Ousmane Dembele has told Barcelona that he wants to leave to join Paris St Germain, according to manager Xavi.

The Ligue 1 side have made the 26-year-old an offer that Barca “cannot match” and he has informed his manager that he wishes to move.

The France international has a £43million release clause in his contract which PSG have reportedly triggered, shortly before the terms of his deal stipulated the figure would rise to £86m.

Talks have taken place between the parties and Dembele has made up his mind that his future lies away from Barca, whom he joined from Borussia Dortmund for £125m in 2017.

“Dembele came and told me he wanted to leave,” said Xavi. “He has an offer from PSG that we cannot match.”

He has played 185 times for the club and has won three LaLiga titles during his six-year stay.

Liverpool's underwhelming 2022-23 campaign has led to talk that the club will undertake a squad overhaul in the off-season.

Chief among Jurgen Klopp's priorities is a midfield revamp, with Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham and Chelsea's Mason Mount among those linked to the Reds.

However, there could also be another attempt at signing a France international they were beaten to in 2022 by Real Madrid.

TOP STORY – YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TCHOUAMENI MIDFIELDERS

Real Madrid's Aurelien Tchouameni is once again high on Liverpool's transfer agenda as they look to refresh their midfield, reports El Nacional.

The Reds were interested in the 23-year-old at the end of last season but were unable to land him after he chose to move from Monaco to Madrid for a reported €100 million on a six-year deal.

Though he started Saturday's 3-2 home defeat to Villarreal, Tchouameni has been unable to establish himself as a frequent starter under Carlo Ancelotti, meaning Los Blancos may be willing to let him go to raise funds, with Liverpool reportedly still keen and willing to offer £71m (€80m).

ROUND-UP

– Calciomercatoweb claims Inter are warming to the idea of Nicolo Barella exiting San Siro, as Liverpool circle for the midfielder as part of their revamp. Inter reportedly want no less than €50m (£44m) for him.

Barcelona's discussions with Ousmane Dembele over a new contract have stopped, with the Catalans unable to offer him a pay rise, reports SPORT.

ArsenalChelsea and Villarreal are all interested in Wolfsburg full-back Ridle Baku, claims Caught Offside.

– Newcastle United and West Ham United are leading the race to sign Wilfried Zaha on a free transfer from Crystal Palace, according to The Star.

– The Mirror reports ex-Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch has agreed to a long-term deal to take over at Leicester City following Brendan Rodgers' dismissal.

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia has won plenty of admirers with 13 goals and 15 assists for runaway Serie A leaders Napoli this season.

The 22-year-old Georgian joined Napoli in July 2022, penning a contract until 2027 for a for a reported fee of €10–12 million from Dinamo Batumi.

Kvaratskhelia has helped Napoli into the Champions League quarter-finals, while winning the Serie A's Player of the Month twice.

 

TOP STORY – PSG TO TABLE LUCRATIVE OFFER FOR NAPOLI STAR

Paris Saint-Germain are ready to go all-out and offer Khvicha Kvaratskhelia a whopping €180m deal, claims Le10Sport.

Real Madrid are also reportedly monitoring the winger's status although he has previously shown no interest in exiting Napoli. It has been claimed Napoli would not accept anything below €100m for their emerging star.

The lucrative deal is plausible given PSG hold the record for the two most expensive transfers in world football, signing Neymar for €222m in 2017 and Kylian Mbappe for €180m in 2018.

 

ROUND-UP

– Mundo Deportivo reports Borussia Dortmund have placed a bumper €125m (£110m) minimum price tag on midfielder Jude Bellingham as a long list of clubs chase his signature including Real Madrid, Liverpool and Manchester United.

Manchester United are willing to pay the €50m (£44m) release clause in Ousmane Dembele's Barcelona contract as they look to sign the French winger, reports Fichajes. The report claims the Blaugrana may be open to that as they look to sort their financial challenges.

