Milan legend Arrigo Sacchi is to receive the UEFA president's sward at Thursday's Champions League group stage draw.

The award, presented at the start of each season to recognise "outstanding achievements that transcend the sport", was won by Milan defender Simon Kjaer and Denmark's medical team last year for their response to Christian Eriksen's cardiac arrest at Euro 2020.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin hailed Sacchi, who will follow in the footsteps of previous Italian recipients Paolo Maldini, Gianni Rivera and Francesco Totti, for his "endless tactical innovations" which "reshaped" football.

Sacchi was credited with transforming the game by implementing a high-octane pressing style during a four-year spell as Milan coach between 1987 and 1991, winning one Serie A title before lifting back-to-back European Cups in 1989 and 1990.

The tactician later came within a spot-kick of glory as Italy boss, overseeing the Azzurri's penalty shoot-out defeat to Brazil in the 1994 World Cup final.

Ceferin said: "This award recognises professional excellence and furthermore, it honours the legacy left by exceptional individuals in the game of football.

"Very few people have reshaped the philosophy of the game in the way that Arrigo Sacchi has managed, so that the sport itself can be observed in two eras – pre- and post-Sacchi.

"The endless tactical innovations he introduced are today the foundations of any footballing playbook, mirrored by generations of coaches who have followed.

"Sacchi reinvented the ethos of teamwork, which transcended to pure harmony on the pitch. 

"Perfect synchronisation and a winning mindset, irrespective of whether they were playing at home or away, felt almost supernatural back in the 1980s. That is precisely what divides excellence from greatness."

Casemiro said the qualities of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric made it "easy" to star in Real Madrid's midfield ahead of his move to Manchester United, as he backed Los Blancos to replace him from within.

The Brazil international is joining United in a deal reportedly worth an initial £60million (€70m), having won an incredible 18 trophies during a nine-year spell with Madrid. 

Casemiro lifted the Champions League on five occasions during his time in the Spanish capital, and produced a masterful performance as Carlo Ancelotti's team clinched their 14th European crown against Liverpool in May.

Modric, Kroos and Casemiro have been key throughout one of the most successful spells in Madrid's history, starting together in four Champions League finals (in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2022), and the 30-year-old admits he will miss the duo.

"All the titles that you win, all the training sessions, the games you play, they make you happy, just realising you are a Real Madrid player," Casemiro said at a news conference on Monday.

"This era, winning five Champions League titles, is a once in a lifetime experience and very special to me, something I'll never forget. 

"Speaking about Kroos and Modric, they're my great friends, and apart from on the pitch I also think about them as two fantastic people and the great friends they've been to me. 

"It's very easy to play alongside them, I don't have much work to do, I will give them all the credit for all the work they have done. Of course, I will miss them a lot.

"It was difficult to talk to them, like it was in my conversation with the president. Toni sent me a message at 4am, asking me if all the rumours were true. 

"I'm really loyal to all of my team-mates, not just these two team-mates, but I have to be sincere with myself. If my time here is over, I have to take a step forward. I'm going to a great club, the biggest in the UK. 

"I will always be a fan, celebrate Real Madrid's goals and titles, which they will continue to win, no doubt about it. Real Madrid players are the best in the world and it's the best club in the world – it will always be like that for me."

With Kroos absent through illness, Madrid fielded a new-look midfield as they made it two wins from two outings in LaLiga by thrashing Celta Vigo 4-1 on Saturday, with Eduardo Camavinga and recent arrival Aurelien Tchouameni joining Modric in the starting line-up.

And Casemiro believes the presence of the two young French talents means Madrid may not need to replace him, adding: "Real Madrid is a club that always signs the best players in the world.

"Aurelien could also do the job, he's the kind of player that Madrid can rely on for many years to come. Toni and Modric will play at this high level but he can be a great asset as well.

"Camavinga already showed us how important he can be as well. Tchouameni is also a player that is very important, in the French national team as well.

"Real Madrid find themselves in a great place right now, they have great players and will continue to win important titles, that's what this club is about."

Ronaldinho has backed Gabriel Jesus to show he is one of the best players in Europe following his transfer to Arsenal, who he expects to seal a return to the Champions League.

The Gunners splashed a reported £45million to sign the BrazIl forward from Manchester City and Jesus has quickly made an impact, scoring a brace in a 4-2 win against Leicester City last weekend.

