LaLiga president Javier Tebas has defended Real Madrid's attempts to sign Kylian Mbappe despite football's wider economic struggles, adamant their conduct pales in comparison to that of Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid president Florentino Perez was at the forefront of the European Super League scandal earlier this year, as a group of elite clubs attempted to form a closed breakaway competition.

Perez said their intention was to "save" football, convinced the sport was financially unsustainable in its current form, but plans quickly unravelled when the English clubs involved pulled out.

Yet, despite talk of football's doom, Madrid lodged bids for Mbappe in the most recent transfer window, with their offers thought to have started at €160million – only the Frenchman himself (€180m) and PSG team-mate Neymar (€222m) have ever cost more.

Nevertheless, Madrid have raised significant capital through sales over the past four years, turning a profit in transfer fees in three of the five seasons dating back to the start of 2017-18.

As such, Tebas sees little cause for concern over the financial state of Madrid, but he cannot see them having a transfer window like that of PSG, who brought in Lionel Messi, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos and Nuno Mendes.

Speaking at a sponsorship news conference, Tebas told reporters: "I said that Spanish football is not ruined, neither Madrid nor Barcelona.

"There are at least 80 per cent of clubs in Europe that have it much worse. Regarding Real Madrid, I think they have been the club that's been better managed through the pandemic, with enormous rigor in their salary spending. Real Madrid has the capacity to do what they want.

"They can never be PSG, because PSG cheats. They have a salary expense close to €600m, which is impossible. Madrid are not a state club either, so they can't."

Talk of Spanish football's demise intensified following Barcelona's latest comprehensive Champions League defeat on Tuesday, losing 3-0 to Bayern Munich at Camp Nou, while Sevilla stuttered to a 1-1 draw at home to Salzburg.

For Barca, it was the first time since Opta records began (2003-04) that they had failed to get a shot on target in a Champions League game, and Bayern's superiority condemned Ronald Koeman's men to three successive home defeats in the competition for the first time.

Prior to 2020-21, Barca had only ever lost two Champions League home games by three or more goals but that has occurred three times since – with Messi no longer there, many would expect their standard to plummeting further.

But Tebas insists the odd Champions League result does not necessarily mean anything, pointing out the Premier League arguably enjoyed its greatest period of growth during a European trophy drought.

"There is still a lot of the Champions League to go," he continued. "Last year it was the same and then everyone went through to the knockout phase.

"The level of LaLiga does not depend on a few Champions League games. When the Premier League grew the most, it was in a phase of six years without winning the main elite competition."

Lionel Messi's departure to Paris Saint-Germain "ripped out" the soul of Barcelona, former Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said after the Blaugrana's heavy Champions League defeat to the Bundesliga champions.

Barca may have avoided another demolition job at the hands of Bayern, who defeated them 8-2 in the Champions League quarter-finals 13 months ago, but Tuesday's 3-0 loss was a damning indictment of the gulf between them and the teams likely to challenge for European club football's biggest prize this term.

It was the first time since Opta records began (2003-04) that Barca have failed to get a shot on target in a Champions League game, and Bayern's superiority condemned Ronald Koeman's men to three successive home defeats in the competition for the first time.

Barcelona's crippling financial state – which has seen their debts approach €1.4billion – has contributed to a situation where such heavy losses to Europe's elite are no longer a surprise.

Prior to 2020-21, Barca had only ever lost two Champions League home games by three or more goals but that has occurred three times since – with Messi no longer there, many would expect their standard to continue plummeting.

Barca were unable to keep Messi due to salary cap restrictions and Rummenigge sees a hollow shell of a club left without him.

Speaking to Bild TV, Rummenigge – who left his role as Bayern CEO earlier this year – said: "When you looked at the team and how they performed tactically… with Messi [leaving], their souls were ripped out. They are facing difficult times.

"They had to let him leave, but LaLiga scored an own goal with it [his departure]."

