so far. 

Spurs are sixth in the Premier League – although they have games in hand on all the teams above them – and are into the semi-finals of the EFL Cup, with Conte's former side Chelsea their opponents.

Tottenham also crashed out of the Europa Conference League at the group stage after their final game against Rennes – in which they needed a win – could not be rescheduled after the initial fixture was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Conte knows the club will not be able to compete at the highest level if reinforcements are not brought in and believes he has worked out which players he can rely on and which need to be offloaded.

"For sure [Tottenham need new signings in January]. After only two weeks I said we needed to improve the quality of this squad and for sure we need to," said Conte. 

"I was sure after seven to 10 days about this and then I had to make the evaluation over who I can count on and who I can't.

"The gap is very large and we need to work a lot and try to build and improve our squad.

"Yes, I think [my evaluation is complete]. Not I think, I'm sure 100 per cent. I made the evaluation after two months of work with my players. For sure now the situation is more clear than before.

"I am waiting to have a meeting with the club and then also to give my opinion about the squad and what I think about our situation. For sure I am waiting for a meeting."

Spurs captain and first-choice goalkeeper Hugo Lloris' contract expires at the end of the season and Conte is hopeful the 35-year-old will choose to extend his stay in London.

"Hugo is a Tottenham player, he's the captain," Conte continued. "For sure he will talk with the club to try to find a solution.

"I think [he wants to stay]. I think Hugo wants to stay in his club, he loves the club, he stays well in Tottenham. This could be his opinion."

Following a frustrating 1-1 draw against 10-man Southampton, Spurs face Watford on New Year's Day in the hopes of closing the gap to the top four.

Santa's been! Santa's been! Santa's been!

Yes, it's the most wonderful time of the year and we're all awfully excited that the big man has been.

But we're even more excited by the familiarity of a hectic Premier League schedule over the next few days!

We appreciate you may be about to tuck into your dinner or snoozing after over-indulging already, but why not digest some tasty Christmas Premier League facts before cracking on with the next beer?

Wondering where you might enjoy such a gem? Well, we have you covered below, with the help of the happy little elves at Opta.

A CRUZ FOR SANTA IN DECEMBER

We ho ho hope you don't mind a little Christmas gag to headline this section to get us cracking…

It seemed only fitting to start with a bit of a coincidence that a man with a festive theme in his name is responsible for the best minutes-per-goal ratio during the month of December (a minimum of six goals).

That man is ex-Blackburn Rovers striker Roque Santa Cruz, who netted nine times in 846 minutes for a ratio of 94 minutes per goal.

Just like Rudolph and the rest of the gang at the end of a busy Christmas Eve shift, Santa Cruz can still be reined in.

Divock Origi has eight December goals in 760 minutes for a goal every 95 minutes (just better than Mick Quinn's eight in 779 for a ratio of one every 97.4 mins). Liverpool team-mate Mohamed Salah has scored a mightily impressive 23 goals in December, with a minutes-to-goals ratio of 102.1.

MAYNOR THE KING OF THE CHRISTMAS CRACKERS?

Paper hats, Christmas jokes and cheaply assembled plastic toys…you all love pulling a cracker at Christmas!

And there have been many crackers scored in the month of December in the Premier League – not least Maynor Figueroa's 60.5-yard effort for Wigan Athletic against Stoke City back in 2009, which remains the longest of long-range goals in the competition during the final month of the calendar year.

The full-back's quick thinking with a free-kick from his own half caught Thomas Sorensen off guard and nestled in the back of the goal.

Former Portsmouth man Matt Taylor had a penchant for a long-range goal and his famous audacious volley against Everton in 2006 measured in at 40.6 yards.

Juan Mata (39.9 yards for Man Utd v Stoke), Sebastian Larsson (39.4 yards for Birmingham City versus Wigan) and Kevin De Bruyne (38.3 yards for Manchester City v Crystal Palace) all rank in the top five.

LLORIS AND THE KEEPERS GIFTING OUT THE GOODS

Christmas, at least under normal circumstances, is a time for spending time with loved ones and eating copious amounts of foods that aren't particularly good for us.

It is also, of course, if we're being honest, a time to exchange tat by the Christmas tree and say a silent prayer the generous buyer has kept the receipts.

Obviously, in football you're not supposed to be generous with your gifts – but Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris has been particularly forthcoming with presents for opposition teams at this time of year.

