The Premier League table already looks to be taking shape, with a thrilling title race potentially in store.

And fantasy leagues are no different, with the best players quickly racking up early-season points to pull clear.

Want to avoid being left behind? Why not take a look at our Opta-powered picks for matchday five...

 

ALISSON (Liverpool v Crystal Palace)

Liverpool have started the season in fine form and Alisson has been central to their defensive solidarity, which has seen them keep three clean sheets in four games.

Since the start of last season, only Hugo Lloris (7.7) has prevented more goals than the Brazil goalkeeper (6.2) according to expected goals on target data, while only two can boast a better save percentage than his 74.2.

Crystal Palace may have cruised past Tottenham last time out but beating Alisson will provide a different challenge and the Liverpool man could be a guarantee for much-needed clean sheet points.

JAMES TARKOWSKI (Burnley v Arsenal)

Burnley are winless this term, but James Tarkowski remains a wonderful bargain option for your shaky backline.

While the Clarets may concede against Arsenal, Tarkowski offers returns at the other end of the pitch and boasts the highest xG (4.3) among Premier League defenders since the start of last term.

Only the more expensive Andrew Robertson, Joao Cancelo and Trent-Alexander Arnold have had more touches in the opposition box in that time period, too, meaning the centre-back could prove an alternate option on matchday five.

VIRGIL VAN DIJK (Liverpool v Crystal Palace)

From one end of the budget to the other, Virgil van Dijk may set you back but he has been the Premier League's most dangerous defender so far.

The centre-back has produced nine shots, with only Cancelo (13) and Alexander-Arnold (11) managing more opposition-box touches among defenders than Van Dijk's 11.

Given Liverpool look likely a good bet for a clean sheet as well – conceding only five goals in eight straight wins against Palace – Van Dijk could provide a perfect double threat despite the off-putting outlay for the Netherlands captain.

ABDOULAYE DOUCOURE (Aston Villa v  Everton)

Abdoulaye Doucoure may not be your typical fantasy midfielder in the ilk of Mohamed Salah, Bruno Fernandes or Paul Pogba.

However, the Everton midfielder is in fine form and provides a wonderful budget option, having been involved in four goals in his past four games in the competition for the Toffees.

Aston Villa have managed just two shutouts in their past 16, too, so Doucoure's box-to-box prowess could cause carnage once more at Villa Park.

PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG (Burnley v  Arsenal)

Some fantasy players may have given up hope with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but he repaid the faith of those loyal to him with a goal against Norwich City last Saturday.

The Gabon forward, who many discounted after a poor last campaign, will be central to Mikel Arteta's revival and he has netted eight times in seven top-flight matches against Burnley.

Given Burnley have not kept a clean sheet in their past seven and Arsenal attempted 30 shots last time out, Aubameyang could provide more returns at Turf Moor.

SADIO MANE (Liverpool  v Crystal Palace)

Salah appears the obvious option as always for the visit of Crystal Palace; however, Sadio Mane offers an alternate differential at Anfield.

Liverpool have fired in 100 shots already this term – just the second side to register a century in their opening four Premier League games since 2003-04 – and Mane has accounted for 22 of those.

The Senegal star has also scored in each of his past eight against Palace, making him one of the best picks for matchday five.

DANNY INGS (Aston Villa v Everton)

Danny Ings has been a fantasy favourite from the start of the season but has not delivered as of yet with Aston Villa.

That could change against Everton, however, as the Toffees are his favourite opponent having scored five top-flight goals against them.

The omens are in Ings' favour, too, given he has managed to score against Everton with all three of his previous Premier League clubs – could he make it a fourth with Villa?

Chelsea are investigating a video circulating on social media in which an individual can be heard using abusive language of a sectarian nature.

The footage was taken during Saturday's 3-0 win over Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge, with visiting midfielder John McGinn heard being subjected to a volley of vile taunts when taking a corner.

The Blues released a statement on Monday asking for information to try and help find the perpetrator, vowing to take the strongest possible action against anyone found guilty.

"We are aware of a video circulating on social media showing an individual using abusive language of a sectarian nature in the crowd at Stamford Bridge on Saturday," the statement read.

"Chelsea Football Club finds all forms of discriminatory behaviour totally unacceptable and we condemn the language used.

"The club is working to identify the person involved and will take the strongest possible action against them. Any supporter who was present in that area of the ground and has information that can assist the club's investigation should contact the club via our discrimination reporting line."

It just had to be, did it not? Cristiano Ronaldo, back at Old Trafford, of course he would get on the scoresheet.

Ronaldo netted not once, but twice in United's 4-1 defeat of Newcastle United on Saturday, announcing his return to the Premier League in style.

