Paris Saint-Germain have been hit with a fine from UEFA that could rise to €65million after failing to comply with break-even rules put in place by European football's governing body.

The Ligue 1 champions were one of eight clubs served with financial fair play penalties, with Roma, Milan, Monaco, Besiktas, Inter, Juventus and Marseille the others affected.

UEFA said its Club Financial Control Body analysed the financial years 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 for clubs that competed in its European competitions last season, with special measures applied for 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic's impact on football.

PSG have invested heavily in star players including the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos and Gianluigi Donnarumma, while retaining the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe in their ranks.

They must pay €10m, with the remainder of their punishment suspended for now, payable only if they fail to meet future targets.

Given the wealth of PSG's Qatari owners, questions will be asked about how significantly any such fine might affect the French giants.

Italian club Roma were served with a €35m fine, but similarly to the PSG case, only €5m of that is unconditional. They will avoid paying the rest if they meet UEFA requirements in future. Roma, managed by Jose Mourinho, won last season's Europa Conference League.

Their Serie A rivals Inter, Juventus and Milan were hit with €26m, €23m and €15m punishments, but must pay only €4m, €3.5m and €2m initially.

Turkish outfit Besiktas were fined €4m, but will pay €600,000 for now, while PSG's domestic opponents Marseille and Monaco were each penalised €2m, required to pay just €300,000 if they toe the line.

UEFA said: "These eight clubs agreed to financial contributions of €172m.

"These amounts will be withheld from any revenues these clubs earn from participating in UEFA club competitions or paid directly.

"Of this amount, €26m (15 per cent) shall be paid in full while the remaining balance of €146m (85 per cent) is conditional depending on these clubs' compliance with the targets stated in the respective settlement agreement."

Those settlement agreements will span three or four years. Inter and Roma requested four-year terms, while all other clubs elected for three years.

UEFA said the clubs would "undertake to reach intermediate annual targets, and to the application of conditional financial and sporting measures should these targets not be met".

It added that 19 further clubs, including Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea, Barcelona, Manchester City, Sevilla, Lazio, Napoli and West Ham, fulfilled the break-even requirement only "thanks to the application of the COVID-19 emergency measures and/or because they benefited from historical positive break-even results".

UEFA said these clubs would be "further asked for additional financial information and will be monitored closely in the upcoming period".

Antonio Conte believes Tottenham remain a long way away from challenging for the Premier League title despite enjoying a busy transfer window.

The north London club have strengthened their squad significantly since securing a top-four finish on the final day of last season, bringing in the likes of Richarlison, Yves Bissouma, Ivan Perisic and Clement Lenglet.

Spurs have made a bright start to the new campaign, picking up 11 points from their first five Premier League outings. 

Should they avoid defeat against Fulham on Saturday, Conte's men will have gone unbeaten through their first six games of a Premier League season for just the third time, having previously done so in 2004-05 and 2016-17.

However, while Conte claims to be pleased with Spurs' work in the transfer market, he believes his side have much to do to push the country's elite. 

"I think that we have to understand that in this transfer window, we did what the club could do," he said on Friday.

"I think that we did good things, but I have to be honest with you because if I see the other squads of the top teams, there is too much distance.

"For this reason, we have to know that we have just started on this process to improve the squad. 

"We tried to do it in January with [Rodrigo] Bentancur and [Dejan] Kulusevski and we tried to do that in this window on a numerical and quality aspect. 

"But to be competitive and to fight to be a title contender and to try to get a place in the Champions League, you need at least three transfer windows more to improve and to be in the same level as the other clubs.

"I'm sure that we are going in the right way for the capacity of the club at this moment to invest money.

"We have to be realistic to understand that there are clubs who can invest different money and other clubs that can invest normal money. For sure, the path is hard because of this aspect. 

"We want to continue to improve. I am happy to have this group of players and the new players are inside the team and inside the dressing room. We did the right things, but we have just started, if someone thinks we have completed the situation, we are very far from this."

Tottenham earned praise for completing several deals in the early stages of the window, but Conte does not believe that will give them an advantage over wealthier rivals.

"If you sign a player £80million or £100m on the last day you have a big advantage, because it means you are signing a top player," he added.

"You can sign players also for free or on loan, and it is a different situation. I want to be very clear on that."

After beating local rivals Arsenal to Champions League qualification last term, Spurs return to Europe's premier club competition when they host Marseille on Wednesday.

