What the papers say

A game of managerial musical chairs is underway as big vacancies open up at the end of the season. Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta is on Barcelona’s three-man shortlist to replace Xavi, according to The Sun via Spanish reporter Gerard Romero, alongside departing Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Germany boss Julian Nagelsman.

Liverpool defender Nat Phillips is attracting attention from Championship clubs. Cardiff, Blackburn and Leeds are all interested in the 26-year-old, according to the Daily Mail.

West Ham are still hopeful of securing a January deal with FC Nordsjaelland for Ghanaian winger Ibrahim Osman, according to The Sun. The Hammers have had one £15million bid rejected by the Danish club.

Bruno Guimares’ stay at Newcastle could be entering its final few months. The Daily Mirror reports Paris St. Germain are confident of signing the Brazil midfielder, 26.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Jean-Philippe Mateta: Bayern Leverkusen are weighing up a move for Crystal Palace’s French striker, 26, according to The Sun.

Daiki Hashioka: Luton are discussing a deal for the Japan full-back, 24, with Belgian club Sint-Truiden, reports The Daily Telegraph.

England midfielder Jude Bellingham returned from injury to help Real Madrid move back to the top of LaLiga with a 3-0 win at Cadiz.

A shoulder problem saw Bellingham sidelined ahead of the international break, missing England’s final Euro 2024 qualifiers.

Bellingham, though, showed little signs of any lingering problems as he scored his 11th league goal after a double from Rodrygo had set Los Blancos on their way to a comfortable win.

Real Madrid move a point ahead of Girona, who host Athletic Bilbao on Monday night.

Sevilla had two players sent off late on as they lost 2-1 at Real Sociedad, who kept up their top-six challenge.

An early own goal from Marko Dmitrovic and Sadiq Umar’s strike had the home side ahead at half-time.

Youssef En-Nesyri pulled a goal back on the hour, but the visitors finished with nine men following late red cards for defenders Jesus Navas and Sergio Ramos.

A first LaLiga hat-trick from Jose Luis Morales saw Villarreal beat Osasuna 3-1 to give new manager Marcelino a winning start to his second spell in charge.

In Sunday’s late kick-off, an early goal from Willian Jose was enough for Real Betis to beat Las Palmas 1-0.

Real Betis held out to extend their unbeaten LaLiga run to nine matches, which keeps them in touch with the top six.

Inter Milan remain two points clear at the top of Serie A after coming from behind to draw 1-1 at nearest rivals Juventus.

Dusan Vlahovic gave the home side the lead after starting and finishing a well-worked move in the 27th minute.

Lautaro Martinez equalised just five minutes later with a first-time finish to cap a stunning team goal.

Paulo Dybala struck in each half as Roma beat Udinese 3-1 at the Stadio Olimpico to sit fifth in the table.

Relegation-battlers Empoli slipped to an agonising 4-3 home defeat against Sassuolo after Domenico Berardi’s deflected effort in stoppage time, while Cagliari moved out of the drop zone after a 1-1 draw against Monza.

Frosinone made it two wins out of three league games as they beat Genoa 2-1 through Ilario Monterisi’s strike deep into added time at the Stadio Benito Stirpe.

Nice kept up the pressure at the top of Ligue 1 with a 1-0 win over Toulouse.

Terem Moffi’s goal early in the second half proved enough for Les Aiglons’ fifth win in the last six games of a 16-match unbeaten league run to close within a point of PSG.

First-half goals from Jonathan David and Tiago Santos saw Lille to a comfortable 2-0 win at bottom club Lyon to close up on third-placed Monaco.

Brest ended their three-match losing run with a 3-1 victory at Montpellier, while a late penalty from Ablie Jallow saw Metz win 3-2 at Lorient.

Rennes saw off Reims 3-1 at Roazhon Park and it finished goalless between Nantes and Le Havre, who saw Andre Ayew sent off late on after making his debut from the bench.

In the Bundesliga, Hoffenheim were held to a 1-1 draw at home by relegation-battlers Mainz and it finished goalless between Heidenheim and Bochum.

Lamine Yamal became LaLiga’s youngest-ever goal scorer as he helped Barcelona fight back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Granada.

