Gianluigi Donnarumma hailed an "amazing and emotional year" after Paris Saint-Germain won the Ligue 1 title, but knows they cannot be "fully satisfied" due to Champions League failure.

Donnarumma was recruited by PSG ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, with Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Ramos, Georginio Wijnaldum and superstar Lionel Messi also arriving in the French capital.

Messi joined forces with Kylian Mbappe and Neymar to form a fearsome frontline, with PSG easing to a record-extending 10th Ligue 1 title, their eighth in the last 10 seasons.

The championship win was also Mauricio Pochettino's first trophy as a coach, but the former Tottenham boss appears to be heading for the exit door after failing to deliver Champions League success.

Mbappe scored in both legs of the last-16 tie with Real Madrid, but Karim Benzema's incredible hat-trick inspired a turnaround for Los Blancos, who went on to lift the trophy in May.

Christophe Galtier, Zinedine Zidane and Julen Lopetegui are among the names linked with the potential vacancy.

While Donnarumma reflected gleefully on his first season in Paris, he understands the demands at PSG when it comes to the Champions League.

"Winning ten titles is a special thing. It really is great to be able to win," the Italy goalkeeper told PSG TV. "As players, we all wanted to go for it, but that was the case for everyone else at the club, too.

"It was our aim to win the title, so it really was an important season. Unfortunately, we got knocked out of the Champions League, but by winning the title, we gave ourselves some consolation, and that made us really happy.

"It was an amazing and emotional year but also a slightly difficult one. After we were knocked out of the Champions League, it was a bit strange. We had trouble digesting it, but we had to accept it.

"We had to move on because we still had the league title to win, and in the end, we managed to react. So, I'd say that the season was positive overall.

"If you put the Champions League to one side, it was a good season, but we can't be fully satisfied with it, and next year, we'll try to win as many titles as possible."

Marseille are the only French side to win the Champions League, back in 1993, while Monaco and PSG are the only other Ligue 1 teams to reach the final of UEFA's premier club competition.

Barring their 2019-20 final appearance and a semi-final appearance the following season, PSG have failed to pass the Champions League round of 16 in four of the last six campaigns.

That has led to questions over the competition in Ligue 1, but Donnarumma assures the challenge is tougher than critics suggest.

"A lot of people on the outside think that it's easy to win Ligue 1, but I know that that's completely untrue," he added.

"There are some big teams in this league, and there are some really tough places to go here, with hostile crowds and some very competitive sides.

"It really isn't easy, and you always need to be well-prepared and working at 100 per cent because some games are really difficult.

"If we aren't at 100 per cent, it gets hard to bring back wins, so we need to play at our best every time."

Robert Lewandowski will have to fulfil his contractual obligations and accept Bayern Munich's decision to keep him amid interest from Barcelona.

That is the message from former Bayern president Uli Hoeness, who also lamented the rulings of the Bundesliga restricting the German top flight from competing in Europe.

Lewandowski has made his intentions to leave Bayern clear, declaring his story with Julian Nagelsmann's side "over" despite having 12 months left on his contract.

Barcelona are widely regarded to be the striker's preferred destination.

Despite Bayern's stance on Lewandowski, Stats Perform understands that the Bundesliga champions have struck a deal with Liverpool to sign Sadio Mane, which might clear the way for the Poland forward to leave.

However, there remains questions to the finances behind a Barca deal for Lewandowski, with Bayern reluctant to sell and the Catalan club battling well-documented financial issues.

Hoeness, who retired as Bayern president in November 2019 after 49 years with the club as player and in management, says Lewandowski can have no complaints over Bayern's decision should they elect to remain steadfast on their wish to keep him.

"[He has] joined the position of FC Bayern: that is, to exercise the right to have the contract fulfilled if no alternative is found," Hoeness said in an interview with G14 Plus.

"I assume that Robert will accept it in the end."

 

While the transfer speculation continues with Lewandowski, Hoeness also expressed his disappointment with the Bundesliga.

