Chelsea are in the market for a striker and are seemingly keen on one of their former players.

Romelu Lukaku helped Inter to the Serie A title last term and is seemingly in Chelsea's sights.

The Belgium international scored four goals at Euro 2020 after netting 24 times in Serie A.

TOP STORY - CHELSEA REBUFFED IN LUKAKU BID

Chelsea have had their initial bid worth approximately £86 million (€100m) for Lukaku rejected by Inter, reports The Sun.

The Blues made their transfer offer with defender Marcos Alonso also involved, but the Italian champions are demanding a £100m (€117m) fee.

Lukaku is said to be Chelsea's number one target after failing in their bid to lure Erling Haaland away from Borussia Dortmund.

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid are still expecting Kylian Mbappe to let his Paris Saint-Germain contract expire at the end of the 2021-22 season and join Los Blancos for free, according to AS.

- The Daily Star reports Manchester City and Tottenham are still unable to reach agreement in negotiations over Harry Kanewith £40m separating them currently.

- AS claims Barcelona remain in the box seat to sign highly sought-after Atletico Madrid star Saul Niguez despite their financial challenges. Saul has been chased by Premier League trio LiverpoolManchester United and Chelsea.

Atalanta are set to win the race to sign Juventus defender Merih Demiral, claims Sky Deutschland, with Cristian Romero looking likely to join Tottenham. Bundesliga pair Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen were also interested in the Turkey international.

Roma head coach Jose Mourinho has switched his attention from Arsenal's Granit Xhaka to Dortmund's Thomas Delaney, according to Bild.

Atletico Madrid defender Mario Hermoso has been released from a German hospital following an episode of intestinal obstruction.

The centre-back has successfully recovered and able to return to Spain on Monday.

Hermoso was admitted to hospital on Saturday after complaining of acute abdominal pain leading up to Atletico's friendly against Wolfsburg.

But after undergoing medical tests, the Spain international was discharged  and will hope to be involved for Diego Simeone's side against Cadiz on Wednesday.

Hermoso, who arrived from Espanyol in July 2019, has made 48 league appearances for Atleti.

The 26-year-old played 31 times in LaLiga last season as the club were crowned champions, their first top-flight title since 2014.

Atletico will launch their defence away at Celta Vigo on August 15.

Jack Grealish has been holidaying following Euro 2020, but it is now decision time on his club future.

Speculation has mounted over the past few days about a potential move to Manchester City.

City manager Pep Guardiola is a long-term admirer of Grealish, and a big-money bid has apparently been sanctioned by chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak.

TOP STORY - GREALISH SET FOR MONDAY TALKS WITH VILLA

Grealish has returned from his off-season holiday and will hold showdown talks with Aston Villa on Monday as a move to City looms, reports The Mirror.

Grealish has been linked with a £100million move to the English champions and is expected to inform Villa of his intention to leave.

Villa have reportedly offered Grealish a bumper new deal worth £200,000-a-week.

 

ROUND-UP

Tottenham have turned their attention to Wolves winger Adama Traore, according to the Daily Mail. Wolves reportedly want £45m for the Spain international, who would be re-acquainted with manager Nuno Espirito Santo. Goal claims Leeds United are also interested in Traore.

Atletico Madrid are preparing for Kieran Trippier to exit the club as links with Manchester United intensify, with the Spanish champions lining up a move for Roma's Alessandro Florenzi, claims AS.

Atletico are also pursuing Inter's Lautaro Martinez and have moved ahead of Arsenal in the race to sign the Argentina international, according to Tuttosport.

- Borussia Dortmund's Denmark international Thomas Delaney is being pursued SouthamptonNorwich City and Crystal Palace, reports Ruhr Nachrichten.

- ABC claims Real Madrid will offer forward Karim Benzema a new one-year contract extension.

Rafa Mir believes he would fit in well at Atletico Madrid but will wait until after the Tokyo Olympics to discuss his future with Wolves.

