It wasn't so long ago that Raheem Sterling's long-term future at Manchester City was shrouded in doubt.

The England forward has long since been linked to LaLiga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid.

However, it appears Sterling may now be in line to commit his future to the reigning Premier League champions.


TOP STORY – PEP WANTS NEW DEAL FOR STERLING

City boss Pep Guardiola has reportedly given the green light on awarding Sterling a new contract, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Sterling, who has 13 goals and four assists across all competitions for City this season, had been linked with a move to Barca as recently as the January transfer window.

But having played his way back into the team, City want to renew his deal – though the club want a swift decision with Sterling's present contract due to expire in 2023.


ROUND-UP

- Alvaro Morata is a man in demand. Barca were thought to be keen on signing the Spain striker in January, but Arsenal remain interested in the Atletico Madrid forward – who is on loan at Juventus – according to the Boot Room .

- Memphis Depay 's future at Camp Nou was hurt by the departure of Ronald Koeman. Sport reports that Serie A trio Inter , Milan and Juventus are interested in the Netherlands star.

- Stefan de Vrij could be on the move at the end of the season. InterLive says the centre-back could be reunited with Antonio Conte at Tottenham .

- Lucas Vazquez wants to make Spain's World Cup squad and El Nacional says the 30-year-old winger is prepared to leave Real Madrid in order to do so.

Manchester United remain on the lookout for a full-time manager, three months on from sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Ralf Rangnick has taken interim charge until at least the end of the campaign, but some mixed results have hampered his hopes of landing the job permanently.

A number of names have been linked with one of football's most prestigious positions, though one candidate is seemingly favoured by the players.

 

 

TOP STORY – UNITED STARS FAVOUR POCH APPOINTMENT

Mauricio Pochettino remains the favourite to succeed Solskjaer as United's next permanent boss and, according to The Express, that is an appointment that will go down well.

The Red Devils' first-team stars are said to have made clear that Pochettino, who is under pressure a year into his time with Paris Saint-Germain, is their preferred option.

Ajax boss Erik Ten Hag is another candidate to lead United forward from next season, but there are concerns over his lack of experience in English football.

 

ROUND-UP

- While there is uncertainty over who will be in charge at United next season, the Premier League heavyweights are pushing ahead with transfer plans. Sport1 reports that Borussia Dortmund defender Manuel Akanji is one of those being targeted.

- Memphis Depay could be on his way out of Barcelona less than a year after arriving at Camp Nou. Sport claims that Barca have other attacking options in mind, with Dortmund superstar Erling Haaland still on their radar.

- Inter remain in talks with Ivan Perisic over a new contract at San Siro. According to Nicolo Schira, the Croatia international is close to putting pen to paper on an extension that will run through until July 2024.

- Calciomercato reports that Milan are planning talks with the representatives of Lille centre-back Sven Botman. The highly rated defender has been touted as a target for numerous clubs across Europe, most notably Newcastle United.

- Chelsea have not given up hope of tying Antonio Rudiger down to a new deal, according to Goal. It is claimed that the Germany international has been offered close to £200,000 a week to turn down interest from Real Madrid and PSG.

Donny van de Beek has struggled to make much of an impression since his £35million move to Manchester United from Ajax in September 2020.

The Netherlands international was overlooked for regular selection by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and is also a fringe player under interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

But Van de Beek, who previously starred in a talented Ajax side, could be offered a route out of Old Trafford this month.


TOP STORY – DORTMUND, NEWCASTLE IN FOR VAN DE BEEK

Van de Beek is reportedly considering a move away in order to win back his place in the Netherlands side.

According to the Manchester Evening News, Bundesliga heavyweights Dortmund and Premier League strugglers Newcastle United are possible suitors for the midfielder.

However, United will have the final say on any loan deal, which would not be expected to contain an option to make the deal permanent at the end of the campaign.

The 24-year-old has featured 49 times for the Red Devils – just 19 of those being starts – since arriving at the club 16 months ago.


ROUND-UP

– Barcelona will make one final effort to sign Alvaro Morata this month, according to Sport. Memphis Depay could be used as part of any deal.

– Liverpool want to sign Jarrod Bowen and the West Ham forward is keen on the move, says Football Insider. It will not be in January, though.

– Desperate for a replacement for Kieran Trippier, Atletico Madrid are interested in Manchester United's Diogo Dalot, according to AS.

– Tuttomercatoweb says Arthur is keen on the idea of joining Arsenal on loan, but Juventus and Massimiliano Allegri have yet to okay any departure.

– Meanwhile, TMW also claims Paulo Dybala is not yet prepared to listen to offers from other clubs, with a contract summit with Juventus set for February.

