Manchester United certainly can't be accused of standing still this year. A day after sealing the signing of Jadon Sancho, they confirmed a new contract for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer until at least 2024.

But there's still plenty to press on with for Solskjaer and United. While the signing of Sancho addresses one area that has been a problem in recent years, it appears there are still two glaring weaknesses in the first-choice starting XI.

It would seem United have identified the man to take care of one of them, with Real Madrid centre-back Raphael Varane reportedly set to bolster their defensive options. In one sense it will have been a signing long in the making, given the club were supposedly close to buying him from Lens as a teenager only for Los Blancos to get the deal over the line in the end.

Although it took Varane a little time to truly establish himself at the Santiago Bernabeu, he's gone on to enjoy a hugely successful time in the Spanish capital, winning three LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns, among a host of other trophies.

Below, Stats Perform delves into the Opta data to see how Varane might improve United and where else they could do with reinforcements.

Physical dominance is the key

There are some obvious strengths that Varane would bring to United at the back – chief among them is his pace, which they arguably don't have a great deal of at centre-back.

While Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire may not be considered painfully slow, neither boasts the same kind of speed as the Frenchman and that would undoubtedly be a considerable asset for United.

Recent reports have suggested Solskjaer wants to play more attack-minded football in 2021-22, and having a faster centre-back could be crucial in that sense.

In theory, it would allow United to play slightly higher up the pitch. While they didn't exactly defend deep in 2020-21, their average starting position of 42.3 metres from their own goal was deeper than six other teams – Varane's pace could potentially provide them with a little more security in a high line.

In terms of possession, there's not a great deal separating Varane and Lindelof, the man whose position is surely in doubt. The Sweden international averaged fractionally more successful passes (58.1 to 55.9) and accurate passes in the opposing half (17.81 to 17.77) per 90 minutes last season, but that could be a reflection of slightly differing styles of play implemented by the teams rather than ability.

Opta sequence data suggests they are similar as well. While Lindelof (14) may have been involved in four more goal-ending passing sequences, the expected goals (xG) value attached to Varane in those instances is actually higher (8.9 to 8.8), meaning the current United man's influence is likely being exaggerated by particularly good finishing from his team-mates.

Even their ball carrying tendencies aren't hugely different, though Lindelof does boast a greater average carry distance of 11.3m to 10.9m, while his average progress up the pitch of 5.7m is a minor improvement on the 5.4m posted by the Madrid man.

But it could be argued United don't need their right-sided centre-back to be forward-thinking all the time because that's one of Maguire's key strengths. If anything, having a dependable partner could allow for their captain to have even greater prominence going forward, as he may feel more relaxed about stepping up with better protection behind.

And that's where Varane could really shine as an upgrade on Lindelof. The Swede's effectiveness in physical duels has been routinely questioned since he joined from Benfica in 2017 – a prime example being when Mbaye Diagne bullied him as West Brom scored in their 1-1 draw with United in February.

While it's impossible to guarantee Varane wouldn't have also been dominated in that instance, he does have a better record in situations where physicality is important. In 2020-21, he won 2.4 aerial duels per game across all competitions compared to Lindelof's 1.8.

That equates to a 72.3 per cent success rate for Varane, as opposed to 59.4 for Lindelof. In fact, Maguire – the most dominant defender in that respect in the Premier League last season (100 duels or more) – only marginally edges the World Cup winner (72.9 per cent).

But when we broaden the comparison to encompass all duels, Varane comes out on top among all three of them (66.5 per cent). Maguire wins 63.8 per cent of those contests, whereas that drops to 53.1 per cent for Lindelof.

United fans have been crying out for a more physically dominant defender to partner Maguire, and in Varane they may have identified a centre-back to rival him in those stakes.

Is the Fred-McTominay axis necessary?

Centre-back certainly isn't the only area United fans would be eager to see an upgrade – there's little doubt they have room for growth in midfield, regardless of whether or not Paul Pogba leaves.

The Frenchman actually featured more from the left during the second half of 2020-21 and looked more comfortable out there with some creative freedom, rather than sitting behind Bruno Fernandes in the middle.

