Wolves captain Ruben Neves said it is a "privilege" to be linked with Barcelona as any player in the world would want to join the Catalan giants.

Neves is reportedly a target for Barca after catching the eye with some outstanding displays for Wolves and Portugal.

The midfielder has been a revelation since arriving at Molineux from Porto in 2017, helping the club win promotion and establish themselves in the Premier League.

Neves, who is under contract until 2024, expressed his pride that the Blaugrana could be keen to lure him to Camp Nou.

He told Portuguese broadcaster Canal 11: "Who wouldn't want to try Barcelona? I think it's a common question for all players.

"It's one of the biggest clubs in the world. Of course, it's always a privilege for me to be associated with clubs of this calibre."

However, the 25-year-old says he is focused on turning Wolves' fortunes around after a poor start to the season resulted in head coach Bruno Lage being sacked this month. 

He added: "I'm going to do my job here and I'm sure I have people working with me. I trust these people a lot for these situations.

"I have to focus as much as I can on Wolves. Having a good time here, things will come naturally."

Manuel Neuer should be fit to represent Germany at the World Cup but is likely to miss Bayern Munich's trip to Barcelona next week, according to Julian Nagelsmann.

Neuer last featured for Bayern in their dramatic 2-2 draw with Borussia Dortmund on October 8, with a shoulder injury leading Sven Ulreich to take his place between the sticks for their past three games.

The goalkeeper will be absent once again when Bayern visit Hoffenheim on Saturday, and Nagelsmann doubts he will be involved when they bid to eliminate Barca from the Champions League on Wednesday. 

However, Nagelsmann has eased fears he could miss out on a trip to Qatar, saying: "Manuel is still in pain. He probably can't play in Barcelona either, we're planning for Mainz [on October 29].

"Issues can certainly happen if he starts too early, and we want to avoid that. We have to wait until the healing process is such that he can play again. 

"I don't think the World Cup is in danger. Manuel knows his body best and knows with which pains he can play. 

"He trained in the weight room yesterday. It's up and down, day-to-day, but I don't think it will last that long. I'm hoping he'll be back against Mainz."

Bayern have been forced to cope with several selection problems recently, enduring a spate of COVID-19 cases and seeing Leroy Sane sidelined with a muscle injury. 

Thomas Muller is the latest player to be ruled out of the trip to Hoffenheim, leading Nagelsmann to highlight the importance of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.

"Leroy Sane is known, Thomas Muller is also out, he has gastrointestinal problems," he added. "He's not happy with that, but I think he will be fine before the Champions League game. Other than that, there is nothing new, everyone is fine.

"Kingsley Coman can play again. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting coped well with the games and it's important that he's there after Muller's absence."

Choupo-Moting registered two goal involvements after starting a Bundesliga game for the first time since November 2016 last week, scoring and assisting in a 5-0 win over Freiburg.

Meanwhile, the former Paris Saint-Germain forward has recorded more goal contributions against Hoffenheim (nine – six goals, three assists) than against any other Bundesliga side.

Nagelsmann made his name as a coach during a successful three-year spell with Hoffenheim, leading the club to Champions League qualification at the end of the 2016-17 season, and admits Saturday's match represents a unique occasion.

"It's a special game for me. It's a club close to my heart," he added. "I had many successful years there and met a lot of friends and great colleagues there."

Hoffenheim have taken 17 points from their first 10 Bundesliga matches this season – their best return at this stage of a campaign since Nagelsmann led them in 2016-17 (20).

Franck Ribery's playing career has come to an end.

On Friday, the former France and Bayern Munich winger announced his retirement at the age of 39, having agreed to terminate his deal with Serie A club Salernitana.

He signed for Salernitana ahead of last season, though for the first time since the 2004-05 season, failed to score in the league.

His sole Serie A appearance this season came in a 1-0 defeat to Roma back in August, as a second-half substitute, and in truth it was no surprise when rumours recently emerged of his imminent retirement.

There can be no doubt, however, that Ribery will go down as one of European football's greats of the modern era.

In 2013, Ribery was nominated for the Ballon d'Or, finishing third in the voting behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

Falling short against two of the best to play the game is no shame, and using Opta data, here are some of the key facts from Ribery's glittering career.