Chelsea are interested in an off-season move for Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier, reports Football Insider. The report claims Blues boss Graham Potter wants a new stopper, with Meslier seen as a cheaper option if Leeds go down. Fichajes claims Chelsea are keen on Inter goalkeeper Andre Onana to take over from Kepa Arrizabalaga.

Newcastle United have revived their interest in Bayer Leverkusen pair Moussa Diaby and Mitchel Bakker claims 90min. Arsenal have been linked with Diaby in the past, with the French winger reportedly worth €70m (£62m).

Juventus are still pushing to sign Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante as a free agent despite reports he will re-sign with the Blues, according to Calciomercato.

– The Mirror reports Manchester United are set to hand manager Erik ten Hag a new three-year extension, despite the ongoing uncertainty around the sale of the club.

Top Premier League clubs Manchester United, Newcastle United and Chelsea are said to be monitoring Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele ahead of his release clause activating.

Dembele is in his sixth season with Barcelona, having racked up a total of 40 goals in his 178 appearances.

He remained a first-team regular to start this campaign, with 14 starts from his 18 LaLiga appearances, before suffering a serious hamstring injury in late January.

The France international is yet to return nearly two months later, but despite his troubling physical problems, England's elite believe he could represent terrific value due to his contract situation.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA'S DEMBELE AVAILABLE AT A DISCOUNT

Dembele was purchased from Borussia Dortmund for €105million plus add-ons back in 2017, but according to Calciomercato he will be available for just €50m (£44m) in the upcoming transfer window.

His contract is set to expire after one more season, and if the club do not secure a long-term extension, Dembele will have his release clause activated.

The €50m figure is said to be more than enticing to England's wealthy clubs, as it is considered a bargain compared to the going rate for other world-class wingers.

Serie A giants Juventus and Inter are also said to be fans of Dembele's, but the price tag is too rich for their current financial situation unless they sell some players to raise funds.

 

ROUND-UP

– Foot Mercato is reporting Paris Saint-Germain superstar Lionel Messi is considering a move back to Barcelona next season, with his father said to be in regular communication with the club.

Real Madrid are monitoring 29-year-old Tottenham striker Harry Kane as a potential successor to Karim Benzema, per the Daily Mail.

– According to Calciomercato, Barcelona and Tottenham are both fans of 26-year-old Fiorentina midfielder Sofyan Amrabat, who is expected to leave the club in the upcoming transfer window.

– Goal is reporting Brighton and Hove Albion are prepared to make 25-year-old winger Kaoru Mitoma the highest earner in club history, in order to fend off interest from Real Madrid, Manchester City and Arsenal.

– Former player Jose Enrique revealed on his live stream that Liverpool have agreed to terms for 20-year-old Bayern Munich midfielder Ryan Gravenberch, who Enrique shares an agent with.

Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League last-16 exit has prompted speculation about a squad overhaul.

Neymar's future in the French capital is in doubt, while pressure has ramped up on head coach Christophe Galtier.

PSG will be an interesting watch during the next transfer window as they show their hand on their future direction.


TOP STORY – PSG PLOT MOVES FOR SILVA AND DEMBELE

Paris Saint-Germain are plotting off-season moves to sign Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva and Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele , according to Diario Sport.

The Parisiens are monitoring Dembele's status at the Blaugrana with only one year left on his contract, with a €50million release clause.

Barcelona have been linked with Silva but may struggle to facilitate that deal given €65m asking price, with PSG better placed to table that figure.

The report claims PSG's move for Dembele hinges on Neymar and whether he stays in Paris.

  
ROUND-UP

– AS reports Real Madrid are still angling to sign PSG's Kylian Mbappe after a long courtship. The report claims Los Blancos want to sign him as a free agent when his contract expires in 2024 and have prioritised him over Man City's Erling Haaland .

Tottenham are ready to launch a move to sign Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford on a cut-price deal, according to The Sun. The report claims Pickford has a clause in his new Everton deal, signed last month, if they are relegated although the Toffees are understood to want around £35m.

PSG are planning a bid for Villarreal defender Pau Torres in the next transfer window, reports The Mirror. Manchester United opted against signing him last year.

