Liverpool forward Sadio Mane is Karim Benzema's biggest challenger for this year's Ballon d'Or, according to Arsenal and France legend Thierry Henry.

Benzema is enjoying the best season of his career in front of goal and has played a crucial role in Madrid's run to the Champions League final, where Liverpool await on May 28.

The 34-year-old has scored 43 times and provided a further 14 assists in all competitions, with no other player across Europe's top five leagues directly involved in more goals (57).

Robert Lewandowski and Kylian Mbappe are next on that list with 54 combined goals and assists each, while Mane lags some way behind on 23 for Liverpool – albeit having missed part of the season during the Africa Cup of Nations, which he won with Senegal.

Lewandowski, Mbappe and Anfield team-mate Mohamed Salah have been tipped to rival Benzema for football's top individual award, but Henry believes Mane is better placed. 

"To make the final even bigger, the two favourites for the Ballon d'Or are Mane and Benzema," Henry told CBS Sports. "That will add an extra little spice into it."

Mane played a direct part in five goals for Senegal at AFCON, aiding his cause to be crowned the world's best player.

However, if the former Southampton forward is to have any chance of pipping Benzema to the accolade, Henry says he must win a clean sweep of trophies with Liverpool.

The Reds have already lifted the EFL Cup and are into the FA Cup and Champions League finals, but they trail Manchester City by a point with four Premier League games left.

"I still believe that Benzema is ahead, but if Mane wins [the Champions League] with Liverpool and they do make the quadruple, that is a pretty strong case," Henry said.

"It would be great for Africa, but I'm still going for Benzema."

Benzema finished fourth in the voting for last year's Ballon d'Or, which was won by Lionel Messi for a record-extending seventh time.

Indeed, only one player other than Messi and five-time winner Cristiano Ronaldo has won the award since 2008, with Madrid and Croatia midfielder Luka Modric triumphing in 2018.

Kylian Mbappe says he is targeting Thierry Henry's France goalscoring record after scoring twice in Tuesday's 5-0 friendly thrashing of South Africa.

Mbappe was in fine form as the world champions dispatched the Bafana Bafana in Lille, bending home a superb opening goal on 23 minutes before winning and converting a 75th-minute penalty. 

With his first goal of the contest, Mbappe became the first player to net in five successive France matches (a total of nine goals) since Karim Benzema did so between November 2013 and June 2014 (he posted seven strikes).

The 23-year-old also added an assist during a fantastic display, teeing up Matteo Guendouzi for his first France goal at the death, meaning he also became the first player in the 21st century to record an assist in five consecutive games for Les Blues.

Speaking to TF1 in the immediate aftermath of France's dominant win, Mbappe, who remains 25 goals short of the Arsenal legend's tally of 51 international strikes after his double, predicted he will draw level with Henry sooner than anticipated.

"Of course [the record is a target]," Mbappe said. "Of course, I've always wanted to be the first everywhere, in the French national team [as well] as in the club. 

"There is still a long way to go. What Titi did, no one else has done. [But] I think I can get there much faster than you think."

The pacey forward, who has been the subject of intense transfer speculation ahead of the expiration of his PSG contract this summer, also became the second-highest goalscorer in PSG history earlier this month, surpassing Zlatan Ibrahimovic's 156 goals for the club in a Champions League defeat to Real Madrid.

On the international front, meanwhile, he is not the only striker within Didier Deschamps' setup with Henry's record in his sights. 

Olivier Giroud's first-half goal put Les Blues 2-0 up against South Africa, and the former Chelsea and Arsenal man is almost certain to beat Mbappe to the landmark, requiring just three more goals to draw level with Henry after his 48th France strike.

Harry Kane was delighted with his own performance after surpassing Thierry Henry's Premier League goals tally as Tottenham thrashed Everton 5-0 on Monday.

Kane netted twice in a dominant Spurs win to overtake the Arsenal legend's total of 175 Premier League strikes, volleying home his 176th in the competition shortly before the hour against a dire Toffees team.

After beating Leeds United 4-0 in their last outing, Spurs have scored four or more goals in consecutive league games for the first time since December 2018, and their haul of nine goals in their last two top-flight games equals the tally they managed across their previous seven.