That meant Fred and Scott McTominay were, more often than not, the first-choice pairing at the base of the midfield.

Now, it must be said that both players have clearly improved significantly over the past couple of years and they do offer a lot to United in certain areas.

For instance, in the Premier League in 2020-21, Fred won possession more often than any other United player (228) and his 81 tackle attempts were only bettered by Aaron Wan-Bissaka (88). McTominay ranked fourth for tackles (51) and joint-second for fouls won (42), which speaks to his improved ability on the ball as well as a knack for relieving defensive pressure in transition.

But neither are particularly creative. Fred laid on 25 key passes with an expected assists (xA) value of 2.1, while McTominay created 17 chances that combined to an xA total of 0.7.

Of course, you can't expect every outfield player to offer creativity. In many cases a player's productivity – or lack of – is intrinsically linked to the role they're playing or system they're part of, and Fernandes has done a lot of the heavy lifting. But United are a side who generally have more of the ball than their opponents – do they need two 'destroyers'?

If Solskjaer is to implement a more forward-thinking setup in 2021-22, he would be wise to finally ditch the Fred-McTominay axis. More often than not, it comes across as extremely conservative.

But the caveat to that is Solskjaer's rather limited options. Donny van de Beek endured a pretty dreadful first season as he showed very little authority whenever he played, Pogba was more useful towards the left so his lack of work rate off the ball wasn't exposed, and Nemanja Matic just isn't athletic enough anymore even if he is still a talented ball-player.

Pressure now on Ole

Who's to say if another midfielder, Varane and Sancho will be enough to overthrow Manchester City while also holding off a Liverpool side who promise to be back with a vengeance and defending European champions Chelsea.

But such decisive addressing of the team's weak points should at least give Solskjaer the right tools to work with. It'll then be on him to prove conclusively he's the right man for the job, because further under-achieving with such a strong squad won't be tolerated for long, regardless of his new contract.

Jose Mourinho was sacked less than a year after signing his renewal in January 2018.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has signed a new three-year contract, the Premier League club announced on Saturday.

Solskjaer's United finished as runners-up to Manchester City in the 2020-21 Premier League season and reached the final of the Europa League, losing 11-10 on penalties to Villarreal.

United confirmed the Norwegian's new deal contained an option for a further year.

Solskjaer said: "Everyone knows the feeling I have for this club, and I am delighted to have signed this new contract. It is an exciting time for Manchester United, we have built a squad with a good balance of youth and experienced players that are hungry for success.

"I have a fantastic coaching team around me, and we are all ready to take that next step on our journey. Manchester United wants to be winning the biggest and best trophies and that's what we are all striving for. We have improved, both on and off the pitch, and that will continue over the coming seasons.

"I can't wait to get out in front of a packed Old Trafford and get this campaign started."

Former United striker Solskjaer took over from Jose Mourinho on a caretaker basis in December 2018, after the Portuguese boss was sacked, and was handed the job on a permanent basis three months later.

He committed to a three-year deal at the time and has now signed up to stay at Old Trafford.

There is change afoot at the club, with executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward due to leave at the end of the year.

Woodward said Solskjaer had justified the club showing their faith in him with the extension.

"Ole and his staff have worked tirelessly putting the foundations in place for long-term success on the pitch," Woodward said.

"The results of that have become increasingly visible over the past two seasons and we are all looking forward to seeing this exciting team develop further in the years ahead.

"What is especially pleasing is the way this progress has been achieved with a blend of young, homegrown talent and top-class recruits, playing attacking football in the best traditions of Manchester United. We are more confident than ever that, under Ole's leadership, we are heading in the right direction."

Solskjaer has yet to win a trophy as boss of the Red Devils, or reach a major domestic cup final.

However, United have finished third and second in the league in his first two full seasons at the helm, guaranteeing lucrative Champions League income.

They finished five points ahead of third-placed Liverpool last term, losing just six of 38 domestic league games, albeit that was not enough to be competitive with City, who took the title by 12 points.