Conte claimed Spurs' congested fixture list will represent a crucial test of where they stand, adding: "The season starts now for a club like us playing in the Champions League, because in the Europa League and Europa Conference League you can allow yourself to make big rotations. 

"But in the Champions League you have to play a strong team and this is a harder task. This is a good opportunity for me and the club to understand if we miss something."

It wasn't particularly certain we would arrive at Kylian Mbappe's five-year anniversary at Paris Saint-Germain.

For well over a year, it was widely expected the superstar forward would swap the French capital for the Spanish and join European heavyweights Real Madrid.

But, lo and behold, an eye-watering new deal that runs until June 2025 was agreed back in May, much to the fury of Madrid and the joy of the PSG faithful.

A lot has changed since 2017, not least the fact Mbappe is now a World Cup winner with France.

And yet, there is a feeling that the PSG mission is very much not accomplished, so just how do we judge Mbappe's success at the Parc des Princes thus far?
 

DOMESTIC DOMINANCE

Mbappe has won Ligue 1 in four of his five seasons with PSG, adding to the title lifted in his last year with Monaco in 2016-17, and also has three Coupe de France, two Coupe de la Ligue and two Trophee des Champions to his name.

While it has not quite been a clean sweep of honours for the Parisians, they have dominated domestically during Mbappe's time at the club and the France international has played a huge part in that.

Indeed, since making his PSG debut in September 2017, only Robert Lewandowski (185) and now team-mate Lionel Messi (203) have been directly involved in more goals across Europe's top five leagues than Mbappe's 167 – 123 goals and 44 assists.

Yet, harshly or otherwise, Mbappe's domestic achievements with PSG are often discredited due to club's sheer financial might. For all the Ligue 1 titles, it is the Champions League that is considered to be the true barometer of success for the French giants.
 

EUROPEAN SHORTCOMINGS

PSG have consistently fallen below expectations in the Champions League, coming closest to winning Europe's elite club competition in the 2019-20 season when they lost to Bayern Munich in the final in Lisbon.

The following season, PSG reached the semi-finals of the competition before losing to Manchester City. In Mbappe's other three seasons in Paris, they have fallen at the last-16 stage – most recently last term against Real Madrid.

In Mbappe's five years at the Parc des Princes, he has scored more Champions League goals than any of his team-mates, netting 27 in all, with Neymar being his closest rival in that regard with 20 goals.

While Mbappe cannot do it all himself, he must shoulder some responsibility for PSG's continental shortcomings – particularly as in his first three seasons at the club, he netted just one knockout goal in the competition.

That came in 2018-19 in the round of 16 against Manchester United, when PSG suffered elimination after the Reds Devils' remarkable comeback at the Parc des Princes.

Mbappe also failed to score in the knockout stages in 2019-20 as PSG finished runners-up in the competition, though there has been a significant upturn in the past two seasons, with the forward netting four across two legs against Barcelona in the 2020-21 last 16, including a famous hat-trick at Camp Nou, then scoring twice in the quarter-finals as PSG knocked out Bayern.

In the 2021-22 season, Mbappe repeated the feat against Real Madrid in the last 16, scoring twice, but PSG were eliminated as Karim Benzema turned the tie on its head.

All in all, nine of Mbappe's 27 Champions League goals have come in the knockout stages, eight of which have come in the last two seasons. Including the group stages, Mbappe has scored 14 goals in the past two seasons, compared to 13 in his first three years.

Yet all he has to show for it is that runners-up medal from 2020.


ANOTHER NEW ERA, DIFFERENT STORY?

With five years already under his belt as a PSG player and potentially three more to come (though Madrid will surely have something to say about that), Mbappe still has plenty left to achieve in his home city.

He is just 26 goals short of overtaking Edinson Cavani as the club's all-time record goalscorer, yet personal milestones will surely be sacrificed in pursuit of that elusive Champions League crown.

Now joined by Neymar and Messi in one of the most star-studded forward lines in history, anything less than going all the way for PSG will be deemed a massive failure – as was the case last season when the front three struggled to truly click.

Having fallen short in agonising fashion with that aforementioned defeat to Madrid in last season's knockouts, the French champions have taken a calculated gamble by replacing Mauricio Pochettino – who never truly took to the job – with former Lille and Nice boss Christophe Galtier.

Reunited with de factor sporting director Luis Campos, with whom he worked closely at Lille to help create the team that pipped PSG to the Ligue 1 title by a point in 2020-21, the Parisians have opted to take a different approach in their quest to be kings of Europe.

