Barcelona's much-publicised financial difficulties are creating unwanted kind of leverage in the transfer market.

The Blaugrana have been linked to the likes of Robert Lewandowski and Mohamed Salah, but via a free transfer, circumventing the need for an initial outlay.

Reports suggest one of their transfer targets this off-season appears to be unattainable, though.

TOP STORY – SEVILLA STIFLE KOUNDE MOVE TO BARCELONA

Barcelona's reported interest in Jules Kounde will face a stumbling block in the form of Sevilla, according to Marca.

The Andalusian club have set a €60million price for Kounde, reportedly knowing that interest from Premier League clubs will meet that benchmark and effectively price Barcelona out of the market.

In addition, Sevilla would want to close the deal quickly, forcing Barcelona into cash-flow difficulty if they were to meet the demands for Kounde.

Barcelona are unwilling to pay the €60m despite sourcing fresh funds, with a reported need to primarily balance this year's budget.

ROUND-UP

Arsenal and Newcastle United are keen on Napoli midfielder Fabian Ruiz, whose contract runs out in 2023, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Borussia Dortmund are set to sign Ajax striker Sebastian Haller, per ESPN.

Real Madrid have stepped up their interest in Raheem Sterling with his future in Manchester City uncertain, the Mirror reports.

Chelsea are considering signing 29-year-old Lens full-back Jonathan Clauss, Goal is reporting.

Mexican club Toluca confirmed they had been targeted by a hoax after a statement appeared online claiming legal action against Luuk de Jong was being considered.

De Jong has reportedly ruled out the idea of a move to Liga MX, and Toluca have said he will not be joining them.

The 31-year-old Dutch striker spent last season on loan at Barcelona from Sevilla, largely featuring as a fringe member of the Camp Nou giants' squad.

A statement was published on social media that was purported to have come from Toluca, in which it was claimed that a deal for De Jong had been agreed with the player and Sevilla.

It went on to claim that De Jong subsequently did not travel to Mexico, was not answering the calls of club owner Valentin Diez, and had decided against making the move.

The same statement said that Toluca, supported by Liga MX officials, were looking at what legal options were available to them, signing off with the remark: "Nobody is going to make fun of Toluca and Mexican football."

Toluca stressed on Saturday the statement was a fake, issuing a rebuttal through the club's Twitter account that stated: "Our fans and the general public are informed that official announcements will always be published on our official Toluca FC accounts and website."

It contained a picture of the statement, with a thick red line running through it and the word 'FALSO!', which translates as 'fake'.

Addressing transfer reports, Toluca technical director Ignacio Ambriz was quoted by local media on Friday as saying: "Doors were knocked on, but there are no contracts signed with any of them."

Sevilla defender Jules Kounde will undergo surgery for a hamstring injury on Tuesday, having been withdrawn at half-time of France’s 1-0 Nations League defeat to Croatia. 

The 23-year-old is a rumoured transfer target for Premier League heavyweights Chelsea, who were unable to complete a move 12 months ago but have revived their interest ahead of this window – though the injury may put a dent in the Blues' plans.

Kounde’s injury was something the team were aware of prior to the game, France boss Didier Deschamps confirmed, though the extent of his problem was not detailed after the match. 

"I knew very well his physical condition today. Tomorrow [Tuesday] he will have a [surgical] intervention because he has a problem that has been going on for several months," Deschamps said.

Capped 11 times by France, Kounde has established himself among the highest-rated young defenders in world football and shot to prominence during Sevilla's Europa League success in 2019-20. 

Utilised mainly as a central defender by his club side, Kounde's versatility has seen him feature regularly down the right for France. 

Les Bleus' defeat to Croatia in the Nations League capped off a woeful sequence for the defending champions, who sit rock bottom of group A1 without a win in their opening four matches – putting them at significant risk of relegation.

Real Madrid enjoyed a brilliant season, winning LaLiga comfortably before also being crown champions of Europe by beating Liverpool in Paris.

That 1-0 win at the Stade de France capped a remarkable run in the Champions League, with Los Blancos having instigated great escapes against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City.