Ligue 1 breakthrough

Having made a name for himself with Brest in Ligue 2, Ribery was recruited by Metz in 2004. He spent only half a season there and scored just one goal before joining Turkish giants Galatasaray, yet he made a big impact, with comparisons drawn to one of the club's greatest exports, Robert Pires.

His only goal in Turkey came in the Turkish Cup final against Gala's great rivals Fenerbahce, in a 5-1 victory. Having claimed his first trophy, Ribery headed home to France, signing for Marseille.

It was a messy move, with FIFA ultimately ruling in Ribery's favour after the player claimed he had not been paid his wages by Gala, as well as alleging to have been threatened by his former agent and a club director. 

Ribery spent two seasons with Marseille and became a star, being named the National Union of Professional Footballers' (UNFP) Young Player of the Year in 2006. 

His performances at the 2006 World Cup (more on that later) only increased his profile, with Marseille seeing off interest from Real Madrid, Arsenal and, controversially, rivals Lyon to keep hold of Ribery.

 

That decision paid off for OM. In his final campaign in France, in 2006-07, Ribery provided eight assists, behind only Nancy's Benjamin Gavanon (nine), and had the highest tally of chances created per 90 minutes (2.95) among players who had featured for over 100 minutes across the season.

Marseille finished second, after losing in the final of the Coupe de France, and Ribery was named the French Player of the Year by France Football.

Flourishing for France

Ribery made his debut for Les Bleus in May 2006, ahead of the World Cup in Germany, where he truly made his name as a superstar.

Between making his debut and playing his final international match in March 2014, Ribery featured in more France games than any other player (81) in the same period, 11 ahead of second-ranked Florent Malouda.

Indeed, his 37 goal involvements (16 goals, 21 assists) was more than any other French player, and puts him sixth on the nation's goal involvements list in the 21st century.

He helped France reach the final of the 2006 World Cup, though they failed to make it out of the group stage in South Africa four years later, while success also eluded them in the Euros during Ribery's stint on the international stage.

Greatness in Germany

In 2007, Bayern paid Marseille €25million for the 24-year-old. It was an investment worth every cent.

Ribery went on to play 425 times for Bayern in all competitions, making him the non-German player with the second-most appearances for the club, behind David Alaba (431), since 1965.

When it comes to French players, only Jonathan Schmid has made more Bundesliga appearances (296) than Ribery (273), who scored 124 goals in all competitions for Bayern.

Since detailed data collection of the Bundesliga began in 2004, Thomas Muller is the only player to provide more assists than Ribery, who set up 92 goals.

Ribery was at the peak of his powers in the 2012-13 season, as he helped Bayern win the treble and was named UEFA Men's Player of the Year, before going on to come third in the Ballon d'Or rankings.

That season, he provided 14 assists in the Bundesliga, a total trailing only Andres Iniesta (16) when it came to players in Europe's big five leagues.

Ribery left Bayern as a club great, having formed one of the all-time most fearsome wing partnerships with Arjen Robben. He won nine Bundesliga titles, a tally that trails only former club-mates Alaba and Robert Lewandowski (10 each) when it comes to foreign players in Germany's top tier.

 

Italian swansong

After leaving Bayern, Ribery tried his hand in Italy, joining Fiorentina.

Over his two seasons in Florence, Ribery created 70 goalscoring opportunities in Serie A, behind only Erick Pulgar (104) in Fiorentina's squad. His dribbling ability was still top class, too, with Gaetano Castrovilli his only team-mate to complete more dribbles (123 to Ribery's 117).

Ribery played 51 times for Fiorentina in all competitions, starting on 47 occasions. He scored five goals, contributed nine assists and had 182 touches in the opposition's box. Surprisingly, he played only five successful crosses, though he was often deployed in a more central role for La Viola.

In his 25 matches for Salernitana, Ribery failed to score, though his three assists in Serie A mean he is the club's joint-top creator of goals, alongside Milan Djuric and Pasquale Mazzocchi, in the same timeframe. 

Former France and Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery has announced his retirement from football.

Ribery's deal with Salernitana would have taken his stay at the Serie A side up to the end of this season, but he has decided to hang his boots up now.

The 39-year-old also played for a number of other clubs in a 22-year career, including Metz, Galatasaray, Marseille and Fiorentina.

