Arsenal's Edu-led evolution is set to come to a head in the 2022-23 season, with the technical director stating publicly this week that a top-four finish is the target.

Inconsistency throughout last season, culminating in a poor run of form at the end of the campaign, saw Arsenal's absence from the Champions League extend to five years.

With Mikel Arteta at the helm and Edu leading the recruitment, the Gunners now believe this is their time and, with the Brazilian's comments in pre-season about this being the season for success in the long-term plan, the pressure is on.

Arsenal have brought in the likes of Martin Odegaard and Aaron Ramsdale in recent times, while they have also cemented the futures of young players like Eddie Nketiah and Emile Smith Rowe.

One major piece of the puzzle was missing last season, however, with no striker to take the mantle of leading the line until Nketiah's purple patch – but the London club are hoping that will change with the capture of Gabriel Jesus.

Signed following a trophy-laden spell at Manchester City, the fact that Arsenal managed to land Jesus, in a World Cup year no less, is a feather in Edu's cap, but the real question is, can he end Arsenal's number nine curse?

Staggeringly, no number nine has hit 15 goals for the club in a Premier League season since the 1998-99 campaign, when Nicolas Anelka found the back of the net 17 times.

Since then, Davor Sukor, Francis Jeffers, Jose Antonio Reyes, Julio Baptista, Eduardo, Park Chu Young, Lukas Podolski and Lucas Perez have all graced the number nine shirt with varying, but largely disappointing, returns.

Alexandre Lacazette came closest with a 14-goal haul in his first Premier League season but, with just four top-flight goals last year, it was clear the Gunners needed a significant upgrade on the Frenchman.

Jesus has also fallen short of the 15-goal mark in his Premier League career, with a season-high of 14 in the 2019-20 campaign – though it is worth mentioning his City career has seen him be a member of the supporting cast, rather than the leading man.

He will be first choice through the middle at Arsenal and his numbers are encouraging compared to those who have recently had that role.

In Lacazette, Arsenal had a forward who scored 78 Premier League goals at a rate of 0.5 per 90 minutes, totalling just over 14,000 minutes in the competition– a record that Jesus easily beats.

Jesus has scored 95 Premier League goals at a rate of 0.6 per 90 minutes, playing just over 100 minutes more than the Frenchman – and his return is comparable to what Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang achieved during his stint at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsenal's former captain outscored both with 104 career Premier League goals, a rate of 0.65 per 90 minutes, but he played over 300 minutes more than Jesus did for City.

Again, his role for City was different, playing alongside the likes of Sergio Aguero and, when his fellow South American departed, Pep Guardiola elected to mainly utilise him in a wider area – limiting his opportunities in front of goal.

Through the middle, Jesus' task will be to improve the return in the final third where, during the 2021-22 season, Arsenal netted 39 goals in open play compared to an xG of 48.2.

A number of missed opportunities were high xG chances that, over the course of the season, could have made a significant difference in the battle for Champions League football.

What Arsenal lacked in a recognised striker, however, they made up for in other areas, with a further 21 goals over the course of the season coming from set-pieces.

Other areas where Arsenal shone included the goals they scored on the counter-attack, netting a joint league-high of six, which Jesus should be able to improve. Arsenal also hit the woodwork on 18 occasions, so they will be looking for the Brazilian to make them more clinical.

Pre-season has also been encouraging for the early part of Jesus' career in the capital, scoring four goals in as many games – including a well-taken chipped finish in the 4-0 Florida Cup drubbing of London rivals Chelsea.

Jesus should get support from Bukayo Saka and Emile Smith Rowe, who both hit double figures for goals last season, while Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli, Nketiah and Gabriel Magalhaes all scored at least five.

That ought to also help Jesus' assists return, with the 25-year-old providing 29 during his time at City – including eight last season, enough to be joint-top of the Premier League champions' assist charts alongside Kevin de Bruyne.

According to the numbers, Jesus is more than capable of being the man Arsenal have needed ever since Aubameyang's fall from grace – but he cannot do it alone and the Gunners need to be firing on all cylinders.

