Is Robert Lewandowski's time at Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich coming to an end?

Lewandowski has called Bayern home since arriving from Borussia Dortmund in 2014.

However, the 33-year-old Poland international is reportedly ready for a new challenge.

 

TOP STORY – LEWANDOWSKI SET ON MADRID MOVE

Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski has ordered his agent to finalise a transfer to LaLiga giants Real Madrid, according to Diario AS.

Lewandowski has repeatedly excelled for Bayern, where he has broken numerous records, while he was unfortunate not to win the 2021 Ballon d'Or.

Previously linked with a move to the Premier League, Lewandowski appears to be set on a switch to Madrid, where his former team-mate David Alaba now calls home.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tuttosport claims Fiorentina want to sell Dusan Vlahovic abroad but the Serbia international is not interested in Arsenal as he eyes Juventus. Vlahovic has also been linked with Manchester City, Manchester United, Inter, Atletico Madrid, Tottenham and Bayern. It comes as Sky Sport Italia says Fiorentina are close to signing Lille forward Jonathan Ikone.

- Interim United manager Ralf Rangnick will try to convince Erling Haaland to leave Dortmund for Old Trafford, per Bild. Rangnick and Haaland worked together at Salzburg. Haaland is a player in demand amid interest from Madrid, Barcelona, Juve, Bayern, City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain. Since Rangnick's arrival, United have also been linked with RB Leipzig pair Christopher Nkunku and Amadou Haidara, as well as Chelsea forward Timo Werner.

- Record reports Dortmund are keen on Benfica and Uruguay attacker Darwin Nunez amid uncertainty over the future of Haaland.

- Premier League champions City have scouted Bologna and Sweden sensation Mattias Svanberg, according to Nicolo Schira.

Zinedine Zidane is not interested in the Manchester United job but he could replace the man who gets it. 

The hottest name in the mix at Old Trafford is Mauricio Pochettino. 

Paris Saint-Germain could have a replacement for him ready and waiting. 

 

TOP STORY – POCHETTINO, ZIDANE IN DELICATE DANCE

Manchester United's manager opening could set off a chain reaction, reports Marca. 

With Mauricio Pochettino perhaps interested in a way out at Paris Saint-Germain, he could head to Old Trafford. 

That would leave the PSG job to Zinedine Zidane, who has made it clear he is not interested in moving to Manchester. 

The Mirror reports United would have to pay PSG €10million (£8.4m) for Pochettino, but Marca says PSG's players believe Zidane's arrival at the Parc des Princes could be "imminent". 

 

 ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich are willing to make Pedri their most expensive signing ever if they can lure him from Barcelona despite his €1billion release clause, reports AS. 

- If Alexandre Lacazette leaves Arsenal for LaLiga, he would prefer Atletico Madrid over Barca, according to El Nacional. Milan and Marseille also reportedly are interested in the 30-year-old. 

- Renato Sanches could be headed for Milan after the season, reports Calciomercato, with Arsenal and Barca also linked to the Lille midfielder. 

- Villarreal are eyeing Fulham's Aleksandar Mitrovic for a January move, reports the Mirror. 

It appears Raheem Sterling's future is away from Manchester City.

Down the pecking order, Sterling has been linked with Barcelona.

City, however, are believed to want a player as part of any deal.

 

TOP STORY – STERLING OUT, TER STEGEN IN?

Manchester City are interested in a swap deal that could see Raheem Sterling move to Barcelona in exchange for Marc-Andre ter Stegen, according to El Nacional.

Barca are reportedly trying to bring Sterling to Camp Nou, with the England international struggling for regular game time at the Premier League champions.

Pep Guardiola had previously tried to bring Frenkie de Jong to Manchester but Barca were not keen, though the City manager is now interested in goalkeeper Ter Stegen – who has been linked with Bayern Munich in the past.

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid plan to extend Luka Modric's contract for one more season, reports Marca. The 36-year-old is out of contract at the end of the season. He has previously been linked with Milan and Inter.

- Diario AS claims Barcelona are eyeing a move for Spain and Chelsea star Cesar Azpilicueta. The 32-year-old is out of contract at season's end.

