Aston Villa have confirmed the signing of Emiliano Buendia from Norwich City in a club-record transfer.

The Midlands club saw off competition from Arsenal to sign the 24-year-old for a fee believed to be in the region of £35million with a further £5m of add-ons also included in the deal.

Reacting to the news, Villa manager Dean Smith told the club's official website: "Emiliano has just completed an outstanding season in a Championship-winning Norwich side with 31 combined goals and assists and was named Player of the Season across the league.

"He is equally capable as a wide attacker or as a number 10 and is a great addition to our attacking options. We are delighted to have made such an exciting signing so early in the summer and look forward to Emi joining up with us for a full pre-season."

As Smith alludes to, Buendia was named Championship Player of the Year for his part in Norwich's successful promotion a year after dropping down from the top flight.

And, while £35m may sound like a significant fee for a player whose most recent campaign was in the second tier, it is easy to see why Buendia has commanded such an outlay.

Impressive despite relegation

When Norwich were relegated last year, it was a widely held belief that they had several players who were likely to stay in the Premier League by joining other teams.

While Ben Godfrey was sold for approximately £25m to Everton and Jamal Lewis moved to Newcastle United, Norwich managed to keep hold of their other major assets: Todd Cantwell, Max Aarons and, perhaps crucially, Buendia.

That they were able to resist the sale of Buendia was arguably the most surprising of all, considering he had enjoyed a promising debut campaign in the Premier League.

His ability to find and exploit pockets of space made him a real creative nuisance and something of an anomaly as well, given he – a player in a relegated team – was up there with the league's best in key creative metrics

 

Buendia created 55 shooting opportunities in open play in 2019-20, a figure that only Kevin De Bruyne, Jack Grealish and Sadio Mane could better. He was level with Mohamed Salah and ahead of Roberto Firmino, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva, among others.

His seven assists, only one of which came from a set-piece situation, was another notable feat, and his 6.2 expected assists (xA) figure suggests he was not benefiting from astonishing luck throughout the season either. He was simply a very effective creator.

Learning on the job

It would have been easy to write Buendia's Premier League season off as a fluke. There must have been those expecting him to endure a disappointing 2020-21 back in the Championship, perhaps a consequence of not getting a move away.

After all, he did have a spell out of the Norwich team in 2019-20, with Norwich boss Daniel Farke suggesting there were concerns over his work rate and lack of goals.

"Believe me there is probably no-one here in this room who knows [better] how good Emi is and how big his potential is," Farke said in February 2020. "If he is just there with 95 per cent [effort] then it was definitely possible to bring him back [into the team] at Championship level and he could still make the difference.

"But at this [Premier League] level, let's be honest when he is not 100 prepared — you could realise it at Newcastle when we brought him in. Not to accuse him but our game looked poorer when we brought him in.

 

"When I think about his ability to assist, he is already there with seven. It is perhaps not world class on this level for a winger, but for our level it is top class and it is the best of all our players in these terms. Let's be honest, we've had the 26th game day and he is there with no goals. There are several losses of the ball and also sometimes he lacks running in behind."

But Buendia stuck around, seemingly accepting he still had plenty to learn, and his improvement in front of goal has been notable.

In the Premier League he averaged just 1.46 shots per game, but he has more than doubled that frequency to three every 90 minutes in the Championship, likely a consequence of the fact he has spent more time in the central areas of the pitch and closer to the penalty area.

 

As a result, his goals haul shot up from one to 15 and his xG of 11.8 shows that, while he may have been lucky on occasions, he would still have expected to reach double figures. Even if you take into consideration the drop in quality from the Premier League to the Championship, that is still a commendable improvement and highlights his willingness to take on criticism and use it to better himself.

Creating his own luck?

Buendia's even greater tendency to work centrally seemed to benefit his creative talents as well. As shown in his xA map, many of his 16 assists came from the middle vertical of the attacking half.

 

Granted, he has outperformed his 9.3 xA (open play) by approximately seven, which is significant and suggests some of those assists have benefited from particularly good finishing or a slice of fortune, yet his overall xA of 12.4 is still at least four more than any other player in the Championship this term.