The Spurs captain, who has registered 11 goal involvements in his last 12 league games (nine goals and two assists), was delighted with his double after Antonio Conte's men sealed a dominant win.

"No game in the Premier League is easy," the 28-year-old told Sky Sports. "Credit to how we set up and [how] we punished them on the break. 

"All in all, [it was] a really good Monday night.

"It is all about getting those chances and I am always confident I am going to hit the target. I always try and keep the ball low. Hard work and practice, it is no secret.

"Over the last few years, my game has changed a bit in terms of dropping into the pockets. I played as a number 10 in the youth team, as teams and managers change, you have to adapt your game."

Milan head coach Stefano Pioli has compared Rafael Leao to a young Thierry Henry following his impressive 26-minute cameo against Roma, insisting the sky is the limit for the forward.

After a month on the sidelines with a thigh injury, the Portugal international returned as a substitute during Milan’s 3-1 win at San Siro.

The 22-year-old wasted no time in making a telling impact; demonstrating tremendous pace to break away from the visiting defence and score the third goal to wrap up the points.

Leao also earned a penalty for the hosts in the dying moments following another blistering run, although Zlatan Ibrahimovic failed to convert from the spot.

The former Lille forward has now netted five goals in Serie A this season, with only Ibrahimovic (seven) doing so more often for the Rossoneri.

He has also attempted 69 dribbles in the Italian top-flight this term; a tally only bettered by Nicolo Zaniolo (78) and Felipe Anderson (77).

His style of play has drawn comparisons from his coach with former Juventus forward Henry, who won the World Cup, European Championship, Champions League and a further five domestic titles during a glittering career. 

"Leao reminds me so much of Henry at the beginning of his career, when he started from the left," Pioli said.

"He has the talent to get to the top of the world, but talent alone is not enough.

"He's getting close to 100 per cent, he still can't be [fully fit] and will need minutes. 

"He has to work with a lot of ambition; he can get to be a really strong player on the European and world scene."

Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah has reached 150 direct goal involvements in the Premier League, becoming the third-fastest player to do so.

Salah, who already had 11 league goals for the season heading into Saturday's game with Southampton at Anfield, squared for Diogo Jota to make it 2-0 to Liverpool in the 32nd minute.

It was Jota's second goal of the encounter, with the Portugal forward having put the Reds in front inside two minutes, and came after Salah himself had curled just wide, with Sadio Mane also having had a goal disallowed.

Thiago Alcantara then made it 3-0 to Liverpool before the break to put Jurgen Klopp's team in complete control.

By setting up Jota's goal, Salah moved onto 42 assists across his Premier League career, which combined with 108 goals took him to the 150 goal involvements landmark.

The Egypt forward has achieved that feat in just 171 games, with only Alan Shearer (148) and Thierry Henry (163) reaching the milestone in fewer appearances.

Salah's assist was a 25th direct goal involvement across all competitions this term (17 goals, eight assists), more than double that of any other Premier League player as it stood.

Liverpool then made it 4-0 early in the second half when Virgil van Dijk converted from Trent Alexander-Arnold's corner.

Lionel Messi is being "isolated" at Paris Saint-Germain, according to former team-mate Thierry Henry.

Messi arrived from Barcelona in a blockbuster free transfer at the start of the season, but the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner is still finding his feet with the Ligue 1 giants.

While Messi has scored three goals in three Champions League appearances for PSG, the 34-year-old is yet to score or assist a goal in Ligue 1 this term after Sunday's Le Classique stalemate at Marseille.

In the league, Messi has created one big chance to go with five opportunities created from open play as Henry – who played alongside the Argentina captain at Barcelona – highlighted his struggles.

"He [Messi] is isolated, he is on the ball less," Arsenal and France great Henry told RMC Sport.

"I wouldn't say he's sad, but he's isolated. I prefer him through the middle.

"I'm having trouble with Leo out on the right. In the middle, he can set the tempo.

"Something needs to be found in order to get Mbappe, Neymar and Messi to play together."

Henry added: "I don't think he can make the difference on the right, but then I don't have the exact details from the tactical standpoint.

"Obviously when you stay high up and you get out of the way, you won't have an impact. Then you have fewer balls going towards him."

Antoine Griezmann is not obsessed with breaking Thierry Henry's goalscoring record for France as he stands on the brink of reaching 100 international caps.