Rummenigge was asked if bringing Messi to Bayern was ever a possibility, but he pointed to the Barca's financial mismanagement around the six-time Ballon d'Or winner that made signing him impossible.

"That couldn't be, that was not a subject [considered]," he continued. "You can't think about that.

"His salary is at such dizzying heights, and don't forget, this has a knock-on effect. Then the others want more too.

"That has resulted in Barcelona having staggering debts."

But while Barca are left tending to an institutional crisis, their bitter rivals Real Madrid appear to be in a far less dire situation.

Although club president Florentino Perez stressed Madrid football was running out of money earlier this year when he fronted up the attempted formation of a European Super League, Los Blancos were comfortable enough to lodge bids of at least €160m for PSG's Kylian Mbappe.

PSG did not entertain any offers but the Frenchman will become a free agent next year and Rummenigge believes there is a strong change both he and Erling Haaland could end up in Madrid in 2022, rather than the Norwegian going to Bayern.

"[Robert] Lewandowski is the best centre-forward in the world. Haaland is the second best," he said. "I think Bayern is interested in Robert staying after his contract expires in 2023. Haaland is an investment.

"I don't think he's going to Liverpool. I know the owner very well and he is not known for splashing out.

"With Haaland, I wouldn't rule Real Madrid out. Maybe they'll open the chequebook a little more in the summer and possibly get Haaland and Kylian Mbappe."

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo does not anticipate Kylian Mbappe leaving the Ligue 1 giants at the end of the season as he criticised the behaviour of Real Madrid.

PSG reportedly rejected three bids – the last one said to be worth up to €200million – from Madrid for Mbappe, whose contract expires at the end of the current campaign.

Mbappe is yet to re-sign in Paris, where PSG are determined to retain the World Cup-winning 22-year-old star.

LaLiga powerhouse Madrid are believed to be readying a move for Mbappe on a free transfer, but Leonardo made it clear PSG do not see their future without the France international.

"We were not happy with the behaviour of Real Madrid," Leonardo told Canal+. "Starting negotiations for one of the best players in the world in the last week of the transfer market generated a situation that we did not like.

"We were clear about our position with the offer. It was not enough, it was smaller than what we paid. The last offer they talked about never came. You can't organise a transfer market for two, three or four months and change your plans like that.

"I don't see Mbappe leaving at the end of this season. Nobody is thinking about the future of Paris Saint-Germain without Kylian.

"Kylian sort of represents the difference between the superficial and the deep. Kylian's relationship with Paris Saint-Germain is deep. That's why we don't think about anything else.

"Kylian represents many things. Not only because he is French or one of the best players in the world. He has a way of being that we like and one that everyone likes."

PSG are preparing to open their Champions League campaign at Club Brugge on Wednesday.

Since the start of the 2017-18 season, only Robert Lewandowski (41) has been directly involved in more goals in the Champions League than Mbappe (37 – 21 goals, 16 assists).

Across the last four Champions League campaigns (since 2017-18), only six players have been directly involved in 30-plus goals in the competition. Half of these currently play for PSG, with Mbappe (37), Lionel Messi (36) and Neymar (31) all doing so.

Lionel Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe could feature together for the first time when Paris Saint-Germain tackle Club Brugge, Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed.

How the superstar trio perform as a unit could define PSG's season and Pochettino's reign with the French giants, after Messi's shock switch from Barcelona.

Some observers harbour concerns that fielding three such forwards together could leave PSG exposed in other areas. Yet if they click, then PSG could be a rampant force in the Champions League, the tournament they dearly want to win.

Asked if he would select all three on Wednesday in PSG's European opener, Pochettino said: "Maybe, yes. It is possible."

There is little doubt PSG have three of the world's best forwards, but developing a winning team around them is the challenge facing their Argentine head coach.

Speaking in the pre-game news conference, Pochettino was asked whether he was excited about the prospect of the three front players teaming up.