Bayern claimed their record 10th straight title in the 2021-22 campaign, with Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig offering little to challenge at the summit.

German sides have won the Champions League just twice in the last 10 years – Bayern doing so in 2013 and 2020 – and Hoeness suggested this is due to the 50+1 ownership rule.

The German Football League (DFL) ruling stipulates clubs will not be allowed to play in the Bundesliga if commercial investors have more than a 49 per cent stake, diminishing the power of potential investors.

"If the Bundesliga – this does not apply to Bayern Munich – does not think about abolishing the 50+1 rule, we will have big problems in being able to keep up internationally in the long term," Hoeness added.

Egypt's team doctor has stated Mohamed Salah was still suffering with an injury when he played for Liverpool in the Champions League final.

Liverpool talisman Salah suffered an adductor injury in the FA Cup final win over Chelsea on May 14, and was unavailable for the Reds' next Premier League fixture.

The forward came off the bench to score in a 3-1 win over Wolves on the final day before playing the full match against Real Madrid in Paris on May 28, though he was unable to inspire Liverpool to a seventh European crown as Vinicius Junior's second-half goal gave Los Blancos a 1-0 victory.

Salah then captained Egypt in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Guinea on June 5.

After that match, Egypt coach Ehab Galal claimed Liverpool had asked Salah to have an X-ray prior to featuring for his country, but he refused.

Egypt's team doctor Mohamed Abou El Ela said Salah, who turned 30 on Wednesday, had stated Galal had to prioritise the Guinea match for the skipper to feature in due to the injury he was carrying.

"Salah's injury occurred during the FA Cup final in the adductor muscles, then he played against Wolves and in the Champions League final, and all of this in just 14 days," he told On Time Sports.

"We send and receive players with medical reports, and Liverpool's said that he had pain and should get an X-ray, there's not a 100 per cent fit player, but there's the question of whether he can push himself and play without risk.

"The club thought that one game is enough and we chose the Guinea game because the second against Ethiopia would be hard for him to travel in a long flight. He couldn't play another game after three days."

Across all competitions, Salah played 4,013 minutes for Liverpool in the 2021-22 season – the fourth-highest total in Jurgen Klopp's squad, behind Alisson (4,890), Virgil van Dijk (4,620) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (4,233).

Of his 51 appearances, 45 were starts, with Salah scoring 31 goals and providing 15 assists as Liverpool won the FA Cup and EFL Cup and finished second in the Premier League along with their run to the Champions League final.

Francesco Totti is surprised that Romelu Lukaku could return to Inter but thinks he "wanted to go back to where he was good."

Having only left Inter to join Chelsea in a reported £97.5million deal last August, Lukaku is reportedly keen to move back to the club where he won the Serie A title last year.

Inter's managing director Alessandro Antonello said earlier this week that the forward holds a "great desire" to return after scoring just eight Premier League goals during an underwhelming 2021-22 season at Stamford Bridge.

While Italy great Totti expected Lukaku to move elsewhere, he says the potential return of a man who scored 30 goals in his final season with Inter would be a huge boost for the Nerazzurri.

"I wouldn't have expected it," Totti told Sky Sports Italia. "I thought he was going to another club, but he wanted to go back to where he was good, he won [Serie A] and he wants to keep winning. 

"In Italy he moves a lot, on a physical level it's embarrassing!"

With Inter also reportedly targeting former Juventus man Paulo Dybala and hoping to keep hold of Lautaro Martinez, Totti said that level of depth would strike fear into their opponents.

"No one knows with which tandem they will play, Simone Inzaghi will be happy." the Roma legend said.

Totti welcomed the arrival of Nemanja Matic at Roma as Jose Mourinho strives to build on their Europa Conference League triumph.

"If Mourinho made this choice it means that he is flexible for the team. We are talking about a great player who has shown his worth in Europe," he said.

"To come to Rome you need the right mentality and he has always shown that he has it."