Fans of English, German and French clubs will be able to stand for home matches during men's UEFA club competitions in the 2022-23 season.

UEFA on Wednesday launched a programme to observe the use of standing facilities, which were previously only able to be used for domestic fixtures.

The governing body of European football will look at the use of standing in both domestic and international club games, with the aim of assessing if and under what conditions it may be reintroduced in UEFA competitions in a safe manner.

The Standing Facilities Observer Programme 2022-23 will initially be limited to clubs from the top five associations in the UEFA rankings where standing is already authorised and implemented at domestic level.

Fans supporting teams in those countries will be allowed to stand for home Champions League, Europa League and Conference League games at each round of the competitions, other than the finals.

Independent experts will be appointed by UEFA to analyse the use of standing, with the task of assessing the different dynamics between national and international supporters and the related safety and security implications. 

At the conclusion of the upcoming campaign, UEFA administration will assess the findings of the programme and submit the results to the UEFA Executive Committee, which will decide on any continuation and possible extension of the programme.

Robert Lewandowski claims "no one remembers" Bayern Munich's 8-2 victory against his new side Barcelona in the 2020 Champions League quarter-final.

The Poland international played in that game for the German giants, and even scored Bayern's sixth goal before Philippe Coutinho, on loan from Barcelona at the time, added two more late on to rub salt in the wounds.

After embarrassing Barcelona, Bayern went on to become European champions for a sixth time, with a Kingsley Coman winner enough to overcome French side Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in the final.

The 8-2 thrashing meant Bayern became the first team ever to score five or more goals against Barcelona in a European Cup or Champions League match.

Lewandowski was quick to discount the importance of that game when questioned about it this week, telling reporters: "No one remembers that anymore.

"Football isn't about what you've done in the past, it's about what you're doing now."

He also referenced the 2013 Champions League, in which he scored four for his former club Borussia Dortmund against Real Madrid in a semi-final first leg.

Lewandowski added: "It's been a long time since we [Dortmund] scored four goals against Real Madrid, it's a long time ago."

Edu is delighted that Arsenal managed to sign first-choice transfer targets Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko despite missing out on Champions League football last term.

However, the club's technical director also revealed Raphinha was never close to moving to the Emirates Stadium, with the now-Barcelona winger having always prioritised a move to Camp Nou.

Arsenal have been active in the transfer market after a late-season collapse saw rivals Tottenham secure a top-four Premier League finish at their expense in May, outspending every other side in the top flight do far.

Alongside former Manchester City duo Jesus and Zinchenko, Mikel Arteta's side have recruited Porto's Fabio Vieira, New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner, and young Sao Paulo winger Marquinhos, and Edu revealed Arsenal's lack of Champions League football has not been too inhibitive in securing their foremost targets. 

"[We signed] almost 100 per cent of them," he told Sky Sports. "I understand sometimes players want to play Champions League football, but I think we can offer something very special for the players as well.

"It's not only Champions League, but you can be part of a group of players which can achieve something very special for this football club. And then I always ask them if they want to be part of the project we've been building.

"I'm sure we will do something very special for this football club and then when I explain to the players, they really understand [it] and that's why they're here."

Zinchenko made just 10 Premier League starts for City last season, playing a total of 1,044 minutes in the competition, but Edu is delighted with the signing of the Ukraine star after targeting him for six months.

"We are so excited to have Zinchenko with us here because he's a player that we really targeted," he added.

"It's a player that we really believe has the characteristics and the qualities that are going to increase our level in the squad for sure. [The transfer] was planned like six months ago, to feed that position in the best way possible in the way which Mikel really wants to play.

"Mikel of course knows him more than anyone because they worked together [at City] but all the information around the player is top."

Edu also revealed the signing of Jesus was the culmination of another drawn-out process, adding: "I think we as a club have to be proud to have a player like Gabriel Jesus here.