Meanwhile, a player who has established himself as one of the possible heirs to the Ronaldo (and Lionel Messi) throne at the pinnacle of the game reached a century of goals in the competition.

And after their worst start in generations, Arsenal finally found a way to win.

Here are some of the more curious Opta facts from the latest round of games.


Age is just a number for evergreen Ronaldo

Aged 36 year and 218 days, Ronaldo became the oldest player to score a Premier League double in over a decade.

The last player of more advancing years to do so? Well, another of the league's greats, of course. That being Graham Alexander of Burnley, who scored twice in a match against Hull City in April 2010 at the age of 38 years and 182 days. 

On the same day as Alexander was leading Burnley to a 4-1 win over the Tigers, Ronaldo played his second LaLiga Clasico. Real Madrid lost 2-0, following on from Barcelona's 5-0 victory earlier in the season.

Back to Old Trafford on Saturday, where Newcastle's dismal run continued. They have only managed one win at the Theatre of Dreams in their last 27 league attempts, while Steve Bruce, a former United stalwart, has lost 12 of his 13 games at his old stomping ground as a visiting manager, with his teams scoring just six goals over that run.

Ronaldo's gap of 12 years and 124 days between goals is the second-longest between two strikes by the same player in Premier League history, after Matt Jackson, who went 13 years and 187 days in between netting for Everton and Wigan Athletic respectively.

The Portugal superstar also broke Damien Delaney's record (11y 155d) for the biggest gap between Premier League appearances, with Ronaldo turning out for Manchester United again 12 years and 118 days since his previous game in May 2009.

Paul Pogba stands out on his own at the top of the assist charts with seven to his name already. He is the only player to have recorded as many as 10 assists in the Premier League in 2021, while his tally across the opening four games is the most any player has registered in the first four games of a Premier League season.

Mo moves into the 100 club

Liverpool's 3-0 win over Leeds United was somewhat marred by a horrid injury for Harvey Elliott. But the Reds were nevertheless convincing winners, with Mohamed Salah opening the scoring with his 100th Premier League goal.

Salah has reached his century in 162 games, with only four players getting there quicker. His team also moved onto a century in terms of attempts on goal across their four league games so far this season.

Their tally of 30 shots was quite remarkable, though Jurgen Klopp will want an improvement on the 10 per cent conversion rate. 

Sadio Mane had a game-leading 10 shots, yet only two of those hit the target – the Senegal star finally scoring in second-half stoppage time. It was the most attempts he has ever had in a Premier League game, and more than any other player has managed in any match so far this season (Romelu Lukaku having had eight for Chelsea against Arsenal last month).

Villa left reeling by Rom yet again

There must have been a collective sigh of relief around Villa Park when, as Aston Villa were preparing for life back in the top flight, Lukaku left the Premier League to join Serie A giants Inter.

But now the Belgian has returned to England and, as he has a knack of doing, back to finding the net against the poor old Villans.

He scored twice in Chelsea's 3-0 win on Saturday, his first goals at Stamford Bridge for any team, in what was his 15th appearance at the ground.

Lukaku has now scored in each of his last six Premier League appearances against Villa (eight goals) – only against West Ham has he had a longer run of scoring in consecutive games against a specific opponent in the competition (seven, between 2013 and 2016).

Arteta finally gets off the ground

The pressure might well have been too much had bottom-of-the-pile Arsenal failed to beat Norwich City on Saturday, but fortunately for Mikel Arteta, his Gunners side came up with the goods.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sealed a 1-0 win in a match that saw Arsenal have 30 attempts, the most they have had in a league game since producing 33 against Manchester United in December 2017.

Remarkably, with Liverpool also having 30 shots against Leeds, the record from last season (29, set by Manchester City against Leeds in April) has already been surpassed twice.

This is Norwich's worst ever start to a league campaign after four games (zero points, -10 goal difference) and just the third time they have started a season with four league defeats.

Aaron Ramsdale, meanwhile, became the first English goalkeeper to make a Premier League appearance for Arsenal since David Seaman way back in May 2003.

Romelu Lukaku finally scored at Stamford Bridge and declared it a "childhood dream" fulfilled as his double sank Aston Villa.

Chelsea scored a battling 3-0 win over a Villa side who gave as good as they got in the first half, with Blues boss Thomas Tuchel admitting they had him worried.

It was Lukaku's lethal finishing that proved key, though, as he slotted a clinical opener and smashed in a clincher in second-half stoppage time.

Those were his only two shots of the game, as Chelsea secured their 600th Premier League win. Manchester United were previously the only team in the league's history to reach that tally.

Chelsea's other goal came from Mateo Kovacic, who pounced on a short backpass from Tyrone Mings to clip in a classy finish early in the second half, taking some of the sting out of Villa.