Jesus' performances have helped Arsenal stand alongside City as the only Premier League sides to win their opening two matches of the season, providing an early boost to Mikel Arteta's hopes of guiding the club to a top-four finish.

Ronaldinho believes that it will not only be Arsenal that benefit, as the legendary Brazilian feels Jesus has now been handed the platform to show he is one of the top players on the continent.

"When Gabriel joined Manchester City I said he would go on to be one of the best players in the world," he told the Mirror.

"When he was given a chance, he showed what he was capable of - but at Manchester City he was never shown the love a player of his quality deserves.

"At Arsenal he has been given the chance to be the focal point, he has been shown the love by the coach and the fans, and already he is repaying that. 

"This season I expect big things from him - he will repay the love shown in him by showing he is not just one of the best players in the Premier League, but also in Europe."

With the signing of Jesus, along with the captures of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Fabio Vieira, Ronaldinho is confident Arsenal can secure a return to the Champions League at the minimum.

"Arsenal will get back into the top four this season with the signings they have made - maybe they can even achieve more and challenge for the title," he added.

"Manchester City look very strong and they will be favourites - but in football anything is possible."

Christophe Galtier has warned any further delay in bringing new players to Paris Saint-Germain could scupper his team's chances of glory this season.

Head coach Galtier wants to usher away a number of fringe members of his squad and upgrade the overall quality ahead of a Champions League mission.

Alongside the defence of their Ligue 1 title, the priority for PSG is to land European glory this season, and Galtier has players in mind who he feels can help the capital club achieve their goals.

"Two weeks ago, I said we were expecting three new players," Galtier said on Friday.

The likes of Vitinha, Hugo Ekitike and Renato Sanches have already arrived during the transfer window, while Arnaud Kalimuendo, Thilo Kehrer, Angel Di Maria and Georginio Wijnaldum have left the Parc des Princes.

However, Galtier sees room for further strengthening of his squad, and despite saying he has seen promising signs of progress, the September 1 deadline is looming large. He and football advisor Luis Campos are in close contact, looking for solutions.

Inter defender Milan Skriniar has been strongly linked with a switch to PSG in recent weeks.

Ahead of Sunday's trip to Lille in Ligue 1, Galtier said: "We have identified players who could really help us out. Then there is the reality of the transfer market and both the financial and commercial aspect.

"We have lots of players under contract. That is why the club is looking to the ability to loan players out to different clubs, to reduce the number of contracts at the club.

"That is the first thing. With Luis Campos, we talk every few days about the squad, but there is a time delay between the financial, commercial and sporting sides."

Although PSG have made a rollicking start in Ligue 1, scoring 10 goals across two games so far, Galtier knows they have areas where improvements can be made.

"We are in a rush," he said. "In a week's time, we will be playing every three or four days. The schedule will be very busy. It is not easy to integrate a player when you're playing every three or four days.

"Delaying their arrival could affect our sporting plans. We don't want the squad to be the biggest possible, but with as much quality as possible. We don't want the quality to suffer."

Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson hopes the unsavoury off-field scenes that marred last season's Champions League final in Paris will represent a "watershed" moment in the treatment of football fans.

Henderson started as Liverpool fell to a 1-0 defeat to Real Madrid at the Stade de France in May, a loss that ended their hopes of adding to an EFL Cup and FA Cup double.

However, the match was overshadowed by violent scenes as supporters were targeted with pepper spray and tear gas outside the stadium, leading both clubs to call for an investigation.

While authorities originally blamed English fans' use of fake tickets for the disruption, both interior minister Gerald Darmanin and Paris police chief Didier Lallement have since apologised for those claims.

UEFA announced the commissioning of an independent investigation into the causes of the security failings just one day after the match, and Henderson believes steps must be taken to ensure a repeat never occurs.

"I always go into the new season not wanting to dwell too much on whatever happened in the previous one – for better or worse – but there is one element that I do want to look back on and that is the treatment of our fans in Paris," he wrote in his programme notes ahead of Liverpool's Premier League clash with Crystal Palace.

"I know there is an inquiry going on at the minute, so I don't want to say too much at this stage, but there is a basic principle that needs to be agreed on by all involved in football and that is that football supporters should always be taken care of.

"That is absolutely non-negotiable. Safety and security shouldn't be asked for or campaigned for, they should be a given and in Paris this was not the case. 

"All of the players and staff had family and friends who were caught up in the problems outside the stadium, so we are all well aware of what went on and what went wrong. 

"The only conclusion that anyone can come to is that something like that can never happen again.