It's difficult to recall any team enduring a tougher run to Champions League success, and yet Carlo Ancelotti – who was seen as a steady if slightly underwhelming appointment – managed to mastermind arguably his greatest triumph as a coach.

There's no sign of Madrid standing still, either. While the Spanish giants may have missed out on Kylian Mbappe, the fact they were in the hunt for him is evidence enough they are in a strong financial situation, perhaps unsurprising given their generally modest – by Santiago Bernabeu standards – outlay in the transfer market over the past couple of years.

Antonio Rudiger was signed up for next season nice and early, Aurelien Tchouameni's reported €100million signing was confirmed on Saturday, and the departures of Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Isco will give Madrid plenty of room for manoeuvre when it comes to wages.

Either way, there's nothing to suggest the LaLiga champions aren't going to be stronger in the 2022-23 campaign, meaning the chasing pack – namely Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla – have work to do, given how far behind they finished this term. 

Out with the old, in with the Nou

After a rocky start to 2021-22 that ultimately led to Ronald Koeman's dismissal, Xavi got Barca back on track and eventually secured second place, which was impressive given the top four looked beyond them for a while.

Nevertheless, their form did tail off a little in the final five or six weeks of the season, losing four of the final nine matches across all competitions.

Barca's season in general vindicated the decision to ditch Koeman for the inexperienced but well-regarded Xavi. It also proved the potential in the Blaugrana squad, as well as a degree of mental weakness at the business end.

 

Of course, it would be much easier for the club to build on the positives of this season were they not in a financial quagmire equivalent to over €1billion in debt.

As such, reports suggest Barca will largely be relying on free transfers, two of which are said to have been concluded already. Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen have apparently agreed to join, while Cesar Azpilicueta may follow the latter from Chelsea.

But the big question mark hangs over Robert Lewandowski. The Bayern Munich talisman has made no secret of his desire to leave the Bundesliga, and Camp Nou is where he sees himself next – but Die Roten are playing hardball, and who can blame them?

A whole raft of players are expected to depart Barca, however, with Ousmane Dembele seemingly destined for Chelsea and the likes of Clement Lenglet, Antoine Griezmann, Samuel Umtiti, Oscar Mingueza, Riqui Puig, Martin Braithwaite and Sergi Roberto all expected to leave permanently. On top of that, Adama Traore and Luuk de Jong are highly unlikely to have their loans renewed, while Frenkie de Jong appears the most likely to deposit some serious money in the coffers, given Manchester United's interest.

But such upheaval will be difficult to contend with. Even if Lewandowski signs, it'll take something spectacular for Barca to be champions this time next year.

Finally Joao Felix's time to shine?

Diego Simeone's side were dethroned with little more than a whimper. Their title defence looked over before it ever really got started.

It was a disappointing season given many felt Atletico's squad was strengthened significantly last year. Griezmann, Matheus Cunha and Rodrigo de Paul provided extra spark, creativity and goal threat, though arguably none of them quite reached expectations, even if the Brazi forward did prove a dependable option off the bench.

The departure of Luis Suarez means a new striker is likely to arrive, and early indications are Alvaro Morata may be returning – granted, that may not be enough to get Atletico fans excited.

Either way, fans and neutrals alike will once again be hoping Simeone can finally find a way to get the best out of his more creative players.

 

Joao Felix is still yet to shine on a consistent basis, with 2021-22 a tricky campaign in which injuries, illness and suspension contributed to him making only 24 league appearances; just 13 of those were as a starter.

His 12 goal involvements came at roughly one every 100 minutes, which is a decent return, but there is clearly an element of Simeone not completely trusting him yet, otherwise he'd surely have started more frequently.

The exit of Suarez might allow for Joao Felix to take on a little more responsibility in attack, and who's to say that won't be the making of him?

No one doubts the talent's there; he just needs to show he can be Atletico's talisman on a regular basis. If he can, Atletico may again be the most likely to stop Los Blancos.

A Sevilla summer of upheaval

Sevilla fans are accustomed to seeing most of their squad replaced over the course of a transfer window – it's just what Monchi does.

While their rebuild may not be quite as extensive this year as in past windows, expect to see plenty of ins and outs; in fact, there's already been one key departure.

