Atletico Madrid are reportedly ready to part ways with their club-record signing, setting a €100million asking price for Portuguese forward Joao Felix.

Felix, 23, was purchased from Benfica back in 2019 for a fee of €126m – shattering their transfer record by more than €50m.

He helped Atletico to a LaLiga title in the 2020-21 season, before being named the club's Player of the Season for the 2021-22 campaign, but he has now fallen out of favour, starting just five of his side's 14 league games.

Felix has been able to put himself in the shop window during his two starts to begin Portugal's World Cup group stage, including a goal against Ghana, and now Champions League contenders are expected to come calling in January.

 

TOP STORY – PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN NAMED AS ONE OF THREE SUITORS FOR FELIX

Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Manchester United have been named the main interested parties by Spanish publication AS.

The report states Felix's relationship with head coach Diego Simeone has become too strained to continue persisting, and includes a claim that Atletico rejected a €130m offer from United before the season.

With his contract tying him to the club until 2026, there will be no need to settle for an offer deemed unsatisfactory, but AS believes anything approaching that €100m figure – including bonuses – will be enough to get a deal done.

 

ROUND-UP

– Sport is reporting Barcelona view 32-year-old Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan as a potential replacement for Sergio Busquets when the German international's contract expires after the season.

– According to Express, Saudi Arabian clubs Al Hilal and Al-Nassr are considered the leading candidates to fight it out for ex-United superstar Cristiano Ronaldo.

Paris Saint-Germain will offer Lionel Messi a new contract at the conclusion of the World Cup, according to Goal.

Chelsea and Newcastle United are competing to land 18-year-old Vasco da Gama midfielder Andrey Santos, per 90min.

– Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting Milan would like to bring in Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech on a loan deal with the option to make it permanent, but the Moroccan's contract demands could be too expensive.

Real Madrid have reportedly pivoted away from Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham and are now treating Benfica's Enzo Fernandez as their top transfer target.

Bellingham, 19, was considered the top priority for the Spanish giants, but a report from Marca claims they now believe he is destined for the Premier League and will instead focus their resources on 21-year-old Fernandez.

Fernandez arrived at Benfica in June after they were able to pry him away from River Plate for a deal worth up to €18million including add-ons, but his exploits on the Champions League stage – including assists against Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus – have that price looking like a steal.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID SET THEIR SIGHTS ON ARGENTINA'S NEW STAR

Fernandez was handed his international debut as a 20-year-old back in November 2021, and his continued growth on the European stage earned his spot in Argentina's World Cup squad.

Not content to purely come along for the ride, Fernandez was brought on as a substitute in each of his side's first two group games, and against Mexico he became Argentina's youngest goalscorer at a World Cup since Lionel Messi in 2006.

His ability to both break into and perform for such a quality international side – entering the tournament on a 35-match unbeaten streak before falling to Saudi Arabia – has reportedly sent Fernandez's transfer value through the roof.

Marca's report claims he is now viewed as a €100m talent by Benfica, and they expect to field offers in that neighbourhood soon.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to Relevo, Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag views the Netherlands' World Cup hero Cody Gakpo as his ideal replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo.

– Fichajes is reporting Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are all showing interest in 22-year-old Ajax midfielder Mohammed Kudus amid his excellent performances for Ghana.

Bayern Munich remain interested in Tottenham's Harry Kane and are working on an offer between €80-100m, per Sky Sports Germany.

– The Sun is reporting Chelsea are not happy with both Edouard Mendy and Kepa Arrizabalaga and will look to bring in a new first-choice goalkeeper.

– With Rafael Leao likely leaving Milan at the end of the season, Gazzetta dello Sport claims they will try to fill the void with RB Salzburg's 22-year-old Swiss international Noah Okafor.

Christopher Nkunku has long been inked with Chelsea, with reports he had undergone a medical in September.

The 25-year-old Frenchman netted 20 goals in the Bundesliga last season and already has 12 this term.

The Blues are undergoing a period of change under owner Todd Boehly and new head coach Graham Potter – and could be about to land a big-name target.

 

TOP STORY - NKUNKU'S CHELSEA DEAL SET TO BE SIGNED

Chelsea are on the cusp of finalising the deal for RB Leipzig forward Nkunku with contracts set to be signed, reports Fabrizio Romano.

