Miguel Gutierrez has completed a permanent move from Real Madrid to Girona for a reported fee of €5million.

The 21-year-old full-back made just nine appearances in all for Madrid's senior team, spending most of his time at the LaLiga giants playing for the Castilla team.

After just three games for Los Blancos last season, Gutierrez has moved on and signed a five-year-deal with Girona as he seeks regular first team football.

He was a part of the Spain team that won the Under-19 European Championship in 2019, and also won the UEFA Youth League with Madrid under the guidance of legendary striker Raul in 2019-20.

Gutierrez becomes the sixth signing for Girona in this transfer window, with other arrivals including last season's Major League Soccer top goalscorer Valentin Castellanos on loan from New York City FC.

Manchester United are reportedly willing to meet Salzburg's £41.8million asking price for 19-year-old Slovenian striker Benjamin Sesko.

Sesko, who does not turn 20 until next May and measures in at 195cm tall, scored 11 goals in 37 games last season, and he opened the new Bundesliga campaign with a goal and an assist in a 3-0 win over Austria Vienna.

According to The Athletic, United decided against signing Sesko for £2.5m as a 16-year-old, and they will now have to pay up to secure the services of the in-demand forward.


TOP STORY – UNITED PLAN BIG MOVE FOR TOWERING SLOVENIAN STRIKER

The report from Express calls Sesko "a priority target" for new boss Erik ten Hag, but also mentions that the Austrian club is extremely high on him as a prospect – going as far as comparing his future to that of former Salzburg man Erling Haaland.

Meanwhile, Sport Klub claims Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain are also monitoring the situation, and that Sesko and Salzburg will be meeting in the next week to make a firm decision on his future.

Sesko is also Slovenia's youngest-ever international debutant, having debuted one day after his 18th birthday, and became their youngest international goalscorer a few months later.


ROUND-UP

– Calciomercato claims Tottenham are set to sign 19-year-old defender and Manchester City target Destiny Udogie from Udinese for a deal in the range of £25m.

– The Mirror is reporting that Everton have swooped in to land West Ham target Amadou Onana from Lille with a fee of £33.7m.

Leeds United are making a £22m bid for Paris Saint-Germain forward Arnaud Kalimuendo, according to the Sun.

– A Sky Sports report states Crystal Palace are interested in bringing back defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka from United.

– Liverpool are exploring a potential £50m move to bring in Leroy Sane from Bayern Munich, according to 90min.

Manchester United great Gary Neville is "a little bit disappointed" with Cristiano Ronaldo and the ongoing saga surrounding his future.

Ronaldo is widely reported to be seeking an exit from Old Trafford before the close of the transfer window on September 1, due to his desire to continue playing in the Champions League.

That has put new United boss Erik ten Hag in a difficult position, with Friday's news conference ahead of their Premier League opener against Brighton and Hove Albion dominated by questions on the future of his number seven.

Neville said earlier this week United should allow Ronaldo to leave and has now followed up those comments by urging the 37-year-old to come out publicly to make his feelings clear.

"I'm a little bit disappointed in him," Neville said on Sky Sports. "He's letting the manager go into those press conferences...

"Cristiano now is at a good age, he's been the best player in the world along with [Lionel] Messi in the last 10 years, he's got all that experience in the world.

"Would it be too much to ask for him to come out and do an interview to clear things up, tell us what he's actually thinking and what is actually happening? Would that be too much to ask?

"Is he just not going to do an interview in the next few weeks? Obviously, we're going to ask for him, is he going to come out, stand up, do the interview and not let everybody else have to answer the questions for him?

"I think that would be something that would be a start. I am disappointed, because it's the clarity that we haven't got, and the reason Erik ten Hag has been a little bit jumpy in his press conference is because he's been asked difficult questions, and he's probably not even telling us the truth of it, because he can't.

"The reality of it is if a Champions League clubs comes in for Cristiano Ronaldo in the next two weeks, I think we know that he wants to take that move, it's emerged over the last few weeks. But at the moment, no one has come in for him.

"That's why the club is saying at this moment in time that they want him to stay, but I think if somebody came in, he would go. 

"Should Manchester United be waiting until the final two weeks of the transfer window to see as to whether the star centre-forward leaves? I don't think they should be in that position. Do they just say no, you're staying, come what may? That would be clarity.