"I'm not just speaking for our supporters here either. Every single football fan needs to know that when they go to a match, the authorities will look after them.

"For that to happen, Paris needs to be a watershed. It has to be a moment that brings about change for the better. Nothing else is acceptable."

UEFA's review of events at the final remains ongoing, while Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp declared his hope that findings "are getting closer" in July.

Seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi has not been named on the 30-man shortlist for the 2022 award.

Messi – who won last year's award – endured a frustrating first season at Paris Saint-Germain in 2021-22 after arriving on a free transfer from Barcelona, scoring just 11 goals in 34 games in all competitions.

Three goals in two games at the start of the new season were not enough to see Messi make the cut, but great rival Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United was included.

Six players from Ronaldo's former club Real Madrid have been named among the 30, including heavy favourite for the award Karim Benzema, while there are also six inclusions each from Premier League duo Manchester City and Liverpool.

The nominees for the prestigious award were announced on Friday, with notable names including Bayern Munich's Sadio Mane and City's Kevin De Bruyne, the latter of whom is also among the three nominees for the 2021-22 UEFA Men's Player of the Year Award along with Benzema and Thibaut Courtois.

Benzema is fancied to take home the prize after a season in which he scored 27 goals in 32 LaLiga games as Madrid won the title, and he also scored 15 in 12 Champions League outings as Los Blancos lifted their 14th European crown in Paris in May.

The Yashin Trophy for the best goalkeeper will be contested among 10 nominees, including Courtois and Eintracht Frankfurt's Europa League winner Kevin Trapp.

The 10 nominees for the Kopa Trophy for the best player under the age of 21 includes six players from the Bundesliga, with Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham and Bayern's Jamal Musiala among them.

Alexia Putellas, last year's winner of the Ballon d'Or Feminin, has been announced as one of 20 nominees despite missing the Women's Euro 2022 with an injury.

Five of Lyon's Champions League-winning side are included, as are three members of the England team who won the Euros on home turf last month.

The winners of each award will be announced on October 17, a month before the men's World Cup, meaning the tournament in Qatar at the end of the year will count towards consideration for the 2023 awards.

Full nominee lists

Ballon d'Or: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Rafael Leao (Milan), Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig), Mohamed Salah (Liverpool), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Luis Diaz (Liverpool), Robert Lewandowski (Barcelona), Riyad Mahrez (Manchester City), Casemiro (Real Madrid), Son Heung-min (Tottenham), Fabinho (Liverpool), Karim Benzema (Real Madrid), Mike Maignan (Milan), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Darwin Nunez (Liverpool), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Sadio Mane (Bayern Munich), Sebastien Haller (Borussia Dortmund), Luka Modric (Real Madrid), Antonio Rudiger (Real Madrid), Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Dusan Vlahovic (Juventus), Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool), Joao Cancelo (Manchester City), Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain), Erling Haaland (Manchester City)

Ballon d'Or Feminin: Selma Bacha (Lyon), Fridolina Rolfo (Barcelona), Vivianne Miedema (Arsenal), Lucy Bronze (Barcelona), Sam Kerr (Chelsea), Christiane Endler (Lyon), Lena Oberdorf (Wolfsburg), Kadidiatou Diani (Paris Saint-Germain), Catarina Macario (Lyon), Alexia Putellas (Barcelona), Alexandra Popp (Wolfsburg), Aitana Bonmati (Barcelona), Wendie Renard (Lyon), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave), Beth Mead (Arsenal), Asisat Oshoala (Barcelona), Marie-Antoinette Katoto (Paris Saint-Germain), Millie Bright (Chelsea), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Ada Hegerberg (Lyon)

Yashin Trophy: Yassine Bounou (Sevilla), Alisson (Liverpool), Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Ederson (Manchester City), Mike Maignan (Milan), Edouard Mendy (Chelsea), Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid), Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)

Kopa Trophy: Karim Adeyemi (Borussia Dortmund), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Eduardo Camavinga (Real Madrid), Gavi (Barcelona), Ryan Gravenberch (Bayern Munich), Nuno Mendes (Paris Saint-Germain), Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich), Josko Gvardiol (RB Leipzig), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen)

Real Madrid duo Karim Benzema and Thibaut Courtois, alongside Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, are the three nominees for the 2021-22 UEFA Men's Player of the Year Award.

The three are joined by bosses Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola, plus Liverpool's Jurgen Klopp, on the three-man shortlist for the UEFA Men's Coach of the Year Award.