Ribery spent the bulk of his career at Bayern, though, where he won nine Bundesliga titles in 12 years.

He also won six DFB-Pokal titles, one Champions League, a UEFA Super Cup and a FIFA Club World Cup.

In his time at the Bavarian giants, Ribery made 273 Bundesliga appearances, recording 86 goals and 92 assists.

He wrote on Twitter: "The ball stops. The feelings inside me do not. Thanks to everyone for this great adventure."

 

Ribery forged a spectacular wing partnership with Arjen Robben, with the duo terrorising defences from either flank during their decade together in Munich, before both left the club in 2019.

Ribery won 81 caps for France in all, scoring 16 times before retiring from international football in 2014, and was a member of Les Bleus' squad when they finished as runners-up to Italy at the 2006 World Cup.

He moved to Fiorentina after leaving Germany, scoring five and assisting nine goals in 51 appearances before signing for Salernitana in 2021.

Overall he managed just three assists in 25 games for the club, and featured only twice this season, both times in August, in the Coppa Italia against Parma and as a substitute in the 1-0 Serie A defeat at home to Roma.

Ribery will remain at Salernitana in a non-playing capacity, the club said.

In each of the past two seasons, there were periods where Sevilla could consider themselves genuine threats in LaLiga's title race.

That was perhaps more relevant in 2020-21, though it shouldn't be forgotten that Sevilla looked like the only team capable of stopping Real Madrid in the first half of the 2021-22 campaign.

But much has changed in 2022. They head to the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday as bigger outsiders than they've been for years in this fixture.

That's certainly not to say they've ever been considered favourites against Madrid in recent memory, but there will be some Sevilla fans just hoping they can hold on to a respectable scoreline – it's a pretty significant come-down for a club that in the past three years felt they weren't far from establishing themselves as genuine title candidates.

Saturday's game will be new coach Jorge Sampaoli's first trip to either of the big two since his return, and it'll provide the clearest indication yet of what his team's ceiling is.

Jump before you're pushed

Julen Lopetegui should've left Sevilla in pre-season. It was clear even then that the team needed an injection of fresh ideas, and the departures of Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde – Sevilla's bedrock for three seasons – seemed like a natural indicator of the required change.

During Lopetegui's time at the club, Sevilla were solid at the back but fairly unremarkable in attack. He'll have known his go-to centre-back partnership – arguably the best of its kind in Europe – was going to be lost, so Sevilla would either need to sign another exceptional pairing – unlikely – or buy a dependable striker.

 

Granted, Lopetegui can only work with the group of players provided to him by sporting director Monchi, so it's not all on him. However, in the early weeks of the season there was no sign of an improvement in attack, and the insurance policy represented by a sturdy defence was no longer there.

The result? Sevilla's five points after the first seven league games of the season was their worst at that stage since 1996-97 (four points). They were relegated that campaign.

That was their record following a 2-0 home defeat by Atletico Madrid at the start of October, a loss that essentially ended Lopetegui's reign. A few days later, he was dismissed right after the 4-1 battering by Borussia Dortmund, though it was clear a decision on his future had already been made as he tearfully waved farewell to supporters from the middle of the pitch at full-time.

The 4-1 defeat to BVB was Sevilla's fourth loss by at least two goals this season, three more than in the entirety of 2021-22.

 

A Europa League title, three successive fourth-placed finishes, a new club-record points total for one season (77) – Lopetegui did a fine job on the whole, but their form in the second half of last season hinted at a decline.

Their haul of 32 points after the turn of the year (20 matches) was only the sixth-most in LaLiga and 13 fewer than Barcelona. Before January, they'd amassed 38 points in two fewer games – only Madrid (46, 19 matches) had more.

That hint of decline proved to be more like a foreshadowing.

Back to the Future

There aren't many players or coaches who return to Sevilla. Those that do generally fall into one of two categories: fan favourite returning to see out their later years in top-level football; individual whose 'big move' away didn't go as planned and is hoping to rebuild their reputation.

The latter category is more fitting for Sampaoli.

French football fans might suggest that's doing his Marseille work a disservice, and maybe it is. After all, he did guide them to only their second runners-up finish in nine seasons last term, steadying the ship after arriving at a time of great unrest.

