Netherlands midfielder Jackie Groenen is set to miss the defending champions' second game at Euro 2022 after testing positive for COVID-19 on Sunday.

The news emerged just 13 hours after Groenen played the full 90 minutes against Sweden in the Netherlands' opener, a 1-1 draw at Sheffield United's Bramall Lane stadium.

In a statement on Twitter, Oranje team officials stated: "Jackie Groenen has unfortunately tested positive for COVID-19 and will therefore be in isolation for the next few days. When she is free of complaints and tests negative, she can rejoin the selection."

After the draw with a Sweden team who are strongly fancied to advance alongside the Dutch to the quarter-final stage, the Netherlands play their next game against Portugal on Wednesday in Leigh, before returning to Bramall Lane next Sunday to tackle Switzerland.

Groenen plays club football for Manchester United, with the 27-year-old having played for the Women's Super League side since the 2019-20 season.

She became the team's first-ever overseas recruit, arriving following United's promotion to the English top flight.

Jurgen Klopp believes Liverpool will head into the 2022-23 season "as confident as possible" about the prospect of challenging on all fronts once again.

Liverpool fell short of an unprecedented quadruple last season, faltering in both the Champions League final and on the last day of the Premier League season after lifting the EFL Cup and FA Cup.

Liverpool relied on penalties in both of their cup successes as they failed to score in five and a half hours of football in major finals last season, which led to concerns over their ruthlessness in front of goal.

Darwin Nunez has since arrived at Anfield from Benfica in a deal reportedly worth £64million (€75m), with a further £21.4m in potential add-ons, in a move that Klopp will hope provides greater reliability in attack.

Star forward Mohamed Salah has also penned a contract extension and, despite Sadio Mane leaving for Bayern Munich, Klopp remains convinced Liverpool can compete with Manchester City once more.

"As confident as possible. You never know obviously but I saw today on the plane a squad full of quality," he told reporters at Sunday's news conference in Thailand, where Liverpool are on a pre-season tour. 

"You always need a little bit of luck, how we all know, if you want to win a trophy. But to play a good season you need first and foremost consistency, that's what it's all about and that's what we will try.

"I have no doubt about the quality of the boys. We brought in new players – yes, we lost a few players – but we brought in new players; if you want, fresh blood, really helpful.

"There are no places already sorted, who will play where. The boys will make pressure, which is important.

"We have five subs from now on in the Premier League as well – we have to get used to that, we have to adapt to that. I'm really looking forward to it.

"There are no guarantees in football but there's a good chance that we play another good season, I would say."

Liverpool face fierce rivals Manchester United in Bangkok on Tuesday in what will be Erik ten Hag's first game in charge of the Red Devils.

The Reds hammered United by an aggregate scoreline of 9-0 in the Premier League last season, and Klopp insists there will be no such thing as a friendly between the two teams.

"Manchester United, a new manager, trained a little bit longer than us so might be, I'm not sure, in a better situation in the moment," he added.

"But we see it as an important test because it's against United and we don't play friendlies, obviously both teams don't play friendlies against each other, so we will see what we can do.

"We never prepare for one match, we prepare for a full season. That means the boys who started Monday last week had a proper start so far, we could train in the way we wanted.

"We had now a full week already and we are now here to play two games in Asia, first this one and then in Singapore against Crystal Palace. So, we have to see.

"We have to train and we have to play, it means the games are actually like a session as well but the boys have to go really hard.

"Let's see where we stand in this specific moment and then we can go home to England and then we go from there to Austria for another camp."

Matthijs de Ligt leaving Juventus would be a "great loss" for Massimiliano Allegri's side, according to former Bianconeri defender Andrea Barzagli.

Barzagli formed a formidable centre-back trio with Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci during his time in Turin, with the latter pair still playing for Juve when De Ligt arrived for €85.5million from Ajax in 2019.

The Netherlands international has fallen short of expectations during his first three years, leading to transfer speculation with Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich apparently interested.

De Ligt played more minutes (2,675) than any other Juve outfield player in the 2021-22 Serie A season as Allegri's side finished fourth after a poor start to the campaign.