- Gazzetta dello Sport claims Milan are accelerating their efforts to sign Lille and Portugal star Renato Sanches. It comes amid uncertainty over soon-to-be free agent Franck Kessie, who is tipped to leave Milan following reported interest from the likes of Manchester UnitedBarcaParis Saint-GermainTottenham and Inter. Sanches has also been suggested as a target for Liverpool and Wolves.

- Calciomercato claims CityLiverpoolJuventus and Roma are targeting Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria.

- Serie A champions Inter are pushing to sign Eintracht Frankfurt's Filip Kostic, per Gazzetta dello sport. Inter tried to prise the winger from Eintracht at the start of the season.

Leonardo defended Lionel Messi, Neymar and Mauricio Pochettino, among others, as he said criticism of Paris Saint-Germain has been unfair this season, even if their performances have been below par.

PSG are 10 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 after beating defending champions Lille on Friday – a fact sporting director Leonardo was keen to reiterate – and also lead their Champions League group.

But Pochettino's side have not quite reached the standard expected of an outfit boasting three of the best players in the world in Messi, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

PSG had to come from behind to defeat Lille 2-1, scoring an 88th-minute winner through Angel Di Maria.

It was the fifth time in this calendar year PSG have conceded first but won in Ligue 1, tying a club record, while they have now earned eight points in the final five minutes of matches this season. No other team have collected more than three.

 

Those statistics speak to the fine margins PSG are dealing with, but Leonardo expected progress would be slow and steady after a busy off-season in which Messi arrived alongside Gianluigi Donnarumma, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos, Nuno Mendes and Georginio Wijnaldum.

"That we have things to improve is obvious," Leonardo said. "But it is normal given the context. There have been players who have reached the end of their preparation, there have been significant changes.

"We are not where we want to be, but the team works a lot. This is very important."

Leonardo feels there has been too much criticism of PSG, suggesting negative press was "starting to exceed the limits".

He added: "To say that the coach does not understand anything about football, that he was born yesterday, that the great players we took suck...

"There are people who want to make their names by talking about PSG, it's a personal promotion.

"We don't play the way we want, but we have 10 wins, a draw and a loss. We are 10 points ahead.

"We don't play the way we want, okay, but we are on a path, we never lack effort, we know how to reverse scenarios. It was the fourth win in the 90th minute.

"You can't talk about Messi, Mbappe, Neymar, [Marco] Verratti, the coach, Marquinhos like that. Ramos, too? We knew Ramos had a problem. You are playing the game of the Spanish press. We knew everything. We know what is going on."

Ramos is yet to play for PSG since joining from Real Madrid in July, while Messi and Neymar have underwhelmed this term.

Messi still waits on his first Ligue 1 goal, making him the player to have had the most shots in the competition without scoring this season (15, including four on target).

 

Meanwhile, Neymar is enduring his longest Ligue 1 drought, going five games without a goal. However, his brilliant assist for Di Maria on Friday was his third in that time.

"Messi has spent more time with the national team than here," Leonardo said. "Neymar is the same thing, and he played a great game [against Lille]. They were decisive with Di Maria.

"I am not worried about anything. People think we don't know anything about the players, that the players are all partying. This does not correspond to the truth; if players do things wrong, we talk to them.

"Neymar is unfairly criticised. He played a very big game. If he's a player who parties every day, he doesn't play a game like that, it's impossible."

On Pochettino, Leonardo added: "Pochettino, before arriving here, was a top-five [coach]; now, supposedly, he doesn't understand anything anymore.

"We have changed things. Opinions will be formed at the end. We are in a hurry at PSG, it's normal. With a team like that, we want to win this year, that's for sure.

"If we're going to succeed, I don't know. That we have all the means, I am convinced. We have a coach, we have a very large squad. Why would I be worried? We can be better. If we look at what we have, why would I be worried?"

Neymar has slammed critics of him following Paris Saint-Germain's hard-fought 2-1 win over French champions Lille in Ligue 1 on Friday.

The Brazilian had a disappointing first half in PSG's come-from-behind win, playing a key role in the second half including providing the assist for Angel Di Maria's 88th-minute winner.

Neymar has not scored for PSG since netting from the penalty spot in a 2-1 win over Olympique Lyon on September 20, his only club goal of the 2021-22 season, prompting some criticism.

"The critics are normal. I've been playing football for 15 years, I don't care," Neymar told Amazon after the game.