Yamal, aged 16 years and 87 days, struck in first-half stoppage time after Barca had trailed to Bryan Zaragoza’s brace and substitute Sergi Roberto’s late strike rescued the visitors a point.

Granada forward Zaragoza opened the scoring after just 17 seconds – the fastest goal in LaLiga this season – as Xavi’s side missed the chance to close to within a point of leaders Real Madrid.

Manchester United loanee Mason Greenwood scored his first goal for Getafe in a 2-2 draw at second-bottom Celta Vigo.

Greenwood regained Getafe’s first-half lead after Borja Mayoral’s early opener, but Celta twice hit back through Jonathan Bamba and Jorgen Strand Larsen.

Domingos Duarte’s first-half dismissal for two yellow-card offences had left Getafe with 10 men.

Atletico Madrid consolidated fourth place as Antoine Griezmann’s late penalty sealed a 2-1 home win against Real Sociedad after Mikel Oyarzabal had cancelled out Samuel Lino’s opener for the hosts.

Real Betis were held 1-1 at lowly Alaves and had Willian Jose sent off in added time. Former Leicester forward Ayoze Perez put the visitors ahead before ex-Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin’s own goal earned Alaves a point.

Las Palmas made it three wins in four matches as they won 2-1 at Villarreal.

Bayer Leverkusen maintained their one-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga with a 3-1 home win against Cologne.

Kingsley Coman’s double, which sandwiched Leroy Sane’s effort, helped Bayern Munich to a 3-0 home win against Freiburg, which kept them two points behind the leaders in third.

Eintracht Frankfurt secured their first league win since August thanks to goals from Hugo Larsson and Ansgar Knauff.

Defending Serie A champions Napoli slipped to their second league defeat of the season as they went down 3-1 at home to Fiorentina.

Victor Osimhen’s penalty in first-half stoppage time cancelled out an early strike from Josip Brekalo, but Giacomo Bonaventura restored Fiorentina’s lead and substitute Nicolas Gonzalez added a late third.

Jose Mourinho’s Roma climbed up to 10th and made it three straight wins with a 4-1 victory at Cagliari.

Mourinho’s side, 4-0 Europa League winners against Servette in midweek, were on target through Houssem Aouar, Romelu Lukaku’s double and Andrea Belotti before Cagliari’s late consolation via Nahitan Nandez’s penalty.

Monza extended their unbeaten league run to five matches by beating Salernitana 3-0 at home and Frosinone maintained their impressive start with a 2-1 victory over visitors Verona.

Lazio let slip a 2-0 lead at home against Atalanta before Matias Vecino’s late strike clinched them a 3-2 win.

In Ligue 1, Paris St Germain climbed to within two points of leaders Monaco after a 3-1 win at Rennes.

PSG bounced back from their midweek Champions League defeat at Newcastle with first-half goals from Vitinha and Achraf Hakimi.

Amine Gouiri pulled one back for the hosts, but PSG substitute Randal Kolo Muani restored the visitors’ two-goal advantage.

Montpellier’s home game against Clermont was abandoned in stoppage time after visiting goalkeeper Mory Diaw was stunned by a firework.

The home side were leading 4-2 when a firecracker was thrown from the stands and exploded near Diaw as he prepared to take a goal-kick and he was later carried off the field on a stretcher.

Martin Satriano’s stoppage-time equaliser rescued a point for high-flying Brest in a 1-1 home draw against Toulouse, who had led through Frank Magri.

Arouna Sangante’s own goal set Marseille on their way to a 3-0 home win against Le Havre, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ismaila Sarr also on the scoresheet.

Lyon’s winless start to the season was extended to eight matches as they were held 3-3 at home by fellow strugglers Lorient, while Lens drew 1-1 at home against Lille.

What the papers say

The Daily Mail reports that Real Madrid, Chelsea and Saudi Arabian clubs are spearheading a pursuit for Victor Osimhen, with the possibility of the 24-year-old striker pushing to leave Serie A side Napoli in January.

Staying in Italy, the BBC reports that Roma could look to make a move for Tottenham’s Eric Dier in January. The 29-year-old England international has yet to feature for Spurs this season and is out  of contract next summer.