"But then there's a big risk that Ronaldo in a few weeks' time throws his toys out of the pram, says he's leaving. It's the sort of thing that could happen, and that's why I think it's a little bit unpalatable."

West Ham have confirmed the signing of Maxwel Cornet from Burnley for a reported £17.5million fee.

Cornet, who signed for Burnley from Ligue 1 club Lyon in 2021, impressed during his first season in England, scoring nine Premier League goals.

Yet the 25-year-old's efforts were not enough to keep Burnley up, as the Clarets suffered relegation for the first time since 2015.

Cornet never looked likely to stay with Vincent Kompany's team in the Championship, and the versatile winger has now made the switch to London, agreeing a five-year deal with an additional one-year option.

"It's a new step for me to join this big club and I'm really happy to be here, to be part of the project for the club. I'm just excited to start," Cornet, who was also linked with Newcastle United, Everton and Nottingham Forest, told West Ham's official website.

"Everyone knows the level here in the Premier League is very high and I want to play here for that, so I'm really happy to be here for the next stage in my career."

While Cornet's arrival provides David Moyes with another attacking option, West Ham have this week been disappointed in their attempts to bring in Amadou Onana from Lille.

West Ham reportedly agreed a fee with the French side earlier this week, yet the 20-year-old midfielder is instead set to sign for Everton.

The Hammers open their Premier League campaign at home against champions Manchester City on Sunday.

Georginio Wijnaldum has joined forces with Jose Mourinho at Roma on a season-long loan deal after a difficult first year at Paris Saint-Germain.

The Serie A club confirmed the signing of Wijnaldum on Friday, just over a year after he moved to PSG from Liverpool as a free agent.

Roma have the option to sign the Netherlands midfielder on a permanent basis at the end of the 2022-23 campaign.

His arrival comes on a day fellow midfielder Jordan Veretout left the Giallorossi to join Ligue 1 side Marseille.

Wijnaldum was signed by PSG in June 2021 after his Reds contract expired, with the French giants muscling in when it had looked like he would join long-time admirers Barcelona.

Yet Wijnaldum struggled to make an impact in France, starting only 22 games and frequently coming in for external criticism for his performances.

He scored three goals and provided three assists across all competitions, and made 16 appearances off the bench, but has been considered expendable by new head coach Christophe Galtier, who replaced the sacked Mauricio Pochettino last month.

Wijnaldum was a first-team regular with Liverpool, starting 34 of the club's 38 Premier League games in his final season at Anfield.

At PSG, he was substituted 15 times last term, with only Angel Di Maria (18 times) replaced more often.

 

Now the 31-year-old heads to Roma, who finished sixth last season in Serie A and won the Europa Conference League.

A number of players have left the Italian capital side, including Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Inter on a free transfer, but head coach Mourinho has brought in Paulo Dybala from Juventus and Nemanja Matic from Manchester United.

Like that pair, Wijnaldum will add considerable experience to the Roma ranks, and the prospect of regular first-team football in a World Cup year was sure to appeal to the Dutchman.

Chelsea's rather scatter-gun approach to the transfer window since their takeover went through has been one of the talking points of pre-season.

New owner Todd Boehly has been a busy man but missed out on a host of players who were apparently key targets.

Jules Kounde, Raphinha and Matthijs de Ligt all went to other clubs; Ousmane Dembele opted to sign a new contract with Barcelona; and the Blues were unsuccessful in reported pursuits of Presnel Kimpembe and Nathan Ake. On top of that, Chelsea saw Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen leave on free transfers.

Sky Sports pundit and former Manchester United defender Gary Neville has likened Boehly's activity to someone playing on the computer game Football Manager.

But for all their failed dealings, Chelsea have brought in Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly and now Marc Cucurella.

The deal for the latter, however, certainly hasn't been completed without criticism. First of all, Chelsea could end up paying £62million to Brighton and Hove Albion for the Spaniard, which would be a world-record fee for a left-back.

Manchester City were apparently unwilling to pay more than £30m for him, so why are Chelsea so convinced by him?


MAKING HIS MARC OUTSIDE OF SPAIN

A graduate of Barcelona's La Masia academy, Cucurella has always looked extremely promising.