Their 2020-21 win percentage of 55.3 in the Premier League was the second highest United have achieved in a season since Alex Ferguson retired as manager in 2013, beaten only by the 65.8 per cent they managed under Mourinho when finishing second in the 2017-18 campaign.

The 73 league goals they scored was the highest United have tallied in the post-Ferguson era, with the team's 12 away wins in the top flight also the most they have mustered since the long-serving Scot stepped aside.

In fact, United have not lost away from Old Trafford in the Premier League since going down 2-0 to Liverpool in January 2020 – that is a run of 26 matches.

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has signed a new three-year contract, the Premier League club announced on Saturday.

Jack Grealish was the player England fans wanted to see during Euro 2020.

Now a move to a bigger Premier League club might be on the cards.

Grealish is reportedly moving closer to leaving Aston Villa.

 

TOP STORY – CITY EYE GREALISH SWOOP

It seems increasingly unlikely Aston Villa will be able to hold onto Jack Grealish.

The England winger has agreed to personal terms with Manchester City, according to a Football Insider report.

Though he grew up a Villa fan and has spent his entire career with the club, save for a season on loan to Notts County, Grealish is in demand among the Premier League's big-money clubs.

City reportedly are preparing a £90million offer that would be difficult for Villa to refuse.

ROUND-UP

- With Paul Pogba and Manchester United at a stalemate in contract talks, the Telegraph says Paris Saint-Germain believe they can sign the midfielder with a £43million bid.

- Alexandre Lacazette is entering his final year under contract with Arsenal but the Gunners are ready to move on. According to the Sun, they are hoping to net £15m for Lacazette after paying £52m to sign him four years ago.

- Arsenal remain interested in a move for James Maddison, reports the Mirror, and they could explore a swap deal with Leicester City to get it done.

- PSG want to keep Moise Kean on a permanent deal after his year on loan from Everton, but Juventus also are interested, Le 10 Sport reports.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer believes Jadon Sancho has made the perfect step at the right time in his career, as he believes Manchester United's latest addition can showcase 'untapped talent' at Old Trafford.

United's long pursuit of Sancho has resulted in a deal that Stats Perform understands is worth £72.9million (€85m), making him the fourth most expensive signing in the club's history, behind Paul Pogba, Harry Maguire and Romelu Lukaku.

The 21-year-old, who left United's rivals Manchester City to join Borussia Dortmund in 2017, has signed until 2026 with an option for a further year.

Sancho scored 50 goals and provided 57 assists in 137 appearances across all competitions for BVB, with only Erling Haaland and Marco Reus having scored more since the winger made his debut.

In 104 Bundesliga appearances, Sancho netted 38 times, averaging a goal every 197 minutes, bettering the totals of the wide players he has joined at United in Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Daniel James.

Having secured a long-term target – Sancho was the subject of much speculation in 2020 – Solskjaer hailed the England international as the ideal player to bring into United's squad.

"Jadon epitomises the type of player I want to bring to the club, he is a forward player in the best traditions of Manchester United," Solskjaer told the club's official website.

"He will form an integral part of my squad for years to come and we look forward to seeing him blossom. His goals and assists records speak for themselves and he will also bring tremendous pace, flair and creativity to the team. 

"Old Trafford will give him the platform he needs to release his untapped talent and perform at the highest level. For a player of his age, Jadon has already achieved a great deal and showed the courage to go and prove himself abroad. We all look forward to welcoming Jadon to the squad as we prepare for the new campaign."

For his part, Sancho – who came through Watford's academy before moving to City at the age of 14 – explained it was always his plan to return to the Premier League.

He said: "I'll always be grateful to Dortmund for giving me the opportunity to play first team football, although I always knew that I would return to England one day.

"The chance to join Manchester United is a dream come true and I just cannot wait to perform in the Premier League. This is a young and exciting squad and I know, together, we can develop into something special to bring the success that the fans deserve. I am looking forward to working with the manager and his coaching team to further develop my game."

Sancho also thanked Dortmund directly, telling the Bundesliga club's official website: "I can't thank the people in charge at Borussia Dortmund enough for the chance they gave me as a very young player. 