Diego Carlos has joined Aston Villa in a move that begins the dismantling of Julen Lopetegui's bedrock of a defence. In 2021-22, no team in LaLiga conceded fewer than Sevilla (30 goals), while only Manchester City (57) and Madrid (52) kept more clean sheets than Julen Lopetegui's side (51) across the top five leagues during the Brazilian's time at the club.

His centre-back partner Jules Kounde is widely expected to leave as well, with long-term admirers Chelsea once again able to flex their financial muscle now they're no longer sanctioned.

But while Sevilla boasted the best defence in LaLiga, it's easy to forget that for a while they looked to be the only team capable of challenging Madrid for the title.

 

In the end, they scraped fourth place, with their form between February 1 and the season's conclusion seeing them rank seventh with 24 points; Barca led the way with 38 in that period, while Madrid took 36.

Sevilla's biggest issue was scoring goals. Only Rafa Mir (10) reached double figures in LaLiga, with Lucas Ocampos (six) the one other to net more than five.

That – and centre-back – would appear to be where Monchi's focus will lie over the coming months, particularly now it seems Lopetegui will be staying.

But Monchi's got his work cut out keeping the team as competitive given the likely upheaval and small gap between themselves and bitter rivals Real Betis in fifth. 

A title challenge like that of 2020-21 would be an impressive feat, but if Sevilla can limit the break-up of their defence and sign a reliable striker, it would become more realistic.

Arsenal are preparing to make a move for Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, with his price tag believed to be in the region of £45million.

Milinkovic-Savic is coming off arguably the best season of his career, scoring 11 goals and dishing 11 assists in 37 Serie A contests this campaign.

He has been with Lazio since arriving from Belgian side Genk in 2015, but he appears to be headed to the Premier League – with a second English club also reportedly competing for his signature.


TOP STORY – SERBIAN STAR SETS SIGHTS ON PREMIER LEAGUE

Italian outlet Corriere dello Sport called Lazio management delusional if they believe teams will pay a figure of over €70m, and instead believe Arsenal will come calling with a lesser bid of "at least £42m" in the hope it will be enough.

Also mentioned in the report as an interested party are Newcastle United, who are still searching for a marquee signing this offseason.

The Serbian is not the only expensive target on the Gunners' list, as the Telegraph named them as one of five teams considering a move for Leeds United's Raphinha, as well as being linked with Leicester City's Youri Tielemans.

If there is to be a spending spree at Arsenal, the Express is reporting Granit Xhaka could be heading the other way, with strong interest said to be coming from Jose Mourinho's Roma.


ROUND-UP

– The Liverpool Echo are reporting Benfica striker Darwin Nunez has told friends and family he will be heading to Liverpool in a deal believed to be in the range of €100million.

– According to The Mirror, Barcelona have rejected Manchester United's £60m offer for Frenkie de Jong, but are still interested in moving him for a higher fee.

– Inter have slapped a €100m price-tag on centre-back Milan Skriniar after Paris Saint-Germain came calling about his availability, per Calciomercato.

– The Guardian are reporting Tottenham have agreed to a £20m deal for England Under-21 right-back Djed Spence after he impressed last season on loan from Middlesbrough at Nottingham Forest. 

– According to Sport Witness, Jules Kounde has told Sevilla he wishes to leave the club, with Chelsea expected to be the beneficiaries.

Liverpool's Champions League final loss seemingly signalled the end for Sadio Mane at Anfield.

Luis Diaz's January transfer and fresh links to further potential signings at Anfield may all lead to Mane's eventual departure. 

And he might not be the only Reds superstar looking to the exit.

TOP STORY – SALAH WEIGHS UP BARCELONA MOVE

Mohamed Salah has reconsidered his future at Liverpool after an offer from Barcelona, according to the Mirror.

The 29-year-old had reportedly informed close friends he was willing to commit his playing future to Liverpool, with his contract expiring at the end of next season and talks over a renewal ongoing.

But reports suggested Barca's subsequent promise to sign him on a free transfer at the end of next season has prompted the Egypt international to reconsider his options at Anfield.

If Salah does not confirm an extension this off-season, it brings a number of other clubs into play, opening the possibility of him leaving as a free agent after what would be six years. 

