Bayern Munich were not the biggest club in their own city, let alone the country, when Gerd Muller signed in 1964.

The Bavarians' major trophy haul at that time consisted of a single league championship in 1932 and a maiden DFB-Pokal success 25 years later. Muller joined a second-tier side.

On Tuesday, two days after the club great's passing, Bayern celebrated his life in fitting fashion with a record-extending ninth DFL-Supercup triumph – a competition they have to win silverware simply to enter.

The Bundesliga dominance, cup after cup and six European crowns... all that history can be traced back to Muller's decision to head for Bayern rather than rivals 1860 Munich.

He was there for the first four Bundesliga titles – the top scorer on each occasion – and for three European Cups in three years, Muller's standards slipping as Jupp Heynckes was the leading marksman in the third season.

In 15 years, the remarkable forward tallied 566 Bayern goals, a benchmark that stands to this day. Muller's Bundesliga total of 365 is also unsurpassed.

As those numbers show, breaking a Muller record is no simple task, but Robert Lewandowski finally did so last season when scoring 41 goals in a single Bundesliga campaign, edging beyond the legend's 40 in 1971-72.

"I achieved a goal that once seemed impossible to imagine," Lewandowski wrote on his Twitter page in May. "I'm so unbelievably proud to make history for Bayern, and to play a part in creating the stories that fans will tell their children – following in the footsteps of legends like Gerd Muller."

 

It made sense then for Lewandowski to be front and centre again at Signal Iduna Park as Muller was remembered.

He clutched a number nine shirt ahead of kick-off as a moment's silence broke into applause, the Borussia Dortmund fans recognising a legacy that goes beyond club lines.

It was a lovely tribute, but Muller would have been more familiar with Lewandowski's subsequent nods to his greatest predecessor.

Muller was the ultimate 18-yard box centre-forward, a mantle Lewandowski has taken on and exhibited expertly against his former side.

Manuel Neuer, another of the Bayern players carrying a Muller shirt, kept Dortmund at bay at one end – finishing with four saves – before his club's latest outstanding number nine showed Erling Haaland and BVB's team of young pretenders how it is done at the other.

"Lewandowski has proven over several years now that he is a world-class striker," coach Julian Nagelsmann said before the game. "Erling hasn't been in the league that long, although his scoring rate is great."

That proven Lewandowski class brought a brutal, brilliant opener, his header from Serge Gnabry's left-wing cross thumped into the bottom-left corner. The outcome of a chance that was worth a moderate 0.29 expected goals (xG) was never in doubt.

And Lewandowski was involved again, in the box again, when Bayern appeared to put the game beyond doubt four minutes after half-time, waving a leg towards Alphonso Davies' low cross in an attempt at a flick that ran instead for Thomas Muller's tap-in, the late Bayern superstar's namesake having been the third visiting player to hold up a red shirt in a pre-match show of respect.

Perhaps the linesman was a Gerd Muller fan, too, twice ruling in Bayern's favour when Youssoufa Moukoko and Haaland each ran away to score – the second call considerably closer than the first.

There was no ruling out a blistering Marco Reus strike, which briefly threatened Bayern's control, but Manuel Akanji's dallying let Lewandowski in again and the Dortmund fans know exactly how that tends to go. This time with an xG of 0.25 – merely the fifth-best chance of the match – the 32-year-old made it look routine.

A seventh Supercup strike, Lewandowski extended another record that is all his own – albeit in a competition Muller never graced.

The Poland international is Muller's nearest challenger in Bundesliga terms, with 278 goals, and deserves to be counted in such company, even if he has just added to Bayern's reputation rather than transformed it. Lewandowski has also now scored in 14 successive matches for Bayern, which means he needs to score in just two more consecutive games to match another of Muller's all-time records (16, in 1969-70).

Meanwhile, this was not Haaland's night, but he too could have one eye on the sort of standards Muller set. Still just 21, Haaland has 42 goals in 44 Bundesliga games – or one every 84.8 minutes – and Hasan Salihamidzic has acknowledged Bayern would be "amateurs" not to consider signing the striker.

Given the apparent inevitability of a transfer at the end of this campaign, the BVB sensation would seemingly have to join Germany's powerhouse to stay in the Bundesliga and close on Muller or Lewandowski.

Bayern do not need a replacement up front just yet, though, after their latest legend ensured 2021-22 would continue an almost constant theme since Muller broke all barriers, with silverware heading back to Bavaria.

Julian Nagelsmann claimed his first piece of silverware at Bayern Munich as Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller secured a 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund in the DFL-Supercup.

In a frantic encounter between the Bundesliga champions and DFB-Pokal winners at Signal Iduna Park, it was Bayern who defended their crown in the third straight Supercup meeting between the Klassiker rivals.

Lewandowski broke Gerd Muller's long-standing Bundesliga record of 40 goals in a single season with the final kick of 2020-21, and he fittingly opened the scoring two days after the Bayern great's passing.

Muller put Bayern in complete control and, though Marco Reus' stunner gave Dortmund hope, Lewandowski capitalised on Manuel Akanji's error to seal victory.

Dortmund were their own worst enemy from the off, with Serge Gnabry, Muller and Kingsley Coman all squandering gilt-edged chances after sloppy play from Marco Rose's team.

