RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann played down reports linking him to Barcelona amid ongoing speculation.

Nagelsmann is reportedly wanted at Camp Nou by new Barcelona president Joan Laporta, who is believed to be eyeing a replacement for Ronald Koeman.

Leipzig boss Nagelsmann has also been linked with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich amid doubts over Hansi Flick's future.

Unfazed by it all, Nagelsmann instead believes such stories are normal to hear and conversations internally do not arise because of media speculation. 

"I keep in touch with Alfred [Schreuder – current Barcelona assistant coach], but not only since it has been made public," the 33-year-old German told reporters.

"It is simply because he was my assistant manager [at Hoffenheim], and we have a great relationship. We message each other every now and then but mainly talk about personal topics and not about any other things.

"I don't think the players are interested in all this, so they don’t ask about it. I think it's normal in football that such things are being written from time to time.

"For example, Sabi [Marcel Sabitzer] was linked with Tottenham for a long time, but I didn't talk to him about it once.

"I know he gives his best all the time and you can use any player as an example for that. This is normal in football. No one has asked me about this yet."

 

 

Cristiano Ronaldo's future is dominating headlines.

After Juventus crashed out of the Champions League last 16, Ronaldo has been linked with a move away from Turin.

Could a return to the Spanish capital be on the cards?

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO ON MADRID'S RADAR

Real Madrid are interested in bringing Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo back to the club, according to the frontpage of Monday's Diario AS.

Ronaldo – Madrid's all-time leading goalscorer – left Los Blancos for Juventus in 2018 but his future with the Serie A champions is far from certain following their Champions League elimination.

Diario AS says Ronaldo represents an easier and quicker target than Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe.

Marca, though, insists Ronaldo's possible return does not alter Madrid's objectives as they weigh up either Haaland – heavily linked to Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona, Juve, PSG and Liverpool – or Mbappe.

 

ROUND-UP

- TodoFichajes reports United will turn their attention to Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres if they miss out on star Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, whose contract expires at season's end.

Chelsea and United want to sign Rennes star Eduardo Camavinga, claims Diario AS. Camavinga has been tipped to join Madrid, while PSG have also emerged as a possible destination.

Bayern Munich are in danger of losing head coach Hansi Flick, claims Bild. Flick has been named as a possible replacement for Germany boss Joachim Low. It comes as Bild says Flick's relationship with Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic is worse than previously known, while RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann has reportedly been sounded out.

- Football Insider reports Barca's move for Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum is "95 per cent done". The Dutchman is set to become a free agent.

City are set to make an approach for Sporting CP left-back and Madrid target Nuno Mendes, says Diario AS.

- ESPN claims Barca are tracking Rapid Vienna sensation Yusuf Demir. The 17-year-old is also reportedly wanted by City, United, Dortmund and Bayern.

- Ligue 1 side Monaco are interested in a two-year loan deal for Bayern goalkeeper Alexander Nubel, according to Kicker. Monaco are led by former Bayern head coach Niko Kovac.

Ronald Koeman is not interested in media speculation about his own future at Barcelona as he waits to hold in-depth talks with new president Joan Laporta. 

Barca exited the Champions League in midweek, going out in the last 16 to Paris Saint-Germain, but still remain firmly in the hunt in LaLiga, having clawed their way back into the title race with a 16-game unbeaten run. 

The excellent domestic form has eased the pressure on Koeman somewhat, though a recent report in Spain suggested Julian Nagelsmann was being lined up to replace the Dutchman at Camp Nou. 

RB Leipzig boss Nageslmann, who has also been linked with Bayern Munich, made clear on Friday it would be disrespectful to discuss such matters, stating: "There are great coaches at all of these clubs and they have a contract, just as I do. It is not annoying me, nor is it flattering me." 

Likewise, Koeman's focus is on helping Barcelona continue to get better this season, rather than worrying about stories in the press. 

"It was a very good reaction, but I don't have to answer the names of players or coaches that a journalist produced," the Barca boss said ahead of Monday's LaLiga game against Huesca. 