Griezmann will have the chance to secure silverware if he makes his landmark outing on Sunday in the Nations League final, Les Bleus having set up a clash with Spain thanks to a sensational comeback victory over Belgium.

Didier Deschamps' side trailed 2-0 at the interval but managed to turn the game around in the second half. Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe scored to draw the sides level before Theo Hernandez proved to be the unlikely hero, the full-back thundering in a 90th-minute winner.

Griezmann was not able to add to his tally of 41 goals for the national team, meaning he still trails Henry's career tally by 10.

"It is close, but it is not a goal that obsesses me," the Atletico Madrid forward told the media on Friday.

"I go games without shooting on goal, which shows how much it is not an obsession. Ten goals is not a lot, but also a lot at the same time. We're going to take it easy."

The 30-year-old helped France win the 2018 World Cup after suffering European Championship heartbreak on home soil two years earlier.

While now an experienced member of the squad, his attitude has not changed throughout his career for his country.

On nearing a century of appearances, Griezmann said: "I always like being in the France team, I'm always proud to wear these colours.

"I always love football, I'm with this locker room, the staff too. I have a little more experience and am a world champion, but otherwise I'm always the same, trying to give the best of myself offensively or defensively, compared to what the team needs."

He added: "I am very proud and very happy. I hope it will end well with a cup and a party after the game."

Griezmann is also determined to help France secure Nations League glory, in part so he can avoid having to deal with some of his Atleti team-mates, good friend Koke in particular, when he returns to the Spanish capital.

"If we lose, I'm going to have Koke, who rooms with me, making little jokes. It's the same for some Spanish friends I have in Madrid," the former Barcelona player revealed.

"Especially at the beginning, it's going to be weird. With Koke, we are together all the time, in the locker room or at home. But after five minutes you forget everything and the game begins.

"They have a very good team, they play very well. On the ball, they press high.

"With Luis Enrique, whom I adore and I admire as a coach, they have had good matches. They made the semi-finals at the European Championship, then they are in the final here."

It made Thierry Henry and Tony Adams happy, and Mikel Arteta on the touchline was so excited by it all that he probably expended more energy than the Tottenham midfield.

So bravo Arsenal, bravo. A 3-1 win – their 600th in the Premier League – over Tottenham looks great on paper and proved rather fetching on grass, too, the Gunners picking off their north London neighbours at will, particularly in an embarrassingly one-sided first half.

But in essence, this was all about keeping up with the Joneses. Any significance from a sunny Sunday afternoon's Emirates Stadium stroll can only be gauged by what Arsenal, and indeed Spurs, do next.

Successive 1-0 wins over Norwich City and Burnley kept the wolves from Arteta's door after Arsenal's slow start to the Premier League season, and this derby success was received like they used to savour championships in these parts.

Of course, there is a temptation to look at this result without a dispassionate perspective, to rave about Emile Smith Rowe, who was excellent, and Bukayo Saka, whose season perhaps starts now. The young English pair both scored and both had an assist, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang played like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang rather than an imposter.

Record scorer Henry, sitting in the stand alongside Spotify billionaire Daniel Ek, was all smiles and giggles, while former skipper Adams, in the Sky Sports studio, gushed about "a wonderful, wonderful first-half display". The Gunners gentry were grinning, dreaming it might be the start of something.

"I'm excited guys, I'm excited," Adams said, almost apologetically. "I was absolutely delighted the kids took the game to Tottenham."

Even Gary Neville said Arsenal had been "fantastic", and in many ways they were.


SPURS TAKE A HIDING

Smith Rowe wandered untracked into the heart of the Spurs penalty area to drive home Saka's low centre for the 12th-minute opener; then Aubameyang put the finishing touch to a glorious Arsenal counter-attack, Tierney to Aubameyang, on to the galloping Smith Rowe with a delicious flick, then back to Aubameyang for an unstoppable finish into the far right corner.

Tottenham were torn apart again in the 34th minute as Saka bundled his way through a desperate Spurs defence before driving a shot across Lloris.

Harry Kane had given the ball away at the other end of the pitch and dashed back to try to make amends, only to nudge Saka's attempted pass handily back into the path of his England colleague, who pounced on the chance.