Yet it was Neuer who made the first save of the match. Hailed as "the best goalkeeper in the world" by Nagelsmann, the Bayern stalwart stuck out a leg to spectacularly deny Reus.

Dortmund were caught cold from a free-kick as the intensity continued, Lewandowski's effort blocked on the line by Axel Witsel.

Youssoufa Moukoko, the youngest goalscorer in Bundesliga history, thought he had nosed Dortmund ahead in the 36th minute only for the offside flag to halt his celebrations, before Neuer kept out Erling Haaland.

Bayern made their fortune count, Lewandowksi floating into the area to direct a thumping header beyond Gregor Kobel.

Lewandowski was involved again as, four minutes after the break, Bayern doubled their lead, the striker doing enough to prevent Kobel from collecting Alphonso Davies' cross, with Muller turning home.

Dortmund seemed to have an immediate lifeline when Haaland raced through and slotted home, but the offside flag again came to Bayern's rescue.

Bayern's lead was cut in sensational style after the hour, Reus curling a sumptuous first-time strike into the top-right corner.

Despite the backing of much of the limited-capacity crowd, Dortmund's comeback hopes fell flat 16 minutes from time as Corentin Tolisso pressured Akanji and Lewandowski picked up the scraps to round matters off.

Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann has hailed the "extraordinary" Erling Haaland, but says the Borussia Dortmund star has to maintain his form over several years to compare to Robert Lewandowski.

The two prolific goalscorers are expected to come face-to-face on Tuesday when Dortmund host Bayern at Signal Iduna Park in the 2021 DFL-Supercup, a trophy the Bundesliga champions have won in four of the last five campaigns.

Haaland enters the match on the back of a strong start to the season, having followed up a hat-trick against lower-league Wehen Wiesbaden in the DFB-Pokal with two goals and two assists in Saturday's 5-2 Bundesliga victory against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Norway international Haaland now has 62 goals in 61 appearances since making his BVB debut in January 2020, including 42 goals in 44 Bundesliga games for an average of 1.06 goals per 90 minutes in the competition.

Only ex-Dortmund man Lewandowski can better that return over the same period, scoring 57 goals from an identical number of appearances in the German top flight – an average of 1.35 per 90 minutes.

While Nagelsmann has been impressed by Haaland's incredible season-and-a-half in the Bundesliga, the recently appointed Bayern boss still thinks the 21-year-old has some way to go to match Lewandowski's consistency.

"Lewandowski has proven over several years now that he is a world-class striker," Nagelsmann said at Monday's pre-match news conference. "Erling hasn't been in the league that long, though his scoring rate is great.

"The other difference is age. Lewandowski has a lot more experience on his side than Haaland. In terms of similarities, they are both an unbelievable goal danger. But I am incredibly happy to have Lewandowski here."

 

The weekend win over Frankfurt was the first time Haaland has provided two assists in a single competitive game for Dortmund in his 19 months at the club.

Keeping Haaland off the scoresheet on Tuesday will be a huge task, but Nagelsmann is confident his players – including goalkeeper Manuel Neuer – are capable of doing so in the battle between last term's German cup and league winners.

"He is of course an excellent striker. Extraordinary. In addition to his goals, he is also robust and fast," Nagelsmann said. "We have to get close to him to prevent him from making runs in behind our defence.

"We have to be physically ready and be prepared to initiate the counter-press after we lose the ball so that quick passes up the other end of the field are prevented. We can't prevent that completely, but we still have the best goalkeeper in the world."

Nagelsmann has endured a difficult start to life as Bayern boss, not helped by a number of players returning late to training, with the reigning Bundesliga champions yet to win any of his five games in charge.

Bayern were held 1-1 by Borussia Monchengladbach in their first competitive game under Nagelsmann on Friday and the 34-year-old coach is eager to get off the mark with some silverware in midweek.

"I would like to sign for a win tomorrow and then go on and take the title," he said. "Dortmund have started the season well, whereas we're still waiting for that first win, but I wouldn't look into that too much.

"Of course this is an important match for us, but it's not necessarily important for the rest of the season. Both teams have a few injuries and the season is still young, but we are going there with the aim to win."

Nagelsmann also paid tribute to Bayern's all-time leading goalscorer Gerd Muller, who passed away at the weekend at the age of 75.

"My condolences to Gerd's family and friends," Nagelsmann said. "Yesterday was a sad day for everyone involved in the club. Gerd played a lot of great games and scored some great goals."

Robert Lewandowski acknowledged Bayern Munich made "a lot of mistakes" in Julian Nagelsmann's first Bundesliga match at the helm as the champions drew 1-1 with Borussia Monchengladbach on Friday.

Bayern were deservedly trailing after 10 minutes, as a poor start was compounded by Alassane Plea beating Manuel Neuer.

They soon sorted themselves out and eventually levelled just before half-time through Lewandowski, who tied a personal record of 11 successive goal-scoring Bundesliga appearances for the club, but Bayern were unable to add to that.

Their wastefulness was underlined by the fact that Bayern's chances had an accumulative expected goals (xG) value of 3.1, with Yann Sommer having an impressive game between the posts for the home side.

 

Sommer's eight saves – a single-match figure that was only bettered six times across all of 2020-21 – ensured Gladbach had a fighting chance in the latter stages and they were arguably denied two clear penalties as Dayot Upamecano clumsily tripped Marcus Thuram twice, and Lewandowski accepts they have lots of room for improvement.

