Baker Mayfield says "everything does happen for a reason" after his dream start to life at the Los Angeles Rams.

The former first overall draft pick started the season with the Carolina Panthers, having been waived with a dismal 1-5 record for the campaign.

Picked up by the Rams in the midst of a quarterback injury crisis, Mayfield unexpectedly led the Super Bowl holders to a comeback win against the Las Vegas Raiders in his first game for the team.

Ahead of Monday's match with the Green Bay Packers, the 27-year-old has acknowledged it has been an unusual start to life in California, but suggested his move offered a second chance after his Panthers frustrations.

"Refreshing is an interesting way to put it, considering how stressful last week has been," he said.

"But in the end, everything does happen for a reason. I'm thankful for the group that is here."

Though tasked with leading the Rams against the Raiders, Mayfield was able to call on veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford for advice throughout the match.

Head coach Sean McVay was impressed with the latter's contributions, highlighting his crucial impact in helping his new team-mate keep focused on the game.

"He was even on the headset on the last drive," he added. "He was able to add in a couple of things that would be helpful to Baker.

"That tells you everything that you need to know about Matthew and who he is. I think sometimes being able to get a different perspective can be beneficial."

Xavi paid tribute to Sergio Busquets following his decision to retire from international football, describing him as one of the greatest midfielders in history.

Busquets announced his retirement from Spain duty on Friday having captained La Roja in each of their four games at the World Cup in Qatar.

Busquets' miss in a penalty shoot-out defeat to Morocco in the last 16 provided a less-than-fitting end to his stellar career with Spain, for whom he made 143 senior appearances.

The 34-year-old starred alongside his Barcelona team-mate-turned-coach Xavi as Spain won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, and the Blaugrana boss believes few can match his impact.

"In the end, it's a personal decision that you make when you feel the time is right," Xavi told Barcelona's website. "I wish him the best, now he will be able to rest more and focus on Barca.

"He is a player who has made history. He is one of the best midfielders that football has produced worldwide and, for sure, the best defensive midfielder in the history of Spain."

Fellow Barcelona star Jordi Alba said Busquets will be "sorely missed" by Spain, who will be led by Luis de la Fuente in Euro 2024 qualifying after Luis Enrique left his role as head coach. 

"You have always been a great leader for all of us who are part of the team, both in good times and in bad," Alba wrote on Twitter.

"After so many training sessions and games together in the national team, today you say goodbye and you will be sorely missed, friend. 

"Thank you for what you have contributed to us and for everything you have given."

Rumoured Manchester United, Liverpool and Barcelona target Youssoufa Moukoko is not close to agreeing a new deal with Borussia Dortmund, his agent has said.

Germany international Moukoko is out of contract with Dortmund at the end of the season and continues to be linked with a number of heavyweight clubs.

Reports from Germany earlier this week suggested the 18-year-old was ready to commit his future to the Bundesliga side, for whom he has made 59 appearances.

While talks with Dortmund remain ongoing, however, Moukoko's agent Patrick Williams has revealed there is still some way to go in an apparent boost to interested suitors.

"I can confirm we are not yet about to conclude a contract extension with Borussia Dortmund," Williams told Sky Sport.

"I can also assure you the numbers that are circulating are simply not correct and Youssoufa was never offered that much. 

"But we are still in contact with Dortmund and will see what the next few days bring.

"A player like Youssoufa is interesting for all top clubs in the world. Especially when he is free and has a future in the German national team."

 

Moukoko has been with Dortmund since he was 12 and broke the record as the youngest player in Champions League history when making his debut a day after turning 16.

Interest in Moukoko has only increased after he became the youngest Germany player to make a World Cup appearance in their shock defeat to Japan (18 years, three days).

Moukoko also became the youngest player to make a World Cup appearance overall since Nigeria's Femi Opabunmi against England in 2002 (17 years, 101 days).

Asked about his future with Dortmund last month, the academy product said: "I feel very comfortable at the club. I know the environment, my friends are there. 

"I love the club and the fans love me, I hope. Not everyone can say that about themselves. I would really like to stay in Dortmund, I have everything there."