"This process really, I think, takes like seven months in terms of understanding each other and talking to each other, because also he had a lot of other opportunities and then he chooses because he understands who we are."

Raphinha was another player linked with Arsenal after scoring 11 goals in 35 Premier League appearances for Leeds United last season.

However, he made a big-money move to Barcelona earlier this month, and while Arsenal did speak to the winger's agent Deco, Edu revealed his heart was set on a move to Camp Nou.

"People think we went in too deep about Raphinha, because Raphinha was everywhere," Edu said. "It's fair, we did have some conversations with Deco because Deco is his agent and I have a good relationship [with him] - we are friends.

"I just said to Deco, 'can you explain to me the situation with Raphinha?' and he was clear, 'Edu, we have a good relationship but I'm not going to lie to you, his idea is to go to Barcelona because he's dreaming to go to Barcelona, and we've been talking to Barcelona since a long time ago'.

"[I said] 'okay, thank you very much, if something happens then just let me know because I can explore and understand the situation'. If not, no problem and we carry on with our relationship."

Charles De Ketelaere appears to be on the brink of a move to Milan, and Club Brugge team-mate Hans Vanaken revealed the Belgian champions' squad are resigned to his departure.

Milan are in the market for attacking reinforcements after winning their first Serie A title since 2010-11 last season, and Brugge star De Ketelaere has emerged as a target after scoring 18 goals in all competitions last term.

The Rossoneri's sporting director Paolo Maldini revealed he was confident of striking a deal for the 21-year-old after travelling to Belgium for talks this week, despite Brugge coach Carl Hoefkens insisting De Ketelaere would only be permitted to leave "at the right time".

De Ketelaere's team-mate Vanaken has revealed the Brugge players are resigned to losing the Belgium international, who he believes has the quality to star in Serie A.

"Against Milan in the Champions League could be a nice reunion," Vanaken told Belgian newspaper HLN.

"I haven't seen Paolo Maldini here this week, no. But we all read it too. There are no secrets.

"We all know that Milan will go to any lengths to get Charles. We're not swinging all those La Gazzetta dello Sport covers here, but we do speak some Italian to him sometimes.

"Charles is a super talent who has grown enormously here in three years. He has shown that he is ready to take the step."

However, De Ketelaere may not have made his final Brugge appearance after Hoefkens confirmed he is available for their season opener against Genk on Sunday.

"For me, he is still part of club. He is also available for Sunday," Hoefkens said of the attacking midfielder. "This is not easy for him, he has never experienced anything like it.

"It's something special, we're trying to understand it as best we can."

Milan will hope to have De Ketelaere on board when they begin their Serie A title defence against Udinese on August 13.

Bruno Fernandes claims to be in the dark regarding Cristiano Ronaldo's Manchester United future, as he hit out at criticism of his own performances last season.

Ronaldo has reportedly asked to leave Old Trafford less than a year after returning from Juventus, with United having stumbled to a sixth-placed Premier League finish last term.

The 37-year-old has scored 140 Champions League goals, 15 more than his closest rival Lionel Messi, and his desire to feature in European football's premier club competition has been reported as an important motivation behind his desire to leave.

Ronaldo has yet to train with Erik ten Hag's team ahead of the new season, missing the club's tour of Asia and Australia due to family reasons. 

While United remain steadfast in their desire to keep the forward, Fernandes says any decision made by Ronaldo must be respected, but claims to know nothing of his compatriot's intentions.

"I don't know, obviously Cristiano was our top scorer last season, he added goals to us, but obviously it's not on me, it's the club that has to make the choices and Cristiano makes his own choice," Fernandes said, in comments reported by the Athletic.

"I don't know what's going on in his head, if he wants to leave, it's all news. I didn't ask him that.

"The only thing I asked Cristiano, when he didn't turn up [for pre-season training], was if everything was okay with the family. He told me what was going on, that's it and nothing more.

"We have to respect the decision of everyone. I don't know what Cristiano said to the club, to the manager, I don't know what is going on in his head, but we have to respect his space.