The 24-year-old has failed to settle since moving to Molineux from Valencia in 2018 and has spent the last three seasons on loan with Las Palmas, Nottingham Forest and Huesca.

Mir has less than a year to run on his contract and has been touted as a target for LaLiga champions Atletico, who are seeking further back-up for first-choice striker Luis Suarez.

Reports in Spain on Sunday, meanwhile, suggest the former Barcelona youth product has been offered to the Catalan giants by agent Jorge Mendes.

And with his stock high after scoring a hat-trick for Spain in their Olympic quarter-final win against the Ivory Coast on Saturday, Mir is not ruling out a transfer before the window closes.

"Things are happening. I have not asked to know much until the Games are over," he told AS.

"We will see how things progress. I still have one more year at Wolverhampton and calmly we will decide what is best for me.

"I want to be at a place I'm happy, as I was at Huesca. I want to feel loved by the people and the club. With those ingredients I can play at my best.

"I arrived in England during a difficult situation and then I was injured for a couple of months. My level of English also isn't good, but it's been improving.

"English football is a style I like and that's why I chose to go there after Valencia. Things have not gone as I wanted but I think I can do well there. 

"I'm still young and have many more years of my career to go, so we'll see what happens."

Asked about the links with Atletico in particular, Mir added: "They are a great club. I think the way they play suits me very well because of my characteristics. We'll have to see.

"Right now I'm focused on the Games. When they come to an end then we will see."

 

Mir was brought on as a substitute against the Ivory Coast and forced extra time just 58 seconds after being introduced from the bench, netting from his first touch of the ball.

He added two more goals in the additional period to earn Spain a 5-2 win and set up a semi-final with competition hosts Japan in Saitama on Tuesday.

That made the Murcia-born forward the first player to score a hat-trick in a knockout-round game in the tournament since Beijing 2008.

"I'm very happy with those goals and to help the team progress," Mir said. "You wake up with the same desire and enthusiasm which we cam with, which is to get a medal. 

"I've had the matchball signed by all my colleagues. I have a space at home for all my football possessions, such as shirts and balls from other hat-tricks I've scored."

Mir scored 13 goals in 38 LaLiga appearances last season – only seven players netted more – but he could not prevent Huesca from suffering relegation to the second tier.

Those 13 goals came from 120 shots, including blocks, which was the third highest tally in the Spanish top flight last season after Karim Benzema (123) and Lionel Messi (196).

Manchester City still hope to sign Tottenham and England striker Harry Kane in the coming days.

The Premier League champions appear likely to add his international team-mate first, with Jack Grealish reportedly close to a move to the Etihad Stadium.

Aston Villa have tabled a contract to keep their star man, but City are prepared to spend big to win his signature.

 

TOP STORY - CITY CLOSE ON GREALISH DEAL

Manchester City are set to complete a £100million move for Jack Grealish in the next few days, according to multiple reports

The Mail says the 25-year-old England international will earn more than £200,000 a week upon joining Pep Guardiola's side. 

Though City are expected to cut ties with some veteran players, adding Grealish will have no impact on their longstanding pursuit of Harry Kane, the Sun reports.

 

ROUND-UP

- Saul Niguez is weighing up a move to the Premier League, with the Mirror reporting Manchester United and Liverpool are possibilities for the Atletico Madrid midfielder in a £35-£40m deal. 

- Barcelona and Atletico Madrid are possibilities for Bernardo Silva if he leaves City in the coming weeks, reports the Mail. 

- Atalanta centre-back Cristian Romero wants to join Tottenham but the clubs are having difficulty reaching an agreement, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

- Brazilian striker Kaio Jorge is set for a €3m (£2.5m) permanent move to Juventus from Santos and is expected to sign through to 2026, reports Romano. 

- Arsenal and Everton have shown interest in Schalke's Matthew Hoppe after the USA international's strong Gold Cup performance, reports US journalist Grant Wahl.

