Cristiano Ronaldo faces an uncertain Manchester United future, but he stands to pass a string of landmarks if he stays and plays for Erik ten Hag this season.

Tottenham's Harry Kane, set to captain England at the World Cup later in the year, is chasing a significant club landmark.

And guess who will join Mohamed Salah in bidding to set an opening-day career goals record.

Of course, it's......  Jamie Vardy.

As the new season gets under way on Friday, Stats Perform looks at the records and milestones coming into view.

KANE, RONALDO, HAALAND: TARGETS IN THE CROSSHAIRS OF THE BIG GUNS

What role Ronaldo has to play remains in the balance, given he appears keen to leave United for a second time.

But if the 37-year-old features for the Red Devils, he can begin to chase down landmarks. For starters, he is just four victories short of having had a hand in 150 United wins in the Premier League, having drawn 43 times and lost 37 while a member of the team across his two Old Trafford spells.

Ronaldo is a mere six goals away from becoming the first player to amass 500 goals in Europe's top five leagues. His record 494 goals to date have come from 616 league matches. On his heels, however, is perennial rival Lionel Messi, once of Barcelona and now at Paris Saint-Germain (480 goals in 546 league games).

Kane is 17 away from hitting the 200-goal mark in the Premier League, a total only ever achieved by Alan Shearer (260) and Wayne Rooney (208). Sergio Aguero (184) and Andy Cole (187), third and fourth on the Premier League era list, are poised to be knocked down a peg as Kane continues his assault on the league record.

Both Leicester City's Vardy and Liverpool's Salah will be looking to equal or break the Premier League matchday one goals record, which is currently held jointly by Shearer, Frank Lampard and Rooney (eight goals). Vardy and Salah have seven each, like the retired Teddy Sheringham and Aguero.

Manchester City new boy Erling Haaland has caused a sensation with his goalscoring wherever he has played, dazzling for Molde, Salzburg, Borussia Dortmund and Norway. He could become the seventh Norwegian to score on his Premier League debut, and the third to do so in the opening game of a season, after Tore Andre Flo for Chelsea in 1997-98 and Adama Diomande in 2016-17 with Hull City.

DESERVES A LONG SERVICE MEDAL

Liverpool's James Milner, fresh from signing a new one-year contract, is 12 short of reaching 600 Premier League games. Only three players have reached that mark to date: Gareth Barry (653), Ryan Giggs (632) and Lampard (609).

Milner made his Premier League debut for Leeds United as a 16-year-old in November 2002, so a 20-year anniversary is approaching for the former England midfielder.

David Moyes was already a Premier League manager by the time Milner made his first appearance. At Everton then, he has done the rounds since and is a mere two games away from completing 1,000 matches in all competitions as a manager in English football.

Now at West Ham, Moyes looks to be at the opposite end of his touchline career to Mikel Arteta, the Arsenal manager who is one away from bringing up his first 50 wins as a Premier League boss.

STICK AROUND LONG ENOUGH...

Only six teams have been constant members of the Premier League since its first year in 1992-93. Completing the first 30 seasons without suffering the indignity of relegation have been Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, Everton and Arsenal. Sooner or later, all sorts of landmarks arrive for these league lynchpins.

Arsenal have lost 249 Premier League games and headed into Friday night's season opener against Crystal Palace under threat of becoming the 13th side to lose 250. They would have had the longest wait to lose 250, however, having already played four games more than Chelsea, who took the longest (1,148 games) of those to have reached the not-so-desirable milestone.

Tottenham, another of those stalwart sides, are just five away from becoming the fifth team to score 1,000 goals at home in the competition (Manchester United 1,214, Liverpool 1,156, Arsenal 1,154, Chelsea 1,121).

Chelsea are 27 shy of 2,000 goals, home or away, having plundered 1,973 in their 1,152 games to date.

Aston Villa and Newcastle United are both 12 short of losing 400 Premier League games. Only West Ham (408) and Everton (414) have lost more games than those sides, who will hope to avoid spilling over that barrier this season.

West Ham are four away from reaching 1,000 Premier League games, while promoted Nottingham Forest are two away from 200.

MAKING UP THE NUMBERS

Liverpool left-back Andy Robertson needs one assist to become only the second defender to register 50 Premier League assists, after Leighton Baines (Wigan, Everton). Robertson has 49, with Baines managing 53 across his career.

Aston Villa veteran Ashley Young and Tottenham new arrival Richarlison are two shy of reaching 50 Premier League goals, while Newcastle's former Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope is four away from 50 clean sheets in the competition.

Brighton and Hove Albion are two away from 50 wins, with Aston Villa four short of 300 draws, a tally that only Everton (320) have reached.

Southampton need four victories to reach 100 away wins, and Aston Villa want four three-pointers on the road to reach their 150 wins. Leicester, on the other hand, are four away from 150 Premier League away defeats. Brendan Rodgers will hope to fend off that landmark until well into the new campaign.

The Premier League is approaching a landmark age: on August 15, the competition will be 30 years old, with that date ultimately ushering in a golden era for English football.

Although we may be 10 days away from that particular milestone, Friday sees the latest edition of the Premier League kick off with Crystal Palace and Arsenal contesting the opening game of the 2022-23 campaign at Selhurst Park.

As such, it only seems right to jump the gun a little and look back on the first 30 years of what many believe has become the greatest league in world football.

So, buckle up as Stats Perform takes you on a trip down memory lane…

Managing expectations

This is classic 'pub quiz' territory: which manager has presided over the most Premier League games?

You know it's either Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger, don't you? You probably end up going for the Manchester United icon because of his sheer longevity.

Alas, you'd be wrong.

Wenger took charge of 18 more Premier League games (828) than 'Fergie' before he brought his long Arsenal career to a close.

Nevertheless, Ferguson's 13 titles look unlikely to ever be matched. His closest rival in that respect is Pep Guardiola (four), with Wenger joined on three by Jose Mourinho.