"I will have to get on board all the excitement because I know how excited everyone is," he said. "I would be crazy to think otherwise."

Across the last four Champions League campaigns, only six players have been directly involved in 30-plus goals in the competition, and Pochettino can call on three of those in Mbappe (37 involvements), Messi (36) and Neymar (31).

If Messi plays a part, he will be making his 150th Champions League appearance after previously turning out 149 times for Barcelona, scoring 120 goals and providing 35 assists so far.

However PSG eventually line up, their Belgian hosts may be privately fearing the worst. That is because the last time Club Brugge hosted the Parisians, they were beaten 5-0 in the 2019-20 Champions League – this remains Brugge's heaviest home defeat in European competition. Mauro Icardi scored twice, while Mbappe came on as a substitute and grabbed a hat-trick.

Pochettino knows many expect his team to be major challengers for Champions League glory this season, but he believes holders Chelsea will take some stopping. He also rates the London outfit, coached by former PSG boss Thomas Tuchel, as a model that PSG should look to follow.

"Chelsea are the holders and they are the team to beat, if there is one," Pochettino said. "They have also strengthened by signing good players and have spent a lot more money than Paris Saint-Germain.

"We are not a team yet. We are a club that has recruited many players this summer. There are some very big names, but we have to turn into a team in the way that Chelsea did last season.

"Chelsea are the team to beat because they achieved their targets. We are a group of players that need to achieve the target of becoming a solid team in order to get the results that we want.

"There are no timeframes. At Paris Saint-Germain, you will be judged on the results that you achieve. There is always pressure at every club and in this case at PSG the club has been targeting a dream for many years of winning the Champions League, and that is something that we cannot deny."

Lionel Messi will be the highest-rated player on FIFA 22 after EA Sports revealed the upcoming game's top 22.

The latest edition of the long-running title will be released at the start of October and will see Messi representing a team other than Barcelona for the first time.

Messi joined Paris Saint-Germain in August and will give gamers the chance to line up with him, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe all in the same front three.

With a rating of 93, Messi will be the game's best player, excluding icons and special Ultimate Team cards.

 

The ratings of Neymar and Mbappe were also among those revealed on Monday, with the pair among five players on 91 – the other three are Cristiano Ronaldo, Jan Oblak and Kevin De Bruyne.

Of course, the game will give Manchester United fans the chance to include Ronaldo in their Red Devils side after he completed his return to the club following a 12-year absence.

Messi aside, the only other player to be rated higher than Ronaldo is Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.

He broke Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 Bundesliga goals in a single season in 2020-21 as he netted 41 times en route to the title.

 

But it was not enough to topple Messi.

Even in a season that was largely underwhelming for Barcelona, Messi still managed to score 30 LaLiga goals and he set up another nine – only four players had more assists.

This perhaps goes some way to explaining why the six-time Ballon d'Or winner just pips Lewandowski to top-billing despite the latter's historic campaign.

FIFA 22's top 22 players:

Lionel Messi, Paris Saint-Germain – 93

Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich – 92

Cristiano Ronaldo, Manchester United – 91

Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City – 91

Kylian Mbappe, Paris Saint-Germain – 91

Neymar, Paris Saint-Germain – 91

Jan Oblak, Atletico Madrid – 91

Harry Kane, Tottenham – 90

N'Golo Kante, Chelsea – 90

Manuel Neuer, Bayern Munich – 90

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Barcelona – 90

Mohamed Salah, Liverpool – 89

Gianluigi Donnarumma, Paris Saint-Germain – 89

Karim Benzema, Real Madrid – 89

Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool – 89

Joshua Kimmich, Bayern Munich – 89

Son Heung-min, Tottenham – 89

Alisson, Liverpool – 89

Thibaut Courtois, Real Madrid – 89

Casemiro, Real Madrid – 89

Ederson, Manchester City – 89

Sadio Mane, Liverpool – 89

Are Barcelona set to make a splash in 2022?