ROUND-UP

Sadio Mane has already asked Reds team-mate Thiago Alcantara if he can move into his house in the event he signs for Bayern Munich, the Daily Mail reports.

– Manchester United have yet to lodge an official bid for Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong, but the Catalan club are open to selling him, per Sport.

– United are also keen on signing Inter right-back Denzel Dumfries, Calciomercato claims.

– Thomas Tuchel's primary defensive target for Chelsea remains Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde, according to talkSPORT.

Leeds United have placed a price-tag of at least £60million on star winger Raphinha, posing questions about whether interested party Barcelona will have the funds to complete a deal.

Raphinha was excellent for Leeds this past season, finishing second for the team in matches started (35), first in goals scored (11), second in assists (three) and converted all four penalties he was entrusted with.

Barcelona have been viewed as the primary suitor for the Brazilian winger, but with the price-tag continuing to rise, there is doubt about how the Spanish giants could pull it off.

 

TOP STORY – LEEDS TO HAND OUT NO DISCOUNTS FOR RAPHINHA

The Athletic is reporting that, as it stands, Barcelona will not have the funds to complete a move for Raphinha – or anyone close to his price-tag.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas controversially shared that Barca are in no position to sign Robert Lewandowski, but added that some big-name sales could "fill up their tank, which is empty".

The Blaugrana's continued interest in Raphinha, despite their financial position, adds fuel to the fire of a potential Frenkie de Jong sale to Manchester United, with his reported £72.5m price-tag potentially adding some much-needed spending power.

The Athletic also mentions Manchester City's Bernardo Silva, Valencia's Carlos Soler, Sevilla's Jules Kounde, as well as Chelsea duo Cesar Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso as potential Barcelona targets.

 

ROUND-UP

– GiveMeSport is reporting that Harry Kane "is likely" to sign a contract extension to remain at Tottenham.

– According to the Manchester Evening News, United have offered defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka to at least one club, and are also willing to part ways with England under-21 defender Brandon Williams.

– Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku is willing to take a pay cut to return to Inter, according to the Telegraph.

– ESPN is reporting United may challenge Ajax for the signature of Tottenham winger Steven Bergwijn, with the Dutch club's interest beginning when Erik ten Hag was in charge.

– According to the Daily Mail, Tottenham and Chelsea will compete for RB Leipzig's 20-year-old Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol.

The dominoes are starting to fall as Manchester United begin to carry out their transfer window plans.

Erik ten Hag's hire has inevitably led to another squad overhaul, and the rest of the market is in some way connected to who leaves and arrives at Old Trafford this off-season.

Reports suggest one of those arrivals could make for a reunion between the new manager and a former player of his.

TOP STORY – MANCHESTER UNITED MOVE ON FRENKIE DE JONG

New Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag is looking to reunite with Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong,   according to Fabrizio Romano.

After announcing the departures of Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba, United are moving quickly for replacements and have reportedly commenced discussions with the Blaugrana.

While it is understood De Jong would like to remain with Barcelona amid their own rebuild under Xavi, it could ultimately be dependent on the club.

Although De Jong reportedly desires Champions League football, it could be a moot point if Manchester United meet a £72.5million (€85m) asking price. 

ROUND-UP

– Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah would prefer to join a Premier League rival at the end of next season if a new deal cannot be agreed upon, per the Athletic.

– Chelsea have opened talks with Sevilla over the potential transfer of highly rated France defender Jules Kounde, according to Sport.

– Manchester City remain keen on signing England midfielder Kalvin Phillips but Leeds United want to retain the player after securing Premier League safety, the Sun reports.

Real Madrid are looking to sign Jude Bellingham, but Borussia Dortmund are not willing to sell the player until the end of next season, Bild is reporting.

Aston Villa have completed the signing of centre-back Diego Carlos from Sevilla for an undisclosed fee.

The Premier League club confirmed last week an agreement had been reached to sign the Brazilian, and after finalising personal terms and the completion of a medical, Diego Carlos' move has been sealed ahead of the transfer window opening later this month.

Villa will reportedly pay Sevilla an initial £26.4million (€31m), though that figure could eventually get to roughly £34m (€40m) through bonuses.

