Declan Rice and Christopher Nkunku have joined victorious Eintracht Frankfurt stars in headlining the Europa League's team of the season.

The selections for the competition's end-of-season awards were announced by UEFA on Friday, two days after Eintracht's final shootout triumph against Rangers.

Wing-backs Filip Kostic and Ansgar Knauff earned individual recognition, the former the player of the season and the latter the young player of the season.

But there was no room for Knauff in the best XI, with Rangers captain James Tavernier, the competition's leading scorer, preferred.

Tavernier had two Rangers colleagues in the team in Calvin Bassey and Ryan Kent, yet Kostic was one of four Eintracht players.

Penalty heroes Kevin Trapp and Rafael Borre made the cut, alongside defender Martin Hinteregger.

Perhaps the two biggest names included were beaten semi-finalists, however, with Rice and Nkunku – both set to be the subject of close-season transfer speculation – recognised.

Departing Napoli great Lorenzo Insigne did not make the side but was awarded the goal of the season his stunning strike against Legia Warsaw.

Europa League team of the season:

Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt); Craig Dawson (West Ham), Martin Hinteregger (Eintracht Frankfurt), Calvin Bassey (Rangers); James Tavernier (Rangers), Konrad Laimer (RB Leipzig), Declan Rice (West Ham), Filip Kostic (Eintracht Frankfurt); Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig), Rafael Borre (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ryan Kent (Rangers).

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini has declared Giorgio Chiellini's decision to leave Juventus and retire from international football as a "pity for everyone".

Juve great Chiellini confirmed after the 4-2 Coppa Italia final loss to Inter last week that he will depart Turin at the end of the season, ending a 17-year spell with the Bianconeri that has seen him lift 20 trophies.

The centre-back has also already revealed he will retire from international duty with Italy after the Azzurri play Argentina at Wembley Stadium on June 1.

Chiellini opted to play in the Finalissima, a new final pitting the winners of the Copa America and European Championship against each other, as a fitting conclusion after Italy lifted Euro 2020 at Wembley in July.

Reports suggest 37-year-old Chiellini may accept an offer to play in MLS before taking his sizeable experience into management or a coaching role.

Mancini, speaking at the Prisco Prize in Chieti where he received a Special Jury Prize, was quick to heap praise on the veteran Chiellini as he reflected on the influence he has had on Italian football.

"It is a pity for everyone because he was a great player for the national team and for Juve," Mancini said, as quoted by Corriere dello Sport.

"Unfortunately, time passes for everyone. He made this decision but leaving after winning the European Championship in a race like the one at Wembley is still important."

Napoli talisman Lorenzo Insigne has also announced he will leave Serie A to move to Toronto FC at the end of the season.

The 30-year-old scored on his final home appearance for Napoli on Sunday, becoming the second-highest goalscorer in the club's history as he moved clear of Marek Hamsik's tally of 121.

Only team-mate Dries Mertens, with 148, has managed more goals for Napoli, and Mancini spoke glowingly of Insigne after his efforts in Naples and with the national side.

"He will go on to have an important experience anyway. He gave a lot to the national team and I hope he can do it again," the Azzurri boss added.

With those two experienced campaigners leaving Serie A, Mancini believes it is time for the Italian top flight to provide more young talent to fill the void Chiellini and Insigne will leave.

Mancini and the Italian system came into criticism for not trusting younger players after Italy failed to qualify for a second successive World Cup following play-off defeat to North Macedonia in late March.

"The important thing when things didn't go well is to get up," he continued. "We will have games in the summer and then the Nations League restarts. 

"There are several interesting youngsters in the championship but we would like more."

Lorenzo Insigne pledged to return to Napoli after scoring on his final home appearance for the club, having agreed to join Toronto FC at the end of his contract next month.

The 30-year-old scored from the penalty spot as Napoli secured a top-three finish in Serie A with a 3-0 win over Genoa on Sunday, taking his tally to 122 goals in all competitions for the club he joined as a 15-year-old in 2006.

