Bayer Leverkusen head coach Xabi Alonso has insisted there is “nothing new to say” regarding fresh speculation over his future.

Alonso has been heavily linked with the Liverpool job since Jurgen Klopp announced last month he would step down at the end of the campaign, but the Premier League club now face competition from Bayern Munich.

It was revealed on Wednesday that current Bayern boss Thomas Tuchel will leave his position at the conclusion of the season – increasing the scrutiny on Alonso.

The former Liverpool and Bayern midfielder has enjoyed an excellent campaign in charge of Leverkusen, establishing an eight-point lead at the Bundesliga summit and guiding them through to the last 16 of the Europa League ahead of Friday’s league visit of Mainz.

Alonso faced the media on Thursday and started his press conference by shutting down speculation over his future.

“Maybe you have some questions about my future, but I’m sorry, I have nothing new to say. I wanted to say that beforehand,” he told a press conference, via Bild.

“Right now I’m the (Leverkusen) coach. That’s for sure. I have nothing new to say for the future. We will see. It’s normal that there are questions, but it’s off topic now. Now is not the time for me to talk much about it.”

Asked if Bayern had contacted him since the Tuchel announcement, Alonso replied: “I understand the question, but I have to say again that I have nothing new to say. It’s just hypothetical.”

 

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The 42-year-old also insisted it had been a normal week for his squad and claimed he was currently preparing to be Leverkusen boss next season given his contract runs until 2026.

He said: “I’m assuming that right now.

“This week was normal. It was quiet for us. We had three training sessions. That is normal.

“I know that it is my goal, it is my job, to be successful with the team. This is my work. We are in a very good situation right now. We want to continue like this. That’s enough for me.”

Jeremie Frimpong fired into an empty net in stoppage time to cap Bayer Leverkusen’s outstanding 3-0 win over Bayern Munich as they celebrated carnival weekend in the Rhineland by moving five points clear at the top of the Bundesliga.

Josip Stanisic, the man on loan from Bayern, opened the scoring in the 18th minute before Alex Grimaldo doubled the advantage five minutes into the second half, but Frimpong added an exclamation mark after Manuel Neuer came up for a corner and Leverkusen broke to punish him.

Bayern had more of the ball but throughout the night it always felt as though Xabi Alonso’s side were the more dangerous, and this was a huge statement in their bid to win a first Bundesliga title and banish the nickname Vizekuzen – a mark of the five times they have finished runners-up.

The match at the BayArena kicked off eight minutes late after fans threw toy balls and other items onto the pitch as part of ongoing protests against the prospect of outside investment into the Bundesliga, and once play began it was Bayern who appeared to be on the front foot.

But while Leverkusen were happy to invite the visitors on to them, they were simply waiting for the moment to counter.

Their first shot at goal came in the 11th minute but Amine Adli’s effort lacked the power to trouble Neuer. Adli threatened again seven minutes later before Kim Min-jae got a foot in just in time, but Bayern were asleep from the resulting throw-in and were made to pay.

Robert Andrich drilled in a low ball across the face of goal and the Bayern defence stood still as Stanisic arrived to fire home, left all alone by Sacho Boey, usually a right-back but deployed on the left here in his second appearance since joining from Galatasaray last month.

Adli had a superb chance to get a second just before half-time as Granit Xhaka’s pin-point pass put him clean through on goal, but Dayot Upamecano recovered to get a toe on the ball, poking it back to Neuer.

It took only five minutes of the second half for the second to arrive. Grimaldo played a neat one-two with Nathan Tella to carve open the Bayern defence before beating Neuer at his near post with a rising shot.

Bayern were rocking, and there was chaos in their penalty area soon after, with Eric Dier’s cross hitting the arm of Leon Goretzka before bobbling back to Neuer, with a VAR check for handball coming to nothing.

Grimaldo hit the crossbar direct from a corner just after the hour as the ball dramatically dipped, but it bounced to safety.

Bayern tried to up the ante as Thomas Tuchel turned to his bench but struggled to create any real opportunities for a frustrated Harry Kane.