Lille's Zeki Celik and Sassuolo's Davide Frattesi i have also been linked with the Eternal City giants and Totti says the Giallorossi need more strength in depth in order to push for a Champions League spot. 

"To obtain results you always need great players. If these names are available to Mourinho, it will be a more competitive Roma, who wants to aim above all for a place in the Champions League," he added.

"Then he will have to buy other players to get what we have won in the past. As I've always said, you need champions to win."

Real Madrid's Rodrygo Goes claims he rejected the opportunity to join Los Blancos' eternal rivals Barcelona when leaving Santos in 2019.

Rodryo played a crucial role as Madrid won their 14th European title this season, scoring a remarkable late double in a stunning 6-5 aggregate semi-final triumph over Manchester City before coming off the bench in the 1-0 final win over Liverpool.

The 21-year-old also registered eight goal involvements (four goals, four assists) as Madrid won LaLiga, with only Karim Benzema (27), Vinicius Junior (17) and Marco Asensio (10) outscoring him among his team-mates.

But things could have been very different for the attacker, who has told the podcast Podpah of how he chose the Santiago Bernabeu over Camp Nou when leaving his home country.

Recalling Barca's bid for him three years ago, Rodrygo said his father was incredulous when he stalled on the Blaugrana's offer, telling him: "What do you expect? You are going to play with [Lionel] Messi!"

But things ultimately worked out well for the attacker, who has also broken into the Brazil squad and looks well placed to feature for his nation at the Qatar World Cup later this year.

"A normal day, I came home after a game," he recalled. "I had a Real Madrid shirt in my house and my father came into my room wearing that shirt and another Barcelona shirt.

"He told me, 'now choose'... and I chose the one for Real Madrid."

Edouard Mendy was affected by missing out on a Ballon d'Or nomination, although his outstanding trophy haul goes some way to making up for it.

Goalkeeper Mendy helped Senegal to win their first Africa Cup of Nations title in February, having helped Chelsea win the FIFA Club World Cup that same month.

But 2021 represented a stellar year for Mendy as he enjoyed success in his first season in England following a switch from Rennes. 

He played a key role as Chelsea clinched their second Champions League title, boasting a higher save percentage (91.18) than any goalkeeper to make more than one appearance in the competition and keeping nine clean sheets in 12 outings. 

Despite that, Mendy failed to make a 30-man shortlist for football's biggest individual prize, and lost out on the Yashin Trophy – awarded to the best goalkeeper – to Italy's Euro 2020 hero Gianluigi Donnarumma.

"There have been some incredible moments and there have been some moments that have been more difficult," Mendy told Chelsea's club media.

"After the Ballon d'Or, I think that even if you try to rise above it, unconsciously you are still affected by it. But also it was something new for me.

"You learn from every challenge and I've learned how to deal with it. These are things that I've experienced that have made me a better person, even if at the time it [did] affect me.

"I've also experienced some absolutely joyous moments with AFCON and the Champions League, the [2021 UEFA] Super Cup, winning trophies. When you win them, it becomes an addiction, when you live your life in competition you want to be in the final to win.

"I've been lucky enough to experience that at club level and with my national team who won for the first time in our history. So it's a mix of a lot of emotions but enormously positive ones that bring huge amounts of pride to my family. My reality is what every footballer dreams of."

While the Ballon d'Or has so far evaded Mendy, he hailed the influence Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel – and the club's sporting director, former goalkeeper Petr Cech – have had on his time in west London.

"We have a really good relationship with the coach, he's always been clear with me, he's always clear with all the players," he said of Tuchel.

"He's always explaining things, trying to make sure the messages are understood. He's always looking to explain his decisions so there's a lot of transparency in what he does. That's important for the team and of course for myself too.

"We can talk about everything and nothing, but when we're talking about what happens on the pitch it's always a good exchange of ideas."

Cech also made the switch from Rennes to Chelsea, and went on to become the Premier League's all-time leader for clean sheets kept as a goalkeeper (202).