Ahead of this week's Ballon d'Or nominations, France forward Benzema has further enshrined his frontrunner status, after firing Madrid to a continental double last term in La Liga and the UEFA Champions League.

But there is no room for any player from Liverpool, the side who Ancelotti's men vanquished in last season's final in Paris.

Five Reds stars - Mohamed Salah, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Fabinho, plus the departed Sadio Mane - made the 15-man longlist, but none made the final cut for the eventual nominations.

Other players included Robert Lewandowski and Luka Modric, who came fourth and fifth respectively, while Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe came eighth, one spot ahead of Madrid forward Vinicius Junior.

Benzema is feted for his superb efforts in helping Madrid bounce back to glory under Ancelotti, with 44 goals in 46 games across all competitions, while Courtois is recognised for his superb feats between the posts.

De Bruyne meanwhile helped City and Guardiola to another Premier League crown, while Klopp steered Liverpool to two domestic trophies, plus a second-place league finish and the Champions League final.

The winners will be announced at the ceremony for the 2022-23 Champions League group stage draw in Istanbul on August 25.

Pep Guardiola has no excuse not to win the Champions League with Manchester City given Erling Haaland's talent, according to Fabio Capello.

City were Premier League champions last season but again came up short in Europe, losing to eventual winners Real Madrid in the semi-finals.

The perennial league winners are still waiting on their first taste of glory in the Champions League, which Guardiola himself has not won since 2011.

Widely considered one of the greatest coaches in the modern game, Guardiola's failure to deliver success in Europe's elite club competition has regularly been used as a source of criticism.

And Capello – a European champion as Milan coach in 1994 – now believes City must succeed this season.

New superstar striker Haaland marked his Premier League debut with two goals in a win at West Ham, and Capello spotted the final piece of the City jigsaw.

"This year there is a favourite for me: Manchester City," the ex-England manager told Il Mattino. "There is no race.

"They finally have a powerful centre-forward in Haaland. He has power and speed.

"I saw the match against West Ham and I realised that this time Guardiola has no excuse: he has to win the Champions League.

"Even if, in the end, they'll tell him that he [only] won the Champions League first with [Lionel] Messi and then with Haaland."

Reported Manchester United target Cody Gakpo believes he is more likely to stay at PSV than leave if they qualify for the Champions League.

The 23-year-old winger has been linked with several Premier League clubs in this transfer window, with Leeds United and Arsenal initially considered potential destinations.

United then emerged as apparent suitors following their shock 2-1 home defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion on matchday one of the Premier League season.

Although the Red Devils have signed Tyrell Malacia, Lisandro Martinez and Christian Eriksen, it has been a frustrating window for new manager Erik ten Hag, with several other areas of the squad widely deemed to be lacking quality in depth.

Defeat to Brighton only further highlighted some of United's issues, and reports early in the week suggested a £35million bid was being prepared for Gakpo, a winger who is capable of playing through the middle.

But Gakpo will seemingly be happy to stay at PSV if they can reach the Champions League group stages – they are due to face Rangers in their qualification play-off after the Eredivisie side saw off Monaco in a 4-3 aggregate win that was secured by a dramatic 3-2 success after extra time in Eindhoven on Tuesday.

Asked about his future after the game, Gakpo told ESPN: "We must first focus on and try to make it to the Champions League.

"Then it is more likely that I will stay. I don't think I have said anywhere that I am leaving, so there is definitely a chance that I will stay.

"I'm open for a cup of coffee with the management – or coffee for them and water for me. We'll see how it goes."

Gakpo appeared to be a backup option after United were unable to lure Antony away from Ajax, who reportedly value the Brazilian at approximately €82m (£70m).

It was rumoured that United hoped the presence of former striker Ruud van Nistelrooy – who is head coach at PSV – might have been able to encourage an agreement, but it would appear Gakpo is in no rush to depart.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti thinks last season was the best of his illustrious career, after celebrating success in LaLiga and the Champions League.

Ancelotti was appointed as successor to Zinedine Zidane in June 2021 in something of a surprise move.

The Italian had seemed satisfied with life at Everton, though he had only managed to lead the Premier League club to 12th and 10th-placed finishes in his 18 months at Goodison Park.

Ancelotti was a popular figure with fans and players alike during his initial spell at Santiago Bernabeu, taking Madrid to 'La Decima' - their tenth Champions League title - in 2014, but he was dismissed in 2015, with Los Blancos having finished second in LaLiga and exiting the Champions League in the semi-finals.