As such, it was a surprise Barca ever let him go on loan to Eibar with a purchase option in the first place four years ago. It was even more bizarre 12 months later when the Blaugrana exercised their buy-back clause just 16 days after officially selling him, only to loan him again to Getafe with a €6million option – and reportedly 40 per cent of any future transfer fee – about 48 hours later.

His form at Eibar and Getafe regularly suggested Barca were being short-sighted, although neither club nor Brighton would be considered especially fashionable, which is perhaps why he's still only played once for Spain.

One might even say Cucurella's only season at Brighton went under the radar until City's interest surfaced a few weeks ago – but make no mistake, he took to the Premier League impressively, his development in the physically intense teams of Jose Luis Mendilibar and Jose Bordalas clearly coming in useful.

The 24-year-old was used predominantly in his favoured left-back position last term, while also filling in as a left wing-back and as a left-sided centre-back at a time of need for Brighton, despite previous doubts over his ability to defend.

"There were people who said I couldn't play as a full-back because I couldn't defend, but now I'm proving I can even play as a centre-back in a back three," Cucurella told Spanish outlet Marca earlier this year.

"What I was looking for was to play as a full-back, which is what I have done all my life. I had never played left centre-back before, but [Brighton head coach Graham Potter] has given me the confidence to feel very comfortable there."

Thrown in at the deep end as Brighton dealt with an injury crisis midway through the 2021-22 season – his first outside his native Spain – Cucurella more than passed the test and added further strings to his bow.

CUCURELLA THE ALL-ROUNDER

Whether operating at full-back, wing-back or centre-back, Cucurella helped Brighton keep 11 clean sheets in the Premier League last season, a tally that only six other clubs could better.

Far from being someone who is unable to defend, he led the way among players who played predominantly as full-backs in the English top flight last season in terms of winning back possession, doing so 247 times.

He also ranked behind only Tyrick Mitchell for tackles – 93 compared to the Crystal Palace youngster's 104 – showing he is happy to get stuck in when required.

The one-cap Spain international also proved he is capable of attacking, with his 40 open-play chances created placing him behind only new team-mate Reece James (42) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (51), who many would consider to be two of the finest attacking full-backs around.

Granted, those key passes only translated to one assist – for context, James recorded nine last season – but some of that can be put down to the finishing of Brighton's attacking players, rather than Cucurella alone failing to deliver from wide.

Indeed, his expected assists (xA) return of 2.8 last term was still the 14th-highest of any full-back. While that may not sound outstanding, it's worth bearing in mind the only players to exceed 4.0 xA were James (4.7), Andrew Robertson (5.5), Joao Cancelo (6.6) and Alexander Arnold (13), all of whom obviously play at clubs who dominate most of their games.

Furthermore, given his near decade spent in the Barca youth set-up and then on the fringes of the first team, it comes as no surprise to see Cucurella is very comfortable with the ball at his feet.

The 1,558 passes he completed last season were bettered – again among those who can be considered full-backs by trade – by only Robertson (1,642), Alexander-Arnold (1,684) and Cancelo (2,516).

Cucurella is clearly a feisty competitor who can also play, a combination that in itself is an asset.

A GAMBLE WORTH TAKING?

On the basis of those numbers and the importance Thomas Tuchel places on his wing-backs, bringing in Cucurella in this window does make some sense for Chelsea. But one problem, of course, is the mammoth transfer fee.

Of course, as Graham Potter said on Friday, Brighton didn't need to sell, and Cucurella still had four years left to run on his contract, so the Seagulls were in a position of absolute strength.

From Chelsea's perspective, that leads us to a key question: was Cucurella a necessity? Right now, arguably not, and the fee does look remarkable given he only cost Brighton £16m a year ago.

There remains the likely scenario that Marcos Alonso leaves the club, in which case Cucurella and Ben Chilwell will be left to fight over that spot on the left flank, but again, does a club need two players of such expense for one position?

Sure, Cucurella's greater versatility means the pair could potentially play together, although clearly one or the other would be playing at least slightly out of their natural position in such a scenario.

It's difficult to escape the feeling Chelsea might've been better served signing another natural centre-back or perhaps a striker.