"It's a difficult question, whether we are satisfied or not," he Sat.1. "What we played wasn't perfect football.

"We lacked speed and consistency. We could score, but Gladbach also had great opportunities. Now we have to look to the next game and prepare.

"It's not that easy to play here and the atmosphere was really great. A game like this is something special with spectators and it was always problematic for us here. We have to do a lot of things better."

 

Gladbach players and coaching staff were angered by the two contentious non-penalty calls late in the game, with Adi Hutter adamant Thuram was fouled on at least one occasion.

Referee Marco Fritz did not go to a pitchside monitor to watch a replay, which Hutter felt was "weird", but Nagelsmann thinks the situations were exaggerated by the crowd.

"I think if we have the referee and the video evidence [not calling for a penalty], it's fair," he said.

"Then, of course, the crowd also makes noise and reinforces the subjective feeling. I think there is less discussion in such scenes without a crowd."

In preventing defeat, Nagelsmann avoided becoming the first permanent Bayern coach to lose his first league game in charge since Franz Beckenbauer in 1994.

Now he will set his sights on his first silverware at the club, with Bayern set to face Borussia Dortmund in Tuesday's DFL-Supercup.

Julian Nagelsmann's reign as Bayern Munich head coach began with a 1-1 draw at Borussia Monchengladbach in the first match of the 2021-22 Bundesliga season, with Yann Sommer frustrating the champions.

Nagelsmann, who joined from RB Leipzig during the close season, will have been largely pleased with the overall dominance exerted by Bayern but they were unable to make the most of their chances.

Die Roten looked shaky at the start and were deservedly behind in the 10th minute thanks to Alassane Plea, though Robert Lewandowski – who had previously been thwarted three times by Sommer – volleyed home the equaliser to equal his longest Bundesliga scoring streak (11 matches).

More presentable chances came and went after the interval, with Sommer loving his personal duel with Lewandowski, but the best opportunity of all fell to Gladbach as Bayern were arguably fortunate take a point back to Munich.

Bayern had two lucky escapes early on as Patrick Herrmann shot wide from the edge of the box before then surging on to an exquisite Florian Neuhaus ball only to make a mess of his eventual squared pass to Lars Stindl despite having only Manuel Neuer to beat.

Stindl was picked out by Christoph Kramer, however, with the Gladbach skipper nudging his throughball past Bayern debutant Dayot Upamecano and Plea was on hand to slam past Neuer.

Lewandowski somehow failed to level in the 26th minute when shooting straight at Sommer from point-blank range, but the Pole found his range just before the break as he met Joshua Kimmich's corner with a controlled volley.

 

Bayern had firmly established dominance and that continued into the second half, with a desperate block by Sommer denying Alphonso Davies a near-certain goal and he then stuck out a foot to prevent Lewandowski getting his second of the day soon after.

But Gladbach began to create openings on the break towards the end and Marcus Thuram should have sealed the three points 13 minutes from time when he only got the faintest of touches on Stefan Lainer's pass across the face of goal.

Upamecano was then lucky to avoid conceding two late penalties for clumsy collisions with Thuram, as the spoils were ultimately shared.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are not among the final nominees for the 2020-21 Champions League positional awards.

On Friday, UEFA announced the 12 players, three per position, who could win the individual prizes on August 26.

The 12 players each received the most points in each positional category following a jury vote. The jury comprised coaches from the 32 clubs that entered into the group stage last season, as well as 55 journalists representing UEFA's 55 member associations. Coaches could not vote for players from their own teams.

Messi came fourth in the poll for the best forwards, while Ronaldo did not make the top 10. Each player was eliminated at the last-16 stage, Barcelona losing to Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus to Porto.

Five of the 12 nominees are from Chelsea, who won their second Champions League by beating Manchester City in the final. Edouard Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, N'Golo Kante and Jorginho are all nominated.

City have three representatives – Ederson, Ruben Dias and Kevin De Bruyne – while beaten semi-finalists Real Madrid and PSG provide one each: Thibaut Courtois, and Kylian Mbappe.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, who finished as top scorer last season with 10, are the other nominees.

The winners of the best goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward prizes will be announced at the group-stage draw in Istanbul in two weeks' time.

Julian Nagelsmann has long seemed destined to be Bayern Munich coach, and the 34-year-old now has his chance after succeeding Hansi Flick.

He has a lot to live up to. Flick, in his 18-month tenure, Flick led Bayern to two Bundesliga titles, one DFB-Pokal, a Champions League triumph, Club World Cup glory, the DFL-Supercup and the UEFA Super Cup – a remarkable seven trophies.

While Nagelsmann settles into life in the hottest of coaching seats in Germany, his former team RB Leipzig will look to finally make a title challenge last, this time under new coach Jesse Marsch.

Borussia Dortmund scraped into the Champions League places thanks to a super run late in the season, and now Marco Rose will look to build on their DFB-Pokal success in his first season in charge.

Just what can we expect from each of Germany's big three in 2021-22?


Bayern Munich

Bayern ultimately claimed their ninth successive Bundesliga title with ease last term and Robert Lewandowski was once again the driving force. He had to wait until the last kick of the last day, but he finally broke Gerd Muller's long-standing Bundesliga record of 41 goals in a single campaign.

