Manchester United must overcome Europa League specialists Sevilla in order to reach a semi-final against either Juventus or Sporting CP.

United defeated Real Betis in the last 16 and will now face their city rivals Sevilla, six-time winners of the UEFA Cup and Europa League.

The sides have met three times previously, with Sevilla knocking United out of the 2017-18 Champions League over a two-legged tie before beating the Red Devils again in a one-off 2019-20 Europa League semi-final.

It is a daunting draw for United, who could then have to play Juventus in the last four.

The semi-final draw, which was also conducted on Friday, paired the winners of United's tie with Juventus or Sporting, who eliminated Arsenal on Thursday.

Even in the final, should Erik ten Hag's men make it that far, United could be set for a reunion with former manager Jose Mourinho.

Mourinho's Roma were drawn against Feyenoord in the quarter-finals in a repeat of last season's Europa Conference League final, which the Giallorossi won.

Bayer Leverkusen meet Union Saint-Gilloise in the final last-eight tie, playing for the right to face Roma or Feyenoord.


Europa League quarter-final draw in full:

Manchester United v Sevilla
Juventus v Sporting CP
Bayer Leverkusen v Union Saint-Gilloise
Feyenoord v Roma

Diego Simeone set a new record for matches in charge of Atletico Madrid on Saturday and his players provided a stunning tribute as they crushed Sevilla 6-1 at the Civitas Metropolitano.

Simeone, 54, was presiding over his 613th match as Atletico coach, breaking the record set by the late Luis Aragones.

He was handed with a framed commemorative jersey with "Legend, Simeone, 613" across the back before the LaLiga game, with Aragones' son and three of Simeone's children joining him for the presentation.

Simeone's side followed that up with a fitting homage as they brutally swept aside another of their coach's former clubs.

Memphis Depay scored twice in quick succession before the half-hour mark, his second an emphatic strike from the edge of the box, with Youssef En-Nesyri halving the deficit from close range late in the half.

Atletico need not have worried, however. Antoine Griezmann restored the two-goal lead early in the second half and Yannick Carrasco made it 4-1.

Alvaro Morata netted twice late on – his first coming just after Ivan Rakitic missed a penalty – to wrap up a memorable victory on a momentous day for Simeone.

"A night to enjoy and one that [Simeone] will surely not forget," club captain Koke told Movistar after the game. "But hey, I'm sure he's already thinking about the Girona game because his philosophy in life is like that.

"Bygones are bygones, and he always looks to the next game."

He added: "You can't imagine an Atletico Madrid without Simeone. I've been here for 11 years, he came with a very clear idea, he changed the mentality, brought us all together, given the club the stability it needed and hopefully it will continue for many years.

"He has a year and a half left on his contract and we'll see what happens later."

Griezmann celebrated his goal by running over to Simeone and wrapping him in a huge hug.

Explaining the gesture, Griezmann said: "What is an important day for him is an important day for me. I wanted it to be a magical day for the fans and for my team-mates."

For Simeone, however, his focus turned to Aragones, whom he was coached by as a player at Sevilla.

Aragones died in February 2014, but ahead of Saturday's game Simeone posted a letter to him on social media, an act the Argentinian felt was necessary to outline his emotions.

Discussing the letter after the Sevilla game, Simeone told reporters: "Explaining feelings and emotions is difficult.

"I had no doubts seven or eight days ago, I began to think about what was happening and I understood that there was a person before everything that I had to write to, Luis. I talked about it with the family and they said it was a good idea.

"Why? We have travelled the same path; that respect for an eternal person; and passing the point that places me – by numbers, not by capacity – in the history of Atletico.

"Where I am, [Aragones] knows the difficulty. He knows the anger, the egos, living with the emotions, what the club needs, the coaching staff, that we must not make mistakes, that I must say the right word at the right time.

"We have made mistakes several times, but I am calm, I am at peace, because I am in the place where I want to be, I do what I like.

"I am excited to see when the team stands up and continues fighting until the end."

UEFA has launched an investigation after Sevilla goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic was punched by a PSV fan during Thursday's Europa League match.