That goal made Insigne the second-highest goalscorer in Napoli's history in his own right, moving him clear of Marek Hamsik's tally of 121. Only team-mate Dries Mertens, with 148, has scored more goals for the club.

Insigne has scored nine penalties in Serie A this season, more than any other player in the top-five European leagues, and has hit double figures for both goals (13) and assists (10) in all competitions in his final season with Luciano Spalletti's side.

After the full-time whistle, Insigne was in tears as he told DAZN that Napoli was his "home". 

"I thank all the fans who came to the stadium today to cheer me on, as a Neapolitan it is an immense joy," he said. "In time, the first thing I will do is come back here, this is my home, and you never forget home.

"The love for the city and the jersey is too strong. There are also moments in which choices have to be made. 

"Unfortunately, the club and I made this choice, we are happy, both me and them.

"I gave everything, I have no regrets. The fans have always shown me their affection for me, I will always carry it inside."

Insigne refused to comment on whether he would have preferred to end his career with the Naples club, however, stressing that he simply wished to enjoy his send-off at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

"Now I don't feel like saying these things, I made my choice and the club theirs. We are fine like this. I just want to enjoy this moment," he said.

"Even if I go far away my heart is here. I will come to see Napoli in the stands as soon as possible because this is my home."

Roberto Mancini has revealed the decision to release several senior Italy faces such as Jorginho is to help repay the efforts made between club and country.

The Chelsea midfielder, along with a clutch of other key players such as Marco Verratti, Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, have left the Azzurri camp ahead of Tuesday's clash with Turkey.

Defeat against North Macedonia last week left the Euro 2020 hopes' of reaching Qatar 2022 in tatters, ensuring they will miss a second successive World Cup.

With that in mind, Mancini looks set to field a more experimental side for a dead rubber against Turkey, who were also eliminated from the play-offs.

Speaking ahead of the match at Torku Arena, Mancini explained that it was on his orders that Jorginho and others departed early, stating that it was intended as a favour to their respective clubs.

"I forced them to leave," the manager sought to clarify in his pre-match press conference. "If I can do something for them and for the clubs, we do it.

"They would not have played. Some were not physically at their best. Some of them, I forced them to go.

"Chelsea sent us Jorginho three days earlier [and] did not let him play in the FA Cup. I sent [him] back home because [he] would not have played."

Jorginho has endured a tough few months in the Azzurri fold, with his crucial missed penalties against Switzerland in the group stage qualifiers effectively costing his side a straight passage to Qatar.

While Mancini added that neither Napoli forward Insigne or Lazio striker Immobile would have featured against Turkey, but still paid tribute to their contributions.

"Lorenzo had physical problems [and] Immobile would have gone to the stands," he stated.

"The boys in recent years have deserved a lot. There are special players here, a special group has been created."

Marco Verratti and Jorginho were among a group of six players to leave the Italy camp after their failure to qualify for the World Cup. 

Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne, Domenico Berardi and Gianluca Mancini also returned to their clubs ahead of schedule, with the latter two having sustained knocks. 

Italy coach Roberto Mancini is expected to ring the changes in a friendly against Turkey on Tuesday following the Azzurri's shock defeat to North Macedonia in a World Cup qualifying play-off semi-final on Thursday. 

The Euro 2020 champions' first ever home loss in World Cup qualifying meant they failed to reach successive finals for the first time in their history. 

Instead of taking on Portugal in the play-off final, Italy will depart for Konya on Monday. 

Lorenzo Insigne moved alongside Diego Maradona on Napoli's all-time list of leading goalscorers after hitting his 115th goal for the Serie A club.

The Italy international converted a penalty early in the second half of Sunday's 4-1 derby win against Salernitana.

That meant he joined Maradona in a tie for third place in the Napoli record books.

Dries Mertens heads that list and slotted a penalty just before half-time to give Napoli a 2-1 lead, his 144th goal for the club.

Belgium international Mertens stepped aside to allow Insigne to take responsibility for the second spot-kick in the 53rd minute.

Insigne had come on as a substitute for the start of the second half, and Mertens said: "I left the second penalty to Lorenzo because it was important to him."