- Talks between Wolves and Adama Traore have broken down and Leeds could swoop for the winger, reports Goal. 

- Brighton are interested in Benfica striker and Urugay international Darwin Nunez, reports the Mail. 

Kieran Trippier has one year remaining on his Atletico Madrid contract.

The England international has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United.

It has been reported that Trippier wants to return to England, having left Tottenham for LaLiga in 2019.

 

TOP STORY - TRIPPIER TO WAIT ON UNITED MOVE

Manchester United target Kieran Trippier is willing to wait until late in the transfer window to secure his move, reports the Telegraph.

Atletico Madrid full-back Trippier is said to have set his sights on a move to United, who have already been busy in the transfer market by launching moves for Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.

The report claims Trippier is prepared to sit tight and wait for United to raise the funds required to put together a move for the 30-year-old former Manchester City junior.

 

ROUND-UP

- Aston Villa are ready to restart talks with Jack Grealish about a new deal next week as Manchester City begin to ramp up their interest, according to the Express and Star.

- Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma is being lined up by West Ham,  with a proposed £20m bid set to be tabled, according to the Daily Mail. It had been reported Zouma may be used in a deal for Sevilla's Jules Kounde.

- Barcelona are lining up a second bid to sign Juventus defender Cristian Romero after having had a player-plus-cash deal turned down, reports SportItalia. Tottenham are also keen on Romero.

- Celtic could make a move for ex-England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who is currently on Tottenham's books, says BBC Sport.

All indications are Raphael Varane is set to move on from Real Madrid. 

The France international appears locked in on one destination. 

Manchester United are said to be close to a deal for the defender. 

 

TOP STORY – UNITED CLOSE TO VARANE MOVE

Manchester United have been linked to Raphael Varane in transfer rumours for months. 

Now it appears the move could come to fruition, as Marca reports United and Real Madrid are close to a €50million (£42m) agreement. 

Though the Mirror reports some at the Premier League club are worried the 28-year-old is merely using them to get a better deal out of Madrid, Fabrizio Romano says United are "confident" a deal is close and that no other clubs are involved. 

 

ROUND-UP

– With his Arsenal contract set to expire next year, Alexandre Lacazette is in demand, and Calciomercato says Atletico Madrid are pondering a potential €15m offer. 

Erik Lamela is set to join Sevilla in a swap deal, with Tottenham getting Bryan Gil, Marca says, while Romano says Spurs will also get €25m in the deal and Gil will sign through 2026.  

Newcastle are eyeing Ross Barkley as a potential addition if they cannot pry Joe Willock away from Arsenal, says The Athletic, with a loan move for Leicester's Hamza Choudhury also a possibility.

West Ham could make a move for Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, says the Express. 

Ben White's £50m move from Brighton to Arsenal will be official next week, reports Romano. 

Paris Saint-Germain have had talks with Kalidou Koulibaly's agent about a move from Napoli, reports Corriere dello Sport. 

Roma have offered €15m for Barcelona's Clement Lenglet, says Sport. 

Former Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres has returned to the LaLiga club as a coach of their youth team.

Torres himself progressed through Atletico's academy setup and spent 11 seasons with Los Colchoneros across two spells.

The 37-year-old former Spain forward retired from playing in August 2019 and has already spent time working behind the scenes with Atleti, but he stepped away in February for personal reasons.

He will now take the next step in his post-playing career by coaching the Spanish champions' Juvenil A side from the 2021-22 campaign.

Atletico confirmed the news on their official website on Sunday in a post titled "Fernando is coming home".

Torres scored 129 goals in 404 appearances for Atleti in all competitions and also represented Liverpool, Chelsea and Milan during an 18-year playing career.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta insists the club are "making progress" in all aspects of the contract negotiations with Lionel Messi after the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's previous deal expired.

Despite Messi technically no longer belonging to Barca, those associated with the club have portrayed a serene demeanour regarding a potential future agreement.