Unsurprisingly, Bayern scored the most goals in Germany's top tier in 2020-21, netting 99 times across their 34 fixtures. Their tally of 483 chances was also by far the most in the division, 54 ahead of second-ranked Leipzig (429) in that regard, though they conceded 44 times while the Leipzig defence under Nagelsmann was the stingiest, with only 32 goals conceded. 

Bayern averaged 65.39 per cent possession and had 1,304 touches in the opposition box, over 400 more than any other side.

However, Nagelsmann does have to contend with the loss of some players who have been crucial to Bayern's dominance. David Alaba has joined Real Madrid, while fellow stalwarts Javi Martinez and Jerome Boateng also left on free transfers.

Dayot Upamecano has made the same switch from Leipzig as Nagelsmann, and the young centre-back adds pace and dynamism to Bayern's backline. Other than that, the squad remains largely the same, with Sven Ulreich having returned after a spell at Hamburg, while Omar Richards arrived on a free transfer from Reading.

Even without much more in the way of incomings, it is difficult to see Bayern letting the chance to make it 10 titles in a row slip from their grasp.

 

Dortmund

Last season was a difficult campaign for Dortmund, but it was one which ultimately ended successfully. They clinched Champions League qualification and ran riot against Leipzig to lift the DFB-Pokal.

It was a fine parting gift from Edin Terzic, who took over on an interim basis after Lucien Favre was relieved of his duties, and now Rose – whose Borussia Monchengladbach team slumped in the back half of the season and missed out on Europe – will look to reshape Dortmund in his own way.

Renowned for attacking, front-foot football, Rose's style, if all goes to plan, is bound to be a hit with the Dortmund fans upon their return to Signal Iduna Park.

Dortmund may have sold Jadon Sancho, but they still have Norway sensation Erling Haaland, who scored 27 Bundesliga goals last season from 93 attempts, giving him a shot conversion rate of 29.03 per cent, the third-highest in the league out of players to have scored 10 or more times.

Donyell Malen has arrived as Sancho's replacement, and Rose has already been talking up the Netherlands youngster, while goalkeeper Gregor Kobel has arrived from Stuttgart. Like Bayern, Dortmund said goodbye to a club legend in the form of Lukasz Piszczek, but with Marco Reus, Thorgan Hazard, Malen and Haaland complemented by the likes of Julian Brandt and Jude Bellingham, there should be plenty of cause for optimism.

It might well be Haaland's final season at the club, and you would not put it past the youngster, who also set up six goals last term, to propel Dortmund into the title race, back where they belong.

 

RB Leipzig

There are plenty of quality teams competing with the three leading lights, and it would certainly not be surprising to see Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, Eintracht Frankfurt or Gladbach mount a serious push for Champions League football.

However, Leipzig have well and truly established themselves as a Champions League regular now, and will be looking to Marsch, who has made the transition from sister club Salzburg, to continue Nagelsmann's work.

Leipzig sold Timo Werner to Chelsea in 2020, and netting just 60 times, they clearly missed the striker. Indeed, midfielder Marcel Sabitzer, with eight goals, was their leading scorer, with forwards Alexander Sorloth and Yussuf Poulsen only managing five each.

In Andre Silva, signed from Frankfurt, Leipzig have a forward who scored more than Haaland in the Bundesliga last season, with the Portugal international finding the net 28 times in 32 appearances.

Silva boasted an impressive 'big chance', as defined by Opta, conversion rate of 55 per cent, while only Lewandowski (137) had more than the former Milan man's 117 attempts. Dani Olmo and Christopher Nkunku – who supplied nine and six assists respectively last season – can provide the creativity, with Poulsen and Sorloth able to offer Marsch a variety of attacking options. Caden Clark, who is starring in MLS, will arrive before the turn of the year, while Dominik Szoboszlai is almost like a new signing, given he is yet to feature for the club since his arrival in January due to injury.

Leipzig have faced a reshuffle in what had been a strong defence, with key man Upamacano departing while Ibrahima Konate has also left for Liverpool, though the acquisition of Salzburg's highly rated Mohamed Simakan shows the production line is still ticking along, and a Champions League place will be the minimum expectation. 

Robert Lewandowski will definitely not leave Bayern Munich in the next two years, according to the German champions' president Herbert Hainer.

The prolific striker was crowned Germany’s Footballer of the Year for 2021 last week after scoring 41 Bundesliga goals to break Gerd Muller's long-standing single-season record.

His 48 goals in all competitions were the most scored by any player in Europe's top five league in 2020-21, followed by Kylian Mbappe (42) and Erling Haaland (41).

Lewandowski has netted 294 goals in 329 appearances overall for Bayern since joining from domestic rivals Borussia Dortmund in 2014, including 203 in 219 league games.

But the 32-year-old has been linked with a move away from the Allianz Arena this transfer window, with Real Madrid, Chelsea and Manchester City all reportedly interested in striking a deal.

However, new boss Julian Nagelsmann recently said he is not bothered by the speculation and president Hainer has reiterated Lewandowski is going nowhere while under contract until 2023.

"Firstly, in my opinion, Lewandowski is the best striker in the world. We are so happy that we have him in our team," he told Goal.

"He still has two more years on his contract. He will definitely play those with Bayern Munch. I said it already a few weeks ago – I could imagine him staying with us for even longer. 

"He will honour his contract. He will definitely play the next two seasons here at Bayern Munich."