While questions remain over the leadership qualities of De Ligt, who Juve chief executive Maurizio Arrivabene says wants to leave, Barzagli believes the centre-back would be missed at the Allianz Stadium.

"Matthijs did not show his maximum potential despite the excellent championship last year, in which he began to take responsibility for leading the defence and the team," Barzagli told Tuttosport.

"De Ligt arrived at Juventus when he was young and with the pressure of having been paid a lot, with two great defenders in front of him like Chiellini and Bonucci.

"It is not easy when you get paid like that and there are expectations. It is difficult to find continuity and have the right confidence with two monsters like that in front.

"If he were to leave, it would be a great loss for Juventus and also for the Italian championship."

Erik ten Hag hopes "one or two" of the Manchester United youngsters travelling with the senior side for pre-season can break into his squad for the new season, but he warned it will not be easy.

Ten Hag was appointed as successor to interim manager Ralf Rangnick in May after the German and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer before him presided over a dreadful season that culminated in United finishing sixth.

Their points total of 58 was the worst United have ever recorded in the Premier League, while the 2021-22 campaign saw them fail to finish a league campaign with a positive goal difference for the first time in over 30 years.

That haul of 58 points was six fewer than David Moyes – and Ryan Giggs as his caretaker replacement – managed in the 2013-14 season, which was the first following Alex Ferguson's retirement.

With many players seemingly coming to the end of the road with United, all signs pointed towards a massive rebuild occurring over the transfer window; several signings were expected after Rangnick suggested they needed as many as 10, while there was an expectation some younger players would get a chance.

Things have not really gone to plan on the transfer front yet, with left-back Tyrell Malacia the only new face, but United did head out on their pre-season tour with a host of youngsters in the travelling party.

Charlie Savage, Zidane Iqbal, Alejandro Garnacho, Nathan Bishop, Matej Kovar, Ethan Laird, James Garner, Facundo Pellistri and Amad Diallo are all with United in Bangkok, waiting to stake their claims, but Ten Hag suggested they are probably not even aware of how hard they will need to work to impress him.

"What I want to see is that they learn but also they show themselves because they have to deserve a position in top football," Ten Hag told MUTV.

"You have to deserve your position. It means you have to deliver every day, that demands a certain style, a certain way of life that they have to adapt to, that they probably don't know yet.

"But I am really looking forward to seeing if they can do it.

"I hope one or two, they can prove themselves and they come into the squad but, if they want to enter the dressing room, they have to deserve it."

United will play their first pre-season match – and first under Ten Hag's stewardship – in Bangkok on Tuesday when they face bitter rivals Liverpool.

They are also due to face Melbourne Victory, Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Atletico Madrid and Rayo Vallecano in pre-season, with the latter being Ten Hag's first game at Old Trafford on July 31.

Sanctions placed on Roman Abramovich as a consequence of Russia's invasion of Ukraine plunged Chelsea into uncertainty earlier this year, but an ownership change has seen a degree of stability return.

Despite the departures of Romelu Lukaku, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen this off-season, Todd Boehly's consortium has allowed Chelsea to resume with their preparations for the new season.

And it appears they are close to clinching their first signing of the new era, with a transfer for one of the Premier League's best attackers seemingly imminent.

 

TOP STORY – RAHEEM STERLING SET FOR CHELSEA

Chelsea have reached a deal with Manchester City to sign Raheem Sterling, according to David Ornstein of the Athletic.

The 27-year-old is set to sign a contract until 2027 with the option of an extra season, signalling the first major signing under new ownership.

Starting his senior career with Liverpool, Sterling moved to City in 2015, scoring 131 times in 339 appearances for them in all competitions.

The England international's status under Pep Guardiola became less secure in the past season however, with Phil Foden and Jack Grealish seeing increased time on the left wing.
 

ROUND-UP

– Meanwhile, Barcelona have matched Chelsea's offer of €70.1million (£60m) plus add-ons for Leeds United's Raphinha, Goal is reporting.

– Frenkie de Jong is hoping to remain at Barcelona and will reject an approach from Manchester United, per Sport.

– Bayern Munich have met with the representatives of Matthijs de Ligt, but Juventus are yet to receive an opening bid, according to Fabrizio Romano.