After losing Lionel Messi on a free transfer due to their crippling debt, Barca are busy planning for next season.

Franck Kessie and Youri Tielemans are believed to be on the radar at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA EYEING PAIR

Barcelona are targeting Milan star Franck Kessie and Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans, according to reports.

Kessie is out of contract at the end of the season and he is yet to re-sign at Milan amid links with Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham.

Mundo Deportivo claims LaLiga giants Barca are considering a move for the Ivory Coast international, as well as Tielemans – who is reportedly wanted by the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fichajes says Premier League champions Manchester City are plotting a bid for Leeds United and England star Kalvin Phillips.

Real Madrid are interested in Lyon's Rayan Cherki as a long-term replacement for Karim Benzema, per Fichajes. It comes as Madrid continue to pursue PSG's Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland.

- Calciomercato claims Juventus are considering a move for Madrid left-back Ferland Mendy.

United are ready to rival Barca, Juve and Bayern Munich for RB Leipzig attacker Dani Olmo, according to Marca.

Mauricio Pochettino insisted Kylian Mbappe has plenty of love for Paris Saint-Germain after the speculation surrounding a move to Real Madrid last month.

PSG reportedly rejected three bids - the last one said to be worth up to €200million - from Madrid for the 22-year-old, whose contract with the Ligue 1 giants runs out at the end of the season.

Mbappe has so far turned down the opportunity to sign a new deal, though the speculation has not affected his form, and he scored with a typically composed finish in PSG's 4-0 rout of Clermont on Saturday.

The France forward has now scored against 26 of the 27 teams he has faced in Ligue 1, while he has also directly contributed to a goal in each of his last 10 appearances in the competition.

Mbappe, who was taken off with 11 minutes remaining, ended Saturday's match with a game-leading five attempts, with three of those on target, including a shot that was parried out to Idrissa Gueye for PSG's fourth goal.

However, prior to his strike against Clermont, there appeared to be something of a mixed reaction from the PSG faithful at Parc des Princes, with some sections of the home fans appearing to whistle and jeer the youngster.

Pochettino claimed not to have heard anything untoward, but was adamant that Mbappe has nothing but respect for PSG.

"I didn't hear the whistles, but I heard the ovation he received when he went to take a corner in the second half with the affection of all the supporters of Paris," Pochettino told a news conference.

"He is a great professional, a great player and a good boy, he has a lot of love for this club. He has shown it since he got here.

"He is focused on improving every day, helping the team and fulfilling the club's goals. He shows great respect every day for this club, you have to salute him."

Next up for PSG is a Champions League encounter with Club Brugge. Lionel Messi and Neymar, who were both absent for Saturday's match, are likely to return and may well start in a front three with Mbappe for the first time.

Paris Saint-Germain maintained their 100 per cent record in Ligue 1 this season as Kylian Mbappe and Ander Herrera propelled Mauricio Pochettino's team to a 4-0 victory over Clermont.

Without Lionel Messi and Neymar, who along with Leandro Paredes and Angel Di Maria were given extra rest following their international exploits in midweek, PSG still made light work of sealing a fifth straight win.

Passed fit to feature after sustaining a calf injury while on France duty, Mbappe – the subject of three failed bids from Real Madrid at the end of August – scored his fourth goal of the season on a typically blistering counter-attack 10 minutes into the second half.

Herrera's first-half double had put PSG into a comfortable position, with promoted Clermont failing to test debutant Gianluigi Donnarumma despite plenty of attacking intent as Idrissa Gueye wrapped up an emphatic win.

Mbappe created PSG's first chance after 11 minutes, though Marquinhos was unable to direct the forward's free-kick either side of Arthur Desmas.

Clermont's resolve was punctured in the 20th minute, though – Herrera on hand to head home after Desmas had parried Achraf Hakimi's cross-shot.

