Harry Kane produced a long-range stunner to help Bayern Munich close out 2023 with a 2-1 win at Wolfsburg.

Kane fired home from 25 yards in the 43rd minute for his 21st Bundesliga goal of the season to put Thomas Tuchel’s side in control after Jamal Musiala opened the scoring on his landmark appearance.

Wolfsburg captain Maximilian Arnold reduced the arrears on the stroke of half-time with a fine strike of his own, but Niko Kovac’s men were unable to take points off his former side Bayern, who stayed second and four points behind Bayer Leverkusen going into the mid-season break.

Tuchel could only name six substitutes at Volkswagen Arena and remained without Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich.

It was actually Wolfsburg who made the stronger start with Manuel Neuer forced to deny Mattias Svanberg early on, but it was not a sign of things to come.

Kane got his first sight of goal soon after although failed to connect sufficiently enough with his attempted volley as Bayern tried to stamp their authority on proceedings.

The visitors dominated possession and should have broke the deadlock in the 28th minute, but Thomas Muller failed to find the net with two efforts after Leroy Sane’s centre.

Muller, fresh from signing a new contract on Tuesday, headed against the crossbar minutes later before he turned provider with 33 minutes on the clock.

Bayern’s experienced attacker cut inside and produced a superb cross with his left foot that Musiala headed home to mark his 100th Bundesliga appearance in style.

A second assist followed for Muller 10 minutes later, but it was all about Kane as he curled into the top corner from range for his 25th goal in all competitions this season before he celebrated by sliding towards the corner flag.

It was not a perfect half for Tuchel though after Wolfsburg reduced the deficit in stoppage time when Arnold’s swerving effort beat Neuer from long range.

Wolfsburg pressed for a second after the break and had penalty appeals turned down when Svanberg went down in the area following contact from Kim Min-Jae, but play was waved on.

Tuchel reacted soon after with Matthijs de Ligt introduced for his first appearance since November 1 following a knee injury.

Raphael Guerreiro could have sealed the points with 16 minutes left, but his close-range shot was blocked.

Wolfsburg did fashion one late opportunity and Neuer punched away Arnold’s speculative effort.

Tottenham have completed the signing of key target Micky van de Ven on six-year deal from Wolfsburg.

The addition of the left-footed centre-back is a major coup for the club and helps satisfy the demand of new boss Ange Postecoglou to bring in defensive reinforcements.

Spurs have secured the services of Van de Ven on a contract running to 2029 in a deal worth an initial 40million euros (£34.5million), but with the final fee able to rise to around 50m euros (£43.1m) in add-ons.

The Netherlands Under-21 international has been tracked by the club all summer and, after weighing up a move for him or Bayer Leverkusen’s Edmond Tapsoba, Tottenham pressed ahead with their pursuit of the 22-year-old.

Van de Ven started his career with Volendam before leaving his homeland to join Wolfsburg in summer 2021.

An encouraging 2022-23 season, in which Van de Ven featured 36 times for the Bundesliga club, brought him to the attention of several teams across Europe, with Liverpool also reportedly interested.

Spurs won the race for the Dutchman and he was in attendance for Sunday’s pre-season win over Shakhtar Donetsk after an agreement was reached with Wolfsburg over his transfer last week.

Van de Ven completed his medical at the club’s Enfield training base on Monday and is likely to be part of the travelling party to Barcelona for Tuesday’s friendly against the Catalan club.

Postecoglou refused to directly discuss the defender after the 5-1 victory over Shakhtar but has been open about the need for new centre-backs throughout pre-season.

Ben Davies has played the majority of minutes on the left side of the back four system used by the Australian head coach, but Van de Ven’s pace will be a welcome addition to a team that will also use a high defensive line this season.

Spurs retain an interest in former loanee Clement Lenglet and Fulham’s Tosin Adarabioyo, who only has one year left on his deal.

Tottenham continue to work on incomings but will listen to offers for centre-backs Davinson Sanchez, Japhet Tanganga and Joe Rodon.

Karim Adeyemi and Jude Bellingham starred as Borussia Dortmund maintained the pressure on Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich with a commanding 6-0 victory over Wolfsburg.

