Newcastle United plugged one of the two gaping holes in their side in time for last Saturday's huge game against Watford.

Chris Wood made his debut as the club's only fit senior striker following his £25million move from relegation rivals Burnley.

However, at centre-back, Jamaal Lascelles and Fabian Schar were again paired, prompting an all too predictable finale in which the former – Newcastle's captain – was beaten in the air for a dramatic Watford equaliser.

Newcastle have been pushing hard for defensive reinforcements to fit in alongside Kieran Trippier, but Lille insist Sven Botman will not be sold in January and a pursuit of Sevilla's Diego Carlos is also dragging on, while interest in Benoit Badiashile of Monaco – another mooted option – has been complicated by his injury.

Regardless, the Magpies' bottomless budget simply must deliver a centre-back in the coming days, for Eddie Howe's men – still with only a single win this season – risk being cut adrift, as the world's richest club or otherwise.

Fine margins foiling Magpies

Wood did not have an immediate impact, and Newcastle's attackers have struggled to aid their defensive colleagues this season, never once forging a two-goal lead in a game.

But when they have been able to net first, doing so in 10 different matches, including against Watford, that back line has failed miserably to protect their advantage.

Newcastle have dropped a league-leading 21 points from winning positions. With 18 matches to play, an unwanted club record of 31 (in 2004-05) is coming into view.

This dismal trend has resulted in nine draws through 20 games, their most at this stage of a season in the competition's history (beating eight in 20 in 2003-04).

Having lost fewer games (10) than 13th-placed Aston Villa (11) and trailed for only 35 per cent of their time with the ball in play (the same proportion as 10th-placed Leicester City), it will be these draws that relegate Newcastle, with such fine margins deciding their destiny to this point.

Newcastle have missed at least one 'big chance', from which Opta would expect a player to score, in six of their nine draws – including Joelinton on Saturday and each of Sean Longstaff, Ciaran Clark and Jacob Murphy in the reverse fixture at Watford (another 1-1) – while their opponents have been far less profligate with the opportunities afforded by some generous defending.

Generous Geordies giving up gifts

Newcastle have gifted away a league-high 10 goals this term through errors leading to goals (four), penalty goals (five) and own goals (one), representing 23.3 per cent of the alarming total of 43 in the goals against column.

It is a statistic that reflects slightly harshly on the St James' Park outfit, given Newcastle have given up just eight chances through errors. Only Everton (six goals from eight errors) have been punished more ruthlessly.

But there can be no doubt Howe needs upgrades in that area of the pitch.

Not content with squandering opportunities at one end, Clark is the only player in the Premier League to make an error leading to a goal, concede a penalty and be sent off this season – all in the space of 993 minutes. In fact, his error against Manchester City came inside five minutes on his return to the team having been dismissed after nine minutes against Norwich City.

Long-term colleague Lascelles has been little better. He alone has conceded three penalties this term, more than any other player in the division. Meanwhile, Schar is the sole Newcastle player to have committed multiple errors leading to shots.

There are only weak links in the middle of that defence right now.

No Botman and Robin but a DC superhero?

With Trippier already on board, Newcastle could yet recruit an entirely new defence this month, with Howe said to want two centre-backs – Botman and Diego Carlos appear the top targets – alongside a left-back.

Robin Gosens was the latest name to emerge and be dismissed as an option by his current employers, Atalanta, over the weekend, but Newcastle surely have to land at least one of these ambitious targets in time for another vital fixture at Leeds United on Saturday.

Botman showed on Sunday why he is so sought after and why Lille are so keen to keep hold of him, scoring at Marseille while also contributing 12 clearances and three blocks as the 10-man champions earned a draw. It is only the second example in Europe's top five leagues this season (also Dante versus Rennes in December) of a player making at least 12 clearances and three blocks.

Diego Carlos, it would appear, is a more realistic buy in January, despite his importance to a Sevilla team who have conceded only 13 goals in 20 league games this term – a joint-low alongside Manchester City across Europe.

The Brazil Olympic champion has started 19 of those games and leads LaLiga in blocks (21); interestingly, Burnley's James Tarkowski, another player of interest to Newcastle, tops the Europe-wide charts with 29.