Moukoko has a combined 10 goals and assists for Dortmund this season, a tally that is bettered only by Jude Bellingham (12) among BVB players.

Former Brazil international David Luiz has signed a new 12-month deal with Flamengo.

The 35-year-old joined the Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A side in September 2021 and has since won the Copa Libertadores and Copa do Brasil.  

Prior to moving to Flamengo, Luiz spent 14 years in Europe playing for Benfica, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal.

Luiz, who won 57 caps for Brazil between 2010 and 2017, said: "I think that Flamengo gives you the opportunity, every week, to have feelings that you will not feel in all clubs, in all places and in all games in the world. 

"Flamengo is skin deep. You feel it every day. Flamengo training is special, Flamengo's games are special. 

"Putting on the Flamengo shirt is special."

Kylian Mbappe's 15-year-old brother Ethan made his first senior appearance for Paris Saint-Germain in a friendly against Paris FC on Friday.

Ethan Mbappe replaced midfielder Fabian Ruiz as Christophe Galtier rang the changes at half-time, after Nordi Mukiele had given PSG a 1-0 lead at the Camp des Loges training centre.

The Ligue 1 champions went on to claim a 2-1 victory, with the teenager featuring alongside senior players including Sergio Ramos, Marco Verratti and Renato Sanches.

Ethan Mbappe joined PSG from AS Bondy in 2017 before signing a new three-year contract with the club in June 2021.

The midfielder, who was called up to France's under-16 squad last year, took to Instagram after the game, writing: "Very excited for my debut in the pros."

With Kylian Mbappe looking to cap another fine World Cup campaign by leading France to a second successive triumph at the tournament on Sunday, it could be a particularly memorable week in the Mbappe household.

Italy boss Roberto Mancini described the death of Sinisa Mihajlovic as "not fair" as he hailed his great friend for showing the heart of a lion in his battle with leukaemia.

The pair were team-mates at Sampdoria and Lazio, with Mancini also coaching Mihajlovic at Lazio before taking the then 35-year-old with him to Inter in 2004.

They had a great bond, winning the Scudetto together with Sven-Goran Eriksson's team in 1999-2000, and doing so again at Inter in 2006, as player and coach.

Mihajlovic's death was announced on Friday, coming as a huge jolt to the football community in Italy, where the former Yugoslavia international spent most of his career.

After his playing days ended, Mihajlovic became Mancini's Inter assistant before having spells as a head coach with Bologna, Catania, Fiorentina, Sampdoria, Milan, Torino and, finally, Bologna for a second time.

During the 2015-16 season, Mancini and Mihajlovic were rival bosses in the same city as Mancini led Inter and Mihajlovic was in charge of Milan.

Mihajlovic was ousted as Bologna boss in September of this year, after a slow start to the season.

"This is a day I never wanted to live, because I lost a friend with whom I shared almost 30 years of my life, on and off the pitch," said Mancini, Italy's Euro 2020-winning head coach, in quotes reported by the Italian Football Federation's official website.

"It's not fair that such a terrible disease took away a 53-year-old lad, who fought like a lion until the last moment, as he was used to doing on the pitch.

"And this is exactly how Sinisa will always remain by my side, even if he is no longer there, as he did in Genoa [with Sampdoria], in Rome [with Lazio] and in Milan [at Inter] and subsequently also when we took different paths."

Mihajlovic was first diagnosed with leukaemia in 2019 and underwent a bone marrow transplant in October of that year, returning to the Bologna dugout just six weeks later.

When he discovered a problem in March of this year, former hard-man defender Mihajlovic said the leukaemia was "very courageous in returning to face an opponent like me".

Sven-Goran Eriksson paid an affectionate tribute to Sinisa Mihajlovic as Italian football mourned an adopted son, saying his former Lazio star was a "fabulous player" who it was impossible to dislike.

Mihajlovic was part of Eriksson's Lazio team that won the 1999-2000 Serie A title, with his set-piece prowess, fierce tackling and combative attitude making Mihajlovic a standout figure in that era.

His death was announced by his family on Friday, with Mihajlovic succumbing to leukaemia at the age of 53.