The early indications are positive, too, with PSG winning their opening three Ligue 1 matches and scoring 17 goals in the process – a tally only Rennes (18 goals in 1950-51) have bettered in the competition's history at that stage.

PSG were held 1-1 by Monaco last time out, however, and their impressive start has not come without its complications. Neymar and Mbappe clashed in the 5-2 win against Montpellier over who would take a penalty, and the latter was also spotted seemingly sulking in the same game after the ball was not played his way.

It appears some things may never change at PSG in that regard, but ending the club's wait for continental glory is something that simply must happen if Mbappe is to eventually bow out having achieved all he set out to at his boyhood club.

Inter have confirmed Romelu Lukaku will be absent for at least a week with a thigh injury.

The Belgian forward sustained the issue in a training session on Sunday and will be reassessed next week, though his absence means he will miss two crucial games for the Nerazzurri.

Lukaku will be forced to watch on in Tuesday's Serie A clash against Cremonese and will remain absent for the derby against defending champions Milan this weekend.

It is also likely that the Chelsea loanee will not be able to feature when Inter commence their Champions League campaign against Bayern Munich next week.

A statement on Inter's website confirmed Lukaku had suffered an injury to the flexor of his left thigh and said his condition will be re-evaluated next week.

Reports in Italy have suggested Lukaku could be out for a longer period of 20 days, which would mean missing further clashes against Torino and Udinese in Serie A and Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League.

Inter have picked up six points from their opening three league matches, beating Lecce and Spezia before defeat to Lazio on Friday.

Antonio Conte has "no problem" with Son Heung-min's form as he backed the Tottenham forward to hit the goal trail following a barren start to the season.

While Tottenham have begun the new Premier League campaign well, taking seven points from their first three outings, Son has struggled to replicate his fine form from last season.

Son shared the Premier League's Golden Boot with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah after scoring 23 goals last term but is yet to find the net in 2022-23.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's trip to promoted Nottingham Forest, however, Conte praised the attitude of the South Korea international and insisted the goals will come. 

"You know very well we're talking about a really, really important player for me and for the club," he said.

"For sure, I think Sonny in the last three games had chances to score but there's a moment where you're a bit lucky or a bit unlucky. 

"I think [there is] no problem with Sonny's performance. His attitude and commitment are always up very high. I'm happy with his performance and I don't see any problems with him.

"For sure, you know very well when you're a striker you like to score, and when you score and win you're happy. 

"But at the same time, we always have to put the club winning before the interests of every single player. 

"But it's not a problem. I repeat, he's an important player, last season he scored 23 goals... No problem. I'm sure when he goes to score, he will gain the right confidence."

Meanwhile, Spurs have made seven senior signings during a busy transfer window, including the likes of Richarlison, Yves Bissouma and Ivan Perisic, and Conte suggested there could be more to come, particularly if players depart.

"If there are players that go out, we need players to come in," he added.

"The club know very well the importance for me to have a squad, to have a couple of players in every role."

Conte's desire to add depth to his squad is partly motivated by their participation in the Champions League, where they will face Eintracht Frankfurt, Sporting CP and Marseille in Group D.

Spurs last took part in European football's premier club competition in 2019-20, but Conte believes they have every chance of progressing from an evenly matched group. 

"You know very well we're talking about the most important and most difficult competition in Europe, maybe in the world," Conte said.

"You find the best teams in the world in this competition. Our group, I see balance. I see balance in our group.

"For sure our target is to try to go to the next round, this has to be clear. I think we gained the possibility to play this important competition and we want to enjoy, to play good football and possibly to go far."

Pep Guardiola is adamant Bernardo Silva will stay at Manchester City beyond the end of transfer window, as he revealed the club are yet to receive a formal offer for the versatile midfielder.

Silva had been strongly linked with a move to LaLiga giants Barcelona after stating that City "know what I want" earlier this month.

However, recent reports suggested Paris Saint-Germain had made a £59million (€69.7m) bid for the 28-year-old, who scored the equaliser in City's 3-3 draw at Newcastle United last Sunday.

Silva impressed as he scored 13 goals and added seven assists in 50 appearances for City last season, and Guardiola did little to play down talk of a move when he revealed the midfielder "likes Barcelona very much" this week.