– The Daily Mail reports that Arsenal are frontrunners to sign Youri Tielemans after Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers admitted the midfielder may leave the club.

Memphis Depay and Sergino Dest have returned to Barcelona's squad for Saturday's LaLiga clash with Granada.

Both players have been absent since Barca's 3-0 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich on December 8.

Depay has been sidelined with a hamstring injury, while Dest – a reported January target for Bayern – has struggled for fitness and recently tested positive for coronavirus.

However, Dest tested negative on Friday and was part of Barca's travelling party for their showdown at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes.

Gavi and Alejandro Balde have also recovered from COVID-19 lay-offs, while Ez Abde is included in Xavi's 23-man squad for the first time this year.

Depay's return in particular is a huge boost for Xavi as the forward's 10 direct goal involvements this term – eight goals and two assists – is double that of any other Barca player.

Fifth-placed Barcelona have lost just one of their past nine LaLiga games and are unbeaten in five away from home.

The Catalan giants have won eight of their last 10 visits to Granada in LaLiga, scoring at least three goals in each of their previous four trips to Los Carmenes.

January 1 2022 is a date Real Madrid and Kylian Mbappe have been anticipating for some time.

Los Blancos were the subject of two failed bids for the Paris Saint-Germain superstar in the previous transfer window.

But the new year sees Mbappe enter the final six months of his contract at the Parc des Princes meaning he is free to talk to clubs outside of France.

And it seems Madrid are more confident that ever of landing their top target.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID HAVE 'TOTAL OPTIMISM' ON MBAPPE

The future of Mbappe has dominated the rumour mill for months and Spanish publication Marca claims there is "total optimism" among the Madrid hierarchy they will land their man.

One complication is the fact the two teams are set to meet in a Champions League last-16 grudge match, with any announcement unlikely to happen before that tie.

But come July 1 there is growing expectation Mbappe will be a Madrid player, with the signing of Lionel Messi and potential future arrival of Zinedine Zidane as head coach seemingly not enough to convince him to remain in the French capital.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea's need for defensive reinforcements may be exacerbated by the fact Andreas Christensen has no intention of signing a new contract. Spanish paper Sport says the Dane, who is out of contract at the end of the season, is close to joining Barcelona.

- Speaking of Barcelona, AS reports the future of Memphis Depay is shrouded in doubt. With Ferran Torres having arrived from Manchester City and Alvaro Morata a top target, Depay may be set for a close-season exit after a solitary campaign at Camp Nou.

- Manchester United could be about to get one over old boss Jose Mourinho by landing Boubacar Kamara. The Daily Mirror reports the Red Devils are attempting to beat Roma to the signing of the Marseille midfielder.

- Roma have also been in the hunt for Arsenal midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles, but they apparently face competition from Everton according to the Liverpool Echo.

- Over on the Red side of Merseyside, Italian agency ANSA is reporting Liverpool are about to pip Arsenal and Tottenham to the signing of Milan midfielder Franck Kessie.

- The Athletic suggested the Gunners are also likely to have more frustration. Arsenal have been linked with a move for Lille forward Jonathan David but will apparently have to wait until the end of the campaign to land their man.

Barcelona are in the market to bolster their squad in January.

The Spanish giants have financial challenges to overcome.

But after an ordinary start to the season, they are ready to get busy to build Xavi a stronger squad.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA TO MOVE FOR LAPORTE

Barcelona could move for another Manchester City star, with The Sun reporting that the Blaugrana want to sign Spain international Aymeric Laporte.

The defender has lost his starting spot to John Stones and is said to be unsettled at City.

Barcelona announced a deal to sign Ferran Torres from City this week.

 

ROUND-UP

Juventus have no interest in a potential swap deal with Barcelona whereby Alvaro Morata would trade places with Memphis Depay, reports Football Italia.

Newcastle United are set to complete their first piece of January transfer business by signing Lille defender Sven Botman, claims the Mail.

Liverpool are interested in Arsenal winger Bukayo Saka, claims the Express. Saka is contracted to the Gunners until 2024.

Liverpool have also pitched a contract offer to Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, reports Ansa.

Xavi made it back-to-back LaLiga wins following his appointment as Barcelona head coach as late goals from Memphis Depay and Philippe Coutinho secured a 3-1 win over Villarreal.

The former Barca midfielder oversaw a 1-0 win over Espanyol last weekend after taking over the reins from Ronald Koeman, but it looked like he would be denied another three points at Estadio de la Ceramica when Samuel Chukwueze cancelled out Frenkie de Jong's opener.