The on-field skirmish came near the end of the game, which saw PSV win 2-0 but suffer a 3-2 aggregate elimination against their LaLiga opponents.

Dmitrovic pinned down the pitch invader and held him to the ground before security arrived to escort him away.

UEFA is understood to have opened a case following the incident, which has been condemned by PSV, who said the fan should not have been in the stadium in the first place.

The Dutch club said in a statement: "PSV strongly condemn the incident on Thursday evening when a man invaded the pitch and confronted the goalkeeper. The person involved had already been handed a stadium ban."

PSV general manager Marcel Brands said: "This  is not what we stand for at PSV. We feel ashamed and there is no place for that type of behaviour.

"We will consult the organisations involved to discuss how we can enforce stadium bans better, hopefully through reporting obligations. All PSV supporter organisations, who cheered on their team last night, unanimously and explicitly distance themselves from this disgraceful pitch invasion."

PSV said they would "await the investigations into the pitch invader made by the police and look to recover any financial damages".

Sevilla have been drawn to face Turkish Super Lig outfit Fenerbahce in the last-16 stage.

Six-time champions Sevilla are looking to extend their record haul in the competition, which began in its previous guise as the UEFA Cup, having last lifted the trophy in 2020 against Inter.

Manchester United have been drawn to face Real Betis in the Europa League's round of 16, while Arsenal will battle Sporting CP for a quarter-final spot.

United came from behind to clinch a 2-1 victory over Barcelona at Old Trafford on Thursday, and their reward for a 4-3 aggregate triumph over the Blaugrana is a tie against another Spanish opponent.

Having not lifted any silverware since winning this competition in 2017, United are in the hunt for four trophies this term, though Erik ten Hag's men will be tested by a side sat fifth in LaLiga.

Betis boss Manuel Pellegrini has faced United on four previous occasions in European competitions, with all four games finishing goalless during his time with Villarreal (in the 2005-06 and 2008-09 Champions League group stages).

Premier League leaders Arsenal will face Sporting after Ruben Amorim's team thrashed Midtjylland 5-1 on aggregate in the knockout round play-offs.

Sporting have progressed from each of their previous six ties against English teams in the knockout stages of the UEFA Cup/Europa League, with all six coming against different teams.

The other standout last-16 ties see Juventus meet Freiburg, while Jose Mourinho's Roma will take on Real Sociedad as they bid to follow up last season's inaugural Europa Conference League triumph.  

Feyenoord, who Roma beat in the final of that competition, have been paired with Shakhtar Donetsk, while surprise Bundesliga challengers Union Berlin will face Belgium's Union Saint-Gilloise.

Six-time winners Sevilla – the most successful club in UEFA Cup/Europa League history – will face Fenerbahce, while Bayer Leverkusen will take on Ferencvaros. 

The first legs of the last-16 ties will take place on March 9, with the group-stage winners hosting the return fixtures one week later. 

Europa League last-16 draw in full

Bayer Leverkusen v Ferencvaros
Juventus v Freiburg
Manchester United v Real Betis
Roma v Real Sociedad
Sevilla v Fenerbahce
Shakhtar Donetsk v Feyenoord
Sporting CP v Arsenal
Union Berlin v Union Saint-Gilloise

Sevilla goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic warned he knows how to defend himself after he was involved in an altercation with a fan during their Europa League loss to PSV.

The shot-stopper clashed with a supporter who rushed him on the field during the closing stages of their 2-0 defeat at Philips Stadion, pinning him until security could intervene.

Though Sevilla fell to defeat on the road after goals from Luuk de Jong and Fabio Silva, their three-goal advantage from the first leg saw them seal progress to the next round.

Speaking afterwards, Dmitrovic expounded upon the incident, stating such violence has no place in football and calling for punishment to be handed out to the individual in question.

"He pushed me from behind and tried to hit me," he told Movistar+. "He caught my nose and neck a little.

"The truth is that I wanted to hit him. If you want to hit someone, you sign up for a sport like boxing.

"Football doesn't deserve these things. I hope they punish him. It was a surprise, because you are focused on the game.

"I've never struck anyone in my life, but I know how to defend myself. It's not good in football or in life. The important thing is we have progressed."