Writing on Instagram after the match, Insigne expressed his delight at the victory.

He will leave at the end of the season to join Toronto FC, but the 30-year-old insisted he would always hold the club dear.

"The derbies are not played… they are won…. We continue like this until the end," Insigne wrote. "Always and forever FORZA NAPOLI."

Insigne is now six goals behind second-placed Marek Hamsik on the Napoli goalscoring list.

The late Argentina legend Maradona remains the greatest and most revered player in Napoli's history, having joined from Barcelona in 1984 and spent seven years in Naples.

He helped Napoli win league titles in 1986-87 and 1989-90 – the only Serie A championships the club have won – and his death in November sparked an outpouring of grief in the city.

Sunday's goal was Insigne's sixth goal of the season across all competitions, with Napoli's win moving them just four points behind Serie A leaders Inter.

Mertens believes Napoli can still push Inter hard for the title, saying on the club's website: "We must continue like this and look only at us. The championship is still long and we can be protagonists."

Lorenzo Insigne will leave Napoli at the end of the season to join Major League Soccer side Toronto FC.

The 30-year-old has spent his entire career in Naples despite regularly being linked with a move away, but will finally say goodbye to his hometown club when his contract expires in June.

Winger Insigne has signed a four-year deal, which will begin on July 1, after agreeing to move to Toronto as a designated player.

The Italy international has played 412 games for Napoli, scoring 113 goals and registering 88 assists, and was a key part of Roberto Mancini's side that won Euro 2020 last year, scoring two goals in six games 

Toronto president Bill Manning said: “This is a historic and exciting day for our club.

"Lorenzo is a world-class attacking player in the prime of his career. He was a European champion with Italy and has performed on the biggest stages during his club career with Napoli.

"Lorenzo has the talent to change games. He plays the game with joy and passion, and our fans and supporters are going to love watching him as a member of our team."

 

Insigne will become the second big-name Italian to play for Toronto, following in the footsteps of Sebastian Giovinco, who joined the Canadian side from Juventus in 2015.

The club's head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley said it was a move they had been hoping to make for "many years", stating: "We are all looking forward to having Lorenzo join us this summer.

"His ability to create chances for himself and his teammates is special. Having watched him for many years, I also know he's also a player who works for the team.

"Lorenzo is the kind of player you come to watch because there's always a chance he'll do something unforgettable."

Leeds United winger Raphinha is drawing plenty of attention.

The Brazilian debuted for his country in October and has scored two goals in five caps.

Raphinha joined Leeds from Rennes on a four-year deal in 2020.

And, having seen his career hit new heights since that move, he does not appear to be desperate for another switch.

TOP STORY - RAPHINHA NOT PUSHING FOR LEEDS EXIT

Brazil international Raphinha will not push for a January move away from Leeds United according to the Mirror.

Raphinha has been linked with moves to both Liverpool and Bayern Munich during the January transfer window.

The 25-year-old's agent has spoken about his ambition, but he is content at Leeds who are battling relegation.

 

ROUND-UP

Inter are angling to sign Germany international Matthias Ginter as a free agent in the middle of next year claims Fabrizio Romano. Ginter confirmed on Tuesday he would leave Borussia Monchengladbach when his contract expires at the end of this season.

- Gerard Moreno reports that Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta has reached an in-principle agreement to join Barcelona in the close-season.

Sevilla are considering a bid to sign Barcelona defender Mika Marmol, according to Diario Sport.

Everton want to land Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley on loan in January, says The Telegraph.

- Sky Sport Italia claims MLS club Toronto are in advanced talks with Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne and Torino striker Andrea Belotti.

Paulo Dybala could be the subject of an audacious swoop from Juventus' Serie A rivals Inter.

The Argentine forward has a contract at the Allianz Stadium until June 2022 and previous reports had suggested a renewal was a mere formality.

However, it seems the situation is not quite as simple as once thought.

TOP STORY – INTER TO PLAY THE LONG GAME WITH DYBALA?