Smith Rowe, at 21 years and 60 days, firstly became the youngest player to score and assist in a Premier League north London derby since Cesc Fabregas in September 2007.

Then Saka took that record outright from Fabregas, 21 days after his 20th birthday. Saka is also the youngest Englishman to score a league goal for Arsenal against Spurs since a 19-year-old Stewart Robson at Highbury in April 1984.

Son Heung-min got Spurs a goal in the 79th minute, ending their 307-minute goalless run, and Lucas Moura hit the bar in stoppage time, but this was a hiding for the visitors.

"They weren't competitive in any shape or form," said Graeme Souness, incandescent.

"Arsenal would wish they could play against a team like Spurs were in the first 45 minutes every week. Spurs were so poor."


KANE DRAWS A BLANK AGAIN

Kane went for a Hail Mary shot from 28 yards and the Arsenal crowd gleefully jeered as the ball cleared the bar by several yards. The England captain then headed wide from a corner and another roar went up.

Aaron Ramsdale pushed aside a Kane shot that may have been drifting wide as Spurs showed more spark after the break, before the Tottenham talisman scooped a shot wide after running in behind the Arsenal defence for the first time.

He cannot buy a Premier League goal this season. Five games in and he has yet to get off the mark, but at least he had five attempts here, more than doubling his tally for the campaign. It was 2016 when he last went on a five-game goalless streak.

Aubameyang answered his own critics in style and has now scored in all three of his home Premier League games against Spurs, but Kane only fuelled the arguments of those questioning his performance this season. Dele Alli was hauled off after 45 wasted minutes, with Sky pundit Neville saying: "He needs to sort himself out."


SPURS NEED TO CHANGE THEIR TUNE

Spurs have conceded three goals in three consecutive Premier League games for the first time since September 2003, and after the derby dismay against Crystal Palace and Chelsea, here was another savage reminder of their shortcomings.

They are only the second team in Premier League history to win their first three games of a season and then lose the next three, following the Everton team of 1993-94 who finished in 17th place.

So for one day at least, we might say Tottenham are in dire trouble and the future looks bright for Arsenal, despite them sitting alongside one another in mid-table.

And, of course, the CEO of Spotify fancies Arsenal. He loved the 80s mix, the 90s mix and the 2000s mix, and senses the 2020s mix could have a rocking soundtrack too, bouncing to the beat of Saka, Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard.

Tottenham, for now it seems, are lacking punk, lacking soul, stuck on a sad-song, life-sucks loop.

Cristiano Ronaldo will be playing back at Old Trafford in 2021-22 after Manchester United confirmed his signing from Juventus.

The Portugal great has returned in a deal worth up to €23million (£19.7m), which was sensationally agreed with Juve on Friday.

For a short while, it looked as though Ronaldo – who had asked to leave the Bianconeri – was heading to Manchester City after they missed out on the signing of Harry Kane.

Instead, he is heading back to the red side of Manchester.

With the deal now finalised, Stats Perform takes a look at other greats who went back to their former homes, starting with the Portugal captain...

Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United

Ronaldo spent six years at Old Trafford during his previous spell, arriving as a lanky teenager who loved a stepover and leaving as a Ballon d'Or winner and ice-cold finisher. His then-world-record move to Real Madrid had been a long time coming and he spent nine years at the Santiago Bernabeu, becoming the club's all-time top scorer as he continued his transition from winger to out-and-out 'number nine'. There he won four Champions League titles before moving on to Juve, for whom he plundered 81 goals in 98 Serie A matches and picked up two Scudetti. But now he is returning to England. Whether he can match the standards he set last time remains to be seen, with his 31-goal haul of 2007-08 only bettered once in a 38-match season, but United fans will be convinced he can fire them to a first league title since Ferguson left.