The Blues have reached an agreement with Nkunku's German club Leipzig for more than £52million (€60m).

Nkunku, who was ruled out of the World Cup earlier this month due to a knee injury, will apparently pen a long-term deal starting from June 2023.

ROUND-UP

- ESPN has reported that  Lionel Messi has not agreed to a deal to join Inter Miami from Paris Saint-Germain following reports that he is on the verge of a deal with the Major League Soccer club.

Chelsea are reportedly not willing to let Christian Pulisic depart on loan in January, amid links with Premier League trio Manchester United, Newcastle United and Arsenal. The Blues would prefer a permanent deal for the United States international.

- Sky Sport's Florian Plettenberg claims RB Leipzig's Konrad Laimer has reached a verbal agreement to join Bayern Munich at the end of this season, with a view to a long-term deal until 2027.

Edin Dzeko is set to earn a new one-year deal with Inter, according to Gazzetta. But the 36-year-old must accept a pay cut, from about €5.5m to €3m per season (plus bonuses).

- Ecuador international midfielder Moises Caicedo, who is currently on Brighton and Hove Albion's books, is drawing interest from Manchester United, claims Sky Germany.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Brighton are in talks with Molde to sign 19-year-old Ivorian striker David Datro Fofana. The Norwegian club want more than €10m (£8.6m) for him.

Manchester City will face Chelsea in the pick of the FA Cup third-round ties, while Manchester United meet fellow Premier League side Everton.

Pep Guardiola's top-flight champions visit Graham Potter's side in the league on January 5, just a matter of days before hosting the Blues at Etihad Stadium in the prestigious cup competition.

Everton will be another side travelling to Manchester as Frank Lampard's side face Erik ten Hag's United, with current holders Liverpool drawn at home to Wolves in another all-Premier League tie.

Arsenal make the trip to League One's Oxford United, while the in-form Newcastle United visit another third-tier side in Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.

Tottenham will also face League One opposition when they host Portsmouth, with Brighton and Hove Albion going up to Middlesbrough and Bournemouth facing a home tie against Championship leaders Burnley.

Two more all-Premier League clashes see Brentford at home to London rivals West Ham and new Southampton manager Nathan Jones will have to get past an away game against top-flight rivals Crystal Palace.

Aston Villa will welcome Stevenage, who are second in League Two chasing promotion, with Fulham and Leeds United visiting Championship sides Hull City and Cardiff City respectively.

Dagenham and Redbridge will invite Leicester City to Victoria Road if the National League side can defeat Gillingham in a December 6 replay.

All ties are scheduled to be played between January 6 and January 9.

FA Cup third-round draw in full:

Preston v Huddersfield Town
Middlesbrough v Brighton and Hove Albion
Chesterfield v West Brom
Manchester City v Chelsea
Charlton or Stockport County v Walsall
Boreham Wood v Accrington Stanley
Tottenham v Portsmouth
Derby County v Barnsley
Cardiff City v Leeds United
Brentford v West Ham
Bournemouth v Burnley
Coventry City v Wrexham
Norwich City v Blackburn Rovers
Aston Villa v Stevenage
Luton Town v Wigan Athletic
Oxford United v Arsenal
Fleetwood Town v Queens Park Rangers
Liverpool v Wolves
Grimsby Town v Burton Albion
Blackpool v Nottingham Forest
Dagenham and Redbridge or Gillingham v Leicester City
Forest Green Rovers v Birmingham City
Bristol City v Swansea City
Hartlepool United v Stoke City
Hull City v Fulham
Crystal Palace v Southampton
Millwall v Sheffield United
Shrewsbury Town v Sunderland
Sheffield Wednesday v Newcastle United
Manchester United v Everton
Reading v Watford
Ipswich Town v Rotherham United

Lionel Messi has been linked with a blockbuster move to MLS club Inter Miami.

The Times report that the US franchise, co-owned by David Beckham, are ready to make Messi the highest-paid player in MLS history.

Messi is out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain at the end of the season and has also been linked with a move to his former club Barcelona.

 

TOP STORY - MESSI AND BUSQUETS COULD BE BOUND FOR MIAMI

Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets is set to join ex-team-mate Lionel Messi at MLS club Inter Miami, according to Cope.