– Brighton and Hove Albion are in talks with Marc Cucurella over an improved deal amid interest from Manchester City, the Athletic reports.

It may feel like men's football has hardly been away, but Europe's top leagues are already into pre-season, meaning it promises to be a busy few weeks as teams ramp up preparations for the 2022-23 campaign.

Of course, pre-season is a little more compact this year because of the first ever mid-season World Cup, which is due to begin in November.

The World Cup's place in the calendar means the domestic season is starting earlier and finishing later than usual.

You can expect plenty of noteworthy games before the end of July. They may not mean a great deal in the grand scheme, but these games can offer a degree of intrigue, whether bitter rivals are facing each other or new signings are beginning their integration.

Below, Stats Perform has identified some notable matches that may be worth keeping tabs on before the end of the month.

Manchester United v Liverpool - July 12, 14:00 BST

Erik ten Hag's first match in charge of United will be against fierce rivals Liverpool in Bangkok on Tuesday. The Dutchman may not have made all the signings he would surely have liked before jetting out for pre-season, but seeing his new squad in action on the pitch for the first time may give him a better idea of what the club's transfer priorities should be.

RB Leipzig v Liverpool - July 21, 18:15 BST

The first of successive friendlies against 'Red Bull' clubs (they play Salzburg six days after this), and some Liverpool players will find themselves in familiar surroundings when they go to Leipzig. This should provide a good test of the Reds' fitness ahead of facing Manchester City in the Community Shield nine days later.

Bayern Munich v Manchester City - July 23, 00:00 BST

Pep Guardiola faces his former team in what will be the first ever soccer game played at the famous Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Arsenal v Chelsea - July 23, 01:00 BST

London rivals Arsenal and Chelsea are the main attractions in the Florida Cup, which confusingly is not just being played in the Sunshine State. However, the Gunners and Blues will be playing their contest in Orlando.

Tottenham v Roma - July 23, 19:15 BST

Spurs versus Jose Mourinho. Say no more.

Barcelona v Real Madrid - July 24, 04:00 BST

This Las Vegas clash will be by no means the first time Barca and Madrid have played a Clasico during pre-season. Their clashes are always worth watching, regardless of the stakes.

Bon diaaaaaaa!  pic.twitter.com/JdnE523QIs

— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) July 9, 2022

Barcelona v Juventus - July 27, 01:00 BST

After tussling with Madrid in a Clasico, Barca face another European heavyweight in Juventus at the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas, Texas.

Arsenal v Sevilla - July 30, 12:30 BST

The Emirates Cup is usually a solid option for pre-season entertainment. Arsenal's visitors this year are Julen Lopetegui's Sevilla, who finished fourth in LaLiga last season.

Real Madrid v Juventus - July 31, 03:00 BST

Having signed Angel Di Maria and seemingly being about to announce Paul Pogba's arrival, Juventus will be under pressure to pose more of a threat in Serie A and Europe next season. In that case, who better to test themselves against than Champions League winners Madrid? This game will be played at the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles.

Manchester United v Rayo Vallecano - July 31, 16:00 BST

This one may buck the trend in that it is not necessarily a clash between two current European high performers, but it is noteworthy as being Ten Hag's first Old Trafford game.

Cristiano Ronaldo is a "goal machine" who will remain competitive until the day he retires, former Italy and Juventus defender Gianluca Zambrotta has told Stats Perform.

Five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo has reportedly asked to leave Manchester United if an offer is made after just one season back at Old Trafford.

The Portugal international has yet to return to training with United and is not part of their tour of Thailand and Australia, which has been put down to family reasons.

Ronaldo scored a team-leading 24 goals in all competitions last season, but his homecoming did not go to plan as United registered their lowest Premier League points tally.

United endured a fifth successive season without silverware and finished down in sixth, meaning no Champions League football in the 2022-23 campaign.

That is said to be the reason why Ronaldo is seeking a new challenge, and Zambrotta has backed the 37-year-old to continue firing wherever he plies his trade.

"Ronaldo is a player who makes a difference at the moment. We have seen it. The numbers say this," Zambrotta said. 

"Which team can be right for him? I don't know. Definitely a team fighting for the Champions League, a team fighting for many goals.