But speaking ahead of Saturday's fixture against Crystal Palace, Guardiola offered his clearest declaration yet on Silva's future, insisting: "He will stay here, absolutely.

"We didn't have any phone calls from any club regarding Bernardo Silva. That's why he will stay."

Asked whether any late move for Silva would leave City in a difficult position as they attempted to source a replacement, Guardiola said: "Yeah, but I tell you, he will stay." 

City have added Erling Haaland, Kalvin Phillips, Sergio Gomez and Stefan Ortega to their squad since winning their fourth Premier League title in five years in May, while Julian Alvarez has arrived from River Plate, and Guardiola is more than happy with their business.

"I am always satisfied," he declared. "Now I start my seventh year [at the club]. I am always satisfied with the squad I have. I have no complaints."

Meanwhile, marquee signing Haaland, who has found the net three times in his first three Premier League outings, is set to return to former club Borussia Dortmund after City were drawn to face the Bundesliga outfit in the Champions League group stages.

City will also face Sevilla and Copenhagen when their continental campaign kicks off, and Guardiola says he is yet to discuss the trip to Dortmund with Haaland, adding: "I didn't speak with him, but I guess he will be happy to go back where he was so important. 

"The draw is the draw, it is what it is. We don't have much time, but we have time to start to know them more deeply, and hopefully we can go through."

Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier says the upcoming Champions League campaign will be a "new page" for the club but a "new book" for himself having learned the identity of their group stage opponents.

PSG were pitted against Juventus, Benfica and Maccabi Haifa in Group H in Thursday's draw as the club once again try to finally end their wait to lift European club football's most coveted prize.

Galtier does have previous experience of the Champions League, coaching Lille in the 2019-20 competition. However, being at the helm of a club expected to contend to win the tournament is a new experience for the former Saint-Etienne and Nice boss.

Asked how he is feeling ahead of his second Champions League campaign, Galtier said: "It's a new page for PSG, it's a new book for me. I am very motivated and determined, while staying focused. When you are the PSG coach, you want to be involved in these type of games.

"We know about the exposure and pressure in these games, I have not really felt it yet, but it will come. I'm looking forward to it, being involved in the competition and these big European evenings."

PSG are set to face an extremely congested fixture list as they juggle domestic and European commitments before the pause for the World Cup in November.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's Ligue 1 clash with Monaco, Galtier confirmed PSG are still looking to add quality players to a squad packed with world-class talent to ensure they are ready for the rigours of their schedule.

"There are players in our squad that are closer to leaving, we are also hoping to bring players in," he said. "We have singled out the positions where we are still looking to strengthen with quality players, but will that happen or not? I don't know.

"The later it gets, the harder it is to integrate them, but players who join PSG are top quality and have the ability to settle in quickly.

"The quicker they arrive the better, but there is still uncertainty there, and I am not the only one and we are not the only big club in this situation. We have to adapt and ensure we have the best possible squad to perform as well as we can in all competitions."

PSG midfielder Leandro Paredes has been linked with Juventus and goalkeeper Keylor Navas is the subject of speculation over a move to Napoli. There has also been talk of a late final PSG push to sign Inter defender Milan Skriniar, a player frequently connected with the club.

"In terms of Leandro Paredes, nothing is done at the moment, we will see how it goes by the end of the transfer window, there are lots of conversations going on," said Galtier.

"I know Leandro has been in talks with Juventus, which is normal. At the moment, Leandro Paredes is a PSG player and has been heavily involved in our games.

"As for Keylor Navas, he is a PSG player, he got injured last week before the game, he is playing normally and he will be in the squad.

"As for the Inter player you mentioned, I have no comment to make."

Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri insists he is not concerned by Dusan Vlahovic's struggles as the Bianconeri prepare to host fellow Scudetto hopefuls Roma.

Allegri faced fierce criticism from Juventus supporters in the aftermath of Monday's 0-0 draw at Sampdoria, during which Vlahovic managed just nine touches overall, and a mere three before the break. 

No player to take the field for 90 minutes in a Serie A game has had fewer touches since David Trezeguet had eight for Juventus against Catania in May 2008.

Since the start of last season, meanwhile, Vlahovic has scored 26 Serie A goals in 38 appearances, but just nine of those have come since his January move to Juventus (in 17 appearances).

Vlahovic has also gone from averaging a goal every 109 minutes for Fiorentina to scoring every 139 minutes for the Bianconeri, although his big chance conversation rate has risen since his move to Turin (80 per cent, as opposed to 73.33 per cent for Fiorentina last term).