"That is a matter for the media. You have to fill the pages every day.  

"I have a contract. We are improving many things and we have to continue."

Koeman revealed he had a conversation with Laporta - who was elected for a second stint as president last Sunday - prior to the second leg against PSG in the French capital.

However, he expects the pair to have more detailed discussions once their schedules allow. 

"I have not spoken with the president yet because there are many games and it must be official that he is president," Koeman said. "We spoke in Paris, but we have to meet later. These are not things to explain outside, but from within the club." 

Jordi Cruyff - son of club legend Johan, who is currently coaching in China - has been linked with becoming part of a new-look board at Barca. 

"I cannot say much because they are things that exist within the club, the president has to decide his team in important positions," Koeman replied when asked about his compatriot returning to Camp Nou. 

"I know Jordi well, as well as his family. He may be a candidate, but I have not discussed this issue."

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.

Julian Nagelsmann has no interest in discussing links to Barcelona and Bayern Munich, insisting speculation over his future is just a topic for the media as he remains committed to RB Leipzig.

Nagelsmann has been rumoured as a possible replacement for Hansi Flick at Bundesliga rivals Bayern at the end of the season, while a report in Spain suggested new Barca president Joan Laporta wants him to take over from Ronald Koeman at Camp Nou.

However, the 33-year-old has made clear his indifference to such stories as he remains under contract with his current employers until the end of the 2022-23 campaign.

Leipzig were knocked out of the Champions League by Liverpool in midweek but remain in contention for the title in Germany, sitting just two points behind reigning champions Bayern after 24 games.

"I have a contract until 2023. It would be a bit much to say that it annoys me - I know how professional football works," Nagelsmann told the media ahead of Sunday's game with Eintracht Frankfurt.

"Apparently, I would've joined Tottenham, Real Madrid or Barcelona by now.

"There are great coaches at all of these clubs and they have a contract, just as I do. It is not annoying me, nor is it flattering me. It doesn't have any relevance for me. I'm only concentrating on [the game against] Eintracht Frankfurt, where we have to do a lot already.

"No matter what coaches you are talking about, whether it is Bayern or Barcelona, it would be disrespectful to talk about these clubs. It would be disrespectful, as all of those coaches are very successful and have a contract as well.

"From my perspective, it is a topic in the media. I understand that it is interesting, primarily for the fans, so I'm not upset. Neither am I saying that the question is disrespectful. All I'm saying is, that it would be disrespectful for me to talk about these topics."

Rather than be concerned over talk about his next move, Nagelsmann is focusing on making sure Leipzig collect maximum points from their two Bundesliga games before this month's international break.

After hosting fourth-placed Frankfurt, they travel to relegation-threatened Arminia Bielefeld next Friday.

"I have enough to do by analysing the game against Liverpool and by preparing the game on Sunday and next Friday. We want to get the six points before the international break," Nagelsmann said.

"Afterwards, we have to start preparing the upcoming games perfectly, to stay at the top for as long as possible."

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.

Julian Nagelsmann does not expect Jurgen Klopp to be tempted by the Germany job after Joachim Low announced he would step down after Euro 2020.

The search for Low's successor is underway, and a poll by Germany's Sky Sport News broadcaster on Tuesday showed Liverpool manager Klopp would be a popular pick.

With over 7,000 votes counted, some 54.6 per cent selected Klopp as the right man for the job, with Ralf Rangnick next in line with a 15.4 per cent share.

Klopp's Liverpool are enduring a deep dip in the Premier League after last season's title triumph, and six successive defeats in the competition at Anfield have seen them slip to eighth place.

But Klopp has enjoyed huge success during his Liverpool reign, winning the Champions League in 2018-19 before the Reds ended a 30-year wait for the domestic title.

He was also highly successful during his time with Mainz and Borussia Dortmund, where he twice won the Bundesliga.