Juan Roman Riquelme – Boca Juniors

Synonymous with Boca Juniors, Riquelme made his professional debut for the Buenos Aires giants and returned to the club for the majority of his final years as a player, following spells with Barcelona and Villarreal. After a breakdown in his relationship with Manuel Pellegrini, Riquelme – the classic number 10 – returned to Boca initially on loan in 2007, going on to stay until 2014. He helped Boca win the Copa Libertadores in 2007, the Recopa Sudamericana a year later, Apertura titles in 2008 and 2011 and the Copa Argentina in 2011-12. He is currently Boca's vice-president.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Milan

After a difficult spell under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, Ibrahimovic – who had excelled at both Juventus and Inter – moved back to Italy, joining the Nerrazurri's city rivals Milan on loan for 2010-11. He became an instant star for the Rossoneri, picking up where he left off in Italy with 21 goals, a tally he bettered in 2011-12, scoring 35 times in all competitions. Paris Saint-Germain came calling and he went on to become the Ligue 1 giants' record goalscorer (a title now held by Edinson Cavani), before joining Manchester United and LA Galaxy. Despite being in his late 30s, Ibrahimovic still had more to offer and rejoined Milan for the back half of the 2019-20 campaign, netting 11 goals. He carried on his form into an injury hit 2020-21, scoring a further 16 times, and he is set to be a pivotal figure at San Siro once again this season.

Romelu Lukaku – Chelsea

Part of United's reasoning behind signing Ronaldo was to perhaps ensure they kept pace with their title rivals. For the past two seasons, Ronaldo has gone head-to-head with Lukaku in Serie A. Though Ronaldo won the battle last season, scoring 29 league goals, compared to Lukaku's 24, it was the Belgian who won the war by leading Inter to the title, and now the duo will face off again in the Premier League after Chelsea smashed their transfer record to re-sign the 28-year-old 10 years on from his initial arrival from Anderlecht. Lukaku did not manage to push himself into the starting XI back then and was loaned out to West Brom and Everton, before moving to Goodison Park on a permanent deal in 2014. He returns to Stamford Bridge as the complete package, however, and bullied Arsenal's defence on his second debut, scoring the opener in a 2-0 win for the European champions.

Didier Drogba – Chelsea

Part of the allure for Lukaku returning to Chelsea was to emulate his icon Drogba, who left Stamford Bridge after helping the Blues clinch a Champions League crown in 2012. The Ivorian went back to west London in the 2014-15 season, with Drogba explaining he could not turn down the chance to work with Jose Mourinho once again. He scored four league goals in 28 appearances to help Chelsea win the title, before heading off for a swansong in MLS with the Montreal Impact.

Thierry Henry – Arsenal

Another Premier League great, Henry rejoined Arsenal on a short-term loan deal at the start of 2012. He scored on his second debut against Leeds United in the FA Cup, converting his only attempt of the game in a 22-minute cameo from the bench. He went on to play a further six times, scoring in the Premier League against Sunderland, before he returned to the New York Red Bulls to round off a wonderful career.

Carlos Tevez – Boca Juniors

The Tevez-Boca love affair has dominated most of the striker's complex career. After coming through their youth ranks, the feisty forward was seen as the heir to Maradona. A brief stint in Brazil with Corinthians followed, but Europe had long since beckoned, even if West Ham were by no means the expected destination. He went on to play for Man United and City, increasing tension between the clubs, before then going to Juventus, but throughout this time Tevez seemed to long for a return to Boca. He went back to La Bombonera in 2015, his homecoming interrupted by a brief spell with Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 in the Chinese Super League, though even Tevez acknowledged he saw his time in China as a "holiday". "He filled Santa's sack with dollars and now he has returned to Boca," was Maradona's assessment upon the forward's return from the CSL. His third spell with Boca ended in June 2021 and it remains to be seen if he ever plays for another club.

Wayne Rooney – Everton

With Lukaku joining Man United in 2017, it opened the door for Everton to bring back Rooney, who had left his boyhood club in 2004 on the back of a stellar performance at Euro 2004. Then just 18, Rooney went on to become United's record goalscorer – and England's, too – and he returned to Goodison Park for the 2017-18 season. He scored on his league debut, heading in the winner against Stoke City, and though he netted 11 times in total for the Toffees, a difficult season saw Ronald Koeman sacked and replaced with Sam Allardyce, who was subsequently shuffled out of the door for Marco Silva. With Everton looking to go in a new direction, Rooney left to join MLS side DC United in 2018.