"From everything we know, he had some family problems, so we have to give him some space and that's it."

 

Ronaldo top-scored with 24 goals in all competitions for United last term, and was the only player to register more strikes than Fernandes (10), who also topped the club's assist charts with 13.

Yet the creative midfielder attracted criticism for a perceived lack of discipline on and off the ball, an assessment he rejects after caretaker boss Ralf Rangnick struggled to implement a high-pressing style.

"I don't understand that type of question of keeping the ball or whatever it is," Fernandes said.

"I keep the ball when I think I have to keep it, I try a pass when I think I have to do it. Sometimes it goes good, sometimes wrong. 

"Obviously when it goes wrong, I know that shouldn't be the one, but sometimes when you play in the number 10 position you have only a few seconds to think and control the ball and make the pass.

"I understand of course that someone has his own opinion, but when I arrived in 2020, I was losing the same amount of balls in those six months, and then the year after I lost the same amount of balls, but I scored 28 goals so people don't complain about that. 

"Last season, because I scored 'only' 10, people start complaining, but I'm okay with that, I don't worry.

"I know I always give my best, I always try to help my team-mates. They know that even when I miss the passes, I'm trying to give something to them, so I'm okay with that.

"Obviously I will have to do what the coach demands from me, and what he demands from me I will do."

United have won on all three of their pre-season outings under Ten Hag to date, and will begin their first Premier League campaign under the Dutchman at home to Brighton and Hove Albion on August 7.

Europa League finalists Rangers will have to negotiate past Royale Union Saint-Gilloise in the Champions League third qualifying round, where PSV meet Monaco.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst's side entered the qualifying stages through their second-place finish in last season's Scottish Premiership, where winners progress to the play-off stage and losers go automatically into the Europa League group stage.

Rangers also embarked on an impressive run to the Europa League final last season, getting past Borussia Dortmund, Braga and RB Leipzig before being defeated on penalties by Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville.

Union finished second in Belgium's First Division A after a 48-year top-flight absence and will pose a tough task in the two-legged clash, with the first meeting on August 2-3 before the return tie a week later.

Rangers lost at this round to Malmo last year and last made the group stage of UEFA's premier club competition back in 2010-11.

PSV were beaten Europa Conference League quarter-finalists last season, but the team now led by Ruud van Nistelrooy earned a shot at the Champions League after finishing second in the Eredivisie, and will face Monaco.

The Ligue 1 side seemed set to secure group-stage qualification themselves but will have to battle through qualification after they were pipped for second place on the final day of the season by Marseille.

In the other league path fixtures, the winner of Dynamo Kyiv and Fenerbahce will meet Austria's Sturm Graz, while last year's Champions League quarter-finalists Benfica will face either Midtjylland or AEK Larnaca.

The draw for the Champions League play-off round will be on August 1, with those ties taking place over August 16-17 and 23-24.

Lucas Moura insists he is committed to Tottenham amid uncertainty over his future, as he expressed his desire to end a trophyless spell in north London next season.

The Brazil international revealed last month that the 2022-23 campaign could be his last with Spurs, though the forward's agent was quick to suggest his client remains an important part of Antonio Conte's plans.

Moura may have to settle for a rotational role, or play at wing-back as Conte previously hinted, due to the arrival of Richarlison in the off-season, with the former Everton man joining Harry Kane, Dejan Kulusevski and Son Heung-min in Spurs' attack.

With just a year left on his contract, on which Tottenham hold an option for a further 12 months, Moura said his planned return to Brazil can wait until he has experienced success under Conte.

"I will turn 30 in August. I'm getting old already, but I feel very good mentally and physically," he told football.london. "I'm very, very happy at Tottenham. I love the club. I love the fans.

"I love everyone who works in the club, but of course I have a plan to go back to Brazil one day. I have at least one year in my contract, maybe two.

"I don't know if the club will want me to sign another contract but I'm happy here. I just want to have the best season this season. 