This was Lukaku's 15th game at Stamford Bridge, spread across appearances representing Chelsea, Everton and Manchester United, and it was the first time he got on the scoresheet.

"I've waited. It's been my dream since I was 11. I've worked hard for this moment," Lukaku said. "It's a childhood dream for me. I'm very happy to be in this situation, but the work has to keep going."

The £97.5million signing from Inter has made a stunning start to his second spell at Chelsea, having barely made an impact on the first team in his previous stint.

Lukaku's opening goal saw him show quick feet to get past Axel Tuanzebe before finishing in style, and the second was a shot into the top-left corner from just inside the penalty area.

"Playing in Italy, I was playing in a league where I would have one or two chances in a game and I had to take them," Lukaku said on Sky Sports, explaining his precision.

"With the experience and the hard work and my team-mates understanding me, I'm very happy with the situation I'm in."

Lukaku was a team-mate of Tuanzebe at United and explained that gave him the knowhow when it came to stepping inside the defender's challenge and offloading a shot with his right foot.

"I've played with Tuanzebe back in the day and he knows I'm left-footed," Lukaku said.

The 28-year-old's delightful second was a satisfying way to cap Chelsea's day.

"The contact was good. I hit it cleanly and the touch was good," Lukaku said. "I got it out of my feet quickly. That's just work, a lot of finishing day-in and day-out. That's just pure training."

Tuchel was concerned by Villa's sharp performance before the interval, but he said Chelsea were "more controlled, more fluid" in the second half. He felt others could have done better with chances for the hosts but had no complaints about Lukaku.

"He is full of confidence and totally aware of what he's going to do, what he wants to do," Tuchel said. "He is absolutely confident to score and that helped us a lot."

Tuchel fielded new recruit Saul Niguez in his starting XI but substituted the Spanish midfielder at half-time.

The addition from Atletico Madrid struggled to get to grips with the high-tempo game on his debut, winning just one of nine duels and giving away a team-high three fouls.

"Saul had a bit of trouble to adapting to the intensity and our structure and style of play and the intensity of the Premier League," Tuchel said.

The Chelsea boss said making the change and bringing on Jorginho in Saul's place was "hard to do", but pointed out: "He had some big mistakes, passing mistakes and errors. You could see he was not fully adapted."

Tuchel insisted the 45-minute outing for Saul could be brushed aside, declaring it his own responsibility that the selection did not work out.

"I'm happy because we escaped with a perfect result on a perfect evening for our striker," Tuchel added.

Romelu Lukaku banished his Stamford Bridge blues as his deadly double helped Chelsea to a 3-0 win over Aston Villa, their 600th Premier League victory.

The striker made the most of a Mateo Kovacic throughball to net the 15th-minute opening goal, and a blunder from Tyrone Mings allowed Kovacic to clip in the second soon after the break. Lukaku struck a sublime third in stoppage time.

Lukaku had not scored at Chelsea's home ground in 14 previous appearances, including 11 Premier League games, comprising those from his previous spell with the west London club and subsequent stints at Everton and Manchester United.

He made his Chelsea debut in August 2011 but did not establish himself with the club in his first spell; however, a different narrative is playing out second time around, with Lukaku 10 years older and lightyears more lethal at this level.

Manchester United are the only other team in Premier League history to have racked up at least 600 wins, and Lukaku put Chelsea on course to join them in the 15th minute. The £97.5million recruit from Inter sprinted behind the Villa defence before cutting back on his right foot as Axel Tuanzebe closed in and firing low beyond Jed Steer.

Villa carried a threat of their own and almost forced a leveller three minutes later when Ollie Watkins charged forward and rifled towards the bottom-left corner, only for Edouard Mendy to produce an excellent low save, tipping the ball wide. Watkins also failed to convert a clear chance when his shot was blocked by Thiago Silva as Chelsea's defence looked shaky.

Mendy again came to Chelsea's rescue in the 32nd minute when he dealt superbly with a Mings howitzer before palming away a mis-hit attempt on the rebound from Ezri Konsa.

Konsa had earlier made a goal-saving intervention on the line when a corner from Callum Hudson-Odoi swung in and needed to be deflected away off the crossbar.

Kovacic put Chelsea two goals clear in the 48th minute when England defender Mings' short backpass was seized on, a first-time finish into the left corner giving the hosts a cushion.

From that point, Chelsea began to look comfortable, Marcos Alonso and Kovacic trying to no avail to extend their lead. Lukaku showed the way in the dying moments, blasting the ball into the top-left corner from just inside the penalty area.

Thomas Tuchel revealed Saul Niguez has been a long-term target for Chelsea and the Atletico Madrid loanee could be in line for his debut against Aston Villa.