The France World Cup winner has committed seven errors in the month of December, a Premier League high and one more than Red Devils number one David de Gea.

SANTA'S NOT THE ONLY LAPLAND VISITOR

Santa makes his annual jolly around the globe to deliver presents to all the good boys and girls but back in 2001 there was another who heralded from Lapland to visit England.

Finland international Hannu Tihinen arrived on loan at West Ham from Norwegian side Viking and fittingly made his Premier League debut on Boxing Day!

In total he made only eight Premier League appearances, winning just once in England's top flight.

Perhaps the difference in quality was just – ahem – poles apart for Tihinen, who was nonetheless part of the side that memorably defeated Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup early in 2002.

RED DEVILS TOP OF THE TREE

The old cliche is that it means nothing to be top at Christmas…but for the sake of the jokes in this piece it's very important to be top of the tree come December 25!

Manchester United have sat in such a position on seven occasions, more than any other team, but Liverpool – six times – are the only side to hold top spot three seasons running having done so in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

In total, 11 sides have managed to be top at Christmas – Chelsea (5), Manchester City (3) and Arsenal (2) unsurprisingly also doing so. Norwich City, Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United (2), Aston Villa, Leeds United and Leicester City have also achieved the honour.

There have been 15 instances of a team being in first place on December 25 and jingling all the way to the Premier League title, but nothing can be wrapped up this early in the season.

SNOW-BODY DOES IT BETTER THAN SHEARER OVER CHRISTMAS

For a man with 260 Premier League goals to his name, it should come as no surprise to hear that the player with the most goals scored in the period from December 26 to January 5 is Alan Shearer.

The Newcastle United great netted 23 times between those dates, five more than the 18 celebrated by former Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler.

Dimitar Berbatov and Jermain Defoe each have 17, the same amount as Tottenham star Harry Kane, who has Shearer's record in his sights.

JESUS RISES TO THE OCCASION

Christmas for many is mainly a secular celebration nowadays but the traditional meaning of the holiday season is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the Premier League, there have been six occasions of a player with Jesus in their name scoring a December goal – five of which were from Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus.

The other was netted by former City winger Jesus Navas, who fittingly at this time of year often delivered for others – producing six December assists and amassing 74 crosses from open play.

New Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte reassured he is "very pleased" with Harry Kane despite the striker's lean spell of scoring form.

Spurs cruised to a 2-0 win over Brentford in the first ever top-flight meeting between the sides on Thursday, though Kane could not get on the scoresheet and has just one Premier League goal to his name so far this season.

The England international did, however, record a game-high three key passes in a creative performance that was typified by his usual preference to drop deep and look to link-up play.

As Conte prepares to host Norwich City, who the Italian has never faced before in the league, he once again gave his backing for goal-shy Kane.

"First of all, I'm sure Harry is happy if we win and he doesn't score," Conte said of Kane, who has scored five goals in three top-flight matches against the Canaries.

"Tottenham is the first thought for us and Harry. As I said yesterday, Harry played a very good game, he was in the situation that we scored and he had a good chance to score.

"It is important to have chances to score and we're improving a lot in this aspect. I'm sure Harry is going to score many goals.

"I'm sure he’s going to have a good performance in the same way he had against Brentford against every team we play.

"I'm very pleased with the way that he's playing. I know the striker wants to score but we want to give him many chances to score. I think we're on the right path to do this type of situation." Conte has won both of his opening home games in the league – only Ryan Mason and Harry Redknapp have started with three wins in the club's Premier League history.

Despite only being in charge for a short period, Conte has partly resolved some of Spurs' issues and one of his next tasks will be to sort a new contract with skipper Hugo Lloris, whose deal runs out at the end of the season.

"Yeah but I've just arrived," he responded when asked about negotiations with Lloris. "Only one month. At this moment, for sure, we have many situations to solve.

"Hugo is the captain of this team, captain of France and we're talking about a top goalkeeper. He's very focused now. He knows very well now we're trying to do our best.

"Me as a coach, Hugo as goalkeeper and every player has to perform at a high level, but for sure we'll have time to speak about him and I consider him an important player for his experience.

"He's a good goalkeeper first of all and has showed great commitment to the club over a number of years."

Hugo Lloris is planning talks with Tottenham as he attempts to map out his future beyond next June – with a return to Ligue 1 not ruled out.

Lloris' Spurs contract expires on June 30 and it remains unclear whether the 34-year-old, who joined Spurs in 2012, will extend his stay beyond a decade.