"Of course, he means a lot," Mendy added of Cech. "He was a big factor in the fact I came to Chelsea. 

"You have to always make them proud, last year I had the chance to train with Petr and that year [2020-21], he hung his boots! But I had the chance to train with him and see what a great player he was.

"Talent never dies. I was lucky enough to see him evolve and get advice from him every day. What he says is very important to me, especially from a goalkeeper who won a lot at Chelsea and is a legend of goalkeeping."

Yves Bissouma says he is struggling to believe he will be playing Champions League football after sealing his £25million move Tottenham.

The 25-year-old signed a four-year deal with Spurs on Friday, becoming Antonio Conte's third signing of the transfer window as the Italian looks to build on last season's fourth-placed finish in the Premier League.

Tottenham edged out local rivals Arsenal to secure Champions League qualification last month and had already added Ivan Perisic and Fraser Forster to their squad before bringing in Bissouma.

Bissouma played 26 times for Brighton and Hove Albion as they secured an impressive ninth-placed finish last term.

The Mali international said he will fulfil a childhood dream by playing in Europe's premier club competition.

"I'm very happy to be here, happy to be a Spurs player and hopefully we're going to have a good season," he said. "I'm going to give everything to try to win every game, to stay at the top. 

"But, as everyone knows, the Premier League is not easy. We're going to work really hard to keep the ambition high.

"We have a good group, and a great coach, everyone knows him. I know I can pass this step with him. I know he will help me more to be what I want to be and try to help the team as well. I’m very happy to play with him.

"It's my dream to play Champions League. I remember when I was younger, I watched the Champions League every day. I can't believe [I'm going] to play Champions League with Spurs. 

"I was born in Ivory Coast, in my dad's village. When I was young football was my life, I wanted to play football every day, every moment. If I don't play football, I'm not happy.

"We just played on the street with friends, no shoes. But we enjoyed this moment, I was young, my friends as well. It's one part of my life. I was happy. 

"I've come so far, from Issia to Spurs, Champions League music... imagine. The emotion is too much."

Brazil legend Roberto Carlos has hailed compatriot Marcelo as the "best left-back of all time".

Marcelo will leave Real Madrid at the end of this month, ending a 15-year stay in the Spanish capital which saw him become Los Blancos' most decorated player.

While playing a limited role in his final season under Carlo Ancelotti, Marcelo lifted the LaLiga title and won the Champions League, taking his trophy count to 25 with Madrid.

The 34-year-old was brought in to replace Roberto Carlos when he left Madrid in 2007, and the Brazil legend has lavished praise on his fellow countryman.

"Marcelo, in my opinion, has been the best left-back of all time. He knows, I have talked to him many times," the 49-year-old told reporters.

"It is a shame that he has left Madrid. He is not finishing his career. He continues his sequence in his career as a football player. He has four or five years more.

"We, from Madrid, are very grateful to him for the titles, 25 titles. He overcame me very easily. I saw him grow in Real Madrid, he arrived there when he was 17 years old.

"I didn't go to his [farewell] presentation because I knew I was going to cry. It was his farewell, I knew I was going to cry because I've seen him grow up and look what he's done.

"Nowadays there a lot of questions about who was better, Roberto Carlos or Marcelo, but there is no dispute between me and Marcelo, as he is like my son.

"I know that he has a great story with Real Madrid. For me, it is as if I was winning with him.

"I wish him the best of luck and thank you very much for everything and that he continues to be an idol, an example a phenomenon."

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has insisted his hopes for a European Super League are still alive on Wednesday, with the judicial process still ongoing.

Perez has historically been a leading figure in calls for Europe's elite football clubs to secede from UEFA competitions, and was the chairman of last year's proposed breakaway competition.

It collapsed on the back of shaky alliances between clubs as well as political and public pressure, with each of the five aligned Premier League clubs withdrawing from the Super League in the days following an announcement to secede.