The 34-year-old Spain captain is out of contract at the end of this season and has been weighing up his future at Camp Nou.

Messi and Busquets spent more than a decade together at the Blaugrana and could re-unite in Florida, where the Argentina great regularly vacations at a house he owns.

ROUND-UP

- ESPN reports Manchester United are exploring a January loan move for Chelsea's Christian Pulisic. Newcastle United and Arsenal have also been linked with the United States international by the Mail.

- Chelsea have been keeping a close watch on Bayer Leverkusen's Ecuadora centre-back Piero Hincapie during the World Cup, reports the Mirror.

- Fichajes claims that Real Madrid's German midfielder Toni Kroos has rejected the chance to move to Manchester City.

- Newcastle will move for 18-year-old Vasco da Gama midfielder Andrey Santos in January, according to the Northern Echo.

- Milan are eager to discuss lowering the €22m purchase option fee for on-loan midfielder Brahim Diaz with parent club Real Madrid, reports La Gazzetta dello Sport. The Spaniard's two-year loan deal is due to expire at the end of the season.

PSV's Cody Gakpo has become one of the early breakout stars at the World Cup, and will reportedly be courted by some of the world's biggest clubs in January.

Gakpo, 23, has spent his entire career with PSV after arriving at their youth academy back in 2007, and has risen through the ranks to become one of the Netherlands' top attacking options.

He has racked up nine goals and 12 assists in his side's first 14 Eredivisie fixtures, and has started his World Cup campaign with goals in each of the first two group stage matches against Senegal and Ecuador.

Having been linked to Leeds United before the season, he reportedly opted to remain with PSV to secure a move to an even bigger club – and now Champions League teams are said to be calling.


TOP STORY – EUROPEAN POWERHOUSES SET SIGHTS ON GAKPO

According to Dutch journalist Marco Timmer, the clubs who will make an attempt to sign the Dutch talent include Liverpool, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester United.

Having previously said he would be happy to remain in the Netherlands until the end of the season before exploring a move to the Premier League, Gakpo's value is said to have soared past the £50million mark.

There were reports early in the season that PSV's financial situation would force them to accept any further bids around £30m, so if a team with deep pockets comes with a serious offer in January, it will likely be hard to turn down.
 

ROUND-UP

– According to Fichajes, United have added 23-year-old Bayer Leverkusen winger Moussa Diaby to their list of forward targets. 

– 90min is reporting Milan are considering another bid for Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech in January after testing the waters in the previous transfer window.

Memphis Depay could return to former club United in January as Barcelona are considering terminating the 28-year-old's contract to get him off their books.

– According to Sky Sports Germany, United are not considered a realistic destination for Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham.

– CBS is reporting multiple Premier League clubs, including Everton, Leeds and West Ham, are interested in 26-year-old Senegal forward Boulaye Dia, with the Villarreal-contracted player scoring against Qatar on Friday.

Cristiano Ronaldo's departure from Manchester United this week has put plenty of clubs on alert.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner is a wanted commodity, given his quality and sudden availability.

Ronaldo and United parted ways with a mutual termination of his contract after his explosive interview with TalkTV.

 

TOP STORY – SAUDI AND BRAZILIAN GIANTS TO MOVE FOR RONALDO

Saudi Arabian club Al Hilal and Brazilian giants Flamengo are among the clubs queuing to sign free agent Cristiano Ronaldo according to reports.

Sky Sports claims that Al Hilal are exploring a deal with the Portuguese, who had declined a £305m bid from an unnamed Saudi Arabian club in the off-season.

Brazilian outlet Veja reports that the 2022 Copa Libertadores winners intend to formalize a proposal to Ronaldo's representatives, although an offer has not yet been made, nor have talks commenced.

 

ROUND-UP 

- Football Insider reports that Chelsea are set to open talks with Brighton and Hove Albion's Belgian forward Leandro Trossard with his contract to expire at the end of season. New Blues boss Graham Potter knows Trossard well from his time at Brighton.

- Chelsea are ready to swoop for Manchester United target Diogo Costa, having made contact with him, according to Relevo. The goalkeeper recently re-signed with Porto and has a €75 million (£64.5m) release clause in his contract.