"The most important critic is me. I know what I'm doing on the field for my team.

"Out there they don't know what's going on, what we're doing. And I don't care, I'll continue."

The chemistry between Neymar alongside new signing Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe has been questioned this term for PSG.

The Parisiens are top of Ligue 1 by 10 points, having dropped points only twice in 12 games, but expectations were for a more dominant forward line with Messi's arrival.

Neymar has started six times for PSG since scoring against Lyon, providing three assists during that goalless run.

"It was a very difficult match," Neymar about the Lille win. "They're a good opposition. We fought to the end, we scored."

Lionel Messi was substituted at half-time against Lille as a precautionary measure and should be available for Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League clash with RB Leipzig, according to Mauricio Pochettino.

The Argentina international was a doubt heading into Friday's Ligue 1 meeting with Lille and lasted just 45 minutes before being replaced by Mauro Icardi with his side 1-0 down at the time through a Jonathan David strike.

PSG went on to win 2-1 at Parc des Princes thanks to second-half goals from Marquinhos and Angel Di Maria as they returned to winning ways and stretched their lead at the summit to 10 points on Lens, who have a game in hand.

Messi's departure on the back of another below-par display was undoubtedly the big talking point of the game, but Pochettino does not expect the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to spend any further time on the sidelines.

"We don't think he's injured. He saw the doctor as a precaution, in accordance with the medical staff," Pochettino said at his post-match news conference. "It is hoped that he will be available for the next match."

Messi has now had 15 shots without finding the net for PSG in Ligue 1 – the most of any player in the division – with his only three goals for the club in eight games since arriving from Barcelona coming in the Champions League.

 

It is the first time since October 2020 that he has gone five league games without scoring, and PSG coped in his absence on Friday as Di Maria set up Marquinhos for the leveller and then tucked in the winner himself two minutes from time.

The Parisiens have won eight points after the 85th minute in the French top flight this season – at least five more than any other side – and Pochettino put that down to the strong character of his side.

"I don't think it's any coincidence that the team responds this way to adversity," he said. "They showed a good state of mind today. We suffered but responded just as well. It's no coincidence we have won 10 out of 12 games."

PSG had lost their previous two matches to Lille, including a 1-0 loss in this corresponding fixture six months ago, with that the most recent occasion they have dropped points at home following their latest fightback.

The runaway leaders were far from their best once again, but Pochettino is pleased with what he saw from his side in an improved second-half display – notably when Messi was off the field.

"The feeling in the first half is that we didn't manage to have control," he said. "That on recoveries from Lille, they created danger too easily, that each attack ended with an opportunity. 

"In the second half we were much better. We managed to give this security to the team to engage more in attack, to play. There are always things that can be improved, but the important thing was to win."

PSG have now won 76 per cent of their Ligue 1 games in 2021 (25 out of 33), a success rate that is only bettered by Premier League champions Manchester City (79 per cent) from teams in Europe's top five leagues.

Angel Di Maria completed Paris Saint-Germain's 2-1 comeback win against Lille in a game that saw Lionel Messi substituted at half-time.

Messi was a fitness doubt ahead of Friday's match at the Parc des Princes after missing training on the eve of the contest, and he was taken off with PSG a goal behind, his Ligue 1 goal drought continuing.

Jonathan David's 31st-minute strike had reigning Ligue 1 champions Lille on course for a third successive win over the current pacesetters, but Marquinhos equalised 16 minutes from time and Di Maria fired in a late winner.

Mauricio Pochettino's PSG side have now won all eight home matches this season, scoring at least twice in each of those, and are 10 points clear at the top of Ligue 1 having played a game more than second-placed Lens.

Lionel Messi was replaced at half-time in Paris Saint-Germain's clash with Lille on Friday as the superstar forward's Ligue 1 goal drought continued.

The Argentina international was a big fitness doubt for the contest at Parc des Princes after sitting out training on Thursday with a muscle injury.

He was deemed fit enough to start but was not a decisive figure in the first half, failing to find the target from his two shots.

With Kylian Mbappe also absent due to illness, Mauricio Pochettino decided to replace Messi with Mauro Icardi at the interval as PSG trailed 1-0.

 

Messi remains without a Ligue 1 goal in five matches since joining the French giants from Barcelona on a free transfer in August.

His 15 shots is the most of any player yet to score in Ligue 1 this term.