Speaking on the El Chiringuito programme, the Real Madrid president branded European football's current structure a "monopoly" for UEFA's gain and revealed plans to eventually break away from the rest of European football have not formally been suppressed.

"Of course it is still alive, right now there is a question raised in the Luxembourg Court, there will be a hearing shortly and it will rule on the issues we have raised," Perez said. "We believe that we have the right, within the European Community, to organise competitions between us, with UEFA.

"We understand that UEFA is a monopoly and in this Europe of 27 [EU member states] a pillar is that of competition."

On whether he was afraid that Madrid would be banned from the Champions League after UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin's threat to expel aligned clubs from UEFA competitions, he added: "We have never had that fear, and that was when they said it at the beginning.

"No, we want to win the Champions League. PSG is not our enemy. Neither Chelsea nor [Manchester] City. Everyone who competes is friends, we get along with everyone."

The 75-year-old also expressed lament over Kylian Mbappe's decision to stay with Paris Saint-Germain, believing internal pressure led to his eventual choice not to join Madrid, but reaffirmed no individual will be greater than the club.

"His dream was to play for Real Madrid, we wanted to do it last August and they didn't let him out, he kept saying he wanted to play for Madrid and about 15 days before the situation changed," Perez said.

"He changes, they offer him other things, they put pressure on him and he is already another footballer.

"There is no one at Real Madrid above the club. He is a great footballer, he can win more than others but it is a collective sport and we have some values ​​and principles that we can't change them. I love him, he made an effort and the pressure made him change his circumstances and it's not easy."

There has been a lot of talk about the money Liverpool are investing in Darwin Nunez.

The Uruguay striker arrives at Anfield for a fee that will likely end up surpassing their previous club record of £75million spent on Virgil van Dijk from Southampton in January 2018.

Benfica confirmed on Monday they had agreed to sell Nunez to Liverpool for an initial fee of £64m (€75m), with a further £21.4m (€25m) in add-ons. Liverpool provided their own confirmation on Tuesday.

The Merseyside club will likely be saying goodbye to a key player at the same time, though, with Sadio Mane being strongly linked with a move to Bayern Munich.

So can Nunez emulate what the Senegal star has been able to in his time at Liverpool, or can he even surpass it?

Stats Perform has taken a look at the 22-year-old to see what Liverpool might be getting for their cash.

Is Nunez a Mane replacement?

What appears to stand out above all else is that Nunez is being signed primarily to score goals.

He may not have hit the ground running at Benfica after making a €24m move from Almeria in September 2020, netting just six times in 29 Primeira Liga games (19 starts) in 2020-21, but he more than made up for it this season.

Nunez had an expected goals (xG) rating of 9.98 in his first season according to Opta, suggesting he was not scoring as many as he should, which he almost overcompensated for in 2021-22 by recording 26 goals in 28 league games (24 starts) from 18.4 xG.

By comparison, Mane – who is in the conversation for the 2022 Ballon d'Or – scored 16 goals in 34 Premier League appearances (32 starts) an xG figure remarkably similar to Nunez (18.3). So, while the chances that went their way were of a comparable value over the course of the season, the Uruguayan proved far more clinical.

The relative difference in quality between the top flights in England and Portugal must be taken into account, of course, but in the Champions League the duo also matched up well.

Nunez scored six goals from 10 appearances (six starts) from an xG of just 3.1, while Mane registered five goals from 13 games (11 starts) from an xG of 4.5. Once again, the 22-year-old proved a more dependable finisher of chances than the Senegal star.

Whether Nunez can translate this to English football remains to be seen, but there are other interesting parallels between the two players which indicate they are perhaps not as different as some appear to think.

In their respective leagues last season, Nunez and Mane also offered a similar degree of creativity. The former registered four assists from an expected assists (xA) total of 4.8, while Mane had two from 4.4 xA to his name, suggesting he was let down by poor finishing from his team-mates on occasion.

Both players have proven themselves to be comfortable running with the ball as well, attempting 86 dribbles each over the 2021-22 season, though Mane's success rate of 54.7 per cent was significantly better than Nunez's 45.4.