Diego Carlos should also bring some calm in possession, with his passing accuracy (88.4 per cent) dwarfing that of Clark (79.0), Lascelles (78.2) and Schar (67.3). The Sevilla man ranks second in LaLiga for passes (1,298) and sixth for forward passes (411), fitting with Howe's more progressive approach.

Yet Newcastle's willingness to push their bid up towards a club-record fee may well be questioned in some quarters due to the more concerning similarities with his potential new team-mates.

No player in Europe has made more errors leading to shots than Diego Carlos, with two of the five resulting in goals. Meanwhile, since joining Sevilla in 2019, he has conceded 10 penalties in all competitions – including three for fouls on current Premier League players in Adama Traore, Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku.

Sevilla have only lost one of those 10 games, peculiarly, perhaps showing the difference Diego Carlos can make outside of these rash moments.

Ideally, Newcastle would not introduce more chaos into this defence, but they certainly cannot afford to do nothing. If Diego Carlos is the man they want, the pressure is on to deliver him in time for Saturday.

Real Madrid's squad is already packed with a magnitude of talent – and it could become even stronger should Erling Haaland arrive from Borussia Dortmund later this year.

Haaland has scored 78 goals in his two years with Dortmund – only Robert Lewandowski (107) has more in Europe's top five leagues – and would be a major coup for Madrid.

But while the Spanish giants remain confident of bringing in the in-demand striker from Dortmund, it could have a negative knock-on effect.


TOP STORY - HAALAND IN, BENZEMA OUT?

Karim Benzema is a much-loved figure at the Santiago Bernabeu and is enjoying another impressive campaign, but El Nacional claims that Madrid risk losing the Frenchman.

The report suggests that Benzema does not like the fact that president Florentino Perez is so fixated on bringing in a new player to lead Los Blancos' attack from next season.

While the 34-year is not currently seeking an exit, that could change should Madrid reach a pre-contract agreement with Haaland in the coming weeks, as has been suggested.

Benzema would not feel the need to move on should Kylian Mbappe join, though, as he considers that case to be different given the PSG striker is set to become a free agent.


ROUND-UP

Barcelona accept that it is increasingly likely Ousmane Dembele will leave Camp Nou as a free agent at the end of the season. According to Sport, Manchester United and Juventus have held talks with the player's camp, while Chelsea and Bayern Munich have an outside shot of signing the forward.

Arsenal have made their first move to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina, with Corriere Della Sera reporting that the Gunners have tabled an offer of £50million (€60m) plus Lucas Torreira, who is currently on loan with the Serie A side.

Chelsea are interested in signing Layvin Kurzawa on loan as they look to bolster their full-back ranks. However, Fabrizio Romano claims that the Blues have not yet officially opened talks with PSG.

– Calciomercato reports that Man Utd forward Anthony Martial has emerged as a January target for Juventus. The France international has struggled for games this season and has openly admitted he wants to find a new club this month.

Everton are on the lookout for a new manager after parting company with Rafael Benitez on Sunday and hope to make a swift appointment. According to ESPN, former boss Roberto Martinez – now in charge of the Belgium national team – is the leading candidate to take over.

Newcastle United have already brought in Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood this window, but The Telegraph reports that they have been knocked back in their bid to bring in Donny van de Beek on loan. The Man Utd midfielder is said to have been put off by the Magpies' position in the Premier League.

The futures of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, arguably the two most sought-after players in world football, could be determined by the end of the January transfer window.

While the forwards look set to stay at Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain respectively this month, moves away at the end of the campaign look increasingly likely.

And despite intense competition from fellow heavyweight clubs, Real Madrid are determined to win the race for both players.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID TO PUT ASIDE €350m FOR HAALAND

Madrid had two bids knocked back for Mbappe last year but, according to Marca, they remain in pole position to sign the France international in six months' time.

Landing Haaland could prove to be a little more complicated, though, given he will still have two years to run on his contract at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

However, the Spanish publication reports that Madrid are willing to spend big on the prolific striker, who is thought to have a €75million release clause in his deal.

On top of triggering that, it is claimed that Los Blancos will have to set aside cash for Haaland's father, agent Mino Raiola and a hefty salary for the player himself, which could total around €350m.

 

ROUND-UP

- Madrid may be considered the frontrunners to sign Mbappe and Haaland, but they already have a back-up plan in place should either of those moves fail to materialise. According to El Nacional, Fiorentina's in-demand Dusan Vlahovic is also on the Spanish giants' radar.