Diego Carlos is Villa's third signing ahead of the 2022-23 season, having also announced the free transfer of Boubacar Kamara from Marseille following on from Philippe Coutinho's loan move from Barcelona having been made permanent.

The defender was pursued by Newcastle United for much of the January transfer window – even reportedly handing in a transfer request – but will now link up instead with Steven Gerrard's side, who finished 14th in the Premier League this season.

The 29-year-old played 136 games for Sevilla since signing from Nantes in 2019, winning the Europa League in 2020 when his overhead kick was turned into the net by then Inter striker Romelu Lukaku for the decisive goal in the final.

Diego Carlos was also a part of the Brazil team that won gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Aston Villa have agreed a deal with Sevilla to sign centre-back Diego Carlos for an undisclosed fee.

The club confirmed on Thursday the player will travel to England "in the next few hours" to finalise personal terms and undergo a medical, with reports suggesting the fee will be in the region of £26.4million (€31m).

Diego Carlos would be Villa's second signing in the space of a few days, with a deal also announced earlier this week for Marseille midfielder Boubacar Kamara, who will soon become a free agent.

Former Nantes defender Diego Carlos was pursued by Newcastle United for much of the January transfer window – even reportedly handing in a transfer request – but will now link up instead with Steven Gerrard's side, who finished 14th in the Premier League this season.

The 29-year-old played 136 games for Sevilla since his signing in 2019, winning the Europa League in 2020 when his overhead kick was turned into his own net by then Inter striker Romelu Lukaku for the decisive goal in the final.

Diego Carlos was also a part of the Brazil team that won gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

A statement on Sevilla's website also confirmed the news, with the Spanish club adding: "Sevilla FC wants to thank the player for his work during all these years in Seville and wishes him the best of luck in his new professional stage."

Arsenal are looking to bring in two forwards this off-season after narrowly missing out on Champions League football.

With Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah's contracts expiring and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang already leaving in January, the Gunners are in need in attack.

According to reports, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has identified the players to propel his side forward.

TOP STORY – ARSENAL IDENTIFY STRIKER TARGETS    

Arsenal are looking to bring in Victor Osimhen and Gabriel Jesus this off-season, according to Goal.

Jesus' contract at Manchester City expires following the end of the next season, but the Gunners have reportedly been in talks for weeks with his representatives, with a deal early in the window in mind.

Meanwhile, it is understood Osimhen's agent flew to London for a meeting with Arsenal technical director Edu over a possible transfer.

With Napoli having qualified for the Champions League and club president Aurelio De Laurentiis driving a traditionally hard bargain, however, the 23-year-old's transfer will not come cheap.

Although Arsenal may be looking for two forwards, it remains to be seen if they opt for two big-money signings.

ROUND-UP

– Eden Hazard has ruled out an off-season departure from Real Madrid, citing unfinished business after an injury-plagued time at the club, per HLN.

– Sevilla will not be turning Anthony Martial's loan deal from Manchester United into a permanent move, according to the Daily Mail.

– Raphinha has reportedly told Leeds United he wants to leave this off-season to play for Barcelona, Sport reports.

– Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel is set to have a £200m influx of transfer funds as Todd Boehly's takeover nears completion, the Telegraph is reporting.

Wednesday's Europa League final is set to attract over 150,000 Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers fans to Seville, despite well under a third of that total having tickets.

With neither club having won a continental trophy since Eintracht lifted the UEFA Cup in 1980, this final has truly captured the imagination of supporters who certainly wouldn't have had grand expectations of getting this far.

But for Rangers especially, there's an air of destiny about their journey to the final – or, more specifically, host city Seville.

While perhaps not obvious, Scottish football can claim several football links to Andalusia's capital.

Perhaps Rangers' passage – and potential victory – were meant to be…

Sevilla's Scottish roots

These links go back as far as 1890, when a group of British men in Seville celebrated Burns Night by founding Club de Football de Sevilla.

Edward Farguharson Johnston of Elgin and Hugh MacColl, from Glasgow, were among the club's founders, with the latter appointed as Sevilla's first ever captain.