 

Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland has previously been touted as a possible replacement for Lewandowski, but Bayern are not currently in the market for a new striker.

"As I said, Robert will definitely be here for the next two seasons with Bayern. Then we will look for a successor," Hainer said.

Joshua Kimmich is another valuable Bayern player who has two years to run on his existing deal, while Manchester United-linked Leon Goretzka is set to become a free agent at the end of 2021-22.

Both players returned to training this week after being given an extended break following their Euro 2020 exertions and talks over fresh terms will soon commence.

"As you know, they went on holiday after the European Championship," Hainer said. "They were back yesterday in the training sessions.

"Now we have time to talk to them. And hopefully, within the next week, we will find agreements with them."

Bayern play their third friendly of pre-season on Wednesday with a home match against fellow Bundesliga side Borussia Monchengladbach.

Nagelsmann's men then face Napoli before beginning their 2021-22 campaign with a DFB-Pokal tie against lower-league opposition Bremer SV on August 6.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has been crowned Germany’s Footballer of the Year for 2021.

The Pole lands the award for a second successive season following a record-breaking Bundesliga campaign with Bayern; becoming the first player to retain the accolade since Michael Ballack in 2003.

Lewandowski scored a staggering 41 league goals – surpassing Gerd Muller's record tally of 40 from 1971-72 – as Hansi Flick’s side secured a ninth straight title.

 

The 32-year-old was the runaway winner of the award, receiving 356 of the 563 votes cast in a poll conducted by journalists from sports magazine Kicker – 315 more than his nearest challenger Thomas Muller.

"I know what a great honour this is," he told the club's official website.

"It's a source of great pride and joy for me, because it's rare for someone to win the title of Footballer of the Year in Germany twice in a row."

 

Indeed, Lewandowski becomes only the 15th different player to win the award on multiple occasions – along with the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Jurgen Klinsmann, Lothar Matthaus and Oliver Kahn.

His 41 goals landed him the Bundesliga's golden boot for a sixth time, leaving him one shy of Muller's record of seven.

With 365, the 1974 World Cup winner is also the only player to better Lewandowski's tally of 277 league goals in Germany's top flight.

Following the conclusion of the European Championship and the Copa America, focus has switched back to club football as the 2021-22 campaign draws ever nearer in Europe's top leagues.

Most clubs are busy strengthening their squads ahead of the new season, while for others there is a need to raise funds as the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic continue to be felt.

With six weeks of the window to go for teams in England, Spain, Germany, France and Italy, the futures of many top talents remain uncertain – not least in the case of Lionel Messi, who became a free agent on July 1.

But while Messi is widely expected to sign a new long-term deal with Barcelona, other global stars will remain in the headlines until a transfer is secured or the window shuts.

Stats Perform looks at some of the biggest names who could be on the move between now and the end of August.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)

Linked with: Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United

While Messi's future now seems certain to be with Barcelona beyond next month, fellow superstar Ronaldo's status is less clear after entering the final year of his Juventus deal.

The Bianconeri are supposedly weighing up whether to cash in on the five-time Ballon d'Or winner or risk losing him for free next year when his deal expires.

While Juve endured a disappointing 2020-21 that saw them miss out on the Scudetto for the first time in nine years, Ronaldo had another impressive season in front of goal.

He scored 29 goals in 33 league appearances to finish top of the scoring charts, becoming the first player to win the Golden Boot in Serie A, LaLiga and the Premier League.

 

Harry Kane (Tottenham)

Linked with: Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid

Kane has spent 17 years with Tottenham but admitted in May he feels at a "crossroads" in his career following another trophyless campaign last time out.

The England international, who scored four times in his country's run to the Euro 2020 final, is yet to discuss his future with recently-appointed boss Nuno Espirito Santo.

He finished as the Premier League's top scorer last season, making him the third player to win the Golden Boot on three occasions after Thierry Henry (four times) and Alan Shearer.

Kane also set up 14 goals to become only the second player in the Premier League era to top the charts for both goals and assists, the other being Andy Cole for Newcastle United in 1993-94.

 

Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)

Linked with: Manchester City, Real Madrid, Chelsea

Alongside Kylian Mbappe, who Paris Saint-Germain will refuse to sell this window despite his delicate contract situation, Haaland is arguably football's hottest property.

The Norway international has been superb for Dortmund since arriving in January 2020, breaking a number of Bundesliga and Champions League goals records along the way.

That includes becoming both the quickest and youngest player to hit 20 goals in the Champions League, doing so in just 14 matches for Dortmund and former side Salzburg.

Last season alone, Haaland netted 27 times in 28 Bundesliga games. That included two or more goals on 11 occasions – only Gerd Muller (12 in 1971-72) has done so more times in a season.

 

Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Linked with: Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid

Having won it all during his time with Bayern, including seven successive Bundesliga crowns, could the time be right for Lewandowski to seek a new challenge elsewhere?

Recently-appointed Bayern boss Julian Nagelsmann admitted last week teams are interested in signing the 32-year-old, but that should of course come as no surprise.

Lewandowski is coming off his finest campaign yet for the Bavarian giants, having scored 41 times in the Bundesliga in 2020-21 to break Bayern great Muller's record for goals in a single season that had stood for 49 years.

The Poland striker's 48 goals in all competitions last time out were the most scored by any player in Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21, meanwhile, followed by Mbappe (42) and Haaland (41).