"At BVB I was able to mature into the player I am today. The DFB-Pokal win last season was a great end to my time at BVB. But I will always remember the support and love of the incredible fans as something special."

Jadon Sancho has finally joined Manchester United after they sealed a deal to bring in the England winger from Borussia Dortmund.

The long pursuit of Sancho has resulted in a deal that Stats Perform understands will see United pay £72.9million (€85m) for Sancho, with no add-ons included within the deal.

It makes the 21-year-old the fourth most expensive signing in United's history, behind Paul Pogba, Harry Maguire and Romelu Lukaku.

He has signed until 2026, with United having the option to extend that agreement for another year.

United were keen on Sancho last year but could not drive through a deal at the time, with Dortmund reluctant to sell one of their chief assets.

However, they have now been persuaded to part company with a player who scored twice in their DFB-Pokal final win over RB Leipzig last season.

Sancho established a strong understanding with the much-coveted Erling Haaland while at Dortmund and now joins a United side who have ground to make up on neighbours Manchester City.

He will look to build a similar rapport with his Manchester United team-mates, having experienced the agony of losing the Euro 2020 final on penalties alongside Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford.

Both Sancho and Rashford missed from 12 yards in the shoot-out as Italy prevailed after a 1-1 draw following extra time to deny England a first major title since the 1966 World Cup.

Having joined Dortmund in 2017, Sancho scored 50 goals and provided 57 assists in 137 appearances across all competitions for BVB.

It was City that Sancho left to join Dortmund in August 2017. He had come through the youth ranks with Watford initially before moving as a 14-year-old to the Etihad Stadium.

The balance of power in Manchester, and indeed in English football, remains weighted in City's favour after they won the Premier League title by 12 points from second-placed United last season.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should have Sancho among his attacking options for his team's opening Premier League game against Leeds United at Old Trafford on August 14.

Sancho is the only player from Europe's top five leagues to have scored 10 goals or more and had at least 15 assists across all competitions in each of the past three seasons while playing at that high level.

United's penalty shoot-out defeat to Villarreal in the Europa League final in May means they remain without a major honour during Solskjaer's reign, which began when he was initially placed in caretaker control in December 2018 after Jose Mourinho was sacked.

Jadon Sancho's long-awaited move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United has finally been completed.

The 21-year-old England international arrives at Old Trafford having scored 50 goals and provided 57 assists in 137 appearances across all competitions for the Bundesliga side. 

He became the first Englishman to reach at least 10 assists for three straight seasons in Europe's top-five leagues since former United star David Beckham, who achieved the feat between 1997-98 and 2000-01.

The €85million (£72.9million) fee makes him the fourth most expensive signing in the Red Devils' history.

Here, Stats Perform looks at how the rest of the top five fared at Old Trafford.


Paul Pogba - £94.5m from Juventus, August 2016

Four years after letting him leave Old Trafford on a free transfer United paid Juventus a then world-record fee to bring the France international back to the club. 

There have been moments of brilliance during his second stint, but he remains a source of much frustration for United fans, who believe he should deliver the kind of displays he does when playing for his country more often at club level. 

His cause has also not been helped by the continued public utterances from his agent, Mino Raiola, that he wants to leave the club, with Real Madrid considered a likely destination. 

Pogba – who enjoyed a fine Euro 2020 for France before they were knocked out in the last 16 by Switzerland – is now into the final 12 months of his contract at United and could well start the 2021-22 season elsewhere if a club comes in with an attractive offer. 

Harry Maguire - £78.3m from Leicester City, July 2019

Maguire became the most expensive defender of all time when United paid £78.3m to Leicester City for his services. 

He has been a robust, if unspectacular, presence at the heart of the Red Devils’ backline since then, playing in 71 consecutive league games following his move until an ankle injury against Aston Villa on May 9 ended his 2020-21 campaign early. 

Despite missing the last four games of the season, Maguire ranked second in the Premier League for aerial challenges won (135), fifth for duels won (203) and sixth and seventh respectively for interceptions (60) and recoveries (199).