Prominent Italian journalist Tancredi Palmeri explained there is the possibility that Juve's pursuit of Fiorentina striker Dusan Vlahovic may open up the opportunity for the Dybala move to take place.

Inter have had their financial troubles, which led to the exits of Romelu Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi in the last window.

But the Nerazzurri are attempting to offload huge earner Alexis Sanchez, which could free up funds to bring Dybala to San Siro.

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid are admirers of Chelsea full-back Reece James, according to El Nacional. The Catalan publication says Los Blancos could offer the Blues the chance to re-sign Eden Hazard in order to secure a deal.

- Antonio Rudiger looks far more likely to leave Stamford Bridge for the Santiago Bernabeu. AS reports PSG and Bayern Munich are also interested in the Germany centre-back, although the defender wants to join Madrid.

- Sticking with Madrid, and out-of-favour midfielder Dani Ceballos looks certain to depart the capital. A return to Real Betis is being touted by Mundo Deportivo.

- In the Premier League, Anthony Martial's long-term future at Manchester United remains up in the air. The France forward has told interim boss Ralf Rangnick he wants to depart Old Trafford, according to Goal.

- Over in the blue half of Manchester, Ferran Torres' switch from City to Barcelona is set to move a step closer with Sport reporting a medical is booked in for Monday.

- Ainsley Maitland-Niles is set for a fresh start in Serie A, so say Goal. The versatile midfielder is said to be on the cusp of securing a loan switch to Jose Mourinho's Roma.

- Napoli have yet to tie down Lorenzo Insigne to fresh terms. Links to Inter and Tottenham have run hot and cold, but MLS outfit Toronto are thought to be serious about the forward, offering him a €5million per year deal, say Calciomercato.com.

Lorenzo Insigne's agent Vincenzo Pisacane said Napoli's contract offer for their star captain was not "acceptable" nor "appropriate", though he insisted it is not too late to sign a renewal.

Insigne, who emerged from the youth team of boyhood club Napoli in 2010, is set to become a free agent at the end of the season.

Negotiations over a new deal have proved fruitless so far amid reported interest from Serie A rivals Inter and Milan as well as La Liga giants Barcelona and Premier League quartet Tottenham, West Ham, Arsenal and Newcastle United.

Pisacane was asked about Insigne's future at Diego Armando Maradona Stadium.

"An offer has been made that is not considered acceptable, not considered appropriate," Pisacane told Canale 21. "But it doesn't mean we don't talk to each other anymore.

"Everyone plays their part, there are those who ask questions and those who request. The best thing is to talk to each other.

"I have read several times that Lorenzo has asked for the moon, but no request has ever been made. He feels Napoli as part of him, he perhaps holds Napoli excessively close. I struggle to find a player more attached to the shirt."

Insigne – a Euro 2020 winner with Italy – has continued to perform for Napoli, playing a key role in the team's strong start to 2021-22.

He has scored four goals and supplied five assists in Serie A this term as Napoli sit third in the standings, two points behind leaders Milan.

The 30-year-old ranks third for xG per 90 minutes (0.76) in Serie A, while he is also third for assists per 90 minutes (0.43).

Only Milan's Rafael Leao (21) has managed more shot-ending carries than Insigne (17) this season.

On the chances of Insigne remaining at Napoli, Pisacane added: "I can't give a percentage, I just can't. Marriages are made in two, therefore I think it's right to meet again, to talk about it and see if there's a possibility or not.

"I find it strange that we are in December, it's not too late but if I want something and I want to get it, I start working on it.

"Lorenzo has been a top player in the same team for many years and he always finds incentives to do better. I think it's very difficult to find a symbol like him. I think Lorenzo deserved a little more time."

Chelsea are not content to stick with what they have. 

The Blues are top of the Premier League but poised for major moves in January.

Three young stars and a veteran are high on their radar. 

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA EYE REINFORCEMENTS

Chelsea have their sights set on moves for Jules Kounde, Matthijs de Ligt and Lorenzo Insigne, reports Marca, while another report has them as the favourites to land Aurelien Tchouameni

The Blues are poised to revisit their talks with Sevilla over Kounde in January with multiple centre-backs set to be out of contract at the end of the season. 