 

Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)

Linked with: Manchester United

With the signing of Jadon Sancho as good as wrapped up, Man Utd are rumoured to be closing in on a second big-money signing of the window in long-serving Madrid defender Varane.

The Frenchman has spent a decade at the Santiago Bernabeu, but it looks as though both the player and club are ready to cut ties with less than a year to run on his contract.

United are seeking a partner for Harry Maguire and Varane ticks plenty of boxes for what the Red Devils are after, not least in terms of his passing accuracy (89.58) and headed clearances (60) in 31 LaLiga games last term.

That compares to a passing accuracy of 89.82 for Victor Lindelof, 88.26 for Eric Bailly and 87.29 for Maguire in the Premier League last term. Maguire led the way with 86 headed clearances, meanwhile, some way in front of Lindelof's 40 in 29 games.

Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

Linked with: Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Juventus

United have been linked with an array of top talent, though they could have a battle on their hands keeping hold of one of their own star men in Pogba.

Following a couple of years of speculation, the World Cup-winning midfielder is supposedly eager to head home to France with Paris Saint-Germain.

Pogba has undoubtedly struggled for consistency in his second spell with United, but showed exactly what he is capable of in his four appearances for France at Euro 2020.

He scored a stunning goal against Switzerland and set up another against Portugal, while his eight chances created was second only to Antoine Griezmann (10) among France players.

Eduardo Camavinga (Rennes)

Linked with: Real Madrid, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, Arsenal

A number of Europe's top clubs are on red alert after Rennes president Nicolas Holveck admitted this week that in-demand midfielder Camavinga may be sold this window if a new contract cannot be agreed.

Camavinga made his debut for boyhood club Rennes in April 2019 and has gone on to make 82 appearances in all competitions, with 67 of those outings coming in Ligue 1.

The 18-year-old leads the way in the French top flight for tackles attempted (226) and tackles won (138) since his debut, followed by Marseille's Valentin Rongier in both categories (194 and 125 respectively).

To further underline exactly why so many teams are keen on the youngster, he was one of only two current teenagers – along with Barcelona's Pedri (1,485) – to complete more than 1,000 passes in Europe's top five leagues last term with 1,418.

 

Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo)

Linked with: Juventus, Arsenal

Euro 2020 acted as a shop window for a number of players, and not many of them saw their stock rise in such a way as Italy midfielder Locatelli.

The 23-year-old featured five times for the Azzurri in their successful European Championship campaign, including an appearance from the bench during extra time in the victory over England in the final.

He scored twice in the 3-0 group-stage win over Switzerland and had the second best goals-per-90-minutes ratio of any Italy player (0.66) after Matteo Pessina, who scored twice in four games (0.95).

Locatelli also won more tackles per 90 minutes (2.32) at the Euros than any other Italy player, followed by Marco Verratti (2.02) and Federico Bernardeschi (1.42).

Arsenal have already made a €40million (£35m) bid, but Juventus are considered the favourites to land the Milan youth product.

Eden Hazard has struggled for impact at Real Madrid two years into his five-year deal.

The 30-year-old signed with Madrid for a reported €100 million (£86m) from Chelsea in 2019.

Hazard has battled against injuries and poor form in Spain, making 43 appearances and scoring five goals in two seasons.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA WEIGH UP SHOCK HAZARD RETURN

Eden Hazard could make a sensational return to Chelsea and end his underwhelming spell with Real Madrid, reports AS.

Chelsea are weighing up a shock move for the Belgium attacking midfielder, who spent seven years with the Blues.

The report did not disclose any financial details but cited Hazard's strong connection with Chelsea's squad and desire to re-discover his best football.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Sun claims Manchester United are plotting a cut-price move for Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka as a replacement for Paul Pogba, who has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain in recent days.

- Tottenham's swap deal for Bryan Gil from Sevilla in exchange for Erik Lamela will soon be finalized according to Sky Sports. Spurs will also pay £21.6 million (€25m) for the winger.

- Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowsk is "interested" in a contract offer from Chelsea after his agent spoke to the Blues, claims Bild. Lewandowski is seen as Chelsea's alternative option should they fail to land Erling Haaland.

- Switzerland international Xherdan Shaqiri could be among those sold by Liverpool in an off-season clear-out, according to the Liverpool Echo. Divock Origi and Nat Phillips were also mentioned in the report.

- talkSPORT reports that Arsenal are preparing a £30m bid to sign Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale . The Times claims the Gunners have been told to raise their offer.

After winning the Champions League, Chelsea are looking to add a goalscorer. 

With Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland seemingly no longer a possibility, the Blues could look elsewhere in Germany.

Robert Lewandowski has become the name to watch. 

 

TOP STORY - CHELSEA LINE UP LEWANDOWSKI BID

Robert Lewandowski has moved to the top of Chelsea's wish list, according to the Sun. 

The Poland international scored a record 41 league goals for Bayern Munich last season and is under contract through 2023.

But Thomas Tuchel wants a prolific scorer and Lewandowski would certainly fit the bill, should Bayern accept a £50million offer for the 32-year-old.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United will make an offer for Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane this week, says the Daily Mail, but not at the rumoured £50m asking price. Fabrizio Romano reports Varane wants to move to the Premier League and is ready to accept United's contract proposal. 

United also are in the mix for Real Madrid's winger Vinicius Junior, claims the Mirror. 