Adeyemi struck twice and provided an assist for Sebastien Haller, though a missed penalty denied him a hat-trick at Signal Iduna Park.

Bellingham joined Adeyemi in grabbing his brace while Donyell Malen completed the scoring, moving Dortmund to within a point of Bayern following their 10th straight home league win.

Meanwhile, seventh-placed Wolfsburg suffered only their second defeat in 10 games as they missed the opportunity to climb into the top six.

Dortmund broke through in the 14th minute when the unmarked Adeyemi headed in Julian Ryerson's deflected cross.

After Patrick Wimmer and Jakub Kaminski were denied in quick succession, the hosts doubled their lead as Adeyemi turned provider with an inviting cross for Haller to tuck away inside the six-yard box.

Dortmund made it 3-0 eight minutes before the break, Julian Brandt springing the offside trap before squaring for Malen to slot into the empty net.

Bellingham got in on the act nine minutes after the restart. The England midfielder embarked on a strong run individual run before his powerful 25-yard strike was brilliantly tipped onto the crossbar by Koen Casteels, only for the looping ball to spin back over the line.

Adeyemi grabbed his second soon after, sliding into the empty net after Haller intercepted Sebastiaan Bornauw's loose back pass and put the ball on a plate for his team-mate.

But the winger was unable to complete his hat-trick from the penalty spot on 65 minutes, blazing over after Kilian Fischer felled Bellingham. 

Nevertheless, Dortmund did get their sixth goal four minutes from time, Brandt neatly flicking a long ball into the path of Bellingham, who made no mistake from close range.

 

Bayern Munich have reportedly fallen out of love with the idea of Tottenham striker Harry Kane and are instead prioritising Eintracht Frankfurt frontman Randal Kolo Muani.

Kolo Muani, 24, has been one of Europe's breakout forwards this season. After arriving on a free transfer ahead of the current season, he has scored a career-high 19 goals in 38 appearances.

The explosive striker was rewarded with an international call-up by France for the World Cup in Qatar, scoring his first senior goal in the semi-final against Morocco before having his potential tournament-winning strike saved by Argentina's Emiliano Martinez deep into extra-time in the final.

His rise onto the world stage has not gone unnoticed, and now Bayern view him as one of their top targets at the position.

 

TOP STORY – BAYERN NOW VALUE KOLO MUANI ABOVE KANE

According to Sky Sports Germany, Bayern are desperate to recruit a new star striker in the upcoming transfer window, but since the departure of Julian Nagelsmann "Harry Kane is no longer very popular" internally.

Another target mentioned is Napoli's Victor Osimhen, but an asking price well over €100million makes that an unrealistic proposition, while Benfica's Goncalo Ramos is also mentioned as a potential alternative.

But Kolo Muani is now supposedly at the top of the list, even though Frankfurt have informed them that they will have to fork out around €100m to pry away the talent after he recently signed an extension – with no release clause – tying him to the club until 2027.

 

ROUND-UP

– Football Insider is reporting Aston Villa have strong interest in 27-year-old Manchester City midfielder Kalvin Phillips, who would reportedly cost a club-record £45million.

– According to Foot Mercato, Paris Saint-Germain are big fans of 23-year-old Nice centre-back Jean-Clair Todibo and will make a run at him in the next transfer window.

Brighton and Hove Albion are confident 18-year-old striker Evan Ferguson will sign a new contract with the club despite interest from Manchester United and Tottenham, per the Daily Mail.

– Sport is reporting Barcelona's 19-year-old left-back Alejandro Balde is close to signing a new four-year contract that will include a £1billion release clause.

– According to Sport Bild, Arsenal and Chelsea are both investigating the price of 24-year-old Wolfsburg right-back Ridle Baku.

Liverpool's underwhelming 2022-23 campaign has led to talk that the club will undertake a squad overhaul in the off-season.

Chief among Jurgen Klopp's priorities is a midfield revamp, with Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham and Chelsea's Mason Mount among those linked to the Reds.

However, there could also be another attempt at signing a France international they were beaten to in 2022 by Real Madrid.

TOP STORY – YOU CAN NEVER HAVE TCHOUAMENI MIDFIELDERS

Real Madrid's Aurelien Tchouameni is once again high on Liverpool's transfer agenda as they look to refresh their midfield, reports El Nacional.