"I just want to win a trophy because this has been my objective here since the first day I arrived in the club, and I believe this season I can achieve this, and then we'll see next season what is the desire of the club."

The former Paris Saint-Germain attacker appeared 34 times across the 2021-22 Premier League campaign, scoring two goals and assisting six, while creating 34 chances.

That represented Moura's worst goal return when playing a full season in the English top flight, but he hopes to prove his worth in a bid to feature at the Qatar World Cup for Brazil in November.

"I have other targets, which are to go back to the national team," he added. "Why not play in the World Cup at the end of the year? It's very difficult but anything is possible.

"I have this hope and I will work for this. These are the two most important targets for now."

Moura's compatriot Richarlison is another who will aim to feature in Qatar for Brazil following his big-money move from Everton.

The 25-year-old scored (10) and assisted (five) more Premier League goals than any other Everton player last term, and Moura believes Conte's new signing could be a great asset.

"I met him two years ago on the national team. Quality player, very good guy, he will help us a lot because he has some experience in the Premier League," he continued.

"He is strong. His mentality is very good. He's a great addition for us. He's a very simple guy, very humble, very funny. It's always good to have a guy like this in the squad and I'm happy because he's Brazilian, so I have one more Brazilian with me now!

"He's always ready to play because we see he loves to play football. It's good to have a player like this. 

"This season we can see another Tottenham and I hope we achieve our targets because we have a quality squad and a great manager. We have the quality to win trophies and this is our objective.

"We know how difficult it is because we play in the Premier League and there are a lot of teams that can win. Also, the Champions League we know is not easy, but we have a great squad.

"We have stars like Harry and Sonny. We have a manager who is one of the best. We have a structure, an amazing training ground, an unbelievable stadium, great fans.

"We have everything we need to achieve. Now it depends on us. We need to work hard and show on the pitch we deserve to win."

Jose Mourinho will be able to roll up a shirt sleeve and show off his achievements after having his European trophy feats tattooed on his right arm.

The Portuguese has celebrated 20 seasons of success in UEFA club competitions by being inked, and he has revealed the designs are closely linked to the clubs where he enjoyed that success.

Mourinho is the only boss to have won the full set of the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League, while he was also a UEFA Cup winner with Porto.

He won the Champions League with Porto in 2004 and with Inter in 2010, adding the Europa League in 2017 while boss of Manchester United, and landing the inaugural Conference League with Roma last season.

Mourinho, the self-styled 'Special One', also won the UEFA Cup, the forerunner of the Europa League, in the 2002-03 season during his tenure at Porto.

The 59-year-old, who demanded "respect, respect, respect" for his three Premier League titles after United's painful defeat to Tottenham in August 2018, no longer needs to point to the record books to show off his European feats.

"This is my tattoo. The joy of the Roman people led me to do it," Mourinho wrote on Sunday, posting the designs on Instagram. "Then I thought about something special, something that would honour all the clubs where I won European competitions.

"At the same time, I wanted a unique tattoo, one that, so far, I am the only one who can have it."

Mourinho hinted earlier in the week that he had been to see a tattooist, revealing a patch on his upper right arm that has been hiding the design.

Each trophy is pictured, with the Europa League and Conference League flanking the coveted Champions League silverware, and the colours of each of the clubs where he achieved the success are included on the cups.

Sebastian Haller says he does not want to be labelled as "someone's successor" after replacing Erling Haaland at Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland scored 86 goals in 89 appearances during his two-and-a-half-year spell at Dortmund before making a big-money move to Manchester City last month.

That tally was bettered by only Robert Lewandowski (123 in 108 games) and Kylian Mbappe (93 in 111 games) of players from Europe's top five leagues during that period.

Dortmund swiftly acted to replace the Norway international, signing Haller from Ajax for a reported €36million and exciting forward Karim Adeyemi from RB Salzburg.

Haller caught the eye with Ajax during a talismanic 18-month spell that included 11 goals in just eight Champions League appearances in the 2021-22 season.