Depay had other ideas, though, stroking home with two minutes remaining to spark jubilant celebrations from Xavi on the Barca bench, before Coutinho added a third from the penalty spot in stoppage time.

The result puts seventh-placed Barca seven points behind leaders Real Madrid, who have a game in hand, while Villarreal stay 12th.

It has been a turbulent period for Manchester United, but they appear on the cusp of solving one issue.

With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer gone, struggling United need a new manager and while Mauricio Pochettino seems to be the dream appointment, the Red Devils are reportedly closing in on a short-term solution.

Ralf Rangnick.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED TURN TO RANGNICK ON SHORT-TERM BASIS

Manchester United are set to appoint former RB Leipzig boss Ralf Rangnick as interim manager, according to The Athletic, ESPN and widespread reports.

After sacking Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United outlined their plan to install an interim boss until the end of the season amid reported long-term interest in Paris Saint-Germain's Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag.

There had been reports United could turn to Pochettino immediately but a deal to prise the former Tottenham boss from Paris proved difficult.

Instead, United have offered Rangnick a six-month contract at Old Trafford, where the 63-year-old German is set to take up a consultancy role once his interim tenure ends.

Rangnick is currently head of sports and development at Russian outfit Lokomotiv Moscow.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims Chelsea are plotting a move for Italy star Federico Chiesa, who is still on loan from Fiorentina. Juventus are set to sign Chiesa permanently at the end of the season, though he is wanted by a host of clubs, including Bayern Munich and Liverpool.

- United have emerged as a possible destination for in-demand Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic, reports the Daily Mail. Vlahovic is wanted by Manchester CityAtletico Madrid, JuveInterArsenalTottenham and Bayern but the Red Devils are believed to have joined the race.

Barcelona could sell Memphis Depay to help in their efforts to prise Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, per El Nacional. Depay only joined Barca on a free transfer at the start of the season, but the financially stricken LaLiga giants are among the long list of Haaland admirers. Haaland has been linked with CityUnitedReal MadridBayernLiverpoolChelseaJuve and PSG.

- Fabrizio Romano claims Stefano Pioli will sign a new contract with Milan on Friday. The Rossoneri head coach is set to extend his deal until June 2023, with the option of a further season.

Louis van Gaal feared the Netherlands would blow their chance to secure automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup.

The Netherlands wrapped up top spot in Group G on Tuesday after a cagey 2-0 victory over Norway thanks to late goals from Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay.

Netherlands head coach Van Gaal had suffered a fall from a bike and injured his hip ahead of the game so was forced to watch the match from the stands in a wheelchair.

Van Gaal cut a nervous figure as Danny Blind relayed his instructions via telephone on the touchline in a fixture played without any fans at De Kuip due to growing coronavirus cases.

Despite a tense game, the Netherlands got the job done as their stubborn defence – which has conceded just eight goals in qualifying – stood firm.

The Netherlands are now unbeaten in seven matches since Euro 2020, winning five times.

"The mood was a bit down the day after [the draw with] Montenegro, then I was afraid that it might go completely wrong," Van Gaal told NOS Journaal.

"But all in all it was a fantastic week despite everything. We got to know each other through lows and highs.

"We scored two goals today, and Jasper Cillessen kept a clean sheet. We dominated and controlled the game for 90 minutes. Norway may have had half a chance.

“I complimented the team at half-time, but also told them to play a little more forward.

"We played provocative pressing in the second half, which gave us a little more space. And of course we have the attackers for that."

Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk made a team-high four clearances, two tackles and won 88.9 per cent of his duels as Norway failed to register a single shot on target.

The Liverpool defender spoke of his excitement at potentially playing at his first major international tournament, having missed out on the rescheduled Euro 2020 earlier this year through injury.

"We are going to Qatar and it's well deserved, we almost didn't give anything away. In my opinion, nothing at all," said Van Dijk.

"We had to show a reaction after last Saturday and we did. Of course there are many things that could be improved, but the result was the most important.

“I am extremely proud of this team. It can be tricky to play around with the idea that any mistake can be fatal, but we've embraced it. 

"We showed real character, it was not easy to switch quickly after the 2-2 in Montenegro, but we did it.

"I was very sorry that the national coach was there from a distance and the fans were not there at all. We're going to celebrate well inside. I can't wait for the World Cup."

Louis van Gaal feared the Netherlands would blow their chance to secure automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup.

The Oranje wrapped up top spot in Group G on Tuesday after a cagey 2-0 victory over Norway thanks to late goals from Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay.

Head coach Van Gaal had suffered a fall from a bike and injured his hip ahead of the game so was forced to watch the match from the stands in a wheelchair.