Mauro Icardi could leave Paris Saint-Germain for Juventus, says Footmercato.

– Barring a Lewandowski move, Chelsea could wind up as a surprise landing spot for Harry Kane if he does not end up at Manchester City, according to The Athletic.

Liverpool will extend Alisson's contract through 2026 within the next few weeks, Fabrizio Romano reports, while the Mirror says Jordan Henderson will sign a new deal at Anfield through 2023. 

Roma and Inter could lure Alex Telles away from United, according to Calciomercato. 

Arsenal are hoping to complete a deal for Anderlecht midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga within the next week, says the Daily Mail.

Tottenham are eyeing Atalanta's Pierluigi Gollini, says Calciomercato. 

Manchester City's pursuit of a new striker is well known.

Sergio Aguero's exit has left a void for the Premier League champions.

City have been linked with a host of big names including Erling Haaland and Harry Kane.

 

TOP STORY - MAN CITY MONITORING LEWANDOWSKI

Manchester City are monitoring the status of Bundesliga top scorer Robert Lewandowski, according to the Daily Mail.

Lewandowski has two years remaining on his Bayern Munich deal but has previously indicated he may be open to a move elsewhere.

The report claims City are worried they may not succeed in their pursuit of Kane and see 32-year-old Lewandowski as an option given his quality and potentially lower asking price.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool is readying a £60million (€70m) bid for Inter and Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella according to La Repubblica. However, Fabrizio Romano claims Inter will not sell him.

- Everton have submitted a £30m (€35m) bid for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, but the Italian club have told the Toffees to double the offer, claims Calciomercato.

- The Telegraph reports that England full-back Kieran Trippier is desperate to return to the Premier League as he waits on a move from Atletico Madrid to Manchester United.

- The Telegraph also claims that Joe Willock will spend time on loan again at Newcastle from Arsenal. He will join the Magpies on a season-long deal.

- SPORT claims that Chelsea are tracking Sevilla's Jules Kounde after he recently rejected interest from Tottenham.

- Chelsea are looking to utilise Tammy Abraham as a sweetener in any deal to land Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, reports The Mirror.

- West Bromwich have turned down West Ham's offer for goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, claims The Athletic.

Julian Nagelsmann is not surprised Robert Lewandowski is being linked with a move away from Bayern Munich and has revealed he has already held talks with the star striker.

Lewandowski enjoyed his most prolific campaign yet last time out with 41 Bundesliga goals for Bayern to break Gerd Muller's long-standing single-season record.

His 48 in all competitions were the most scored by any player in Europe's top five league in 2020-21, followed by Kylian Mbappe (42) and Erling Haaland (41).

Poland striker Lewandowski has netted 294 goals in 329 appearances overall for Bayern since joining from domestic rivals Borussia Dortmund in 2014, including 203 in 219 league games.

Reports from Spain earlier this week suggested the 32-year-old is ready for a new challenge and Real Madrid are his preferred club should he leave the Allianz Arena.

 

Lewandowski is no stranger to transfer speculation, though, and Nagelsmann – named as Hansi Flick's successor in April – is not concerned by the gossip as the striker is under contract until 2023.

"The rumours about Robert have been around for ages, ever since he has been with FC Bayern," he told Sky Sport.

"I think it's somewhat normal when someone scores so many goals that almost every club puts out its feelers.

"On one hand Robert knows what he has in Munich, what he has in this team. Point two is his contractual situation – this is also clear.

"I've spoken to him. I'm not very fond on the first act with a player being to immediately discuss his contractual situation."

Lewandowski is currently enjoying an extended break after featuring in all three games for Poland at Euro 2020.

The former Dortmund striker scored three times as Poland suffered a disappointing group-stage exit after finishing below Sweden, Spain and Slovakia.

That return of one goal every 90 minutes was the fifth-best of any player to have scored more than once in the competition, behind Karim Benzema (87.25), Patrik Schick (81), Kasper Dolberg (75.33) and Cristiano Ronaldo (72).

Having been scrapped last year due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the Ballon d'Or returns in 2021.

With Euro 2020 and the Copa America rescheduled for this year, the stars of Europe and South America had the chance to use those tournaments as a springboard towards claiming the game's top individual prize.

Italy and Argentina lifted the respective trophies at the weekend, with the Azzurri beating England in a penalty shoot-out and La Albiceleste seeing off bitter rivals Brazil at the Maracana to win the Copa for the first time since 1993.

Stats Perform has looked at 13 of the leading candidates to feature at either tournament to determine how their chances look heading into the new season.

Jorginho

Before Euro 2020, N'Golo Kante was the Chelsea midfielder seen to be within the best shot of scooping individual honours at the end of 2021, but a month on it's Jorginho who is the European champion at club and international level.

While he has perhaps been underappreciated or misunderstood at times with Chelsea, perhaps supporters will see him in a new light after playing a vital role in Italy's success as their deep-lying playmaker.

Robert Lewandowski

It's widely accepted that, had the award been handed out last year, it would have gone to Robert Lewandowksi, the man whose 55 goals in 47 games delivered Bayern the treble.

How do you follow that? Well, he scored 41 times in the Bundesliga alone in 2020-21, breaking Gerd Muller's 49-year-old single-season record. Lewandowski's Ballon d'Or hopes arguably aren't any worse now than before the Euros as no one will have expected Paulo Sousa's men to make much of an impact. He got three goals in as many games and was only out-scored by six players, which is a solid achievement.