"Because I am sure that he always wants to be competitive, until he retires. And I still think Ronaldo is a goal machine any team he plays for."

Ronaldo is the Champions League's all-time leading scorer with 140 goals and has won the competition four times with Real Madrid and once with United in his previous spell.

He scored six goals in last season's competition but could not help United further than the last-16 stage, where they were eliminated over two legs by Atletico Madrid.

However, while United endured a dreadful campaign under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and then Ralf Rangnick, Zambrotta does not feel Ronaldo was to blame.

"Let's say that he also needs team-mates," said Zambrotta, who represented the likes of Juve, Barcelona and Milan, while helping Italy to World Cup glory in 2006. 

"Even when Ronaldo was criticised at Juve, and they weren't able to move forward in the Champions League, he has always made the difference from a numerical point of view. 

"The data, the numbers say this. You can't think of going against the numbers. And then you may like him, or you may not like him – this is another kind of speech.

"But he has always been a player who has always made the difference from that point of view."

Ronaldo is not the only big-name attacker potentially on the move this window, with Robert Lewandowski also eager to move on from Bayern Munich.

Lewandowski scored 50 goals in 46 games in all competitions last season in his second-best scoring campaign across eight years with Bayern, behind the 55 netted in 2019-20.

The prolific striker has less than 12 months to run on his contract and has made no secret of his desire to leave, with Barcelona this week confirming an offer has been tabled.

It could lead to a bitter split between Bayern and Lewandowski but, like with Ronaldo, Zambrotta can understand why the player wants out.

"I have always been used to not judging anyone because I don't know the personal stories and current events of each case," he said. 

"Everyone can find themselves in a certain moment of their life or career in which they need to change because they need new motivations, new stimuli. 

"He needs a change of scenery, to see new faces, to stay in another stadium, to meet new mates. 

"Maybe at that moment, it was perhaps the right one for a player, so it doesn't affect me and most likely [Lewandowski] wants to change the air. That's all."

Paul Pogba is undergoing a medical at Juventus as he edges ever closer to sealing a return to his former club.

The France international is set for a second spell with the Bianconeri following his departure from Manchester United upon the expiration of his contract.

Pogba was greeted by many Juventus supporters when he arrived at the club's medical centre on Saturday, having jetted into Turin the previous day.

The 2018 World Cup winner, who is expected to sign a four-year deal at the Allianz Stadium, enjoyed a trophy-laden first spell with the Serie A giants between 2012 and 2016.

Pogba won the Scudetto in each of his four seasons and helped the club reach the 2015 Champions League final, while registering 34 goals in 178 appearances across all competitions.

The ex-United midfielder is set to be joined at Juve by another former Red Devil in Angel Di Maria, who underwent a medical on Friday after leaving Paris Saint-Germain last season.

Manchester United have added yet another Ajax product to their wish-list for this transfer period, with 20-year-old striker Brian Brobbey emerging as a new target.

Brobbey came through the Ajax academy when Erik ten Hag was in charge and, after leaving to join RB Leipzig ahead of this past season, he was loaned back to Ajax in a successful move.

After returning to the Dutch giants, Brobbey scored seven goals in 11 Eredivisie fixtures, prompting the club to try and bring him back on a permanent deal.

 

TOP STORY – RED DEVILS SWOOP IN FOR HIGHLY RATED AJAX YOUNGSTER

Brobbey was widely expected to re-join the reigning Eredivisie champions for a fee in the neighbourhood of £13million.

However, the Times is reporting that Ten Hag has caught wind of the move and is hoping to instead coax the promising young striker to Old Trafford.

It is said the deal with Ajax was almost as good as done, so it remains to be seen if he could be convinced to change directions at the 11th hour, but the Times report includes that Ten Hag has been on the phone to Brobbey in an effort to sway him towards the Premier League.

United's interest in Brobbey follows moves for Ajax stars Lisandro Martinez and Antony, with a package-deal for the pair rumoured to be worth north of £100m.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to French publication Media Foot, Arsenal are showing interest in 24-year-old Lyon midfielder Lucas Paqueta, who is also linked with Newcastle United.

– The Mirror is reporting that Barcelona manager Xavi is keen to re-sign Ousmane Dembele to a new contract, but the club's sporting director Mateu Alemany would prefer a move for Leeds United's Raphinha.