- Amid talk that Chelsea will try to sell Romelu Lukaku at the end of this season, SkySport claims Inter will extend the Belgian forward's loan for another year.

- Torino's Ivorian defender Wilfried Singo could snub interest from Juventus to remain with his current club, reports Calciomercato.

- Fabrizio Romano claims that Scottish champions Celtic are in talks with Canada international Alistair Johnston, with personal terms already being discussed. The right-back is currently with MLS club Montreal.

- QPR are anticipating the departure of manager Michael Beale to take over Rangers, claims Talk Sport. The Gers sacked Giovanni van Bronckhorst earlier this week.

Manchester United will look to sign a replacement forward for Cristiano Ronaldo during the January transfer window, according to the Manchester Evening News.

The 37-year-old Portuguese's exit by mutual consent with immediate effect has opened up all sorts of possibilities for the Red Devils.

But Erik ten Hag's side clearly need to bolster their ranks as they look to finish in the Premier League's top four this term.

 

TOP STORY – MEMPHIS WALKING BACK THROUGH THE DOORS AT OLD TRAFFORD?

Spanish media outlet Sport claims that Manchester United are keen on Barcelona's Memphis Depay in January.

The Blaugrana, who have been linked with United's Diogo Dalot, are eager to offload the Dutchman, whose contract ends in mid-2023.

The Netherlands international spent two years at Old Trafford from 2015 and 2017

 

ROUND-UP -

- Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal are ready to make moves for Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot, according to Calciomercato. The Frenchman almost joined Manchester United in the off-season and is contracted with the Bianconeri until the end of the season.

- Football Insider claims Aston Villa are interested in Sevilla's Morocco international goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who is contracted until 2025.

- Fabrizio Romano claims RB Leipzig's Konrad Laimer is determined to join Bayern Munich, meaning Chelsea and Liverpool will miss out on the Austrian.

- Leeds United have enquired about the availability of Milan's Belgian midfielder Charles de Ketelaere, reports TeamTalk.

- Atalanta are in talks with Stuttgart's Croatia international left-back Borna Sosa, claims Nicolo Schira.

Newcastle United are reportedly preparing an improved offer to pry midfielder James Maddison away from Leicester City in January.

Maddison, 25, is away at the World Cup with England after a blistering start to the Premier League season saw him force his way back into the national set-up after three years in the wilderness.

After scoring a career-high 18 goals last season, Maddison has continued to show it was no fluke, bagging seven goals and four assists in 13 league fixtures this campaign.

Newcastle have been fond of the Foxes star for some time, having had two bids rejected in the range of £50million in the previous transfer window, but they are said to be discussing if they should "break their wage structure" to meet the demands.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE READY ANOTHER OFFENSIVE FOR LEICESTER'S MADDISON

According to Sky Sports, Maddison's contract demands have been a stumbling point for Newcastle in their pursuit, but the club are now willing to go above and beyond to secure their key target.

The report claims Leicester value Maddison at £60m, meaning the two sides are not far apart, and with just over 18 months remaining on his contract, his value will continue to fall the closer he gets to its conclusion.

Newcastle may face some competition, as GiveMeSport also believes Tottenham boss Antonio Conte is pushing to bring Maddison to north London.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport is reporting Aston Villa are interested in a January move for Barcelona midfielder Franck Kessie, and hope they can land him for a fee around €14m after he arrived in Spain as a free agent in July.

- According to 90min, Chelsea have offered goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to Tottenham amid news they are looking to replace club captain Hugo Lloris.

- Juventus and Newcastle United are discussing a potential swap deal that would send Moise Kean back to the Premier League and Allan Saint-Maximin to Turin, per Juve Dipendenza.

- Calciomercato is reporting Inter have rekindled their interest in Borussia Monchengladbach's Marcus Thuram after their attempt to sign him 18 months ago was torpedoed by a knee injury at the 11th hour. 

- Arsenal have been joined by Monaco and Ajax in the chase of 21-year-old Palmeiras midfielder Danilo, who the club are reportedly willing to part ways with for €24m, per ESPN.

Newcastle United are reportedly preparing an improved offer to pry midfielder James Maddison away from Leicester City in January.