Play on, player

Over the first 30 seasons of the Premier League, 4,488 players have appeared in the competition at an average of 149.6 debutants per campaign.

If we ignore the inaugural season for obvious reasons, the campaign with the most debutants was 2015-16 when 162 players made their Premier League bows.

Of the nearly 4,500 individuals to feature in the competition, Gareth Barry sits clear with the most appearances (653), the last of which came during the 2017-18 season with West Brom.

It's a record that will take some beating, but if anyone's got a chance of toppling him, it's his former Manchester City team-mate James Milner.

The 36-year-old, now of Liverpool, is fourth on the all-time list with 588 outings.

Forever young

Everyone loves a 'wonderkid'. The Premier League has seen more than its fair share over the years, and some got started very, very young.

Mark Platts was the first 16-year-old to ever play in the Premier League when he made his Sheffield Wednesday debut in February 1996.

When Matthew Briggs came along 11 years later and featured for Fulham at 16 years and 68 days old, you'd have been forgiven for thinking his record would stand the test of time.

It lasted 12 years until another Fulham player shaved 38 days off Briggs' record – that player was Harvey Elliott. Now at Liverpool, the young midfielder looks set for a glittering career.

The name of the game

Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry, Cristiano Ronaldo, Mohamed Salah, Wayne Rooney – when you think of Premier League goalscorers, these are probably the names that immediately spring to mind.

Well, you're wrong. You should be thinking about Andrew Johnson, Glen Johnson, Tommy Johnson, Bradley Johnson, Roger Johnson et al.

Why? Because there are more players with the surname Johnson to have scored in the Premier League than any other surname.

There have been 21 of them to be exact, two more than the Williams clan.

Synonymous.

Get to the points

It's been a frustrating few (nine?) years for Man United fans, but don't worry, folks, if you just look at the big (massive) picture, it'll definitely all feel much better.

United still sit top of the overall Premier League table with 2,366 points, giving them a healthy 225-point cushion over second-placed Arsenal.

Manchester City may have won four of the past five league titles, a feat only United had achieved before them in the Premier League, but the real story is that they're way back on 1,629 Premier League points.

Yo-yo with the flow

To be fair, almost every single one of you knows what's coming here.

You guessed it, Norwich City's relegation from the last season makes them the yo-yoingest (yes, we've just made that up) club in Premier League history.

That was their sixth relegation to go with their five promotions to the top flight since 1992, taking them one clear of West Brom, who have the same number of ascensions but only five demotions to their name.

I love goals, goals, goals, goals

Of course, Shearer remains the Premier's League all-time leading scorer with 260, 52 more than Wayne Rooney in second.

But Harry Kane looks to be in with a chance of usurping both England greats – in fact, another solid season could take him beyond 200 as he begins the 2022-23 campaign on 183.

Kane also appears among the very best goalscoring combinations in the competition's history as he and Son Heung-min have linked up for 41 goals – that's five more than Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard as the next-best.

As for high-scoring matches, there have been three Premier League games that have finished with a nine-goal margin – two were achieved by Man United (9-0 v Southampton in February 2021, and v Ipswich Town in March 1995) and Leicester City managed it in October 2019, also crushing Saints 9-0.

Do call it a comeback

Your team's trailing 2-0, you're despondent and bereft of hope. But then, out of nowhere, you've got a goal back. Then the equaliser. And then, just when you'd convinced yourself "this draw feels like a win", a third goes in, and it's pandemonium.

There are few more satisfying situations in football than when you team produces such a turnaround – the despair you were feeling earlier only makes your full-time jubilation that bit more intense.

The biggest such turnarounds that led to wins all involved teams coming back from three goals down. Leeds United, Wimbledon and Wolves have all managed it in 4-3 victories, while Man United beat Spurs 5-3 from 3-0 down.

No team have done so since Wolves in October 2003, although Newcastle United certainly deserve a special mention – they are the only team to find themselves 4-0 down and avoid defeat. Their 4-4 draw with Arsenal in February 2011 remains a Premier League classic.

Stop the clock!

Here's another for the pub quiz enthusiasts: who scored the quickest goal in Premier League history?

Netting just 7.69 seconds into an April 2019 game between Southampton and Watford, Shane Long opened the scoring to break a 19-year record that had been set by Spurs defender Ledley King.

To put that into context, it'd take you longer to read that sentence. It was also quicker than Usain Bolt's world-record time in the 100 metres (9.58 seconds).

The latest goal ever is maybe a less notable record, but it nonetheless belongs to Bruno Fernandes, who in September 2020 scored a penalty after 99 minutes and 45 seconds to seal United a dramatic 3-2 win over Brighton and Hove Albion – yes, that's the game when the Seagulls hit the woodwork a record five times.

As for the quickest hat-trick, that was scored by Sadio Mane for Southampton against Aston Villa in May 2015, with his first and third goals separated by just two minutes and 56 seconds.

The Premier League is back, with another fascinating season in store.

The 2021-22 title race went right to the wire, with Manchester City pipping Liverpool at the last, while the picture at the bottom was similarly dramatic as Leeds United survived.

The dominant top two have strengthened – including City pinching Leeds talisman Kalvin Phillips – and the league again looks so tough to call at both ends of the table.

Thankfully, Stats Perform AI is able to do that. It has predicted the outcome of the coming campaign, estimating the likelihood of teams finishing in each position informed by their expected results in each match.

These are calculated using betting odds and Stats Perform's team rankings – based on historical and recent team performances – and it has thrown up some interesting results, with some surprises at the summit.

LIVERPOOL SET TO LEAPFROG CITY

There was only a point between champions City and runners-up Liverpool last season, and Stats Perform AI expects the coming campaign to be similarly close.

But the Reds are the favourites for the title, with a 49.72 per cent chance of being crowned champions to City's 47.03 per cent.

