Newcastle United look set to enter the transfer market in January following their change of ownership.

The Magpies are 19th in the Premier League, with no wins and three draws from seven games this term.

The Saudi-led ownership takeover at St James' Park was officially completed on Thursday.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE ENTER CHASE FOR ICARDI

Following their big-money buyout, Newcastle have entered the race to sign Argentine forward Mauro Icardi from Paris Saint-Germain, reports Calciomercato.

Tottenham and Juventus are reportedly already interested in the 28-year-old former Inter player, who joined PSG permanently in 2020 on a four-year deal after a loan spell.

The Telegraph claims Newcastle could spend up to £190m in January without breaking Financial Fair Play rules.

ROUND-UP

- Spanish newspaper Sport claims former Liverpool winger Philippe Coutinho could join Newcastle as Barcelona seek to offload the Brazilian in January.

- Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is Real Madrid's number one transfer target next year, claims Spanish newspaper ABC. Rudiger's contract is due to expire at the end of this season.

- Calciomercato reports Juventus are open to a swap deal with Everton which would see Aaron Ramsey and Brazilian midfielder Allan exchange places.

Liverpool are ahead of Arsenal and Everton in the race to sign Olympiacos' Senegalese centre-back Pape Abou Cisse according to the Daily Mail.

Arsenal are considering a move for Zenit's Iranian forward Sardar Azmoun as they seek a replacement for Alexandre Lacazette, according to Onze Mondial.

- Cristiano Ronaldo wants former Juventus team-mate Federico Chiesa to join him at Manchester United, claims Calciomercato.

- The Sun reports that ex-Chelsea manager Antonio Conte would decline the chance to replace Steve Bruce as Newcastle boss.

Aaron Ramsey hinted at frustration with life at Juventus as he insisted his fitness is not a problem when he is "managed correctly".

The midfielder has only played four times under Massimiliano Allegri this season, last appearing as a second-half substitute in the 3-2 win over Sampdoria on September 26.

The Bianconeri said last week Ramsey was suffering from "muscle fatigue" and recent reports have indicated they are ready to listen to offers for the former Arsenal man, who joined the club in July 2019 on a contract reported to be worth upwards of €450,000 per week.

His time in Turin has been dogged by injury issues, though. Ramsey has only started 25 matches in Serie A, playing 2,238 minutes in total – just seven minutes more than Blaise Matuidi, who left for Inter Miami in August 2020.

However, the 30-year-old, who is set to captain Wales in Friday's World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic, suggested a different approach to his training and recovery could see Juve get more use out of him.

"I know what I can do and with the right management I can stay fit for a long period of time and play a lot of games," he said. "I'm still feeling good when given the opportunity and managed correctly.

 

"It has been frustrating that I have picked up these little niggly injuries, which have cost me a lot of games and meant I have missed some important games for Wales in the last couple of years.

"The training philosophy and methods are different at my club than they are here. There are a number of people here who have a number of years of managing me, so they know how to get the best out of me, and so I am able to play a number of games in a row. As I showed in the Euros this year, I'm capable of doing that and producing good performances.

"My outputs in games are pretty high, and maybe I need a bit more rest and recovery throughout the week rather than being on the grass for a long period of time and carrying more fatigue into games. Recovery is a big part of that for me."

Ramsey will lead out his country in the absence of the injured Gareth Bale, with Wales knowing a win would take them above the Czech Republic and into second in Group E with a game in hand.

"It means everything to me to play for Wales," he said. "I am so proud to represent my country.

"I have been as frustrated as anybody else over the amount of game I have missed in the past few years.

"I am happy to be back involved. I am looking forward to these two games, and to lead the boys out will be that extra bit special.

"I have experienced it before, and I loved every minute of it, and I am sure it will be a very proud moment for me and my family."

Paul Pogba's future with Manchester United has been a constant point of speculation for the past few years.

The 2018 World Cup winner is into the last season of a five-year deal with the Red Devils.