Should the goalkeeper choose to leave north London as a free agent, he could return to France, where he previously played for Nice and Lyon.

For now, Lloris is hoping to mark his time at Spurs with a trophy, with new head coach Antonio Conte seen as a catalyst as the club bid to end their 13-year silverware drought.

"I do not close any doors," Lloris said on Sunday, when asked about a potential return to French football.

"I give my priority to Spurs. We're still looking for a trophy. I want to help the club in its development. We have already experienced great things and great epics with our supporters as vice-champions in Europe and England. I want to continue calmly, always with this notion of pleasure.

"I try to take as much pleasure as possible on a daily basis. As long as I feel good, I want to make the most of it. I want to be honest with myself. I'm not necessarily worried. But the priority remains Spurs."

Quoted in L'Equipe, Lloris added: "We will have discussions in the coming weeks. We must already rectify the situation of the club and adapt to the demands of the new coach Antonio Conte and his staff. I've been there for a few years. It's still a pleasure."

Lloris and defending champions France secured their place at the 2022 World Cup with an 8-0 mauling of Kazakhstan on Saturday in which Kylian Mbappe scored four goals, and they will take on Finland in their final match on Tuesday.

France boss Didier Deschamps confirmed Karim Benzema will be available for their penultimate World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan on Saturday.

The world champions sit top of Group D and will qualify for Qatar 2022 if they win either of their final two games against Kazakhstan and Finland.

Benzema was taken off in the 83rd minute of Real Madrid's 2-1 win over Rayo Vallecano by coach Carlo Ancelotti last weekend, but Deschamps said he is on course to play for his country despite a "small problem".

At a media conference ahead of Saturday's match, the former Monaco and Juventus head coach was asked about the availability of Benzema and reassured reporters. He said: "He didn't do a collective session but did some very good [individual sessions]. We took no risks.

"Karim also knows how to manage himself after a small problem with Madrid. He will participate in the session and will be available this Saturday."

Deschamps also hinted he is considering starting Bayern Munich's Kingsley Coman, saying: "Coman is an option out wide but not only on this match. He is an option for the start or during the match.

"It depends on whether we have the ball or not. This requires defensive adjustments on the coverage of the areas. This may be an option."

France go into the game against Kazakhstan as heavy favourites, with the visitors to the Parc des Princes bottom of the group having taken just three points from seven games, but Deschamps refuses to take them lightly.

Deschamps, who saw France win 2-0 in the reverse fixture in March, added: "It wasn't an easy game there. I had Kazakhstan's last two games scouted. There is a well-defined system choice.

"I am not going to talk about the weak points. The team knows how to defend and knows that we have to make efforts together. It is a block, a team that does not give up and fights to the end.

"We must not underestimate this team and respect them as we did in the first game."

Captain Hugo Lloris also faced the media and emphasised the need for Les Bleus to try and wrap up qualification at the first time of asking against Kazakhstan.

The Tottenham goalkeeper said: "We will say that we know what we have to do, and that is to ensure a victory on Saturday. This would be ideal to stamp our ticket for Qatar.

"Once again everything remains to be done on the field against an opponent who will do everything to challenge us. We will have to score quickly and try to have a good time with our supporters and continue our phase of progression after winning the Nations League."

France's last game was the Nations League final success against Spain in October, and when asked about the 2-1 win, Lloris said: "When you win there is always a smile. We were honest about our situation after the Euros. There were moments of doubt but we showed our mental and collective strength through adversity.

"The matches against Belgium and Spain bear witness to this. It is always good to win with the national team, it has a special feel. The goal now is Qatar and we have to do the job on Saturday."

Antonio Conte's appointment does not guarantee success for Tottenham, but managing director Fabio Paratici is hopeful his compatriot is the right man to end the club's trophy drought.

Spurs announced Conte as Nuno Espirito Santo's successor on Tuesday after bringing an end to the Portuguese coach's tenure just four months into a two-year deal.

The 52-year-old is reunited with Paratici following their time together at Juventus, where Conte won three successive Serie A titles.

He also won a Scudetto in his second and final season with Inter in 2020-21 and previously lifted the Premier League and FA Cup in two years with Spurs' London rivals Chelsea.

With nine trophies across his coaching career, Conte is now tasked with ending Tottenham's wait for silverware, which spans 5,001 days since their 2008 EFL Cup triumph.