Nagelsmann, whose RB Leipzig side face Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday, said: "Jurgen Klopp is an outstanding coach. But I think that both Liverpool and Jurgen are extremely satisfied with each other."

At the age of 33, Nagelsmann appears unlikely to fancy a switch from club management into the international game.

He has performed wonders with Leipzig since being appointed in 2019, achieving a Bundesliga win percentage of 58.62, with 34 victories and just seven defeats in 58 league games in charge.

If he sustains his early coaching performance, the Germany job may be one that Nagelsmann looks at in the future.

For now, he is keen to see how Low bows out, hoping a 15-year reign can end on a high note.

"First of all, it's sad news, but he is still in office," Nagelsmann said. "That's the most important thing: that he will continue and be on the touchline for this big tournament.

"He's had an extreme impact in German football and especially on the national team. He's had great success and defined an era with titles, a development and a second rebuild during his spell."

Nagelsmann pointed to Low bringing through different generations to form new Germany sides, and said he was optimistic the latest incarnation can be trophy contenders at the European Championship.

"I am sure of it, because we have a lot of talented players, which is also an achievement of his," Nagelsmann said. "It's thanks to him making difficult decisions during crucial moments.

"He has also been criticised for this but had a great career as the coach of the German national team nonetheless. I hope he will find a glorious end and then I'm keen on finding out where he will leave his footsteps next."

Germany great Lothar Matthaus backed former Schalke and Leipzig boss Rangnick, who is currently without a club, telling Sky Sport News: "He's free. He's someone who can build something."

The next Germany coach will be expected to lead the team at the Qatar 2022 World Cup, although the qualifying process is set to begin on Low's watch, with games against Iceland, Romania and North Macedonia coming up in late March.

Rudi Voller, the former Germany striker who went on to manage the team from 2000 to 2004, is thankful Low is being afforded the chance to go out on his own terms.

Voller said: "Jogi Low's decision deserves respect. He and his teams have given us great football in many tournaments and by winning the title at the 2014 World Cup, achieved great things for German sport.

"Now Jogi has the chance to go to the European Championship this summer and to achieve a wonderful conclusion. We will all keep our fingers crossed for him."

The search is on for a successor to Joachim Low after Germany's long-serving national team boss announced he would step down after Euro 2020.

Low will complete a 15-year tour of duty as head coach when he leads Die Mannschaft into this year's tournament, delayed a year by the COVID-19 crisis.

His contract had been due to run until after Germany's Qatar 2022 World Cup campaign, but 61-year-old Low has decided the time will be right to step aside before then.

That means the Germany Football Association (DFB) must spring into action and find the right coach to take over from Low, a World Cup winner in 2014.

DFB president Fritz Keller said: "The fact that he informed us about his decision at an early stage is very decent. He gives the DFB consequently the necessary time, calm and a sense of proportion to name his successor."

Germany is enjoying a golden era of producing world-class coaches, and here are five the DFB may consider.

Hansi Flick: Brilliant as Bayern boss, and Low's former right-hand man

Bayern have flourished under Flick's leadership over the past 18 months, having promoted him to the top job when Niko Kovac struggled to get the best from a talented group.

Club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has noisily shot down the prospect of Flick leaving to become Germany boss, saying the coach will remain at Bayern for next season.

However, Rummenigge himself will step down from his position at Bayern at the turn of the year as Oliver Kahn replaces him, and Flick may see the Germany job as offering greater long-term security.

He served as assistant to Low from 2006 to 2014 so knows the job as well as any contender.

Jurgen Klopp: Could Liverpool adventure be coming to an end?

Liverpool's steep decline in 2021 has led to the first rumblings about Klopp's Anfield future among supporters of the club.

At board level, there has been no indication Liverpool would be happy to lose the man who has led them to Champions League and Premier League title success.

It seems the former Mainz and Borussia Dortmund boss has enough goodwill in the bank to be trusted to turn around the team's fortunes, so if Klopp is to be a contender for the Germany job it would be on him to make a major career decision.