Such is the gulf between the top two and the rest that Tottenham, backed as their nearest challengers, have only a 1.81 per shot at ending their 62-year wait under former Premier League winner Antonio Conte.

Chelsea, the club with whom Conte claimed the title, are given a 1.1 per cent hope.

Only seven teams are given any chance at all of celebrating come May – the fewest across all of Europe's top five leagues – with Manchester United (0.18 per cent) and Arsenal (0.13 per cent) joined by a resurgent Newcastle United (0.03 per cent).

Last champions in 1927, Newcastle are closing on a century-long drought, so even with their big spending, a one in 3,000 shot sounds about right.

UNITED AND ARSENAL FALL SHORT

Stats Perform AI does not only fancy Spurs and Chelsea as the top two's nearest contenders but also as their fellow Champions League qualifiers.

City (99.33 per cent) and Liverpool (99.28 per cent) are shoo-ins for top-four finishes, and Tottenham (70.07 per cent) and Chelsea (62.46 per cent) are also in strong positions to repeat last season's leading quartet.

That would mean Manchester United (25.56 per cent) and Arsenal (22.0 per cent) missing out once more, with Newcastle (5.03 per cent) again next.

However, despite West Ham being given no hope of a title tilt and longer odds of Champions League qualification, they are ranked to repeat their seventh-placed finish ahead of Newcastle.

Every team in the division at least has the opportunity to dream of a top-four finish, even if Bournemouth (0.07 per cent) might instead be better off preparing for the reality of a relegation scrap.

TALL ORDER FOR PROMOTED TRIO

Bournemouth are not the only promoted team set to find life tough. In fact, Stats Perform AI predicts all three will go straight back down.

This has only happened once previously in Premier League history – in 1997-98 – but the prediction model considers the trio clear favourites to be relegated.

Bournemouth (45.03 per cent) have scarcely improved their squad, while Nottingham Forest have done the opposite and invested heavily (44.47 per cent); neither approach is expected to succeed, nor are Fulham (43.83 per cent), promoted as champions.

It may not be as clear-cut as this suggests, however, with Southampton (34.23 per cent), Brentford (31.85) and Leeds (31.24) also forecast to endure testing seasons.

Everton (15.06 per cent), like Brentford and Leeds, have lost key players, but the data is backing the Toffees to improve on last year's dismal campaign.

It is just over two months since the 2021-22 season ended in drama, with Manchester City clinching the title thanks to a stunning comeback win over Aston Villa.

That dashed Liverpool's hopes of an unprecedented quadruple, as Jurgen Klopp's side – who would go on to lose in the Champions League final six days later – settled for second.

The same top two could battle for the title again this season, and despite both Klopp and Pep Guardiola emphasising the strength of other sides in the league, some would say it is hard to see anybody being able to match their consistency, though Liverpool do have to learn without Sadio Mane, while City might need to get used to Erling Haaland.

Liverpool gained some small form of revenge by beating City 3-1 in the Community Shield on Saturday, with Haaland struggling, so it's 1-0 in the rivalry stakes in favour of Klopp heading into the campaign, though the Reds manager knows that does not mean much.

There will be stiff competition for places in the top four and, of course, the Champions League.

Chelsea have brought in Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly, but Thomas Tuchel and new owner Todd Boehly want more star signings, while Arsenal and their north London rivals Tottenham have been busy bolstering their squads.

Erik ten Hag is in place at Manchester United, but uncertainty surrounds the future of Cristiano Ronaldo, and the Red Devils have so far been frustrated in their attempts to sign Frenkie de Jong from Barcelona.

Here, three Stats Perform writers share their thoughts on who will feature in the Premier League's top four come the end of the campaign.

Patric Ridge 

1. Manchester City

City were not at their best in the Community Shield, though Guardiola was keen to stress that his side have only been back together for three weeks, and they did seem rather undercooked. Haaland's competitive debut was one to forget as, as well as being outshone by Liverpool new boy Darwin Nunez, he hit the bar from six yards out. It might take time, but Haaland – who will have a timely break during the World Cup as Norway did not qualify – is too good not to thrive in this City team, even one that has sold three first-team regulars. They had just too much for Liverpool last season, and with Mane gone, expect the same outcome this term.

2. Liverpool 

If 2020-21 was an off-year for Liverpool, then last season was a glorious return to form. They fell just short in the league and in Europe, but won both the FA Cup and EFL Cup. Mane's departure to Bayern Munich was something of a blow, but the Reds already had Nunez through the door, fresh from his stunning, 34-goal campaign with Benfica, while there is little to separate Mohamed Salah and Kevin De Bruyne as the league's best players. Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz add another dimension to a world-class attack. Finish above this team, and you are champions.

3. Chelsea

It has been something of a frustrating transfer window so far for Chelsea. Sterling and Koulibaly have arrived, but that has not necessarily strengthened the squad, with club-record signing Romelu Lukaku having re-joined Inter on loan and defenders Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen having left for Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively. Tuchel wants more, and Boehly is attempting to deliver, with Marc Cucurella a rumoured target, while another centre-back is said to be on the list too. Chelsea's business might well drag on, but they should have enough to edge out Arsenal, Spurs and United to third.

4. Arsenal

It is easy to forget, given the nature of their capitulation, that Arsenal were in the box-seat to secure a Champions League place until the final week of last season, and Mikel Arteta's side have made swift moves. It is hoped Gabriel Jesus will be the poacher Arsenal have lacked and Oleksandr Zinchenko is a fine addition. Fabio Vieira is a promising understudy to the excellent Martin Odegaard, who will be supported by Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli or Emile Smith Rowe. Spurs have strengthened, but with Antonio Conte's tendency to boil over if things do not go to plan, and the likelihood their players will be relied on heavily by their national teams at the World Cup, this could be Arsenal's year.