Gianluigi Buffon – Parma

Buffon likes a comeback. Having returned for a second spell at Juventus in 2019, the goalkeeping great departed the club for a second time at the end of 2020-21. The Italy legend had not finished playing yet, though, and Parma quickly emerged as a potential destination despite their relegation to Serie B. After a few weeks of contemplation, it was confirmed that Buffon was heading back to the club where he made his name. Now 43, the iconic stopper is wearing Gialloblu for the first time in 20 years, and he is set to remain with them until he turns 45, given he signed a two-year contract. What happens after that is anyone's guess, but calling it a day with his first club could be a satisfyingly romantic conclusion to a remarkable career – that or he ends up at Juve again!

He is back where he belongs.
He is back home. #SupermanReturns @gianluigibuffon @Kyle_J_Krause @ParmaCalcio_en pic.twitter.com/bh2FO6P8YX

— Parma Calcio 1913 (@1913parmacalcio) June 17, 2021

Thierry Henry has joined the Belgium coaching staff on a permanent basis until after the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The former France striker was initially employed to work with the Red Devils five years ago following Roberto Martinez's appointment as head coach.

Henry helped Belgium reach the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia before taking over as Monaco boss.

The Arsenal legend moved to the MLS with Montreal Impact in 2019 after he was sacked by Ligue 1 club Monaco.

Henry ended his spell as Impact head coach in February last year and returned to the Belgium set-up for the rearranged Euro 2020.

The Royal Belgian Football Association on Monday revealed the 44-year-old will be working under Martinez as the Red Devils bid to win a first major tournament next year.

Belgium are top of World Cup qualifying Group E with two wins from three matches.

Thierry Henry hopes Kylian Mbappe remains at Paris Saint-Germain amid growing links with Real Madrid.

Mbappe has long been tipped to join Madrid and speculation is continuing to claim the LaLiga giants will try to prise the French star from PSG before the transfer window closes, while Manchester United and Liverpool have also been linked.

PSG forward Mbappe is in the final year of his contract in Paris, where the 2018 World Cup winner is no closer to re-signing despite the arrival of Lionel Messi.

French great Henry, who played for Monaco like Mbappe before starring for Arsenal and Barcelona, wants the 22-year-old to stay at PSG.

"I don't know what is happening with Kylian Mbappe," Henry said on Amazon. "We can always speculate and say a lot of things. Me, what I see is that he is still there, that he is training, he is walking, he is running and he is trying to create chances for his team-mates.

"He scores, I know that well. He is a player who is also honouring his contract, he is doing nothing bad and he is responding on the pitch, so be happy.

"Like I often say, with an exceptional player we are always looking for the little things wrong. I hope that he will stay at PSG, I hope that he will be good and we will see after for what the future will bring him because it is normal to evaluate things.

"But is he lacking in respect towards someone? No, I have not yet seen that. He is there, he is present and he is even playing well."

Mbappe was on target as Mauricio Pochettino's PSG overcame Brest 4-2 in Ligue 1 on Friday.

PSG's Mbappe scored his fourth Ligue 1 headed goal, his first with for club and his first since March 2017 with Monaco at Caen.

Mbappe has been decisive in eight consecutive Ligue 1 games (eight goals, three assists), his second-best run in the top-flight, behind February-November 2020 (10).

Roberto Martinez has confirmed he will continue as Belgium boss despite overseeing the 'disappointment' of a quarter-final exit at Euro 2020.

The world's number one ranked side breezed through the group stages and defeated Portugal in the round of 16 before seeing their progress halted by Italy.

It had been suggested Martinez could step down after overseeing another major tournament failure for what has often been described as a 'golden generation' of players.

However, the Spaniard has reaffirmed his commitment to the jobs of head coach and technical director for the Royal Belgian Football Association.

"The disappointment after the lost game against Italy was great, but the focus is already on the World Cup qualifiers in September and the final four of the Nations League a month later," he said.

“Only when I feel like I can't add anything more will I leave. I will also continue my work as technical director. That's the plan.

"There has been a lot of talk about my future: before, during and after the tournament. 

"I always find it hard to talk about myself because this isn't about me. It's about creating the best possible conditions in which footballers can work and develop. 

"I still see a lot of energy in this group and this project is still on the rise. This team is now ready to move on, to get back on the field. September can't come soon enough."

 

Martinez also rejected suggestions that Belgium's Euros exit will be followed by a string of international retirements, adding: "Nobody thinks about quitting.

"The players of this team immediately want to continue, do better. On the other hand, there are also no players that I am dissatisfied with and will therefore no longer call. The players have not failed at this tournament."

