Rumour Has It: European giants Real Madrid, PSG and Inter circle for Lingard

By Sports Desk April 13, 2021

Jesse Lingard has been in blistering form during his six-month loan spell at West Ham.

As a result, speculation is rife over the 28-year-old England international's future.

Lingard is contracted with parent club Manchester United for one more season.

 

TOP STORY - EUROPEAN GIANTS CIRCLE FOR LINGARD

European powerhouse clubs Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Inter are all interested in Lingard, claims ESPN.

Lingard has scored eight goals in nine games for the Hammers, who are surprisingly sitting fourth in the Premier League.

ESPN reports those clubs are monitoring Lingard's situation, with West Ham keen to sign him permanently and the player yet to declare a preference, although it is believed he wants to play  Champions League football.

 

ROUND-UP

- Serbia international Sergei Milinkovic-Savic has garnered interest from European giants Manchester United, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The midfielder is contracted with Lazio until 2024.

- Manchester United may have missed out on Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho last off-season but they are set to revive their interest, says the Manchester Evening News.

- Calciomercato reports that French winger Ousmane Dembele is open to joining Juventus from Barcelona in the next transfer window.

- Tottenham are making their move to sign off-contract Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng, reports Sky Germany.

- Arsenal have joined the race to sign Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard, alongside Leicester City, according to the Telegraph.

- Tuttosport says Torino's Italy international forward Andrea Belotti is being courted by Chelsea, Everton, AC Milan and Atletico Madrid.

- Fiorentina want to hire Gennaro Gattuso from Napoli as their next coach, claims Sky Sport Italia. Gattuso is out of contract at Napoli at the end of the season.

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  • Merseyside derby: Benitez desperate for a win in Liverpool reunion Merseyside derby: Benitez desperate for a win in Liverpool reunion

    Liverpool have two reunions with fan favourites coming up in the space of 10 days.

    While Steven Gerrard will bring his Aston Villa team to Anfield on December 11, Liverpool first make the short trip to Goodison Park to face the manager under which they enjoyed their best spell of the 21st century prior to Jurgen Klopp's arrival.

    Rafael Benitez was a contentious appointment, to say the least, when he replaced Carlo Ancelotti at Everton.

    After a strong start to his tenure at Goodison Park, a combination of injuries to key players and questionable tactical decisions have left Benitez under pressure.

    Everton are on a seven-match winless run in the league, their worst run since 2016, and a streak of just one victory in 10 matches across all competition. 

    It does not look pretty, the mood around each club could hardly be more different, and the last thing Benitez needs is a reunion with a fanbase that once idolised him and may well be singing his name again on Wednesday.

    Where did it all go wrong?

    Benitez has inherited a mess and Everton's director of football Marcel Brands and majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri must face scrutiny. The Spaniard, however, must ultimately shoulder part of the blame for the current malaise.

    Of Everton's Premier League managers, only Howard Kendall (in his ill-fated third spell at the club) and Walter Smith took fewer points than Benitez's tally of 15 across their first 13 league games.

    Everton went unbeaten in their three league derbies under Ancelotti, albeit they did suffer a 1-0 loss to very much a second-string Liverpool side in the FA Cup in January 2020.

    However, Ancelotti oversaw Everton's first derby victory since October 2010 when the Toffees beat Liverpool 2-0 at Anfield in February, ending a winless run at that ground stretching back to September 1999.

    That win at an empty Anfield inflicted a fourth successive home league defeat on Liverpool for the first time since 1923 and left the Merseyside rivals level in the race for Champions League qualification.

    Since then, Everton have won just nine of their 27 Premier League outings, losing 11, with Liverpool winning 17 of 26, only suffering three defeats. The Reds have scored 62 goals, 36 more than their city rivals, while only Chelsea's defence is stingier of sides to have been in the top tier for the entirety of that timeframe.

    If Evertonians hoped a corner had been turned in February, Klopp's team have proved they are still worlds apart.

    Similar derby records... differing approaches

    Speaking of Klopp, he has won seven Merseyside derbies since joining Liverpool in 2015, drawing five and suffering that solitary defeat. 