Maddison, 25, is away at the World Cup with England after a blistering start to the Premier League season saw him force his way back into the national set-up after three years in the wilderness.

After scoring a career-high 18 goals last season, Maddison has continued to show it was no fluke, bagging seven goals and four assists in 13 league fixtures this campaign.

Newcastle have been fond of the Foxes star for some time, having had two bids rejected in the range of £50million in the previous transfer window, but they are said to be discussing if they should "break their wage structure" to meet the demands.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE READY ANOTHER OFFENSIVE FOR LEICESTER'S MADDISON

According to Sky Sports, Maddison's contract demands have been a stumbling point for Newcastle in their pursuit, but the club are now willing to go above and beyond to secure their key target.

The report claims Leicester value Maddison at £60m, meaning the two sides are not far apart, and with just over 18 months remaining on his contract, his value will continue to fall the closer he gets to its conclusion.

Newcastle may face some competition, as GiveMeSport also believes Tottenham boss Antonio Conte is pushing to bring Maddison to north London.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport is reporting Aston Villa are interested in a January move for Barcelona midfielder Franck Kessie, and hope they can land him for a fee around €14m after he arrived in Spain as a free agent in July.

- According to 90min, Chelsea have offered goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to Tottenham amid news they are looking to replace club captain Hugo Lloris.

- Juventus and Newcastle United are discussing a potential swap deal that would send Moise Kean back to the Premier League and Allan Saint-Maximin to Turin, per Juve Dipendenza.

- Calciomercato is reporting Inter have rekindled their interest in Borussia Monchengladbach's Marcus Thuram after their attempt to sign him 18 months ago was torpedoed by a knee injury at the 11th hour. 

- Arsenal have been joined by Monaco and Ajax in the chase of 21-year-old Palmeiras midfielder Danilo, who the club are reportedly willing to part ways with for €24m, per ESPN.

Cristiano Ronaldo's second spell at Manchester United officially came to an end on Tuesday.

United confirmed the Portugal superstar has departed Old Trafford by mutual consent, despite having six months to run on his contract.

The news comes a week on from an explosive interview in which Ronaldo declared he feels "betrayed" by United and expressed his lack of respect for manager Erik ten Hag.

While the World Cup will be top of the agenda for Ronaldo in the weeks ahead, the five-time Ballon d'Or winner must also now find a new club for the start of next year.

Which team he joins, though, remains difficult to predict.

Having unsuccessfully pushed to join a Champions League club prior to the start of the season, a return to Europe's elite competition may prove difficult once more.

However, now he is officially a free agent, that may change the situation.

Here, Stats Perform has taken a look at some potential destinations for the 37-year-old, with options both in Europe and further afield.

MLS

With the MLS season recently concluding, a move to North America would present Ronaldo with a clean slate for 2023 and would help to boost the profile of the league ahead of the World Cup in the United States, Canada and Mexico in 2026.

Ronaldo would absolutely require a Designated Player spot for any franchise looking to make a move, eliminating a number of clubs from the equation, but David Beckham's Inter Miami have been attributed with a strong interest.

Interestingly enough, Inter Miami have also been heavily touted for a move for Lionel Messi, who sees his contract with Paris Saint-Germain expire at the end of the season. Will the two greats ever line up in the same side?

 

Sporting

Ronaldo's return to United was not as successful as fans would have wanted, but there could be better fortunes for the superstar if he returns to his homeland to rejoin boyhood club Sporting CP, where he began his career.

His initial stint with Sporting was short, with United making the move to secure his services less than a year after he made his first-team debut, which means there is not a high bar to reach from his previous spell at the club.

Sporting would also likely be able to offer Ronaldo Champions League football next season, though it would be more Europa League football this term after their third third-place finish in Group D of the Champions League.

Saudi Arabia

It has been widely reported that the only offers United received in the previous transfer window for Ronaldo's services came from Saudi Arabia, with Al Hilal said to have offered him a whopping £2million-a-week contract, with an offer from Al-Nassr also rejected.

Saudi Football Federation president Al-Misehal stated in September he believes further offers will be made to Ronaldo, with the Middle East region potentially looking to capitalise on the increased focus following the World Cup in Qatar.