- CalcioMercato reports that Milan have joined the queue to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen. Christensen, who comes out of contract at the end of this season, is being chased by Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.

- Newcastle United could beat Manchester United in the race for RB Leipzig's Amadou Haidara, with The Mirror reporting that the newly-rich Magpies are set to make an offer.

- The Everton board got together on Saturday to discuss manager Rafael Benitez's future in the job, according to Sky Sports. Everton have won one of their past 13 league games and lost to bottom club Norwich City 2-1 on Saturday.

- PSG, Bayern and Madrid are among Kalvin Phillips' suitors. El Nacional reports that Leeds United have a battle on their hands fending off interest in the midfielder, who has been capped 19 times by England.

- The Mirror reports that Chelsea are considering a move for Inter's Ivan Perisic. The Blues are in the market for a versatile player who can play at left-back while Ben Chilwell recovers from a long-term injury.

 

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid as a free agent at the end of this season.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has stalled on signing a new deal with the French giants.

Madrid have long courted Mbappe with a view to signing him, but PSG remain determined to keep their man.

TOP STORY – PSG RE-ENTER TALKS WITH MBAPPE

PSG have launched a determined attempt to retain Mbappe after making the France frontman a new contract offer, claims Telefoot.

The Parisians are said to have offered Mbappe a massive two-year deal to fight off attempts to woo him by Real Madrid.

Mbappe is reported to be unwilling to make a decision yet and could let his contract expire. It runs only until the end of June.

 

ROUND-UP

- La Repubblica reports Arsenal are closing in on a deal for Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic, with Fiorentina said to be considering accepting a £58million offer from the Gunners.

- Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano claims both Barcelona and Bayern Munich are keen to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen at the season's end.

- Manchester United are interested in Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi taking over as their manager next season, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- Southampton have contacted Manchester United about signing goalkeeper Dean Henderson, reports Football Insider. Saints also want to sign Chelsea's Armando Broja permanently but will stiff competition, claims Sky Sports.

- Lille are pursuing former Newcastle United winger Hatem Ben Arfa, reports L'Equipe. Ben Arfa left Bordeaux at the end of last season.

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.

Chris Wood has signed for Newcastle United in a reported £25million move from fellow relegation candidates Burnley.

With Callum Wilson expected to miss around eight weeks due to a calf tear sustained in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United in December, Newcastle have moved to bring in a Premier League-proven goalscorer as they aim to bolster their chances of survival.

Newcastle and Burnley both sit in the bottom three on 11 points apiece – two from safety.

Wood, who joined the Clarets from Leeds United in 2017, has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal at Newcastle, having travelled to the north-east on Tuesday for a medical. 

The 30-year-old has become the Magpies' second first-team signing under Eddie Howe – and the club's new Saudi Arabia-backed ownership – after England full-back Kieran Trippier, who joined for a reported £12m last week.

Trippier made his debut in the shock 1-0 FA Cup third-round defeat at home to Cambridge United on Saturday.

With three league goals to his name this season, Wood is Burnley's second-highest scorer after Maxwel Cornet, who was signed from Lyon in August.

Wood has scored at least 10 league goals in each of the four previous seasons, with his tally of 14 in 2019-20 a personal best in the competition. However, he has not found the net since November 20.

"This is a very exciting opportunity for me and I'm delighted to be a Newcastle United player," Wood told his new club's official website.

"I have played at St. James' Park a few times and it's an amazing place, so to have the chance to represent this club with those incredible supporters behind me and my team-mates is very special.

"The club and manager have been first class during this process, and I really can't wait to get onto the pitch and repay the faith they have in me, especially with a vital part of the season ahead of us."

In total, the New Zealand international played 144 Premier League matches for Burnley, helping the Clarets to 44 wins, with Sean Dyche's team suffering 63 defeats and drawing 37 times.

With Wood in the team, Burnley scored 149 times, compared to netting just 21 times across 23 fixtures in which the striker did not feature.

Burnley's win percentage without Wood in their side dropped to 26.1 per cent from 30.6 per cent with him playing, while their average goals for per game dropped by just 0.1, from one to 0.9.

His 49 strikes came from an expected goals (xG) value of 49.5, suggesting Wood's finishing was on par with the quality of chances created for him by his team-mates.