At the age of 53, could he take the methods that have served him so well in the club game onto the international stage?

Stefan Kuntz: Ready to step up?

As coach of the Germany Under-21 team, former national team midfielder Kuntz is already working in the DFB system.

To appoint him would seem an easy option, which is not to suggest it would be the wrong option.

Kuntz's young Germany team won the UEFA Under-21 Championship in 2017 and were runners-up two years later, with the likes of Thilo Kehrer, Luca Waldschmidt and Serge Gnabry all enjoying early international experience under his leadership.

Kuntz is highly regarded as a coach by his fellow Euro 96 winner Oliver Bierhoff, who is Germany's national team director, and that could be a significant factor.

Julian Nagelsmann: Too much, too young?

Nagelsmann, who does not turn 34 until July, seems a long shot for this job.

He has greatly impressed as head coach of Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig and his next calling point is likely to be a bigger club job, perhaps in Spain or England.

Nagelsmann distanced himself from the Germany job within minutes of Low's departure being announced, so it would take a change of heart for him to come into the equation.

If the DFB makes a determined play for him, however, Nagelsmann would have to decide whether he could refuse to serve his country.

Ralf Rangnick: Tactical master could be perfect pick

Veteran Rangnick looked set to join Milan last year, until the surprise element of Stefano Pioli turning the Rossoneri into a winning machine knocked that on the head.

The 62-year-old has been cited as a major influence on the generation that followed him into coaching, with Stuttgart, Hoffenheim, Schalke and Leipzig among the teams he has led.

His tactics typically lean on a high-intensity pressing game, with swift counter-attacking, and Rangnick would surely relish the prospect of leading Germany into a World Cup.

Whether being out of coaching for two seasons might be a hindrance would be a matter for the DFB, with Rangnick currently employed by Red Bull's sporting division.

RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann insisted his side must "stay on the gas pedal" despite closing within two points of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich.

Leipzig defeated Hertha Berlin 2-0 on the road on Sunday, capitalising on leaders Bayern's 2-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.

Bayern also dropped points last week following their return from the Club World Cup in Qatar, drawing 3-3 with Arminia Bielefeld, meaning the margin at the top has been cut from seven to two points within a week, offering renewed title hope for Naglesmann's side.

However, the 33-year-old German maintained the hard work has only just begun for Leipzig, who have finished the past two Bundesliga seasons in third position.

"It's nice to get closer [to Bayern]," Nagelsmann said. "It used to be a seven-point-gap at one point. My team's reaction impressed me a lot… We have to remain focused and try winning our games.

"I think I said at the beginning of the season that February and March will become harder for the teams, as the impact of the Corona pandemic needs to be overcome in the right way.

"There are a lot of games and we need to stay on the gas pedal, and we did that in today's 90 minutes, as we did in the previous Bundesliga games.

"A lot of good teams are coming up now, with [Borussia Monchengladbach] Gladbach on the weekend, which will be a challenge. But we want to keep being successful in the Bundesliga and winning the games should speak for us."

RB Leipzig believe they are now in a Bundesliga title "duel" with Bayern Munich after closing the gap to two points with another win, this time at Hertha Berlin. 

With a draw at home to Arminia Bielefeld and then defeat at Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayern have dropped five points this week since returning from the Club World Cup in Qatar. 

Those setbacks granted Leipzig an opportunity to re-enter a title race that had looked to be over - and Julian Nagelsmann's side capitalised with a 3-0 success at Hertha on Sunday. 

Leipzig have won all five of their Bundesliga away games against Hertha, although they only pulled clear of their hosts in the closing stages. 

Marcel Sabitzer's sublime long-range strike was all that separated the sides until the 71st minute when Nordi Mukiele added a second. 

Sabitzer and Mukiele had each committed errors leading to goals in the midweek Champions League defeat to Liverpool. 

There was then a clinching third courtesy of Willi Orban, moving Leipzig five points ahead of third-placed Wolfsburg while piling the pressure on Bayern. 