As well as playing spells in Italy with Roma, Sampdoria, Lazio and Inter, Mihajlovic was a European Cup winner in 1991 with Red Star Belgrade and a long-time Yugoslavia international.

His free-kicks were among the best in the game, and he later took to coaching, with Milan, Fiorentina, Sampdoria, Torino and Bologna among the clubs he led from the touchline.

Mihajlovic and Roberto Mancini, now the Italy head coach, were both highly influential figures in Eriksson's great Lazio side.

"Mihajlovic was a very successful player," Eriksson told Italian broadcaster Sky Sport 24. "For him there was no such thing as finishing second. He was generous, an intelligent and fabulous player. He was someone who helped everyone in the team, especially the youngsters. It's all very sad.

"He was a great coach even when he was still a player. He had to become a coach, it was known. He was a very intelligent player, he understood everything in football, I didn't need to talk about tactics with him.

"I don't know how many games Lazio have won due to his free-kicks or penalties. I remember that he was a very successful man and very helpful with everyone.

"He was different from me in terms of character, but the respect that existed was the secret of that team. This made Lazio great. It was impossible not to like Sinisa, he was positive, cheerful. It was a huge pleasure to work with him."

Former Lazio striker Christian Vieri added, in an Instagram post: "It's hard to find words today. Rest in peace great warrior."

Mihajlovic was sacked by Bologna in September after a disappointing start to the season, ending his second spell as head coach with the Rossoblu.

Milan great Andrea Pirlo paid his own tribute to Mihajlovic, writing: "A great man as well as being a great footballer... You have always proved to be a loyal warrior. Goodbye Sinisa."

Another former on-field adversary, Gabriel Batistuta, wrote: "How many battles on the field. Goodbye Sinisa."

Italian FA (FIGC) president Gabriele Gravina said he was "deeply saddened".

"Sinisa was a protagonist on and off the field, an example of passion, determination and courage, able to inspire and excite," Gravina added. "Mihajlovic was a true champion as a player, as a coach, but above all as a person.

"In an era often marked by falsehood, he has always known how to put the truth before him, not underlining his defects and his weaknesses."

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis added his own salute, saying on Twitter: "A great man leaves too soon. A coach that in the past I had thought of bringing to Naples. A person of great human depth. A fighter who defied the disease with the courage of a lion."

Red Star Belgrade labelled Mihajlovic "a great star and a man with an incredible heart and strength", adding: "Our club expresses its deepest condolences to the Mihajlovic family. To him be eternal glory!"

France's World Cup squad is calmer and more experienced than the one that won in Russia, according to Ousmane Dembele. 

Didier Deschamps' side will become the first team to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962 if they overcome Argentina in Sunday's final at Lusail Stadium.

Dembele was an unused substitute when France beat Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 final but the Barcelona man has emerged as a key part of the team in Qatar.

Despite injuries to Karim Benzema, N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba leaving France short of key players, Dembele feels the squad is more at ease this time around.

"It's not a dream yet. We're calmer and have more experience. We want to prepare well for this final," he said at a press conference on Friday.

"It will be a great day. We are ready for this fight against a difficult opponent. Argentina are better than they were in 2018. 

"In 2018 there were more crazy people in this team. There is a very nice atmosphere in 2022 too, but it is not comparable."

With France opting against naming a replacement for Benzema after he left their camp with a thigh injury last month, reports have suggested the Ballon d'Or winner could make a shock return for Sunday's game.

Deschamps refused to comment on those suggestions on Thursday, and Dembele claimed to be in the dark regarding the striker's availability.

"I don't know. I'm not the coach," Dembele said. "I think Benzema got injured and I don't have an explanation."

Ousmane Dembele says France are "taking precautions" ahead of Sunday's World Cup final with Argentina after two more key players were struck down by illness.

Les Blues were without Adrien Rabiot and Dayot Upamecano for Wednesday's 2-0 semi-final win over Morocco due to a sickness bug in the camp.

Rabiot missed out on the squad entirely while Upamecano was an unused substitute, as was Kingsley Coman, who was also suffering from a fever on the day of the game.

Midfielder Rabiot and defender Upamecano are understood to have now recovered in time for this weekend's final at Lusail Stadium.