The 26-year-old won LaLiga with Atletico last term before joining the Blues on a season-long loan, Tuchel's men reportedly holding a purchase option for £30million (€34m) after paying an initial loan fee of £5m (€5.8m).

As Chelsea look to become the second team, after Manchester United, to reach 600 Premier League wins, Tuchel explained his new recruit's debut has been years in the making.

"He was with us now for two weeks," Tuchel told reporters. "He played on the highest level. I think the picture is very clear. The club follows him for years.

"We know the player very well. He had a quick adaptation with Marcos Alonso and Kepa [Arrizabalaga], in welcoming him into the group.

"He is in the squad for tomorrow. Jorginho can never say no when Italy plays, even when they are 5-0 up, so he is quite tired. It's absolutely possible Saul plays for us."

Saul only managed 22 league starts last campaign, his fewest since 2014-15, but still ranked fourth for attempted tackles in LaLiga for Atletico (57).

Indeed, prior to his departure, only Real Madrid's Casemiro (190) had attempted more tackles by a midfielder than Saul (159) in the Spanish top flight since August 2019.

With N'Golo Kante out injured with an ankle problem sustained against Liverpool, the Spain midfielder could provide vital legs in Tuchel's midfield.

But Tuchel credited those above him in the Chelsea hierarchy for securing the deal from Diego Simeone's side.

"Marina [Granovskaia] was in charge, the best person," the Blues head coach continued. "We were in contact. We knew about the situation.

"We knew things could happen later, we were very aware. I assured everybody that I'm also happy if we cannot bring a player in. We would find a solution in the squad. It was clear, we would try for [Jules] Kounde and Saul.

"In the end, it was possible to get Saul which was a key position for us to have more alternatives. A lot of competition [is] now going on. It's my job to be a good moderator."

Thomas Tuchel declared Romelu Lukaku fit but remains unsure of Thiago Silva's availability ahead of their clash with Aston Villa on Saturday.

Lukaku, who has scored in each of his previous five Premier League appearances against Aston Villa, revealed he was set for a scan after picking up a knock in his 100th Belgium appearance against the Czech Republic last weekend.

However, Tuchel confirmed Lukaku reported back to training fully fit.

When asked if Lukaku's injury was an issue, Tuchel told reporters on Friday: "No, not at all. Maybe he had some problems but he came back and he has trained with us, no problems at all."

While Lukaku looks set to feature at Stamford Bridge, the Blues await a decision on whether Silva can.

Premier League clubs agreed to not release players to South American countries for international duty due to quarantine requirements, and Brazil retaliated by calling for FIFA to impose bans on their absent stars.

Silva has played an important role in ensuring Chelsea boast the Premier League's meanest defence – excluding the teams promoted from the Championship – since Tuchel's arrival, having conceded just 14 goals, but he could be forced to miss out.

"Thiago [Silva] isn't officially out," Tuchel responded. "The chairman is still in talks. I'm waiting for the final decision. We will take the latest decision tomorrow morning.

"I don't understand it and it makes no sense from whatever side you look. Did it make sense for Brazil? No. Did it make sense for us? No, because he may not be able to play two matches.

"If we had sent him, he would've been out for ten days in a hotel room, not able to train. I understand because these are the travel restrictions, there's nothing to go around it.

"I don't know how any fan in this game can see a positive effect. There is none."

With or without Silva, Chelsea are also looking to become the second team to 600 Premier League wins, after Manchester United, as they host Dean Smith's men.

The Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) insisted it warned Argentina's Premier League-based quartet about the need to quarantine after Sunday's blockbuster CONMEBOL World Cup qualifier was sensationally abandoned.

The top-of-the-table fixture was halted following an apparent breach of coronavirus regulations, Argentina naming three Premier League players in their starting line-up – Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez and Tottenham pair Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso.

Brazil had called up nine Premier League stars to their side, though none of the group travelled, with top-flight English clubs given backing not to release players.

Travellers from the United Kingdom are also restricted entry to Brazil if they have spent time in the country within the previous 14 days.

Despite the rulings, Martinez, Romero and Lo Celso were all starters for Lionel Scaloni's Copa America champions Argentina, with Brazilian health officials quickly acting by entering the pitch shortly after the match had started.

A subsequent melee ensued and the visitors eventually left the field and did not return, Brazil playing out a training fixture among one another.

As FIFA investigates, CBF released a statement on Monday, providing further information following a meeting that took place at the Hotel Marriot on Saturday amid criticism from Argentina, denying it interfered.

"CBF sent representation to said meeting as a listener, at the request of the Health Surveillance of the State of Sao Paulo, where representatives of the aforementioned agency, the Ministry of Health, ANVISA, CONMEBOL and the Argentine Football Association (AFA) were gathered.