Pogba has been on United's books since returning from Juventus in 2016.

TOP STORY – POGBA TO PEN BUMPER NEW DEAL

Paul Pogba has decided he wants to extend his stay with Manchester United, claims L'Equipe.

The French midfielder has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford, with interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid, as well as return to Juventus.

Pogba's renewal is expected to command one of the highest salaries in Premier League history.

ROUND-UP

- AS reports that Borussia Dortmund will double Erling Haaland's salary in a bid to ward off interest from Spanish pair Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well as Manchester City and Chelsea. Dortmund will bump the Norwegian's wages up from €8million to €15m in order to keep him, with the release clause in his contract to activate next off-season.

- Former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey is to be put up for sale by Juventus, according to the Daily Mail. Juve are ready to listen to offers for the Wales midfielder, who has fallen out of favour in Turin.

- Liverpool have entered the race to sign Fiorentina's Serbian forward Dusan Vlahovic, according to the Mirror. Vlahovic's contract talks with Fiorentina have collapsed.

- Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks is willing to make a January loan move away from Spurs and is open to moving abroad, claims The Times.

- Calciomercato reports that River Plate's 21-year-old Argentina international Julian Alvarez is drawing attention from city rivals Inter and Milan .

- French defender Samuel Umtiti will be made available in January by financially-embattled Barcelona, reports Sport. Umtiti has not played in LaLiga this season.

Gareth Bale has been ruled out of Wales' crucial World Cup qualifying double-header next month with what boss Rob Page describes as a "significant hamstring tear".

The 32-year-old has not featured for club or country since sustaining the injury during a training session with Real Madrid three weeks ago.

Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti recently said he is unsure how long Bale will be out but there was hope he would be back in time for Wales' trips to the Czech Republic and Estonia.

However, Bale – who is one cap short of a milestone 100 for Wales – was left out of Page's squad on Tuesday and is also a doubt for his side's final three qualifiers in November.

"Hamstring injuries are graded from one to four and this is a four. It's a significant hamstring tear," Page said at a news conference.

"This camp has come too soon for him. He's not going to be involved, and that may also be the case progressing to November's camp."    

Bale started Madrid's opening three games of the season and featured in all three of Wales' matches last month, scoring a hat-trick in the 3-2 win away at Belarus.

That ended a 17-game drought without a goal for the Dragons – his second-longest such run – but he could not find a way through in the goalless draw with Estonia last time out.

Wales are third in Group E after four matches, one point behind next opponents the Czech Republic with a game in hand as the pair fight for second place behind runaway leaders Belgium.

Page's side will head into that clash in Prague without undisputed star player Bale, who has been involved in all five of his side's goals this campaign (three goals and two assists).

"He's been first class for Wales over the years, so of course it's a blow for myself and the supporters," Page said. "But it does give others a chance.

"We can't cry about it. Gareth showed his worth in the last camp and he was at another level.

"We've got new players coming through, and an abundance of players who can fill the position he plays. There aren't many Gareth Bales in the world but others will have a chance." 

 

Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey is back involved for Wales after withdrawing from the last squad through injury.

Ramsey has featured four times in Serie A this term and leads the way for passes per 90 minutes (67.71) and successful passes (61.71) among Juventus midfielders.

He has missed several key fixtures for Wales this campaign, but Page insists the former Arsenal man's commitment cannot be questioned.

"We're confident he'll be with us," Page said.

"I understand the fans' frustration because they want the best players turning up. He can put a shift in and did a full pre-season with Juventus.

"Players like him are prone to picking up injuries. He's managing his body better now and I think we're seeing the best of it.

"He's become more robust and shown over the summer he's more capable of playing games. His training will be adapted but we expect him to play both games."

Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey has been ruled out indefinitely with a thigh injury sustained on the opening weekend of the Serie A season.

The 30-year-old started Juve's 2-2 draw against Udinese on Sunday but only lasted an hour before being replaced at the Dacia Arena.