However, according to widespread reports, central-defensive duo Raphael Varane and Ibrahima Konate trained away from the team on Friday after falling ill.

Aurelien Tchouameni and Theo Hernandez are also said to have missed the full session two days out from the final as they are recovering from minor injuries.

Despite potentially losing more players to illness and injury, Dembele insists France are not overly concerned at this stage.

"It doesn't worry us," he said at a news conference on Friday. "With Dayot, after a day I went to see him with my mask on and he was much better. 

"For the players and the staff, it doesn't worry us, we are just taking precautions.

"We are not afraid of the virus. Dayot and Adrien had headaches and stomach aches. I made them honey and ginger tea. We hope everyone will be better for the final."

France are already without the likes of Paul Pogba, N'Golo Kante, Karim Benzema, Presnel Kimpembe, Lucas Hernandez and Christopher Nkunku through injury.

Les Blues are aiming to become just the third ever side to retain the trophy, while Argentina are seeking a first world crown in 36 years.

Zlatko Dalic is optimistic Luka Modric will play for Croatia at Euro 2024.

Modric won the Ballon d'Or after leading Croatia to the World Cup final in Russia four years ago, and the Real Madrid star enjoyed another fine tournament as Dalic's men reached the final four in Qatar.

However, the 37-year-old was unable to inspire his team to a semi-final victory over Argentina on Tuesday, leading to suggestions he may retire from the international game.

Modric refused to give anything away regarding his future after the defeat, and Dalic is hopeful he will stay on for at least another 18 months.

"I hope that he [Modric] will be there [at Euro 2024]," Dalic said. "I am looking forward to it.

"It is not certain that he will there be and he will personally decide how he feels. I personally feel that he will be, but it ultimately is his decision."

Croatia started their World Cup campaign with a 0-0 draw against Morocco in Group F, and they face the African side again in Saturday's bronze-medal match.

Walid Regragui's outfit have been the surprise package of the tournament, with Dalic comparing their stunning run to Croatia's surge to the 2018 final.

"Morocco remind me of us four and a half years ago," he said. "Nobody expected them to be this high, but they got to where they are with their quality and emotions.

"From game to game, they only grew and I think we are in for a much more difficult match than the one from the opening group.

"We have full and great respect for them. They show unity and are not afraid of anyone."

Morocco captured the imagination of football fans around the world during their World Cup campaign, which saw them stun Belgium, Spain and Portugal.

They suffered a 2-0 defeat to France in the semi-final on Wednesday and boss Regragui is struggling to get excited about the third-place play-off.

"It is a little bit difficult," he said. "It is very complicated for both teams. You are so disappointed; you have just lost a semi-final and then two days later you have to go back out there.

"It is like the booby prize. I'm sorry for speaking like this. I understand it should be important, I understand it is better to finish third than fourth, but, for me, my takeaway is just that we didn't get to the final.

"Even if we did get to the final, and I finished second, I would be saying the same thing to you.

"We want to be as positive as possible, especially for our fans. Finishing third would be great for our image."

There is undoubtedly a perception the World Cup's third-place play-off is little more than an exhibition match – compared to the final, anyway.

But for Croatia and Morocco, Saturday's clash at the Khalifa International Stadium holds a great deal of significance regardless of what others might think.

Croatia were denied the chance to reach successive World Cup finals by Argentina, while Morocco put up an admirable fight against defending champions France in their 2-0 defeat.

But the fact Croatia – who clinched bronze at the 1998 World Cup – were in the 2018 final does not diminish the achievement of potentially finishing third here for coach Zlatko Dalic.

"We are sad and disappointed, but we have to gather energy to come back and be ready for the next fight for bronze," he said.

"The match on Saturday is a big final for us, not a small [game]. It's a big deal if we get the bronze.

"We have to refresh the team and put healthy players in the team because a grand final is ahead of us.

"Morocco is the biggest surprise of the World Cup. They've got national backing, unity, compactness. They knocked out Belgium, Spain and Portugal. They deserve all the respect."

Of course, these two tussled in a rather drab goalless group-stage draw, when Croatia were restricted to just five shots, their fewest ever in a World Cup game.