 

Ben Spratt

1. Manchester City

City were the best team in the Premier League before they made perhaps the signing of the close-season, so why would they not still be the side to beat? Of course, the departure of Sterling could have a big impact, given his knack for vital goals, but Jack Grealish will have a bigger role and has already linked up with Haaland in pre-season. Julian Alvarez adds more depth to that attack, while Kalvin Phillips does likewise in midfield. It is tough to spot a weakness.

2. Liverpool

It would be tough to justify Liverpool finishing second, not first, were their rivals not so outstanding. The Reds are right there with them, but they have not shown quite the same consistency as City over previous seasons, and it is asking a lot for Nunez to arrive from Portugal – where he enjoyed only one truly prolific season – and immediately replicate the performance levels of Mane.

3. Tottenham

Spurs have plenty going for them, and there have been some suggestions they could even trouble the top two. When we come to write our lists of winners and losers of the transfer window, Tottenham will belong firmly in the former group, and those exciting new charges – Ivan Perisic, Yves Bissouma, Richarlison and Djed Spence arguably all improve the first XI – are being guided by a proven winner in Conte. But the gap to City and Liverpool was huge; third place would still be a great achievement.

4. Chelsea

Tottenham may not quite belong to that elite tier, but they might also argue there is another gulf between third and fourth. Neither Chelsea, Arsenal nor United could really be surprised if they fell short of Champions League football. Like Spurs, Arsenal have enjoyed a successful transfer window, but it is difficult to have faith in a team who collapsed so spectacularly last season. For all their own frustrations in the market, I'm backing Chelsea to find a way.

 

John Skilbeck

1. Manchester City

City and Liverpool finished with over 90 points each last season, and the previous time that happened, in 2018-19, it was followed by a dramatic drop-off from Guardiola's reigning champions. The dethroned Manchester giants finished 18 points adrift as Liverpool captured the 2019-20 Premier League title. Yet I fancy City to take the new season's trophy, and probably by a similarly wide margin. Haaland might need a little time to adapt; after all, his former Borussia Dortmund team-mate Jadon Sancho has not found it a cakewalk to transfer his Bundesliga form across to Manchester United. But judge Haaland not by one stinking Community Shield miss but by his excellence over the last three years. City will have to reconfigure to accommodate a pure number nine, swapping Sterling for St Erling, but don't expect their winning habit to alter one jot.

2. Chelsea

The post-Abramovich era is here, and Todd Boehly is pulling the strings when it comes to transfers now. Newcomers Sterling and Koulibaly are proven performers, and while the loss of Rudiger is a blow, offloading Lukaku made complete sense. Better to take firm and decisive action than allow any unhappiness to fester and potentially spread. Chelsea had a troubling amount of injuries last season, with Ben Chilwell particularly missed, and in March coach Thomas Tuchel spoke of a "physical overload". If they are in a better place this term, expect them to fly. Tuchel's squad is loaded with first-class talent, more could soon arrive, and they look well set to pip Liverpool to second.

3. Liverpool

The loss of Mane is massive. Among the 24 players from Europe's top five leagues who managed at least 30 games and 20 goals last season, taking all competitions into account, Mane ranked sixth for the most dribbles attempted (128), eighth for the most chances created (66), third for the most through balls attempted (17) and second for the most passes into the final third (137). You can try to replace that all-round package, but Nunez is far from like-for-like and Roberto Firmino appears to be a rapidly fading force. Liverpool have kept Mohamed Salah for the foreseeable future but will need the likes of Diogo Jota and Luis Diaz to step up, while midfield may have to cough up more goals than in recent seasons. Klopp's Liverpool went the distance in every competition last season, and at some point that effort is going to take a toll.

4. Manchester United

With a reasonably clean slate, wiped of the likes of Paul Pogba, Edinson Cavani and Jesse Lingard, there should be optimism coursing through United now the estimable Ten Hag is at the helm. Christian Eriksen ought to prove a fine signing, and Lisandro Martinez and Tyrell Malacia can hardly make the defence any worse. In fact, they should significantly pep it up. Will Ronaldo stay? Now there's a knotty saga that could run until deadline day, but would it be such a bad thing if he were to leave? Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Sancho are at the stage where they ought to be giving Premier League defenders regular nightmares, and this might be the campaign where that happens.

The 2022-23 season is right around the corner, with plenty to keep an eye on across Europe.

Title battles in England, Spain and Italy could be too close to call, while France and Germany will see rivals trying to knock Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich off their respective perches – while there is even more set to occur in the fight for European qualification and to avoid the drop.

Central to these battles will be the players, both new signings and established members of the old guard, and here are 10 to watch in the year ahead.

 

Ousmane Dembele – Barcelona

Previously considered to be one of the biggest pieces of evidence on Barcelona's transfer failings in recent years, Dembele turned a corner in the second half of last season to finish the campaign as one of Xavi's most important players.

Dembele finished with 13 assists in LaLiga last term, the most in the competition, 11 of which came in the final 15 games of the season – with the tally being more in that run from February than he accumulated across all competitions combined in the previous two seasons.

Handed a fresh new contract, all eyes will be on Dembele to see whether he is back to his best or whether the former Borussia Dortmund winger, who now has Raphinha for competition, merely had a purple patch.

 

Matthijs de Ligt – Bayern Munich

It has now been three years since De Ligt shone with the Ajax side that reached the Champions League semi-finals, where his performances made him one of the most coveted players in world football.

Stability was never quite found at Juventus, however, with shoulder injuries hampering his progress and the defender himself admitting the style was a "bit different" in Turin to what he experienced with Ajax.

Now at Bayern, De Ligt will look to return to the heights he was once at and is expected to form an exciting partnership with Dayot Upamecano.

Rafael Leao – Milan

In Milan's title-winning campaign last term, Leao was the team's joint-leading scorer in Serie A with 11 goals, alongside Olivier Giroud, but that was way off the pace in the overall charts as 15 players found the net more times.