Of course, the chief difference between the pair is the fact former Southampton attacker Mane has mostly played off the left for Liverpool, whereas Nunez is primarily a centre forward.

That should not be an issue though, given the Reds addressed that side of the pitch only a few months ago by shopping in a familiar market.

Primeira Liga? Completed it, amigo

To the surprise of many, not least Liverpool, they had their hand forced at the end of the January transfer window and signed Luis Diaz from Porto, so it is a league they clearly know well.

Not that they hadn't already intended to buy Diaz, but reports suggested the plan was to do so at the end of the season, only for an unexpected advance from Tottenham to make them bring the transaction forward.

It proved a welcome necessity as Diaz hit the ground running and played a big part in Liverpool almost doing the unthinkable and winning an unprecedented quadruple.

However, with the Colombian taking the role on the left of the attack, Mane was asked to play in an unfamiliar central position for the remainder of the campaign, though broadly to impressive effect.

Nunez will be a slightly more natural fit in that central role, and like Diaz will be hoping the transition from the Primeira Liga to the Premier League is a relatively seamless one.

He already showed in his two performances against Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-finals this term that he can cut it against English opposition.

In the first leg in Lisbon, Jurgen Klopp's men ran out 3-1 winners, but Nunez scored the Benfica goal and played well enough that Virgil van Dijk recently listed him as one of his toughest ever opponents in an interview with Rio Ferdinand.

He arguably impressed more in the return leg at Anfield, when Van Dijk did not play. Nunez often pulled out to the left and stretched Liverpool's defence, and had it not been for their effective offside trap, could have had a hat-trick.

Nunez put the ball in the Liverpool net three times, but two were ruled out by the assistant referee as Benfica drew 3-3, losing 6-4 on aggregate.

He showed his force of personality in the final 10 minutes though as he also brought a tremendous save out of Alisson, and almost dragged his team back into a contest they had previously been well out of.

Can Liverpool adapt to Nunez?

Two of Liverpool's goals that night were scored by Roberto Firmino, who was excellent under the Anfield floodlights, but who has seen his previously key role in Liverpool's attack diminish in recent years.

It was appreciated that the way the Brazil international played in more of a 'false nine' role allowed Mane and Mohamed Salah to thrive, until the arrival of Diogo Jota in 2020, which signalled a slight move away from that as the former Wolves man increasingly played a role closer to that of a traditional striker in Klopp's system.

It oversimplifies Nunez to suggest he is an out and out number nine in the mould of an Erling Haaland. He drops deep and pulls wide similarly to smaller attackers, like the ones already at Liverpool in fact.

However, at 6ft 2in tall, he could also provide a weapon that will have the eyes of Liverpool full backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson lighting up, particularly the former.

No other defender in Europe's top five leagues created anything like Alexander-Arnold's 129 chances this season, with Robertson second on 90, ahead of Fiorentina's Cristiano Biraghi (89).

He also created the most 'big chances' this season (defined by Opta as a chance from which a goal would be expected) with 27, while only Hoffenheim's David Raum (226) and RB Leipzig's Angelino (211) provided more open play crosses than his 191.

On paper, Nunez has everything needed to succeed in the Premier League. Pace, power, skill, shooting accuracy and lovely hair.

The Darwin evolution puns are already wearing thin, for which we take partial responsibility, but it will be best for the player if he ignores all comparisons.

Nunez can simply be his own man.

Bayern Munich have completed the signing of Netherlands midfielder Ryan Gravenberch from Ajax.

The 20-year-old has joined the Bundesliga champions for a reported fee of €19million plus a further €6m in add-ons, signing a five-year deal.

He becomes the second Ajax player to sign for Bayern in recent weeks, with Moroccan full-back Noussair Mazraoui also moving to the Allianz Arena.

Gravenberch made 103 appearances in all competitions for Ajax, scoring 12 goals, having come through the club's world-famous youth system.