That encounter was something of a foreshadowing: Croatia have not been one of the tournament's great entertainers.

Morocco caused France plenty of problems and will fancy their chances of worrying Croatia on Saturday, particularly given Dalic's side have faced more shots (75) than any other team at the tournament.

The Atlas Lions have certainly benefited from a degree of pragmatism as well, with one more clean sheet enough for them to become only the eighth team in tournament history to keep five in one World Cup.

Of course, Walid Regragui insisted his team want to finish third, but there's also a degree of their job being done as the head coach acknowledged the gravity of their achievement in becoming Africa's first World Cup semi-finalists

"I will give opportunities to those who did not participate, and we will try to clinch the third place," Regragui told reporters.

"We realise that we made a great achievement already. We know that from the media, social media, and on TV, we saw the pictures, and we saw that everyone was proud of us in our country.

"We're disappointed for the Moroccan people, we wanted to keep the dream alive, but we're pleased with what we've achieved.

"We felt that we could have gone even further but these small details help real champions, which we saw [against France], of course.

"My players gave everything and they've gone as far as they could. I really wanted to rewrite the history books, but you can't win a World Cup with miracles, you need to do it through hard work."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Croatia – Mateo Kovacic

Dalic is expected to make a few changes: Marcelo Brozovic is an injury doubt; Luka Modric could be given a breather. All three of their regular midfield probably won't come out of the side, meaning Kovacic is surely the likeliest to start.

Kovacic was one of Croatia's better players against Argentina, with his physicality and ball carrying standing out as the Valtreni tried to cope with the feisty Argentinians. He attempted six dribbles, completing four, and engaged in 15 duels, winning 10 – all of those were highs for his team.

 

Morocco – Azzedine Ounahi

Again, Regragui will alter his team a bit, so it is difficult to know who's going to play, but all the neutrals will be hoping to get another glimpse of Ounahi.

An elegant central midfielder, the 22-year-old has been one of the tournament's breakthrough stars, with his composure in possession really making him stand out. He has completed 77 per cent of his take-on attempts in the World Cup (10/13), which is the highest rate of any player to try at least 10.

 

PREDICTION

Morocco's win probability of 30.9 per cent for this is a reasonable increase on the 24.8 per cent Stats Perform's AI model gave them ahead of the matchday one meeting.

Nevertheless, Croatia remain the favourites, with the supercomputer putting their win likelihood at 43.1 per cent.

The draw is rated at 26 per cent, but it's worth noting that none of the 19 previous third place play-off matches at the World Cup have gone to penalties, while only one has been settled in extra time (France v Belgium in 1986).

FIFA has announced Morocco will host the next edition of the Club World Cup in February, at which Real Madrid will attempt to lift the trophy for a record-extending fifth time.

Madrid secured their 14th European Cup/Champions League title with a 1-0 win over Liverpool at the Stade de France in May, earning entry to a competition they won in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

The other teams to have sealed qualification include Copa Libertadores winners Flamengo, CONCACAF Champions League holders Seattle Sounders, Auckland City and Al Ahly.

FIFA confirmed Morocco as hosts on Friday, and Moroccan side Wydad – who won the CAF Champions League under Walid Regragui last season before he left to manage the national team – will take part on home soil.

Morocco, which unsuccessfully bid to host the 2026 World Cup, has seen its Atlas Lions become one of the stories of the 2022 edition after Regragui led them to the semi-finals, where they lost to France, becoming the first African team to reach that stage. Morocco will face Croatia in the third-place play-off on Saturday.

The tournament will take place between February 1 and 11, 2023, with the final being held 10 days before Madrid take on Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

The announcement came on the same say FIFA president Gianni Infantino confirmed the governing body is proceeding with plans to introduce a revamped 32-team Club World Cup from 2025.

Benfica boss Roger Schmidt has no fears about losing World Cup stars Enzo Fernandez and Goncalo Ramos.

Head coach Schmidt said the youngsters, both 21, and veteran defender Nicolas Otamendi, are integral to his plans to deliver success in Lisbon.

Fernandez and Otamendi are part of the Argentina squad preparing for Sunday's World Cup final against France, when both could be starters.