Similarly, his 93 key passes in open play was – remarkably – 31 more than anyone else in the division.

 

It will be intriguing to see what role Buendia is deployed in at Villa and whether both he and Grealish are compatible in the same side. Even if they line up on opposite flanks, they will want to do much of their work in similar areas as they drift inside.

But regardless of any potential teething issues, Buendia looks set to be another smart acquisition by Villa – and potentially the one who got away for Arsenal.

Everton continue their search for Carlo Ancelotti's replacement.

One emerging candidate has plenty of familiarity with Liverpool. 

Could the Toffees turn to a former rival? 

 

TOP STORY – BENITEZ IN MERSEYSIDE RETURN?

Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has emerged as a strong contender to replace Carlo Ancelotti at Everton, the Daily Mirror and other outlets report. 

As the Merseyside club's interest in former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo has faded, majority owner Farhad Moshiri apparently plans to speak to the 61-year-old Benitez. 

The Spaniard was Liverpool's manager from 2004-10, winning the Champions League title in 2005. He spent 18 months in charge of Chinese Super League club Dalian Professional before leaving by mutual consent in January. 

Others under consideration include Brighton and Hove Albion head coach Graham Potter, former Lille coach Christophe Galtier and former Toffees boss Roberto Martinez

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea have matched Paris Saint-Germain's offer of about €65million (£56.1m) to Inter for Achraf Hakimi, according to Sky Sport Italia, though Inter value the 22-year-old at €81m (£70m).

- Barcelona see Manchester City's Raheem Sterling as a potential replacement for Ousmane Dembele should the France international depart, according to Sport, and Marca says PSG have interest in Dembele. 

- David de Gea seems inclined to extend his stay at Manchester United and expects to be the first-choice goalkeeper ahead of Dean Henderson, The Sun reports. 

- Atletico Madrid rejected United's £10m bid for England right-back Kieran Trippier, according to Football Insider. 

- Roma are close to completing their long-rumoured signing of Arsenal's Granit Xhaka, Corriere dello Sport claims. 

- West Ham would like to sign Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard on a permanent deal, The Sun reports. 

- Tottenham have had discussions with Borussia Monchengladbach winger Marcus Thuram, RMC Sport reports, and The Athletic says Spurs could also be eyeing RB Leipzig's Marcel Sabitzer

- Former Roma coach Paulo Fonseca has emerged as Spurs' preferred option to replace Jose Mourinho and the sides have discussed a three-year contract, the Guardian reports. 

- Former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard could be in the mix for the Crystal Palace opening, the Daily Mirror reports. 

Manchester City's ambitions are showing no end after missing out on the Champions League title.

City have been linked with star England pair Harry Kane and Jack Grealish to further bolster the Premier League champions.

But the price tags on the duo from Tottenham and Aston Villa may be their stumbling blocks.

 

TOP STORY – CITY SALE TO FUND KANE AND GREALISH MOVES

Manchester City will offload several fringe players to raise £70million in order to fund their moves for Tottenham star Harry Kane and Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, claims the Daily Mail.

With Sergio Aguero departed, City manager Pep Guardiola wants a frontline striker and those surplus to requirements will reportedly be let go.

First-team players Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez all have admirers and could move on.

But also fringe talent like Yangel Herrera, Ivan Ilic, Jack Harrison, Pedro Porro and Lukas Nmecha, who have had loan spells elsewhere, could be cashed in.

Bernardo Silva has been linked with a move to Atletico Madrid in exchange for Saul Niguez, while Juventus are reportedly eyeing Gundogan.

 

ROUND-UP

Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain are both keen on Inter's Achraf Hakimi and have lodged €60m (£52m) offers, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. Inter's asking price may be higher, while Chelsea may utilise Emerson Palmieri or Andreas Christensen as part of a swap deal.

- Bild says Borussia Dortmund will sell Jadon Sancho to United if they receive a suitable offer by the end of July. Sancho has long been tipped to swap Dortmund for United.

- Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin is being linked with LaLiga champions Atletico and Real Betis by CBS Sport, while Sport have also claimed Juve are interested in the Spaniard, utilising Aaron Ramsey in a swap deal.

Liverpool are looking to replace Georginio Wijnaldum, lining up Roma skipper Lorenzo Pellegrini, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- The Sun claims West Ham are ready this month to step up their bid to sign Jesse Lingard permanently from Manchester United after his excellent loan spell.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Arsenal are set to finalise the details on a new contract for young talent Emile Smith Rowe.

Crystal Palace are closed to appointing former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo as their new manager to replace Roy Hodgson, claims The Telegraph.

Dani Ceballos is planning to hold talks with Real Madrid over his future, but a transfer to Barcelona would never be an option for the midfielder.

Ceballos impressed in his first season on loan at Arsenal but was unable to make such an impact in the 2020-21 campaign.

In 40 appearances across all competitions, he provided three assists – from a total of 41 opportunities created – yet failed to score himself.

A passing accuracy of 87.61 per cent last season also ranks him below the average (88.01) of Arsenal midfielders, albeit only Granit Xhaka (3,107) attempted more passes than Ceballos (1,865).

With Carlo Ancelotti having just been appointed as Madrid's new coach, Ceballos is expecting things to be different to how they were under Zinedine Zidane.

Though while he is determined to succeed at Madrid, he has acknowledged his future may lay elsewhere.

"Ancelotti has just arrived and we need to talk," he said on Spanish radio station Cadena Ser.

"I think this year I have hardened as a player. I think it is time to settle in a club with a long contract and to be able to show my game. 

"Ancelotti has just arrived and we need to talk. I want to know what he wants from me and also tell him what I want, which is important. I'm not going to the Euros and soon there will be a World Cup. It has to be a talk between the two of us with clear things.

"It is not the same to be involved in the dynamics of a club with a long contract, as it is to be on loan. It is something that these last two years I did not have and I want to settle down, play and be happy."

Moves which would never come to fruition for the 24-year-old would be a switch to the Camp Nou or Sevilla.

Asked if he would consider a move to the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus or Barca, Ceballos replied: "I would not go to Barcelona because I am a Madrid player and my dream is to succeed at Madrid."

When quizzed on a transfer to Andalusia, he added: "It is a great club, but I would never play for Sevilla, especially having my [time at] Betis."

Chelsea won the Champions League last month but they are not sitting still.

Thomas Tuchel is determined to strengthen his attack as he seeks to dethrone Premier League champions Manchester City in 2021-22.

Erling Haaland is reportedly Chelsea's number one target.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA WANT HAALAND

Chelsea are "working intensely" on a deal to sign Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to the Telegraph.

Haaland has been linked with Real MadridManchester CityBarcelonaParis Saint-GermainManchester UnitedJuventusLiverpoolChelsea and Bayern Munich.

Tottenham's Harry Kane and Inter forward Romelu Lukaku have emerged as options for Chelsea, though the Champions League winners appear set on Haaland.

 

ROUND-UP

PSG are poised to sign Italy international goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma on a free transfer, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. Out of contract at Milan, Donnarumma was also linked with Juve and Barca.

- The Times says United are moving closer to reaching an agreement with Dortmund for Jadon Sancho. The England international was heavily tipped to move to Old Trafford ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

City are chasing Spurs star Kane and Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, per ESPN. Pep Guardiola's side are willing to buy both if they are able to do so. Kane and Grealish have also been linked with Manchester neighbours United.

Atletico Madrid have offered Saul Niguez to City in exchange for Bernardo Silva, according to the Times. Unsettled at LaLiga champions Atletico, Saul has also reportedly caught the attention of United, Chelsea and Bayern.

- The Daily Mail claims Brighton and Hove Albion are looking to keep England international defender Ben White by demanding £50million amid interest from clubs such as United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

Milan are eyeing Chelsea trio Olivier Giroud, Fikayo Tomori and Hakim Ziyech, claims the Gazzetta dello Sport. Ziyech has also been linked with Napoli.