Barcelona 's top priority in the off-season is to sign Athletic Bilbao defender Inigo Martinez , according to Sport.

– Calciomercato claims Milan have cooled their interest in Liverpool midfielder Naby Keita as his wage demands are beyond what they can offer.

Bayern Munich continue to monitor the status of Juventus forward Dusan Vlahovic , reports Calciomercato.

Ousmane Dembele is expected to miss a run of important games for Barcelona after suffering a strained thigh in their LaLiga win over Girona on Saturday.

The French winger, described by coach Xavi as Barcelona's "most important player in one-on-one situations", may struggle to be back in time for the Europa League play-off first leg against Manchester United, which takes place on February 16 at Camp Nou.

Barcelona have yet to give an official estimate of how long Dembele faces on the sidelines, but local reports have suggested it may be a three-week absence.

The injury took some of the shine off an eighth win in nine LaLiga games, in which Dembele's replacement off the bench, Pedri, scored the only goal.

Dembele made way after 26 minutes and underwent checks before visitors Barcelona embarked on their short journey home.

Barcelona announced on their website: "Tests this evening on Ousmane Dembele have revealed that he has strained the rectus femoris muscle in his left thigh. It means he is sidelined until he can recover from the injury."

Xavi said of Dembele's blow: "It's a shame because he is an important player."

Dembele has eight goals and seven assists for Barcelona this season, with those combined 15 goal involvements bettered only by Robert Lewandowski's 27 (22 goals, five assists) among Xavi's squad.

Barcelona have LaLiga games against Real Betis, Sevilla and Villarreal before the United game.

Xavi believes it will be a "catastrophe" if Barcelona do not beat Girona on Saturday as they look to keep up their LaLiga title charge.

A run of seven wins in eight league matches has put Xavi's men top of the table, holding a three-point lead over rivals Real Madrid in second.

They continue their bid to win their first LaLiga title since the 2018-19 season on Saturday at home to Girona, who sit 11th and just four points above the relegation zone.

Xavi hopes his team can pick up another three points amid the pressure of a title race, telling reporters: "You have to beat Girona. This is Barca.

"This is the Barca environment, I know it very well. If we don't win tomorrow, it will be a catastrophe.

"Try to win it because it will be a difficult match. Michel [Girona head coach] has said that they have nothing to lose and we will come out with pressure because we want to win LaLiga."

Xavi is hoping Ousmane Dembele will extend his Barcelona contract amid rumours of a move to Paris Saint-Germain.

Dembele scored Barca's winner as they beat Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals on Wednesday, continuing his excellent form this season after a tough 2021-22 campaign.

The France international has been involved in 15 goals with Barcelona in all competitions this season, already equalling his record of last term, but with his contract set to expire in 2024, there had been rumours of a move to PSG.

But Xavi wants Dembele to remain with the Spanish giants, telling reporters: "Ousmane is an important player, someone who makes a difference.

"It's difficult to find these kind of players. For me, he's a key player. Ousmane knows it, the club knows it.

"He has changed his mentality and I hope to have him here for many more years."

Barca overcame wastefulness in front of goal to overcome La Real and reach the Copa del Rey final four, with Dembele's goal enough to secure a narrow 1-0 win despite having 20 shots.

While Xavi is concerned about his side's profligacy in front of goal in tight matches, he believes his team are much improved from last season, saying: "I am worried about not finishing them [close games]. Many things have to be improved

"We have to value how we were last year and how we are now. There are things to improve, obviously, but I think we are in a very good moment of form and it should be valued."

Xavi credited Ousmane Dembele with changing his mentality in order to discover the form he has shown for Barcelona this season.

Barca reached the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey thanks to a second-half strike from Dembele to beat Real Sociedad 1-0 at Camp Nou, aided by the sending off of La Real midfielder Brais Mendez late in the first half.

Dembele attempted 11 dribbles during the game, equalling the highest total by a Barca player in a game this season, which came from the French winger himself against Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League.

Speaking to the media after the win, Xavi said that filling Dembele with confidence is the major difference from the player he inherited when he took charge of the club in November 2021.