Instead, Leverkusen looked more likely to score again. Frimpong had already hit a post at the end of one late counter-attack, but had the final say after Neuer failed to get on the end of the corner and he raced down the pitch to fire into the unguarded net.

Bayern Munich head coach Thomas Tuchel is targeting a “statement performance” to end the 30-match unbeaten run of title rivals Bayer Leverkusen.

Leverkusen hold a two-point lead over Saturday’s visitors at the top of the Bundesliga after winning 16 and drawing four of their 20 league games this season.

Xabi Alonso’s side can also boast a 100 per cent record in the group stage of the Europa League and twice came from behind in the German Cup on Tuesday to beat Stuttgart 3-2 and advance to the semi-finals.

However, Bayern can call on their experience of winning 11 consecutive Bundesliga titles and Tuchel believes his side have room for improvement as they approach the business end of the season.

“It’s exciting that two teams are earning points at such a high level,” Tuchel told a pre-match press conference.

“We’ve also had a very good campaign in terms of our history. We’re completely focused on what we can do. We want a statement performance. If we want to win, we need a top performance.

“It’s the week in which we want to prove ourselves. We’re playing for our own objectives, and our objective is to step things up a notch, and then we can be fine in every game. Then we’ve got the individual quality for it. We’re ready to improve.”

Tuchel’s side also have the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Lazio to look forward to and the 50-year-old added: “We have a very attractive week ahead of us.

“A win for Leverkusen opens up a gap, but it won’t be over, although it feels like a special moment to lay your cards on the table. It’s about challenging ourselves and therefore the opponent from the first second to the last.

“We want to take the next step. Leverkusen are having an outstanding season. We’ve still got room for improvement. We feel ready to take the next step and want to push Leverkusen.”

Alphonso Davies remains sidelined with a tendon injury but Joshua Kimmich, Kim Min-jae and Dayot Upamecano have returned to training and are set to be in the matchday squad.

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who has been struggling with a knee problem, was set to take part in training on Friday before a decision is taken over whether he or Sven Ulreich will make the starting XI.

Bayer Leverkusen returned to the Bundesliga summit with a 3-0 win at Werder Bremen to ensure boss Xabi Alonso enjoyed a memorable 42nd birthday.

Bayern Munich had taken over at the top on Friday night with a narrow victory at Cologne, but Alonso’s unbeaten team provided the perfect response.

An own goal by Olivier Deman broke the deadlock after nine minutes and then it was all about the visitors’ wing-backs.

Jeremie Frimpong made it 2-0 before half-time with a thumping finish from close range and Alex Grimaldo wrapped up a comprehensive win with Leverkusen’s third in the 76th minute to make it 12 league games without defeat.

Stuttgart are third in Bundesliga after goals at either end of the first half from Deniz Undav helped them to a 2-1 victory away to Frankfurt.

Borussia Dortmund make up the top four after they fought back from two down to beat Borussia Monchengladbach in a thriller.

Goals from Rocco Reitz and Manu Kone put Monchengladbach 2-0 up inside 28 minutes, but Marcel Sabitzer started the comeback before further efforts by Niclas Fullkrug, Jamie Bynoe-Gittens and Donyell Malen inspired an excellent 4-2 triumph for the hosts.

Elsewhere, Wolfsburg got the better of RB Leipzig 2-1 and Union Berlin started the post-Urs Fischer era with a 1-1 home draw with Augsburg.

Barcelona lost more ground in the LaLiga title race after they were forced to settle for a point at Rayo Vallecano.

Unai Lopez fired Vallecano ahead six minutes before half-time with a superb strike from range and Xavi’s side struggled to make their dominance count until the 82nd minute when Florian Lejeune put through his own net.

 

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Barca substitute Raphinha had strong penalty appeals turned down in stoppage time as it finished 1-1.

Atletico Madrid leapfrogged Barca to move into third after a 1-0 victory at home to Mallorca.

In-form Antoine Griezmann grabbed the only goal of the game with 64 minutes on the clock when he headed home Mario Hermoso’s deep cross to send Diego Simeone’s team into the top three.

Mason Greenwood found the net in Getafe’s 2-1 win at home to Almeria, while Rafael Benitez celebrated a point on his return to Valencia after his Celta Vigo side battled to a goalless draw.