Danilo Pereira would have made it 2-0 four minutes later if not for Akim Zedadka's block, yet PSG would not be denied for long.

Herrera was once again in the right place at the right time to pounce on a loose ball, this time lashing a finish into the roof of the net, while a goal-line block prevented Julian Draxler netting a third before half-time.

There was to be no such reprieve for Clermont early in the second half – Mbappe rounding the goalkeeper to finish coolly after racing onto Draxler's lofted pass.

Mbappe should have doubled his tally, or teed up Rafinha, just after the hour, only for the youngster to chip wide when one-on-one with Desmas.

He atoned moments later, a rebound from his shot falling to Gueye, who nodded in at the back post to cap off a slick display.

Mauricio Pochettino has confirmed Lionel Messi and Neymar will not play against Clermont, while reaffirming that Kylian Mbappe is perfectly happy at Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi, who made his PSG debut at Reims before the international break, and Neymar both played as late as Thursday in respective World Cup qualifiers for Argentina and Brazil.

While Neymar scored and provided an assist in Brazil's 2-0 win over Peru, Messi netted a hat-trick against Bolivia, surpassing Pele as the all-time leading goalscorer for a South American nation in the process. Argentina subsequently celebrated their recent Copa America triumph with fans finally allowed back into the stadium in Buenos Aires.

Angel Di Maria and Leandro Paredes also featured for Argentina and Pochettino said a common-sense approach dictated none of the players would be involved in Saturday's home match against newly promoted Clermont.

"Di Maria, Paredes, Neymar and Messi, due to common sense, they are not going to be involved in the squad tomorrow," Pochettino told a news conference, though PSG's coach is hoping to have Mauro Icardi, Presnel Kimpembe and Mbappe – who suffered a calf injury while on France duty – will be fit to feature.

 

Mbappe was at the centre of one of the biggest stories of the recently closed transfer window, with PSG rejecting three bids from Real Madrid for their star striker.

The 22-year-old only has a year left to run on his contract and reports have suggested Madrid are confident he will sign for them as a free agent in 2022. For now, though, he remains at PSG, where Pochettino insists he is content.

"Mbappe is happy. He is emotionally stable. Before the end of the transfer window and now, he has stayed in the same positive mindset with the desire to play and enjoy himself," he said.

"So we are happy with how he is feeling. He has been training and recovering from the injury that he picked up on international duty. We hope he can be available tomorrow."

While PSG have incredible star power in attack, Pochettino has been keen to point out there is a balance to be struck. Indeed, his side conceded five goals across their opening three Ligue 1 fixtures and though they sit pretty on 12 points from four matches, the former Tottenham boss knows there is work to do.

"I think all the players at PSG are stars. Some might play more or less, but they are all stars," added Pochettino, who is also set to be shorn of Marco Verratti on Saturday.

"PSG as a club is bigger than any individual. We have a squad of around 35 players, they all need to feel important. In terms of managing the squad, which is our job, we need the tools so that the 35 players can feel at home and accept their place but at the same time, there are some fantastic names.

"We have to make sure they work as a team because this is a team sport and that is a big challenge that we face. I have been saying that since the start, so we are going to work hard so that it is not just about the names of Kylian, Neymar or Messi, but so that everyone feels comfortable.

"They all need a team, a structure and an organisation to win games so that has to be our main thought. We all drive towards that."

Two of PSG's latest arrivals are yet to make their debuts. Euro 2020 winner Gianluigi Donnarumma has been on the bench for the last two games, while Sergio Ramos is still working his way back to fitness.

Asked if Donnarumma could make his bow against Clermont, Pochettino replied: "We haven't decided yet who is going to be in goal. We have different options – Donnarumma is one of those options."

Pochettino also confirmed Saturday's game, as well as next week's Champions League meeting with Club Brugge, would come too soon for former Madrid captain Ramos.

"Ramos is still undergoing recovery and will not be available for that match," he explained.