However, even with that, it's fair to suggest Sampaoli's stock still hasn't fully recovered to where it was when he first left Sevilla in 2017. At that point, he'd been successful in three consecutive jobs with Universidad de Chile, Chile's national team and then Sevilla, whom he guided to a first top-four finish in seven years playing vibrant football – along the way, they were also the team to halt Madrid's Spanish-record unbeaten run of 40 matches.

 

Argentina came calling, and given the coach's reputation at the time, expectations were sky-high. But turbulence in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup showed Sampaoli and La Albiceleste weren't necessarily a good fit. He just about got them to Russia but their campaign was chaotic, with a 3-0 defeat to Croatia leading to an apparent confrontation between players and coaching staff.

A 2-1 win over Nigeria got Argentina out of the group, but eventual champions France were up next and Les Bleus edged a modern classic 4-3 in Kazan – unsurprisingly it was Sampaoli's final game in charge.

Whether the fiasco made Sampaoli a pariah in European football terms is difficult to prove. But in a little over a year he went from one of the most sought-after and promising coaches in the world to being virtually forgotten in Europe, with his next two jobs coming in Brazil with Santos and Atletico Mineiro.

The aforementioned bright spell with Marseille provided Europe with a reminder of Sampaoli's charms; his boisterous personality, his often-chaotic brand of football. In many ways he was the perfect man for Marseille, a club from a city that is unapologetically itself and intense.

Seville has some similar characteristics, particularly in its deep passion for its football clubs, and there's undoubtedly a sense Sampaoli has unfinished business in LaLiga and at Sevilla.

Four games in and he's yet to lose – a trip to the Santiago Bernabeu is no ordinary task, however. In fact, Sampaoli's last away game during his first spell at Sevilla was a 4-1 defeat to Madrid, who all but wrapped up the 2016-17 title with that victory.

Of course, what happens at the Bernabeu won't define Sevilla's season. They have a long road and rebuild ahead of them; let's not forget, this is a squad built for Lopetegui, yet he and Sampaoli are very different coaches.

Re-energising the team is Sampaoli's task, and if he succeeds, his reputation will be restored. Saturday provides an opportunity for a depleted Sevilla to show they're at least making positive strides. 

Manchester United have reached the end of their tether with Cristiano Ronaldo and want the superstar out of the club as soon as January, reports say.

The apparent refusal by Ronaldo to come on as a substitute against Tottenham on Wednesday, before flouncing off before the final whistle, has led to the striker being barred from playing any part in this weekend's Premier League clash with Chelsea.

Now Ronaldo may have played his last game for the club, unless bridges can be rebuilt.

TOP STORY – RONALDO'S UNITED FUTURE IN DOUBT

Ronaldo's last visible matchday act as a Manchester United player could turn out to be the moment he walked down the tunnel before the final whistle blew in the Spurs game.

That act looks to have been one of rebellion, with widespread reports now stating Ronaldo had declined to come off the bench late in the game.

According to the i newspaper and The Sun, among others, United boss Erik ten Hag has decided enough is enough and the time has come to part ways with the 37-year-old five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Ronaldo's performances in his second United stint have been mixed, and amid diminishing returns Ten Hag is said to want Ronaldo moved on to another club in January, or for his contract to be terminated. Ronaldo's deal runs to the end of this season.

There appeared to be a dearth of suitors during the last transfer window when Ronaldo looked keen on a move, so arranging a transfer for the former Real Madrid star may not be straightforward, unless of course he excels with Portugal at the World Cup.

ROUND-UP

- Ruben Neves has unfinished business at Porto and the 25-year-old Wolves midfielder has revealed he wants to return to the Primeira Liga giants while still in his prime years. He left at the age of 20 to join his current club. Portugal international Neves told Canal 11: "Returning to FC Porto is something I really want to happen, but it's impossible to say when. I hope I'm in the best conditions and that they still want me. I don't know how I'll be in a few years, but my goal is not to go to FC Porto to finish my career, but to win titles. I was there for three years and I didn't win."

- Andriy Lunin has shown himself to be a handy deputy for Thibaut Courtois in the Real Madrid goal, but will he stay at Santiago Bernabeu? Mundo Deportivo says the Ukrainian goalkeeper could leave before the end of his contract, which runs to 2024, if he becomes frustrated with life on the bench, with the newspaper suggesting Madrid would not stand in his way.