Newcastle boss Howe said: "Chris is an important signing for us at a crucial time and I'm very pleased we have been able to move quickly and bring him here.

"He is a very dangerous attacking threat, has a physicality and character that I really like, and he has vast experience in the Premier League. He will be a great fit for us."

Mikel Arteta may be confident that his side can still recruit any player in the world, but Arsenal may have to wait if they are to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina.

The in-demand Serbia international is the joint-fourth highest scorer in Europe's top five leagues this term and is wanted by an array of clubs across the continent.

While a January move has been touted, however, Fiorentina appear to be playing hardball when it comes to the future of the 21-year-old striker.


TOP STORY – FIORENTINA DEMANDS PREVENTING ARSENAL'S VLAHOVIC PURSUIT

Arsenal are reportedly willing to match Fiorentina's €75million (£62.62m) asking price for Vlahovic, which would make him the second-most expensive player in their history.

However, The Independent reports that the Serie A side want the majority of that money paid upfront, whereas Arsenal intend to spread the cost over the next four years.

The Gunners may therefore have to wait until the end of the campaign, at which point Vlahovic will have a year to run on his contract, before renegotiating with Fiorentina.

 


ROUND-UP

– It is shaping up to be a busy conclusion to the January window for Arsenal as Goal reports that the Premier League side have made contact with Juventus over a loan move for midfielder Arthur Melo, while Leicester City's Youri Tielemans is another potential target.

– L'Equipe claims that Paul Pogba remains a target for Paris Saint-Germain as he nears the end of his Manchester United contract. The midfielder has not featured since November due to injury and is not expected to return until next month.

– According to The Mail, Man Utd are eyeing a move for Brighton and Hove Albion's Tariq Lamptey as an upgrade on Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot. Interim boss Ralf Rangnick is said to be a big fan of the right-sided player's versatility.

– Sticking with Rangnick and United, the German coach has put Ajax boss Erik ten Hag's name forward as the best option to replace him when his interim spell at Old Trafford ends in June. That is according to Le Parisien, with the French outlet also suggesting PSG's Mauricio Pochettino still remains in the frame.

– Ambitious Newcastle United have already brought in Kieran Trippier this month and more players look set to follow. Tuttomercato suggests that Roma's Chris Smalling could be lured to St James' Park as the Magpies desperately attempt to strengthen at centre-back.

Freiburg's Nico Schlotterbeck is attracting plenty of interest this month, with Bayern Munich and Real Madrid among those being linked. Bayern appear to be leading that particular race if reports from Spain are anything to go by, with the defender supposedly keen to stay in the Bundesliga.

Erling Haaland is the hottest property in football right now.

It is expected that Haaland will leave Borussia Dortmund at the end of this season although that is not confirmed.

The 21-year-old Norwegian forward is being chased by several big clubs.

TOP STORY – HAALAND SET TO DECIDE ON CLUB FUTURE

AS claims that Haaland is set to make a definitive call on his future as several top clubs circle for his signature.

Borussia Dortmund are set to meet with Haaland's representatives next week to discuss his plans according to Marca.

Haaland is being pursued by Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City.

ROUND-UP

- Roma head coach Jose Mourinho has reached out to Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele about a potential switch to Italy, claims Telefoot. Mourinho worked with Ndombele during his time at Spurs.

- Football Insider reports PSG midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum has no interest in a move to cashed-up Newcastle United having been linked with his former club.

- The Telegraph reports that Burnley's New Zealand international forward Chris Wood will undergo a medical with Newcastle on Wednesday ahead of a move to the Magpies.

- Tottenham have contacted Jesse Lingard's representatives to discuss a free agency move in the off-season from Manchester United, claims Football London.

- Sevilla's interest in signing Manchester United's Anthony Martial is fading given the Red Devils' demands for the French forward, reports Marca.

- The Mail claims that Marcus Rashford and Manchester United are set to open talks before the end of the season on a new contract.

Arsenal have fallen out of the Premier League's top tier in recent years.

But the Gunners are determined to re-emerge under manager Mikel Arteta.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang set to leave, Arsenal are ready to spend.

TOP STORY – ARSENAL DETERMINED TO LAND VLAHOVIC

Arsenal are determined to land Dusan Vlahovic despite the Serbian wanting £300,000 (€360,000) a week in wages, says the Daily Mail.