AC Milan returned to winning ways in Serie A against Fiorentina thanks to a Theo Hernandez penalty on a historic night at the San Siro.

Hernandez won a spot-kick in first-half stoppage time and converted from 12 yards to end a four-match winless run in the division for Stefano Pioli’s team.

Pioli helped Milan make history with seven minutes of the match remaining when he introduced 15-year-old forward Francesco Camarda for Luka Jovic to make the teenager the youngest ever player to appear in Serie A.

Napoli got the Walter Mazzarri reign under way with a 2-1 win at Atalanta after goals by Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and Eljif Elmas, but Lazio suffered a surprise defeat by the same scoreline at Salernitana.

Ciro Immobile put Lazio ahead in the 43rd minute but Grigoris Kastanos’ equaliser and Antonio Candreva’s long-range rocket earned Salernitana a first league victory of the season at the 12th time of asking.

Patrick Vieira’s Strasbourg held Marseille to a 1-1 draw in Ligue 1, while Lens claimed an excellent 3-0 win at Clermont where both teams finished the match with 10 men.

Exequiel Palacios’ last-gasp penalty rescued a point at Bayern Munich to keep Bayer Leverkusen top of the Bundesliga.

Leon Goretzka looked to have fired Munich to victory with just four minutes left before Palacios snatched a 2-2 draw in injury time.

Harry Kane opened the scoring to make it four goals in four league games but he was unable to inspire Bayern to victory.

Alejandro Grimaldo’s brilliant free-kick levelled in the first half and Lukas Hradecky denied Kane, Leroy Sane, Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry.

Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen remain ahead of Bayern on goal difference after the opening four games of the season.

The teams were the only sides to win all of their first three matches this term and Bayern went to make it four early on.

The hosts took the lead after just seven minutes when Sane’s corner was flicked on for Kane at the far post to nod in unmarked from close range.

Sane shot over soon after, with the hosts on top, but they were stunned after 25 minutes when Grimaldo bent in a free-kick from 20 yards.

It gave Leverkusen confidence and Victor Boniface had a goal disallowed for offside after 33 minutes.

Muller and Gnabry forced Hradecky into smart stops before he denied Sane with a fine fingertip save and then thwarted Goretzka from point-blank range just before the break.

Boniface – who has five goals in five games this season – lobbed onto the roof of the net as he tried his luck from the halfway line as the frantic pace continued into the second half.

Hradecky continued to frustrate the hosts when he superbly kept Kane out after 57 minutes.

But Leverkusen were breached with four minutes left when substitute Mathys Tel, who enjoyed an impressive cameo, crossed for Goretzka to sweep in a first-time finish.

Boniface, though, should have made it 2-2 just a minute later when he blazed over with the goal gaping but they were given a reprieve in stoppage time.

Alphonso Davies fouled Jonas Hofmann in the box and, after a VAR check, Palacios found the top corner from the spot.

There was still time for more drama when Dayot Upamecano thought he had won it for Bayern in the ninth minute of stoppage time, only to be ruled offside after lashing in from a corner.

Bayern Munich coach Thomas Tuchel insists Harry Kane will be an “absolute success story” for the Bundesliga champions.

The England captain has scored three goals and registered one assist in his first four matches since an initial £86million move from Tottenham and Tuchel believes he is the “perfect” striker for them.

“We have exactly the player we need, with the personality of the way he plays, in Harry Kane,” Tuchel told a press conference ahead of Friday’s visit of Bayer Leverkusen.

“We try to get him more involved in our game and this is going to be an absolute success story.

“We have the perfect striker for us and we are more than happy with him.”

After a tumultuous week with the national team – Germany sacked Hansi Flick after a 4-1 defeat to Japan – Tuchel has no concerns about his returning internationals.

“I don’t have to build them up, they did it themselves with a good performance and victory over France (2-1 on Tuesday),” he added.

“Yesterday we worked together for five minutes in the dressing room and it was pretty much business as usual.”

Former Bayern and RB Leipzig manager Julian Nagelsmann is the favourite to replace Flick and his successor at club level Tuchel gave him his backing.