While a move to Saudi would be the most lucrative for Ronaldo, it would be seen as a significant step down for him in competitiveness and one he will probably avoid.

Bayern Munich

One of the clubs linked with Ronaldo in the previous window, Bayern executives publicly stated it was not a transfer that was under consideration and the Portugal international does not fit their 'philosophy'.

However, reports have suggested Bayern held talks with Ronaldo's agent, Jorge Mendes, earlier this month before details of his explosive interview were revealed, perhaps indicating a change in the club's stance.

Bayern have seen Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting excel this season following Robert Lewandowski's sale to Barcelona, though the contract of the striker is due to expire at the end of the season and the capture of a new – and higher-profile – forward could be on the cards.

Chelsea

Ronaldo's expected departure from United does not necessarily mean he will wave goodbye to the Premier League, with Chelsea continuing to be linked with a move to snatch the 37-year-old from their domestic rivals.

New owner Todd Boehly was widely reported to have explored the possibility of a move ahead of the season but Thomas Tuchel was against the proposal – and his sacking earlier this year may have changed the situation at Stamford Bridge.

It would, however, be a surprise if Graham Potter supported the move considering his history of developing young players, while he has not appeared to be keen on the high-earning forward he already has at his disposal, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Honourable mentions

Paris Saint-Germain: With Kylian Mbappe reportedly pushing for a move, PSG could have a spot available for a new superstar and the allure of partnering him with Messi could be difficult to turn down.

Napoli: Top of Serie A and heading into the World Cup break on the back of an 11-match win streak, Napoli are flying high and do not necessarily need Ronaldo – but he may be the final piece of the puzzle to bring the Scudetto to Naples.

Newcastle United: Eddie Howe's side have excelled this season and are pushing for European football, which Ronaldo could propel them towards as well as standing out as a marquee addition for the Saudi-owned side.

Liverpool are reportedly keeping a close eye on Declan Rice's performances for England at the World Cup, and will prepare a move for the West Ham midfielder if they feel he handles the pressure of the big stage.

Rice, 23, played in all seven games for England in their run to the Euro 2020 final, and he has played in every minute of West Ham's 15 fixtures this Premier League season.

The defensive midfielder is a favourite of manager David Moyes, who declared in April that his price had risen to such an extent that "£150m just now would be minimum" – but his contract situation could force the club's hand.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL WATCHING IF RICE CAN RISE TO THE CHALLENGE

According to Football Insider, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp is a "huge admirer" of the man with 35 international caps already under his belt, but he still wants to see more.

The report claims Liverpool will be paying attention to "how Rice copes with the type of scrutiny and huge-game pressure he does not get at West Ham, who do not compete in the Champions League or challenge for trophies".

Rice's contract ties him to the club until 2024, although there is a club-option to extend the contract for an extra year.

He turned down a bumper new deal earlier this year that would have paid him £200,000 per week, indicating this will likely be his last contract with West Ham, and that factor will drive his price down the longer the club waits.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport are reporting Manchester City are close to locking up Pep Guardiola on a new contract through 2025.

- According to 90min, Tottenham are eyeing Everton's Jordan Pickford, Brentford's David Raya and Brighton's Robert Sanchez as potential replacements for 35-year-old club captain Hugo Lloris.

- Chelsea's Christian Pulisic will likely be headed to the Serie A, per Fichajes, with Inter and Juventus said to be competing for his signature in January.

- AS are reporting Atletico Madrid will loan out Joao Felix in January after a lack of transfer interest.

- Newcastle United will make another run at 21-year-old Watford forward Joao Pedro, according to Football Insider, after having a £30m offer rejected before the season.

Christian Pulisic has accepted being his "best self" is all the United States want from him after spending years obsessing about being the team's talisman.

The Chelsea forward is set to play a big part when the USA launch their Qatar World Cup campaign against Wales on Monday.

Gregg Berhalter's team later face games against England and Iran, and their presence at the finals comes as a huge relief after the team surprisingly missed out four years ago.

The US missed out on the Russia 2018 finals after losing 2-1 against Trinidad and Tobago in their final qualifier, described by Pulisic as a "freak game".

All the results that had to go against the Americans did just that, and they were left despondent and distant from the action that unfolded.