 

Marco Verratti

Had he not been injured for the first two games of Euro 2020, there's every possibility it would have been Verratti being crowned as player of the tournament, with the Paris Saint-Germain star arguably the player who embodies the qualities of Roberto Mancini's transformed Italy side more than any other.

Not only did he create more chances than anyone else at Euro 2020 (14), but averaged more touches (114.5) than anyone, played the fourth-most passes (87.1) and ranked third for tackles (four) per 90 minutes among all players to have featured for at least 125 minutes. His all-action excellence set the tone for the Azzurri's vibrant and, ultimately, successful football.

 

N'Golo Kante

Kante inspired Chelsea to Champions League glory, named man of the match in both legs of the semi-final versus Real Madrid and the final against Manchester City.

But France's last-16 elimination by Switzerland will have done little to boost his chances, with Paul Pogba rather than Kante the standout figure for Les Bleus. While a nomination is almost a certainty, taking the gong home now looks beyond the all-action midfielder.

Kevin De Bruyne

A second successive PFA Players' Player of the Year award for Kevin De Bruyne came after another standout season for Manchester City in which he won the Premier League and EFL Cup.

His exceptional quality was further underlined by the fact only Verratti created more chances than him over the course of the tournament, an impressive feat given he started the tournament late due to injury and then had to play through another fitness issue in Belgium's final match, but that's unlikely to be enough to earn him the award.

Gianluigi Donnarumma

Generally, the player considered to be the best at a major international competition has a pretty good chance of winning further accolades, so in that case Donnarumma may have a reasonable opportunity after UEFA crowned him Euro 2020's Player of the Tournament.

Statistically there were numerous goalkeepers who were more important than him to their respective teams given he technically didn't prevent any goals according to Opta's xGOT metric – Tomas Vaclik's prevented a tournament-high 2.5. Nevertheless, Donnarumma wasn't guilty of any drops or errors that led to shots, and made crucial saves across two penalty shoot-outs, including a couple in the final.

 

Harry Kane

Another star performer in 2020-21 to end the season empty-handed, Harry Kane finished top for goals (23) and assists (14) in the Premier League despite Tottenham finishing seventh.

A slow start to Euro 2020 followed, although Kane scored four times in the knockout phase as he played a key role in England's journey to the final. But when it mattered most he failed to have a single touch in the Italy penalty area. A talismanic performance in the showpiece may have put him firmly in the running, but it's difficult to see him being a major contender now.

Romelu Lukaku

The best player in Serie A as Inter ended an 11-year wait to win the title, Romelu Lukaku enjoyed the best season of his career, with 41 direct goal involvements in 44 appearances.

He certainly cannot be accused of failing to deliver for Belgium given he scored four times, but they came up short against Italy in the quarter-finals, with a partially injured De Bruyne unable to truly weave his magic. Lukaku's influence upon Inter shouldn't be overlooked, but the achievements of others on the international stage may overshadow his own.

Lionel Messi

The winner of the previous award in 2019 – the sixth of his astonishing career – Lionel Messi amazingly plundered 28 goals and had nine assists for Barcelona from January 1 onwards.

It wasn't enough to win Barca the LaLiga title, but it did put him right in the mix and he followed that up with a starring role in Argentina's Copa triumph, the first senior international trophy of his career. Given his lack of success with La Albiceleste was arguably the final barrier to clear in his career, a Ballon d'Or will surely follow later this year as he led Lionel Scaloni's men with four goals (joint-most) and five assists (the most).

 

Kylian Mbappe

Paris Saint-Germain lost their Ligue 1 title to Lille and could not reach back-to-back Champions League finals, which seems incredible given Kylian Mbappe managed 42 goals and 11 assists in just 47 appearances.

Departing Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick this year said there was no question Mbappe would win the Ballon d'Or one day, but it probably won't be in 2021. He was one of the biggest disappointments at Euro 2020, failing to score once despite his chances having an accumulative xG value of 2.02 – that under-performance was second-worst to Gerard Moreno (3.32).

Neymar

Even Neymar would admit he only had an outside chance of winning this year's Ballon d'Or ahead of the Copa America, his 17 goals and eight assists in 2020-21 a modest return for the world's most expensive footballer.

While his performances with Brazil would see him included in most people's team of the tournament, he wasn't dependable in front of goal, his one non-penalty strike coming from 5.3 xG, an under-performance unmatched by anyone in the tournament. He'll have to wait a bit longer for the prize he supposedly craves above all others.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo

Juventus may have lost their grip on Serie A, but Cristiano Ronaldo still finished as top goalscorer (with 29), and they won the Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia.

He definitely didn't do his chances any harm as he won the Golden Boot for most goals (five) – beating Patrik Schick by virtue of having more assists – after becoming the Euros' all-time leading scorer (11) and levelling Ali Daei's world-record haul of 109 international goals, but Portugal's failure to get beyond the last 16 won't help.

 

Luis Suarez

Discarded by Barcelona for being past his usefulness, Luis Suarez responded with 21 goals in 32 games to propel Atletico Madrid to a first league title since 2013-14.

But he could only muster one goal at the Copa America as he and Uruguay had a minimal impact, meaning it'll take something special for Suarez to be a major candidate at the end of the year.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.