But the Ivory Coast striker was quick to dismiss comparisons with Haaland, insisting he did not want to be viewed as a replacement for the prolific striker.

"I'm not coming to Borussia Dortmund as someone's successor, but because the club needs my quality," he told reporters on Sunday at Dortmund's Bad Ragaz training camp in Switzerland. 

"So I'll do my best to give back the confidence. I knew that BVB had been interested for a long time, by that I mean during the last season.

"But there is a big difference between interest and the transfer fee. When it became concrete, I felt that Dortmund had a very good option for me. In the end, it certainly wasn't a bad deal for Ajax either."

 

Barcelona struck a deal with Bayern Munich on Saturday to bring Lewandowski to the Blaugrana for a reported €50m, including add-ons.

The Poland captain scored 50 goals last season in all competitions, more than any other player in Europe's top five leagues, but Haller refused to suggest Bayern would be weaker without Lewandowski.

"Time will tell. I'm here now to play for Borussia Dortmund and do my best. Not to talk about the situation at other clubs," he added.

"It doesn't matter to me whether he still played at Bayern or not. I want to win games with my team. I don't focus on other teams.

"First of all, to be able to achieve anything, we have to win our games. If we're not successful, then we don't need to look at others anyway.

"I focus on the way we play, on our team, and I want to adapt quickly instead of worrying about our opponents getting weaker. It's like this: If you want to win titles, you have to focus on yourself."

Dortmund start their new campaign with a DFB-Pokal tie against 1860 Munich on July 26, with their Bundesliga season starting at home to Bayer Leverkusen on August 6.

Robert Lewandowski's time at Bayern Munich has come to an end.

Barcelona have struck a deal in principle with the Bundesliga champions to sign the star forward, who expressed his desire to leave Munich at the end of last season.

Lewandowski scored 50 goals across all competitions in the 2021-22 campaign, continuing his remarkable form across his eight-year spell in Bavaria.

Before his move to Bayern in 2014, Lewandowski was brilliant for Borussia Dortmund, and he leaves Germany as one of the Bundesliga's greatest performers, having scored 344 goals and contributing 57 assists.

Here are the 33-year-old's best figures and records from his stint in Germany's top tier.
 

Bossing the Bundesliga

312 - Lewandowski has scored 312 Bundesliga goals, the second most scored by any player in the history of the competition behind the great Gerd Muller's tally of 365.

128 - Of those 312 goals, 128 have come on the road, which is the most by any Bundesliga player.

 

7 - Lewandowski finished as the Bundesliga's top scorer in seven different seasons, equalling the record set by Bayern legend Muller.

41 - He also broke Muller's long-standing record of scoring 40 goals in a single Bundesliga season when he netted 41 in the 2020-21 campaign.

5 - The Poland forward has finished as the league's top scorer in the last five seasons, with no other player managing such a long streak in the competition's history.
 

A king in Europe

86 - Lewandowski has scored 86 Champions League goals, with only Cristiano Ronaldo (140) and Lionel Messi (125) having scored more, while his tally is matched by Real Madrid star Karim Benzema.

106 -Yet no other player has needed fewer Champions League appearances to reach 86 goals (Lewandowski 106, Messi 107, Ronaldo 121, Benzema 141).

 

23 - In the 2021-22 season, Lewandowski scored three goals within the first 23 minutes against RB Salzburg in the last 16. That is the quickest hat-trick in Champions League history.

5 - Lewandowski has scored three or more goals in a Champions League game on five occasions, with only Ronaldo and Messi (both eight) doing so more times.

1 - He is the only player to score four goals in a Champions League semi-final tie, having done so for Dortmund against Madrid in 2013.

Carlo Ancelotti claims Real Madrid have already completed their summer spending as he ruled out any more arrivals at the Santiago Bernabeu.

That underlines a staggering difference between Madrid and their great rivals Barcelona, who have barely got started and are hoping for pieces to fall into place to allow a spree to go ahead.