He also played in all eight of Ajax's Champions League games this season, making 376 passes at a completion rate of 88.8 per cent.

Gravenberch also took more shots at goal (four) than all but two of his team-mates, with only Antony (eight) and Mazraoui (five) attempting more.

Speaking to Bayern's website after his signing was confirmed, Gravenberch said: "When the offer came from FC Bayern, I didn't have to think about it for long. FC Bayern are one of the biggest clubs around; players from all over the world want to play for this club.

"I'm coming to Munich to win lots of titles - and FC Bayern are used to winning lots of titles.

"Anything is possible with this club, including winning the Champions League. The togetherness in this team is very strong, which I like."

Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn added: "Ryan Gravenberch is a young, highly interesting player who lots of Europe's top clubs would've liked to have signed.

"He's chosen FC Bayern because he can develop at the highest level here. Players with his qualities are important for Bayern's future path."

An emotional Marcelo declared Real Madrid have "a promising future" as the Los Blancos legend issued his farewell at the Santiago Bernabeu on Monday.

Marcelo has been with Los Blancos since 2007, making almost 550 appearances for the LaLiga giants, but confirmed he would depart after last month's Champions League final victory over Liverpool.

That was the fifth Champions League title added to the left-back's illustrious trophy haul, while he played a part as Madrid lifted their 35th LaLiga title with four games to spare.

The Spanish top-flight success made him Madrid's most decorated player in history after lifting 24 trophies with the club, before adding another European triumph to extend his record.

Marcelo only appeared 18 times in all competitions in the 2021-22 campaign, but the 34-year-old is delighted to leave behind a legacy at "the best club in the world".

"When I left Brazil I had in mind to play in Europe, to play in the Champions League and now when I leave Real Madrid, I leave as the player with the most titles in the history of the best club in the world and that is something historic," he said at his farewell news conference.

"There are no words to explain the gratitude, the work of all those who are behind it, all of them. I have tried for all these years, I have treated everyone equally.

"There will be no problem coming back. I don't feel like I am leaving, but there will be no problem.

"I have always lived for the moment. I have not thought beyond it. Here they gave me the opportunity to play it all and to win it all on the magical nights at the Bernabeu.

"I can only be grateful that I have lived all these years happily, with a smile on my face. I haven't had many injuries, I had good games, I scored goals.

"I don't think much about the future. It's hard to leave the club of your life after 15 years. There's a lot of joy, suffering, pain...

"I've given everything for the club. I would do the same thing again. Wearing this shirt is a very nice thing. The future doesn't scare me – it's what I had to do. History is already written. I'm very happy with myself."

As for his next move, Marcelo remains unbothered by going into coaching and was unable to provide an update on his playing future amid talk of a move to Turkey.

"When I have something, if I have something, I'll tell you," he added. "I don't have the capacity to coach – I have other facets that I think I'm better at.

"Tactics for me have always been strange. I've never understood systems. But I really enjoy playing. I don't think I'm a coach, I don't think I'll try."

Marcelo signed off by assuring Los Blancos supporters that the club was in safe hands, adding: "Real Madrid has a very promising future".

Even when Jack Grealish charged into the penalty area in the 87th at the Santiago Bernabeu last month and saw his shot cleared off the line by Ferland Mendy, there seemed no way Manchester City wouldn't be in the Champions League final.

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

Yet we all know how 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 to failed to advance through 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 have since gone on to win a fourth Premier League title in five years, and no one would've 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 last month's second leg, but he won and converted the ultimately decisive penalty, and the effectiveness with which he led the line in the first leg 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.

A month after confirming an agreement was in place for Haaland, City announced on Monday that the prolific striker has put pen to paper on a five-year deal that will officially go through on July 1.

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

The dust may now have settled on City's recent 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 Guardiola was hired, most people 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 they did 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 expected goals (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, there becomes a greater opportunity to finish chances that maybe you wouldn't generally expect to.