Sevilla's founding and debut match were first described in The Dundee Courier six weeks after that fateful Burns Night, with Recreativo Huelva their opponents in the first official match ever played in Spain on March 8, 1890. Sevilla won 2-0.

While Recreativo were Spain's first sports club, the match against Sevilla makes Los Nervionenses – whose Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium provides the setting for Wednesday's final – the oldest club dedicated solely to football in the country.

And it's partly thanks to a Glaswegian.

Betis' homage to Celtic

A Spanish man named Manuel Asensio Ramos studied in Scotland as a young adult, taking on Celtic as his adopted club while he was there.

He later returned home to Spain and became one of the founding members of Real Betis, who subsequently donned green and white stripes as a tribute to Celtic from 1911.

Celtic had changed to their famous hoops eight years earlier, but the link was set in history.

Five years ago, Betis briefly switched to hoops for a match against Malaga to celebrate Andalusia Day, with Celtic communicating their delight at the club choosing "to wear the hoops for their special day".

The Bhoys from Seville

Of course, 2022 isn't the first time one of the Glasgow giants has been in Seville for a European final.

Nineteen years ago, Celtic reached the UEFA Cup final, facing Jose Mourinho's Porto at the Estadio La Cartuja on the outskirts of the city – that is also the location of Rangers' 'fan zone' this week.

'The Bhoys from Seville' was the nickname bestowed upon Celtic for the trip, with the tag a pun on their 'the Boys from Brazil' moniker.

Celtic ultimately lost 3-2 via the silver goal rule in extra time, but the occasion is still widely remembered fondly by the club and supporters, 80,000 of whom were said to be in Seville for the festivities.

Fans of the club were widely commended for their behaviour in the city, with UEFA and FIFA later awarding them Fair Play Awards.

Glasgow returns the favour

Four years after Seville played host to Celtic, Glasgow welcome Sevilla and Espanyol for the 2007 UEFA Cup final.

Hampden Park was the location of Sevilla's second successive triumph in the competition, beating their LaLiga rivals 3-1 on penalties after a gripping 2-2 draw over 120 minutes.

Despite Celtic's links to Betis, it was widely felt by Sevilla fans in attendance that Bhoys supporters were cheering on Los Nervionenses, while Rangers aficionados adopted Espanyol as their team.

Dani Alves was the only Sevilla player to miss his penalty, while Andres Palop in the Andalusians' net made three vital saves.

Luis Suarez was hailed as an "extraordinary footballer" by Diego Simeone as the Uruguayan received a rapturous send-off at his final home game for Atletico Madrid.

The 35-year-old Uruguayan, formerly of Ajax, Liverpool and Barcelona, is being released by Atletico at the end of his two-year contract.

His second season has not delivered to the same level as his first, where his 21 league goals drove Atletico to the LaLiga title, and the club see this as an appropriate time to part ways.

Suarez started Sunday's home game against Sevilla, which ended in a 1-1 draw after the visitors snatched a late equaliser.

He could not grab a goal to mark the occasion, after Atletico confirmed prior to kick-off it would be his last game for the club, and Suarez was clearly emotional when substituted midway through the second half.

Head coach Simeone paid tribute, and there was a guard of honour for Suarez and midfielder Hector Herrera after the final whistle, as Atletico's players marked the exits of both players.

Simeone said his chief thought regarding Suarez was "gratitude", after the player who remains the third-highest scorer in Barcelona's history signed off from his stint at the Wanda Metropolitano.

"He came to try to remain at the top, to show how competitive he is," Simeone said. "He helped us, and we helped him to win LaLiga where he was decisive due to his forcefulness. This season, despite not playing the games he would have wanted, he is still the team's top scorer.

"I wish him the best, with absolute gratitude to an extraordinary footballer and to a person who goes beyond a footballer."

Jose Gimenez headed Atletico ahead after 30 minutes against Sevilla, with an 85th-minute leveller from Youssef En-Nesyri enough to secure Champions League football for Sevilla next season, with Atletico having already made sure.

Simeone's third-placed team have been left behind by Real Madrid and Barcelona this season, and he said his players "need to improve, talk and believe in what we believe in to compete well".