Stats Perform approached UEFA for comment following the incident, to which the governing body said they would wait for the referee's match report before addressing the situation.

Former Juventus, Athletic Bilbao and Spain striker Fernando Llorente has retired from football at the age of 37.

Llorente – who has been without a club since the end of last season – made the announcement to Movistar Plus, confirming the end of an 18-year senior career.

When asked about continuing to play football, he replied "No" and suggested he will instead "keep fit by playing padel."

Llorente began his career with Athletic, where he played for nine seasons for the first team, scoring 84 goals in 262 LaLiga games.

He then earned a move to Serie A giants Juventus, where he scored 16 in 34 league games in his first season, though was unable to repeat that form before he left on a free transfer back to Spain with Sevilla in 2015.

After one season at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, where he scored just four goals in 23 LaLiga appearances but won the Europa League, Llorente moved to the Premier League with Swansea City.

He netted 15 league goals in 33 games for the Swans before signing for Tottenham after an impressive year in Wales.

Llorente struggled for game time at Spurs, though, with Harry Kane the established striker at the club.

Nevertheless, he did play a key role in their run to the 2019 Champions League final, scoring the goal that put Spurs through to the semi-finals at the expense of Manchester City.

Llorente was unable to get back to his previous best in spells at Napoli or Udinese, before playing what turned out to be his final season back in Spain with Eibar in the Segunda Division.

He won three Serie A titles, two Coppa Italia crowns and a Europa League during his club career. Llorente was also part of the Spain squads that won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, earning 24 caps for his country in all, scoring seven goals.

 

Erling Haaland's long-term future has been a source of speculation for months and reports of a release clause in mid-2024 in his Manchester City contract have put Barcelona and Real Madrid on high alert.

The Norwegian was pursued by a host of clubs last off-season, with City winning the race ahead of Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, Chelsea, Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Haaland has since scored 25 Premier League goals in 21 appearances and 31 in all competitions after joining City.


TOP STORY – HAALAND SET FOR SPANISH SWITCH NEXT YEAR

Erling Haaland has decided he wants to leave England for Spain next year when the release clause in his City contract can be activated, reports Fichajes.

The report claims Real Madrid and Barcelona are the two viable options for Haaland, who will exit City at the end of the 2023-24 season, with playing in Spain a dream for the 22-year-old.

City's potential sanctions for alleged breaches of the Premier League's financial rules have also played a part in Haaland believing mid-2024 is the right time to leave.

 

ROUND-UP

- Big-spending Chelsea are set to join the race to sign Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, reports The Telegraph. Liverpool, Manchester City and Real Madrid are already keen on the 19-year-old England international.

- Manchester Evening News claims Manchester United have "genuine interest" in a move for Roma's English striker Tammy Abraham in the next transfer window.

- Barcelona's Ansu Fati will resist overtures from Tottenham, Arsenal and Bayern Munich to remain with the Blaugrana, reports Mundo Deportivo.

- AS reports Tottenham will turn to Sevilla's Morocco international goalkeeper Yassine Bounou in their search for a long-term successor to Hugo Lloris.

- Leicester City have ramped up talks with James Maddison on a new contract amid interest from Newcastle United, Arsenal and Tottenham, claims The Telegraph.

- FotoSpor claims Turkish club Fenerbahce have reached out to Manchester United about signing Mason Greenwood, who is under club investigation despite criminal charges being dropped against him recently.

- Calciomercatoweb reports Massimiliano Allegri could leave his position as Juventus head coach to replace Roberto Mancini in Italy's top job.

World Cup winner Emiliano Martinez faces competition from Thibaut Courtois and Yassine Bounou to land The Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper Award.

Five goalkeepers were originally nominated for the award, which recognises the most outstanding goalkeeping performance in men's football during the period between August 8, 2021 and December 18, 2022, when Martinez helped Argentina win the World Cup for a third time.

Brazil's Premier League duo Alisson and Ederson missed out on the final shortlist following a vote held among the coaches and captains of international teams, as well as journalists and fans.