The former Wigan and Everton boss did, however, acknowledge that he has a talented group of youngsters ready to make their mark at senior international level.

And he expects them to push their more experienced counterparts for regular game time in the years to come.

He continued: "There is a list of 12 young players who are already involved in the national team. 

"Four of them have already [played] several times: Jeremy Doku, Zinho Vanheusden, Charles De Ketelaere and Yari Verschaeren. 

"The next 12 months are going to be very important for them, they have to dare to compete with the older guard. 

"Our job is to put the young people in the right environment, to create conditions in which they can perform, after that you have to let football decide. 

"As a coach you only have to bring young players into the team who are ready for it. Just being young and talented is not enough. We must support and help develop those talents, work on quality. Talents have been lost in the past."

Martinez was also asked about the future of Thierry Henry, who served as his assistant manager between 2016 and 2018 before returning ahead of the European Championship campaign. 

He said: "At the moment, no decision has been made about a possible collaboration in the future. 

"Much will depend on his personal situation, whether or not he is working for a club. But it is clear that the relationship between him and the national team is very good."

Dennis Bergkamp has warned Arsenal owner Stan Kroenke that Spotify CEO Daniel Ek and a group of legendary former players "are here to stay" in their bid to buy the club.

Swedish billionaire Ek declared an interest in buying Arsenal, whom he has supported since he was eight, in the wake of the European Super League collapse last month.

The 38-year-old has the full backing of Gunners icons Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, but he revealed last week that his initial offer to purchase the club was rejected.

Ek is not giving up hope of persuading Kroenke to sell, however, and Bergkamp – echoing previous comments made by Henry – accepts it will be a long process.

"We can't force anyone to sell. I understand that," Bergkamp told Voetbal International. "In addition to that offer, Daniel has now reached out twice to Josh Kroenke and his bankers. 

"Whatever Kroenke's intentions are, it would be good if we at least have a conversation with each other, in the interest of the club. 

"Regardless, Daniel is not a quitter and neither are we football boys. We are here to stay. The crazy thing is that we cannot imagine how the current players feel. 

"We have always played for the championship ourselves. We know how the fans feel. We have already had a meeting with a supporter delegation. 

"We sense more and more enthusiasm on their side. That is very stimulating."

Since the Kroenkes secured majority ownership of Arsenal in April 2011, the club's only major trophy successes have been four FA Cup triumphs.

Their best league finish was second in 2015-16, but they have not placed in the top four since and could be without European football next season for the first time in 26 years.

With Arsenal fans expected to protest against the current regime ahead of Sunday's home match with Brighton and Hove Albion, Bergkamp can understand their frustration.

"I played an important part of my career at Arsenal and had a testimonial there," said the Dutchman, who won three Premier League titles with the Gunners, including the famous 'Invincibles' season of 2003-04.

"The club is in my heart. I have become a fan of players, just like Patrick and Thierry. I recognise the Arsenal from our own time less and less.

"The ambition to win top prizes is in Arsenal's DNA. Never accepting loss. That mentality has slowly disappeared. 

"I sense resignation about the current situation. That is serious. As if, given the financial situation, it is normal for Arsenal to end in the middle bracket. 

"That does not belong to this club. Arsenal's DNA must be restored."

Ek's personal fortunate is believed to be worth around £3.4billion, making a takeover viable should Kroenke be talked into walking away.

"Daniel has been an Arsenal fan all his life and has been worried about the downturn at the club for some time," Bergkamp said. "When the Super League dominated the news for days, Daniel just about exploded. 

"That was when he wanted to continue and contact us. During a Zoom meeting with Thierry, Patrick and I, he shared his concerns and plans with us. That made an impression from the first moment. 

"It immediately became clear to me how deep Daniel supports the club. I think that's important: Daniel doesn't see a takeover as buying a nice toy. On the contrary.

"He understands the passion of a football fan because he is one himself. He also wants to significantly increase the influence of the fans. Among other things by giving them a place in the club management. We think that is very important. 

"We want to get close to the supporters. Daniel likes transparency anyway. Just look at how he communicates about this, via Twitter, clear to everyone. 