Ramsey will miss Juve's home match against Empoli on Saturday and is also expected to withdraw from Wales' squad for their triple-header of fixtures in September, including World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and Estonia.

A statement on Juve's website on Tuesday read: "Ramsey underwent diagnostic tests this morning, which revealed a low-grade injury to the adductor muscle of the right thigh. 

"In 10 days he will undergo new exams in order to precisely define the recovery time."

Despite lasting just 59 minutes against Udinese, Ramsey played the fourth-most passes of any Juve player (47), behind Matthijs de Ligt (68), Danilo (73) and Leonardo Bonucci (74).

He completed 44 of those 47 passes for a pass accuracy of 93.6 per cent, which was the most of any Juve player to start the match.

Ramsey was used 30 times by Juventus in all competitions last season and created more chances per 90 minutes in Serie A (2.55) than any Bianconeri player to feature more than four times.

The former Arsenal midfielder has been linked with a move away from the Allianz Stadium in recent weeks, with Juve reportedly seeking a €10million offer for his services.

Massimiliano Allegri shrugged off talk of a possible Juventus return for Miralem Pjanic, saying Aaron Ramsey could instead be used in a deeper role this season.

Pjanic left for Barcelona last year in a swap deal with Arthur, but his time in Spain has been unhappy, the midfielder starting just six LaLiga games under Ronald Koeman in 2020-21.

There is speculation the 31-year-old wants to move back to Turin, where he could reunite with Allegri, the coach under whom he won six trophies in Italy.

Allegri, though, appears more interested in transforming Ramsey into a defensive midfielder ahead of the start of 2021-22.

The Wales international started at the base of a midfield three in Saturday's 2-1 friendly win over Monza, regaining possession four times and completing 100 per cent of his passes in his 45-minute outing.

Ramsey has been linked with a possible return to the Premier League but it appears Allegri has important plans for the 30-year-old if he is prepared to embrace the change in position.

"The club handles the transfer market. We speak every day," Allegri said to Mediaset when asked about the Pjanic rumours.

"The squad... it's a good squad. Ramsey played very well in front of the defence today and I think Aaron, in front of the defence, can become a really important player.

"[Pjanic] gave me some great victories. He's a Barcelona player, though.

"We have talented players and I think, if Ramsey is convinced to play in front of the defence, he can become important. He runs less there and can rest more on the ball."

Juve play Barca in the pre-season Joan Gamper Trophy match on August 8.

Aaron Ramsey has not set the world on fire since joining Juventus from Arsenal two years ago.

It has been reported in Italy that the Serie A club are ready to listen to offers.

Ramsey reportedly earns £250,000 per week and Juve are said to be keen to ease that burden.

 

TOP STORY - SPURS SHOCK MOVE FOR RAMSEY

Tottenham are lining up a shock move for former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, claims The Sun.

Juventus may be looking to offload the Wales international, who has made 46 league appearances in two seasons in Turin.

Tottenham's managing director of football Fabio Paratici is keen to bring Ramsey back to London to team up with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tottenham have ramped up their bid to sign Atalanta centre-back Cristian Romero who will cost around £40million (€46m), according to The Telegraph.

- Marca claims Inter, Sampdoria and Genoa are monitoring Real Madrid's 23-year-old striker Luka Jovic.

- Monaco's Montenegrin striker Stevan Jovetic has agreed to join Bundesliga club Hertha Berlin on a deal until 2024, reports Sky Sport.

- The Telegraph reports that Newcastle United  are keen on signing Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe, with a loan or permanent move discussed.

- Sky Sports claims West Ham are still interested in signing Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who spent last season on loan at Fulham.

- Italian clubs Lazio and Napoli,  along with Spanish outfit Villarreal,  fancy Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri, reports Sky Sports.

Sergio Ramos' Real Madrid contract is due to officially expire on June 30.

The 35-year-old defender has been with Los Blancos since 2005.