But in fairness to Cucurella, the noise around his transfer has nothing to do with him. All he can do is concentrate on the obstacles in front of him, and he's done a pretty good job of adapting to his surroundings at each of his past three clubs.

As a player with Barcelona pedigree, who has proved himself in numerous roles during his short time in England and is still young enough to further improve, don't bet against Cucurella being a hit at Stamford Bridge, even if his signing has left plenty puzzled.

Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers has underlined his determination to keep Wesley Fofana and James Maddison, amid interest from Chelsea and Newcastle United.

The Foxes have already lost captain Kasper Schmeichel to Nice and have reportedly refused a number of offers from Newcastle for Maddison, while Chelsea are said to be targeting a swoop for Fofana.

Both players have been reported to be open to a move before the transfer window closes on September 1; however, speaking ahead of Leicester's Premier League opener against Brentford, Rodgers made it clear he does not want to lose either man.

"I hope not, I hope we want to keep them. I mentioned before, these players are not for sale, they are very important players for us," Rodgers told a news conference.

"Obviously there's a situation at the club where we need to move some players out, but it's not getting rid of anyone and everyone, especially our best assets.

"You don't want to lose your top players and this is something that the club are very strong on. At this moment in time, the guys you mentioned, certainly James and Wesley, are training very well, working very hard and getting ready for our game on Sunday."

Asked whether there was a monetary figure that would mean the likes of Fofana and Maddison being allowed to leave, Rodgers conceded it may be out of his hands.

"That will be up to the club. The club have been outstanding here in their work in the market, so for me, I'm football, and we'll concentrate on whilst they're here, any player, to help and improve the team," he added.

Leicester are the only club in the Premier League yet to make an addition in the transfer market ahead of the new season, and Rodgers said that it is unlikely to change in the final weeks of the window.

"As things stand, I believe not. I mentioned that before, it's a repetitive message at this moment in time, there's nobody imminent coming in. The concentration has purely been on the players that are here," he said.

"I think we can do well in the Premier League. Any manager will always want an improvement in their squad, I think that's only natural, but it's not the case and I respect the club's position.

"The club have been outstanding for me in my time here, supported me in whatever I've wanted to do and, at this time, I need to support them. It's a situation that's unfortunate.

"I don't need to fight with anyone, I just need to concentrate on the players I have. I would have loved to improve the squad, but there is time, if things change, but at this moment in time, all the focus is going into the players who are fit and available, getting them in the best condition possible."

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag would rather develop the players he has than sign the wrong man if the club fail in their pursuit of Frenkie de Jong.

United have been strongly linked with Barcelona midfielder De Jong for months, with reports of their interest emerging even before Ten Hag was officially appointed in April.

De Jong enjoyed his Ajax breakthrough under Ten Hag, playing a key role in the team that almost reached the 2018-19 Champions League final.

He moved to Barca in 2019 but arguably has not reached the level many expected of him initially upon his transfer to Camp Nou.

Ten Hag apparently saw De Jong's acquisition as vital for the way he wants United to play, and media reports have indicated the club agreed a fee with Barca last month.

However, it is claimed Barca owe De Jong millions of euros in deferred wages, and he is apparently refusing to leave the club – who need a big sale in order to ease their financial issues – until a settlement is reached.

While some fans may be urging United to move on and sign an alternative, Ten Hag suggested that is not an option.

"We want Frenkie? I didn't know," he told reporters with a smile on Friday. "We want the right players, but I cannot comment on players contracted to other clubs.

"When we have news, we will bring it."

He added: "You work with the current squad, you develop players who are in your current squad. In this moment, the players in that position have performed really well [in pre-season]."

While the De Jong saga shows no sign of ending, United have been able to add promising left-back Tyrell Malacia, versatile Argentina defender Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen to the squad.

Given United looked short of quality last season and eight first-team players have since left, many were expecting the club to be far busier on the transfer front.

Ralf Rangnick, who was interim manager for the second half of last season, suggested during his spell in charge that the squad needed as many as 10 new players, yet they have not brought in even half of that figure.

De Jong aside, United are rumoured to be keen on signing another striker, a right-sided winger and potentially a right-back, but again Ten Hag insisted panic buys will not satisfy him.