Lazio are said to be looking for back-up for Ciro Immobile, their experienced Italy striker, and have reportedly got their eye on two Spain-based forwards. According to Corriere dello Sport, the players being eyed by Maurizio Sarri are Elche's Argentine frontman Lucas Boye and Sevilla's Spaniard Rafa Mir.

Cristian Arango fired home a dramatic 93rd-minute winner as LAFC won their Battle of the LA Conference Semifinal 3-2 over LA Galaxy in the MLS Cup on Thursday.

Arango's goal capped a wild final 15 minutes where three goals were scored in the clash at Banc of California Stadium, with Galaxy substitute Devan Joveljic having curled in an 85th-minute equalizer.

The win means Western Conference top seed LAFC progressed to the Conference Finals where they will host either Dallas or Austin.

LAFC had taken a 23rd-minute lead when Carlos Vela slipped in a pass for Denis Bouanga to clinically score, but Galaxy leveled before the break when Samuel Grandsir lashed home a bouncing shot.

Bouanga restored LAFC's advantage in the 80th minute when he tapped in Ryan Hollingshead's low ball across goal.

But Joveljic scored barely a minute after entering the game as a substitute, curling in from the edge of the box.

LAFC would find a winner in the third of six additional minutes in stoppage time, when Kellyn Acosta's corner found Bouanga whose volley was parried by Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond into Arango's path and he lashed in the rebound.

Eastern Conference top seed Philadelphia Union also advanced into the last four, winning 1-0 over Cincinnati at Subaru Park.

Leon Flach scored the winner in the 59th minute with a left-foot strike, marking his first goal since October last year.

Union goalkeeper Andre Blake made several key saves, including an 83rd-minute block to deny Brandon Vasquez's chance to ensure Philadelphia hosted the Eastern Conference Final for the second straight year. They will welcome either 2021 MLS Cup winners New York City or Montreal.

Cristian Arango fired home a dramatic 93rd-minute winner as LAFC won their Battle of the LA Conference Semifinal 3-2 over LA Galaxy in the MLS Cup on Thursday.

Arango's goal capped a wild final 15 minutes where three goals were scored in the clash at Banc of California Stadium, with Galaxy substitute Devan Joveljic having curled in an 85th-minute equalizer.

The win means Western Conference top seed LAFC progressed to the Conference Finals where they will host either Dallas or Austin.

LAFC had taken a 23rd-minute lead when Carlos Vela slipped in a pass for Denis Bouanga to clinically score, but Galaxy leveled before the break when Samuel Grandsir lashed home a bouncing shot.

Bouanga restored LAFC's advantage in the 80th minute when he tapped in Ryan Hollingshead's low ball across goal.

But Joveljic scored barely a minute after entering the game as a substitute, curling in from the edge of the box.

LAFC would find a winner in the third of six additional minutes in stoppage time, when Kellyn Acosta's corner found Bouanga whose volley was parried by Galaxy goalkeeper Jonathan Bond into Arango's path and he lashed in the rebound.

Eastern Conference top seed Philadelphia Union also advanced into the last four, winning 1-0 over Cincinnati at Subaru Park.

Leon Flach scored the winner in the 59th minute with a left-foot strike, marking his first goal since October last year.

Union goalkeeper Andre Blake made several key saves, including an 83rd-minute block to deny Brandon Vasquez's chance to ensure Philadelphia hosted the Eastern Conference Final for the second straight year. They will welcome either 2021 MLS Cup winners New York City or Montreal.

Barcelona boss Xavi believes his side answered their critics with their emphatic 3-0 win over Villarreal in LaLiga, stating that they "had to react" after their mixed recent form.

The Blaugrana ran rampant in a seven-minute stretch just after the half-hour mark, as Robert Lewandowski seized a quickfire double and Ansu Fati added a third at Camp Nou.

Victory means Barca trail league leaders Real Madrid by three points after defeat in El Clasico over the weekend, but also snaps a two-game winless streak to get them back on top.

With just one win in their previous four before Thursday's win, Xavi acknowledged his side needed to answer their critics, and was delighted that they did so in such impressive fashion.