But with Jose Mourinho and Mauricio Pochettino among those to have tried and failed to stop the rot, Paratici accepts a big-name appointment in itself is not the only ingredient required.

"We have to work, to be focused, to be committed and to be involved with this project 100 per cent every day," he said at a news conference on Wednesday. 

"This is what we can do, what we have to do. It is not assurance to win something – nobody can give you this assurance. I think we have to do the best we can.

"No one can guarantee we will win. There are no assurances. We have to do the best to compete to win. When we reach this level, then we want to improve again and win trophies."

Conte previously rejected the chance to take over at Tottenham prior to Nuno's short-lived reign, citing the fact he had only just stepped down from his position at Inter.

Paratici knows exactly what to expect from his former colleague but has called on supporters to show some patience while his fellow Italian gets to grips with a new squad.

"Now was the right time because we spoke once with Antonio in the summer, but it was not the right time then," Paratici said. "He was not ready for a new opportunity then.

"I worked with Antonio before but it was at a different club. I know him very well; he's a hard worker, he has a lot of passion and a lot of knowledge.

"He is one of the best coaches in the world. His track record speaks for itself. We have to work harder and be committed.

"We're here to do our best to win trophies. Big or small trophy, it doesn't matter. We serve to win every game, to build to be the best this season and the next seasons. 

"But sometimes you have to be patient. For sure we believe we can achieve our target. It is why we are here. We have everything to achieve big things."

Conte was reportedly persuaded to take on the Spurs job after being promised large funds to strengthen the squad in the January transfer window.

However, Paratici says he is yet to discuss possible targets with Conte and instead wants the former Italy head coach to get the most out of his current group.

"We trust in our players and are focused on being a better team," he said. "The team we have is competitive. We do not speak about other players now. It's not time for that."

One of those Conte will be tasked with getting more out of is star striker Harry Kane, who has endured a slow start to the 2021-22 campaign.

"It's not just about Harry," Paratici added. "We are here to work, to achieve our ambitions as a club, not as individuals.

"We try to do the best for this club every day in order to build something good, not just for this season but for the long-term project. It's not just about Harry but about everyone."

Conte must first steady the ship at Tottenham following the dismissal of Nuno, who managed just 10 Premier League games – the fewest of any Tottenham boss.

The Italian's win rate of 67 per cent is the second-highest of any manager to have taken charge of at least 20 Premier League games, behind only Pep Guardiola (73 per cent).

And having achieved success in a number of other jobs, Spurs skipper Hugo Lloris is excited about what the future holds under Conte.

"He's going to give a proper structure to the team. As players we need to demand more from each other," Lloris said. 

"I think it's a great opportunity to work under one of the greatest managers of the last few years. Now is not a time for words, it's time to work.

"He's the kind of manager to help all the club improve. His CV talks for itself. This week is really important for the club."

France's World Cup-winning captain Hugo Lloris and Germany team director Oliver Bierhoff both rubbished FIFA's idea of a biennial showpiece tournament.

FIFA held an online summit last month to discuss moving World Cups from occurring every four years to every two, which has already been met by strong opposition within UEFA.

Lloris – who won football's coveted trophy with France at Russia 2018 – argued the four-year cycle made World Cups more "precious" but also spoke about the impact on players with a growing football schedule.

"I think the World Cup should be something quite rare, so the fact that you play it only every four years helps protect this precious element to it," Lloris said during a news conference ahead of France's Nations League semi-final against Belgium.

"As a group we are waiting for competition every four years and as a player, I think it's always something that is on your mind.  

"Things need to evolve and I think a decision should be made thinking about the players, the clubs and the countries. But it's something I'm not part of, it's something to be decided by the big institutions."

Bierhoff was part of the Germany side which were World Cup runners-up to Brazil in 2002 and has remained heavily involved in football off-field since his playing retirement in 2003.

The former Milan forward said he had not met any player or coach who felt a biennial World Cup was a good idea, also citing the impact of the participants.

"Regarding the exhaustion of the players, I think we always have to keep their health in mind, and to play a World Cup .... I haven't yet found a player or coach who has said that they believed it is a good idea," Bierhoff said.

"Also, regarding the standard of the tournament, playing a World Cup every four years is seen as the right thing by everyone involved.

"I think that everyone in football should not just focus on maximising revenue but also on assuring the quality of football."

Erling Haaland was not lured away from Borussia Dortmund in the most recent transfer window despite widespread interest.

But the race to sign the 21-year-old Norway international will heat up in the coming months.