"The CBF was represented by Dr. Roberto Nishimura, operational coordinator of the special medical committee, and there was no interference on his part in relation to administrative or sanitary aspects. This meeting ended around 18:00.

"As it understands that this is not a matter of its attribution, at no time was there any manifestation by the CBF representative to the authorities regarding the health issue of the four Argentine athletes, either in the sense of releasing or vetoing their participation in the game.

"At this meeting, the representatives of the Argentine national team were informed that there was an irregularity in the entry of players, that they should be quarantined and received guidance from the authorities to request, with the competent bodies, special authorisation for the players to have their situation regularised. It was a technical discussion between ANVISA, the Ministry of Health and the Argentine Association.

"After the meeting, when the athletes' presence was requested, the Health Surveillance agents were informed that the players had left for training, not complying with the instructions given during the meeting. The agency reported the non-compliance to the National Health Surveillance Agency and the Ministry of Health, responsible for analysing the request for exceptionality forwarded by CONMEBOL on behalf of the AFA.

"All these steps are described in detail by ANVISA in an official note published on Sunday, 5, and updated this Monday, 6, as complete at the end of this.

"On Sunday, 5th, this request had an official negative response, by the Ministry of Health to CONMEBOL, and the Argentine national team was notified, directly at Neo Quimica Arena, with enough time to adopt the necessary procedures.

"As for the information that circulated about the presence of CBF's Director of Competitions, Manoel Flores, at the Argentine delegation's hotel, CBF informs that he was in fact at the hotel on Saturday, around 3:00 pm, solely to talk about operational details of the game with the atache [member of the team organising the match] who accompanied the Argentine national team, remaining in place for about 15 minutes and not having dealt with any matter related to the Argentine players. Visiting the visiting delegation's hotel is a regular routine in every gaming operation.

"The CBF further clarifies that it strictly fulfilled its institutional role as the game's host entity, informing everyone involved in the game about the health laws in force in the country in a letter sent, through the General Secretariat of the entity, on July 5th, and later resubmitted on 11 August and 2 September.

"CBF reiterates that it defends the implementation of the most rigorous health protocols and complies with them in their entirety, both in the national territory and in countries where the Brazilian team acts as a visitor.

"The CBF also emphasises that at no time, through the interim President, Ednaldo Rodrigues, or its directors, interfered in any point related to the sanitary protocol established by the Brazilian authorities for the entry of people into the country. The role of the CBF was always in an attempt to promote understanding between the entities involved so that the sanitary protocols could be fulfilled satisfactorily and the game could be played."

Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez believes his country's World Cup qualifier against Brazil was suspended due to "political reasons".

Martinez was one of three Premier League players who started Sunday's match between the South American heavyweights at the Neo Quimica Arena.

However, the match was stopped shortly after kick-off when Brazilian health officials came onto the pitch to apprehend Martinez, Cristian Romero and Giovani Lo Celso.

The United Kingdom is a red-listed country in Brazil, restricting the entry of those who have been in the UK in the past 14 days.

Brazil had called up nine players from the Premier League for their September games, but none of the group travelled.

Anvisa, Brazil's health authority, said in a widely released statement shortly before Sunday's game: "Anvisa considers the situation a serious health risk and so has asked local health authorities to determine the immediate quarantine of the players, who are stopped from participating in any activity and should be prevented from remaining on Brazilian soil."

Argentina's players walked off the pitch and did not return, with the game called off by the referee. On Monday, FIFA opened an investigation into the matter.

Martinez is now set to return to the UK along with his Aston Villa team-mate Emiliano Buendia, who was not involved on Sunday, although they will travel via Croatia due to quarantine restrictions.

The former Arsenal keeper spoke to reporters at Ezeiza International Airport and did not hold back in his criticism of the decision.

"We all know what happened. We prepare for three days in Brazil to play the game and having it cancelled after five minutes is a bitter feeling," he said.

"We gave everything to win it and for political reasons, I don't know what happened, it was cancelled and we had to go back.

"There were rumours about those from the Premier League, who could not play the game, but they could have warned us when we arrived in Brazil, and we did not make enough trouble to cancel the game. Simple. They could have warned us before.

"It's a shame because we were going to win. We were confident, the team was doing well. We did not understand anything. We stayed for half an hour to see if we would go out to play or warm up again, and after 30 or 40 minutes, they told us we had to go."

Martinez also revealed there was a possibility he, along with the other Premier League players, would have had to remain in Brazil and in isolation for two weeks if not for the Argentine Football Association's intervention.

"There was the possibility that they would leave the four boys from England there for 14 days," Martinez said. "But Chiqui [Tapia, president of the AFA] helped us, backed us all and said 'we're all going' and we all left.