The last time Messi went five league games in a row without scoring was October 2020 in LaLiga with Barcelona.

Kylian Mbappe has been ruled out of Paris Saint-Germain's Ligue 1 clash with Lille through illness, while Lionel Messi is doubtful due to a minor injury.

Ligue 1 leaders PSG welcome reigning champions Lille to the Parc des Princes on Friday aiming to return to winning ways after last week's goalless draw with rivals Marseille.

Mauricio Pochettino's side will do so without Mbappe, who played a full part in Le Classique but has since been struck down by an ear, nose and throat infection.

Mbappe was not the only superstar forward missing from training on Thursday, with Messi also absent due to what Pochettino described as "muscle discomfort".

PSG will make a late decision on Messi's fitness and Pochettino has suggested he may field the Argentina captain through the middle, should he be fit.

"Messi missed training as a precaution," Pochettino said at his pre-match news conference. "He did an individual session instead. We will see tomorrow if he can play.

"Kylian is of course important to us. As he is absent, there are several other possibilities over who plays through the middle.

"Messi can play there, but there are other alternatives. We'll have to see what the final decision is. As Pep Guardiola says, Messi can play anywhere."

 

Since arriving at PSG from Barcelona on a shock free transfer in August, Messi has played either on the right of a 4-3-3 or behind the striker in a 4-2-3-1.

Messi is still finding his feet in the French capital, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner having scored three goals in his first seven appearances in all competitions - each of those coming in the Champions League.

He is yet to score in Ligue 1, making this the first time he has failed to score in his first four league appearances of a league season since 2005-06 with Barcelona.

And with PSG failing to find the net in two of their last three league games, Pochettino was pressed on whether it is time to use Messi as the focal point of the attack.

"The tactical disposition of the team provides us with a base that can vary," he said. "We have a reference for offensive and defensive systems.

"Each player has, in principle, certain responsibilities depending on his position and that of others. Leo is a player who can play on the right, the centre or in the number 10.

"He is a player who can play anywhere. He is the best player in the world, who positions himself where the game demands it, according to the needs of the team."

PSG are also without the suspended Achraf Hakimi for the visit of Lille, while Marco Verratti will be absent for the next month and Sergio Ramos is still not ready for his debut.

However, Neymar is available after recovering from an abductor injury to play a part against Marseille.

Neymar has just one goal and two assists in eight games this season and Pochettino admits he is after more from the Brazil international.

"The circumstances are always different. The comparisons are not fair," he said when asked if Neymar is regressing from previous seasons. 

"For me, Neymar is a player with enormous talent, one of the best players in the world. 

"When we arrived at PSG, we tried to give him everything he needed. He needs to be at his best. I'm happy with him. For me, he's a player with enormous talent. 

"We always hope that he will continue to improve. But this is not enough, because we know that we must continue to do better."

Asked if it was possible Neymar could be benched, Pochettino said: "All the players can be on the bench, or on the field. There are 33 players who think they are playing. 

"If they are not playing, they are not happy. It is not only at PSG, but in the the whole football world. I couldn't give a clearer answer."

PSG have lost their last two games against 10th-place Lille in all competitions and could lose three in a row in this fixture for the first time since a run of four between March 1987 and September 1988.

Paris Saint-Germain have confirmed Sergio Ramos is expected to rejoin first-team training next week following an injury lay-off, but Marco Verratti will be out of action for roughly a month.

Ramos joined PSG on a free transfer from Real Madrid in pre-season, having spent 16 years at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The experienced centre-back was part of something of a squad revolution at the Parc des Princes, with Lionel Messi, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georginio Wijnaldum and Achraf Hakimi also moving to Paris.

But Ramos is yet to make his PSG debut after suffering a calf injury at the end of July, having also missed large chunks of 2020-21 due to fitness issues, including a previous calf problem.

PSG have been cautious about reintroducing Ramos to training, eager to avoid aggravating the injury, but it appears he is finally close to making his debut.

"Sergio Ramos' recovery programme, coordinated by the medical staff, is evolving as planned," read a medical update on PSG's website.

"He is expected to be able to begin training with the rest of the squad next week."

But Verratti is set for a spell on the sidelines with a hip injury, which the club believe could take a month to recover from.