    Benitez will be the sixth Everton boss Klopp has faced, and the German holds an impressive record over his Liverpool predecessor, winning four of seven meetings, losing just once, when Napoli beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the 2013-14 Champions League group stage.

    Liverpool also won their last three league games against Benitez's Newcastle by an aggregate score of 9-2. 

    This game will take Klopp onto the same amount of Merseyside derbies that Benitez managed as Liverpool boss. The former Real Madrid coach oversaw 14 meetings with David Moyes' Everton, winning eight and losing only three times. The Toffees' failures in this fixture have not been limited to the past decade.

    Across the last seven matches, Benitez's team rank 17th for possession (39.5 per cent), joint-18th for shots on target (21) and joint-20th for goals (four), albeit they have underperformed their expected goals (xG) value (7.58) – the absence of Dominic Calvert-Lewin has not helped this.

    Liverpool, on the other hand, have scored a league-leading 24 times in that time. Their xG of 16.4 also tops the competition, though it does suggest their finishing is above the standard that would be expected based on the quality of the chances.

    Their high press has been back at its best, with no team producing more high turnovers (sequences that start in open play and begin 40 metres or less from the opponent's goal) than the Reds' 145. Everton's 78 ranks above only Watford (74) and Tottenham (72).

    Another concern for Benitez will be Everton's tally of 101 high turnovers against. This ranks 11th in the league, but an issue for the Toffees all season has been an inability to keep the ball for sustained spells, even if it has been their aim to counter-attack. Their number of sequences of 10+ passes stands at 63 (16th). Liverpool's total is 220, placing them behind only Manchester City (283).

    Everton had just 22.7 per cent of the ball in their recent 3-0 defeat to Manchester City, allowing 17 shots. It is hard to imagine Wednesday's statistics turning out much differently.

    Injuries giving Toffees the blues

    Mohamed Salah came seventh in the Ballon d'Or voting but if he continues his current form into 2022 then he could be a shoo-in for next year's award. He has been sensational, scoring 17 times in 18 appearances across all competitions, and also leads the league in assists (eight). 

    Salah scores every 92 minutes, on average, while Sadio Mane has bounced back from his struggles last season with seven league goals.

    Mane has played in 14 derbies, contributing to seven goals, scoring five himself, while Salah has netted twice across five appearances against Everton.

    While Liverpool's talismanic duo head into Wednesday's fixture in fine fettle, Everton are in the midst of an injury crisis that has exposed their weak squad.

    Richarlison should return from suspension and Abdoulaye Doucoure played at Brentford, but Calvert-Lewin and Yerry Mina remain out.

    Calvert-Lewin has been a huge miss but the influence of Doucoure and Mina should not be understated.

    With the pair playing, Everton have won three of six league games, averaging 1.8 goals for and 1.3 goals against, picking up 1.8 points per game. Without at least one of them, Everton have won just one of seven and averaged 1.7 goals against and 0.7 goals for. Their points per game drops to 0.6.

    Liverpool's last league win over Everton came on December 4, 2019, a 5-2 thrashing at Anfield marking the end of Marco Silva's tenure.

    Eight of Liverpool's last nine top-tier trips to Goodison have finished level but, unless Benitez can pull off an unexpected result, his fate may be similar. 

  • Arsenal and Liverpool in mourning as Ray Kennedy dies aged 70 Arsenal and Liverpool in mourning as Ray Kennedy dies aged 70

    Arsenal and Liverpool great Ray Kennedy has died at the age of 70.

    Kennedy, whose death was announced on Tuesday, was a major figure in English football in the 1970s and 1980s as he won almost every trophy there was to win.

    He played an integral role in the Gunners' domestic double-winning 1971 side and scored 71 goals in 212 games before his 1974 move to Merseyside.

    At Liverpool, he was transformed from a forward into a midfielder, winning five league titles and three European Cups during a seven-and-a-half-year stay at Anfield.

    Though his arrival was overshadowed by the departure of the Reds' greatest manager Bill Shankly, Kennedy managed 393 appearances for Liverpool and scored 72 times.

    Later moves to Swansea City, Hartlepool and Cypriot outfit Pezoporikos followed for Kennedy, who also boasted 17 England caps and three international goals.