With Juve's lack of creativity becoming a key talking point at the start of the campaign, Allegri is adamant Vlahovic's lack of involvement is not a worry.

"If he touched a ball and scored a goal, I'd be happy," Allegri said. "We had a bad first half with Sampdoria. 

"The games last 95 minutes, I got angry because in the second half the game had to be grasped. They were in trouble, we had opportunities that we didn't take advantage of. 

"It is normal that the performance of the first half should be improved, but there were also the merits of Sampdoria who closed the spaces and made the defenders play a lot.

"Last year we laid the foundations to go back to winning. We will try to do it, we will also see the market as it ends. The fun for me is winning and to do it you have to go through difficult moments. 

"It takes a little patience. That's why the other day, after the first half you had to stay calm because you could only improve."

Vlahovic will now be joined in the Juventus attack by Arkadiusz Milik, who has arrived from Marseille, while Paris Saint-Germain's Leandro Paredes has also been linked with a move to Turin.

Though Allegri refused to be drawn on the future of the Argentina midfielder, he believes Milik could form an effective partnership with Vlahovic and is prepared to throw him in immediately.

"Paredes hasn't arrived yet and I don't know if he will arrive. We need to concentrate on tomorrow's match," he added.

"[I'm] very happy with Milik, he has impressive numbers. As regards his characteristics, he can also play with Vlahovic. 

"We are waiting for the clearance that I hope will arrive in the afternoon, so tomorrow will be available. Since I haven't decided on the line-up yet, maybe I'll let him play from the beginning. But I don't know until tomorrow, this idea flashed on me."

Meanwhile, Juventus have been handed a difficult draw for the Champions League's group stages, where they will meet PSG, Benfica and Maccabi Haifa.

And Allegri expects Juve to face a direct battle for second place with the Portuguese outfit, adding: "In the Champions League these are all difficult matches, on paper PSG is stronger. 

"On paper, we play for the next round with Benfica. It is unlikely that there are easy games in Europe."

Robert Lewandowski deserves to receive a positive reception when he returns to Bayern Munich as a Barcelona player, according to Julian Nagelsmann.

Lewandowski is set for a swift visit to his former club after Barca were drawn to face the Bundesliga champions in Group C of the Champions League, alongside Inter and Viktoria Plzen.

The Poland international, who scored his first competitive goals for Barca in a 4-1 thrashing of Real Sociedad last week, left Bayern in somewhat acrimonious fashion after declaring that something had "died" within him in Germany.

But Nagelsmann believes Bayern's fans will give Lewandowski a warm welcome on his Allianz Arena return, declaring: "I think there will be applause.

"I never like it when someone gets whistled. I don't know all of the processes [leading to his exit], the fan in the stadium are even further away.

"There is always a second truth, that things are exaggerated, mistranslated."

On Bayern's tough-looking European draw, Nagelsmann added: "It's a challenging group, but we can and want to come through it."

 

Before Bayern turn their attentions to the Champions League, they will look to maintain a scintillating start to the Bundesliga campaign when they host Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday.

With nine points and a goal difference of +14 (15 goals scored, one conceded) after three games of the new season, Bayern have made the best start in the competition's history at this stage.

And they have been handed a further boost after midfielder Leon Goretzka returned to full training for the first time since undergoing knee surgery in July, although he will not play any part in Bayern's next outing.

"[Eric Maxim] Choupo-Moting was training again but had a few problems today," the Bayern boss added at a pre-match press conference on Friday. 

"Leon was also back today and completed parts of team training. Neither of them are options to play tomorrow."

Bayern's tally of 15 goals in their first three games of the Bundesliga season is also unmatched in the competition's history, and Jamal Musiala has played a key role, matching new arrival Sadio Mane with three league goals this campaign.

Bayern and Germany great Lothar Matthaus recently declared the 19-year-old could become the best player in the world within the next few years, but Nagelsmann is keen to keep the youngster grounded.

"He doesn't have a starting eleven guarantee," Nagelsmann said of Musiala. 

"Lothar's comparison is an honour. Lionel [Messi] has played at a high level for many years and he has yet to prove that. I trust him. But he's not quite at 100 per cent yet. 

"I'll be spoiled for choice tomorrow. He has no guarantee that he will play, like everybody else."

Manchester United new boy Casemiro hopes Cristiano Ronaldo stays at Old Trafford as the Portuguese forward continues to be linked with a move away.