The Reds were interested in the 23-year-old at the end of last season but were unable to land him after he chose to move from Monaco to Madrid for a reported €100 million on a six-year deal.

Though he started Saturday's 3-2 home defeat to Villarreal, Tchouameni has been unable to establish himself as a frequent starter under Carlo Ancelotti, meaning Los Blancos may be willing to let him go to raise funds, with Liverpool reportedly still keen and willing to offer £71m (€80m).

ROUND-UP

– Calciomercatoweb claims Inter are warming to the idea of Nicolo Barella exiting San Siro, as Liverpool circle for the midfielder as part of their revamp. Inter reportedly want no less than €50m (£44m) for him.

Barcelona's discussions with Ousmane Dembele over a new contract have stopped, with the Catalans unable to offer him a pay rise, reports SPORT.

ArsenalChelsea and Villarreal are all interested in Wolfsburg full-back Ridle Baku, claims Caught Offside.

– Newcastle United and West Ham United are leading the race to sign Wilfried Zaha on a free transfer from Crystal Palace, according to The Star.

– The Mirror reports ex-Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch has agreed to a long-term deal to take over at Leicester City following Brendan Rodgers' dismissal.

Julian Nagelsmann insisted it is not time to decide whether Manuel Neuer will continue as Bayern Munich captain.

Neuer is out of action for the remainder of the season after breaking his leg in a freak skiing accident, though has not managed to steer clear of controversy.

The Germany international criticised the club's decision to fire goalkeeping coach Toni Tapalovic in an interview with The Athletic, saying he felt like his heart was "ripped out" and described it as the "most brutal thing" in his career.

Those comments have attracted vast criticism, including from Nagelsmann, Bayern director Hasan Salihamidzic and Lothar Matthaus, the latter believing Neuer should be stripped of the captaincy.

However, Nagelsmann believes now is not the time for such discussions.

"I know that this is a very burning question that is being asked because the interview came out. But it's not a question I want to answer now," he told Bild.

"I now have to answer the question of who will be captain on the field for the next five months – whether it's Thomas [Muller], Joshua [Kimmich] or another player.

"Manuel's task is to get fit and healthy, that's what we're waiting for. And then we'll see. In general, I have the task of finding the right first eleven – and accordingly the captain of the next few weeks."

A 4-2 victory at Wolfsburg's Volkswagen Arena on Sunday brought an end to a three-game winless streak for defending champions Bayern.

It was not plain sailing for Bayern, who lost Kimmich to a red card in the second half, but Nagelsmann lauded a valuable result after their first league victory of 2023.

"The win was very important. We scored three goals from the first three chances, which made it easier for us," he added.

"We were too relaxed after the 3-0 and allowed Wolfsburg back into the game. Jamal's [Musiala] goal was crucial. We take the three points and move forward."

Manuel Neuer can no longer be Bayern Munich captain amid the ongoing saga surrounding the goalkeeper's criticism of the club, says Germany great Lothar Matthaus.

Germany veteran Neuer is out for the rest of the season after a freak skiing injury sustained during a post-World Cup holiday, with Yann Sommer signed from Borussia Monchengladbach as a replacement.

The arrival of Switzerland international Sommer coincided with the dismissal of long-term Bayern goalkeeping coach Toni Tapalovic, a move Neuer criticised in an interview with The Athletic.

His comments have sparked widespread backlash, including from coach Julian Nagelsmann, and Germany's most-capped player Matthaus has added his own voice to the chorus of disapproval.

"Manuel Neuer is no longer acceptable as Bayern captain," he wrote in his Sky Sport Germany column. "He skied negligently and now vehemently attacks the club. Didn't he say a few weeks ago no one was above the club?

"He is an icon of world football, one of the greatest to ever play for Bayern and Germany. I was the biggest fan you can imagine of him, but it is his own fault, the skiing accident and this interview.

"He did his club such a disservice, they have to do without his irreplaceable class for months, maybe even forever, and continue to pay his lavish salary.

"Bayern were more loyal to Neuer than to any other player. Serge Gnabry was publicly thrown at hell and Manuel didn't say a bad word to the outside world.