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Inter are hopeful of re-signing Nicolo Barella and Atletico Madrid target Lautaro Martinez by the end of the off-season.

- Juventus are interested in Roma veteran Edin Dzeko and are ready to offer a two-year deal, reports Corriere dello Sport.

Aston Villa have reached an agreement to sign Emiliano Buendia from Norwich City.

Reports over the weekend suggested Villa had a £33million offer, which could reach a total value of £40m, accepted by promoted side Norwich.

Arsenal had also pursued Buendia, but it is Villa who have confirmed they are poised to sign the Championship's Player of the Year in a deal that is a club-record signing for them and the highest ever sale for Norwich.

Villa's statement on Monday read: "Aston Villa and Norwich City have reached an agreement for the transfer of Emiliano Buendia.

"As Emiliano is currently in the Argentina national team's biosecure bubble, preparing for a World Cup qualifying match with Colombia on Tuesday evening, he will undergo a medical and complete the transfer after the game."

Playmaker Buendia, 24, played a major role in Norwich's return to the Premier League, racking up 15 goals and 16 assists in the Championship and recently earned his first Argentina call-up.

He provided seven assists the year before in a productive top-flight season, even though Norwich were ultimately relegated.

Norwich have also confirmed the transfer will go through pending a successful medical for Buendia.

Their statement read: "Norwich City can confirm that a club-record deal has been agreed with Aston Villa for the transfer of Emi Buendia.

"Buendia will complete his final medical checks following the conclusion of Argentina's World Cup qualifying fixture against Colombia on Tuesday evening.

"Final confirmation of the transfer will follow upon completion of the player's medical."

Fantastic figures

Buendia created 55 shooting opportunities in open play in the 2019-20 Premier League season, a figure that only Kevin De Bruyne, potential new team-mate Jack Grealish and Sadio Mane could better.

He was level with Mohamed Salah and ahead of Roberto Firmino, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva, among others.

His seven assists, only one of which came from a set-piece situation, was another notable feat, and his 6.2 expected assists (xA) figure suggests he wasn't benefiting from astonishing luck throughout the season either. 

 

Buendia added to his game in the Championship. In the Premier League he averaged just 1.46 shots per game, but he more than doubled that frequency to three every 90 minutes in the second tier, likely a consequence of the fact he has spent more time in the central areas of the pitch and closer to the penalty area.

As a result, his goals haul shot up from one to 15 and his xG (expected goals) of 11.8 shows that, while he may have scored more than the quality of his chances warranted, he would still have expected to reach double figures. 

Buendia had 16 assists, above his overall xA of 12.4, which was still at least four more than any other player in the Championship in 2020-21. 

Similarly, his 93 key passes in open play was – remarkably – 31 more than anyone else in the division.

 

Erling Haaland is the name on everyone's lips this off-season.

Haaland enjoyed a stunning campaign for Borussia Dortmund, earning admirers from Europe's elite.

As speculation mounts over his future, Dortmund are determined to keep the Norwegian.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND NAME HAALAND PRICE

Borussia Dortmund are demanding €200million (£172m) for star striker Erling Haaland, according to AS.

Haaland has been linked with Real MadridManchester CityBarcelona, Paris Saint-GermainManchester UnitedJuventusLiverpoolChelsea and Bayern Munich.

Dortmund previously quoted €180m (£154m) but BVB have reportedly increased their demands as they try to retain the Norway forward for at least another season.

 

ROUND-UP

- LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid are targeting Inter star Lautaro Martinez, according to AS. With Diego Simeone poised to extend his contract, the head coach is eyeing a move for Martinez, who has previously been linked with Barca.

Barca could sell Samuel UmtitiSergi Roberto and Junior Firpo to reduce their wage bill, says Mundo Deportivo. Jordi Alba could also depart for the right price as Ronald Koeman's men look to sign Lyon captain Memphis Depay.