Milan's total tally for goals in 2021-22 was 69, less than three of their rivals in the top five, and pressure is on Stefano Pioli's side to improve that return – with the signing of Divock Origi showing the desire to improve their return in the final third, with rivals Inter having strengthened by bringing Romelu Lukaku back to San Siro on loan.

It may all fall upon Leao, however, with the 23-year-old needing to show consistency in order to prove a significant venture into the market next year to replace veterans Giroud and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not required.

 

Djed Spence – Tottenham

Middlesbrough will likely wonder what might had been if they retained Spence's services, having loaned him to Championship rivals Nottingham Forest and seeing him play a key part in their promotion back to the big time.

From September, the only two games Spence missed during Forest's league campaign were the two clashes with his parent club and his displays, including those in the FA Cup against the likes of Arsenal, made him hot property.

Spurs ultimately signed the England U21 international, who could be a contender to break into Gareth Southgate's World Cup squad if he quickly finds his feet in north London. He is a right-back, after all...

Darwin Nunez – Liverpool

Liverpool's prowess in the transfer market is facing its biggest test under Jurgen Klopp, who is looking to rejuvenate what has been a brilliant attacking trio with Sadio Mane moving on and Roberto Firmino's future uncertain.

Having signed Luis Diaz in January, the Reds raided a Portuguese giant again – this time Benfica – for Nunez.

Nunez scored six Champions League goals in the 2021-22 season and plundered a further 26 in the league, averaging a goal every 76 minutes. Nunez certainly has the capability to fill Klopp's Mane-shaped void, even if his style is slightly different to the Senegal attacker.

 

Matteo Guendouzi – Marseille

Swiftly breaking onto the scene at Arsenal but just as quickly earning himself a bad-boy reputation, Guendouzi flourished in his loan spell with Marseille last season and has now made the switch permanent.

The France international featured in every game for Marseille in the 2021-22 season, starting in 35 of his 38 Ligue 1 appearances, and forced his way back into contention to make Didier Deschamps' squad on a regular basis ahead of Les Bleus' World Cup defence in Qatar.

Guendouzi's growing maturity saw him captain Marseille in a 2-0 defeat against Lille last season and the forthcoming campaign may continue his redemption arc.

Adam Hlozek – Bayer Leverkusen

A name that will be familiar to Football Manager enthusiasts, Hlozek has earned his big move to one of Europe's top leagues after leaving Sparta Prague in his homeland for Bayer Leverkusen and the challenges of the Bundesliga.

Capable of playing across the front line, Hlozek heads to Germany with a stellar record of 29 goals and 30 assists in 91 league appearances in the top-tier in the Czech Republic.

Add in the 24 goals that compatriot Patrik Schick netted for Leverkusen last season along with the creativity of Florian Wirtz from midfield and the result is one that could be extremely exciting.

Vinicius Junior – Real Madrid

A formidable season for Vinicius saw the Brazilian net 17 goals and contribute 10 assists during Real Madrid's La Liga title-winning campaign, only being outscored by team-mate Karim Benzema in the league.

Benzema, who was one of only two players to get more assists than Vinicius last season, is now in the twilight years of his career and will soon surely hand the mantle to the next star forward at the Santiago Bernabeu – with Vinicius near-certain to be that man now Kylian Mbappe has decided to remain in Paris for the time being.

In a World Cup year, Vinicius could enjoy a campaign that sees him take the leading man tag for both club and country come the end of the season.

 

Hugo Ekitike – Paris Saint-Germain

Arriving into an attacking that already boasts Mbappe, Neymar and Lionel Messi, it remains to be seen just how much football 20-year-old Hugo Ekitike will manage to play for Christophe Galtier's side.

Moving initially on loan, Ekitike, who was also a target for Newcastle United, is certainly one for the future.

With 10 goals and four assists for Reims last term, Ekitike has shown his prowess in the final third and could be a valuable asset in the hunt to end the elusive wait for a Champions League crown.

Samuele Ricci – Torino

Long touted as the next star in Italy's midfield, Samuele Ricci has moved on from Empoli but, to the surprise of some, did not take the leap to one of Serie A's big guns and instead continued his development by joining Torino in January.

Ricci featured 13 times for Torino, including nine starts in what was a stellar breakout year in Italy's top tier, with the 20-year-old having previously been crowned Serie B's best player in the 2020-21 season.

Breaking into Italy's squad in 2022, Ricci's meteoric rise should continue, and he may find himself coveted by some of the biggest clubs across Europe.

Jurgen Klopp was delighted by confirmation of a new long-term contract for Diogo Jota at Liverpool, where the forward now plans to play his prime years.

Liverpool announced Jota's extension on Tuesday, with his new deal reportedly set to expire in 2027.

After Mohamed Salah similarly agreed fresh terms and Darwin Nunez was bought from Benfica, Liverpool head into the new Premier League season with a strong attacking line-up despite the departure of Sadio Mane.

Only Salah (60) and Mane (39) have scored more goals for Liverpool than Jota (34) since he joined the club in 2020, with the same two players also leading the way in goal involvements (82 for Salah, 49 for Mane, 41 for Jota).

Averaging a goal every 157 minutes in all competitions, Jota outperformed Mane (192 mins) over this period, while his shot conversion rate of 17.7 per cent marginally betters Salah's 17.5 per cent.

However, these are not the only qualities of value to Klopp, who told Liverpool's official website: "[It is] brilliant, brilliant news, I would say.

"His qualities are obvious. He scores goals – not a bad quality – he works unbelievably hard for the team, his pressing and counter-pressing are on an unbelievable level, he can play in all of our attacking roles, and he has an incredible attitude. Not a bad package, not bad at all.

"As a striker who can play on the wing, he gives us so many options, and since he came to Liverpool, he has improved so much.

"I have said before that Diogo is the player we hoped he would be but also a little bit better, so long may this continue."