Everton are targeting 20-year-old Chelsea striker Armando Broja and 25-year-old Southampton full-back Kyle Walker-Peters, according to The Mirror.

– Fabrizio Romano claims Chelsea have reached personal terms with Manchester City centre-back Nathan Ake, although the final transfer fee, believed to be in the £40m range, is yet to be decided.

– Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting that West Ham are considering a £13m move for 23-year-old Roma forward Justin Kluivert, while Goal claims Villarreal winger Arnaut Danjuma told the Hammers he has no interest in moving there.

Paul Pogba told Juventus supporters, "We'll see each other soon", as the midfielder jetted into Turin to seal his Bianconeri return after leaving Manchester United.

The 2018 World Cup winner spent a trophy-laden four years at Juventus after originally leaving United in 2012, winning a Serie A title in every season before returning to Old Trafford in a then-world record move in 2016.

Despite lifting the Europa League and EFL Cup trophies in his first campaign after returning, Pogba's second spell with United proved to be largely underwhelming, and the club confirmed he would depart on a free transfer last month after a new contract was not agreed.

Pogba was immediately linked with another return to a former stomping ground with a return to Juventus, whose chief executive Maurizio Arrivabene said talks were progressing "very, very well" on June 30.

And in a video posted to his social media accounts from a private jet on Friday, Pogba revealed the move was close.

"It's time, it's time, yes sir," the midfielder declared, adding in Italian; "we'll see each other soon." 

Pogba, who made 178 appearances and scored 34 goals in his first spell with the Bianconeri, also added the caption '#PogAlmostBack', in a reference to his 2016 unveiling at United.

The enigmatic midfielder made a bright start to his final season at Old Trafford as he recorded four assists in his first appearance of the campaign, but went on to add just five more in his next 26 outings as the Red Devils missed out on Champions League qualification. 

Pogba is not the only imminent arrival at the Turin giants, who confirmed on Friday that Argentina star Angel Di Maria was undergoing a medical at the club ahead of sealing his own free transfer, having left Paris Saint-Germain.

Cristiano Ronaldo was front and centre as Manchester United launched their new home kit on Friday.

Ronaldo is widely reported to have asked to be allowed to leave Old Trafford just a year after returning for a second stint.

Despite links to Chelsea, United insist the veteran forward is not for sale, although he has been allowed to skip at least the first leg of their pre-season tour due to family reasons.

United are due to fly to Thailand on Friday.

Ahead of that trip, though, the first glimpse of a retro-style Adidas home strip was released on United's social media channels.

Ronaldo was included in both the still photos and the initial video campaign, along with fellow great United number seven Eric Cantona.

The Athletic reported a further advert was set to feature Ronaldo, Cantona and David Beckham but had been delayed by his transfer request.

Before the latest Cristiano Ronaldo transfer plea emerged last weekend, the conversation around Manchester United in this window focused primarily on their incoming business and the club's transfer policy.

A year ago, under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United looked to be building a young, exciting team, only to be distracted by the pull of nostalgia and Ronaldo.

The end result was United's worst ever Premier League points return, with Solskjaer lasting only until November and a number of the side's promising talents – including big-money buy Jadon Sancho – enduring difficult campaigns. All the while, Ronaldo tallied more than 20 club goals for a 16th consecutive season.

Rushed through amid rival interest from neighbours Manchester City, Ronaldo's clearly was not a considered transfer, and less than 12 months on it could not be deemed a success, despite the individual displays that have reportedly attracted the attention of Chelsea among others.

There appears to have been a great deal more thought put into United's movement this year – not that their new approach has escaped criticism.

Ten Hag's total control

There is a clear theme running through United's reported shopping list in their first transfer window under ex-Ajax coach Erik ten Hag:

Ajax defender Jurrien Timber, Ajax defender Lisandro Martinez, Feyenoord defender Tyrell Malacia, who was of interest to Ten Hag at Ajax, former Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong, former Ajax midfielder Christian Eriksen, who trained with Ajax again last season, and Ajax winger Antony.

It is only natural to wonder how many of these players would have been targeted had Solskjaer still been in charge, or Ralf Rangnick, or even, say, Mauricio Pochettino.