As such, the Italy international will likely miss their next five matches across all competitions, potentially including PSG's two upcoming Champions League clashes with RB Leipzig and Manchester City.

"After suffering a knock in the last game, Marco Verratti has a deep lesion in the oblique muscles of his left hip. He is expected to be out for four weeks, depending on how the injury evolves," the update added.

PSG also revealed Kylian Mbappe is a doubt for Friday's visit of Lille due to illness – he is to be evaluated over the next couple of days.

French football authorities will demand answers from Lens after home fans invaded the pitch and confronted rival supporters at half-time in their Ligue 1 derby against Lille. 

Lens general manager Arnaud Pouille is certain the Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP) will begin disciplinary proceedings against his club, following the ugly scenes at their Stade Bollaert-Delelis home. 

Lille may also be summoned as league chiefs unpick the unsavoury scenes that saw fans from each club contribute to a volatile atmosphere. 

Tension spilled over at the interval as scores of Lens supporters raced across the pitch towards those who had travelled to support Lille. 

Pouille said the north-east derby trouble was bad news for the clubs because it would be "the image of the region that is affected". 

"I have a clear idea of what happened," he said, according to L'Equipe. "But I don't want to influence anyone by speaking out. It is not under our authority. 

"There were a few actions that ignited the powder and a reaction that is damaging. But in these cases, speaking out is complicated because whatever you say, you make it feel like you want to influence. 

"We condemn any act of violence. There are proceedings that are ongoing. At the level of the LFP, at the level of justice, there will be complaints filed by the club, and by the opposing club also from what I understood." 

Lille announced on Twitter at half-time that the game was under threat, stating: "Following a pitch invasion from the home end of the stadium, an emergency meeting is taking place to decide whether the match will be continued or abandoned." 

Pouille said he had spoken to Lille president Olivier Letang at half-time, as the trouble occurred. 

The recent abandonment of the match between Nice and Marseille due to supporter violence was followed by Nice receiving a two-point penalty, one of which was suspended. 

According to Pouille, the trouble at Saturday's match could not be compared to the mayhem in that fixture. 

"It is not at all the same circumstances," Pouille said. "No players in the [Lens-Lille] game were affected, the main events took place at half-time. 

"Yes, there will certainly be a summons from the disciplinary committee, we will discuss with them at that time." 

Lens went on to win 1-0 against last season's champions, who have made a rocky start to their title defence. 

Lille head coach Jocelyn Gourvennec said he had been unaware of the precise circumstances behind the trouble. The game was held up, with 40 minutes between the end of the first half and the beginning of the second. 

"Half-time incidents? We had already returned to the locker room. I don't really know what happened," Gourvennec said. "We were informed by the delegates and Mr Millot [referee Benoit Millot] who spoke to the coaches and captains. 

"It was just a bit long, it lengthened the half-time, we had to do a warm-up again, it was not ideal. I do not know more. I hope there were no injuries."

Pep Guardiola and Lionel Messi will go up against each other in the Champions League after Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain were drawn into the same group.

Messi and Guardiola enjoyed a close relationship during their time together at Barcelona, but for the first time they will meet with neither of them representing the Catalans.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi left Barca at the end of June when his contract expired, and while he was expected to sign on with them again, the Blaugrana's hands were tied due to financial restrictions.

As such, Messi was swiftly snapped up by PSG despite previous links with City and a potential Guardiola reunion.

Another narrative could yet enter the conversation with respect to City versus PSG, as Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo – Messi's long-time rival – has been strongly with a move to the Etihad Stadium.

If Ronaldo does not leave Juve, he will go up against the holders Chelsea – who beat City in last season's final – in Group H.

There will be a repeat of the 2020-21 Europa League final in Group F as Manchester United have been offered the opportunity for revenge against Villarreal, who defeated Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men in a remarkable penalty shoot-out in Belfast at the end of May.

Three of Spain's other representatives have tough groups to contend with: Barcelona were drawn with Bayern Munich, Benfica and Dynamo Kiev; Real Madrid will again face Inter and Shakhtar Donetsk as they did in 2020-21; and Atletico Madrid must go up against Liverpool, Porto and Milan.

Sevilla, on the other hand, are in the seemingly even Group G with Ligue 1 winners Lille, Salzburg and Wolfsburg, the latter of whom are back in the competition for only the third time.