Jota, who signed from Wolves, also thought he would be a good fit for the high-energy team and has since averaged 3.9 recoveries per 90 – exactly in line with Roberto Firmino, the man he has largely replaced, over the same period.

But Jota believes he is still yet to peak, having netted 21 goals last season after 13 the year before.

"[I'm] quite different [now], I have to say," he said. "I obviously played kind of a different role as well most of the time.

"It helped me grow as a player, obviously more mature now, more knowledge of the game. Everything is better, I have to say.

"We need to obviously keep improving, because I think I didn't reach my prime yet. Hopefully, during the duration of my stay here, I'll do that.

"I said in my very first interview that I thought I suited the style of Jurgen and the team. I think I proved that instantly.

"Now it's a question of developing our game, developing the intensity we play [with], because although we are doing brilliantly, there's always one more step, and that's the step we are trying to make every time."

Diogo Jota has become the latest Liverpool forward to sign a new long-term contract at Anfield.

The Reds headed into the close-season with their superstar front three of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino entering the final 12 months of their respective deals.

Salah agreed new terms, while Mane left for Bayern Munich. Firmino has made clear his desire to stay but is yet to put pen to paper.

Now, in the week before the start of the new Premier League season, Jota has ensured he will remain a key part of this Liverpool team.

The Portugal international signed from Wolves in September 2020 and quickly established himself ahead of Firmino in the pecking order, although Mane often played through the centre last season.

This term, Jota will have further competition in the form of new signing Darwin Nunez, but the 25-year-old – who has scored 34 goals in 85 games for Liverpool – is up for the fight.

Reportedly now under contract until 2027, Jota told Liverpool's official website: "Well, [I'm] really proud, I have to say.

"Obviously, since I arrived two years ago, I established myself as an important player in this team – that's what I wanted from the beginning.

"Now, signing a new long-term deal, it's obviously from the club's perspective proof of the belief in myself as a player. For me, obviously it's really good to establish I'll be here for a while.

"So, the beginning of a new season, let's do it."

In his time at Liverpool, only Salah (60 goals, 22 assists) and Mane (39 goals, 10 assists) have scored more goals or registered more goal involvements (41 for Jota) than the striker.

Jota has impressively averaged a goal every 157 minutes in all competitions. He ranks fourth among Liverpool players over this period in that regard, behind Nunez (31), who netted on his debut on Saturday, the departed Takumi Minamino (133) and Salah (135).

Timo Werner has only managed 23 goals in his first two seasons with Chelsea after joining from Leipzig in mid-2020.

The new Blues owners are open to allowing Werner, who signed on a five-year contract, to depart on loan.

The 26-year-old scored 95 goals in 159 appearances with Leipzig from 2016 to 2020.

TOP STORY – LEIPZIG LEAD RACE FOR CHELSEA'S WERNER

Leipzig are leading the race to sign Chelsea striker Werner ahead of Juventus, claims Fabrizio Romano.

The Bundesliga club met with Chelsea on Sunday, proposing a swap deal for Werner, who is Leipzig's main target.

Juventus and Newcastle United have also shown an interest in the Germany international. 

ROUND-UP

Barcelona are considering a move for Leipzig defender Angelino should they miss out on Chelsea full-back Marcos Alonso, claims Diario Sport.

Everton could make a move for forgotten Chelsea forward Michy Batshuayi, according to talkSPORT. The Toffees lost Richarlison to Tottenham last month and will turn to Batshuayi, who scored 14 goals on loan at Besiktas last season.

– Portuguese forward Diogo Jota is set to be rewarded for his strong second season at Anfield, with Liverpool to offer him a lucrative pay rise as part of a new deal, despite having three years to run on his contract, claims The Telegraph.

Napoli and Chelsea are in talks on a loan deal for Spanish goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, according to Sky Sports.

– Football Insider reports that Leicester City have informed Newcastle that midfielder James Maddison will cost them £60million as they circle for his signature.

– Leicester City are set to farewell goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel,  who is on the cusp of joining French Ligue 1 club Nice, reports the Mail.

Mohamed Salah was affected by his contract saga in the latter stages of last season, according to Liverpool team-mate Virgil van Dijk.

Egypt international Salah signed a new deal at Anfield last month worth a reported £350,000 a week, making him the highest-earning player in the club's history.

That brought an end to months of speculation regarding the 30-year-old's future, having himself hinted that he may move away as he entered the final year of his previous deal.

Despite Salah finishing last season as the Premier League's joint-top goalscorer alongside Son Heung-min, Van Dijk believes the contract standoff took its toll on the Egypt star.

"At the end of the season, from maybe April until the end, there was a lot of talk about his contract and stuff," Van Dijk told The Telegraph. 

"We're all human beings and maybe that affected him a little bit, unfortunately."

The 118 Premier League goals Salah has scored since his first Liverpool campaign in 2017-18 is 13 more than next-best Harry Kane.

Former Chelsea forward Salah scored 27 goals in his first 31 appearances for the Reds in all competitions last season, compared to four goals in his final 20 games.

He was on the scoresheet from the penalty spot in Saturday's Community Shield win over Manchester City, and Van Dijk has backed his colleague to continue scoring regularly.

"He still showed high levels and quality and he played with a free mind and obviously he's happy to be here and I think everyone is happy to be here," the Dutchman said.

"He showed it already for the last three years. He's under the microscope all the time. He created that himself. He's such a good player and shows that consistently all the time."

Liverpool will carry out checks on Curtis Jones after the midfielder missed the 3-0 friendly defeat to Strasbourg on Sunday due to a mystery injury.

A day on from Liverpool beating Manchester City 3-1 in the Community Shield, a largely second-string XI lined up at Anfield for the visit of Strasbourg.

Two goals from Adrien Thomasson and one from Habib Diallo condemned the hosts to a defeat in their last match before the Premier League season gets under way.

Klopp had planned on using Jones, who made just a fleeting appearance off the bench against City, but revealed the 21-year-old had a problem that would need further examination.