There appears to be no shortage of suitors lining up for Ramos' signature.

 

TOP STORY – RAMOS WEIGHING UP POWERHOUSE TRIO

European heavyweights Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich have all approached Sergio Ramos about a potential move, ESPN reported.

Ramos, who will leave Madrid as a free agent this off-season, is said to be assessing the interest.

Family considerations are a big part of Ramos' decision-making, while it is claimed City could offer him a two-year deal.

ROUND-UP

- Jose Mourinho's new club Roma are closing in on a deal to sign Wolves' Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio , reports Sky Sports.

- Arsenal target Aaron Ramsey has opted to stay with Juventus following the appointment of Massimiliano Allegri, claims The Sun.

- Uruguayan prospect Martin Satriano is attracting attention from Premier League clubs Arsenal , Everton and Tottenham , claims the Daily Mail. Satriano is currently on the books of Inter.

- Turkey international Merih Demiral wants to leave Juventus but the Serie A club have set an asking price of €40million (£34m), according to Calciomercato.

- Chelsea are close to agreeing a loan deal with Norwich City for Billy Gilmour , reports Sky Sports.

Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey took the glory, but Wales would not be through to face Denmark in the Euro 2020 last-16 stage on Saturday without the saves of Danny Ward.

On Saturday, Ward will line up for Robert Page's side, with the man who is keeping him out of the Leicester City team, Kasper Schmeichel, in the Denmark goal.

The 28-year-old Wales shot-stopper made 13 saves across his team's three group games, which is a total that was only bettered by Finland's Lukas Hradecky (15) and Turkey's Ugurcan Cakir (18).

He made on average 6.5 saves per goal conceded, the best record of all goalkeepers who were beaten at least once (Gianluigi Donnarumma and Jordan Pickford both kept three clean sheets), with Wales shipping just twice in three games.

That tight defensive record came despite Wales having an expected goals against (xGA) total of 5.47, and it meant Wales had the largest differential (3.47) between their goals-against tally and their xGA. Opta tallies expected goals figures on a formula that looks at variables including the type of assist, angle of the shot and its distance.

Bale and Ramsey unpicked Turkey to impressive effect in the second group game, but Ward's overall importance cannot be overestimated.

Now Ward and Schmeichel will be on show in Amsterdam in the opening knockout game, with Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers sure to be taking an interest.

Ward said this week: "Kasper's a good goalie and Denmark are a good team. It's going to be tough, you have to respect people, but we've got to believe in what we want to do. We fancy ourselves against anyone."

Bale, stuck in a 14-game goal drought for his country, may fancy facing Schmeichel, having scored twice against him when Tottenham beat Leicester 4-2 on the final day of the Premier League season.

Denmark have come through a testing first fortnight in the tournament, enduring the horror of seeing Christian Eriksen suffer a cardiac arrest in their opening game against Finland.

Eriksen's steady recovery – to the point where he has been able to leave hospital – has been uplifting, and coach Kasper Hjulmand is now able to focus firmly on matters on the pitch, with an emotional 4-1 win over Russia seeing the Danes through to this stage.

Hjulmand says too much emphasis has been placed on who starts games for the Danes, insisting their squad depth is a major plus point.

"We have been so strong in the second half in many matches," Hjulmand told UEFA.com. "We have been so strong in the last 20 minutes of every match. And it's just as important who is on the field when the match ends as who starts."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Wales - Aaron Ramsey

Driving runs from midfield behind opposition lines are such a strength of Ramsey's game, and Denmark will be wary of the Juventus man. Indeed, he has had 16 of Wales' 97 shot attempts across their Euro 2016 and Euro 2020 campaigns to date, beaten only by Bale's 33.