Asked if he is frustrated they have not strengthened all the areas he wanted to, Ten Hag said: "It would be good situation, but I am happy with the current squad, they make good progress.

"I'm happy with the signings until now. You don't just need any players, you need the right players. That's the point, and we're working together."

It was then asked of Ten Hag is he would rather go without any signings if they are not exactly who he wants, and his response was unequivocal.

"If it's not the right player, no, I'm happy with the current squad," he replied. "We need the right players."

Marc Cucurella has left Brighton and Hove Albion for Chelsea, rather than Manchester City, in a reported £50million transfer.

The Spain left-back enjoyed an outstanding single season at Brighton, having joined from Getafe last August.

With City selling Oleksandr Zinchenko to Arsenal, it appeared Cucurella was set to sign for the Premier League champions

However, it was widely reported Brighton were standing firm with their demands of a £50m fee while City were only willing to pay £40m.

Brighton head coach Graham Potter last week described the club as "confident and relaxed in our position" as they awaited a further bid from City.

Instead, it came from Chelsea, with the Blues moving quickly to sign Cucurella on a six-year deal. He follows Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly in signing for the London club ahead of the new season.

Teenage Blues defender Levi Colwill has moved in the opposite direction, joining Brighton on a season-long loan deal.

Cucurella's arrival comes as a big boost to Thomas Tuchel, who has seen top targets Matthijs de Ligt, Jules Kounde and Raphinha go elsewhere.

With Marcos Alonso – another Spain international – linked with a move to Barcelona, ex-Blaugrana academy graduate Cucurella appears set for a battle with Ben Chilwell for a starting spot, although it has been suggested the new recruit could play in a back three.

Injury restricted Chilwell to seven appearances in the Premier League last season, although he still scored three goals and provided an assist. Cucurella, in 35 matches, netted just once and could also only match Chilwell's single assist.

But Cucurella also showed why he would be a good fit for any team competing at the top end of the table.

The 24-year-old enjoyed 2,827 touches, ranking seventh among Premier League defenders; each of the six players above him played for either City (Joao Cancelo, Aymeric Laporte), Liverpool (Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk) or Chelsea (Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger).

Despite his sole assist, Cucurella finished sixth among defenders for chances created, with his 42 just behind Blues duo Reece James (48) and Alonso (43).

 

Cucurella ranked sixth among defenders for duels contested (323), winning a solid 59.1 per cent.

Listed at 1.72 metres tall, Cucurella is shorter than Lisandro Martinez (1.75m), the Premier League's smallest nominal centre-back, but he still won 52.6 per cent of his aerial duels last term, bettering the 44.7 per cent of James – another Chelsea star who switched between wing-back and centre-back roles.

Stefano Pioli has no concerns about Rafael Leao's future and wants Milan to make another two signings before the transfer window closes.

Leao played a big part in the Rossoneri's first Serie A title triumph for 11 years last season and has been linked with European champions Real Madrid.

The Portugal winger, who scored 14 goals and provided 10 assists across all competitions in the 2021-22 campaign, has just under two years remaining on his contract at San Siro.

Milan head coach Pioli is not fretting over the prospect of losing Leao and expects the 23-year-old to take his game to another level.

He told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "I am not at all worried by contractual events, you can see that he is happy to be with us."

Pioli added of Leao: "He has many goals in his legs, even more than last year. He has grown a lot without the ball, now he has to be able to occupy the area better."

 

Milan's biggest outlay since they were crowned champions was on a deal to sign attacking midfielder Charles De Ketelaere from Club Brugge for a reported fee of €36million.

Pioli is eager to strengthen further as Milan prepare to start the defence of their title against Udinese a week on Saturday.

"On paper, two roles are missing, the defender and the midfielder," he said.

"We need two characteristics: explosiveness and intelligence."

Piolo is excited by the potential De Ketelaere possesses and is expecting big things from the 21-year-old.

"De Ketelaere in perspective, in two or three years, can become a top European player," he said.

Marc Cucurella has left Brighton and Hove Albion for Chelsea, rather than Manchester City, in a reported £50million transfer.

The Spain left-back enjoyed an outstanding single season at Brighton, having joined from Getafe last August.