First-time qualifiers Sheriff of Moldova joined Madrid, Inter and Shakhtar in Group D.

 

Group A: Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig, Club Brugge

Group B: Atletico Madrid, Liverpool, Porto, Milan

Group C: Sporting CP, Borussia Dortmund, Ajax, Besiktas

Group D: Inter, Real Madrid, Shakhtar Donetsk, Sheriff

Group E: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Benfica, Dynamo Kiev

Group F: Villarreal, Manchester United, Atalanta, Young Boys

Group G: Lille, Sevilla, Salzburg, Wolfsburg

Group H: Chelsea, Juventus, Zenit, Malmo

Nice must build on their 4-0 thrashing of Ligue 1 champions Lille, Christophe Galtier demanded after triumphing over his former club.

Galtier led Lille to the title last season, as Les Dogues edged out Paris Saint-Germain.

While PSG have added more remarkable talent to their already world class squad, with the arrivals of Sergio Ramos, Georginio Wijnaldum, Achraf Hakimi and Gianluigi Donnarumma topped off by the signing of Lionel Messi, Lille have had to contend with the loss of their coach, who left the club to join Nice in the off-season.

Galtier and Lille hardly parted on good terms internally, despite the 54-year-old delivering the club's first title in a decade.

There have also been rumblings of discontent at Nice, with tensions reportedly appearing between Galtier and sporting director Julien Fournier as they aim to bolster the squad.

A disappointing 0-0 home draw to Reims started Galtier's tenure, but Nice put that well behind them with a thrilling showing against the champions on Saturday.

Kasper Dolberg got the ball rolling inside 57 seconds after Amine Gouiri had caused havoc in the Lille defence – that was the earliest Ligue 1 goal scored by the club since April 2013 (32 seconds).

Gouiri then teed up Hichem Boudaoui for a fierce effort four minutes later to make it 2-0. The former ensured Nice were 3-0 up at the break for the first time since October 2014 as he converted a penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Dolberg completed the scoring just past the hour, with Gouiri denied a second of his own soon after due to offside.

It was the first time since September 2017 that Lille had conceded four goals in a single home league match and Galtier basked in the achievement.

"It's a great victory," he told Nice's official website.

"We knew that we were going to face a side that has been in place for a certain period of time and that our first match against Reims wasn't good enough.

"Against Reims, we were missing a lot of things. The players did well [against Lille]. It's their victory because they have come a long way."

Asked what it meant to defeat his old side in such an emphatic manner, Galtier explained: "I haven't had the time to reflect on that yet. It's always good to keep your feet firmly on the ground and to remain vigilant after this kind of victory, which seems easy when you look at the score.

"But it's a victory that required a lot of commitment and energy. We can't ease our feet off the pedals throughout the week or allow what we are demanding in training to drop off."

The defeat means Lille are still waiting for their first win of the season. It is the third time they have failed to triumph in either of their opening two matches of a campaign in which they have been defending champions.

Everyone wants Lionel Messi but few have the resources to sign him.

Paris Saint-Germain appear to be strong favourites to land the Argentina international.

A deal could happen in the coming days.

 

TOP STORY - PSG CLOSE IN ON MESSI

PSG believe they are close to a deal to land Lionel Messi.

ESPN reports PSG have been in contact with Messi's father and agent Jorge "for some time" and are set to offer a three-year contract. 

Sky Sport Italia says the deal is more likely to be for two years with an option to extend it to a third. 

The ESPN report said adding Messi would make it more likely Kylian Mbappe would stay with the club rather than leave when he is out of contract next year, though it would end PSG's pursuit of Paul Pogba, partly due to FFP concerns.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea are set to pay about £95million for Romelu Lukaku as Inter prefer a cash-only deal, the Daily Mail reports. Calciomercato says the Blues offered Davide Zappacosta and Marcos Alonso in a swap deal but the Nerazzurri were not interested. 

- Inter are looking within Serie A to replace their outgoing striker, Sky Italia says, with Atalanta's Duvan Zapata and Roma's Edin Dzeko their preferred options.

- Barcelona are trying to come to an agreement with Lille on midfielder Renato Sanches, Le10 Sport reports. 

- Rafa Mir is set for a move from Wolves to Atletico Madrid, with Fabrizio Romano reporting personal terms have been agreed. 