- Fabrizio Romano reports PSG have agreed a deal to sign Georginio Wijnaldum, who had been tipped to join Barca with his Liverpool contract set to expire. As Wijnaldum looks destined for Paris, Marca claims Barca are now interested in City veteran FernandinhoPSG are also in talks with Inter to sign Achraf Hakimi.

- Staying at Camp Nou, Sport claims Barca are looking to sign City trio Aymeric LaporteGabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan, having already brought Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia in on free transfers from the Premier League champions.

- Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma will decide his future in the coming days, according to Romano. The soon-to-be free agent has been linked with JuventusBarca and PSG.

Atletico are hoping to lure Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin to Madrid, according to Marca. It comes as United reportedly try to prise Kieran Trippier from Los Colchoneros.

Borussia Dortmund appear to be more willing to allow Jadon Sancho to depart this off-season.

The England international has been courted by several Premier League clubs in the past.

He almost joined Manchester United 12 months ago in a drawn out transfer saga.

 

TOP STORY - SANCHO DEAL BACK ON FOR UNITED

The Mirror claims that Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho has agreed personal terms on a move to join Manchester United.

The 21-year-old winger came close to signing with the Red Devils 12 months ago but this time around Dortmund are more willing to part ways with him.

Sancho has reportedly settled on the details of the contract offer but United and Dortmund still need to agree on the transfer fee.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tottenham's search for a new manager has moved to Ajax boss Erik van Tag according to the Mirror. Spurs' move for Antonio Conte has collapsed.

- New Roma head coach Jose Mourinho is chasing a goalkeeper, with Tottenham's Hugo Lloris, Juventus' Wojciech Szczesny and Wolverhampton's Rui Patricio top of the list, reports La Gazetta dello Sport.

- Roma are also keen on Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka according to Corriere dello Sport.

- The Mirror also reports that England full-back Kieran Trippier has informed his Atletico Madrid teammates that he wants to join Manchester United this off-season.

- Marca reports that Barcelona plan to offer a new contract to youngster Ilaix Moriba following interest from several top clubs after his breakout season.

Arsenal have confirmed defender David Luiz has left the club while Martin Odegaard and Dani Ceballos have returned to Real Madrid.

Experienced defender David Luiz indicated he would be leaving the Gunners at the end of his contract when he posted a farewell message to fans on Instagram last month.

The 34-year-old, who joined from Chelsea for a reported £8million in August 2019, made 73 appearances in all competitions for Mikel Arteta's side.

Meanwhile, Odegaard and Ceballos are heading back to Madrid following the expiry of their loan spells at Emirates Stadium.

Odegaard, who joined in January, impressed in his 20 appearances in all competitions under Arteta.

The Norway international scored two goals and provided two assists, while his average of 2.24 chances created per 90 minutes was the best return of any Arsenal player to play more than six times last season.

Ceballos first signed for Arsenal on loan in July 2019 and the deal was extended last September after an impressive campaign that began with two assists on his first Premier League start, a feat only previously achieved for Arsenal by Ray Parlour and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The 24-year-old midfielder made 40 appearances for the Gunners last season, although only 25 of those came as a starter.

Each player has been linked with a permanent move to the club, but new Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti name-checked Odegaard and Ceballos this week as he discussed their trophy hopes in 2021-22.

"With this squad, without loan players like [Gareth] Bale, Odegaard and Ceballos, Madrid reached the Champions League semis and fought for LaLiga. So, we have the players to win trophies," Ancelotti told ABC.

Goalkeeper Mat Ryan is also leaving Arsenal after a short-term loan, while youngsters Levi Laing, Joseph Olowu, Luke Plange and Jason Sraha have been released.

In a statement, Arsenal said: "All developments regarding players extending their contracts; joining-rejoining us; or leaving us will be officially communicated as soon as they are confirmed.

"We thank the above players for their contributions to the club during the periods of their permanent or loan contracts with us.

"You will always be part of the Arsenal family and we wish you all the best of health, happiness and success in your futures."