Having triumphed in every other major European league, LaLiga success had evaded Ancelotti until his return to Madrid, who cruised to the title in Spain's top flight last season.

European glory then came in the form of a 1-0 win over Liverpool at the Stade de France at the end of May, making Ancelotti the first coach in history to win the Champions League four times (twice with Milan, twice with Madrid).

Ahead of the Super Cup against Europa League champions Eintracht Frankfurt in Helsinki, Ancelotti reflected on last season as his best as a coach.

"I think so, it was the best I had in my career. I was never able to win the league and Champions League [double]," he told a news conference.

"My players were able to reach this through a fantastic combination – spirit, attitude, quality, experience and enthusiasm of the youngsters.

"For all these reasons we were able to beat strong teams."

Asked what Madrid's goals are heading into this season, Ancelotti replied: "We're going to battle on all fronts in every competition, I have no doubts about that.

"I am confident in all of the players here, considering last year, I think the squad has improved further."

Madrid have brought in Antonio Rudiger from Chelsea and Aurelien Tchouameni from Monaco, but neither of their new signings will start on Wednesday against Frankfurt, with Ancelotti revealing the same team that lined up against Liverpool in Paris will take to the field.

"We are here down to the hard work of the players who won the Champions League," said Ancelotti, who was joined in his news conference by Luka Modric and Karim Benzema.

"We didn't just win with 11 players who are going to start tomorrow, of course there are others who deserve to play, but we can only start 11, and I'm going to play the team that started in Paris."

With a smile and trademark lift of an eyebrow, he quipped: "I think the two players who are next to me are going to start, if they want to!"

Pep Guardiola insisted winning the Champions League is "not an obsession" for Manchester City, as he refuted suggestions European success could determine whether he stays at the Etihad Stadium.

Meanwhile, Guardiola has backed Jack Grealish for a successful second campaign with the club, praising his contribution to last season's Premier League title win.

Guardiola's team have won four of the last five Premier League titles and are heavily fancied ahead of the 2022-23 campaign after recruiting Erling Haaland and Kalvin Phillips during a busy transfer window.

However, City are yet to experience European success under Guardiola, with last term's humiliating Champions League semi-final collapse against Real Madrid representing the latest of several near misses on the continental stage.

But the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach, who has just one year remaining on his City contract, insists the absence of a Champions League title will not impact any decision on his future.

"It's not about that. I would like to win it, it's not an obsession, it's a dream, a target we can do," Guardiola said ahead of Sunday's trip to West Ham.

"I'm completely aware how good the opponents are and how difficult this competition is. I said many times, maybe people don't believe me or think I'm making an excuse, I didn't come here to win the Champions League.

"I'm the first to want it, [but] it was the same in Munich. In Barcelona we won it twice, I wanted to win four! The 30 or 40 seasons where I'm a manager, I want to win every single Champions League, [but] I don't feel a failure when we don't win it.

"We want it, but if we win it I'm not the master of the universe. We tried, we were closer last season, we will try this season.

"Improving the team, playing better, this is main reason I'm here. I'm sad because we lost the Community Shield, but especially because we didn't play as we can do. The only thing I'm here for is to make the team play better, to see the team, watch on the touchline and say, 'I like it'.

"The consequence is to win or lose, we are going to lose sooner or later the Premier League. Nothing is eternal, not even this team that has done many good things in the last years. To win four Premier Leagues in five years is something extraordinary.

"We can improve. We can do better, this is the only reason [I'm here]. I'm not leaving here [saying] 'I have to win the Premier League, what happens if I lose the Premier League?'"

As City successfully defended the Premier League title last season, only Kevin De Bruyne (87) and Bernardo Silva (59) created more chances than Grealish (53) for Guardiola's men in all competitions.

However, the England international has faced criticism from some quarters after registering just eight goals and four assists in all competitions following a club-record move from Aston Villa.

But Guardiola insists Grealish's contribution was vital to City's triumph last term and wants to see more from all of his attacking stars, not only the 26-year-old.   

"The most important thing you have to know is Jack Grealish won the Premier League. That's why we bought him, to help us to win the Premier League, and we did it," Guardiola said.

"Jack is incredibly loved in the locker room, he's incredibly humble. Of course, I want more, but not just for Jack, for everyone.

"Of course, I definitely want more, he has to fight because the competition up front is so big, we have really good players.