He was one of England's stars during their stunning Euro 2020 run and will surely arrive back at Old Trafford ahead of the 2021-22 campaign with a spring in his step.

Romelu Lukaku - £76.23m from Everton, July 2017

The Belgium international was the first-choice striker for the best part of 18 months under Jose Mourinho after United stole in ahead of Chelsea to sign him from Everton.

He scored 27 goals in all competitions in his first campaign, but the Portuguese coach's successor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer preferred the more mobile and agile Marcus Rashford to lead the line.

Lukaku still managed to make an impact during his second season, scoring twice in United's famous Champions League turnaround away to Paris Saint-Germain in March, but his tally in all competitions was down to 15. 

He completed a move to Italian giants Inter in 2019 and played a significant role in their 2020-21 title win.

Angel Di Maria - £67.5m from Real Madrid, August 2014

After four hugely successful years at Los Blancos, Di Maria was expected to light up the Premier League. 

A glorious chip against Leicester City early in the season suggested he would do just that, but things fell away dramatically for the Argentina international after that.

He left for Paris Saint-Germain after one disappointing season in which he found the back of the net just four times across all competitions.

Jadon Sancho has finally joined Manchester United after they sealed a deal to bring in the England winger from Borussia Dortmund.

The long pursuit of Sancho has resulted in a deal that Stats Perform understands will see United pay £72.9million (€85m) for Sancho, with no add-ons included within the deal.

It makes the 21-year-old the fourth most expensive signing in United's history, behind Paul Pogba, Harry Maguire and Romelu Lukaku.

He has signed until 2026, with United having the option to extend that agreement for another year.

United were keen on Sancho last year but could not drive through a deal at the time, with Dortmund reluctant to sell one of their chief assets.

However, they have now been persuaded to part company with a player who scored twice in their DFB-Pokal final win over RB Leipzig last season.

Sancho established a strong understanding with the much-coveted Erling Haaland while at Dortmund and now joins a United side who have ground to make up on neighbours Manchester City.

He will look to build a similar rapport with his Manchester United team-mates, having experienced the agony of losing the Euro 2020 final on penalties alongside Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire and Marcus Rashford.

Both Sancho and Rashford missed from 12 yards in the shoot-out as Italy prevailed after a 1-1 draw following extra time to deny England a first major title since the 1966 World Cup.

Having joined Dortmund in 2017, Sancho scored 50 goals and provided 57 assists in 137 appearances across all competitions for BVB.

It was City that Sancho left to join Dortmund in August 2017. He had come through the youth ranks with Watford initially before moving as a 14-year-old to the Etihad Stadium.

The balance of power in Manchester, and indeed in English football, remains weighted in City's favour after they won the Premier League title by 12 points from second-placed United last season.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer should have Sancho among his attacking options for his team's opening Premier League game against Leeds United at Old Trafford on August 14.

Sancho is the only player from Europe's top five leagues to have scored 10 goals or more and had at least 15 assists across all competitions in each of the past three seasons while playing at that high level.

United's penalty shoot-out defeat to Villarreal in the Europa League final in May means they remain without a major honour during Solskjaer's reign, which began when he was initially placed in caretaker control in December 2018 after Jose Mourinho was sacked.

Harry Kane looks like he might soon get his wish to leave Tottenham.

Spurs had previously dug in their heels and were determined that Kane, who is contracted until 2024, would stay.

The England captain won last season's Premier League Golden Boot with 23 goals, and now he could be heading to the champions.

 

TOP STORY – CITY SET FOR BUMPER KANE DEAL

Tottenham forward Harry Kane is poised for a £160million move to Manchester City, reports The Sun.

According to the report, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy will allow Kane to exit the club for such a sum.

Kane is said by the newspaper to have agreed personal terms on a £400,000-a-week deal with City, which is reportedly double his current Tottenham contract.

 

ROUND-UP

- Paul Pogba has rejected a £50million contract offer at Manchester United and is set to leave this summer, according to The Mirror as rumours swirl about Paris Saint-Germain's interest.

- Marca reports that Kylian Mbappe will reject Paris Saint-Germain's latest contract offer and look to seal a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid.