"We played a great game," he stated. "It was our turn [to win] - we had to reach. It wasn't easy, because a lot was expected of us after poor results.

"There are many expectations placed upon us this season. But we showed our true face, we showed character. It is a good feeling in general."

Barca rung the changes following their capitulation in El Clasico, with Fati leading one of five swaps to the starting XI, with Frenkie de Jong handed the nod in midfield and Raphinha and Ousmane Dembele dropped.

Xavi suggested his rotations were pre-planned rather than as a result of defeat to Madrid, adding: "On Sunday, there will be changes again.

"We have fatigue among our players. We need intensity and we need rhythm. Players must be plugged in, for the minutes they play."

Chelsea got their Women's Champions League campaign off to a winning start against last season's semi-finalists Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday.

The Blues, under the caretaker guidance of Denise Reddy amid Emma Hayes' medical absence, beat the two-time finalists at the Stade Jean-Bouin thanks to Millie Bright's first-half volley in a 1-0 triumph.

The England international turned Erin Cuthbert's looping cross home with an impressive touch just under half-an-hour in, before turning in an impressive defensive performance to frustrate the hosts in Group A.

They were joined by Real Madrid in victory, as the Spanish side claimed a comfortable 2-0 win on the road against Albanian outfit Vllaznia, thanks to goals from Esther Gonzalez and Olga Carmona.

Italy forward Valentina Giacinti meanwhile gave tournament debutants Roma a bright start to life in Europe's top club competition after her effort saw the hosts pick up a 1-0 win over Slavia Prague in Latina in Group B.

Wolfsburg also kicked off with three points, inflicting the heaviest defeat of the night on St. Polten with a 4-0 victory driven by Ewa Pajor's double inside the opening quarter-hour.

Robert Lewandowski scored two stunning goals as Barcelona beat Villarreal 3-0 at Camp Nou to bounce back from El Clasico disappointment.

Barca lost their first clash of the season with bitter rivals Real Madrid on Sunday, but they quickly shook off that defeat as Villarreal were swept aside on Thursday.

Three first-half goals in a seven-minute spell left the Yellow Submarine all at sea, with Lewandowski netting a couple of brilliant efforts before Ansu Fati ensured it was essentially game over before the break.

Villarreal never threatened any kind of turnaround, as Xavi's side eased the pressure that had started to build following a run of just one win in four games.

After a frustrating opening half-hour, a moment of magic brought about the first goal with 31 minutes on the clock.

Pedri's wonderful pass released Jordi Alba and his subsequent low cross found Lewandowski, whose backheeled first touch took three Villarreal players out of the game and set up a simple finish.

A few moments later, Lewandowski did the damage from further out, curling his 25-yard effort beyond Geronimo Rulli's reach.

There was a bit more fortune about Fati's goal, though the finish was no less classy.

After a brilliant Ferran Torres run and cut-back, Fati should have tapped in, but his scuffed attempt came back off the post and allowed him to backheel over the line.

Chances largely dried up in an uneventful second half, though Raphinha should have made it 4-0 when guiding Ousmane Dembele's cross wide from close range.

The Brazilian's miss ultimately counted for nought, however, as Barca saw the second half out comfortably.

Cristiano Ronaldo will be omitted from the Manchester United squad to face Chelsea on Saturday following his early walkout during Wednesday's win over Tottenham.

The veteran forward, an unused substitute, walked down the tunnel before the final whistle at Old Trafford as Erik ten Hag's side downed Spurs in a 2-0 win.

Ten Hag said after the game that he would "deal with" Ronaldo's behaviour on Thursday, and the Dutchman has followed through on that by sanctioning the 37-year-old.

The Portugal captain will play no part in his side's next fixture away to Graham Potter's Blues.

"Cristiano Ronaldo will not be part of the Manchester United squad for this Saturday's Premier League game against Chelsea," read an official club statement.

"The rest of the squad is fully focused on preparing for that fixture."

It is the latest indicator of Ronaldo's discontent at Old Trafford, with a much-trumpeted homecoming last season having turned sour following a disappointing 2021-22 club campaign.

Ronaldo was United's top scorer last term with 24 goals across all competitions, but the Red Devils could only finish sixth in the Premier League.

That led to speculation suggesting Ronaldo wanted to leave the club, a narrative that ultimately became a distracting sideshow through Ten Hag's first pre-season in charge.