“Yes, he can do it. He is an outstanding coach and it’s up to him but as far as his skills and know-how it is not a problem.”

What is more of a problem is the challenge of Leverkusen, as at least one of the Bundesliga’s two remaining 100 per cent records will end at the Allianz Arena with the visitors currently topping the table on goal difference after an impressive start to the season.

Tuchel is an admirer of the work Xabi Alonso has done, saying: “He is a really good coach and that’s what he proves now.

“I learned a lot about football watching Xabi Alonso play. He was a really important figure in the national team, Bayern, Real and Liverpool in central midfield.

“He knows the game and he has that natural aura on the pitch leading his team to the biggest victories so it is not a surprise he is an outstanding coach.”

Joshua Kimmich is doubtful for the game, as is Eric Choupo-Moting, after returning from international duty with an injury but Jamal Musiala, whose back problem meant he did not join up with Germany, is likely to be fit.

Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is expected to return from a calf injury before next month’s international break.

England international Jude Bellingham came to Real Madrid’s rescue once again with a last-gasp winner against Getafe to maintain their perfect start to the LaLiga campaign.

The 20-year-old scored his fifth goal in four games since his £88.5million summer move from Borussia Dortmund to snatch a 2-1 victory five minutes into stoppage time at the Bernabeu.

Getafe, who did not include controversial deadline-day signing Mason Greenwood in their squad, took an 11th-minute lead through Borja Mayoral, but Real emerged with the points after Joselu levelled to hand Bellingham the role of match-winner for the second successive weekend.

Takefusa Kubo’s first-half double set Real Sociedad on their way to a thrilling 5-3 victory over Granada.

The Japan international struck either side of Robin Le Normand’s own goal before Martin Zubimendi, Ander Barrenetxea and Miki Bosch’s own goal secured the points despite late efforts from Lucas Boye and Bryan Zaragoza.

Valencia defender Cenk Ozkacar also got the better of his own keeper to hand Alaves a 1-0 win, while William Jose’s second-half strike was sufficient to secure victory by the same scoreline for Real Betis over Rayo Vallecano.

Mathys Tel came off the bench to head Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich to a 2-1 victory at Borussia Monchengladbach as England striker Harry Kane drew a blank.

Monchengladbach had taken a first-half lead through Ko Itakura, but Leroy Sane levelled after the break and Tel snatched the points with three minutes remaining.

Victor Boniface helped himself to a double as Bayer Leverkusen routed Darmstadt 5-1 to top the table on goal difference.

Oscar Wilhelmsson had restored parity after Boniface broke the deadlock. Exequiel Palacios, Boniface again, Jonas Hofmann and substitute Adam Hlozek all scored to wrap up a comprehensive win.

Chris Fuhrich and Serhou Guirassy both struck twice as Stuttgart also hit five with substitute Enzo Millot also finding the back of a net in a 5-0 mauling of Freiburg.

Marvin Ducksch’s third-minute penalty set Werder Bremen on their way to a 4-0 home win over Mainz, although they had to wait until the second half for Jens Stage, Leonardo Bittencourt and Justin Njinmah to cement the win.

John Brooks, Maximilian Beier and Robert Skov were all on target as Hoffenheim came from behind to beat Wolfsburg, who had gone ahead through Tiago Tomas, 3-1, and Takuma Asano scored both Bochum goals in a 2-2 draw at Augsburg.

Serie A champions Napoli suffered a rude awakening as Lazio’s Daichi Kamada condemned them to a shock 2-1 defeat at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Piotr Zielinksi looked to have put the home side back on track when he cancelled out Luis Alberto’s opener, but Kamada secured the points seven minutes after the break.

Former West Ham striker Gianluca Scamacca’s double helped to ease Atalanta into third place in in the table following a 3-0 victory over Monza at the Gewiss Stadium.

The £22.5million summer signing struck either side of half-time after midfielder Ederson had opened the scoring.

Goals from Joshua Zirkzee and Giovanni Fabbian handed Bologna a 2-1 win over Cagliari, who had gone ahead through Zito, while Udinese and Frosinone finished goalless.