Sabitzer, who has 12 career Bundesliga goals from outside the area, albeit this was his first of 2020-21, told Sky Sport: "It was not to be expected that Bayern would drop five points.

"Now we have caught up the points, now there are only two. We are a bit clear of third place, so it's a duel. 

"It doesn't help to talk about it, we have to do it and stick with it week after week. Otherwise I can say something completely different next week and then everyone will laugh at me again." 

Nagelsmann added: "Of course, we're pleased to have moved back to within two points of Bayern. 

"Some teams behind us also picked up points, which makes the victory today even more important." 

Bayern, who have already lost twice in the Bundesliga in 2021 after a sole defeat last year, visit Leipzig on April 3.

Justin Kluivert was sorely missed by RB Leipzig against Liverpool and his injuries are increasingly frustrating head coach Julian Nagelsmann.

Winger Kluivert joined Leipzig from Roma on a season-long loan at the start of the 2020-21 campaign.

However, the 21-year-old - son of former Barcelona striker Patrick - has so far been limited to just three starts and 452 minutes of action in a Leipzig shirt across all competitions.

An ankle issue has provided Kluivert's latest setback, with his last appearance coming in January and his last start before Christmas.

Prior to being named in the line-up against Werder Bremen on December 12, Kluivert had scored in consecutive matches against Bayern Munich and Manchester United - his only goals so far this season.

Nagelsmann was impressed by the Netherlands international's performances in those games and believes his dribbling ability could be a real asset; he leads Leipzig with 5.4 dribbles attempted and 2.6 completed per 90 minutes this term.

But the coach was again without Kluivert as Leipzig lost their Champions League first leg 2-0 against Liverpool on Tuesday, with the German team attempting just 11 dribbles and failing to execute a single fast break.

"At the stage when we played Bayern and Manchester [United], it was the Justin we were hoping for," Nagelsmann said. "After that, he was gone again.

"He just trains very little, I don't see him much in training. That's the problem. He has to become more stable in terms of his body.

"Since he's been here, he's had far too few training sessions and therefore too little impact on the game.

"He basically has skills that would have done us good in the game against Liverpool. They would also do us good in the Bundesliga, like his deep runs and fast dribbling. He's also a goalscorer and has a good finish.

"But he simply has to become more stable. He's a little too injury-prone these days."

Leipzig would reportedly have to pay in excess of €10million to make Kluivert's move permanent.

Nagelsmann is not ruling out the possibility but would like to see more from the player over the coming months, referring again to the standard set in a 3-3 draw with Bayern.

Kluivert scored with his only shot at Allianz Arena, playing 78 minutes after being named in Nagelsmann's starting line-up.

"Obviously, we hope he has an even bigger impact on a successful season, that he stays healthy and that he can train more and get fit again for the games," Nagelsmann added.

"He's welcome to do as well as he did against Bayern Munich.

"In the course of the second half of the season, we will then decide what we do and what he wants to do. And how big his influence was and how it then continues beyond the summer or not, we will decide then."

Manchester United are making plans for Paul Pogba's departure and may have already identified the Frenchman's replacement in Real Madrid's Federico Valverde.

The 22-year-old has struggled with injuries this season, while veteran midfielders Luka Modric and Toni Kroos have been in vintage form for LaLiga's champions.

Valverde has only started 12 games in all competitions this season, but the Uruguayan has impressed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer enough for United to step up their efforts to bring him to Old Trafford this off-season.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED EYE VALVERDE TO PLUG MIDFIELD

Valverde has shown his class while featuring in 89 games during his three seasons in the Spanish capital and has turned heads at United.

The Red Devils are said to admire his energy and box-to-box qualities as they seek a long-term solution to lock down a place in the centre of Solskjaer's midfield, according to The Sun.

One snag in the recruitment drive could be the Uruguay international's buy-out clause of a staggering £148million, though United can offer him a major improvement on his current £120,000 per week wage.

RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann says it is "not impossible" for his side to overturn their 2-0 first-leg deficit against Liverpool in the Champions League last 16.