"The only thing we have given Ousmane is confidence. I believe a lot in him," the Barca head coach said. 

"I always think he can generate many things for us. I see the faces of the full-backs and they suffer. The only thing that had to change was his decision-making at the last moment.

"I'm very happy for him because he got the winning goal. I think he's enjoying it and he's managed to turn his situation around.

"We try to guide Dembele so he makes the best decision on the field. I see tremendous conditions for him and he continues to be one of the best in his position.

"At Barca you have to have the ability to change your mentality and believe it, and I think at this stage he is succeeding. I see him very happy."

 

Dembele has been involved in 15 goals for the Blaugrana this season (eight goals, seven assists), already equalling his record of last campaign (two goals, 13 assists), while only Robert Lewandowski (27 – 22 goals and five assists) has been involved in more among Barca players.

The hosts dominated much of the quarter-final on Wednesday, though were grateful to Marc-Andre ter Stegen for making a vital save from Robert Navarro late on.

"The game at the end was complicated for us, where Ter Stegen saved us," Xavi added. "This is football and we have to learn, but we cannot end up suffering like this.

"We have dominated Real Sociedad with 11 [players], a team who had just won nine games in a row. The feelings are very positive and we are where we wanted to be, but we want to improve our effectiveness and we want to close games earlier."

La Real boss Imanol Alguacil said he was "annoyed" by Mendez's red card, suggesting the incident in which his player caught Sergio Busquets' ankle with his studs did not warrant overturning once the referee had initially decided on a yellow card.

"I don't like to use the word pride, because that means we lost," he said. "But today the sending off marked us... I think we have to value the effort of the team since we have had very clear situations and we have competed even with one less player.

"In the last 10 minutes the draw was much closer than 2-0."

Barcelona are through to the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey after a 1-0 win against 10-man Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.

The hosts were unable to find the breakthrough in the first half despite dominating, but were handed an advantage when Brais Mendez was sent off in the 40th minute.

Ousmane Dembele gave the Blaugrana the lead early in the second half after being played through by Jules Kounde, finishing powerfully past Alex Remiro.

The contest between LaLiga's first and third-placed teams was rarely as close as the scoreline suggested until a late push from Sociedad, and Xavi's men march on looking to add another trophy to their recent Supercopa de Espana success.

Barca started brightly and had the ball in the net in the 11th minute, but Robert Lewandowski's goal-bound strike deflected off the offside Frenkie de Jong on its way in.

The dangerous Dembele threatened shortly after when a determined run ended with a curled effort just wide of the left-hand post, while Takefusa Kubo struck the crossbar just before the half-hour with the visitors' first attempt.

There were borderline ironic cheers before half-time from the home fans as referee Gil Manzano, who sent off Lewandowski earlier in the season, handed a red card to La Real's Mendez when a VAR review showed the midfielder had caught Sergio Busquets on the ankle with his studs.

Dembele opened the scoring in the 52nd minute when he raced onto a pass down the right channel from Kounde, before firing his shot past Remiro at his near post.

La Real should have been level on the hour when Alexander Sorloth somehow turned Kubo's cross over the bar from close range, while Gavi hit the woodwork at the other end. 

One goal was enough to seal Barca's passage to the final four, though, thanks to late Marc-Andre ter Stegen saves to deny Roberto Navarro and then Jon Ander Olasagasti.

Ousmane Dembele scored the only goal of the game as Barcelona beat Atletico Madrid to go three points clear at the top of LaLiga.

Real Madrid's defeat to Villarreal on Saturday gave Xavi's side the chance to earn some breathing space at the summit and they grasped that opportunity with an impressive display at the Civitas Metropolitano.

Dembele's composed first-half finish was enough to see off the toothless Rojiblancos, who consequently slipped to fifth place.

Stefan Savic and Ferran Torres were sent off for a late off-the-ball clash as the Blaugrana, who were without the suspended Robert Lewandowski, passed a big test to secure their first top-flight victory since the World Cup break.