With City selling Oleksandr Zinchenko to Arsenal, it appeared Cucurella was set to sign for the Premier League champions

However, it was widely reported Brighton were standing firm with their demands of a £50m fee while City were only willing to pay £40m.

Brighton head coach Graham Potter last week described the club as "confident and relaxed in our position" as they awaited a further bid from City.

Instead, it came from Chelsea, with the Blues moving quickly to sign Cucurella on a six-year deal. He follows Raheem Sterling and Kalidou Koulibaly in signing for the London club ahead of the new season.

His arrival comes as a big boost to Thomas Tuchel, who has seen top targets Matthijs de Ligt, Jules Kounde and Raphinha go elsewhere.

With Marcos Alonso – another Spain international – linked with a move to Barcelona, ex-Blaugrana academy graduate Cucurella appears set for a battle with Ben Chilwell for a starting spot, although it has been suggested the new recruit could play in a back three.

Injury restricted Chilwell to seven appearances in the Premier League last season, although he still scored three goals and provided an assist. Cucurella, in 35 matches, netted just once and could also only match Chilwell's single assist.

But Cucurella also showed why he would be a good fit for any team competing at the top end of the table.

The 24-year-old enjoyed 2,827 touches, ranking seventh among Premier League defenders; each of the six players above him played for either City (Joao Cancelo, Aymeric Laporte), Liverpool (Trent Alexander-Arnold, Virgil van Dijk) or Chelsea (Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger).

Despite his sole assist, Cucurella finished sixth among defenders for chances created, with his 42 just behind Blues duo Reece James (48) and Alonso (43).

 

Cucurella ranked sixth among defenders for duels contested (323), winning a solid 59.1 per cent.

Listed at 1.72 metres tall, Cucurella is shorter than Lisandro Martinez (1.75m), the Premier League's smallest nominal centre-back, but he still won 52.6 per cent of his aerial duels last term, bettering the 44.7 per cent of James – another Chelsea star who switched between wing-back and centre-back roles.

Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani felt "ashamed" to pull the plug on a "done deal" for Raphinha to join Chelsea and says only time will tell if Barcelona will pay up for the winger.

Raphinha left Elland Road to join Barca for a reported fee of €67million (£57m) last month.

Chelsea thought the Brazil international was on his way to Stamford Bridge after reaching an agreement with their Premier League rivals.

Radrizzani was embarrassed to inform Blues owner Todd Boehly that the deal was off, but says he had no choice.

He told The Athletic: "For me, it was done, the deal with Chelsea. When I have a deal, my word is my word and I felt ashamed to go back to Todd Boehly, the owner of Chelsea, and change the position.

"It was really for me, disrespectful and not the right thing to do, but I didn't have a choice.

"If I could decide to not sell the player, I would have preferred that. But I didn't have a choice because for us it was more important to buy six players than keep Raphinha."

 

Radrizzani confirmed London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal also wanted Raphinha.

He added: "Obviously we had interest from Tottenham, from Arsenal, from Chelsea and from Barcelona. So all of  these clubs and the best deal we agreed was with Chelsea.

"Then at the end the deal that came up with Barcelona is pretty much the same for the way we structured it at the very end, but it took time, it was hard. We had to manage well and as I said, I'd rather not sell him, but I didn't have a choice because we had to buy six players."

Eyebrows have been raised over Barca's spending in this transfer window given they had to let Lionel Messi leave 12 months ago due to a financial crisis.

Radrizzani says only time will tell if the LaLiga giants stump up the cash they have agreed to pay Leeds for Raphinha and vowed to take action if they do not.

Asked if he is confident Leeds will get the money from Barca, the Italian replied: "Look, I'll tell you on the 2nd of September. If not we will have a global case on all media in the world about Barcelona. So I don't know."

Pep Guardiola sees Bernardo Silva's future at Manchester City but accepts that could all change if the player sets his heart on a move to Barcelona.

The LaLiga giants are thought to be keen on City's Portuguese midfield star and could be preparing a bid to take him to Camp Nou.

Silva has spent five fruitful years with City, winning four Premier League titles in that time, and at the age of 27 can be reasonably considered to be still in his prime years.

Guardiola is aware of the Barca speculation but says he sees Silva as being settled, pointing to his fiancee and his dog as reasons for him to be happy with his life.