Martinez's immense contribution to Argentina's World Cup final win against France put him among the frontrunners for the prize, which will be handed out at a FIFA award ceremony in Paris later this month.

The 30-year-old made a crucial save to deny Randal Kolo Muani an extra-time winner in an epic 3-3 draw, before keeping Kingsley Coman's spot-kick out as Argentina won a penalty shoot-out.

Bounou also impressed in Qatar, helping Morocco become the first African nation to reach the World Cup semi-finals and matching Martinez's tournament-high tally of three clean sheets.

Courtois, meanwhile, made his biggest impact in the club game, helping Real Madrid win a Champions League and LaLiga double last term.

The Belgium international made 59 saves and kept five clean sheets during Los Blancos' successful Champions League run, recording an impressive save percentage of 80.56 per cent across his 13 appearances as they captured their 14th European crown.

Courtois made nine saves in the final as Madrid saw off Liverpool 1-0 in Paris.

Jules Kounde apologised to his former club Sevilla after attracting criticism for a particularly exuberant celebration during Barcelona's win over the Andalusians on Sunday.

Kounde joined Barcelona from Sevilla during pre-season in a deal reportedly worth up to €62.5million.

He previously spent three seasons at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan, where he emerged as one of the best young defenders in world football and was a fan favourite.

Sunday was Kounde's first game against the club since leaving, with Barca eventually running out 3-0 winners at Camp Nou.

He courted criticism on social media for appearing to celebrate the second-half opener by Jordi Alba – whose face he threw a ball at to earn a red card last season – with intense jubilation.

But the France international subsequently recognised that he went overboard.

"I was always grateful for the opportunity to wear the red and white jersey, and for the love I received during my time there," he wrote on social media.

"That is why I wanted to apologise for the goal celebration, which, in a moment of euphoria, was exaggerated on my part.

"I wish you the best, always."

Barca's win extended their lead at the top of LaLiga to eight points, while Sevilla – who finished fourth in each of Kounde's three seasons at the club – are 16th, just two points above the relegation zone.

 

 

Xavi praised his Barcelona players for remaining patient in their 3-0 victory over Sevilla as the LaLiga leaders moved eight points clear of Real Madrid.

Barca dominated Sunday's contest at Camp Nou before eventually finding the breakthrough via full-back Jordi Alba in the 58th minute.

Gavi added a second 12 minutes later and Raphinha, who assisted that goal, added his name to the scoresheet as Barca made it 10 wins in a row this year.

Sevilla focused almost entirely on defending, managing only three shots in total to Barca's 16, and Xavi is delighted his side were able to break down the visitors.

"This was a day to dare," he told DAZN. "We talked about it at half-time. It's always difficult to attack when the opponent has 11 players behind the ball.

"But we did it very well and I'm very satisfied with this result."

 

Barca took full advantage of Real Madrid's surprise 1-0 loss at Real Mallorca earlier in the day to extend their lead at the summit as they close in on a first title in four seasons.

"We've gone many games unbeaten and it's important we win like we did today," Xavi said. "Against a low block, we created many chances – that is a big positive.

"Things are working out for us. We're eight points ahead of Madrid, but there is still a lot of the season left."

With a goal and an assist against Sevilla, Raphinha has been involved in more goals (eight – four goals and four assists) than any other LaLiga player in all competitions in 2023.

Xavi hailed the Brazil international's performance and also reserved special praise for Alba, who himself scored and assisted in a single LaLiga game for the fourth time.

"I was already satisfied with Raphinha's performances," Xavi said. "He is good in high-pressure scenarios and has been giving us decisive assists. He's an extraordinary player.

"As for Jordi, he gives us a lot in attack and showed that again today. We knew there would be an opportunity to take advantage of some space that was left."

Alba was recalled to the starting line-up having been made to settle for substitute appearances of late and took full advantage of his opportunity to impress.

"I take advantage of the minutes when I play; when I don't, I dedicate myself to encouraging the youngsters so they know what it means to play for this club," Alba said.

"We are having a very good season, playing well, pressing well and getting our rivals to give us chances. 

"There are eight points on Madrid and, although there is a lot of the league season left, it is a very good distance to have."