Barca quickly stamped their authority on the game by dominating possession, Savic and Jose Gimenez making crucial blocks to deny Ansu Fati.

Pedri was the architect for a superb opening goal in the 22nd minute, bursting into the box and laying the ball off to Gavi, who played it into Dembele's path and the winger found the bottom-left corner with a clinical right-foot finish.

Jan Oblak prevented Pedri from adding a second soon after, but Atleti posed an increasing threat and Jose Gimenez headed just wide, before Marc-Andre ter Stegen kept out Antoine Griezmann's drive with a brilliant one-handed save.

Former Barca man Griezmann had another chance early in the second half, but failed to hit the target from eight yards out.

Savic came to the rescue again by deflecting the dangerous Dembele's shot wide after Atleti were caught out by a ball over the top.

There was late drama when Savic and Torres were given their marching orders following a tussle and Griezmann had an effort cleared off the line as Barca held on for a big win.

Ousmane Dembele is "happy in Barcelona" and wants to stay, amid reports linking him with a move to Paris Saint-Germain in his native France.

Dembele has had a mixed time in LaLiga since arriving at Barca for big money from Borussia Dortmund in 2017, but the 25-year-old has enjoyed a productive spell since Xavi took charge last season.

He has been involved in more goals than any other Blaugrana player since Xavi became head coach in November 2021, scoring eight and providing 20 assists.

That includes six goals and seven assists in 22 games this season (17 starts), and Dembele also provided two assists in his seven appearances for France as they finished as runners-up at the World Cup in Qatar.

However, despite stories suggesting PSG could be in line to bring him to Ligue 1, the former Rennes winger told Belgian television station Eleven Sports he is content at Camp Nou.

"I signed a new contract at Barca four months ago and I'm happy here, I want to keep working and improving at Barcelona," he said. "I am good here, I am happy in Barcelona, I like my life here. The coach trusts me, and the board [trust me] too."

Dembele has just 18 months remaining on his contract, but Barca president Joan Laporta insisted on Thursday he is "not for sale", telling Sport: "If PSG come to sign him, we will tell them he is not for sale.

"He's one of the most important players that we have. He has extraordinary speed, he's a lightning bolt. Every time he gets the ball he upsets defences and yesterday [in the 4-3 Copa del Rey win against Intercity] he scored a great goal.

"He won't go for €70million euros or any amount."

Barcelona have been beaten without scoring a goal in their past two trips to Atletico Madrid and could find themselves off the top of LaLiga if they suffer more misery in the capital on Sunday.

A fiery 1-1 draw with Espanyol on New Year's Eve left Barca level on points with Real Madrid at the summit in what is shaping up to be an enthralling title race.

Xavi's side travel to the Metropolitano for their first LaLiga game of the year on the back of a Copa del Rey scare, avoiding an upset by beating third-tier Intercity 4-3 after extra time.

Fourth-placed Atleti have secured back-to-back 2-0 wins and will be looking for a third consecutive home victory over the Blaugrana in the top flight.

With Carlo Ancelotti's men travelling to Villarreal a day earlier, Barca may need a win against Atletico to go back to the top of the table and they will be without the suspended Robert Lewandowski.

Stats Perform pick out the standout Opta numbers to preview the big game.

Barca hoping for same story in New Year

This will be the fifth time Barca have faced Atleti in their first game of a calendar year.

If history is anything to go by, the Catalan giants could be heading home with all three points in the bank as they have not lost in all four of the previous such meetings.

Barca beat Atleti in their first league games in 1930, 1951 and 1989, with the other encounter ending in a draw.

If looking that far back is not for you, Barca have been in excellent recent form on the road – winning 12 of their past 14 away games in LaLiga, with just one defeat.


Griezmann to return to haunt Barca?

In-form forward Antoine Griezmann is set to face Barca for the first time since he made a permanent move from Camp Nou to Atleti in October.

The France international endured a disappointing spell with the Blaugrana, but is very much at home again under Diego Simeone.