"He is following the steps. We want all the players to be available as quickly as possible but it is not something that worries me. I am sure Sergio will recover well and be available soon."

Kylian Mbappe remained at Paris Saint-Germain beyond the end of the transfer window, but his long-term future may not lie in the French capital.

The World Cup winner is a free agent at the end of the season and is reportedly ready to move.

Real Madrid, who bid for Mbappe at the start of this campaign, appear his most likely destination, but far less predictable is his potential replacement at PSG.

The Ligue 1 giants have months to plan their next move, so Stats Perform breaks down the possible options to fill Mbappe's big boots.

 

ERLING HAALAND

Borussia Dortmund remained firm in their stance of keeping hold of Haaland in the most recent transfer window, despite some heavyweight clubs reportedly showing an interest as deadline day approached. That interest will only increase in 2022 as the Norwegian has a widely reported €75million release clause that comes into effect at the end of the season. 

Landing Haaland would mean PSG replacing one of the world's best young goal-getters with another player of equivalent standing, the 21-year-old having scored 63 goals in 64 games since his Dortmund debut in January 2020, compared to 54 in 66 matches for Mbappe in all competitions.

HARRY KANE

Following Manchester City's failed pursuit of his signature, Kane announced towards the end of the transfer window he was staying put at Tottenham. City's loss – assuming they are not prepared to go back in for the England captain, as Pep Guardiola recently hinted at – could be PSG's gain.

A reunion with his former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino in Paris would appear to make a lot of sense, if PSG could stump up the huge fee that Tottenham would still insist upon next year. Having finished as Premier League top scorer in three separate campaigns – one of only three players to do so along with Thierry Henry (four times) and Alan Shearer – he will feel he deserves his move to an elite club that can challenge for major honours.

 

LAUTARO MARTINEZ

Lionel Messi and Pochettino will know all about the qualities of their fellow Argentinian, who has shone brighter by the season for Inter over the past three years. At the age of 24 and having been linked with the likes of Barcelona, Tottenham and Man City, Martinez is reportedly on the brink of signing a new deal with the reigning Serie A champions, which could make PSG's life a lot more difficult when it comes to any negotiations.

Whether he is quite of the level to take the place of Mbappe is debatable, and this year should prove telling, with Martinez facing a greater onus to score heavily after Romelu Lukaku's departure from Inter. He has one goal in one appearance this term, a goal-per-game return he will be looking to maintain over the course of 2021-22.

ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI

While the likes of Messi, Lukaku, Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann all changed clubs during the transfer window, Lewandowski stayed put at Bayern Munich despite suggestions he was seeking a new challenge elsewhere. With Bayern under no pressure to sell, and the prolific striker having two seasons to run on his contract, a move away this year never seemed a realistic prospect.

But it will be a different matter in nine months' time and PSG could do a lot worse than go all out for the Poland international, even if he is now 33 years of age. Having last term scored 41 times in the Bundesliga – breaking Gerd Muller's single-season record – Lewandowski has maintained his lofty standards in the opening weeks of the new campaign with 10 goals in his first six matches for club and country, going a long way to strengthening his argument of being the best out-and-out striker around.

MOHAMED SALAH

Salah is in an identical position to Lewandowski insofar as the Egypt forward will be about to enter the final 12 months of his contract come the end of the campaign. After previously flirting with LaLiga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, PSG have their work cut out persuading Salah to make the move to Ligue 1 instead.

Should they manage that, though, they will have one of Europe's top attacking talents from the past four years. Indeed, since joining Liverpool from Roma ahead of the 2017-18 season, the 29-year-old's tally of 97 goals has been bettered by only four players in Europe's top five leagues: Ciro Immobile (104), Ronaldo (107), Messi (125) and Lewandowski (131).

 

DUSAN VLAHOVIC

The 21-year-old Serbian came of age in Serie A in the 2020-21 campaign, scoring 21 of Fiorentina's 47 goals to finish fourth in the league's scoring charts and earn the division's Under-23 MVP award.