Monaco went two points clear of Marseille at the top of Ligue 1 after a 3-0 win over Lens at Stade Louis II.

Wilfried Singo set them on their way with a 24th-minute header and further goals from Aleksandr Golovin and Guillermo Maripan before the hour mark eased them home.

Brest and Rennes, however, could not be separated as they fought out a 0-0 stalemate at Stade Francis-Le Ble.

Xabi Alonso has confirmed he will still be in charge of Bayer Leverkusen next season.

The former Liverpool midfielder had been linked to the vacant head coach role at Tottenham during the past month.

Alonso has impressed in his first senior managerial position after he guided Leverkusen out of relegation trouble in the Bundesliga and into the Europa League semi-finals since his appointment in October.

With Julian Nagelsmann no longer a contender for the role at Spurs and Burnley boss Vincent Kompany signing a new deal earlier this month, Alonso remained one of the bookkeepers’ favourites to replace Antonio Conte.

But speaking at a press conference ahead of Thursday’s Europa League last-four second leg with Roma, Alonso said: “I’m happy here with the team and the club.

“I’m not worried about my future.”

Asked by a Bild reporter if that meant he would still be in charge of Leverkusen next season, Alonso replied: “That’s correct.”

Bayer Leverkusen waltzed into the Europa League semi-finals with a 4-1 defeat of Union Saint-Gilloise, sealing a 5-2 win on aggregate.

Xavi Alonso's Leverkusen went into Thursday's quarter-final second leg without a win in their past three visits to Belgium in European matches, but the Bundesliga side got the job done.

Moussa Diaby's coolly taken goal settled their nerves in the second minute, with Mitchel Bakker drilling in from close range to double the visitors' lead before half-time.

Bakker played a key role in Leverkusen's third, pressuring Union goalkeeper Anthony Moris into a dreadful clearance which was turned into an empty net by Jeremie Frimpong following what had been a bright start to the second half from the hosts.

Union got their reward for a spirited response when Casper Terho pulled one back with a deflected strike, but it proved to be only a consolation, with Adam Hlozek on hand to add further gloss to Leverkusen's win late on.

Leverkusen are into their first European semi-final since making the last four of the Champions League in 2002.

The race for Jude Bellingham's signature continues, with Liverpool having pulled out last week.

Numerous top clubs are keen on the 19-year-old England international who is contracted with Borussia Dortmund until 2025.

Bellingham signed his initial deal with Dortmund in 2020 but is set for a major pay rise if he moves or pens fresh terms.

TOP STORY – MADRID TO USE DIAZ IN BELLINGHAM DEAL

Real Madrid are plotting a potential player swap-plus-cash deal to land Jude Bellingham in the off-season, according to Cadena SER.

Los Blancos are investigating potentially using Brahim Diaz, currently on loan at Milan, in a deal to help reduce Dortmund's reported €150 million asking price.

Madrid are currently in the process of extending the stays of veteran midfielders Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City are preparing a new contract offer for Erling Haaland to ward off rivals interest from top clubs such as Real Madrid, claims The Athletic.

- Rafael Leao wants to stay with Milan following interest from Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, according to Manchester Evening News.

- Newcastle United have established contact with Ousmane Dembele's representatives to discuss a move for the Barcelona winger, claims 90min.

- Arsenal and Newcastle United are both interested in Bayer Leverkusen winger Moussa Diaby, per Le10Sport.

- The Telegraph reports Chelsea have opted against pursing Luis Enrique as their new manager, instead turning their attention to former Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino. The Guardian claims Julian Nagelsmann remains Chelsea's top candidate.

- Tottenham will swoop on Chelsea's decision and look to appoint Enrique as Antonio Conte's replacement, according to The Express.

Reported Manchester United target Jeremie Frimpong is similar to Trent Alexander-Arnold in the way he "bravely" attacks but "forgets that he needs to defend".

That is according to Dimitar Berbatov, who played for both United and Frimpong's current club Bayer Leverkusen.

Reports this week have suggested United manager Erik ten Hag is particularly keen on the right-back, having this season rotated between using Diogo Dalot and Aaron Wan-Bissaka in that role.