"Aston Villa did not understand the regulations of Brazil and why it happened. It is not something the world expected to see. It was something to enjoy and not to make a fool of yourself.

"The four of us decided to come for the love of the shirt; even though all of the Premier League [clubs] did not want us to come, we decided to come anyway.

"After winning the Copa America, the whole team wants to be with the group, not just give the national team a victory. It is something beautiful that we have and we accept the consequences."

Liverpool have recently re-signed a number of key players in their squad, but talks are under way with star forward Mohamed Salah. 

The two-time Premier League Golden Boot winner has less than two years remaining on his current deal with the Reds. 

Virgil van Dijk, Alisson and skipper Jordan Henderson all recently committed their long-term futures to Liverpool, as well as full-back pair Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. 

TOP STORY - SALAH DEMANDS BUMPER LIVERPOOL DEAL

Salah is demanding a major pay rise to re-commit to Liverpool, claims The Mirror. 

The Egyptian forward, according to the report, wants to earn £500,000 a week to extend his time at Anfield, having moved to Merseyside from Roma in June 2017. 

If the deal is agreed, it would make Salah the highest paid player in Liverpool's history. 

 

ROUND-UP

- The Sun reports that Aston Villa are plotting a January move for Weston McKennie. The Juventus midfielder had been linked with a move away recently, though the Serie A club could not find a suitable buyer before the closure of the transfer window. 

Phil Foden will be presented with a new contract offer by Manchester City which will quadruple his current wages, according to the Daily Star. The new six-year deal is reportedly worth £150,000 per week. 

- Former France international Franck Ribery is set to complete a deal with newly promoted Serie A club Salernitana as a free agent, claims Fabrizio Romano. He will undergo a medical on Monday. 

Franck Kessie has turned down a new contract offer from Milan, claims Gazzetta dello Sport, putting Premier League trio Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea on alert. 

The transfer window officially closed on Tuesday, meaning clubs across Europe must now make do with the players available to them until at least January.

It has been an eventful few months, with Lionel Messi ending his 21-year association with Barcelona by joining Paris Saint-Germain and Cristiano Ronaldo sealing an emotional return to Manchester United from Juventus.

The drama continued to unfold right through until the final stages of the window as Antoine Griezmann rejoined Atletico Madrid on an initial loan and Chelsea snapped up Saul Niguez from the Spanish champions, while Real Madrid brought in rising star Eduardo Camavinga from Rennes.

With Kylian Mbappe staying at PSG and Harry Kane still a Tottenham player, Jack Grealish's £100million switch to Manchester City from Aston Villa was the biggest deal in monetary terms, followed by Romelu Lukaku's £97.5m (€115m) move to Chelsea from Inter.

Stats Perform takes a look at the best deals that went through.

Hakan Calhanoglu: Inter to Milan (free transfer)

After failing to agree new terms at Milan, Calhanoglu completed a shock move across the city to rivals Inter, signing a three-year deal.

While not necessarily the most popular transfer, getting a player who created 98 chances last season – the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues – for free is quite something.

The Turkey international got a goal and an assist on his debut in the 4-0 win over Genoa, prompting coach Simone Inzaghi to proclaim the player "doesn't realise how good he is".

Manuel Locatelli: Sassuolo to Juventus (loan with €25m obligation)

One of Italy's most prized young assets, Locatelli secured a move to Juventus on a two-year loan that includes an obligation to buy for an initial €25m.

Among midfielders in Serie A last season, the 23-year-old made the most touches (3,304), passes (2,749) and tackles (81). He then impressed as Italy won Euro 2020, scoring twice in the group-stage win over Switzerland.

For a club looking to strengthen while saving money, this could prove a shrewd deal for Juve.

 

Danny Ings: Southampton to Aston Villa (£25m)

Villa appear to have invested the money they received for Grealish in shrewd fashion, signing Leon Bailey, Emiliano Buendia and striker Ings.

While the Ings deal materialised very quickly in early August, he certainly did not seem to need much time to adjust to new surroundings, scoring twice in his first three league games this season.

With 34 goals across his final two league campaigns with Southampton, there is reason to think the 29-year-old could be one of the smartest signings of the window.

Lionel Messi: Free agent to Paris Saint-Germain

The most spectacular free transfer of all time came after Barcelona had agree a new contract with Messi only to be forced to admit they could not let him sign it due to financial restrictions.

A tearful Messi bade farewell to his boyhood club before securing a move to PSG, who now boast a frankly terrifying forward line of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe.

Describing it as a 'free' transfer is somewhat misleading given the various costs involved in the different aspects of the deal, but for PSG to sign arguably the greatest player in history without paying a transfer fee is pretty amazing business.