Even with his contract winding down, Barca officials have routinely affirmed that Messi's desire is to remain at Camp Nou, though LaLiga's salary cap rules mean he is reportedly set to be on half his previous wage should he ultimately accept a new deal.

However, the caveat that is thought to favour Barca in discussions is they are said to be offering Messi a five-year contract that would keep him at the club until he is at least 39.

While that may surprise some, Messi's form in 2020-21 showed he is far from being finished, as he ended the campaign as LaLiga's top scorer and managed 38 goals and 12 assists across all competitions, which translated to a goal every 110.3 minutes.

Similarly, he laid on 117 chances for others across all competitions. The fact Jordi Alba was the second most creative player in the Barca squad with 85 key passes only further underlined Messi's remarkable influence, but Laporta is adamant talks are proceeding as planned.

"The player has always said that he wants to continue [at Barca], there is no doubt about that," Laporta said at the presentation of Memphis Depay on Thursday.

"We are making progress in all the negotiations involving a contract of this type. They are going very well and it is a wish that we all have [for Messi to sign].

 

"We do not hide the will that we want him to continue and to be here for many years."

One player who is still signed to Barca but arguably has a more uncertain future than Messi is Antoine Griezmann, who could reportedly be involved in a swap deal that sees Atletico Madrid's Saul Niguez arrive in Catalonia.

Laporta initially stressed Griezmann has a future at Barca, though he soon acknowledged he is not untransferable.

"He is a player in the Barca first team, he has a valid contract and we are counting on him," Laporta said.

"The transfer market has started and practically nothing has happened. All the clubs are in certain difficulties.

"Players like Griezmann have a market, there are interested clubs and we are building our squad looking for financial balance. We are delighted with him and we are all professionals.

"Yes, the market is moving. We are open to all proposals because we are in a delicate moment and we are talking with all the players of the first team to see how they feel so that balancing acts hurt as little as possible."

Atletico Madrid supporters will not forgive Antoine Griezmann for his move to Barcelona in 2019 even if he was to return to Los Colchoneros, according to the Spanish champions' president Enrique Cerezo.

Griezmann has been linked with a move back to Atletico during the current transfer window as part of a swap deal that would see Saul Niguez head the opposite way to Camp Nou.

France international Griezmann scored 94 LaLiga goals for Atleti across five seasons with the club before joining Barca two years ago when his release clause was triggered.

Cerezo recently refused to rule out a move for Griezmann, but the Atleti chief does not believe the 30-year-old returning would be widely accepted among Atleti fans.

Asked if there had been any development with regards to a move for Griezmann, Cerezo said: "You're not talking to the right person."

When further probed on the issue and asked if supporters would forgive Griezmann for joining Barcelona in the first place, Cerezo said: "I don't think so."

 

Griezmann endured a disappointing first campaign at Barca marred by injuries and inconsistency, though he did net 20 times across all competitions in 2020-21 to finish as their second-highest goalscorer behind Lionel Messi.

He also impressed for France at Euro 2020, creating a team-high 10 chances across the tournament as Les Bleus suffered a shock last-16 elimination by Switzerland on penalties.

In his best season for Atleti in 2017-18, Griezmann scored 19 times in LaLiga – 11 more than any other team-mate – and provided 13 assists, while only Koke (81) created more opportunities than his 65 that campaign.

Antoine Griezmann has repeatedly been linked with a return to Atletico Madrid during this transfer window and Diego Simeone has heaped praise on a player he still believes can be a success at Barcelona.

Griezmann endured a mixed season for Ronald Koeman's men last campaign, scoring 13 times in 36 appearances as Barca's LaLiga title challenge faded down the home straight.

In contrast, Atleti – in true Simeone fashion – battled to secure their first Spanish top-flight success on the last day of the 2020-21 season and ended a seven-year spell without a LaLiga triumph.

Ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, reports in Spain have suggested that Simeone was keen to link-up with the France forward once more, but the Atleti head coach seemed keen not to inflame that speculation too much during an interview with Marca.

“I want the best for him and I hope he will succeed at Barcelona”, ​he said.

“He is at an extraordinary club and Antoine is a complete player. At Euro 2020, he again proved he can bring a lot [to a team] regardless of his positioning. But today, he is not with us. I only wish the best for a player who gave me everything.”

Indeed, Griezmann was in fine form at Euro 2020, despite France's last-16 shoot-out exit at the hands of Switzerland. He created more chances (10) than any of his team-mates as Didier Deschamp's team crashed out of the tournament earlier than expected.

Simeone's praise of his former player, of course, comes as no surprise. In arguably his best season for Atleti in 2017-18, Griezmann found the net 19 times in LaLiga – 11 more than any other team-mate – and provided 13 assists, while only Koke (81) created more opportunities than his 65.

 

And, while Griezmann's future remains unclear, he could partner Luis Suarez, whose 21 goals fired Atleti to LaLiga success last year, up top.

Simeone praised Suarez's workmanlike productivity up front and his unwavering desire to win.

"At the moment the option [to sign Suarez from Barcelona] appeared, I knew that the team lacked that forcefulness. There are not many. There are few specialists and Luis is one of them.", Simeone added.

"We understood that if we continued to be solid behind him, he would be closer to responding in the most difficult moments, when he had to appear. What I said about the 'Suarez area'. I'm not a fortune teller, but I'm a soccer man and I knew it was his time."

A Liverpool stalwart might make an early exit from the club.

Jordan Henderson is under contract for two more years and is said to want an extension.

But talks have reportedly not progressed, potentially opening the door for outside suitors.

 

TOP STORY - HENDERSON COULD LEAVE ANFIELD

Completing a new deal for Henderson is reportedly not a priority for Liverpool's ownership this off-season, and The Athletic says a move could be on the cards for the England international.

The report cites Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino as a long-time admirer of the midfielder and notes Henderson's close friendship with Atletico Madrid's Luis Suarez as potentially weighing in favour of a move to one of those clubs.

Liverpool are said to be eager to get something in return for Henderson, should he leave, after watching Georginio Wijnaldum move to PSG on a free transfer last month.

 

ROUND-UP

- If the rumoured swap deal that would send Saul Niguez to Barcelona and Antoine Griezmann to Atletico falls through, the Daily Mail reports that Liverpool and Manchester United could swoop for the 26-year-old Spaniard.

- Raphael Varane's expected move to Old Trafford is gaining momentum, as Fabrizio Romano reports the Real Madrid centre-back has told United he is "ready" to accept their contract offer should the clubs agree to terms.

- Tottenham are set to acquire Pierluigi Gollini from Atalanta on loan through next season with a €15million option to make the move permanent, says Romano, and Football London reports Atalanta defender Cristian Romero also is in talks to join Spurs.

- Manchester United's Donny van de Beek could be headed to Barcelona on loan, according to Mundo Deportivo.

- Villarreal are the leaders to sign Arnaut Danjuma away from Bournemouth, the Sun reports, with Villa and Southampton also possibilities for the Dutch forward.

- Burnley winger Dwight McNeil is Everton's top transfer target according to the Mirror, though the Liverpool Echo says Aston Villa may also be in the mix.

Reports in Spain suggest Atletico Madrid and Antoine Griezmann could be set for a reunion, just two years after Barcelona broke their transfer record to sign the France star.

Griezmann spent five seasons at Atleti, joining Diego Simeone's team from Real Sociedad.

He went on to score 94 LaLiga goals for the club, before a long-mooted switch to Barca went through in 2019.

Yet Griezmann, who turned 30 in March, has never quite managed to scale the same heights at the Camp Nou as he did in Madrid.