United, it seems, have granted Ten Hag – one of the few remaining managers in a world of head coaches – complete control.

Of course, this is nothing new at Old Trafford, where David Moyes was allowed to bring along Marouane Fellaini from Everton, Louis van Gaal to recruit Netherlands pair Daley Blind and Memphis Depay, and Jose Mourinho to reunite with Chelsea's Nemanja Matic – who has now joined him again at Roma.

In each case, the absence of a sporting director and an overarching plan was scrutinised.

Now, even with John Murtough in as football director and Darren Fletcher as technical director, United have again changed strategy entirely to suit the wants of the first-team manager – still the most important figure at the club.

This latest development has unsurprisingly been highlighted by United's detractors, but is it really such an issue in this case?

Ajax a class above United

There are worse clubs to be pinching a team's worth of players from than Ajax, renowned for developing world-class talents across several generations.

As recently as three years ago, Ten Hag's Ajax faced Eriksen's Tottenham – also featuring Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez – in the Champions League semi-finals; United last reached the final four of Europe's elite club competition in 2011.

Ajax have been operating without the benefits of United's Premier League broadcasting contracts and, in 2022, have far more modest ambitions, yet they far outperformed the Red Devils in the Champions League across Ten Hag's tenure.

The Eredivisie side won 53.1 per cent of their 32 Champions League matches under their now former coach, with United winning just 38.5 per cent of their own 26 games over the same period. Ajax also scored more goals in the competition (2.0 per game versus 1.5) and conceded fewer (1.1 versus 1.3).

These Ajax players have set a far higher standard than that seen from recent United teams, so why would the club deny Ten Hag the opportunity to attempt to recreate that success at Old Trafford?

And whether by relying heavily on ex-Ajax men or otherwise, United's squad needed to undergo serious surgery to fit with Ten Hag's ideals – the ideals that attracted the 20-time English champions to him in the first place.

No room for Ronaldo?

If Ten Hag can effectively communicate his methods to players old and new, expect United to look very different this season – both with and without the ball.

Only Bayern Munich and Liverpool averaged a greater share of possession than Ajax (61.6 per cent) in the Champions League last season, with United (53.8) back in 10th in this regard.

Martinez (80.3 passes per 90) and Timber (74.7) were Ajax's most prolific passers, helping Ten Hag's men to build from the back. While United's passing leaders were also centre-backs – Raphael Varane (57.9), Victor Lindelof (54.7) and Harry Maguire (51.7) – they trailed a long way behind.

Crucially, Timber (93.3 per cent) and Martinez (91.9) were also the top performing Ajax or United players in terms of passing accuracy. Red Devils captain Maguire's far inferior 87.5 per cent accuracy perhaps shows why Ten Hag has been so keen to recruit one of his former ball-playing defenders.

But Ajax do not dominate just because of how careful they are in possession; they are also hugely proactive off the ball.

Ajax employed the most aggressive press in terms of opposition passes allowed per defensive action (PPDA) in three of Ten Hag's four Champions League campaigns, ranking second behind Bayern Munich in 2020-21.

Indeed, Ten Hag's last season was Ajax's most effective in this regard. They allowed just 7.4 PPDA – Bayern (8.8) were next, with United (12.1) 15th – and started their possessions 48.7 metres upfield on average, 2.0m more advanced than second-placed Chelsea (United were 12th – 43.0m).

Ten Hag clearly feels he needs more energy in midfield (De Jong) and attack (Antony), which makes reports United still want to keep Ronaldo a little odd. He averaged 16.8 pressures per 90 across the 2021-22 Premier League season, by far the fewest of any United attacker – Edinson Cavani, for example, averaged 35.8.

Letting Ronaldo leave might mean acknowledging an almighty error, but it would also represent a huge show of faith in a coach for whose system the five-time Ballon d'Or winner evidently appears unsuited.

And such trust in Ten Hag would certainly seem to fall in line with the rest of United's activity in this window.

Chelsea are looking to swoop in and scoop up Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who has been Manchester United's primary midfield target since the appointment of new boss Erik ten Hag.