Manchester United will open contract talks with Hannibal Mejbri to keep him at Old Trafford, according to the BBC, although Spanish side Sevillia are rumoured to have their sights set on the 20-year-old Tunisia midfielder.

Social media round-up

According to the Transfer News Live Twitter account, Barcelona has verbally agreed to a 35 million euro (£30m) fee with Manchester City to see Joao Cancelo‘s loan turned into a permanent move.

Players to watch

Jadon Sancho: The i reports that the soured relationship between the England winger and  Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag may be beyond repair.

Chelsea: Italian football site Calciomercato reckons the Blues are on the hunt for a new left-back, and the Stamford Bridge club apparently have their eyes set on Inter Milan’s Federico Dimarco and AC Milan’s Theo Hernandez as their first stops in the January transfer window.

Mason Greenwood made an impact off the bench during Getafe’s 3-2 defeat of Osasuna in LaLiga.

The 21-year-old made the switch to Spain on deadline day after it was announced last month that he would continue his career away from Old Trafford.

Greenwood was suspended by United last year over allegations relating to a young woman after images and videos were posted online and faced charges including attempted rape and assault but the Crown Prosecution Service announced in February this year that the case had been discontinued.

On Sunday he made his first appearance for his new club, coming off the bench with 13 minutes of the contest remaining and the teams level at 2-2.

Greenwood looked bright and he had a hand in the home side’s winner, earning a corner from which Nemanja Maksimovic scored.

Earlier, Stefan Mitrovic opened the scoring for Getafe but Iker Munoz equalised just before half-time.

Jose Carmona headed in to restore the home side’s lead in the 51st minute but Ante Budimir’s penalty six minutes later levelled things up for a second time and that was the extent of the goalscoring prior to Greenwood’s introduction.

Unused substitute Fabrizio Angileri received a red card for dissent in the closing stages but the hosts held on during 10 added minutes to seal the win and maintain their unbeaten home record.

Getafe’s next match is at high-flying Real Sociedad next Sunday.

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti was impressed with the debut of “complete midfielder” Jude Bellingham in the 3-2 pre-season victory over AC Milan in Los Angeles.

Federico Valverde scored twice in quick succession before Vinicius Junior netted the winner six minutes from time after Fikayo Tomori and Luka Romero had given the Italians a 2-0 half-time lead.

England international Bellingham featured for the first time since making an £88.5million switch from Borussia Dortmund, playing 64 minutes before he was replaced by Nico Paz.

Ancelotti told Real’s official website: “I was really impressed with Bellingham.

“Bellingham played very well and the team has to get used to his quality, which is unbelievable. His arrival into the box is hugely important for the team.

“He’s a fantastic player, very important for us because he’s a complete midfielder and he brings real pace and intensity to the game.

“He moves extremely well without the ball and he’s different to the other midfielders we have. He makes the most of the free space and adds another dimension to this squad, which is fantastic.”

What the papers say

Barcelona are reportedly considering making a move for Thiago Alcantara. The Daily Mail, citing Spanish outlet Sport, says the Spanish giants are eager to reunite with the Liverpool midfielder, with club bosses at Anfield believed to be willing to listen to offers for the 32-year-old. Alcantara came up through Barcelona’s youth system and made 68 appearances for the first team.

The Mail also reports that Saudi Arabian club Al-Ittihad are preparing a bid for Reds midfielder Fabinho. Via The Athletic, the paper says the offer would be worth £40million, with any decision on a potential transfer likely to happen quickly.

Meanwhile, Liverpool may be in the market for Southampton midfielder Romeo Lavia. According to the Daily Mirror, manager Jurgen Klopp is leading the charge for the 19-year-old, who has also attracted interest from Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.

And the Daily Mail says Aston Villa are circling a bid for 22-year-old Nottingham Forest forward Brennan Johnson.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Riyad Mahrez: The Athletic reports Saudi Arabian club Al Ahli are preparing a £30m offer for the Manchester City winger.

Moussa Diaby: Aston Villa have made a formal approach for the Bayer Leverkusen winger, says Sky Sports Germany.

What the papers say

As the Premier League season comes to an end, the summer transfer season is just beginning and Newcastle will have to fight to keep midfielder Bruno Guimaraes from Barcelona. The Times says Barcelona believe it will cost them around £87million to sway Newcastle to let go of the 25-year-old Brazilian.