Barca's 53 points after 20 LaLiga matches has only been matched or bettered on five previous occasions, including themselves four times.

The only blemish for Xavi's side was captain Sergio Busquets limping off early following a challenge with Youssef En-Nesyri.

Busquets is reported to have sprained his right ankle and is facing two-to-three weeks out, potentially ruling him out of Barca's Europa League tie with Manchester United.

"Hopefully it's nothing serious," Xavi said. "First we'll do tests and then we'll know more."

Barcelona capitalised on Real Madrid's latest slip-up by beating Sevilla 3-0 at Camp Nou to move eight points clear at the top of LaLiga.

Madrid's surprise 1-0 loss at Real Mallorca earlier on Sunday opened the door for Barca, who took full advantage with their 10th win in a row this calendar year.

After toiling for the best part of an hour, Jordi Alba deservedly opened the scoring for Xavi's side and they did not look back.

Gavi doubled the hosts' lead 12 minutes later after being assisted by Raphinha, who added the third himself to edge Barca ever closer to a first league title in four seasons.

Barca were forced to make a change inside the opening eight minutes after Sergio Busquets injured his ankle and they struggled to find their full flow in the first half.

Yassine Bounou produced a fine stop with his leg to deny Robert Lewandowski and pulled off an even better save soon after to tip the striker's long-range drive around the post.

Sevilla brought on Bryan Gil and Erik Lamela at half-time, but Barca continued to dominate the contest as Raphinha became the latest to test Bounou, this time from a header.

The breakthrough finally arrived just short of the hour mark as Franck Kessie, brought on for Busquets, brilliantly flicked the ball into the path of Alba to fire across Bounou.

A simple finish for Gavi in the 70th minute after being picked out by Raphinha gave Barca breathing space and the Brazil winger contributed to the scoring before full-time.

Alba played the ball into the middle and Raphinha was there to poke it past Bounou and cap a fine individual and team display.

Xavi is expecting Barcelona's LaLiga title battle with Real Madrid to go down to the wire, despite his side opening up a five-point lead at the summit.

Barca, who last lifted the title in the 2018-19 campaign, have won 16 of their opening 19 league matches to reach the 50-point mark already.

It is only the sixth time Barca have hit that half-century milestone at this stage of a campaign, and they went on to lift the title in four of those previous five campaigns.

Reigning Spanish and European champions Madrid have struggled for consistency either side of the World Cup break, winning only half of their past eight league matches.

However, with the sides also paired together in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey, Xavi insists Carlo Ancelotti's men can never be written off.

"I don't feel like the favourites, but rather just a candidate who can win the league," Xavi said at a pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday's meeting with Sevilla.

"Winning the league is one of our goals. We're competing against the current LaLiga and Champions League winners and it's hard for us to fight for titles against a strong side.

"I still consider Madrid a strong side and we will have to fight for the league right until the last or penultimate matchday."

 

Barca have won nine of their past 10 league games, including all four this calendar year, and are unbeaten in their past 14 LaLiga meetings with 13th-place Sevilla.

Jorge Sampaoli's side have won back-to-back matches without conceding to ease their relegation worries, and Xavi says his side will treat Sevilla as they do any other opponent.

"Every game brings pressure. Every time we go out on the pitch we're told it's a key game; always it's the same thing," he said.

"I've also heard that how we perform in the Europa League will determine the success of our season.

"We're a club that is exposed to pressure and that's welcome. It is better to be fighting for these titles than to be relegated.

"Up next is a difficult opponent, despite where they are in the table. Sampaoli has brought back their strong and competitive side, making them strong defensively.

"We know they are a team that can complicate things for us, a team with a lot of experience. Tomorrow is another test and we have to pass it with all three points."

The seven goals conceded after 19 LaLiga games is Barca's lowest-ever tally and the second lowest of any team at this stage after Deportivo La Coruna in the 1993-94 season.

Xavi added: "The state of the team right now is sensational. The players are working hard and getting results. In general we're in a good moment, especially in defence.

"We're playing much better football now and are understanding certain situations better. We are on the right track, but we're also still under construction in this long process."