The Fiorentina forward is being chased by a host of clubs but the Gunners are ready to sign him despite a transfer bill around £150 million (€180m), with La Viola asking for a £58m (€70m) fee.

Juventus, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United have all been linked with the 21-year-old.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City could make a move for Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric claims El Nacional. The Croatian is not happy with the terms offered by Madrid on a new deal with his current contract set to expire at the end of this season.

- Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger prefers a move to Real Madrid over Paris Saint-Germain when his current contract expires according to Football London. Both clubs have offered deals to the Germany international.

- The Mirror reports that Edinson Cavani has committed to Manchester United for the remainder of the season after discussions with interim manager Ralf Rangnick.

- Barcelona have approached former Chelsea midfielder Oscar about joining the Catalans, claims TNT Sports Brasil. Oscar is currently contracted with Chinese club Shanghai Port.

- Tottenham are ready to sell record signing Tanguy Ndombele during the January transfer window, reports the Daily Mail. PSG, Milan, Roma, Lyon, Barcelona and Newcastle United are among the clubs interested in Ndombele according to the Star.

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid at the end of this season.

The 23-year-old attacker has stalled on a new contract offer at Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid have been circling for Mbappe's signature for a long time and had multiple bids rejected in 2021.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE COULD STILL RE-SIGN WITH PSG

Mbappe could spring a surprise and renew his current PSG deal prior to the end of this season, claims Le Parisien.

The 2018 World Cup winner had been expected to become a free agent when his contract expires on June 30 and join Madrid .

Le Parisien claims that PSG have hope that Mbappe may pen an extension to force a transfer fee from Los Blancos, should they pursue a move. Mbappe is still undecided on his future, according to the report.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United 's superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo has held crisis talks with his agent Jorge Mendes as he considers his future with the Red Devils, according to The Sun. Ronaldo reportedly may leave United depending on their choice of a new permanent manager.

- El Nacional claims that Liverpool are ready to offer Barcelona teenager Gavi a deal worth £80,000 (€96k) per week to secure his signature, while Manchester City are also interested. Barca have a £42m (€50m) release cause in the 17-year-old's contract.

- Arsenal want to sign a new midfielder in January with Lyon's Bruno Guimaraes on their radar while a loan deal for Arthur Melo was discussed but has not advanced to talks with Juventus yet, claims Fabrizio Romano.

- Argentinean forward Dario Benedetto is set to return to his homeland to join Boca Juniors from Marseille although the deal may take several days to complete, reports Cesar Luis Merlo.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Newcastle United have opened discussions with Sevilla on a four-year deal to sign Brazilian defender Diego Carlos .

- West Ham United and Newcastle may be priced out of their pursuit for Marseille's Boubacar Kamara,  who wants a £150,000-per-week (€180k) deal according to The Sun.

The rocky start to Newcastle United's new era continued on Saturday as the Premier League strugglers were dumped out of the FA Cup by third-tier Cambridge United.

Newcastle harbour huge ambitions after they were taken over by a Saudi-led consortium in October and were eyeing a long-awaited cup run under recently-appointed boss Eddie Howe.

But the Magpies were embarrassingly beaten 1-0 in the third round by Cambridge, who were on a three-game winless run and are 16th in League One, through Joe Ironside's 56th-minute strike from close range at St James' Park.

The victory was Cambridge's first ever away to a top-flight side in the FA Cup and means the U's have now won as many games against Premier League opposition this season as Newcastle have in 19 matches.

While Newcastle have yet to truly flex their financial muscles, they brought in Kieran Trippier from Atletico Madrid for £12million this week and the full-back played a full part in front of United's hugely wealthy owners.

Cambridge goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov made nine saves in total, including a sensation stop to deny Joelinton late on, as Mark Bonner's side made it through to the fourth round for just the second time in 21 seasons.

Second-bottom Newcastle must now turn their attention back to the battle to stay in the Premier League, with a huge clash against fellow-strugglers Watford to come next Saturday.

Rafael Benitez has confirmed Lucas Digne wants to leave Everton.

Left-back Digne, who signed from Barcelona for a reported £18million in August 2018, has not featured for the Toffees since a 4-1 home defeat to Merseyside rivals – and Benitez's former club – Liverpool on December 1.