Denmark - Mikkel Damsgaard

The Sampdoria youngster shot into the spotlight with his supreme strike against Russia. Damsgaard has been directly involved in six goals in his five appearances for Denmark in all competitions, scoring three and assisting three. The goal against Russia made him Denmark's youngest goalscorer in a World Cup or European Championship, at the age of 20 years and 353 days.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– None of the 10 previous meetings between Wales and Denmark in all competitions have finished level, with Wales winning four to Denmark’s six. This is the first meeting between the sides since November 2018, with Denmark winning 2-1 in a Nations League match on that occasion.
– Denmark have won each of their last three competitive meetings with Wales in a run stretching back to June 1999. This is the first meeting between the sides in a major tournament.
– Denmark became the first team in European Championship history to reach the knockout stages of the competition having lost their first two group games.
– Wales have only lost two of their last 16 competitive matches in all competitions, although those two defeats have arrived in their last five games, including last time out against Italy. They have not suffered consecutive competitive defeats since June 2019.
– Denmark recorded 59 shots in the group stages, with the average of 19.7 shots per game their highest on record in a major tournament (Euros and World Cup).
– Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has three assists in his three games so far at Euro 2020, with no Denmark player recording more at a single edition of a World Cup or European Championship before.

Italy's squad are well aware of the different task they will face in the Euro 2020 knockout stages, so says Roberto Mancini.

The Azzurri maintained their perfect start to the tournament with a 1-0 win over Wales in Rome on Sunday – Matteo Pessina's first-half goal proving the difference, while the visitors also had Ethan Ampadu sent off.

Italy are now unbeaten in 30 matches in all competitions (W25 D5) since losing against Portugal in September 2018, equalling the longest unbeaten run in their history, which was set between 1935 and 1939.

Mancini's team have won their past 11 games and kept a clean sheet in each match, only going on a longer run once before in their history – 12 games without conceding between 1972 and 1974.

With top spot in Group A sealed, Italy will face either Ukraine or Austria at Wembley in the last 16 on Saturday, and look well placed for a deep run in the competition.

However, Mancini knows complacency cannot set in.

With his suit jacket held casually over his shoulder, Mancini told ITV Sport: "We are happy but we know that after the group stage we start a new European Championship. Now it will be different.

"The guys are very clever. They wanted to win every game, they have a good mentality. I am very happy also for this reason because we changed eight players and played a very good game.

"It is always difficult, I think we played against a good team. Wales are a good team, but it was a deserved win."

Italy had 23 attempts, with six hitting the target – Danny Ward pulling off some fine stops late on to help ensure Wales claimed second place in the group on goal difference.

Gareth Bale missed a golden chance to equalise, but it did not prove costly, and Aaron Ramsey was thrilled to have secured a last-16 berth.

"It was tough, for long periods of that game. We were up against a great team, to go 30 games unbeaten is some achievement, so fair play," the Juventus midfielder told ITV Sport.

"Again, we showed great character This team, you can never question our character. We always give absolutely everything out there.

"We dug in for Ethan, we feel sorry for him, but we had each other's backs out there and finished the job.

"We have a lot of attacking threat, keep games really tight and work hard for each other, so we have a good balance.

"In the first half, we showed glimpses of what we can do against good opposition, kept the ball well, created a couple of opportunities. We just need to be consistent throughout the game in doing that because we have the quality to do it.

"It's just about having the belief to go out there and do that, but we're through in second place, so we're delighted."

Bale added: "We knew it was going to be a very difficult game from the start, a lot of defending, a lot of running, very tight. But I'm proud of the boys, we wanted to try and get a result but it made no difference, we've finished second anyway.

"We have to just recover again now, we've got a bit of a break. Five days to patch everyone up and get going again."

Wales will face whichever team finishes second in Group B in Amsterdam on Saturday.

Aaron Ramsey quipped that he might get back on penalty duty for Wales after Gareth Bale's miss in the 2-0 win over Turkey.

Wales put themselves onto the verge of the last 16 at Euro 2020 thanks to goals from Ramsey and Connor Roberts in Baku on Wednesday.

Bale set up both goals and turned in a supreme performance overall, crafting a game-high five chances (a Euro record in a single game since at least 1980) and having five attempts himself – in total, there were 34 efforts throughout the match, the most of any game in the tournament so far.