De Jong, 25, has 44 international caps for the Netherlands, and has spent the past three seasons with the Spanish giants.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has been adamant the club does not want to part ways with the star they paid €75million for back in 2019, but the club's financial position may force their hand.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA LOOK TO STEAL UNITED TARGET WITH CHAMPIONS LEAGUE ALLURE

De Jong is reportedly been hesitant about a move to United due to the fact that they could not offer Champions League football, and that is where Chelsea will have their advantage in negotiations.

The Metro is reporting the Stamford Bridge club are preparing an offer that will include both players and cash, with €60million as well as Spanish duo Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso said to be on the table.

The elephant in the room regarding a De Jong move is that Barcelona reportedly owe the Dutchman £17m in deferred wages, and the Daily Mail claims he wants the balance fully paid before he signs off on any transfer.

 

ROUND-UP

United have been told they will need to pay £106m in order to secure the signings of Ajax duo Lisandro Martinez and Antony, according to the Daily Record.

– According to i Sport, Chelsea are working on a new contract extension for Reece James, despite three years still remaining on his current deal, in an effort to fend off interest from Manchester City and Real Madrid.

– The Daily Mail is reporting Wolves will send 19-year-old Fabio Silva on a season-long loan to Anderlecht after purchasing him for £35m two years ago.

– The Mirror claims Leeds United are preparing a club-record offer of £32m for 21-year-old Club Brugge midfielder Charles De Ketelaere, who already has eight senior international caps for Belgium.

– According to Fabrizio Romano, the likely departure of Raheem Sterling has put City in a position to offer Riyad Mahrez a contract extension.

Bruno Fernandes will wear the number eight shirt for Manchester United this season, while new signing Tyrell Malacia takes number 12  at Old Trafford.

Fernandes has donned the number 18 shirt for the Red Devils since joining from Sporting CP in January 2020, subsequently scoring 50 goals in 126 appearances across all competitions.

But the Portugal international has opted to switch to his favourite number, which he has tattooed on his right arm, after the jersey was vacated by Juan Mata following the Spaniard's departure from the club at the end of last season.

Fernandes will be seen in the number eight shirt for the first time during United's pre-season tour of Thailand, with the squad flying out to the Far East on Friday.

The midfielder becomes the sixth different player to wear the shirt at Old Trafford since the introduction of squad numbers in 1993-94, after Paul Ince, Nicky Butt, Wayne Rooney, Anderson and Mata.

Meanwhile, it has also been revealed that Malacia will wear number 12 following his arrival from Feyenoord.

The left-back put pen to paper on a four-year contract with the Red Devils earlier this week, as he became the club's first signing under Erik ten Hag.

Cristiano Ronaldo will not be part of Manchester United's travelling party for their pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia.

The Portugal international is said to have asked the club for a move away last week if a satisfactory offer is received in this window.

Ronaldo was due to return to training on Monday, but he was granted extra time off due to a family issue.

It was reported on Thursday that the five-time Ballon d'Or winner will not be part of the squad that flies out to the Far East on Friday for the same reason.

According to the Manchester Evening News, a United spokesperson said: "Cristiano Ronaldo will not be part of the Manchester United party scheduled to depart for our pre-season tour of Thailand and Australia on Friday. He has been granted additional time off to deal with a family issue.

"Cristiano remains under contract with Manchester United for another season, and he is not for sale."

United are due to take on Liverpool in Bangkok on Tuesday in a prestige friendly ahead of flying to Australia for the next stage of their pre-season preparations.

It is not known if Ronaldo will meet up with his team-mates ahead of further games against Melbourne Victory, Crystal Palace and Aston Villa.

Ongoing speculation regarding Ronaldo's Old Trafford future comes less than a year on from his return to the club following 12 seasons away with Real Madrid and Juventus.

He led the scoring charts last term with 24 goals in all competitions, but his homecoming did not go to plan as United registered their lowest Premier League points tally.

United endured a fifth successive season without silverware and finished down in sixth, meaning no Champions League football in the 2022-23 campaign.

That is said to be the reason why Ronaldo, the leading scorer of all time in UEFA's primary club competition, is pushing for a move elsewhere.

Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Napoli and MLS clubs have been linked with the forward, as have his former sides Madrid and Sporting CP.

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