Haaland scored 41 goals for Dortmund last term, making him one of European football's hottest properties.

 

TOP STORY - MADRID LEAD HAALAND RACE

Real Madrid have a verbal agreement for Dortmund star Haaland to join the club next year, reports Diario Madridista.

The Spanish club leads the way amid widespread interest in the Norwegian forward, including from BarcelonaChelsea and Manchester City.

Additionally, Los Blancos' decision to respect Dortmund's stance to not sell the 21-year-old during the previous window has helped any potential deal.

 

ROUND-UP

Leicester City are planning to make a move to sign Sassuolo and Italy winger Domenico Berardi in January, reports CalcioMercato. Berardi, who has attracted interest from Milan and Fiorentina previously, could be available for approximately €35million (£30m).

- Dortmund will not sell Jude Bellingham amid reported interest from Liverpool as they plan to offer the 18-year-old England international a new contract, claims 90min. Bellingham's current deal runs until 2025.

- Milan midfielder Franck Kessie is on Chelsea's radar as they plan for Jorginho's potential departure, seeing him as a replacement, according to the Daily Express. Paris Saint-Germain are also interested in Kessie, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Chelsea will revive their interest in Sevilla's Jules Kounde in January, but the Blues still only want to offer approximately €50m (£42m), according to ESPN. Sevilla previously demanded a deal in the region of €70m (£60m), before then informing the English side only depositing his release clause – understood to be between €80m (£68.3m) and €90m (£76.8m) – would suffice in the final two days of the transfer window.

- Fichajes claims Tottenham are planning to hand 34-year-old French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris a new two-year deal, with his current contract due to expire in June 2022.

Domestic football returns this week after the international break, and with it being the first set of matches since the transfer deadline passed, there are some new faces to consider.

Though one of them will be very familiar to everyone – Cristiano Ronaldo is back at Manchester United and an interesting option for fantasy teams.

Newcastle United are the visitors at Old Trafford in what many may be predicting to be a one-sided encounter, though Ronaldo's by no means the only threat to Steve Bruce's men.

Stats Perform has picked out seven players potentially in action over the weekend who could be worth signing up to give your fantasy team a boost.

HUGO LLORIS (Crystal Palace v Tottenham )

Spurs have enjoyed a solid start to their new era under Nuno Espirito Santo, winning all three league games to make themselves early leaders.

They've also not conceded a single goal, with Hugo Lloris the only goalkeeper in the division to already have three clean sheets.

Up next is a trip to Crystal Palace, and while you can never guarantee anything in football, Patrick Vieira's men have struggled during the early weeks of 2021-22. Lloris is surely a strong shout for a clean sheet.

TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD (Leeds United v Liverpool )

The international break saw Alexander-Arnold become a hot topic of conversation again as his England career continues to stall – this time his performance in midfield attracting criticism.

Nevertheless, at club level there's little question that he'll return to his usual right-back berth, where he has excelled so far this term.

Leeds should offer the Reds stern opposition, but their style of play means Liverpool could be afforded a lot of space – if anyone can exploit that, it's Alexander-Arnold, given he has created five more chances (15) than any other player in the league and his six successful open-play crosses is a joint-high.

REECE JAMES ( Chelsea v Aston Villa)

If you're the type of fantasy football manager who loads their team with full-backs in the hope of the goal involvement/clean sheet double-threat, then you've probably already got James in your team.

But if you haven't, you may want to consider it.

The Chelsea wing-back is already on three goal involvements (one goal, two assists), the most among defenders and anyone in Thomas Tuchel's squad, and is part of a team that wouldn't expect to concede regularly.

ILKAY GUNDOGAN (Leicester City v Manchester City )

Leicester City have often been seen as a bit of a bogey team for Manchester City, so perhaps this is a bit of a wildcard choice.

However, Gundogan's enjoyed a stellar 2021 to date. His 12 Premier League goals is second only to Harry Kane (14) and has become an influential player in City's attacks over the past year.

He's probably not in the conversation to be anyone's captain, but his goals haul makes him a strong contender to at least get in your XI.

BRUNO FERNANDES ( Manchester United v Newcastle United)

Man Utd have averaged 2.9 goals per game over their previous 14 Premier League home matches, and with Newcastle taking just 10 points from the past 15 away games, the omens look good for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men.

With that in mind, the man usually behind many of United's goals is Fernandes, who is just two goal involvements from reaching 50 – only three players will have hit that mark quicker than him if he gets a couple against Newcastle.