- West Ham have offered €14m (£12m) to Marseille for Duje Caleta-Car, L'Equipe reports, saying the Ligue 1 side are holding out for €20m (£17m).

The new Ligue 1 season is on the horizon and Paris Saint-Germain are clear title favourites. They may have lost the championship race last term, but some things never change.

If Lille's triumph was unexpected in 2020-21, another upset in the coming campaign would be on another level entirely.

While PSG have continued to spend, many of their rivals are feeling the effects of a tough financial market struggling to recover from the collapse of a mammoth television deal late last year.

Is silverware inevitable then for Mauricio Pochettino's men? Stats Perform takes a look at the state of play in France...

THE RICH GET RICHER

Few teams in Europe have recruited as impressively as PSG ahead of the new season, but many of the changes might not be immediately evident in Ligue 1.

Take Sergio Ramos, for example. PSG may have lost their domestic crown last term, but their repeated failures in the Champions League are of primary concern. Ramos should help to fix that.

Few players can match the centre-back's European pedigree. Following Cristiano Ronaldo's departure in 2018, Real Madrid won 10 of the 15 Champions League games Ramos featured in and only four of the 13 he missed.

It is likely he will be the man for the big occasion again in Paris. Now 35 and having played only 15 games in LaLiga last season due to injury, that might mean limited Ligue 1 outings.

Likewise, Gianluigi Donnarumma's role is not entirely clear. He was the standout player at Euro 2020 but must now compete with Keylor Navas, who prevented 8.1 Ligue 1 goals last season according to Opta's expected goals on target (xGOT) data – the third-best mark in Europe's top five leagues.

 

Georginio Wijnaldum is a solid addition but unlikely to move the needle, although Achraf Hakimi should give PSG a new dimension. The wing-back has been involved in 30 goals (12 goals, 18 assists) since the start of the 2019-20 campaign, trailing only Robin Gosens (34) among defenders in the top leagues.

However, if Mauricio Pochettino prioritises the Champions League, Moise Kean – 13 goals in 26 league games last season but now back at Everton – might be a miss.

LILLE A LEADING CONTENDER

It was anticipated Lille's key men would be picked off following their title win and that did happen to an extent. Mike Maignan left for Milan, replacing Donnarumma, and Boubakary Soumare for Leicester City. Coach Christophe Galtier is now at Nice.

But Lille have retained their strike force in Burak Yilmaz and Jonathan David along with centre-back pairing Jose Fonte and Sven Botman – two old-and-young combinations.

Fonte and Botman were particularly impressive last term, leading a defence that conceded a league-low 23 goals. They both started last week's Trophee des Champions triumph over PSG, the third time since the start of last season the capital club have failed to net against Lille.

They were not the only club to end 2020-21 with momentum, though. Monaco collected a league-high 51 points from their 21 games in 2021, while only Lille (11) have conceded fewer than their 17 this year.

Stretching that form out across an entire campaign to put PSG under pressure is no simple task, but Monaco have Ligue 1's form man in Aleksandr Golovin.

With five goals and eight assists in 969 minutes in 2021, Golovin is averaging a goal involvement every 75 minutes in Ligue 1 – the best rate among players with 200 minutes or more.

 

MAKING MOVES

Money may be in short supply throughout the division, but PSG are not quite alone in spending ahead of the new season. Rennes and Nice are looking to climb back into the top-four picture.

Rennes finished sixth last term after ex-Lyon man Bruno Genesio arrived with 11 games of the season remaining, finding the side winless in eight and stuck in mid-table.

A record-breaking run lifted Rennes into a European place. No coach in their history can match Genesio's points-per-game average (1.8) or win rate (54.6 per cent).

His reward was significant expenditure on centre-back Loic Bade, joining the third-best defence in the league (40 goals conceded), and forward Kamaldeen Sulemana.

Meanwhile, Nice will hope their own coaching change has a similar impact. Galtier has also been backed, with Jean-Clair Todibo and Calvin Stengs among his recruits.

Perhaps creator Stengs can get Kasper Dolberg firing again after a disappointing six-goal season.

No player in the Eredivisie last term underperformed their expected goals (xG) tally by as wide a margin as Stengs (9.3 xG, five assists), who will hope to find more clinical team-mates in France.

 

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.