Madrid, the LaLiga and Champions League double winners, have brought in German defender Antonio Rudiger on a free transfer from Chelsea, while landing French midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni from Monaco for a reported initial €80million.

The club cleared plenty of space on their wage bill by offloading Gareth Bale, Isco, Marcelo and Luka Jovic, and head coach Ancelotti has decided to keep trust with the bulk of the squad that achieved so much last season.

"I can't talk about signings, but I'm already saying that everything is over. We're not going to sign anyone. We're fine like this," Ancelotti said.

As Barcelona wrestle to get players in and out, the message is already clear from Madrid that the champions have their ducks in a row already and cannot wait to get going in the 2022-23 campaign.

Ancelotti, who was speaking to international media ahead of Madrid's pre-season trip to the United States, saw Rudiger and Tchouameni come through their first training sessions with Madrid on Thursday.

The new pair were described by Ancelotti as "the best that could be found on the market".

The first pre-season test for Madrid comes against Barcelona in Las Vegas on the evening of Saturday, July 23. That Clasico clash is "not an exhibition", according to Ancelotti.

Quoted in the Spanish press, the Italian boss said: "It's never a friendly against Barcelona. They are the team we respect the most and the one with the greatest rivalry."

There could be an experiment or two from Ancelotti before the season begins, as he toys with the idea of using Eden Hazard as a 'false nine' striker.

Ancelotti is wary about overburdening captain and star striker Karim Benzema, and he believes Belgian Hazard could thrive in the role when called upon.

Madrid have the defence of their domestic and European titles as obvious targets, and a mid-season World Cup complicates planning for the campaign ahead.

"We have many options for that position. Benzema is number one, but we have to understand that this will be a strange season, different, with the World Cup in the middle, and we have to look at different options," Ancelotti said.

"My idea is to try to see Eden in that position. Given the quality that Eden has, it could be good for us to test him there."

Ousmane Dembele believes Barcelona can challenge to win the Champions League after the France winger signed his new two-year contract.

Former Borussia Dortmund star Dembele looked to be heading out of Barcelona in January when acrimonious wrangling over his future led to him being ordered to find a new club.

At the time, Dembele had refused an extension to his deal, which ran through to the end of June, and Barcelona wanted to recoup some of his value rather than see him leave on a free transfer.

Yet it was all hugs and good will on Thursday as 25-year-old Dembele completed the formalities of the contract that will keep him at Barcelona until the end of the 2023-24 season.

Hampered by hamstring and knee trouble during his first five years at the club, Dembele hopes better times lie ahead.

He said: "It's a very happy day. Barca have been my club since I was little, and I hope to help them.

"These have been very difficult years due to injuries, but now it is another time. Staying was always my first option. I told this to the president and coach. It has taken a long time, but we are all happy. I'm looking forward to the season starting.

"The goal is to win titles, the dream is the Champions League, and I'm going to give everything to win this title. I'm going to work hard, and I hope it's a very good year for me and for Barca."

Dembele believes Barcelona are well placed, with Xavi as head coach and Joan Laporta pulling the strings as president, to bring the glory days back to Camp Nou.

He said there were "many people who have helped me a lot" at Barcelona, adding: "Now I have the confidence of everyone, and I am much better."

Laporta will be hoping Dembele delivers on his word as he looks to put the promise into practice, having been a key performer over the second half of last season.

Dembele has made 150 appearances for Barca and came to the fore when setting up 13 goals in the 2021-22 LaLiga campaign – more than any other player in the Spanish top flight.

He was particularly impressive after Xavi summoned him to help the team once it was clear he would not be moving on. Across the LaLiga campaign he made just 15 starts, plus six substitute appearances, so Dembele will be looking to play a fuller role in future.

Laporta, who hopes to close out the signing of Raphinha from Leeds United this week, said the signing of Dembele to new terms marked "a very important day for Barca".

"He has always wanted to stay and the truth is that he has made an effort to enter the new salary scale," Laporta said.

"Dembele has an incomparable talent, very specific. He brings us a lot. Xavi has loved him from the first moment.