Chelsea will be looking to put this season behind them after securing former Tottenham and Paris St Germain manager Mauricio Pochettino on a three-year contract, according to the Guardian. The Blues finished 12th this season.

The Sun says promoted Sheffield United are looking at 24-year-old Nottingham Forest midfielder Lewis O’Brien, who is currently out on loan to DC United in MLS, to help bolster their squad for the top flight.

Social media round-upPlayers to watch

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic: Liverpool have sights set on the Lazio midfielder with the Serbian’s contract set to expire in 2024, according to Goal.

Kim Min-jae: Manchester United and Newcastle are interested in signing the 26-year-old South Korean defender from Napoli, according to Spanish outlet Fijaches and Givemesport.

Valencia head coach Ruben Baraja has said his club will fight back against “smears” after they were handed a five-game partial stadium closure and hefty fine following the racist abuse aimed at Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior.

Speaking at a press conference, Baraja stressed he was “absolutely against racism”, but echoed Valencia’s earlier claim that the sanction was “unfair and disproportionate”, and added: “I am not going to allow the Valencia CF fans and Mestalla to be smeared with labels that do not represent us.

“Just as a player rightly fights back against insults and I support that with all my might, we as a club and a fanbase rebel against those who, during the days since the game, have accused us of being what we are not.”

Vinicius threatened to leave the pitch in the second half of Sunday’s LaLiga match at the Mestalla after being subjected to alleged monkey chants from the crowd and Real Madrid, who said the incident constituted a “hate crime”, filed a complaint with the Spanish State Attorney General’s Office.

In response, Valencia have been ordered to shut the Mario Kempes south stand, where the alleged abuse happened, for five matches and have also been fined 45,000 euros (£39,000) by the Spanish football federation (RFEF).

Reacting to that sanction, Valencia said in a strongly worded statement on Tuesday evening: “Valencia CF wishes to show its total disagreement and indignation at the unfair and disproportionate penalty imposed by the competition committee on the club with the closure of the stand for five games.

“Valencia CF wants to publicly denounce that in this resolution of the RFEF competition committee they show evidence that contradicts what the national police and LaLiga say.

“In addition, this sanction is based on evidence that the club has not been able to see and without giving us a hearing.

“Valencia CF has condemned, condemns and will condemn in the most energetic way any act of racism or violence. These behaviours have no place in football or in society and we will continue to act in the most forceful way to eradicate this scourge.

“For this reason, Valencia CF is collaborating from the first minute with the police and all relevant authorities to clarify the events that occurred last Sunday.

“In addition, it has applied the maximum possible sanction with the expulsion for life from our stadium to the fans that the police have identified for their racist behaviour.

“For this reason we consider that penalising and depriving all the fans who were not involved in these unfortunate incidents from seeing their team is a totally disproportionate, unfair and unprecedented measure against which we will fight.

“The fight against racism requires the real commitment of all the parties involved without using it as a pretext to incur serious injustices.

“Valencia CF will appeal to the last instance the closure of the stand, a sanction that it considers totally unfair and one more offence in the latest disciplinary decisions that have been taken against the club. Valencia CF asks for the utmost respect and rigour for our institution and fans.”

In announcing the punishment against Valencia, the RFEF said in a statement: “The competition committee has sanctioned Valencia CF with the partial closure of the Mestalla stadium for five matches, more specifically the Mario Kempes south stand, following the events that occurred during the league match between the local team and Real Madrid CF.

“It is considered proven that, as reflected by the referee in his minutes, there were racist shouts at Vinicius, a Real Madrid CF player, during the aforementioned match, altering the normal course of the match and considering the infractions very serious.”

LaLiga players and officials called for racism to be tackled in Spain in the wake of Sunday’s match.

Before Tuesday night’s games between Real Valladolid and Barcelona, and Celta Vigo and Girona, players from both sides, as well as the match officials, stood behind banners which read ‘Racism, out of football’.

LaLiga shared a pre-match clip from the Celta-Girona game on its official Twitter account with the hashtag #JUNTOSContraElRacismo (#TOGETHERagainstRacism).