While not quite in the same category as some of the others on this list, Vlahovic may well be the hottest property around come next June as he already has three goals in three appearances for his club in all competitions this term. 

RICHARLISON

Neymar's Brazil strike partner is another who has been touted for a move to Paris since Madrid launched their Mbappe offensive last month. Everton made clear that they were not interested in selling Richarlison in August, but that may change should PSG be prepared to spend big once again.

Now into his fourth season at Goodison Park, Richarlison has yet to score more than 15 Premier League goals in a campaign for the Toffees, but at the age of 24, he has gained huge experience and was a key member of Brazil's recent Olympic gold medal-winning squad in Tokyo. 

Real Madrid are desperate to bolster their attack.

Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland are both on the list.

But, if their efforts to sign Haaland are unsuccessful, Robert Lewandowski could reportedly be targeted.

 

TOP STORY – LEWANDOWSKI TO MADRID?

Real Madrid will turn to Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski if they are unable to sign Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, according to Diario AS.

Madrid are reportedly determined to sign in-demand star Haaland, who has also been linked with Manchester City, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Liverpool, Barcelona and Bayern.

But Lewandowski has emerged as an alternative for Madrid should they miss out on Haaland.

Madrid are also eyeing PSG star Kylian Mbappe on a free transfer.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato reports Juventus are considering a move for Barca forward Ousmane Dembele. The France international has been linked with United and Liverpool, while he is yet to agree terms over a new deal at Camp Nou.

City are interested in Milan full-back Theo Hernandez, claims the Manchester Evening News. The Frenchman has flourished at San Siro, also attracting the attention of PSG.

- The Manchester Evening News says United have earmarked West Ham star Declan Rice as their principal midfield target at the end of the season.

Are three stars set for Real Madrid?

Madrid have long been linked with soon-to-be free agent Kylian Mbappe, who reportedly wants to leave PSG for the Santiago Bernabeu.

In-demand forward Erling Haaland and Paul Pogba are also believed to be targets of the Spanish powerhouse.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE, HAALAND AND POGBA WANTED IN MADRID

Real Madrid are eyeing Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, according to Marca.

Madrid tried to sign Mbappe before the transfer deadline but the LaLiga giants are expected to reignite their interest at the end of the season, when the PSG star is set to become a free agent.

It could be a busy off-season at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Haaland and Pogba are also wanted.

Haaland has been linked with United, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Barcelona, while Pogba is reportedly wanted by PSG and Juve.

 

ROUND-UP

- FootMercato claims PSG have started their pursuit of Milan star Franck Kessie, who is also reportedly attracting interest from Tottenham. Kessie is out of contract at the end of the season.

Inter could target Chelsea full-back Marcos Alonso to replace soon-to-be free agents Aleksandar Kolarov and Ivan Perisic, per Calciomercato. The Serie A champions have also been linked with Eintracht Frankfurt's Filip Kostic.

Bayern face competition from Barca and Liverpool for Salzburg forward Karim Adeyemi, says Bild.

France head coach Didier Deschamps has opened up about the decision to let Kylian Mbappe return to Paris Saint-Germain after sustaining a minor injury.

Mbappe was taken off in the closing stages of Les Blues' 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw with Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday with a calf problem.

The French Football Federation announced on Thursday that Mbappe had been granted permission to leave the camp ahead of the games with Ukraine on Saturday and Finland on Tuesday.

The 22-year-old's injury is not considered serious, but Deschamps was not willing to take any risks by using the prolific forward in France's next two matches.

"I'll be clear about this. Kylian felt something late in the game," Deschamps said at a news conference on Friday.

"We have done all the tests. The recovery period is very short and a muscle problem was ruled out, but an issue persists.

"It is an injury he had with his club in May. He felt the same pain and missed the second leg against Manchester City in the Champions League.

"I felt there was no possibility he could be used before Tuesday so didn't see the point in keeping him."