But after selling Oleksandr Zinchenko, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus during the off-season, it is clear that City are a club willing to do deals if the timing and the terms are right.

"I was comfortable working with Oleks, Gabriel and Raheem. They were three figures with incredible characters who helped us achieve a lot," said Guardiola.

"Sometimes players have to depart our path. The desire of the players is the most important thing. I want people happy here, to be here and to try to do it together.

"Of course I'd love if Bernardo could continue here. He's been a special player here, for the locker room. I don't know what is going to happen.

"If he stays, it's perfect, and if he has to leave it's because football is like this, and the clubs have an agreement and the player has desires. When you're a football player [the career] is so short. When the club decides, for me it is okay.

"I want Bernardo to stay, definitely. To find players is difficult. I want 100 per cent Bernardo to stay here, but in the same time if you want to leave and have an offer and the clubs have an agreement, it's common sense what I said.

"This is the reality. He's an important player for me, Bernardo is special, but I don't know what's going to happen. Man City, as far as I know, didn't get any offer. Bernardo's training and doing really well, ready for Sunday."

City start their Premier League title defence at West Ham on Sunday, with Erling Haaland expected to make his debut in the competition.

Unless there is a dramatic intervention from Barcelona, Silva also looks set to feature at London Stadium.

The City star had his best season for Premier League goals last season, netting eight times in 35 games, having managed to score just twice in the previous campaign.

He and girlfriend Ines Degener Tomaz, who share a home with dog John, then became engaged at the end of the campaign.

"I talk a lot with Bernardo," said Guardiola. "But also with all of them, maybe because I'm getting old and we know each other quite well.

"Now the relationship is completely different to three or four years ago. I know the feelings they have, the good moments and the bad moments.

"I talk with them, but not especially with this situation. If he has to tell me something, he will tell me. I don't have doubts about that, but we don't talk about this situation.

"He's our player. I know he's happy: he's engaged, he has a beautiful dog, so he's happy here, I know that, and what's going to happen is going to happen."

When Jack Grealish charged into the penalty area in the 87th minute at the Santiago Bernabeu late last season and saw his shot cleared off the line by Ferland Mendy, there seemed no way Manchester City would not be in the Champions League final.

They were 1-0 up in the semi-final second leg, 5-3 ahead on aggregate. Real Madrid had three minutes plus stoppage time to turn things around – even for a side who produced some memorable comebacks en route to the semi-finals, turning this tie around looked impossible.

Yet the tale unfolded in a matter of minutes, with City's Champions League aspirations dissolving for another season.

Over the course of the two legs, City were comfortably the better team and yet failed to advance to the final in Paris, where Madrid went on to beat Liverpool 1-0.

City's failure served to highlight a key deficiency in their squad.

Whether that's fair or not is up for debate, because they subsequently went on to win a fourth Premier League title in five years, and no one would have questioned the legitimacy of them seeing off Madrid, but when the victor is led by the type of figure the loser is lacking, it's an easy conclusion to jump to.

Karim Benzema may not have been at his unplayable best in that second leg, but he won and converted the ultimately decisive penalty, and the effectiveness with which he led the line in the first game ensured Madrid were still in with a shout upon the return to Spain.

City will now hope they have such a goalscoring talisman in Erling Haaland.

After a slightly unconvincing City debut in the Community Shield last week, failing to score against Liverpool from his game-high 1.04 expected goals (xG), Haaland will make his Premier League bow as the new season begins this weekend, with attention sure to soon turn to European action.

City apparently paid £51.3million (€60m) to Borussia Dortmund for his transfer. Even when you consider the apparently significant agents' fees, it is difficult to see this as anything other than a bargain for City.

The dust may now have settled on City's 2021-22 collapse in the Spanish capital, but it's hard not to look at the deal through the prism of Champions League failure because of what will now be expected – rather than hoped for – with a player like Haaland in the team.

When trying to understand what has specifically gone wrong for City in the Champions League since Pep Guardiola was hired, most observers seem to have different opinions. Some might point to an apparent lack of on-field leaders, others highlight wastefulness at crucial moments, and of course there are many who have bemoaned Pep's dreaded "overthinking".