The footage also showed a supporter holding up a placard with ‘No Al Racismo’ (No to Racism) written on it.

There were similar sentiments at the Valladolid-Barcelona game as fans showed their support for Brazil international Vinicius.

Barcelona forward Raphinha removed his shirt when substituted to show a message which read: “As long as the colour of the skin is more important than the brightness of the eyes, there will be war.”

Vinicius was not included in Real’s 23-man squad for Wednesday night’s LaLiga match against Rayo Vallecano at the Bernabeu.

The forward’s red card against Valencia had been rescinded by the RFEF but the 22-year-old did not train on Tuesday, with Real coach Carlo Ancelotti saying the winger had some discomfort in his knee.

Valencia will appeal against their five-game partial stadium closure and hefty fine following the racist abuse aimed at Real Madrid forward Vinicius Junior, calling the sanction “unfair and disproportionate”.

Vinicius threatened to leave the pitch in the second half of Sunday’s LaLiga match at the Mestalla after being subjected to alleged monkey chants from the crowd and Real Madrid, who said the incident constituted a “hate crime”, filed a complaint with the Spanish State Attorney General’s Office.

In response, the club have been ordered to shut the Mario Kempes south stand, where the alleged abuse happened, for five matches and have also been fined 45,000 euros (£39,000) by the Spanish football federation (RFEF).

Valencia said in a strongly worded statement: “Valencia CF wishes to show its total disagreement and indignation at the unfair and disproportionate penalty imposed by the competition committee on the club with the closure of the stand for five games.

“Valencia CF wants to publicly denounce that in this resolution of the RFEF competition committee they show evidence that contradicts what the national police and LaLiga say.

“In addition, this sanction is based on evidence that the club has not been able to see and without giving us a hearing.

“Valencia CF has condemned, condemns and will condemn in the most energetic way any act of racism or violence. These behaviours have no place in football or in society and we will continue to act in the most forceful way to eradicate this scourge.

“For this reason, Valencia CF is collaborating from the first minute with the police and all relevant authorities to clarify the events that occurred last Sunday.

“In addition, it has applied the maximum possible sanction with the expulsion for life from our stadium to the fans that the police have identified for their racist behaviour.

“For this reason we consider that penalising and depriving all the fans who were not involved in these unfortunate incidents from seeing their team is a totally disproportionate, unfair and unprecedented measure against which we will fight.

“The fight against racism requires the real commitment of all the parties involved without using it as a pretext to incur serious injustices.

“Valencia CF will appeal to the last instance the closure of the stand, a sanction that it considers totally unfair and one more offence in the latest disciplinary decisions that have been taken against the club. Valencia CF asks for the utmost respect and rigour for our institution and fans.”

An RFEF statement on Tuesday night read: “The competition committee has sanctioned Valencia CF with the partial closure of the Mestalla stadium for five matches, more specifically the Mario Kempes south stand, following the events that occurred during the league match between the local team and Real Madrid CF.

“It is considered proven that, as reflected by the referee in his minutes, there were racist shouts at Vinicius, a Real Madrid CF player, during the aforementioned match, altering the normal course of the match and considering the infractions very serious.

“In addition, an economic sanction of 45,000 euros (£39,000) is imposed on Valencia.”

LaLiga players and officials called for racism to be tackled in Spain in the wake of Sunday’s match.

Before Tuesday night’s games between Real Valladolid and Barcelona, and Celta Vigo and Girona, players from both sides, as well as the match officials, stood behind banners which read ‘Racism, out of football’.

LaLiga shared a pre-match clip from the Celta-Girona game on its official Twitter account with the hashtag #JUNTOSContraElRacismo (#TOGETHERagainstRacism).

The footage also showed a supporter holding up a placard with ‘No Al Racismo’ (No to Racism) written on it.

There were similar sentiments at the Valladolid-Barcelona game as fans showed their support for Brazil international Vinicius.

Barcelona forward Raphinha removed his shirt when substituted to show a message which read: “As long as the colour of the skin is more important than the brightness of the eyes, there will be war.”

LaLiga has spoken out against FIFA over plans to reshape the structure of the 2026 World Cup into four-team groups.

Football's governing body had originally intended to have 16 groups of three teams after expanding from 32 to 48 nations for the tournament jointly hosted by the United States, Canada and Mexico.