Frimpong has scored eight goals in the Bundesliga this season, the most of any defender across Europe's top five leagues, while only Raphael Guerreiro can match his 14 goal involvements.

Dalot has a goal and two assists in the Premier League, while Wan-Bissaka has not contributed to a single goal.

Frimpong also ranks first among defenders for touches in the opposition box (118) and second for chances created from open play (41).

In the latter category, he is joined in the top 10 by Liverpool's Alexander Arnold (35), and Berbatov sees similarities between the two – at both ends of the pitch.

"He is someone who reminds me of Trent Alexander Arnold, because he is primarily an attacking full-back and sometimes he forgets that he needs to defend as well," Berbatov, speaking on behalf of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, told Stats Perform.

 

"But the way he's playing, bravely going up the pitch, attacking, running, assisting and scoring goals, it's a joy for me to watch, to be honest.

"Yes, I say it in the form of a joke, but he needs to work a bit more on his defensive part of the game.

"But he's very young, he has a bright future in my mind, and I think some of the big clubs will come up to him, for sure."

Alexander-Arnold has been widely criticised for his defensive work, with that scrutiny increasing in a difficult season for Liverpool.

However, he played a hybrid midfield role on Monday against Leeds United and provided two assists in a 6-1 win.

Meanwhile, Frimpong has played every game for a Leverkusen side who have conceded 41 goals in the Bundesliga, the joint-most in the top half of the table.


Dimitar Berbatov and Ben Foster featured in Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s 2022/23 UEFA Europa League campaign content, Mission Masterclass’. You can view episode one in full https://youtu.be/XTCqaMGIvyI

Real Madrid are reportedly eager to bolster their full-back options, to upgrade from Dani Carvajal and Ferland Mendy.

Los Blancos were linked with Manchester City's Joao Cancelo - currently on loan at Bayern Munich - earlier this week by Fichajes.

The Spanish giants are set to miss out on this season's LaLiga title, with Barcelona leading by 10 points.

TOP STORY – MADRID KEEN ON LIVERPOOL'S TAA

Real Madrid will turn to Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold should they fail to land Reece James from Chelsea, claims Ekrem Konur.

Los Blancos are in the market for a new full-back and Konur claims Madrid could also turn to Bayer Leverkusen's Jeremie Frimpong.

Alexander-Arnold has had a mixed campaign for Liverpool, who appear set for a squad revamp in the off-season. The 24-year-old England full-back is contracted with the Reds until 2025.

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti is an admirer of Torino's 21-year-old midfielder Samuele Ricci with Los Blancos keeping tabs on his situation, according to Tuttosport.

– The Sunday Mirror claims Manchester City are leading the race to sign Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham from Real Madrid , with Liverpool having pulled out.

Chelsea are looking to offer Romelu Lukaku as part of a deal with Atletico Madrid to sign Portuguese forward Joao Felix permanently, reports Fichajes. Chelsea are unwilling to pay Atletico's €100m asking fee, but may part with €70m along with the Belgian forward.

Tottenham are tracking Barcelona winger Ansu Fati, reports Mundo Deportivo. The report suggests Spurs are willing to make him their most expensive transfer in club history.

RB Leipzig are considering a move to sign Arsenal forward Folarin Balogun in the close season, claims Todofichajes. Balogun has impressed this season on loan with Reims .

Chelsea have interviewed Sporting boss Ruben Amorim about taking over as manager next season, reports talkSPORT.

Chelsea and Bayern Munich are reportedly both in contact with Spanish midfielder Gavi amid concerns that Barcelona's financial position will mean they are unable to retain him.

Gavi, 18, is one of the top central midfield prospects in the world, having already racked up 87 senior appearances for Barcelona since debuting in the 2021-22 season.

According to AS, the contract extension Gavi signed this season to tie him to Barcelona until 2026 was rejected by LaLiga because of the club's finances and, if they fail to clear enough salary room by June 30, Gavi will be allowed to leave on a free transfer.

 

TOP STORY – CHAMPIONS LEAGUE SHARKS CIRCLING VULNERABLE BARCELONA

AS reports Chelsea have already met with Gavi's agent in an attempt to convince him of a Premier League move, and a second meeting is expected with Chelsea owner Todd Boehly and Gavi's parents in attendance.