"We're optimistic because he arrived very well, we know they have the World Cup around the corner, Gareth [Southgate] has to make big selections because there are many good players in the England team, and everybody knows what they have to do."

Grealish will likely assume a more important role after the departures of fellow attackers Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling, and Guardiola believes a refresh of his title-winning squad was necessary.

"Always I thought that after five or six years together, we need to change. Changing the manager is an option, or to change a few players, always," he added. 

"To the old players, it's normal, new players bring new energies, new desire. You have to take decision always before it's going to happen. Always the intention is to get better."

Real Madrid forward Vinicius Jr. is targeting further European glory beyond the UEFA Super Cup, as he looks to win "five or six" Champions League trophies.

The 22-year-old scored the only goal of the game in the Champions League final against Liverpool last season, the club's fourth in nine seasons but his first since joining the club from Flamengo in 2018.

Madrid have the opportunity for further honours in the Super Cup clash with Eintracht Frankfurt, taking place on Wednesday, and Vinicius is keen for a win in Helsinki but has aspirations that stretch far in the future with the Spanish giants.

"It is very important to try to win as many games as possible, especially if you want to win competitions as important as the UEFA Super Cup," he told UEFA's official website.

"We will do all we can to win the first piece of silverware on offer in the season.

"I look up to the players who have achieved so much at this club, who achieved those things at the biggest club in the world.

"Of course, I want to keep winning here and play for a long time to win as much as them – to win five or six [Champions Leagues] – and to try to be as influential as some of the greatest players to have worn the Real Madrid shirt."

Madrid's run to the final last season was far from an easy ride, with late goals in the ties against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City preventing an exit and Vinicius admitted it was an "emotional rollercoaster".

"That's just in the DNA of this club and this shirt, always turning up in important games, players who know how to approach games in this competition, so I believe that it was a bit of everything," he said.

"Some of the games were emotional rollercoasters and everything seemed to go our way.

"My favourite moment? The game against [Manchester] City here at the Bernabeu. In two minutes, Rodrygo came on and scored two goals which took us to the final.

"The most important moment of the competition, I believe, was the City game."

UEFA has hit Fenerbahce with a partial stadium closure after fans chanted the name of Russian president Vladimir Putin during a Champions League qualifier against Ukraine's Dynamo Kyiv.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February and the war has caused thousands of deaths while millions have been displaced.

The chanting started after Oleksandr Karavayev scored what ended up being the winner for the Ukrainian side in the tie's second leg in Istanbul as they ran out 2-1 victors on aggregate.

It led to Dynamo boss Mircea Lucescu boycotting the post-match news conference, and UEFA has now sanctioned the Turkish club for the behaviour of their fans.

The club have been fined €50,000, while a partial closure of at least 5,000 seats has been ordered for Fenerbahce's next European home game for "the throwing of objects and transmitting a provocative message of an offensive nature, i.e. illicit chants."

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.

Tottenham head coach Antonio Conte has outlined an aim to "win the Champions League and Premier League" ahead of his side's Premier League opener against Southampton this weekend.

Spurs finished last season strongly to pip rivals Arsenal to fourth place and Champions League qualification.

They have since been very active in the transfer window in order to beef up their squad as they look for silverware this upcoming campaign, having not lifted a trophy since 2008.

Richarlison, Everton's top goalscorer last season, arrived in a £60million deal, while Ivan Perisic, Yves Bissouma, Djed Spence and Clement Lenglet, on loan, have all also been signed.

This business has raised expectations at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, but that is no issue for Conte, who has himself set lofty targets.

When asked what a successful season would look like for Spurs, Conte told reporters: "We want to win the Champions League and the Premier League.

"I think my target and the club's target is to try to continue to improve, to develop the process we have started seven months ago.

"It doesn't mean that if you lift a trophy, or you win the Premier League or Champions League, or you get a place in the Champions League, that you have achieved your target.

"It means that we have to try to develop in every aspect, because my experience tells me that we are going in the right direction."

Conte revealed midfielder Oliver Skipp will not feature against Southampton on Saturday, while Bissouma may also be absent.

"In this moment, we have only one player who I'm sure we will miss against Southampton, and that is Oliver Skipp," Conte explained on Thursday.

"About Bissouma, I think we have another day or two to check his physical condition. Nothing serious, but I don't want to take any risks for the next games.

"Tomorrow, we have another training session to make an evaluation about him.”

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