"Bayern had to sign Yann Sommer for a lot of money and now [they] have to read that they ripped out [Neuer's] heart."

In Neuer's absence, Bayern defeated Wolfsburg on Sunday in a 4-2 victory as Nagelsmann's side leapfrogged unlikely title challengers Union Berlin at the Bundesliga summit.

Bayern Munich secured their first Bundesliga victory of 2023 after a frantic first half paved the way for a 4-2 victory against Wolfsburg.

Kingsley Coman's brace put the defending champions in control, with Thomas Muller then capping off his record-equalling 427th league appearance for Bayern in style.

Jakub Kaminski struck before the break to give Wolfsburg hope, with Bayern then seeing Joshua Kimmich receive his marching orders for a second bookable offence.

Jamal Musiala and Mattias Svanberg exchanged goals to keep the drama in full flow, though Bayern held on for victory and reclaimed top spot from Union Berlin.

Bayern took the lead after just nine minutes, Coman's teasing cross into the middle finding its way into the far corner of Koen Casteels' net. 

Five minutes later, Coman struck again by converting Joao Cancelo's cross with an expertly taken volley after being left with too much space inside the area. 

Muller then got in on the act to extend the visitors' lead further, meeting Kimmich's free-kick to flick a header home on his milestone appearance.

Wolfsburg pulled one back before the break, a fine passing move ending with Kaminski, a first-half substitute for Maxence Lacroix, playing a one-two with Paulo Otavio and coolly slotting past Yann Sommer.

The hosts received further encouragement nine minutes after the restart as Bayern were reduced to ten men, Kimmich being shown a second yellow card for a clumsy challenge.

Musiala weaved his way through the Wolfsburg defence to give Julian Nagelsmann's side some breathing room, though the deficit was reduced to two when Svanberg smashed into the roof of the net from close range.

There was still time for further drama with Yannick Gerhardt appearing to set up a frantic finish, but his goal was disallowed for a foul in the build-up as Bayern clinched all three points.

Christian Gunter was lost for words after his Freiburg side were thumped 6-0 by Wolfsburg on their return to Bundesliga action on Saturday.

Freiburg entered the two-month break second only to Bayern Munich in the table after winning four of their final five league games of 2022.

But any thoughts of possibly rivalling 10-in-a-row champions Bayern were put into perspective by Wolfsburg at the Volkswagen Arena.

Christian Streich's side were behind after just 59 seconds through a Patrick Wimmer strike, before Jonas Wind's double put the hosts in complete control before half-time.

Yannick Gerhardt and Ridle Baku joined the scoresheet in the second half, and Luca Waldschmidt beat Mark Flekken from the penalty spot to complete the scoring.

"I don't have any explanation. It wasn't expected. We have to look at what went wrong," Freiburg captain Gunter told Sky Sport.

"It's extremely painful to start like this in 2023. Everything came together for them; it was a very bad day for us."

 

Freiburg's heavy loss sees them drop to fourth below Eintracht Frankfurt and Union Berlin, with all three sides five points behind leaders Bayern.

Reflecting on a chastening day for his side, Freiburg head coach Christian Streich said: "We lost 6-0 and didn't have a chance.

"After the first minute, we got to know how good Wolfsburg are. In the end, we lost 6-0. What can I say? Maybe it's best I don't say anything."

Wolfsburg's win was their fifth in a row in Bundesliga – their best run since 2014 when winning six in a row – and moves them within four points of the Champions League spots.

"We got off to a very good start," Wolfsburg coach Niko Kovac said. "From our second shot, we scored our second goal, then it was a sure-fire success from there.

"Basically, you can't go wrong from there. I'm happy with the way this team is developing."

Liverpool are reportedly the favourites to land prized Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham after rumours that Real Madrid are not willing to meet the €150million asking price.

Bellingham, 19, has emerged as one of the top prospects in world football, scoring in four consecutive games to begin his side's Champions League campaign this season, including one against Manchester City.

Already with 17 caps for England, Bellingham is expected to play a major role at the World Cup and a virtuoso performance could sway some of the world's biggest clubs into bidding what would be a world-record fee for an Englishman.