However, following the Qatar 2022 edition, plans to maintain the current four-team system resurfaced and have now been rubber-stamped at FIFA's annual congress.

The decision has enraged LaLiga however, with the competition set to expand to 104 games from 64.

LaLiga has also objected to plans for a new international club tournament, which will join an expanded Club World Cup on the football calendar. The latter is due to take place every four years starting from 2025, but an as-yet-unnamed additional event is set to take place annually alongside it.

"Following the announcements made today at the 73rd FIFA Congress in Kigali, Rwanda, LaLiga states that FIFA continues its malpractice of making unilateral decisions on the world football calendar," read a statement.

"[FIFA is] showing complete disregard for the importance of national championships, and the football community in general. FIFA completely neglects the economic damage these decisions inflict on leagues around the world.

"Leagues were not consulted about any of the changes presented, especially about the new annual club competition, of which we were completely unaware, and which seriously affects our competitions.

"These decisions do not take into account the competitive, sporting and economic impact on national leagues, clubs and players, by further cramming an already overloaded schedule.

"LaLiga and other leagues represented in the World Leagues Forum will analyse FIFA's decisions and decide on the most appropriate next steps."

Under the three-team World Cup group structure, all nations would have played two games before the top pair from each group would have proceeded to a round-of-32.

Now however, the eight best-ranked third-place sides from 12 groups will also be included in the mix, with the revised format ensuring every side plays at least three games.

It also means those who reach the final will play eight games, including the showpiece match itself, one more than teams who reach the end of the tournament currently partake in.

Real Madrid have reportedly identified Napoli's Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham and Manchester City's Joao Cancelo as their three primary targets in a €300million plan.

The Spanish giants have been pursuing 19-year-old Bellingham for months, while 22-year-old Kvaratskhelia has emerged as one of world football's breakout prospects during his first Serie A season.

Cancelo's future with City is also up in the air after Pep Guardiola allowed him to be loaned to Bayern Munich, with the German club hesitant to make the move permanent.

They could be three of the biggest names to move in the upcoming transfer window, and Madrid are said to want to bring them all to LaLiga instead of resuming the chase for Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe.

TOP STORY – MADRID PLAN AMBITIOUS MOVE FOR WORLD-CLASS TRIO

According to Fichajes.net, Madrid will try to secure all three of their top targets for a combined fee in the range of €300m.

The report states they are comfortable with the asking price of Kvaratskhelia, which is said to be a minimum of €100m, while they expect Liverpool to rival them in a €150m chase for Bellingham.

Cancelo has a €70m (£61.5m) buy clause in his loan deal, which is said to be more palatable to Madrid than Bayern, as they view him as a long-term solution at right-back.

 

ROUND-UP

– Football Insider is reporting Manchester United remain keen on 26-year-old Inter defender Denzel Dumfries, and that the Italian club's financial situation could tempt them to accept a bid in the region of €50m (£44m).

– According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Inter and Milan are enamoured with 21-year-old Arsenal striker Folarin Balogun, who is among Ligue 1's top scorers this season during a loan stint with Reims.

Manchester United are concerned with the prospect of a drawn-out pursuit of Tottenham striker Harry Kane and will instead prioritise Napoli's Victor Osimhen or Juventus' Dusan Vlahovic, per ESPN.

– Journalist Ekrem Konur is reporting Atletico Madrid plan to offer Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino a two-year deal with an option for a third year.

– According to The Athletic, 31-year-old Neymar wants to finish his career at Paris Saint-Germain and has no interest in leaving.

England's top clubs are reportedly investigating what it would take to pry Joao Palhinha away from Fulham at the end of the season.

Palhinha, 27, is in his first Premier League campaign after arriving in a £17million move from Sporting CP in July, and he immediately forced his way into Marco Silva's first team.

All 24 of his league appearances this season have come as a starter, and his three goals for the surprisingly competent Cottagers match his best return for a league season.

But the area he shines is on the defensive side, tallying the most tackles of any midfielder in Europe's big five leagues this season, and he has been a driving force behind his side's rise from Championship winners to a top-half Premier League outfit.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL, MANCHESTER UNITED AND ARSENAL CIRCLE PALHINHA

According to The Sun, Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle United and Tottenham are all showing interest in Portugal international Joao Palhinha.