Casemiro was reunited with former Real Madrid team-mate Ronaldo when he completed a £60million (€70m) move to Old Trafford on Monday.

The Brazilian could make his United debut on Saturday when the Red Devils travel to Southampton in the Premier League.

Enforcer Casemiro is the fourth major arrival at United during the transfer window, but manager Erik ten Hag's first few months at the helm have been characterised by constant speculation regarding Ronaldo's future.

Ronaldo reportedly declared his intention to leave United after they missed out on Champions League qualification last season, but many potential suitors – including Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid – have since ruled out signing the striker, who found the net 24 times in all competitions last term.

Ronaldo's future remains unclear with less than a week remaining in the transfer window, and he was dropped to the bench for United's 2-1 win over Liverpool on Monday – their first victory of the campaign.

Casemiro, however, is convinced of Ronaldo's continued importance, telling ESPN in Brazil: "The illusion of being able to play with him again ... he knows the respect I have for him.

"I hope he stays, because he is a player who gives you leadership, gives you many goals, is a winner and is very important to us.

"As we speak Portuguese too, we got closer. He was a guy who from the first day I arrived here, helped me a lot, gave me advice, is helping me a lot.

"He is a great player, one of the best of all time."

Having posted their lowest points tally (58) and worst defensive record (57 goals conceded) in their Premier League history last term, United will be featuring in the Europa League this season.

Casemiro, a five-time Champions League winner, is desperate to help United back into Europe's premier club competition, but he revealed the opportunity to play for one of the Premier League's biggest clubs was just as important in his considerations as he weighed up a move to United.

"I want to learn, United have always been very affectionate, from the first day, they made me feel comfortable," Casemiro said. "The coach was very attentive, charismatic from day one. They always showed interest. This is very important.

"The Champions League, of course, I want to win, if we don't play [in it], I'll be sad. I want to be there, even for the greatness of the club. But that happens with work and dedication.

"But the club has always shown a lot of affection, as well as Real. The feeling of being in a big club and being able to play in a big league like the Premier League, is very good and very important."

Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper Gregor Kobel believes Manchester City's Erling Haaland will be "very motivated" against his former club in the Champions League.

The Norway international moved to the Premier League champions for a £51.2million fee in the transfer market, quickly adjusting to life in England with three goals in three top-flight appearances.

City's star striker will be looking to transfer that form onto the continental stage when the Champions League begins next month, the start of a frantic period with the six group games condensed into a nine-week period due to the World Cup.

Drawn alongside former employers Dortmund, as well as Sevilla and Copenhagen, Haaland will have an immediate opportunity to bite the hand that used to feed him – and Kobel warned he will "definitely" perform.

"A small advantage? I think it's the same for Erling Haaland as it is for me," he said.

"So, I'm sure he knows me very well, I know him relatively well. I'm sure he will come back very, very motivated.

"And he will definitely perform well – it's always the case against your old club. But as I said, we will make it as difficult as possible for him and we want to win these games."

Haaland has a stellar record in the competition, netting 23 goals from his time with Dortmund and Salzburg for an average of 1.42 goals per game.

City have won each of their past eight Champions League home games against German opponents, meanwhile, scoring a combined 39 goals and conceding nine.

Bayern Munich and Barcelona await Inter in the Champions League group stage, but Nerazzurri vice-president Javier Zanetti insists his side are "not afraid" of the challenge.

UEFA's flagship club competition has provided a headline reunion with new Barca arrival Robert Lewandowski returning to his former side Bayern in Group C.

The draw of the Poland talisman revisiting the Allianz Arena remains the standout pick of the group-stage clashes, with Inter and Viktoria Plzen the other two sides to compete alongside the European giants.

Simone Inzaghi's side pushed Liverpool close in the round-of-16 clash last season and, despite falling to the Reds, Zanetti insists the Nerazzurri will take a no-fear approach to their draw alongside Bayern and Barca.

"It is a difficult, complicated group, with two teams that know how to play very well in this competition," Zanetti told Sky Sport Italia when asked about facing the two European heavyweights. 

"The Champions League is a competition of details, with the best in the world. We are there and we will play it.

"It is a challenge to face these teams now. Bayern is a team that has consolidated, Barca has found balance with Xavi, we want to give continuity to last year's progress.

"We are not afraid, only respect, I believe that Inter will be ready and prepared."