Thomas Tuchel's side could also dip into Serie A and try to lure De Ligt from Juventus and Insigne from Napoli.

Chelsea are prepared to offer €60million (£51m) to Monaco for Tchouameni, says TuttoJuve, with Manchester City, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Juventus also possibilities. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona are eyeing Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Hakim Ziyech as possible loan options from Chelsea, says Sport. 

- Manchester United are pushing to line up Zinedine Zidane to replace Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, reports The Sunday Times.

- United are prepared to sell Jesse Lingard for as little as £10m in January, says The Sun. 

- Roma are in negotiations with United over a loan deal with an option to buy Diogo Dalot, claims Corriere dello Sport. 

- Inter will bring aboard Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana on a four-year deal, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

- Newcastle United will try to land Adrien Rabiot from Juventus for €10m to €15m (£8.5m-£13m), says Calciomercato. 

Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne insisted he is focused on playing amid growing speculation over his future as the Partenopei challenge for the Scudetto.

Insigne led the way with two successful penalties in Napoli's 3-0 win over Bologna on Thursday – a result that sent Luciano Spalletti's back to the Serie A summit ahead of Milan on goal difference.

Napoli star Insigne has converted all four of his Serie A penalties this season – no other player has scored more among the players who found the net exclusively via spot-kicks in the top five European leagues.

Insigne also became the first Napoli player in Serie A to score a brace from the penalty spot since Dries Mertens in September 2017.

Afterwards, Insigne was asked about his contract situation, with the Italy international and Euro 2020 winner due to become a free agent at the end of the season.

"You always think about the same thing," Insigne – who emerged from the youth team of boyhood club Napoli in 2010 – told Sky Sport Italia amid links with Inter and Milan. "I only think about playing.

"The president [Aurelio De Laurentiis] and my agent take care of the other things."

Fabian Ruiz opened the scoring with a stunning long-range goal in the 18th minute – the Spain international has scored the most goals from outside the box in the top five European leagues in the last three seasons (nine since 2019-20) among the players who have not scored a goal from inside the box over this period.

Insigne then scored a penalty four minutes prior to half-time before converting another spot-kick just past the hour at home to Bologna.

Napoli have now collected 28 points after their first 10 Serie A games, equalling their best record at this stage of a top-flight season after 2017-18.

Eyeing their first Serie A title since 1990, Napoli have won all their first five seasonal home games for the seventh in the club's top-flight history.

"It's a great response, the championship is still long," Insigne said. "We know we are strong. Those who go on the pitch, those who enter off the bench…

"As the coach said, the five changes are even more important, they are five other starters. We must continue like this; the path is long and we must be calm."

Napoli star Victor Osimhen described his match-winning header as the "most important goal of my career" after the record-equalling Serie A leaders preserved their perfect start to the season.

Osimhen rose highest to head home the winner with nine minutes remaining in Napoli's 1-0 victory at home to Torino on Sunday.

Napoli made it eight wins from eight games – the only team with a 100 per cent record in the top-five European leagues – to equal their best start to the Serie A season (after 2017-18), despite Lorenzo Insigne's missed penalty in the first half.

Osimhen revelled in his goal afterwards, with only Real Madrid's Karim Benzema (seven) and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland (five) scoring more goals than the Nigerian forward (five) in September and October in the major five European leagues this year.

"It was the most important goal of my career," Osimhen said post-match. "I'm so pleased. The atmosphere at the stadium was incredible. The fans pushed us forward and we managed to get the three points.

"We never gave up, we attacked until the end and deserved the win. I saw the ball fly up and I thought I could get there before the defenders.

"I connected well and scored such an important goal for me and the team."

Napoli – who last won the Scudetto in 1989-90 – are two points clear of second-placed Milan.

"When you have strong players in attack, there are more solutions, so you always hope something can happen," Spalletti told DAZN.

"… I've seen an improvement in terms of mentality and compactness. Seeing [Matteo] Politano and Insigne track back is something that unites, gives strength and creates team spirit.