 

Romelu Lukaku: Inter to Chelsea (£97.5m)

Chelsea smashed their transfer record to bring back Lukaku, whose last action in his first spell at the club was to miss a penalty in the UEFA Super Cup shoot-out loss to Bayern Munich in 2013.

Lukaku plundered 24 goals and 11 assists in 2020-21 to fire Inter to the title and claim Serie A's MVP award, after which he pushed for a return to Stamford Bridge, where he felt he had unfinished business.

It might have been a serious financial outlay, but Lukaku showed in the 2-0 win at Arsenal what a difference he could make to a Chelsea side who are extremely tough to beat but not exactly free-scoring.

Eduardo Camavinga: Rennes to Real Madrid (€30m)

Madrid may have missed out on top target Mbappe, but they managed to get a deal over the line for fellow Frenchman Camavinga, bringing an end to 18 months of speculation surrounding the young midfielder.

It is the first time Madrid have spent money on a transfer fee since 2019, when they signed Eden Hazard from Chelsea for €100m, and in Camavinga they are signing a player for the here and now rather than the future.

Since making his debut for Rennes in April 2019, no player in Ligue 1 has attempted (230) or won more tackles (139) than the three-cap France international, who will now provide competition for Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Federico Valverde.

 

Saul Niguez: Atletico Madrid to Chelsea (loan with option to buy for £30m)

After being regularly linked with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool in recent years, Saul will finally get a chance to play in the Premier League with Chelsea this season.

A box-to-box midfielder, the Spain international is at his best operating in a central role, though his versatility and workrate have often seen him deployed out wide by Atletico coach Diego Simeone.

He made just 22 league starts last season, his lowest figure since 2014-15. However, since August 2019, Real Madrid's Casemiro (190) is the only midfielder to have attempted more tackles than Saul (159) in LaLiga.

Antoine Griezmann: Barcelona to Atletico Madrid (loan deal with an obligation to buy)

Two years after leaving Atletico in a big-money transfer, Griezmann has returned to the Spanish capital to boost an attack that already includes Luis Suarez, Joao Felix, Angel Correa and fellow new recruit Matheus Cunha.

Griezmann's Camp Nou career never truly took off and he failed to score or create a single opportunity across Barca's first three league games this season.

But Simeone will be confident he can get the Frenchman, who scored 94 LaLiga goals in 180 appearances in his first stint at the club, operating at somewhere close to his former glory.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo: Juventus to Manchester United (£12.9m rising to £19.7m)

Twelve years after departing Old Trafford, Ronaldo is once again a Manchester United player after completing a surprise return to the club where he won the first of his five Ballons d'Or.

Ronaldo scored 118 goals in 292 appearances under Alex Ferguson in his first spell, 42 of those goals coming in the 2007-08 season alone, and he remains a prolific forward despite his all-round game changing with time.

The Portugal captain scored 29 league goals in his third and final season with Juventus to win the Capocannoniere, making him the first player to finish as top scorer in Serie A, LaLiga and the Premier League.

Chelsea have been linked with Sevilla's French defender Jules Kounde throughout the off-season.

The 22-year-old centre-back did not play for Sevilla at the weekend and reportedly wants to exit the club.

Kounde would be Chelsea's second major signing behind Romelu Lukaku, as the transfer window closure approaches.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA FACING MONDAY ULTIMATUM ON KOUNDE

Chelsea's drawn-out pursuit of Sevilla's Jules Kounde has hit another speed bump with the Spanish club issuing the Blues an ultimatum, according to AS.

Sevilla have told Chelsea if they do not submit a suitable offer on Monday, then they have to meet Kounde's €80 million (£68m) release clause.

Chelsea have not tabled a firm bid for Kounde beyond €50m, while the LaLiga outfit had reportedly previously wanted €60-70m.

ROUND-UP

- The Star reports that Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival at Manchester United will force Dan James out, with Everton, Brighton and Hove Albion, Leeds United and Crystal Palace all in the running for the Welsh winger.

- Manchester United are unlikely to move for Atletico Madrid full-back and long-term target Kieran Trippier reports the Manchester Evening News. United's capture of Ronaldo means their transfer business is over.

- Sport reports that Juventus are ready to make one final effort to sign Miralem Pjanic back from Barcelona. Juve are willing to take Pjanic on loan, with the midfielder out of favour at Barca.

- Aston Villa are set to table a £15m bid for Liverpool midfielder Curtis Jones according to the Express. The Villans are eager to strengthen having missed out on Arsenal's Emile Smith Rowe.

Borussia Dortmund assistant coach Rene Maric has claimed reports linking Axel Witsel with a €5million move to Aston Villa are "obvious nonsense".