Since his Bundesliga debut on January 18, 2020, Haaland has 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) boasts a better scoring rate over that period among players from Europe's top five leagues.

Despite struggling with injuries in the 2021-22 season, he 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 that's defensive or in front of goal, the value of the greatest strikers can shine through even more: Benzema showed that against City.

While there are likely to be stylistic compatibility questions to be asked regarding City and Haaland, particularly given the Premier League champions haven't really played with an out-and-out striker for a couple of years now, 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.

Mohamed Salah wants to emulate George Weah as only the second-ever African to win the Ballon d'Or, and was "shocked" by his seventh-place finish last year.

The Egypt international posted sixth and fifth-place finishes in 2018 and 2019 in the annual awards ceremony to crown the best men's footballer in the world.

But he saw his standing slip two years later after a 2020 cancellation, placing outside the top six as Lionel Messi extended his record haul.

Since then, Salah has helped fire Liverpool to a domestic cup double, plus a second-place Premier League finish and another Champions League final during 2022 as he recorded 46 goal involvements in 2021-22 (31 goals, 15 assists).

In addition, he has already picked up a slew of individual prizes, including another Premier League Golden Boot, the FWA Footballer of the Year and - most recently - the PFA Player of the Year.

But it may not be enough for the forward to emulate Liberia star Weah, who is the only African to previously lift the Ballon d'Or.

"I want to win it to join George Weah, the only African [in 1995]," Salah told L'Equipe.

"It's true that I was shocked by my ranking in 2021 (seventh). For this year, the defeat against Real Madrid is a disadvantage, even if I played a good game in the final.

"But it doesn't cancel out everything I've achieved for months. Let's wait for the vote. And if I'm not Ballon d'Or in 2022, I'll do everything I can to be the next one."

Salah's disappointment at losing in the Champions League final to Madrid last month has not dimmed his appreciation for fellow attacker and Ballon d'Or frontrunner Karim Benzema.

Salah admits he sees himself in the France forward, and feels a kinship in his approach to how he imposes himself upon the wider team.

"I understand what Benzema says. He doesn't just see himself as a goalscorer, he knows he influences every aspect of Real Madrid's game," he added.

"Like others, I want to be seen as the best player in the world.

"At Liverpool, everyone runs for everyone else. If I don't fight for the defence, they won't fight for me.

"I have to be an example, to be the first to press, to sacrifice myself for the team."

Thibaut Courtois is unlikely to win the Ballon d'Or because goalkeepers will always lose out to goalscoring outfielders, says Petr Cech. 

It was suggested Courtois could be in with a chance of winning the award following his man-of-the-match performance in Real Madrid's 1-0 Champions League final victory over Liverpool, although he said it was "impossible".

He made nine saves in the match – the most by a goalkeeper in a final in the competition since at least the 2003-04 season – and prevented 2.5 goals according to Opta's expected goals on target metric. 

Courtois also led the way in goals prevented as Madrid won LaLiga, with his 4.9 putting him top of the charts. 

Cech praised the former Chelsea goalkeeper but suggested the Ballon d'Or is likely out of his reach, with Karim Benzema the favourite to take the accolade. 

"Well, he was a key player obviously for his team, because he made vital and important saves in the [Liverpool] game, and of course, without his saves, they would have lost," Cech told Stats Perform ahead of Sunday's Soccer Aid charity match.

"You always need everybody to perform in the big game, in the Champions League final, and he was the main man and obviously deservedly won the player of the match. 

"He's had an amazing campaign, literally from the start to finish, and in the Champions League, so it was not a surprise. 

"I think that there will always be an issue with goalkeepers being involved in [the Ballon d'Or], because in the past, [Gianluigi] Buffon, even [Iker] Casillas, there were some goalkeepers who probably should have been much closer to winning the award. 

"But we know that for the goalkeeper it is very particular to be compared with the players and to get anywhere near them. 

"Everybody loves to see goals and assists and great skills going forward, and this is what football is about." 

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