"We have a team of friends. We also want to propose a good football and tonight we were at a very good level. We built, fought and were willing to give what this game required."

"We obtained a big win for our fans who deserve it. We feel the passion for their love for these colours and the team. It was important to feel their joy tonight."

Insigne is the player who has missed the largest number of penalties (three) this season in the five major European leagues.

The Napoli captain missed his sixth penalty out of his 26 attempts in Serie A – considering only the current season, the Italian forward has scored two penalties out of his five attempts.

Since Napoli returned to Serie A in the 2007-08 season, they are the team that have missed the highest number of penalties in the five major European leagues (35).

"Lorenzo has a strong bond, especially with his team-mates who are helping him. He was sorry for not giving his contribution," Spalletti said. "For me, Insigne will take the next one, then it will be Lorenzo's turn and then the captain's."

The October international break has provided an opportunity to reflect on the club season so far, with the campaign starting to settle into some sort of pattern.

Paris Saint-Germain have quickly moved clear at the top of Ligue 1, but there look to be genuine title tussles on the cards in the Premier League, Bundesliga, LaLiga and Serie A.

However, while there are familiar names involved in each league, that does not mean the same individuals are excelling as in previous seasons.

A close-season that saw two of the sport's greats make moves shook things up a little, giving other emerging stars the opportunity to establish themselves at the forefront of the European game.

Studying the best shooters, creators, dribblers and goalkeepers, Stats Perform takes you through the standout statistical performers of 2021-22 so far.

Hotshot Haaland and luckless Lorenzo

There were familiar faces at the top of the shooting charts last season, as Lionel Messi (196 shots) led the way ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo (168). This term, although Ronaldo has hit the ground running, neither rank among the top marksmen.

Kylian Mbappe (35) has had the most attempts, but Erling Haaland is averaging 5.2 per 90. While that is the most among players with 20 total shots or more, it falls short of the 5.8 Messi was mustering last term.

Haaland is certainly making the most of his opportunities, though. From chances worth just 4.77 expected goals (xG), he has produced finishes worth 7.05 expected goals on target (xGOT) – a metric measured after the shot. These efforts have led to seven goals, performing in line with the quality of his finishing.

The Borussia Dortmund man is not outperforming his xG by as much as Karim Benzema, who leads the way in that regard. His nine goals have come from opportunities worth 4.43 xG, although his shots have only accounted for 5.22 xGOT, suggesting poor goalkeeping has also contributed to his success.

Lorenzo Insigne certainly has not encountered any below-par work from opposition keepers. His 27 attempts have been worth 5.5 xG, and he has narrowly surpassed that mark with his xGOT of 5.57. Yet the Napoli captain, third behind Messi and Ronaldo last year with 144 shots, somehow has only two goals.

Just two players in the whole of 2020-21 – Houssem Aouar (seven goals, 10.75 xGOT) and Edin Dzeko (seven goals, 10.58 xGOT) – fell so far short of their xGOT, suggesting Insigne's fortunes must surely change soon.

Benzema benefiting like Kane last year

Bruno Fernandes is one of Europe's best creators and scarcely gets a rest at Manchester United, so it is no surprise to see him figuring high up the rankings for key passes both this season and last. In 2020-21, Fernandes created the second-most chances (95) and the second-most chances from open play (77). This term, he is joint-fifth for total chances created (23).

Eden Hazard is back producing once again, averaging 3.99 key passes per 90 – all from open play. He is third for chances created and first for chances created from open play among those to forge 10 or more opportunities.

But Hazard has only a single assist to his name, not so far as fortunate as Fernandes' team-mate Paul Pogba or his own colleague Benzema.

Pogba has created chances worth just 1.45 expected assists (xA) and Benzema 2.05 xA, yet the pair have seven assists apiece thanks to the fine work of their club-mates. It means Benzema has been involved in 16 goals despite his combined xG and xA making up a mere 6.48. He is a man in top form, but this statistical output does not seem sustainable.

It is Harry Kane's example that Pogba and Benzema are following. His 14 assists led the Premier League last term, but he only actually created chances worth 3.63 xA, far and away the most spectacular disparity as Son Heung-min and Co. boosted Kane's figures.