A disappointing first campaign marred by injuries and inconsistency left Griezmann playing catch up last term, though he did net 20 times across all competitions to finish as Barca's second-highest goalscorer, behind the imperious Lionel Messi.

With the uncertainty over Messi's future seemingly set to be resolved by a new five-year deal, reportedly worth half of the 34-year-old's previous contract, Barca have to clear their wage bill if they are to comply with LaLiga's salary cap.

The Blaugrana have added Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Emerson Royal in the close-season, though are unable to register those new signings until players are moved out.

Griezmann, who is one of the club's highest earners, looks set to be one of the names to make way in a swap deal involving Saul Niguez – though Renan Lodi and Mario Hermoso have also been touted as potential options for Barca. Ahead of his potential return, Stats Perform assesses how Griezmann's efforts last season match up to his best campaign from his first Atleti stint.

 

GRIEZMANN AT HIS PEAK

Griezmann was the perfect example of consistency throughout his time at Atleti, as he became the perfect, versatile forward for Simeone's disciplined side.

He partnered Mario Mandzukic, Fernando Torres and Diego Costa among others during his time at the club, transforming himself from a nippy winger to a central striker with predatory instincts in the area, as well as harbouring plenty of creative talents.

Though he played more games (54) and scored more goals (32) during the 2015-16 season, Griezmann's finest campaign at Atleti arguably came in 2017-18.

His tally of 19 LaLiga strikes was 11 more than any other Atleti player, as he finished sixth in the scoring charts overall.

Griezmann added another 10 goals across the cup competitions, however, including a brace in the Europa League final, which Atleti won 3-0 against Marseille in Lyon.

Only Griezmann got into double figures for Atleti in terms of assists (13), while only Koke (81) created more chances than his 65.

Griezmann was clinical when opportunities came his way, too, converting 52.38 per cent of the 42 "big chances" that were crafted for him, and he ranked top for attempts (124) as he averaged a goal every 133 minutes.

To cap off an exceptional domestic campaign, Greizmann put in a man of the match display as France beat Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 World Cup final.

 

PAST HIS BEST?

After making much of his call to stay put at Atleti – Griezmann having taken part in a mini-documentary to confirm his decision before the World Cup – the 28-year-old completed a €120million switch to Barca a year later.

It came with controversy; Atleti insisting Barca had fallen some €80m short of the obligated fee, but the transfer was nevertheless upheld.

His first season at Camp Nou was one to forget. The coronavirus pandemic merely prolonging a dismal campaign by Griezmann's lofty standards – the nadir for all involved at Barca coming in the humbling 8-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.

Yet Griezmann came into his second season with a renewed sense of purpose and finally seemed to click under new boss Ronald Koeman.

While still having to fit in around key man Messi, Griezmann played 51 times in all competitions, making 45 starts, clocking up 3,904 minutes in total (the second most he has managed in a campaign since his move to Atleti).

A total of 20 goals sees him fall some way short of the 29 he managed in 2017-18, though his 12 assists come close to matching his Atleti peak.

 

His expected assists (xA) total of 8.99 does, however, suggest the quality of opportunities he created was perhaps not wholly responsible for his 12 goal provisions. Given he was linking up with Messi, that is perhaps no surprise. This was, though, also the case in 2017-18, with Griezmann tallying an expected assists figure of 6.3, suggesting his Atleti team-mates were finishing chances they may not have been expected to.

Griezmann created more chances (67) last term than in his 2017-18 season, though his conversion rate of gilt-edged opportunities dropped to 39.39 per cent from 33 such openings.

Only in 2018-19 (15.11) did Griezmann have a lower shot conversion rate than last term (18.02) while there was no international glory for him this time around either – he scored once as France dropped out of Euro 2020 in the last 16.

Manchester City's search to replace Sergio Aguero is well known.

Spanish reports have linked Pep Guardiola’s side with Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann.

So, could City - who won the Premier League but lost the Champions League final to Chelsea – be set to bring in the France international? Possibly not...