That loss was one of eight for Everton from their last 12 Premier League games. They have won just one of their fixtures in that run, beating Arsenal 2-1 thanks to a late Demarai Gray stunner.

Everton, who were limited in the off-season transfer window partly due to the Premier League's profit and sustainability rules, have been active already this month, signing right-back Nathan Patterson from Rangers for a fee believed to be £11m plus add-ons, and bringing in left-back Vitaliy Mykolenko from Dynamo Kiev, seemingly to replace Digne.

Chelsea, who need cover at left wing-back following news of Ben Chilwell's season-long injury lay-off, are rumoured to be interested, while West Ham and Newcastle United have also been linked.

And, in a somewhat unexpected outburst during Friday's news conference to preview Everton's trip to Hull City in the FA Cup, Benitez revealed Digne, who signed a new long-term contract in 2021, wished to leave.

Benitez also addressed an Everton legend from the club's 1980s heyday in the form of Peter Reid, who on Sunday, after a 3-2 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion, tweeted: "Major problems at Goodison Park, huge concerns about the direction of the football club."

The Spanish coach told reporters: "I want to ask a question to every fan, or former players, what Peter Reid will do or say if a player doesn't want to be there. That's it, simple.

"I had a couple of conversations with [Digne], he told me what he thought. What do you expect a manager to do? Fans, former players, what will Peter Reid say if a player goes to the manager that he doesn't want to be here?

"We need players that want to be here. Talking about individual stats when the team finished 10th [last season], it means nothing for me. I want a winning mentality, ambition, it will take some time."

Asked why he included Digne on the bench for Sunday's loss to Brighton, having dropped him altogether for previous matches, Benitez said: "I try to do what is best for the club, sometimes you pay for that."

Benitez also confirmed there had been no bids for Digne.

"I would like to sign [Erling] Haaland and [Kylian] Mbappe, but you'd need commitment. We don't have commitment yet," he said.

"There is interest but nothing concrete. What I cannot do is give priority to those who are not interested. Do we want to grow and improve or just manage egos?"

Big boots to fill?

With Digne's replacement already through the door, the focus for Everton will be on recouping a suitable fee for such an experienced player in arguably his prime years.

Digne has undoubtedly been a success at Everton after having a tricky spell at Barca, where he struggled for regular minutes behind Jordi Alba in the pecking order.

Having replaced fan-favourite Leighton Baines as first choice at Everton, Digne went on to be a creative fulcrum under Marco Silva and Carlo Ancelotti, both from set-pieces and open play.

Since making his Everton debut on August 11, 2018, Digne has created 211 chances in the Premier League, ranking him behind only Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold (267) among defenders.

Digne's 34 big chances created is the third most, behind Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, with his 18 league assists also only bettered by the Liverpool duo.

Alexander-Arnold (1,408) is also the only defender to have played more passes/crosses into the area than Digne (902), highlighting just how much of a persistent threat the Frenchman can be.

But on the defensive side of things, Digne has proven himself slightly more reliable in the tackle than Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, with the former Paris Saint-Germain full-back boasting a better success rate (63.2 per cent) than both in such situations.

That desire also translates to his duels involvement, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Charlie Taylor the only full-backs (minimum 50 games played) to have a better duel success rate than Digne's 59.4 (712/1,199) since the Everton man made his Premier League debut.

Ralf Rangnick's start at Manchester United has been rather underwhelming.

There have been reports this week that stars in the United dressing room have not fully taken to the German, who was appointed as interim manager in the wake of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's dismissal.

United plan to move Rangnick into a consultancy role after his short spell in charge of the team, with a new, permanent manager their target ahead of next season.

However, whoever the club picks must reportedly gain the approval of Cristiano Ronaldo.


TOP STORY – RONALDO'S UNITED RETURN TO COME TO AN END?

United need to get their next appointment right, with Mauricio Pochettino supposedly high on their list of targets.

Yet another factor in the decision seems set to be the feelings of Ronaldo, who may yet have input in the appointment.

According to the Daily Star, Ronaldo could cut short his second stint at Old Trafford should he disagree with the club's managerial selection.

 

ROUND-UP

- Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves is Manchester United's top transfer priority in January, according to Fichajes.