Leipzig were beaten 2-0 in their 'home tie' in Budapest by the English champions, who will host the German club in Liverpool in early March for the second leg.

Angelino hit the post early on for RB Leipzig before Alisson was forced into a good save to deny Christopher Nkunku in the second.

Liverpool then capitalised on Leipzig mistakes with quick-fire goals from Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane offering the Reds a major advantage ahead of the return leg.

"We know the result, but I think we played a good game," Nagelsmann said. "We'll take this with us to the second leg.

"I already want to say before somebody asks the question: The situation is not easier of course, but not impossible either.

"We will do everything and try to reach the next round."

Leipzig had 12 shots to 10, while Liverpool had three shots on target to two and also edged possession in a tight game, where Nagelsmann said capitalising on chances was the difference.

"We needed two, three minutes after these two mistakes," the 33-year-old coach said. "It’s the classic question to ask, if these mistakes will be punished at this high level.

"This is basically punished on every level. Then we needed five, six minutes to bounce back. It was good that we didn't concede a third goal. Then my boys did well again."

RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann expects out-of-form Liverpool to come out fighting like an "injured boxer" in their Champions League last-16 first leg on Tuesday.

Nagelsmann believes Liverpool will be fully focused on European success after letting their Premier League title defence slip away following three consecutive league defeats as Manchester City dominate in England.

Premier League champions Liverpool have fallen 13 points adrift of City after being upstaged 3-1 by Leicester City on Saturday.

Despite Liverpool's woes, Nagelsmann believes the Reds' class will shine through at Puskas Arena in Hungary.

"I don't think that I have to warn my team about an injured boxer. I believe that my team knows that this is a world class team," Nagelsmann, whose Leipzig reached last season's Champions League semi-finals, said.

"Also, if you listen to what the teams in the Premier League say, despite their tiny crisis, managers are still saying after every match that Liverpool are, with Manchester City, still one of the hardest teams to beat in the Premier League.

"That is because they have a very balanced squad. Hard to assess and variable. As [Leipzig goalkeeper] Peter Gulasci mentioned already, they can take care of a lot of things at once."

RB Leipzig head coach Julian Nagelsmann insisted the club are not nervous about Dayot Upamecano's future amid interest from Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge revealed the Bundesliga and Champions League holders are keeping an eye on star Leipzig centre-back Upamecano, with David Alaba set to leave Munich on a free transfer at season's end.

Upamecano – who reportedly has a release clause – has also been linked to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool following his exploits for last season's Champions League semi-finalists Leipzig.

Nagelsmann responded to Rummenigge's comments and he was bullish regarding the 22-year-old France international's future, after questioning Bayern's public approach.

"It's always clever to get the other team nervous, however we aren't nervous," Nagelsmann told reporters ahead of Saturday's trip to Mainz.

"We know about Upamecano's contract. We know that we want to keep him for longer and that we like to have him with us.

"You can see that, as he's playing every single game for us.  But we also know the mechanisms in football. So if they want to make me or the club nervous, then it hasn't worked.

"But I don't think that this was their main intention. I believe that they said that to get a foot inside the door and make other teams that want to sign him nervous instead. But you have to ask Mr. Rummenigge, why he said what he said."

Nagelsmann added: "It is pretty normal in our business, that if a talented and young player has a buy-out clause other teams are interested in him. To what extent, someone has to then mention that publicly is up to them to assess if it's right or wrong.

"I don't have anything against it. But if it would've been the other way around, they might not have enjoyed it at all. I'm not really bothered by it. As I said already, in our business it is pretty usual. It is a part of it. Sometimes it's only about rumours but sometimes it is more concrete.

"Therefore, it isn't much of a surprise to me. Dayot Upamecano played a lot lately. I have already clarified, that some people tend to forget that he is still very young and still has to take more steps to progress further. But he is clearly capable of going those steps forward. Indeed, he had a couple of unlucky situations on the way forward."

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