Ronaldo did not join United on their pre-season tour of Australia and Thailand.

When he did eventually feature in a friendly against Rayo Vallecano at Old Trafford, Ronaldo found himself at the centre of controversy as he left the stadium early after being withdrawn at half-time.

Ten Hag defended Ronaldo on that occasion, saying it was "not right" for the striker to attract all the criticism when there were several players who left early.

However, Thursday's action shows Ten Hag is willing to come down hard on the Portuguese superstar, and the situation will further cloud Ronaldo's future at the club.

The arrival of Ten Hag has seen Ronaldo slip down the pecking order, with just two Premier League starts and one goal this season across eight top-flight appearances.

United travel to Stamford Bridge sitting just one point behind their hosts in fourth.

Cristiano Ronaldo will be omitted from the Manchester United squad to face Chelsea on Saturday following his early walkout during Wednesday's win over Tottenham.

Massimiliano Allegri ruled out Paul Pogba from his Juventus plans for Friday's clash with Empoli, saying it would be "pure madness" to rush the midfielder's recovery.

Juventus have been unable to field Pogba or Federico Chiesa this season, with the France midfielder undergoing knee surgery last month and Italy forward Chiesa suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury in January.

Pogba was initially a doubt for the upcoming World Cup in Qatar, although France coach Didier Deschamps was upbeat regarding his recovery earlier this week.

Speaking at Monday's Ballon d'Or ceremony, Deschamps said: "His programme is going well. The important thing is that he is cured, I think he will be, and this is already a good thing."

Despite both Pogba and Chiesa being pictured in team training recently, head coach Allegri said Juventus must treat their returns with caution.

"Let's see the real things, the reality today is that Chiesa and Pogba don't have them," Allegri told a pre-match news conference on Thursday.

"Chiesa did two training sessions with the team, Pogba trained temporarily, but very partially with the team. Avoid writing all that stuff there, you have a fantasy.

"Players have not even trained with the team [and you] write that after two days they are available. Fantasy is a power and it is very beautiful. Tomorrow they will not be there.

"I, too, would like everyone available, especially to make changes. With those we have, we will have a great match tomorrow, and we will prepare well for Benfica.

"Chiesa has already made progress. On Saturday morning there will be a friendly for Federico, to see how he moves on the whole field.

"Paul has done some partial work with the team, but we are on Thursday and until Tuesday there are four days. Damaging his work is pure madness."

After their meeting with Empoli, Juventus will have just three days to recover ahead of the decisive Champions League clash with Benfica, but Allegri would not be drawn on whether striker Dusan Vlahovic would be rested on Friday.

"Dusan, regardless of his goal, played one of the best games on a technical level [against Torino last week]," Allegri said.

"[Moise] Kean also did well, I'm happy with Moise because he's growing, he's physically better, and he makes himself available for the team above all.

"To obtain results, everyone must be available, and there seem to be good signs of this. Tomorrow will not be easy; among other things, they beat us last year."

Vlahovic has scored three goals in three Serie A appearances against Empoli, including his first league double for Juventus in February. The Serbian has also hit the net five times in five home league games this season.

Switzerland's attorney general has launched an appeal against the acquittals of Sepp Blatter and Michel Platini, the former presidents of FIFA and UEFA respectively.

Blatter and Platini were cleared of all charges against them following a trial at the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona, with that outcome being announced in July.

They had been charged with fraud and other offences by Swiss authorities relating to a payment of 2million Swiss francs made by Blatter to Platini in 2011.

For Blatter, there were charges of fraud, misappropriation, criminal mismanagement and forgery of a document. Platini had been charged with fraud, participating in misappropriation, participating in criminal mismanagement and forgery of a document.

Both men had denied any wrongdoing and the court found in their favour.

However, the matter is not yet over, as prosecutors are challenging the court's ruling.

In a statement, the Office of the Attorney General announced it had requested for the judgement to be overturned.

It said: "We confirm that the Office of the Attorney General has appealed to the Appeals Chamber of the Federal Criminal Court within the statutory period and has applied for the full annulment of the first-instance judgement."

The statement continued: "No further information is given on the content of the declaration of appeal. The presumption of innocence applies to all those involved in the proceedings."

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