That has put them in the spotlight, and midfielder Fernandez has been linked with a host of teams, including Liverpool.

Benfica sold striker Darwin Nunez to the Reds in the last transfer window, and Schmidt is determined to retain the best of the talent that has remained at the club.

"We are very happy for them and they are happy to play at Benfica. We need players like them," Schmidt told a press conference on Friday, according to O Jogo.

"We are not afraid that they will leave. We will not give anyone away; we need them to be champions."

Benfica sit top of the Primeira Liga after accruing 12 wins from their opening 13 games in what is Schmidt's first season in charge.

Looking at his Argentine pair, Schmidt said he was "happy for them" to be playing a World Cup final, while domestic games resume in Portugal.

Benfica have a Taca da Liga round-robin game against Moreirense on Saturday, which could see Portugal striker Ramos involved.

He made his name known to a wide audience by scoring a hat-trick against Switzerland in Portugal's 6-1 victory at the last-16 stage at the World Cup, having come into the team in place of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Looking at the finals in Qatar, Schmidt said: "Otamendi has played at a fantastic level. I think Goncalo and Enzo have been playing very well throughout the season.

"Enzo took advantage of opportunities with Argentina, he didn't begin in the starting line-up. Goncalo Ramos too, with Portugal, scored three goals. It shows that they have a lot of confidence."

German coach Schmidt also acknowledged he will be siding with Argentina in the final, out of duty to his players.

"I have all the respect for France, but there are two of our players in Argentina, of course I'll support them," he said. "To be honest, I'm also a [Lionel] Messi fan, he continues to be the best in the world for me and he's shown it."

Cristiano Ronaldo is too expensive for any Portuguese club to buy, according to Porto president Pinto da Costa.

Ronaldo had his Manchester United contract terminated last month after he criticised the Red Devils' hierarchy – including manager Erik ten Hag – in a controversial interview with Piers Morgan.

The Portugal captain created more headlines at the World Cup, where he was dropped to the bench for his country’s 6-1 win over Switzerland in the last 16, as well as their quarter-final defeat against Morocco.

The 37-year-old, who is using Real Madrid's facilities to train, has been linked with a move to Saudi Pro League outfit Al Nassr and the club where he started his career Sporting CP.

However, Da Costa thinks it is unlikely the five-time Ballon d’Or winner will return to Portugal due to his wage demands.

"It's up to him and the clubs interested, but in Portugal, nobody has the capacity to give him what he earns and still wants to earn," he said. "And he deserves that."

 

The Porto chief also confirmed that veteran defender Pepe is welcome to stay at the club as long as he is fit enough to play.

The former Real Madrid defender turns 40 in February, but shows no signs of slowing down.

He has played seven times for Porto this season and started four of Portugal's five games at Qatar 2022.

Asked if a contract renewal will be available for Pepe, Da Costa said: "As long as he can play and I think he will play for another five or six years."

England's Euro 2022-winning forward Beth Mead has signed a new contract with Arsenal, the Gunners have confirmed.

Mead was named Player of the Tournament after top scoring with six goals as Sarina Wiegman's Lionesses won the Women's Euros on home soil earlier this year.

Mead is currently sidelined after rupturing her anterior cruciate ligament in a Women's Super League defeat to Manchester United last month and will spend an "extended period" out of action.

Having put pen to paper on her new deal – the length of which was not disclosed, Mead targeted a successful return in the coming months.

"I'm so happy to have signed a new deal with Arsenal," she told the club's website. "This club is home for me.

"I've grown so much here as a player and a person and I know we can achieve so much more together in the years to come. 

"I want to compete to win the biggest trophies in the game and I know that the ambitions at Arsenal match my own, so I can't wait to get back onto the pitch and help to deliver the success our supporters deserve."

Mead recorded 33 goal involvements (14 goals, 19 assists) in 40 appearances for Arsenal last season and was named England Women's Player of the Year for the campaign.

Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall said: "It's wonderful news that we have agreed a new deal with Beth. She is a world-class footballer and has proven that on the biggest stage of them all. 

"I have so much admiration for the way she has handled success and adversity on and off the pitch over the past few years, and I'm sure she will approach the next few months with the positive attitude we all know Beth for."

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