Messi actually went in the opposite direction, last season creating chances worth 13.37 xA but only being rewarded with nine assists.

Adama dominant with Messi missing

As well as being one of Europe's most prominent shooters and creators, Messi was right at the top for dribbles last term. No player attempted (261) or completed (159) more take-ons. Given Neymar attempted the most dribbles per 90 (11.28) among those with 50 or more attempts, slow starts for two Paris Saint-Germain stars have left a gap in the market.

Unsurprisingly, Adama Traore has stepped into that void. The Wolves winger was next behind Messi for attempts (232) and completions (153) in 2020-21 and now comfortably leads the way (61 and 49). Among those with 20 attempted take-ons or more, Traore is now completing more dribbles per 90 (9.63) than any other player in Europe is even attempting. His success rate is an astonishing 80.33 per cent.

The Spain international has 14 times this season beaten multiple players in the same run and has created six chances immediately after a successful dribble – two more Europe-wide highs.

Traore only ranks joint-second for chances created from all carries, however, his nine trailing Allan Saint-Maximin's 11, with the pair out in front of the rest across various metrics with the ball at their feet.

Oblak off the mark and Keylor kept out

There were two clear outstanding goalkeepers in Europe in 2020-21, as Jan Oblak led the way for goals prevented using expected goals on target data (8.58, having conceded only 25 times excluding own goals) while Keylor Navas had the best save percentage of those to face 50 or more shots on target (80.43). Oblak was second for save percentage (80), with Navas third for goals prevented (8.11).

But both men have slipped below those standards this season.

Oblak has endured a significant wobble, saving only 57.14 per cent of 14 shots and conceding five goals from efforts worth 4.22 xGOT. Navas has a better save percentage of 72.73 but still is not having a positive impact, conceding six from an xGOT of 5.02. He also now looks to have lost his place to Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Going the other way, though, there has been a positive change in fortunes for Aaron Ramsdale, who last year had to make 147 saves – behind only fellow relegated England international Sam Johnstone (166). Since joining Arsenal, Ramsdale has faced just 10 shots on target and saved nine of them, a benchmark save percentage.

Matias Dituro is the standout difference-maker this term, however. Despite conceding 11 times, excluding own goals, since joining Celta Vigo, he has actually prevented 4.05 goals.

Erling Haaland has his pick of Europe's elite.

The Borussia Dortmund and Norway star is wanted by the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid.

But Premier League champions City are one particular club looking to prise Haaland from Germany if the rumours are to be believed.

 

TOP STORY – CITY HOPING TO CAPITALISE ON PUMA PARTNERSHIP

Manchester City are hoping their Puma sponsorship and a looming boot deal can help land Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to the Daily Star.

City's kits are manufactured by Puma, while Haaland is reportedly poised to sign a boot deal with the German giants.

Haaland has been linked with City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Barcelona and Juventus.

 

ROUND-UP

- Gazzetta dello Sport claims Juve are planning an approach to bring United midfielder Paul Pogba back to Turin. Pogba is out of contract at the end of the season and while United are keen for a renewal, the Frenchman has been linked with Madrid and PSG also.

- United captain and England defender Harry Maguire is poised for a new bumper contract at Old Trafford, reports the Mirror.

Liverpool are considering a move for Barca's Ousmane Dembele with Juve unwilling to part with Federico Chiesa, says Team Talk.

- According to Football Insider, Newcastle United have made star Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly a priority signing in January. It comes after Newcastle's blockbuster takeover.

PSG are targeting Napoli's soon-to-be free agent Lorenzo Insigne, per Le10 Sport. Insigne has also been linked with Inter and Milan.

- Manchester United outcast Donny van de Beek is wanted by Serie A powerhouse Juve, claims Corriere dello Sport. Van de Beek was in talks over an Everton switch during the previous window.

- Milan star Franck Kessie is among Barca's midfielder targets for the January window, says Diario Sport. Van de Beek, Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele and Marcelo Brozovic of Inter are also options.

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