- Liverpool have declined a £7million bid from an unspecified Premier League club for defender Nathaniel Phillips, according to the Daily Mail.

- The Sun, meanwhile, claims Liverpool are moving in on a £60million deal for Porto's Luis Diaz. The Colombia winger was close to joining Everton in August.

- Sky Sports says Newcastle United want to buy Norwich City midfielder Todd Cantwell.

- Fabrizio Romano has reported that Manchester United are not interested in signing River Plate's young striker Julian Alvarez in this window.

Newcastle United have completed the signing of Kieran Tripper from Atletico Madrid on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

The England international is the first arrival at St James' Park following the Saudi Arabian-backed takeover in October, joining for a fee reported to be in the region of £12million plus add-ons.

Tripper returns to the Premier League following a two-and-a-half-year stint with Atletico, having previously played for Tottenham and Burnley in the English top-flight.

The full-back will aim to bolster the Newcastle defence and help them climb out of the relegation zone, with the Magpies only winning one league game all season. They currently sit 19th, two points from safety.

The 31-year-old also links up with Eddie Howe for a second time, the pair having previously crossed paths at Turf Moor in 2012.

"I'm delighted to be joining this fantastic club. I really enjoyed my time in Madrid, but when I became aware of interest from Newcastle United, and having worked with Eddie Howe before, I knew this was where I wanted to be," Trippier told the club's official website.

"I'm aware there is a lot of work ahead of us but I know the demands of Premier League well and I know what an amazing club this is with very talented players. I can't wait to get started and I'm excited to step out at St. James' Park as a Newcastle player."

Trippier made 68 LaLiga appearances for Los Rojiblancos, helping Diego Simeone's side capture the domestic title last season.

The full-back contributed to the success with six assists; Jose Gaya (seven) the only defender to record more in the Spanish top-flight in 2020-21.

Trippier also registered 74 successful crosses during his time in LaLiga, with Jesus Navas (129) and Damian Suarez (84) the only defenders to better that tally.

Although he has failed to record any goals or assists across all competitions this season, there is no doubt in the quality and experience the England defender will bring to the Magpies' ranks.

Indeed, he played five of the Three Lions' seven matches as they reached the Euro 2020 final last year.

Howe said: "I am really pleased to welcome Kieran to Newcastle United. I have long admired his abilities and have followed his career, so when the opportunity arose to secure him, we didn't hesitate.

"A lot of hard work has gone into planning for the January transfer window long before the month began, which is clear in how quickly we have been able to complete this move."

Newcastle have also been linked with a move for another full-back, this time for the left flank, in the form of Everton defender Lucas Digne, who is out of favour with Rafael Benitez following a reported training-ground disagreement.

Digne, however, is reported to prefer a move elsewhere as it stands, with West Ham and Chelsea also said to be interested.

Aaron Ramsey has not had the best of times since moving to Juventus.

The Wales midfielder joined Juve from Arsenal in 2019 on a four-year deal.

Ramsey has only managed 70 appearances in an injury hit two and a half years with Juventus.

 

TOP STORY – RAMSEY TO LEAVE JUVENTUS IN JANUARY

Aaron Ramsey is set to exit Juventus in the January transfer window, reports Sky Sports.

Italian transfer supremo Gianluca Di Marzio claimed that Ramsey is likely to return to the Premier League, having already turned down an offer from Burnley .

Newcastle United have been linked with Ramsey, along with Everton.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bayern Munich will consider swapping Kingsley Coman with Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele in the off-season, reports L'Equipe. Coman's contract expires in 2023 and negotiations on a new deal have stalled.

- Sky Sports have reported that Newcastle are contemplating a bid for Lucas Digne. The full-back is set to leave Everton this month after a falling out with Rafael Benitez, though supposedly prefers a move to London, with Chelsea and West Ham also said to be interested.

- Everton, meanwhile, hold an interest in Newcastle midfielder Sean Longstaff and have already made a bid, according to the Daily Mail and Sky Sports.

- Paris Saint-Germain may look to sign Lyon's Lucas Paqueta next off-season, so say L'Equipe.

- Manchester United are determined to secure Wolves' Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves in January, according to The Sun.

- Lazio have opened talks with Liverpool on a deal for Belgium international forward Divock Origi, claims LazioNews24.

- According to Sky Sports, five Premier League clubs have held talks with Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho.

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