It remains to be seen whether Jones is fit to play any part when Liverpool launch their league campaign at Fulham on Saturday.

"Curtis, we have to see. [There] was no impact or whatever, so that always makes it a bit, 'My god, what could it be?'," Klopp said.

"We had no time; he felt it today and he wanted to play desperately, but then the medical department said no and that we needed to make further tests. We will do that tomorrow and then we will know more."

Klopp was also without midfielder Naby Keita, who was described by the manager as "ill", while centre-back Ibrahima Konate came off injured in the second half against the Ligue 1 visitors.

Addressing what was wrong with Konate, Klopp said, quoted on Liverpool's official website: "We don't know exactly yet on Ibou, but it doesn't look too concerning, so I hope we caught it in the right moment."

Roberto Firmino does not want to leave Liverpool, seemingly dispelling any suggestion he could join Juventus.

Serie A giants Juve had been linked with making a move for Firmino, who has just one year remaining on his deal at Anfield.

Previously a guaranteed starter for Jurgen Klopp, Firmino's place in Liverpool's starting XI is no longer assured, with Diogo Jota having excelled since his arrival from Wolves and Darwin Nunez signing from Benfica.

Sadio Mane also filled in centrally for much of last season, with Luis Diaz having taken up a place on the left, but the Senegal forward has now departed for Bayern Munich.

With Jota sidelined through injury, Firmino – who scored just five league goals last season – started in Liverpool's Community Shield clash with Manchester City on Saturday, which the Reds went on to win 3-1.

Afterwards, Firmino told TNT Brazil he has no intention of leaving Liverpool.

"I love this team, city and [the] fans," the 30-year-old said. "I'm here at Liverpool, and I want to stay, of course."

Firmino played 59 minutes against City at the King Power Stadium, having one shot and creating one chance. 

He was replaced by Nunez, who played a pivotal role in Liverpool's victory, winning a penalty that Mohamed Salah converted to put the Reds back in front after Julian Alvarez's equaliser, before scoring late in stoppage time.

Nunez became the fourth player under Klopp to net on his Liverpool debut – after Mane, Salah and Virgil van Dijk.

Klopp had previously emphasised Firmino's importance, saying on Thursday that the former Hoffenheim attacker was "the heart and soul of this team".

Virgil van Dijk told Darwin Nunez to get his "head down, work and be important" for Liverpool after the striker's decisive cameo performance against Manchester City.

Nunez came on with just under an hour played in Saturday's Community Shield clash between the Premier League champions and the FA Cup winners.

He made a telling impact, winning a penalty when his header struck the arm of Ruben Dias to enable Liverpool to restore their lead through Mohamed Salah after Julian Alvarez had cancelled out Trent Alexander-Arnold's opener.

Nunez, signed from Benfica for a fee of £64million (€75m), with a further £21.4m (€25m) in potential add-ons, capped off a 3-1 triumph for Jurgen Klopp's side with a header late in stoppage time.

The 23-year-old had been the target of criticism and social media jibes following some sloppy performances early in pre-season, though Nunez scored four in a 5-0 rout of RB Leipzig last week and slotted in seamlessly to Liverpool's attack at the King Power Stadium.

Van Dijk shrugged off the criticism of his new team-mate, who the defender explained is already an important player in Liverpool's squad following the departure of club great Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich.

"He's important. He's difficult to play against and hopefully he can show it for the rest of the season," Van Dijk told reporters.

"We all help him in some ways and make sure that he's comfortable, he's calm and just work, and don't focus on what the outside world has to say because everyone has to say something these days. So head down, work and be important for the club.

"I don't speak Spanish, so I'm not saying anything to him at the moment, but we have plenty of Spanish speakers in the team and I know for a fact that they help him, and I don't see anything that bothers him at the moment.

"But we will see, everyone has something to say because there are so platforms to do it. So it can hit you but it shouldn't. Just enjoy your game, enjoy the group, enjoy the club, because we are very blessed to be able to play for Liverpool."

It was a sentiment echoed by midfielder Fabinho, who himself took time to settle into the Premier League following a move from Monaco in 2018.

He said: "We saw he's getting better from the first game of the pre-season. He did really well for the team.

"We've had three weeks of training, so now he knows the way we play a little bit. We are learning the way he plays a little bit more.

"We know he is fast, he's strong and he's a proper number nine. He will be in the box, it looks like the ball follows him, he will always get the chance to score.

"So yeah, I think it's really important for him to score in the first official game in a Liverpool shirt. He will be very important for us this season."

Liverpool's victory marked their first Community Shield triumph under Klopp, at the third time of asking.

Including occasions when the trophy was shared, only Manchester United (21) have won the trophy more times than the Reds (16), whose performance delivered a message to rivals City ahead of the new campaign.

Van Dijk, though, knows using the Community Shield display to predict how Liverpool's season could go would be foolish.

"We can't look to the future," the centre-back added. "It's a boring answer but we knew that, for example, two years ago we had so many injuries, those are part of football as well.

"We are focussing game by game. Hopefully it will be a successful season, better than last season. We are excited to crack on, and we will see what the year brings."

Jurgen Klopp was hugely impressed with his back-up brigade after Liverpool beat Manchester City 3-1 in the Community Shield, as he hit out at the nature of judging players in pre-season.

Liverpool triumphed in a fiercely contested clash with the Premier League champions at the King Power Stadium on Saturday thanks to goals from Trent Alexander-Arnold, Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez.

The latter impressed with a 30-minute cameo from the bench, marking his debut in English football in style and outshining City's big-money striker – Erling Haaland – in the process.

Nunez stooped low to head in a left-wing cross in stoppage time to put Liverpool two goals ahead, shortly before Haaland inexplicably hit the crossbar at the other end after Adrian had kept out Phil Foden's shot.