- Fabrizio Romano has reported that talks are ongoing between Atalanta and Tottenham for Cristian Romero with personal terms agreed and a €55m price tag on the table.

- Atalanta want Tottenham defender Davinson Sanchez included in any deal, reports Sportitalia.

- Milan are interested in signing Chelsea midfielder Hakim Ziyech on loan, claims Calcio Mercato.

- Donyell Malen 's transfer from PSV Eindhoven to Borussia Dortmund is all but done according to Dutch outlet ED, with an anticipated €30m fee.

New Paris Saint-Germain signing Georginio Wijnaldum says he "would love" for Paul Pogba to play alongside him in the French capital.

PSG have been linked with 28-year-old midfielder Pogba, who is off contract at Manchester United in 2022.

Wijnaldum, who joined PSG from Liverpool last month, added fuel to the speculation fire, labelling Pogba an "extraordinary player".

“I would love to have Pogba with us,” Wijnaldum told RMC Sport. “He’s fantastic. I have played against him several times – what a player!

“If you ask any player from another team if he would like Pogba to join him, everyone will say yes because he is an extraordinary player, full of qualities.

"He has it all, one of the best midfielders in the world.”

Pogba said earlier this month that United were yet to table a "concrete proposal" for a new deal yet the Red Devils are understood to be keen to tie him down beyond 2022.

PSG have been linked with a cut-price €58 million (£50m) swoop for ex-Juventus man Pogba.

The Parisians have already signed Wijnaldum, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Sergio Ramos and Achraf Hakimi this off-season after finishing as 2020-21 Ligue 1 runners-up.

Following the conclusion of the European Championship and the Copa America, focus has switched back to club football as the 2021-22 campaign draws ever nearer in Europe's top leagues.

Most clubs are busy strengthening their squads ahead of the new season, while for others there is a need to raise funds as the financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic continue to be felt.

With six weeks of the window to go for teams in England, Spain, Germany, France and Italy, the futures of many top talents remain uncertain – not least in the case of Lionel Messi, who became a free agent on July 1.

But while Messi is widely expected to sign a new long-term deal with Barcelona, other global stars will remain in the headlines until a transfer is secured or the window shuts.

Stats Perform looks at some of the biggest names who could be on the move between now and the end of August.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus)

Linked with: Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United

While Messi's future now seems certain to be with Barcelona beyond next month, fellow superstar Ronaldo's status is less clear after entering the final year of his Juventus deal.

The Bianconeri are supposedly weighing up whether to cash in on the five-time Ballon d'Or winner or risk losing him for free next year when his deal expires.

While Juve endured a disappointing 2020-21 that saw them miss out on the Scudetto for the first time in nine years, Ronaldo had another impressive season in front of goal.

He scored 29 goals in 33 league appearances to finish top of the scoring charts, becoming the first player to win the Golden Boot in Serie A, LaLiga and the Premier League.

 

Harry Kane (Tottenham)

Linked with: Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid

Kane has spent 17 years with Tottenham but admitted in May he feels at a "crossroads" in his career following another trophyless campaign last time out.

The England international, who scored four times in his country's run to the Euro 2020 final, is yet to discuss his future with recently-appointed boss Nuno Espirito Santo.

He finished as the Premier League's top scorer last season, making him the third player to win the Golden Boot on three occasions after Thierry Henry (four times) and Alan Shearer.

Kane also set up 14 goals to become only the second player in the Premier League era to top the charts for both goals and assists, the other being Andy Cole for Newcastle United in 1993-94.

 

Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)

Linked with: Manchester City, Real Madrid, Chelsea

Alongside Kylian Mbappe, who Paris Saint-Germain will refuse to sell this window despite his delicate contract situation, Haaland is arguably football's hottest property.

The Norway international has been superb for Dortmund since arriving in January 2020, breaking a number of Bundesliga and Champions League goals records along the way.

That includes becoming both the quickest and youngest player to hit 20 goals in the Champions League, doing so in just 14 matches for Dortmund and former side Salzburg.