Speculation has swirled for months about the future of Lionel Messi following a season of change at Barcelona.

Barca have been busy already this off-season, signing Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.

Compatriot Aguero had implored Messi to extend his Barcelona stay, which dates back to 2000, and it seems the striker may get his wish.

 

TOP STORY - MESSI RE-COMMITS TO CATALANS

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi is set to pen a new two-year contract with Barcelona, according to AS.

The Argentina forward has practically agreed to the deal, with only "structural details" to complete.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have both shown interest in Messi but he looks set to commit until 2023.

 

ROUND-UP

- Everton are in the market for a new manager after Carlo Ancelotti's sudden departure and The Athletic reports they will consider Rangers boss and Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard. TalkSPORT claims ex-Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo is also on their radar.

- COPE claims that new Real Madrid boss Ancelotti will not push to recruit James Rodriguez from the Italian's former club Everton.

- The Sun reports that Arsenal are in pole position in the race to sign Raheem Sterling from Manchester City. 

- The Sun also claims any potential Sterling move to Arsenal may scupper Manchester City's plans to sign Tottenham's Harry Kane , as they want to use the winger in a swap deal given Spurs hefty asking price.

- Manchester United are keen on Sevilla defender Jules Kounde but Barcelona have joined the pursuit for his signature, claims Mundo Deportivo.

A stunning move for Cristiano Ronaldo could be in the works.

The Portugal captain may end up back with a former club in a swap deal.

The price for Manchester United would be high.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO SWAP DEAL RUMOURED

If Manchester United want to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford, they may have to surrender Paul Pogba.

La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Juventus would consider using the 36-year-old forward in a swap deal for Pogba, who has a year left on his contract.

The question is whether United would part with the 28-year-old France midfielder in return.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City could land Harry Kane via a cash-plus-swap deal that sends Gabriel Jesus to Tottenham, the Daily Star reports. 

- Arsenal are interested in Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde and Bayer Leverkusen's Edmond Tapsoba, according to The Athletic. 

- Barcelona have not given up in their attempts to sign Matthijs de Ligt from Juventus, Marca reports.

- Lazio have joined Roma as suitors for veteran centre-back Jerome Boateng with the Germany international set to leave Bayern Munich. 

- Granit Xhaka is a target for Jose Mourinho's Roma, and Arsenal have said they want £17million for the midfielder, La Gazzetta dello Sport reports. 

- Pedrinho will leave Benfica before next season, ESPN reports, with Shakhtar Donetsk the likely destination for the 23-year-old Brazilian. 

- Crystal Palace will speak to former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo about replacing Roy Hodgson, The Sun reports. 

What does the future hold for Achraf Hakimi?

In his first season with Inter, the Morocco international claimed the Scudetto.

However, his time in Milan could already be coming to an end.

 

TOP STORY – HAKIMI TO PSG?

Paris Saint-Germain want to sign star Inter full-back Achraf Hakimi, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Inter won the Serie A in 2020-21 but find themselves in a tough financial situation due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with head coach Antonio Conte already opting to depart.

Hakimi, Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez and Alessandro Bastoni could reportedly be sold to ease some of the economic pressure at San Siro.

PSG are believed to be interested, though Inter are demanding more than €60million for the 22-year-old, who only joined from Real Madrid at the start of the season.

Madrid have the right of first refusal and can match any offer for their former defender, while Bayern Munich and Chelsea have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail claims Arsenal are plotting a shock bid for Manchester City star Raheem Sterling. The England international found himself out of Pep Guardiola's starting XI at times in 2020-21. Madrid and Barca have been previously linked.

Paul Pogba remains a dream signing for Juventus, reports Calciomercato. Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli and Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez have emerged as targets for Juve, though the Bianconeri are still keen on Manchester United star Pogba, though Udinese's Rodrigo De Paul is an alternative.

- Romano says Barca are open to selling Philippe Coutinho, though Arsenal are not interested in the former Liverpool attacker.