"Another important point is that Daniel understands that Arsenal's problems cannot be solved just like that. Pumping in some extra money and firing the manager, for example, will not get you there. 

"Structural changes must take place. This is the backbone of Arsenal. This is a far-reaching, long-term project. 

"No matter how much money is involved in English football, Arsenal is and will remain a football club, which must also be managed as such, at all levels."

Arsenal legend Thierry Henry says Spotify co-founder Daniel Ek's proposed takeover of the club is "going to be long and not easy" and may not happen.

The 38-year-old Swedish billionaire declared his interest in buying the Gunners, whom he has supported since he was eight, in the wake of the collapse of the European Super League a fortnight ago.

There has been increasing fan frustration directed at the Kroenkes in recent times, which spilled over recently amid the European Super League saga.

Speaking on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football, Henry said Ek had contacted Stan Kroenke and is expected to make a £1.8billion bid to buy Arsenal this week.

Ek has the backing of Arsenal greats like Henry, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp, but it remains to be seen whether Kroenke will listen to or consider the offer.

"I think it is going to be long and not easy - if it does ever happen," Henry said.

"One thing that I want to reiterate is that Daniel will not move away, he will be there waiting to see if they want to sell.

"That is going to take a very long time, we know what we want to do, but first and foremost we need to make sure that we can take over, if they are listening."

Henry said Ek had approached him among other ex-Arsenal players with a view to restoring the club's DNA.

"He approached us, we listened to him," Henry said. "When we knew first and foremost that he wanted to involve the fans, we actually met the Arsenal Supporters' Trust and told them what we wanted to do.

"We want to bring them back on board, being part of the meetings, knowing what's happening because you need to put the DNA back into the club.

"But he wants to reinject the Arsenal DNA, the identity that for me is long gone. You don't have Arsenal people there among the board that can show the right direction."

Manchester United have exposed the stark levels of abuse aimed at their players ahead of a four-day social media boycott.

Football clubs and players all over England will be joined in the action, which runs from 1500 BST on Friday until 2359 BST on Monday, by UEFA and major bodies across cricket, rugby union, tennis, rugby league and other sports.

The move follows an increase in online abuse aimed at sportspeople, with United's research offering a glimpse at how bad the problem is.

United revealed a 350 per cent increase in abuse directed towards their players since September 2019, with 86 per cent of 3,300 abusive posts categorised as being racist in nature.

A further eight per cent were deemed homophobic or transphobic.

"It must be said that while these numbers are shocking, they do only represent a 0.01 per cent of conversations that take place on social media about the club and the players," said group managing director Richard Arnold.

"By taking part in this boycott this weekend, we, alongside the rest of English football, want to shine a light on the issue. It will generate debate and discussion and will raise awareness of the levels of abuse our players and our fans receive."

An announcement of the boycott came jointly last Saturday from numerous organisations in football, including the Premier League, the English Football League, the Football Association, the Professional Footballers' Association, the Women’s Super League and the Women’s Championship.

"While some progress has been made, we reiterate those requests today in an effort to stem the relentless flow of discriminatory messages and ensure that there are real-life consequences for purveyors of online abuse across all platforms," the groups said in a release.

"Boycott action from football in isolation will, of course, not eradicate the scourge of online discriminatory abuse, but it will demonstrate that the game is willing to take voluntary and proactive steps in this continued fight."

Since that statement was released, other bodies have declared they will join the boycott from across various sports, with cycling, horseracing and hockey also on board.

Football's European governing body, UEFA, also pledged its support in a strongly worded statement from president Aleksander Ceferin on Thursday.

"We've had enough of these cowards who hide behind their anonymity to spew out their noxious ideologies," he said.

The move instigated by England's footballing bodies follows them sending a letter to social media companies in February, urging them to take numerous steps to take down online abuse, including quick removal of offensive posts and an improved verification process.

Some within the game have already taken individual action to protest, with Thierry Henry withdrawing from all social media platforms until the issue is appropriately addressed.

Henry's stance came after a spate of incidents of vile abuse being aimed at sportspeople online.

Chelsea put out a statement in January after Reece James was targeted, saying: "Something needs to change and it needs to change now."

Manchester United duo Anthony Martial and Axel Tuanzebe were also racially abused online after the side's loss to Sheffield United, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer calling for stronger intervention from social media platforms.

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