Last season alone, Haaland netted 27 times in 28 Bundesliga games. That included two or more goals on 11 occasions – only Gerd Muller (12 in 1971-72) has done so more times in a season.

 

Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

Linked with: Chelsea, Manchester City, Real Madrid

Having won it all during his time with Bayern, including seven successive Bundesliga crowns, could the time be right for Lewandowski to seek a new challenge elsewhere?

Recently-appointed Bayern boss Julian Nagelsmann admitted last week teams are interested in signing the 32-year-old, but that should of course come as no surprise.

Lewandowski is coming off his finest campaign yet for the Bavarian giants, having scored 41 times in the Bundesliga in 2020-21 to break Bayern great Muller's record for goals in a single season that had stood for 49 years.

The Poland striker's 48 goals in all competitions last time out were the most scored by any player in Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21, meanwhile, followed by Mbappe (42) and Haaland (41).

 

Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)

Linked with: Manchester United

With the signing of Jadon Sancho as good as wrapped up, Man Utd are rumoured to be closing in on a second big-money signing of the window in long-serving Madrid defender Varane.

The Frenchman has spent a decade at the Santiago Bernabeu, but it looks as though both the player and club are ready to cut ties with less than a year to run on his contract.

United are seeking a partner for Harry Maguire and Varane ticks plenty of boxes for what the Red Devils are after, not least in terms of his passing accuracy (89.58) and headed clearances (60) in 31 LaLiga games last term.

That compares to a passing accuracy of 89.82 for Victor Lindelof, 88.26 for Eric Bailly and 87.29 for Maguire in the Premier League last term. Maguire led the way with 86 headed clearances, meanwhile, some way in front of Lindelof's 40 in 29 games.

Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

Linked with: Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Juventus

United have been linked with an array of top talent, though they could have a battle on their hands keeping hold of one of their own star men in Pogba.

Following a couple of years of speculation, the World Cup-winning midfielder is supposedly eager to head home to France with Paris Saint-Germain.

Pogba has undoubtedly struggled for consistency in his second spell with United, but showed exactly what he is capable of in his four appearances for France at Euro 2020.

He scored a stunning goal against Switzerland and set up another against Portugal, while his eight chances created was second only to Antoine Griezmann (10) among France players.

Eduardo Camavinga (Rennes)

Linked with: Real Madrid, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, Arsenal

A number of Europe's top clubs are on red alert after Rennes president Nicolas Holveck admitted this week that in-demand midfielder Camavinga may be sold this window if a new contract cannot be agreed.

Camavinga made his debut for boyhood club Rennes in April 2019 and has gone on to make 82 appearances in all competitions, with 67 of those outings coming in Ligue 1.

The 18-year-old leads the way in the French top flight for tackles attempted (226) and tackles won (138) since his debut, followed by Marseille's Valentin Rongier in both categories (194 and 125 respectively).

To further underline exactly why so many teams are keen on the youngster, he was one of only two current teenagers – along with Barcelona's Pedri (1,485) – to complete more than 1,000 passes in Europe's top five leagues last term with 1,418.

 

Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo)

Linked with: Juventus, Arsenal

Euro 2020 acted as a shop window for a number of players, and not many of them saw their stock rise in such a way as Italy midfielder Locatelli.

The 23-year-old featured five times for the Azzurri in their successful European Championship campaign, including an appearance from the bench during extra time in the victory over England in the final.

He scored twice in the 3-0 group-stage win over Switzerland and had the second best goals-per-90-minutes ratio of any Italy player (0.66) after Matteo Pessina, who scored twice in four games (0.95).

Locatelli also won more tackles per 90 minutes (2.32) at the Euros than any other Italy player, followed by Marco Verratti (2.02) and Federico Bernardeschi (1.42).

Arsenal have already made a €40million (£35m) bid, but Juventus are considered the favourites to land the Milan youth product.

Eden Hazard has struggled for impact at Real Madrid two years into his five-year deal.

The 30-year-old signed with Madrid for a reported €100 million (£86m) from Chelsea in 2019.