The report states that it is believed Palhinha's terrific debut season in England – as well as the four years remaining on his contract – has more than doubled his transfer value to over £40m.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail adds that Liverpool are considered "the most serious suitor", and estimates that his value could reach £60m.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Athletic is reporting Manchester City will be at the front of the queue to sign 26-year-old left-back Ben Chilwell if he is part of an expected mass exodus from Chelsea at the end of the season.

– According to journalist Nicolo Schira, Paris Saint-Germain have joined Chelsea and Manchester United as clubs keen on breakout 24-year-old striker Victor Osimhen at Napoli.

Inter are considered the favourites to land Borussia Monchengladbach striker Marcus Thuram when he leaves the club on a free transfer at the end of the season, per Calciomercato.

– Sport is reporting in-demand 18-year-old Athletico Paranaense forward Vitor Roque would favour a move to Barcelona after rejecting an approach from Arsenal.

– According to Marca, Real Madrid are stepping back from their long-term pursuit of Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe.

Xavi hopes to stay at Barcelona for "many years" but insists his main focus is on winning trophies, rather than extending his contract at Camp Nou.

The Blaugrana are on track for a treble this season. Nine points clear at the LaLiga summit, Xavi has already secured Supercopa de Espana glory, while Barca are also 1-0 to the good in their two-legged Copa del Rey semi-final tie with Real Madrid.

The former midfielder has one year remaining on his existing contract, although club president Joan Laporta revealed negotiations over a new deal were ongoing.

Xavi is hopeful those talks are successful and he can enjoy a lengthy reign at Barca, similar to that of Alex Ferguson, who won 13 Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues during his 27-year tenure with Manchester United.

But that is not the 43-year-old's primary objective.

Speaking at his press conference ahead of Barcelona's trip to Athletic Bilbao, he told reporters: "It's difficult to be Ferguson in Barcelona. I love to be here. I suffer many days, but I am thankful to the president.

"He's really happy. It's great to have his support. He is a loyal man and hopefully I will stay here many years. But it will depend on all our results. Now is not the moment to talk about my contract.

"Of course, we are talking about this situation. We've been talking about a contract extension, but we need to be calm and focus on winning trophies.

"I still have one more year. We are close to winning trophies, and that's the most important thing – not my contract, we need to win trophies."

Barca will be eager to maintain their momentum ahead of next week's blockbuster showdown with title rivals Real Madrid at Camp Nou, and Xavi has urged his players to retain their concentration levels.

"We are just focused on tomorrow's game to keep the advantage of nine points," he added. "With Real Madrid, that is crucial. Then, we will have the following week to focus on El Clasico.

"We need to keep this good advantage before the visit of Real Madrid, but [Athletic is] going to be a really tough game for sure.

"We are now in the most important part of the season. We need to play well, compete and win those games. These two weeks before the international break are crucial."

Xavi has compared Robert Lewandowski with former Barcelona legends Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi ahead of the striker's return from injury.

LaLiga's top scorer with 15 goals this season, Lewandowski has missed the Blaugrana's last two games after sustaining a hamstring strain.

But the Poland captain is back in the squad for the trip to Athletic Bilbao, where leaders Barca will be aiming to maintain their nine-point lead at the top of the table. 

"Robert has been training with the group since Thursday after some days off, and he's ready," head coach Xavi said during his pre-match press conference. "He's feeling well and always wants to play.

"We are really happy to have him here with us. I will compare him with people like Ronaldinho and Messi. He's changed the mentality of the team. He's our leader and all our players are growing with him.

"We won without him, but we missed him. We attack better with Lewandowski. He presses high up front; he's a crucial player for us."

Barca will be without the injured Pedri and Ousmane Dembele at San Mames, while Ronald Araujo misses out through suspension.

That could see Eric Garcia start in the heart of defence, with Xavi paying tribute to the Spain international.

"He's a great professional," he added. "He doesn't participate as much as he deserves. But he has competition at a big club like Barca.

"He is a player of present and future. I'm counting on him. He always plays well when he's on the field. He's an example in the locker room."

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