Lionel Messi's contract extension is a priority for Barca before any new signings are made, according to the front page of Saturday's Mundo Deportivo. Barca have been tipped to bring in Lyon captain Memphis Depay, Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Manchester City pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia on free transfers. Gianluigi Donnarumma – another free agent option as his Milan contract expires – is also a possible recruit.

- According to Romano and widespread reports in Italy, Luciano Spalletti has agreed to replace Gennaro Gattuso as Napoli head coach.

Sevilla defender Jules Kounde admitted he could leave the LaLiga side in the off-season amid links with Manchester United.

Kounde has emerged as one of the most sought-after centre-backs in the transfer market after countryman Dayot Upamecano joined Bayern Munich and Ibrahima Konate agreed to swap RB Leipzig for Liverpool.

United have long been linked with a move for Kounde, who helped Sevilla to a fourth-placed finish in LaLiga this term, as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Premier League giants reportedly eye a new partner for Harry Maguire.

The 22-year-old France international – also a reported target for the likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea and Arsenal – said he wants to win trophies.

"Regarding my future, I may change this summer," Kounde told reporters as France prepare for Wednesday's international friendly against Wales, ahead of the upcoming Euro 2020.

"Nothing is for sure yet, I did not take a final decision.

"Obviously, my goal is to play one day in one of the greatest clubs to keep improving and to win trophies.

"Starting every year the season knowing that the goal is to win this or this trophy. I may move but for now, it is not the case."

United already boast captain Maguire – the most expensive defender in history – Victor Lindelof and Eric Bailly in defence, while Axel Tuanzebe has struggled for regular game time.

When comparing Kounde to Maguire, Lindelof and Bailly across domestic league action in 2020-21, the former ranks first in passing accuracy (90.11 per cent) and clean sheets (15).

Kounde is only second to Maguire in tackles (27 to 29), tackle success (55.6 to 58.6 per cent), interceptions (40 to 60), clearances (100 to 122), recoveries (100 to 122), duel success (60.7 to 65.7 per cent) and aerials won (102 to 135).

Dani Ceballos has made clear he does not want to be loaned out again by Real Madrid, despite learning plenty during his two seasons with Arsenal.

Midfielder Ceballos won the FA Cup at the end of the 2019-20 campaign under Mikel Arteta, his first on loan at the Gunners. He returned to Emirates Stadium again, agreeing to another season-long stint in England.

However, having played 77 games for Arsenal, the Spain international now wants his long-term future resolved one way or another, revealing he wants to "feel important" at a club.

He is under contract for two more years at the Santiago Bernabeu, having joined Madrid from LaLiga rivals Real Betis in July 2017.

"It is true that I have a contract with Real Madrid for the next two years and I would not like to go on loan to any club again,” Ceballos said on the El Pelotazo show on Canal Sur Radio, according to Marca.

"With the experience of the last two years, I am a player who needs to feel important, I would like next year starting from the beginning and feeling important, but settling down.

"It's important going forward to know what you want to do."

Zinedine Zidane's departure could provide a fresh start for Ceballos at Madrid, who are now looking for a new head coach to replace the Frenchman.

On the change at Madrid, Ceballos said: "It is true that with Zizou I had fewer opportunities than I had thought, but now Madrid is without a coach, we do not know what will happen in two or three weeks, there is talk of many things and I think that right now is time to disconnect a bit from football, prepare well for what is coming and when Madrid have their next coach, let's talk and see what we want, it will be time to decide the future.”

Ceballos started 25 games for Arsenal in the 2020-21 season, with his final total of minutes (2,370) a fraction above the previous term (2,343).

The 24-year-old provided three assists and also created six big chances – deemed by Opta as those situations where a player should score – though he did not get a goal himself, having managed two in 2019-20.

"The Premier is a very attractive league, I was lucky to be able to play it last year and win the FA Cup, and this second year has helped me to consolidate myself," Ceballos said of his time at Arsenal.

"I am very happy because I have learned a lot, I have become a better player, more complete, and I think that although my stage has not closed as we would have liked, with another title, I am very happy with the experience."

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