It wasn't long ago that Sevilla fans were dreaming of actually winning LaLiga for the first time since their only title success in the 1940s.

Sporting director Monchi built the squad and Julen Lopetegui maximised its potential, using a brilliant defence as the platform for a solid and effective team.

Ultimately, Sevilla's form in the final weeks of the 2020-21 season saw their challenge tail off, but they finished just nine points adrift of eventual champions Atletico Madrid.

Essentially going toe-to-toe with three teams whose budgets dwarfed their own was itself an achievement, and the positivity carried through into the 2021-22 campaign.

At the end of matchday 20, second-placed Sevilla were just two points behind Real Madrid and 10 clear of Real Betis in third. However, since then, their accumulation of 47 points is the ninth-most in LaLiga.

Barcelona have almost double that number (91); Madrid have 79; city rivals Betis are on 62; Real Mallorca – only promoted back to LaLiga for last season – have tallied just three points fewer.

In that respect, Sunday's trip to Camp Nou represents a particularly daunting challenge. So, how has everything unravelled so quickly for Sevilla?

The key departures

Lopetegui's side were never particularly high scorers. In each of his three full seasons in charge, there were at least four teams in LaLiga who scored more than them, and the most they plundered was 54 in 2020-21.

While that may not exactly sound bad on the face of it, successful teams obviously tend to score a fair amount more. Over the seasons in question, the average goals total for the 15 teams to play each campaign in LaLiga was 155 – Sevilla's total was 160, so only slightly above average.

The reason they were able to be competitive around the top of the table despite attacking deficiencies was their excellent defence, built around the central pairing of Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde.

Sevilla conceded 97 goals across Lopetegui's three full seasons, bettered only by Real Madrid (84) and Atletico Madrid (95). The league median was 135, so they were much better than average.

Diego Carlos and Kounde both had the perfect blend of defensive intelligence, physical presence and technical ability, with Lopetegui's emphasis on building from the back starting with them. They were key to virtually everything.

Sevilla knew they'd leave eventually. The likelihood of being able to replace them with another partnership just as good was miniscule.

Instead, they'd need to offset their departures with greater goal threat at the other end. They failed. Sevilla have gone from scoring 1.4 goals and conceding 0.9 per game to netting 1.1 and letting in 1.4.

Lopetegui's delayed exit

Generally, Lopetegui did a very good job. Sevilla were rarely especially entertaining, but for about two and a half seasons they were very effective.

Their form tailed off badly towards the end of the 2021-22 campaign, however. Between January 1 and the end of the season, Sevilla's 32 points from 20 games were only the sixth-most. While they only lost twice in LaLiga during that run, they drew 11 times – no other team in the division reached double figures.

As the end of the season closed in, it seemed likely Lopetegui would leave, and to most fans it felt like the right time. Departing at that moment would've provided him and the club with a clean break and given his successor a full pre-season to get their ideas across.

A report from Marca in mid-May suggested Lopetegui was "on the precipice". A local reporter claimed the same day that their parting had been decided. But about 24 hours later, Monchi insisted the former Real Madrid and Barcelona goalkeeper would still be in charge for the new season.

Indeed, he was, but Lopetegui's attempts to re-energise the team fell flat. Sevilla began the season with one point from four games – they have never had fewer points after that many matches, with it their worst start in 41 years.

Lopetegui lasted another month, but back-to-back home defeats to Atletico and Borussia Dortmund – who were 4-1 winners – took him to the point of no return, his departure confirmed by an emotional on-pitch farewell to supporters.

Jorge Sampaoli, Lopetegui's replacement, has struggled to inspire a turnaround upon his return to the club and even had to contend with reports questioning his own future.

But the coaches cannot be entirely to blame.

Questionable transfer policy

It almost feels like sacrilege to criticise the work of Monchi – at Sevilla, anyway – but his second spell in charge of the club's transfers has been blighted by expensive (by their standards) disappointments.

It hasn't all been bad. Three successive top-four finishes was something they hadn't achieved since the 1950s, and the likes of Diego Carlos and Kounde will go down among Monchi's best ever deals.

But many signings have failed to live up to expectations.