Similarly, since the start of 2020-21, Fernandes' 10.3 expected assists (xA) is the highest in the Premier League and his 12 actual assists haul is level with Kevin De Bruyne as the most among midfielders.

IVAN TONEY ( Brentford v Brighton and Hove Albion)

He was the man who propelled Brentford into the Premier League with his goals, so when Toney got off the mark in the Premier League last out time out against Aston Villa, many will curiously wait to see if the floodgates now open.

That took him to 56 league goals (excluding play-offs) since the start of 2019-20, more than anyone else in the top four tiers of English football.

Granted, those came in lower divisions, but others before him have adapted to the Premier League – why can't Toney be the next Jamie Vardy?

CRISTIANO RONALDO ( Manchester United v Newcastle United)

Solskjaer's already said Ronaldo hasn't return to United to sit on the bench, so there's every chance the Portugal captain could make his second debut as a starter against Newcastle.

If he does, he will complete a formidable frontline for the Red Devils, regardless of who he's joined by, and given the mauling they handed out to Leeds United on matchday one, they certainly have big wins in their locker.

It's also worth noting that Ronaldo scored his very first club hat-trick against Newcastle back in 2008 – he couldn't do it again, could he? Either way, Ronaldo as captain this weekend looks a smart choice.

Hugo Lloris told France to put the "euphoria" of their World Cup triumph firmly behind them following another disappointing performance against Ukraine.

Les Bleus were held to a 1-1 draw in Kiev on Saturday in their latest qualifier for Qatar 2022, meaning they have now drawn five matches in a row for the first time in their history.

Anthony Martial's first international goal in five years cancelled out Mykola Shaparenko's excellent opener but, despite having 61.5 per cent of the ball, Didier Deschamps' men could not create enough meaningful chances to find a winner.

Substitute Moussa Diaby hit the post, but only five of France's 16 shots were on target, as they made it five games in a row in Kiev without a victory.

Lloris thinks his side need to put their 2018 triumph in the past if they are to get their qualifying campaign for next year's finals on track.

"There was a lack of commitment, of aggressiveness. The euphoria of the 2018 World Cup is over," he told M6.

"We're feeling a little lack of confidence. There's also a lot of development in terms of players, but it's up to everyone to increase their level of performance.

"We must remain positive and make a success of the start of the match against Finland."

Deschamps felt there was an improvement to France's display in the second half, although he was frustrated at their inability to create opportunities.

"It was much better in the second half after the scene in the first where we could have opened the scoring and, in the following minute, we were behind," he said.

"The sequence of matches is difficult, but it's not an excuse. Of the 11 who started, many had never played together.

"You can always do better against a very tight opponent. You need a little more accuracy and movement. We had the ball but we must be able to create a few more chances."

France will be without N'Golo Kante for their World Cup qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday, Didier Deschamps has confirmed.

The Chelsea midfielder aggravated an ankle injury during the 1-1 draw with Liverpool at the weekend.

Sitting top of Group D with seven points from three games, Les Bleus resume their World Cup qualifying campaign with a trio of fixtures in early September.

However, the reigning world champions will be unable to call upon Kante for the first of those, which takes place in Strasbourg.

Addressing the media on Tuesday, head coach Deschamps said: "Kante will be too soon for tomorrow. 

"There are too many risks; he will not be used tomorrow."

 

Meanwhile, Hugo Lloris believes Kylian Mbappe will not be bothered by the recent speculation linking him with a blockbuster move to Real Madrid.

The forward has made a bright start to the Ligue 1 season with three goals in Paris Saint-Germain's first four games, including a brace in Sunday's 2-0 win over Reims as Lionel Messi made his debut for the club.

"As you could see, he was very focused in the last game. He is very professional," Lloris said.

"He was decisive in the first four matches. It shows that he respects his club and is ready to perform. 

"There is a lot of agitation around him, it's normal, but he knows how to make the difference to help the French team."

France are looking to bounce back having exited Euro 2020 in the round of 16 following defeat to Switzerland on penalties.

Lloris revealed that following positive discussions within the camp, he and his team-mates are hungry to make amends with a fresh approach.

"We highlighted what was less successful, but there were also good things –especially in the group stage – which were quite successful," the goalkeeper added.

"We switch to something new, fresh. Everyone must participate in giving a new impetus.

"We are positive. We have very little time to prepare for the match, but there is desire."

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