He cut a nervous figure as Danny Blind relayed his instructions via telephone on the touchline in a fixture played without any fans at De Kuip.

Despite a tense game the Netherlands got the job done as their stubborn defence – which has conceded just eight goals in qualifying – stood firm.

The Netherlands are now unbeaten in seven matches since the European Championships, winning five times.

"The mood was a bit down the day after [the draw with] Montenegro, then I was afraid that it might go completely wrong," Van Gaal told NOS Journaal.

"But all in all it was a fantastic week despite everything. We got to know each other through lows and highs.

"We scored two goals today, and Jasper Cillessen kept a clean sheet. We dominated and controlled the game for 90 minutes. Norway may have had half a chance.

“I complimented the team at half-time, but also told them to play a little more forward.

"We played provocative pressing in the second half, which gave us a little more space. And of course we have the attackers for that."

Netherlands skipper Virgil van Dijk made a team high four clearances, two tackles and won 88.9 per cent of his duels as Norway failed to register a single shot on target.

The Liverpool defender spoke of his excitement at potentially playing at his first major international tournament, having missed out on the rescheduled. Euro 2020 earlier this year through injury.

"We are going to Qatar and it's well deserved, we almost didn't give anything away. In my opinion, nothing at all," said the Liverpool defender.

"We had to show a reaction after last Saturday and we did. Of course there are many things that could be improved, but the result was the most important.

“I am extremely proud of this team. It can be tricky to play around with the idea that any mistake can be fatal, but we've embraced it. 

"We showed real character, it was not easy to switch quickly after the 2-2 in Montenegro, but we did it.

"I was very sorry that the national coach was there from a distance and the fans were not there at all. We're going to celebrate well inside. I can't wait for the World Cup."

Steven Bergwijn and Memphis Depay made sure of the Netherlands' place at the 2022 World Cup with late goals in a 2-0 victory against Norway on Tuesday.

Turkey's 2-1 win against Montenegro kept the pressure on the Netherlands, but they still needed only a point to secure their qualification and got more than that in the closing stages at De Kuip.

Bergwijn netted with six minutes left when he fired high into the net before Depay put the result beyond doubt with a goal on the break in injury time.

While the Oranje finished as Group G winners, Norway slipped to third and missed out on a place in the play-offs having failed to register a shot on target across the entire contest.

The Netherlands missed the chance to seal qualification for the 2022 World Cup as Montenegro produced a late comeback to snatch a 2-2 draw.

Norway's goalless draw with Latvia earlier in the day gave the Oranje a chance to win Group G with a game to spare at Podgorica City Stadium and they were well on course to grasp their opportunity courtesy of a Memphis Depay double.

Depay struck from the penalty spot in the first half before the leading scorer in European qualifying took his tally to 11 after the break to give Louis van Gaal's breathing space.

Montenegro looked beaten, but Ilija Vukotic set up a tense finale when he halved the deficit with eight minutes to play and fellow substitute Nikola Vujnovic stunned the Netherlands when he equalised after 86 minutes.

The Oranje go into what promises to be a tense final group game against third-placed Norway on Tuesday leading their opponents and Turkey by two points.

Barcelona saw their long winning run against Rayo Vallecano end on Wednesday as they lost 1-0 at Estadio de Vallecas.

In need of a positive result after their 2-1 Clasico defeat, Ronald Koeman's men instead suffered a fifth defeat of the season in all competitions courtesy of Radamel Falcao's first-half goal.

Barca went into this latest contest on a run of 13 consecutive LaLiga wins over Rayo in which they had averaged 4.3 goals per game, yet they paid the price for Memphis Depay's missed penalty midway through the second half.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen made a desperate early save to keep out Oscar Trejo's ambitious long-range chip, but it began to look like Barca would keep up that formidable scoring record, Depay going close and Sergio Aguero seeing vague penalty appeals against goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski dismissed.

Yet it was Rayo who took the lead on the half-hour mark, Trejo robbing Sergio Busquets and threading the ball to Falcao, who turned away from Gerard Pique before finishing low to Ter Stegen's right.

Sergino Dest missed a golden chance to equalise before the break, turning over the bar from point-blank range after some brilliant play from Depay down the left, and Aguero blasted high and wide from inside the box after the United States international had teed him up.

Depay earned the chance to level from the spot after he was clipped from behind by Oscar Valentin, but Dimitrievski saved superbly to his right before bravely gathering the rebound as the Barca forward closed in.

Dimitrievski was more hesitant with a loose ball outside the Rayo box in injury time, but substitute Luuk de Jong's attempted lob landed on the roof of the net.

In eight minutes of injury time, Aguero glanced a diving header wide and then set up Gavi for what looked a simple finish, but the young midfielder scuffed his effort wide.