"This year is very important, we have to win trophies. I am convinced that we will achieve it. Today is a very emotional day for me. The coach loves you, but so does the club."

Liverpool chief executive Billy Hogan wants to see the French government apologise for the chaos prior to the Champions League final.

An enquiry carried out by the French senate found that the issues at the Stade de France on May 28 - which resulted in kick-off being delayed - were caused by "a string of dysfunctions".

The French government initially accused Liverpool fans, who were sprayed with tear gas and complained of being subjected to heavy-handed policing, of being at fault for having fake tickets and arriving at the ground late.

Two senate committees launched an investigation to discover what happened prior to Real Madrid's 1-0 win and concluded that Liverpool fans were not to blame.

Following the publication of that report, Liverpool chief Hogan has asked for an apology from the French government as a whole.

He told Liverpool's official website: "I would say I was incredibly encouraged to see one of the senators specifically apologise to the Liverpool fans and to the Real Madrid fans for what happened on the night.

"I would ask that the French government do the same. Not just to the fans of Liverpool and Real Madrid but to both clubs, who have had reputational issues coming out of the final and we would hope they would extend an apology where one is deserved."

UEFA previously launched an independent investigation, and Hogan hopes the findings of the senate's report will play a part in their findings.

"I would hope and certainly we would expect that this review would play a part in the UEFA independent investigation as well," he said.

"That panel obviously is just getting going in that process and we would certainly hope that Dr Tiago Rodrigues and the panel would use the senate's findings as a critical part of their research and investigation into the events around the final at the Stade de France."

Of the report as a whole, Hogan said: "From our perspective, we just think that goes back to what we talked about immediately after the event and the fact there were a number of accusations, frankly, put out there immediately after the event and in fact blaming fans for what happened on that night.

"I think what we're seeing from the senate clearly shows that is not the case. And finally, they have clearly gone through a process here over the course of the last several weeks, spoken with a number of individuals, a number of different stakeholders, so we would welcome and support the 15 recommendations that came out of the report."

An enquiry carried out by the French Senate found chaotic scenes before the Champions League final were caused by "a string of dysfunctions" in the organisation of the event, rather than Liverpool supporters.

The kick-off for the showdown between the Reds and Real Madrid at the Stade de France on May 28 was delayed due to alarming scenes outside the stadium in Paris.

The French government initially accused Liverpool fans, who were sprayed with tear gas and complained of being subjected to heavy-handed policing, of being at fault for having fake tickets and arriving at the ground late.

Paris police chief Didier Lallement apologised to supporters for the use of tear gas and his wrong estimation of the number of fake tickets that were in circulation.

Two Senate committees launched an investigation to discover what happened prior to Madrid's 1-0 win and concluded that Liverpool fans were not to blame.

The report stated: "It is unfair to have wanted to make supporters of the Liverpool team bear the responsibility for the disturbances that occurred, as the Minister of the Interior did to divert attention from the inability of the state to adequately manage the crowds present and to curb the action of several hundred violent and co-ordinated offenders."

"The systems put in place had major shortcomings with regard to the intelligence [absence of hooligans but presence of delinquents in large numbers], the transport routes for supporters [removal of a drop-off route at the surroundings of the stadium] and insufficient communication.

"It is not only in the execution that problems arose. Upstream, the crisis scenarios were insufficiently worked on and did not demonstrate the necessary flexibility in the face of so many unanticipated events."

The report's co-chairman, Laurent Lafon added: "The gravity of what happened at the Stade de France shows that there are many decisions to be taken to ensure this doesn't happen again at the Rugby World Cup or the Olympic Games."

He continued: "There was a need to communicate clearly about transporting the fans from the train station between the chief of police, the French Football Federation, and the train operators but this didn't happen.

"We recommend communicating with football supporters more and improving the attractiveness of the area around the Stade de France so that people are willing to arrive early.

"We want the authorities' view of football supporters to change, that is a strong recommendation that we are making."

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