While the prospect of locking horns with Barca and Bayern may prove daunting, Inter and Zanetti have fond memories of facing both sides in Europe's premier club competition.

Indeed the Nerazzurri, then managed by Jose Mourinho, overcame the Blaugrana 3-2 on aggregate in the semi-finals, before seeing off the German giants 2-0 to lift the trophy in 2009-10 – a feat that Zanetti hopes his side can repeat.

"Yes, it's a good memory that came to mind," the Argentine said as he discussed that victorious campaign.

"This is another story, football has changed. We will prepare our matches in the best possible way; we are growing and we proved it last season. We will try again this year."

The draw for the group stages of the 2022-23 Champions League has thrown up major talking points with Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland set for reunions with their former employers.

Lewandowski's Barcelona will face Bayern Munich, while Haaland returns to Borussia Dortmund now donning the shirt of Manchester City.

Having scored 344 goals for Bayern, with whom he won eight consecutive Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 2019-20, the German giants will be fearful of the threat Lewandowski will pose.

Players coming toe-to-toe with their former clubs is nothing new and Stats Perform has selected five memorable occasions from years gone by.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Having left Manchester United in 2009, Cristiano Ronaldo faced off against the Red Devils for the first time in the first knockout round of the 2012-13 Champions League, scoring in both legs.

Five years later, in the 2018-19 group stages of the competition, Ronaldo this time played against United for Juventus, scoring in a 2-1 defeat in Turin.

During his illustrious career, Ronaldo also went up against Sporting CP, the club where he started his career, scoring three goals in four matches.

Luis Figo

Luis Figo's controversial move from Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000 is now the focus of a Netflix documentary and, to this day, still stands as one of the most shocking transfers in football history.

Two years later, in November 2002, Figo returned to Camp Nou for the second time and received a fiery reception from the home supporters, who threw numerous objects towards the Portuguese star. Most notable was a pig's head.

Figo spent five years in the Spanish capital, winning LaLiga twice and the Champions League in 2001-02.

Robin van Persie 

Signed as a youngster by Arsenal, Robin van Persie grew to become one of the greatest players in the Arsene Wenger era and captained the side from 2011 after Cesc Fabregas' move to Barcelona.

A move to Manchester United came just a year later, however, with the Dutch striker going on to score home and away against the Gunners, celebrating at Old Trafford after abuse from the visiting fans.

The biggest pain he inflicted on Arsenal came in the Premier League. United won the title following his signing, with the Arsenal squad giving them a guard of honour at the end of the campaign.

James Rodriguez

Signed by Real Madrid after starring at the 2014 World Cup, the Colombian's stint in the Spanish capital was not as he would have hoped. He became an expendable asset, which saw him sent to Bayern Munich for two years in 2017.

In the semi-finals of the 2017-18 Champions League, the loanee faced his parent club and scored in a 2-2 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu, with there being no clause preventing him from featuring in the game.

Bayern lost 4-3 on aggregate, however, with Madrid going on to win the title that season.

Robert Lewandowski

Facing familiar opposition is nothing new for Lewandowski, who had to do it time and time again during his spell with Bayern Munich.

The Poland international was devastating against Borussia Dortmund for Bayern, scoring 27 goals in 26 games. That included two hat-tricks in the Bundesliga, one of which came in a 6-0 demolition in the 2017-18 season.

 

Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema has been named the 2021-22 UEFA Men's Player of the Year, beating team-mate Thibaut Courtois and Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne to the gong.

The France international solidified his status as the frontrunner for this year's Ballon d'Or with victory over the pair, with the award bestowed following the Champions League group-stage draw in Istanbul on Thursday.

Benzema, top scorer in both the Champions League and LaLiga last term as he guided Madrid to a double, netted 44 goals in 46 games across all competitions.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti also was feted at the ceremony, beating Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp to be awarded the UEFA Men's Coach of the Year Award.

Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland will swiftly come toe-to-toe with their former teammates following Thursday's group-stage draw for the Champions League.

Fresh from his move to Camp Nou in the transfer window, Lewandowski will return to familiar surroundings with Barcelona and Bayern Munich – who boast 11 Champions League titles between them – drawn in a tough Group C along with Inter.

And another reunion will see Haaland come up against Borussia Dortmund, whom he left to join Pep Guardiola's Manchester City. They find themselves in Group G alongside Sevilla and Copenhagen.

Another heavyweight clash will take place in Group H, with Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus set to lock horns.

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