Hazard has battled against injuries and poor form in Spain, making 43 appearances and scoring five goals in two seasons.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA WEIGH UP SHOCK HAZARD RETURN

Eden Hazard could make a sensational return to Chelsea and end his underwhelming spell with Real Madrid, reports AS.

Chelsea are weighing up a shock move for the Belgium attacking midfielder, who spent seven years with the Blues.

The report did not disclose any financial details but cited Hazard's strong connection with Chelsea's squad and desire to re-discover his best football.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Sun claims Manchester United are plotting a cut-price move for Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka as a replacement for Paul Pogba, who has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain in recent days.

- Tottenham's swap deal for Bryan Gil from Sevilla in exchange for Erik Lamela will soon be finalized according to Sky Sports. Spurs will also pay £21.6 million (€25m) for the winger.

- Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowsk is "interested" in a contract offer from Chelsea after his agent spoke to the Blues, claims Bild. Lewandowski is seen as Chelsea's alternative option should they fail to land Erling Haaland.

- Switzerland international Xherdan Shaqiri could be among those sold by Liverpool in an off-season clear-out, according to the Liverpool Echo. Divock Origi and Nat Phillips were also mentioned in the report.

- talkSPORT reports that Arsenal are preparing a £30m bid to sign Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale . The Times claims the Gunners have been told to raise their offer.

David Alaba hopes to form a defensive alliance with Raphael Varane at Real Madrid, despite speculation linking the France international with Manchester United.

Alaba joined Madrid on a free transfer following a decorated spell with Bayern Munich, during which time he won an incredible 27 trophies.

The Austria international was presented to the media in the Spanish capital on Wednesday, where it was revealed he would inherit the number four shirt from Sergio Ramos, who has joined Paris Saint-Germain following a career-defining association with Los Blancos.

That in itself was a point of intrigue, but Alaba also addressed Varane – who he hopes does not follow the veteran Spain centre-back out of the Santiago Bernabeu exit door.

"I would have loved to play with Ramos, of course," he told reporters. "He is a leader, it would have been a pleasure.

"Varane, of course I would like to play with him. He is a player who has played excellent football.

"He is a great defender and has very good qualities. "

 

Alaba explained he has spoken to Ramos about taking on his famous shirt number.

"Ramos was here for a decade and has played football very well wearing this number and has become a leader," he said. "It is something that is present in everyone's head.

"He spoke to me. I was told that it is the last available number and I did not want to ask other players for their number. I feel honoured and it is a great motivation for me."

Even though a tough close-season market and the relatively parlous state of Madrid's finances look like obvious stumbling blocks, Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe continues to be linked with the club.

Alaba was on the winning side when Bayern beat PSG in the 2020 Champions League final, but Mbappe excelled when the Ligue 1 giants deposed the European champions in last season's quarter-finals.

The France forward's 42 goals in all competitions last season put him second only to Robert Lewandowski (48) across Europe's big five leagues.

"He is a world-class player and he has enormous quality, that is something indisputable," Alaba added.

"I think it is something that does not affect me. That question should be addressed to other people."

Paul Pogba has one year remaining on his Manchester United contract.

After a strong Euro 2020 with France, he is attracting interest.

Pogba has been linked with a move away from United numerous times in the past and a decision could be looming.

 

ROUND-UP – POGBA'S AGENT IN PSG TALKS

Paul Pogba 's agent Mino Raiola is discussing a potential move to  Paris Saint-Germain , claims the Daily Mail.

Manchester United are feeling the pressure to sell the France international who is set to be a free agent in 12 months' time.

PSG are reportedly eyeing off a £43million move, which is less than half the amount United paid for him in 2016, given his contract status.

 

TOP STORY

–  Chelsea are ready to submit a monster bid worth £135m for Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland , claims 90min. Dortmund have insisted they will not sell the Norway forward, but the bumper deal may tempt them.

– Bild claims  Manchester United along with Real Madrid and Barcelona are monitoring Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka 's situation.

–  Milan are looking to prepare another loan deal for Diogo Dalot from Manchester United, reports Fabrizio Romano.

– Sky Sports claims a deal is imminent for Arsenal's Granit Xhaka to move to Roma .

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