After some outstanding World Cup displays in Qatar, Griezmann has provided three assists in two matches back on club duty – the latest being a sublime first-time cushioned pass to set up Marcos Llorente in the 2-0 Copa del Rey defeat of Real Oviedo on Wednesday.

A revitalised Griezmann has been involved in 10 LaLiga goals for the Rojiblancos this season – five goals and as many assists. That is three more than he managed from 29 appearances in the competition in the 2021-22 campaign.

 

Dembele delivering for Xavi

Ousmane Dembele continues to show why Barca were so eager to keep him after his contract expired at the end of last season.

The France winger scored his eighth goal of Xavi's reign in a thrilling cup tie against Intercity.

Dembele has racked up 20 assists since Xavi was appointed in November 2021, giving him the most goal involvements for Barca during the head coach's tenure.


Joao Felix catching the eye in shop window

Joao Felix continues to be linked with a move, Manchester United among the clubs linked with the wantaway Atletico forward.

He has clearly not been affected by uncertainty over his future, scoring in three consecutive LaLiga games for the first time during his Atleti career.

The Portugal international has found the back of the net four times in his past three LaLiga matches, while he also struck against Ghana in the World Cup.

Lionel Messi is already set to make history in Sunday's World Cup final. It is up to France to ensure he does not also take home the trophy.

Messi, in likely his last World Cup match, will set the outright record for finals appearances (26) as he gets his second shot at glory.

The Argentina captain was part of the team defeated 1-0 by Germany in the final eight years ago. Their title tilt at Russia 2018 then ended at the last-16 stage, beaten by France.

But Messi has guided his side through to the Lusail Stadium showpiece this time, where France are again their opponents.

France have won only three of 12 meetings with Argentina in all competitions and lost two of three World Cup clashes, but that epic 4-3 victory at the previous World Cup set Didier Deschamps' men on course for the title.

 

Indeed, Les Bleus have won seven World Cup knockout games in succession – two shy of Brazil's record – as they look to become only the third side (after Brazil in 1962 and Italy in 1938) to successfully defend their title. Hugo Lloris could become the first player to captain a team to triumphs in consecutive finals, while Didier Deschamps could become the first coach to do so since Vittorio Pozzo oversaw both Italy successes in the 1930s.

Other omens are more positive for Argentina: the last time the two World Cup finalists had both lost earlier in the same campaign – Messi and Co. were stunned by Saudi Arabia, while France lost to Tunisia – the Albiceleste beat the Netherlands to the 1978 title. Cesar Luis Menotti, in charge of Argentina in 1978, was the last coach younger than Lionel Scaloni to lift the World Cup.

But it is the other Lionel who is understandably hogging the limelight.

Messi would be a popular winner just about everywhere – except in the country where he plays his club football with Paris Saint-Germain.

"We are the team of France in the final of the World Cup. We fight for our team, our country," said Ousmane Dembele of the possibility of he and his team-mates playing the role of party poopers.

"All the players and the French want to win the World Cup and bring back a third star. It would be good for his career if Messi won the World Cup, but we also want to win the World Cup.

"Every football player wants to win the World Cup. He has had a great career and he lacks this trophy, but we represent our country. We want to win the World Cup. I hope France will win this World Cup."

Dembele also spoke of the importance of France keeping the ball away from Argentina's "exceptional" talisman, someone he knows well from Messi's time at Barcelona.

Antoine Griezmann, another of their then Barca team-mates, may have a key role to play in that sense, although his new posting in midfield has done little to slow his productivity in the final third.

Griezmann has created more chances (21) with a higher expected assists value (3.5) than any other player at this World Cup. He has been vital to France's tournament-leading non-penalty expected goals total of 11.9, although Argentina have allowed just 5.7 shots worth 0.4 xG on average in Qatar – two 2022 lows.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina – Lionel Messi

There can only be one man, so influential has Messi been for Argentina to this point. His five goals and three assists at this tournament have boosted the 35-year-old to a joint-record 19 goal involvements across his World Cup career. Do not count against him reaching a landmark 20 with a goal in the final; he would become the first player ever to score in every round at a single World Cup.