    Health issues ultimately led to Kennedy being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the mid-1980s.

    In a statement issued on Tuesday, Liverpool said: "We are mourning legendary former player Ray Kennedy, who has passed away at the age of 70.

    "The thoughts of everybody at Liverpool Football Club are with Ray's family and friends at this sad and difficult time."

    Arsenal said in a tribute: "For Arsenal fans fortunate enough to have witnessed Ray Kennedy in action, the image will remain of a teenage striking colossus, dominating opposition defences as his goals led the club to one of the game’s greatest achievements and something his name will always be associated with – the double.

    "Our thoughts and prayers are with Ray’s family and friends."

    The Football Association issued its own salute to Kennedy via the England national team Twitter, saying: "We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Ray Kennedy at the age of 70. Ray won 17 caps for the Three Lions between 1976 and 1980, scoring three times. All of our thoughts go out to his family, friends and former clubs."

  • Merseyside derby: Stephen Warnock warning as Benitez and Everton target Liverpool scalp Merseyside derby: Stephen Warnock warning as Benitez and Everton target Liverpool scalp

    Liverpool have the class to "walk the game" when they tackle Everton in Wednesday's derby, and former Reds defender Stephen Warnock believes that would pile pressure on Rafael Benitez.

    A series of worrying injuries have hampered Everton in recent weeks, and they will be without Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Yerry Mina and Tom Davies for this midweek tussle.

    Warnock has sympathy for Benitez, whom he played under at Liverpool, but he feels the big game will only go one way unless Everton can raise their levels.

    A run of seven games without a win in the Premier League, their longest such streak since 2016, has seen Everton plummet to 14th in the Premier League going into the midweek round of games.

    As a former Liverpool boss, Benitez needed a strong start to earn the affections of those on the blue side of the city, and having seen his team lose their way after promising early signs, he can ill afford a bruising defeat to the Reds.

    "Rafa's reign sort of started well, but then it's gone probably horribly wrong for him," Warnock told Stats Perform.

    "But you have to look at injuries to key players – Dominic Calvert-Lewin being injured, Richarlison was out for a long time, [Abdoulaye] Doucoure [was] a huge, huge miss in the midfield.

    "I look at Ben Godfrey and he's obviously suffered a little bit from long COVID. The effects of that have been tough on him.

    "But when you look at Everton, if Everton went into the derby with their strongest team, I think it'd be a competitive game. But if you look at the teams on paper, Liverpool will walk the game, it'll be a comfortable game.

    "I think Rafa needs a result in the game, because if he doesn't get then I think the fans could possibly start to turn on him a little bit."

    Warnock made his Liverpool breakthrough in the 2004-05 season but missed out on Benitez's teams for the Champions League and League Cup finals in that season.

    He considers Benitez a mastermind when it comes to creating a game plan, but not the ideal man for rallying players to the cause.

    "Well, I don't think man-management is his biggest strength, if I am being completely honest," said former England international Warnock.

    "Rafa is more of a tactical genius, if you like, he understands how to set teams up.

    "You've got to understand that that's his strength, but he has to have people in and around him, who are good at man-management, understanding the players what their needs are.

    "He's not the type of manager who's going to put an arm around you. He doesn't have that sort of that personality to do that. But if you want someone who's going to sort of be able to take a team forward tactically, then Rafa is your man."

    Benitez knows the significance of Wednesday's game and has called on his players to generate a spicy atmosphere, the sort that can allow underdogs to overturn expectations.

    In the 1980s, these were the dominant sides in English football, and although Liverpool remain serious silverware contenders, Warnock says the game remains a significant occasion in the city. 

    "The Merseyside derby will always be more special to me, purely because I grew up a Liverpool fan. I understand what it means," he said.

    "I come from a split household, where myself and my mum are Reds, and my dad and my brother are Blues, and that's the way it is quite a lot around Merseyside.

    "But come derby day, it's changed a lot in the last sort of five or 10 years. It has got a little bit more hostile, it used to be a friendly derby, but now that's changed.

    "And I love it. I love derby day. I think it's always a special occasion to play in those games, to be up the ground, to take it all in. Yeah, enjoyable games."

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