Premier League club Villa are in the market for a midfielder and are rumoured to have been offered Dortmund's 32-year-old Belgium international Witsel.

Injury blighted Witsel's 2020-21 campaign but the former Zenit St Petersburg midfielder has started all three of Dortmund's Bundesliga games so far this season, and the DFB-Supercup, albeit he has been required to fill in at the back rather than in his usual role.

Witsel played the full match as Dortmund edged out Hoffenheim 3-2 thanks to Erling Haaland's late winner on Friday, though that did not stop speculation over his future.

However, in a comical twist, Dortmund assistant Maric used his official social media account to rubbish the reports.

"It's obvious nonsense, can't understand how some people are pretending it's not just to make a headline," Maric tweeted in response to a post quoting a report written by Sport Witness, which cited Tuttosport as the source.

Maric did not leave it there, however, as when he was asked for a "source" to back up his statement, the coach replied with a photo of himself and Witsel.

Since joining Dortmund from Chinese Super League side Tianjin Tianhai in 2018, Witsel has established himself as one of the leading holding midfielders in the Bundesliga.

Witsel has made 79 appearances in Germany's top flight for Dortmund, helping BVB to 51 victories.

Dortmund's win percentage with Witsel in the side is 64.6, yet the rate drops to 57.7 without the Belgian, who has missed 26 league games in total.

BVB also average slightly more points per game with Witsel than without him – 2.1 compared to 1.9.

Paris Saint-Germain have lined up several options to replace Kylian Mbappe.

A deal with Real Madrid could create a domino effect. 

Who might be on the move to PSG?

 

TOP STORY – PSG LINE UP MBAPPE REPLACEMENTS

Paris Saint-Germain do not plan to let Kylian Mbappe go to Real Madrid this transfer window without replacing him. 

The French giants have their eyes on multiple players should Los Blancos' reported €180million bid for the striker succeed. 

Two Brazilians currently in the Premier League top the list, as Globo Esporte says PSG want Gabriel Jesus – though Pep Guardiola said he does not expect any more departures from Manchester City. 

PSG also reportedly are weighing up a bid for Everton's Richarlison, says ESPN Brasil. 

And though all indications have been that Erling Haaland will stay put with Borussia Dortmund, the Star says PSG could make another bid if Mbappe departs. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Jules Kounde is ready to move from Sevilla to Chelsea, says Sky Sports News, but the Blues are balking at the Spanish club's €80m asking price and are prepared to offer only about €50m.

- Everton are closing in on a swap deal that would send James Rodriguez to Porto with Luis Diaz joining the Toffees, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

- Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles could also be on the move to Everton, reports Sky Sports News, who say the Premier League side have also asked Celtic about Odsonne Edouard

- Meanwhile, Juventus are in talks with Everton about a deal for Moise Kean, who has become their top priority with Cristiano Ronaldo's departure, says Romano.

- Roma could make a move for Atletico Madrid's Hector Herrera, according to Calciomercato. 

- Aston Villa are weighing a move for Borussia Dortmund midfielder Axel Witsel, reports Tuttosport. 

- Atalanta have their eyes on AZ Alkmaar's Teun Koopmeiners, says Calciomercato. 

Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz are likely to be without a few key English-based players ahead of the start of next month’s World Cup qualifiers if the country is shifted to the United Kingdom’s red list of travel destinations.

In recent days both the English Premier League and Spain's La Liga have declared that they will not release club players to countries that are on the UK list of red destinations, due to strict coronavirus quarantine protocols.

According to the region’s current coronavirus re-entry rules, individuals returning from red list destinations face a mandatory 10 days of hotel quarantine on return to England.  In stating that they will refuse the request of those nations for the upcoming qualifiers, the Premier League argued that in addition to the 10 days the athletes will then need more time to regain fitness and could miss a number of games.

At current, the South American countries of  Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru are those most likely to be heavy impacted in the region, but with La Liga also joining the decision, CONCACAF team Mexico is also likely to be affected with five players currently plying their trade in the Spanish Premier League.

Mexico will open their CONCACAF World Cup qualification hexagonal round at home to Jamaica on Thursday, September 2.  Jamaica is currently not affected by the decision as the country remains on the list of amber countries for the time being.  With the list due to be updated on Thursday, however, and a surge of cases in recent weeks it will be worth noting whether their status is changed or not.

In any case, the majority of the country’s English-based players ply their trade in the English Championship who have not issued such a directive on the matter.  The decision may, however, impact the appearance of Jamaica international’s Leon Bailey, who now plays for Aston Villa, and West Ham’s Michail Antonio, the latter having received his national identity documents was expected to make his debut for the country next month.

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