The idea of there being a lack of on-field leaders has always seemed wide of the mark, while no one can accuse Guardiola of overcomplicating his selections against Madrid. Even if one were to try to claim that, City were on course for the final until the 90th minute of the second leg.

Similarly, wastefulness is something most clubs can be accused of at one time or another, and, in fact, across all the Champions League ties from which City have been eliminated under Guardiola, they have scored 17 times from 16.99 xG. Granted, there were occasions where they didn't score as often as they should have, but over time it evens itself out.

Yet perhaps this is where Haaland can make the difference. Sure, City's xG has evened out over the unsuccessful ties in question, but with a striker as freakishly deadly as the Norwegian – last Saturday at the King Power Stadium excepted – there becomes a greater opportunity to finish chances that maybe you wouldn't generally expect to.

Following his Bundesliga debut on January 18, 2020, Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 games for Dortmund in all competitions, averaging a goal every 84 minutes.

Only Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski (123 goals in 108 games) boasted a better scoring rate over that period among players from Europe's top five leagues.

Despite struggling with injuries in the 2021-22 season, Haaland still managed 29 goals in 30 games for BVB, including a strike in his final game. Twenty-one of those goals were scored via his favoured left foot, three came via his right and the other five were headers.

One thing you cannot accuse City of is being ineffective when it comes to controlling football matches and creating chances – they wouldn't have enjoyed the success they have in the Premier League, under intense pressure from an incredible Liverpool side, if not.

But in knockout ties when there is such a limited amount of time to respond to setbacks or make amends for certain mistakes, whether defensive or in front of goal, the value of the greatest strikers can shine through even more: Benzema showed that against City.

While there remain stylistic compatibility questions to be asked regarding City and Haaland – there were occasions last week when dangerous runs were not quite met by passes, as City adjust to playing with an out-and-out striker – they suddenly have arguably the finest finisher of his generation in their arsenal.

If Haaland isn't the final piece of the puzzle in City's quest for a maiden Champions League crown, Guardiola might as well give up.

Chelsea's ongoing negotiations with Barcelona could produce more than just midfielder Frenkie de Jong, with new reports that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is also on the table for a transfer.

The two powerhouse clubs have been in seemingly constant discussion over the past month, with Barcelona openly looking to add Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta after swooping in to claim Blues target Jules Kounde.

Chelsea recently took Azpilicueta out of the equation by signing him to a two-year extension, but the two clubs re-opened their negotiations when the Stamford Bridge outfit decided to put in a bid for De Jong, and in the process they may have found the answer to their striker situation.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA WILLING TO INCLUDE AUBAMEYANG IN CHELSEA TRANSFER DISCUSSIONS

After expensive moves for Leeds United winger Raphinha, Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Sevilla centre-back Kounde, the Mirror is reporting Barcelona are "desperate to balance their books" and 33-year-old Aubameyang appears to be the most likely option to be moved on.

The report mentions both De Jong and Aubameyang are seen as surplus to requirements, and with Chelsea yet to bring in a replacement for Romelu Lukaku after he was loaned out to Inter, it could be a perfect match.

No potential asking price is mentioned for the striker who collected 20 goals in 38 club appearances this past season, including 11 goals in 17 LaLiga fixtures.

Meanwhile, ESPN adds that Chelsea were monitoring the Gabon frontman back in 2020 before he signed a contract extension with Arsenal, and that they are still interested.

 

ROUND-UP

– The Times is reporting Chelsea are expected to make a £70million bid for 21-year-old Leicester City centre-back Wesley Fofana after having a £60m offer turned down.

– According to Foot Mercato, Nottingham Forest and Leicester are competing for the signing of 24-year-old Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar, who is valued at €15m.

– The Guardian is reporting 25-year-old Ivory Coast winger Maxwel Cornet only needs to pass a physical to confirm a move from Burnley to West Ham after the Hammers met his £17.5m release clause.

– Radioestadio Noche claims Real Madrid have identified 19-year-old RB Salzburg striker Benjamin Sesko or 22-year-old Nice forward Amine Gouiri as potential long-term successors to Karim Benzema.

Crystal Palace are exploring a move for 19-year-old RB Leipzig midfielder Ilaix Moriba – who is a product of Barcelona's youth academy – according to Foot Mercato.

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