Pulisic says he used that failure as "a lot of motivation" this time around, explaining his disappointment by saying: "A lot was going on in my head. One of my biggest dreams was to be playing at a World Cup."

He was just 19 at the time of the finals in Russia, starring as a teenage breakout star in Germany for Borussia Dortmund, and has since relocated to the Premier League.

The acclaim that was coming his way was tough for the young Pulisic, and he said: "To be honest, I took a lot of that weight on my shoulders at that time because I felt it was my job to help the team and score goals to put us in a position to qualify for that World Cup.

"That whole process was definitely tough on me and in the end not qualifying was one of the biggest disappointments of my life."

Pulisic explained, in an interview released by US Soccer, how initially he felt "a little chip on my shoulder throughout the qualifying process" this time around.

"I felt like I had to really perform and be the main man at times," he said.

"But there came a point when I realised I don't need to be that with this team. There's so many unbelievable players in this team now that I can just be my best self and be a part of the teams and that's enough.

"I used my team-mates and leaned on them at times and the guys did an unbelievable job."

He feels "incredibly proud" to qualify this time around.

"Playing in the World Cup would obviously mean everything for me," Pulisic said.

"Knowing a lot of these guys for so long, and being able to do it with them by my side, is definitely special and hopefully a moment we're going to cherish for the rest of our lives."

Manchester United are looking sever ties with Cristiano Ronaldo following his explosive interview this week, according to reports.

United put out a statement that they are taking "appropriate steps in response to Cristiano's recent media interview".

That has fuelled speculation his contract – which is due to run out at the end of the season – will be torn up.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA AND FIORENTINA READY FOR JANUARY RONALDO MOVES

The Mirror claims Chelsea are ready to reignite their interest in Cristiano Ronaldo in January, while Italian reports have linked Fiorentina with him too.

Blues owner Todd Boehly was keen on the 37-year-old during the last transfer window but nothing materialised. However, following their slow start to the season and head coach Thomas Tuchel's exit, Chelsea may be back in for the under-fire Portugal international.

Calciomercatoweb claims Fiorentina could also make a move in January, with wealthy owner Rocco B Commisso ready to offer him a lucrative deal.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City loom as an option for Lionel Messi, according to El Nacional. City are managed by Messi's former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, who could lure him to England. Barca are eager to secure a return for Messi, whose contract with Paris Saint-Germain ends in mid-2023, but he has deferred all talks on his future until after the World Cup.

- The Sun on Sunday claims Chelsea will keep a close eye on Everton's Jordan Pickford with England during the World Cup as Boehly considers a move for a new goalkeeper.

- Chelsea are considering moving for Aston Villa's Leon Bailey, according to the Mail on Sunday. Jamaica international Bailey is close friends with Blues winger Raheem Sterling.

- Milan are contemplating a January move for Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar, whose agents approached the Italian champions. Aouar's contract expires at the end of this season.

- Manchester United teenager Alejandro Garnacho is set to see his wages multiply 10 times on a bumper new contract, claims the Daily Star. The Argentine's new deal would see his wages rise from £5,000 to around £50,000.

Cesar Azpilicueta says he would not swap any of his Chelsea trophies for a World Cup title with Spain.

Azpilicueta has lifted nine trophies with Chelsea since signing for them in 2012, and the Blues' Club World Cup win in February this year means the defender has won every club prize possible with the London outfit.

In contrast, the 33-year-old is yet to taste glory with his international side, having made his debut after their World Cup triumph in 2010 and the European Championship successes of 2008 and 2012.

Spain have not returned to a final since that 2012 victory, but Azpilicueta revealed he would not trade any of his club titles for a World Cup win, telling reporters: "Why would I swap any trophies?

"I want to get another one, this one [the World Cup] if I can.

"I made my debut for Spain against Uruguay here in Qatar, in Doha, in 2013, so it would be a good story for me to win the World Cup here. 

"We have a brilliant opportunity. We have an amazing group, we can play our football and after that it’s a tournament where you cannot make any mistakes.

"You have to start well and small details make the difference.

"We will try our best and, of course, I’d love to add this trophy to my cabinet."

Spain get their World Cup campaign underway against Costa Rica on Wednesday, before going on to face Germany and Japan in Group E.

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