He warned that although Atletico have shown they can be competitive against the big two in Spain, the likes of Sevilla, Real Betis and Athletic Bilbao are also in pursuit of the Rojiblancos.

Looking at what comes next, Simeone said it was important to move on from this season and begin afresh.

"Calm down and, as always," he said, "we will be here."

Luis Suarez bowed out with an ovation and a show of emotion as Atletico Madrid drew 1-1 with Sevilla in the striker's final home game for the club.

The 35-year-old Uruguay international will be released at the end of this campaign, it was confirmed on Sunday, with the man whose goals spurred last season's LaLiga title success on the move.

He could not produce any of the old magic this time, with Jose Gimenez scoring Atleti's goal, yet there was the warmest of receptions for Suarez from around the Wanda Metropolitano when he was substituted in the 64th minute. As he sat on the bench, he appeared close to tears.

Out-of-sorts Sevilla were in growing danger of sliding out of the top four next weekend, having for so long been the team that most closely tracked champions Real Madrid, but Youssef En-Nesyri headed an 85th-minute leveller. Now they, like Atletico, are assured of Champions League football next season.

 

Suarez lashed wide from an early half-chance after Atletico snatched possession on the edge of the Sevilla penalty area, and he and Antoine Griezmann both saw efforts blocked.

En-Nesyri got his finish all wrong at the other end after dashing in behind the Atletico defence, skewing well wide of Jan Oblak's goal.

The breakthrough came after 30 minutes when Gimenez stole into a yard of space at the near post and headed Yannick Carrasco's corner from the left across goal and beyond Yassine Bounou.

It was a first LaLiga goal of the season for Gimenez, and a team-high sixth assist for Carrasco.

A flying header from Suarez went a yard wide in the 53rd minute, before Sevilla's Alejandro Gomez saw a deflected strike from outside the penalty area well saved by Oblak.

Rodrigo de Paul had a 20-yard strike tipped over as Atletico sought a second to kill the game, but they were stung instead when En-Nesyri, having hit the crossbar moments earlier, nodded in from a fine cross by Oliver Torres.

England midfielder Kalvin Phillips is reportedly on his way out of Leeds United, with Manchester United, Aston Villa and West Ham said to be the parties most interested in prying him away.

Phillips, 26, has been with Leeds since 2010, but Football Insider has reported he has no interest in remaining with the club next season, even if they remain in the Premier League.

The tough midfielder followed in the footsteps of Wilfried Zaha and Jack Butland as the only English players in the 21st century to earn a senior cap while having never played in any country's top division, and confirmed his class at Euro 2020, starting every game and earning the title of England's 2020-21 Men's Player of the Year.

 

TOP STORY – PHILLIPS GETS READY FOR EXCITING NEW CHAPTER

Believed to be valued at £60million, this will be the first time in Phillips' career that he has a chance to shape his own future and pick a situation he feels can elevate him into the conversation of the world's top midfielders.

There will be a Paul Pogba-sized hole in the centre of United's line-up, Villa have signalled their intent with their move for Philippe Coutinho, and David Moyes reportedly has visions of owning the English centre-mid pairing of Phillips and Declan Rice – or replacing the latter if they cannot retain his services through upcoming the transfer window.

Phillips missed four months of this season – from December to March – with a serious hamstring injury, restricting him to just one goal and one assist from 21 club appearances across the Premier League and Carabao Cup.

 

ROUND-UP

Newcastle have made Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin a priority target in the upcoming transfer window, according to the Telegraph.

– Fichajes is reporting Bayern Munich have entered the race for Paul Pogba, while The Mirror claims Juventus are confident about the Frenchman returning to his former Italian club.

– According to Give Me Sport, Chelsea are looking to bring in Sevilla's Jules Kounde to replace outgoing defenders Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen.

– Marca is reporting some of the world's biggest clubs, including Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Arsenal and Milan are chasing 19-year-old Racing striker Charly Alcaraz.

– The Athletic claims that if Raheem Sterling is to leave Manchester City in the upcoming transfer window, it will not be to Premier League clubs Arsenal or Tottenham, instead favouring one of Europe's top teams in Champions League contention.

Page 1 of 6
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.