France – Kylian Mbappe

Whatever Messi can do, PSG club-mate Mbappe will hope to do also. Of course, unlike Messi, he has won a World Cup, scoring in the final against Croatia in Russia. Should Mbappe net again, he would become the youngest player to get on the scoresheet in multiple finals at 23.

Either Griezmann or Mbappe have the opportunity to become the fifth man to score in two finals and the second (after Brazil's Vava in 1958 and 1962) to score in two in a row.

PREDICTION

It is very, very nearly too close to call. Just 0.1 per cent splits the two teams, according to Opta's prediction model, which probably matches the public perception of the fixture.

The supercomputer gives Argentina the slightest of edges at 35.1 per cent, with France rated at 35.0 per cent. With that in mind, do not discount extra time and penalties, with the draw considered a similarly strong 29.9 per cent shot.

France's World Cup squad is calmer and more experienced than the one that won in Russia, according to Ousmane Dembele. 

Didier Deschamps' side will become the first team to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962 if they overcome Argentina in Sunday's final at Lusail Stadium.

Dembele was an unused substitute when France beat Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 final but the Barcelona man has emerged as a key part of the team in Qatar.

Despite injuries to Karim Benzema, N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba leaving France short of key players, Dembele feels the squad is more at ease this time around.

"It's not a dream yet. We're calmer and have more experience. We want to prepare well for this final," he said at a press conference on Friday.

"It will be a great day. We are ready for this fight against a difficult opponent. Argentina are better than they were in 2018. 

"In 2018 there were more crazy people in this team. There is a very nice atmosphere in 2022 too, but it is not comparable."

With France opting against naming a replacement for Benzema after he left their camp with a thigh injury last month, reports have suggested the Ballon d'Or winner could make a shock return for Sunday's game.

Deschamps refused to comment on those suggestions on Thursday, and Dembele claimed to be in the dark regarding the striker's availability.

"I don't know. I'm not the coach," Dembele said. "I think Benzema got injured and I don't have an explanation."

Arsenal will reportedly launch a move for Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk in January, with his price now said to be more negotiable than the initial demand of €100million.

The 21-year-old has been a revelation this season for the Ukrainian club, announcing his arrival with a goal and two assists in a 4-1 win against RB Leipzig to kick off his side's Champions League campaign.

He scored both home and away against Celtic, while also racking up seven goals and six assists in 12 league fixtures, emerging as one of the most talented young forwards outside of Europe's big five competitions.

Earlier reports had claimed Shakhtar would hold out for a fee matching what Manchester United paid for Antony, but new information states that is no longer believed to be the case.

 

TOP STORY - ARSENAL PLOT JANUARY MOVE FOR UKRAINIAN SENSATION

According to The Athletic, there is a "good chance" Mudryk's move to Arsenal will materialise, with the publication claiming he is "determined to make the Emirates Stadium his destination".

The report says Arsenal will investigate what other deals they could potentially accomplish for a similar fee, but that "interested parties are of the understanding that a lower fee [than the initial €100m demand] would be deemed acceptable".

Adding fuel to the fire is the belief that the Kroenke family are willing to throw their trust into Edu and Mikel Arteta's decisions amid an unexpected Premier League title challenge, increasing the chance of such a significant January investment.

 

ROUND-UP

– Marca is reporting Arsenal have become the favourites to land 23-year-old Atletico Madrid forward Joao Felix in January, providing further indication the Gunners plan on making a splash in the upcoming transfer window.

– According to Sky Sports Germany's Florian Plettenberg, Milan rejected a €70m bid from Chelsea for Rafael Leao, and are holding firm on his €150m release clause with just over 18 months remaining on his contract.

– La Capital is reporting Liverpool have signed a pre-agreement for 21-year-old Benfica midfielder Enzo Fernandez, who is believed to be valued at €100m.

Paris Saint-Germain are interested in signing 25-year-old Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele, per El Nacional.

– Foot Mercato claims Manchester City have joined Manchester United and Chelsea in the pursuit of 20-year-old Croatia and RB Leipzig centre-back Josko Gvardiol.

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