The report states Chelsea are prepared to make the teen with 19 senior caps for Spain one of the Premier League's highest-paid players – significantly more than the contract he signed with Barcelona.

Meanwhile, Sport adds Bayern have also alerted Gavi's agent that they are prepared to submit a significant offer if he ends up being allowed to leave on a free.

 

ROUND-UP

– 90min is reporting Chelsea are confident they will be able to convince 24-year-old Napoli striker Victor Osimhen to join, despite not being able to offer Champions League football, as Osimhen's childhood hero was Didier Drogba.

– According to Football Insider, Liverpool have made 24-year-old Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Alexis Mac Allister their top midfield target in the off-season.

Leeds United have strong interest in Barcelona loanee Ez Abde, with the 21-year-old winger shining during his stint at Osasuna, per Sport.

– Journalist Nicolo Schira is reporting that Roma are considering a contract offer for 31-year-old Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino when he becomes a free agent after the season.

– According to Sport1's Patrick Berger, Bayer Leverkusen right-back Jeremie Frimpong is keen on a move to Manchester United, although his club is holding out for a €50million (£45m) fee.

A fine finish from Florian Wirtz rescued Bayer Leverkusen a 1-1 draw at home to Union Saint-Gilloise in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final.

Wirtz struck in the 82nd minute just when it appeared a wasteful Leverkusen performance would make them the latest victims of Union's sensational fairy-tale story.

In the Belgian second tier just two years ago and now enjoying their first European campaign since 1964-65, Union had already eliminated another Bundesliga side in namesakes Union Berlin.

Victor Boniface scored twice in the away leg of that last-16 tie and added a sixth Europa League goal of the season when he calmly steered a low finish past Lukas Hradecky from the left-hand side of the penalty area six minutes into the second half on Thursday.

The closest either team had come to scoring prior to that had been when Jonathan Tah unwittingly divert the ball against his own crossbar with his elbow from an Union corner.

Leverkusen did not lack endeavour, but the requisite quality was missing until Wirtz fired in a potentially vital equaliser from outside the area.

Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Barcelona have all reportedly met with the agent of 22-year-old Bayer Leverkusen right-back Jeremie Frimpong about a potential transfer.

Frimpong has exploded onto the scene this season as a weapon going forward, scoring eight league goals in 26 Bundesliga fixtures after just a single goal in his first 18 months in Germany.

Having previously represented the Netherlands at youth levels, his sparkling form was rewarded as he was included in their World Cup squad, although he did not get to make his senior debut.

He is viewed as one of Leverkusen's most valuable assets, and the club are expecting Champions League teams to come calling.

TOP STORY – UNITED LEAD THE CHARGE FOR GOAL-SCORING RIGHT-BACK

According to Sport Bild, United and boss Erik ten Hag have been in contact with Leverkusen "for weeks" trying to sort out the framework of a deal, with the German side reportedly starting the bidding at £44million (€50m).

The report states that asking price is not seen as a significant hurdle, and Leverkusen have already begun the process of replacing Frimpong with the signing of 20-year-old Brazilian Arthur from America MG in recent days.

Meanwhile, Fabrizio Romano adds Bayern and Barcelona have also had "direct meetings" with Frimpong's agent, although a decision on the future of Joao Cancelo remains the priority for Bayern, and Barcelona's finances make their situation unclear.

ROUND-UP

– Roma coach Jose Mourinho is in high demand, with Relevo reporting Chelsea have enquired about bringing him back for a third stint, while Corriere dello Sport claims he has received an offer from the Saudi Pro League that would pay him €120m over the next two seasons.

– Spanish publication COPE is reporting Chelsea, United and Tottenham are all investigating a potential move for 22-year-old Valencia goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili, despite his gaudy £87m (€100m) release clause.

– According to Calciomercato, Newcastle United have been impressed with 21-year-old Feyenoord striker Santiago Gimenez, with the Mexican having starred in his first season in the Eredivisie.

Inter are trying to fend off interest from Manchester City by signing 23-year-old centre-back Alessandro Bastoni to a new long-term contract, per Calciomercato.

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