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID SCOFF AT BELLINGHAM ASKING PRICE, LEAVING DOOR AJAR FOR LIVERPOOL

According to a report from Sport, Bellingham is Real Madrid's priority signing at the end of the season, but they have no intention of meeting Dortmund's initial valuation.

Madrid are said to be Bellingham's preference as well, and the club will try to negotiate the final price down to what they deem a more acceptable figure.

Liverpool have no qualms with what would be a club-record signing, and previous reports claim Manchester United also feel they are in with a chance once they get Cristiano Ronaldo's contract off their books.

ROUND-UP

- According to Mundo Deportivo, Paris Saint-Germain have been in communication with Milan's Rafael Leao, although they have not been able to agree on personal terms yet.

- Calciomercato is reporting Leicester City have joined Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen in the chase for 28-year-old Inter left-back Robin Gosens.

- MLS teams may be able to afford Cristiano Ronaldo after the league agreed to a $250m television rights deal with Apple TV, per iNews.

- Mundo Deportivo is reporting Atletico Madrid have strong interest in Braga forward Abel Ruiz, and wish to bring him to the club in a loan deal in January that includes a compulsory buy-clause.

- According to El Observador, 20-year-old Uruguayan talent Facundo Pellistri could leave Manchester United in January in search of first-team football.

Liverpool's search for midfield reinforcements has reportedly led them to RB Leipzig's Konrad Laimer – and a move could come as soon as January.

Laimer, 25, enjoyed a career-best season in his last Bundesliga campaign, netting four goals and contributing four assists despite starting in just 15 of the 26 league games in which he featured.

This season, the man with 24 senior international appearances for Austria has started every Bundesliga and Champions League game he has been available for, although a high-ankle sprain has kept him out for six weeks now, and he may not return until January.

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL LOOK TO INJURED LEIPZIG MIDFIELDER FOR REINFORCEMENTS

According to Sky Sport Germany, Liverpool are considering going for Laimer in January, six months before the end of his contract with Leipzig.

Laimer is hoping to return from his injury in January, and there could also be interest from Bayern Munich, who sized him up in the last transfer window.

Regardless of what happens with Laimer and the January window, Sky Germany reports Liverpool are planning "significant investment" into their squad at the end of the season.

ROUND-UP

– Football Insider is claiming 32-year-old Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan will leave the club on a free transfer at the end of the season.

Manchester United are looking at Bayer Leverkusen's Jeremie Frimpong, 21, and Norwich's Max Aarons, 22, to compete with Diogo Dalot for their starting right-back role, per The Sun.

– According to The Sun, Arsenal sent scouts to Brazil to watch 21-year-old Palmeiras midfielder Danilo, whom they are interested in making a move for in January.

– GiveMeSport is reporting Manchester United still have interest in PSV's Cody Gakpo, with recent reports claiming the Dutch club's financial position could prompt them to accept a bid in the range of £30million.

Bayer Leverkusen have made Inter left-back Robin Gosens their primary target, with the 28-year-old also attracting interest from Eintracht Frankfurt and Wolfsburg, according to Sky Sport Germany's Florian Plettenberg.

Bayern Munich have been drawn against Mainz in the last 16 of the DFB-Pokal, while Borussia Dortmund face a derby showdown with Bochum.

Record 20-time winners Bayern saw off Viktoria Koln and Augsburg to reach the third round for the first time in three seasons.

Julian Nagelsmann's side now face a tricky trip to Mainz, who are sixth in the Bundesliga and have defeated Bayern in their past two meetings on home soil.

Dortmund have also been drawn against top-flight opposition, with a trip to local rivals Bochum awaiting them when the ties are played at the end of January.

Defending champions RB Leipzig will host Hoffenheim, meanwhile, and surprise Bundesliga leaders Union Berlin are at home to Wolfsburg.

Elsewhere, Sandhausen have been drawn against Freiburg, Stuttgart face a trip to Paderborn, Eintracht Frankfurt host Darmstadt and Nurnberg will meet Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Bayern Munich have been left with a hole after Robert Lewandowski's exit for Barcelona.

Sadio Mane moved to Munich from Liverpool in the close season but he is not a like-for-like replacement.

Bayern have started the new Bundesliga campaign in indifferent form, following up three wins with as many draws.