 

TOP STORY – GRIEZMANN NOT ON CITY RADAR

Manchester City are ready to ramp up their move for a new striker during the transfer window but will not pursue Barcelona forward Griezmann, claims The Sun.

Pep Guardiola's side will instead set their sights on Tottenham's Harry Kane, while Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland is another possibility.

The Sun's report denies Spanish links between City and Frenchman Griezmann, with Barcelona understood to be keen to reduce their wage bill to free up funds to re-sign Lionel Messi.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail reports that Atletico Madrid's signing of midfielder Rodrigo De Paul from Udinese will pave the way for Liverpool's proposed move to sign Saul Niguez. De Paul's arrival means Atleti are free to sell him off, with the Reds and Barcelona reportedly interested.

- Juventus are homing in on a transfer for Manchester City's Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus, while they are also keen on bringing back Moise Kean to Turin, according to Tuttosport.

- Manchester United are edging closer to agreeing terms with French defender and long-term target Raphael Varane for a move from Real Madrid, reports the Mail.

- Jadon Sancho's move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United will be confirmed this week with a medical before his post-Euro 2020 holiday, claims The Sun.

- Fabrizio Romano claims that Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio will become Jose Mourinho's first signing at Roma imminently.

Atletico Madrid have completed the reported €35million signing of Argentina international midfielder Rodrigo de Paul, with Diego Simeone acquiring arguably the ideal creator for his philosophy.

De Paul, 27, has signed a five-year contract with Los Colchoneros and gets the opportunity complete unfinished business in Spain.

The midfielder spent two years with Valencia from June 2014 but endured an unsuccessful spell, failing to win over Nuno Espirito Santo and then Gary Neville, who allowed him to return to former club Racing on loan in February 2016.

De Paul came through the youth ranks at Racing and made his jump up to the senior side the year after Simeone left the club for Atleti.

After his brief loan return to Racing concluded, Valencia sold De Paul to Udinese where he looked to recapture the form that had earlier seen him identified as one of South America's most-promising young players.

He was a regular throughout his five years in Serie A but enjoyed his finest campaign of all in 2020-21, displaying a skillset that looks an ideal fit for the requirements of a Simeone team.

Throughout Simeone's 10 years as Atletico coach, his signings of creative players have tended to be hit and miss, with it a common conception that his intense demands both in training and during matches can sometimes stifle more mercurial talents who are not used to such workloads.

But De Paul, who is comfortable playing both centrally and out wide, has shown plenty of evidence he should be up to the challenge and is relishing the chance to play under Simeone.

"I'm very happy to have the opportunity of working under Simeone's commands," he told Atleti's website. "Firstly, because of the kind of football manager he is; one of the all-time best.

"I love football, it's part of my daily life, and having a manager of Simeone's high-calibre guiding me is a privilege.

"In addition, it fills me with patriotic pride. I'll enjoy being under his command because I grew up watching him play with Argentina's national team."

 

Providing creativity is De Paul's bread and butter, with his 82 key passes in 2020-21 bettered by only Hakan Calhanoglu (98) in Serie A.

Of those chances, 34 came from set-pieces, highlighting his prowess from dead-ball situations and ranking him fourth in Italy's top flight.

Only five players got more assists than his nine, but all of them massively out-performed their modest expected assists records, which ranged from 3.4 to 6.7. De Paul topped the charts for expected assists with 10.3 xA, evidence that his assists reflected the quality of his service rather than him getting lucky or benefiting from unusually good finishing by team-mates.

Yet the area which highlights a particular compatibility with Atleti is the fact he won more duels (294) than anyone else in Serie A in 2020-21.

Combine that with his league-leading completed dribbles (122) and it paints a picture of a hard-working player who also possesses the quality to get his team on the front foot.

He will join up with Atleti following a short break having played a crucial role in Argentina's recent Copa America success, in which he got the decisive assist for the Angel Di Maria goal that secured the title.

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