Despite fielding Mbappe in a front three with Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema, France were held by Bosnia-Herzegovina in Wednesday's Group D clash.

That was Les Blues' first match since exiting Euro 2020 at the hands of Switzerland in the last-16 stage, but Deschamps is not worried about his side's form ahead of facing Ukraine in Kiev.

"I have enough experience to know how the qualifiers work," Deschamps said. "The result against Bosnia was not what we wanted, but we are in the best possible place. I am calm and serene."

France are top of their group, four points better off than second-placed Ukraine, who have drawn all four matches.

"With four matches to play, Ukraine are behind us in the table. A win would consolidate our position, but the Ukrainians also want to win," Deschamps added.

"We'll go into the match with the same intentions as we did against Bosnia. Every match is important and tomorrow's in particular."

Paris Saint-Germain's star-studded 25-man Champions League squad does not feature Juan Bernat, Sergio Rico or Rafinha.

PSG made some outstanding additions in the recent transfer window, signing Achraf Hakimi, Georginio Wijnaldum, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos and, of course, Lionel Messi, before adding full-back Nuno Mendes on deadline day.

The Ligue 1 giants also kept hold of Kylian Mbappe, reportedly rebuffing three offers from Real Madrid. Madrid's final bid for Mbappe, whose contract runs out at the end of the season, was rumoured to be in the region of €200million, but PSG did not blink.

A major factor in their resolve may well have been the desire to win the Champions League.

Thomas Tuchel guided PSG to the final in 2020 before Mauricio Pochettino saw his team slip to a semi-final defeat to Manchester City last term, but with Mbappe, Messi and Neymar leading their attack, the Parisians are big contenders to finally end their wait for European glory.

PSG have been drawn against Manchester City in Group A, alongside RB Leipzig and Club Brugge.

Pochettino's 25-man squad for the competition was released on Friday, with a wealth of options at his disposal.

Bernat, who was a key player under Tuchel but missed most of last season with a severe knee injury, is not included, with Layvin Kurzawa and Mendes the left-back options, while Abdou Diallo has been filling in there.

Goalkeeper Rico also fails to make the cut, as does former Barcelona midfielder Rafinha, who at one point looked set to move out before the transfer deadline.

Messi, Neymar and Mbappe spearhead a fearsome list of attacking options that also includes Mauro Icardi and Angel Di Maria, while Donnarumma takes his place as one of four goalkeepers. PSG have included eight youth players as reserves, taking the total count to 33.

Ramos is yet to feature since his arrival from Madrid, but the veteran centre-back is due to return to action this month.

PSG kick off their Champions League campaign against Brugge on September 15.

Real Madrid have not given up on their hopes of adding Kylian Mbappe. 

He will be a top priority for Carlo Ancelotti following the 2021-22 season.

But could Los Blancos add two stars for the price of one? 

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID EYE MBAPPE-HAALAND PAIRING

Real Madrid will be the favourites to land Kylian Mbappe following the season if he does not reach a new deal with Paris Saint-Germain, but they will not be content adding only him. 

According to Marca, Erling Haaland is also a prime target at the Santiago Bernabeu and Madrid could pursue both players. 

Mbappe would be available on a free and Haaland could be had from Borussia Dortmund via his €75million release clause. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Declan Rice expects to leave West Ham after the season, according to 90min, which reports he has asked the club to include a release clause in any new contract offer the Hammers might make. 

- Juventus declined the opportunity to sign Edinson Cavani from Manchester United after Cristiano Ronaldo's move in the other direction, the Mirror reports. 

- Former Tottenham right-back Serge Aurier prefers to remain in the Premier League and could end up at Arsenal, according to Sky Sports. The Ivory Coast international and Spurs terminated his contract by mutual consent this week. 

- Nicolas Nkoulou could be an option for Lazio if they cannot sign David Luiz, reports Calciomercato. 

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