TOP STORY – NEGOTIATIONS UNDERWAY BETWEEN KANE AND BAYERN

Harry Kane is increasingly open to the idea of making the move to join German champions Bayern Munich, claims Sky Sports.

Sky Sports' Florian Plettenberg reports that negotiations have already been held by Bayern and Kane's brother Charlie, who represents him.

Bayern have made the Tottenham striker their number one target and can offer him the likelihood of silverware, in comparison to Spurs.

ROUND-UP

– Fabrizio Romano reports that Lionel Messi will not make a decision on his future until after the World Cup, but Paris Saint-Germain are planning to offer him a new deal, while Barcelona are interested in re-signing him. Messi is contracted until 2023 but there is the option of another year in Paris.

Jude Bellingham's list of suitors is growing with Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool all keen on Borussia Dortmund's English talent according to AS.

– New Chelsea boss Graham Potter has approved the club's pursuit of RB Leipzig defender Josko Gvardiol, with the club to try to sign him again in June 2023 reports Fichajes.

– Germany international forward Max Kruse's contract with Wolfsburg is set to be mutually terminated during the Bundesliga break, claims Sport.

– The Guardian reports that Lens head coach Franck Haise is under consideration for the vacant Brighton and Hove Albion managerial post, along with Bodo/Glimt's Kjetil Knutsen and ex-Shakhtar Donetsk boss Roberto De Zerbi.

Former Germany striker Max Kruse insisted only he will decide when his Bundesliga career is over as he hit out at Wolfsburg coach Niko Kovac for leaving him out in the cold.

Kruse, who won 14 Germany caps between 2013 and 2015, was left out of Wolfsburg's 1-0 win over Europa League champions Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday – their first Bundesliga victory of the season.

Both Kovac and sporting director Marcel Schafer declared there was no way back for Kruse, with the former saying: "We demand 100 per cent identification, concentration and focus on Wolfsburg from all players. We didn't have that feeling with Max."

Schafer then insisted the 34-year-old, who scored seven goals in 14 appearances for Wolfsburg last season after arriving in January, would not play for Die Wolfe again.

In a video posted on his Instagram account, Kruse refuted Kovac's claims regarding his lack of application, saying: "I respect the coach's opinion, apparently I should no longer identify with the club. 

"But everyone who knows me knows I've been a professional for the last 10 or 12 years, when I always gave my all for the club I played for. 

"That will continue to be the case as long as I get to train and play football.

"I came to Wolfsburg in January to help the team, and I think I did that in the second half of last season.

"I decide for myself when my time in the Bundesliga is over, and nobody else decides that for me."

Max Kruse has played his last match for Wolfsburg after coach Niko Kovac raised doubts about the commitment of the former Germany striker.

Kovac and sporting director Marcel Schafer said on Saturday there was no way back for 34-year-old Kruse with the Bundesliga outfit.

Wolfsburg won 1-0 at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, getting the better of last season's Europa League winners thanks to Maxence Lacroix's header on the hour mark.

It was a first victory of the Bundesliga campaign at the sixth attempt. Former Werder Bremen and Borussia Monchengladbach forward Kruse was left out, a week after playing the full game in the 4-2 home defeat to Koln.

"We demand 100 per cent identification, concentration and focus on Wolfsburg from all players. We didn't have that feeling with Max. That's why he's not there," Kovac told German broadcaster Sky Sport.

Kovac, the former Bayern Munich and Monaco head coach, added: "We didn't see any impetus from Max that he could help the team. The club is more important than everything else and that's why we made the decision together.

"We informed him that he will not play a role for us in the future. No more games."

Schafer added: "He will never play for VfL Wolfsburg again."

Kruse signed an 18-month deal when he joined Wolfsburg in January, meaning he faces playing no games until next season unless he finds a new club in January.

He won 14 caps for Germany from 2013 to 2015 before falling out of favour, while he also played three games for the Germany Olympic team at Tokyo 2020.

Earlier this season, Kruse had questioned his level of involvement at Wolfsburg, with his first three appearances coming off the bench.

He then started against RB Leipzig and Koln, but in 270 minutes of action in the 2022-23 Bundesliga he failed to register a goal or an assist, and managed only two shots on target, before Wolfsburg pulled the plug on his season.

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