Of the six players brought in during this season's first transfer window, three (Kasper Dolberg, Isco and Adnan Januzaj) have already left permanently or on loan; one has struggled significantly (Tanguy Nianzou); the other two (Marcao and Alex Telles) have spent more time injured than not.

Thirty-six players have been signed between the end of the 2018-19 season and the start of 2023, but you could argue only 11 have been successes. There's also been a focus on more experienced players, so the squad now has 11 players aged 30 or older. Unsurprisingly, the average age of their starting XI (28.9 years) is the oldest in LaLiga this term.

Obviously, it's easy to be critical with hindsight, and it should be highlighted Sevilla rely on player turnover to generate much of their revenue. It's always a risky strategy and that the club has had so much success with this model over the past 20 years speaks to Monchi's excellence.

But this is probably the trickiest period Sevilla have had since returning to LaLiga in 2001. Sure, recent results have hoisted them up to 13th, but they're still only two points above the bottom three and nothing about this season has suggested the squad is mentally tough, which would be a worry if they still found themselves perilously close to the drop zone in the final weeks of the campaign.

The last thing Sevilla need right now is a trip to Camp Nou, where they've not beaten Barca in LaLiga since 2002.

On the other hand, an unlikely positive result could be a game-changer as the club build for a 2023 that fans hope brings a bit more cheer than 2022.

Free agent Isco is in talks with Konyaspor after failing to complete a move to Union Berlin, the Turkish club's vice-president Mehmet Akcan has revealed.

Isco, who was released by Sevilla in December after just four months at the club, looked set for a new challenge in Berlin when he reportedly completed a medical with Union.

However, the 30-year-old's move to the Bundesliga side collapsed on Tuesday over personal terms, with both parties blaming the other.

Former Real Madrid midfielder Isco may now have found another club, though, as discussions are ongoing with Super Lig side Konyaspor.

"That is correct. We are in a negotiating process with Isco," Akcan is quoted as saying by Spanish outlet AS.

"I can tell you that dialogues are going well. We are not yet sure if we have reached an agreement, otherwise we'd say so openly.

"We're doing everything possible to close the signing. We have until January 8, but I think everything will be resolved one way or another as soon as possible.

"Now we have the chance to close the signing and are positive of doing so."

Isco began his career with spells at Valencia and Malaga before spending nine years with Madrid, whom he left at the end of last season for a short stint with Sevilla.

He made 19 appearances for Sevilla in the first half of the season, scoring once and providing three assists, but his contract was mutually terminated six weeks ago.

Serie A heavyweights Juventus and Napoli were previously linked with the 38-cap Spain international, while Konyaspor's league rivals Fenerbahce are also reportedly interested.

Konyaspor are eighth in the Turkish top-flight, 13 points adrift of the European places.

Isco's former Sevilla team-mate Adnan Januzaj as also secured a move to Turkey.

The winger, who signed for the club on a free transfer in August, has joined Istanbul Basaksehir on loan until the end of the season after making just six appearances across all competitions.

Isco will not be joining Union Berlin after a planned move for the former Real Madrid attacking midfielder collapsed on transfer deadline day.

Reports in Germany said Isco had completed a medical and was poised to sign for the team who sit second in the Bundesliga, one point behind Bayern Munich.

The 30-year-old was released by Sevilla after just four months at the club in December and looked set for a new challenge in Berlin.

However, the anticipated switch broke down just hours before the deadline, which in Germany falls at 18:00 local time (17:00 GMT).

Both parties blamed the other, with Union sporting director Oliver Ruhnert saying in a statement posted on Twitter by the club: "We would have liked to see Isco play for us, but we have our limits.

"Today these were exceeded, despite our previous agreement, which is why the transfer will not take place."

Isco's management company, Gestifute, was quoted in German newspaper Bild as stating: "In the course of the talks, we had to realise that our negotiating partner was no longer willing to move within the framework originally discussed."

Union, who face Wolfsburg in a DFB-Pokal game on Tuesday, have won their three Bundesliga games since the World Cup and winter break in their surprise title challenge.

Isco began his career with spells at Valencia and Malaga, before spending nine years with Madrid, leaving the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of last season.

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