 

What does it mean? Barca title challenge looking bleak

The end of their LaLiga dominance over Rayo feels like a watershed moment for Barca and their hopes of quickly becoming a major force again.

With four wins from 10 games, they are six points off the top of the table and have now gone five away matches in all competitions without a victory.

Falcao still has the magic touch

After scoring in three of his past four league games against Barca, it was little surprise to see Falcao convert his one chance with the kind of poise he showed in his best days with Atletico Madrid.

He had lost all four of those previous meetings with the Blaugrana, so this was a sweet moment indeed for the Colombia striker.

Aguero off-colour

It looked like Aguero would mark his first Barca start with a goal when he lined up the kind of high near-post finish that became a trademark of his at Manchester City. He missed, though – and by a long way.

With just 31 touches throughout, by far the fewest of any starting Barca player, this was not a match to bring the best out of the Argentina striker.

What's next?

The pressure will be even greater on Barca when they host Deportivo Alaves on Saturday, with Rayo heading to Celta Vigo on November 1.

Memphis Depay scored twice and had a penalty saved as the Netherlands maintained their hold on World Cup qualifying Group G with a comfortable 6-0 win over Gibraltar.

Virgil van Dijk's early header got the ball rolling, with Depay responding to Bradley Banda saving his spot-kick by finishing off a neat team move and scoring a second penalty as the Oranje went in at half-time with a commanding lead.

Denzel Dumfries wasted no time in adding to the scoreline in the second half, before substitutes Arnaut Danjuma and Donny Malen completed the scoring to condemn Gibraltar to an eighth defeat from eight.

The Netherlands can ill afford to slip up, with Norway two points behind them, but that was never likely here as Van Dijk opened the scoring inside nine minutes, losing his marker with ease and nodding Depay's corner in at the near post.

Stefan de Vrij's header was blocked in the box by the arm of Graeme Torrilla, with a penalty awarded following a VAR review, yet Depay's spot-kick was at a nice height for Banda to make a convincing save.

The Gibraltar goalkeeper could do little two minutes later, however, as Noa Lang's superb pass carved the visiting defence open and Davy Klaassen squared for Depay to tap in.

Banda made fine saves from Georginio Wijnaldum and De Vrij, but another handball – this time Julian Valarino blocking Steven Berghuis' right-wing cross – gave Depay a second opportunity from the spot he would not pass up.

Dumfries made it 4-0 shortly after the restart, finding himself in the centre of the box to head in Lang's left-wing cross, and a lull in the scoring was brought to an end 15 minutes from time when Wout Weghorst flicked on to Danjuma, who steered the ball into the bottom-left corner on the stretch.

Weghorst thought he had got his name on the scoresheet when he nodded over Banda but Roy Chipolina hacked off the line, with the sixth instead belonging to Malen after slick interplay involving Depay.

Memphis Depay insists he "would never regret" moving to Barcelona despite Los Cules' difficult start to the season.

The Dutch forward moved to Camp Nou from Lyon on a free transfer but never got the chance to link up with Lionel Messi, who left the club amid financial difficulties and joined Paris Saint-Germain.

In the Argentine's absence, Barcelona have underwhelmed, losing both their Champions League group-stage games so far 3-0 to sit bottom of the group and managing just three wins from their first seven LaLiga outings.

Depay, however, is adamant that the privilege of playing for the Catalan giants is more than enough to justify his decision to join, regardless of recent form.

"How could you ask [if I regret the timing of my move to Barcelona]? It's Barcelona. I don't think you understand how big this club is and what it means for a player if you move to a club like this. I would never regret it," Depay said.

The 27-year-old was bullish about the Blaugrana's chances of turning their season around, dismissing the notion that his new side could be written off amid the mounting pressure on head coach Ronald Koeman after their slow start.

"Despite results, I'm really happy at the club," Depay continued. "It's been a difficult time [for the team]. I don't want to talk about that much, but people are acting like the season is already over.

"There are so many games to play. Everything is still open. But as a player, you feel responsible and you take responsibility. You care. Every player takes responsibility at Barca. That's normal for a club like Barcelona.

"We know what the situation is right now. We know it's difficult. [Playing with] young players, a lot of injuries. But I think [it's just a matter of time].

"Everybody is panicking and for a club like Barcelona it's a new situation. They're used to winning everything with beautiful football. This is a new situation, but I am not worried. I'm sure we will turn things around."

Depay has started the campaign well on an individual level, scoring three goals and notching an assist in his seven league appearances, and will be hoping to bolster those numbers when Barcelona host Valencia in their next game on October 17.

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