Signed from Benfica after a brilliant 2021-22 campaign, both in Portugal's top tier and the Champions League, Nunez had some difficult opening matches for Liverpool at the start of pre-season, but he scored four in a 5-0 rout of RB Leipzig last week.

His impact from the bench on Saturday was telling, with the 23-year-old having four goal attempts, two of which were on target, and it was his header into the upright arm of Ruben Dias that handed Liverpool a penalty after Julian Alvarez had drawn City level.

"It was good, was really good," Klopp said of Nunez's debut in his post-match news conference.

"It's clear that he will get better with time. Everybody gets judged on first sight. It's not helpful for anybody, but it happens all the time.

"Both teams were today not 100 per cent at their physical usual situation. But in the first few [pre-season] games we were not even close to the level today. [In those games] everybody judges his first touches and this kind of thing and it's a joke, but we have to live with it. We are patient, we knew that he can do good stuff.

"We all know – [strikers are] a special species – and everyone knows about the positives, goal involvements. I think Darwin, even without scoring the third one, [would have scored] because of the penalty was from his header, and before that Ederson reacted brilliantly [to make a save when one-on-one with the Uruguayan].

"The goal was the icing on the cake. For him, you could see his face, how happy the boys are for him. It's a really good sign after a short period of time."

Nunez became the fourth player to score on his competitive debut for Liverpool under Klopp, after Sadio Mane, Salah and Virgil van Dijk, but the striker was not the only substitute to impress Liverpool's manager, who won the Community Shield for the first time at the third time of asking.

"Today I liked the impact, in a high-level game. As good as we were, the impact from the bench was really exceptional. A very good sign," said Klopp, who brought on Naby Keita, Curtis Jones, James Milner, Harvey Elliott and debutant Fabio Carvalho as well as Nunez.

"A good watch, a good game. Both teams used what was available today, that's what we could have expected."

Asked by Stats Perform if the nature in which Liverpool regained control in the latter stages boded well for the fitness of his side ahead of the 2022-23 campaign, Klopp said: "It was for me really nice. It's the most difficult opponent you can get, they do not get any better.

"Their squad, the boys he could bring on, it's very experienced, proven quality. We have space to improve the quality from the bench. Harvey's impact. Millie [Milner], I'm not sure what level he can reach this year to be honest! Curtis, and Naby – wow – just so good."

Liverpool face Strasbourg in a friendly on Sunday at Anfield, before turning their attention to taking on promoted Fulham in their first game of the Premier League season.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has insisted he has no concerns about Erling Haaland after he was unable to strike a debut goal against Liverpool.

The Premier League champions fell to a 3-1 defeat against Jurgen Klopp's side at the King Power Stadium, with the Norwegian seeing both an effort disallowed and hitting the frame of the goal.

Plenty of expectation has been placed upon Haaland following his big-money move to English football and, with Liverpool's own expensive recruit Darwin Nunez starting on the bench, the stage was set for the forward to make an impact.

City's number nine was unable to do so, while Nunez came off the bench to win a penalty and score Liverpool's third, but Guardiola remained confident his new recruit will be firing in goals throughout the course of the campaign.

"He had chances, two or three in the first half, one at the end, fought a lot, made the movements," he told a news conference.

"Good for him to see the reality, a new country, new league. He was there. Today he didn't score, other days he will score.

"No [worries about the chances that he missed]. He has the quality. He has an incredible sense. We had just two weeks, the team was good in the States. I am really comfortable. The season starts now."

Haaland's big moment came in the latter stages of the match, where the former Borussia Dortmund man struck the crossbar from point-blank range but, while it will likely lead to jibes from rival fans, Guardiola downplayed the incident.

"He is strong, he missed it, another time he would put it in the net. What is the problem? It happened, it is football," he added.

"There was another goal disallowed because the ball was out of the line and he scored. He would do it. It's good to understand sometimes, he needs that situation to understand okay, this is what to do. It's good.

"I am not concerned or worried about that. He would be happy if we won, he scored goals, everyone would be, but the reality is it is a long 11 months.

"We have two, three months ahead of us before the World Cup, so intense, and then after that this season is every three days, four days, and Erling is going to score, I am sure of it."

Trent Alexander-Arnold suggested Darwin Nunez had enjoyed one of the strongest Liverpool debuts he has seen after the new Reds striker starred in a Community Shield success over Manchester City.

Nunez, the flagship purchase this close-season at Anfield, was forced to wait for his bow after he was named on the bench for Saturday's match at the King Power Stadium.

But after Alexander-Arnold had handed the Reds the lead with a deflected first-half effort, the forward appeared for an eventful final half-hour that saw him both win a penalty and net a goal in a lively performance.

Asked how good his new team-mate's performance was, the England right-back hailed Nunez's bow as one of the best at the club in recent memory.

"It's got to be up there," Alexander-Arnold told ITV Sport. "He won the pen, he scored the goal. He looks lively, very lively.

"He's someone who has been brought in to score goals, and he proved he could do that today. He's come in, got his head down, worked hard so far [and] come on today with a point to prove."

Alexander-Arnold was delighted he could similarly contribute to winning the Community Shield, the lone domestic honour previously missing from the club's cabinet under Jurgen Klopp.

"It was on target, that's all I'll say," he said of his goal. "I just tried to make a good connection, steer it towards goal. I'm always happy to contribute towards goals. It was an important one for us.

"This one means a lot, to be honest. I think it's the third time we've been here, and we haven't been able to win it so far. That was our motivation going into it.

"Our season started today. A lot of teams start next week, but ours started today, so it was important for us to get off on the right foot."

Double cup glory last term helped Liverpool go within a whisker of a quadruple, before City edged them on the final day of the Premier League season and they then fell to Real Madrid in the Champions League final.

"Who knows what will happen over the course of the season?" added Alexander-Arnold on Saturday.

"Our aim is to be as fit as possible to push them from the very first kick. This was the perfect start, and we hope to win trophies along the way."

Page 3 of 122
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.