However, the Wales captain did have some making up to do after his 61st-minute spot-kick woe, with Bale slicing his attempt way over.

Indeed, he became the first player to miss the goal frame entirely with a penalty at the Euros since Raul did so for Spain against France in 2000.

Asked for his thoughts on the miss, Ramsey jokingly told BBC Sport: "He's tried to wobble it into the top bins. Maybe I'll get back on them now!"

"It was a big moment but we didn't really panic, we stuck at it, we dug in and we left everything out there," the Juventus midfielder then reflected.

"That's what we've built our success on over the last few years, is really working hard for each other, and we showed that tonight."

Bale, meanwhile, took the miss in his stride, saying: "Yes, I missed the penalty but thought I showed good character to help the team, we needed that victory more than anything and to get a second goal at the end was the icing on the cake."

Though his composure from the spot was found wanting, Bale was excellent, with his link-up play with Ramsey a joy to watch at times.

They created a total of four chances for one another against Turkey, the most of any duo in a single game at Euro 2020, while at Euro 2016, the most by any pair in a single game was also Bale and Ramsey (six in a group match against Russia).

Bale played in Ramsey twice in the opening stages, but the former Arsenal man, who tallied up a non-penalty expected goals (xG) figure of 1.64, failed to find the net until the third such opportunity.

"He [Ramsey] got in a few times, we've always linked up well since our early days," Bale explained.

A raking, pinpoint pass from Bale allowed Ramsey to beat Turkey's offside trap and, after taking the ball down expertly on his chest, he finished it off coolly.

"It was a relief," Ramsey acknowledged. "I had two opportunities before that to score.

"The first half was superb, to a man. We created so many opportunities and really dominated the play. Second half we showed character, dug in, and I thought we thoroughly deserved the win in the end."

Only France (six) have won more matches across the last two European Championship finals combined than Wales (five), and Robert Page's team sit on four points from their first two Group A games.

Third place is the lowest they can finish, and a spot in the last 16 looks well within reach given the four best third-placed sides progress.

"We've given ourselves a brilliant opportunity now, we've still got a game to go, that was a really good point against Switzerland and it gave us the platform to go on and get the win," added Ramsey, who is also looking forward to a return to Italy, where he plies his trade domestically. 

"It'll be nice [going to Italy]. I've got a few team-mates playing for the national team, so that'll be nice, but I'm representing my country and want to do everything to win that game as well. It'll be a good battle!"

Wales are on the brink of the Euro 2020 knockout stages after Gareth Bale set up two goals, either side of a dismal penalty miss, to help Robert Page's team to a 2-0 win over Turkey.

Bale, who provided a sublime assist for Aaron Ramsey to break the deadlock after 42 minutes in Baku, sliced way over from 12 yards with just over an hour played, wasting the chance to put Wales clear.

Yet the Euro 2016 semi-finalists overcame the setback, holding their nerve in defence before Bale atoned with another fantastic assist, this time for Connor Roberts to score with the last kick of the game.

It took Wales, temporarily at least, top of Group A, and with the four best third-placed teams progressing into the last 16, they look well placed to make the knockouts.

Ramsey's first chance came in the sixth minute, the Juventus midfielder electing to shoot rather than square to the unmarked Kieffer Moore, with Ugurcan Cakir pulling off a fine save at his near post. 

Having been found brilliantly by Bale, Ramsey squandered another golden opportunity in the 24th minute, blazing over when one-on-one with Cakir. 

Yet amid mounting Turkey pressure, it proved third time lucky for Ramsey. Bale was the architect with another sensational pass over the defence which the former Arsenal man controlled with his chest before slotting into the bottom-left corner. 

Bale would have gone from provider to scorer had a venomous effort had enough dip to drop under the crossbar, though Wales should have been pegged back moments later. 

A corner was flicked onto Burak Yilmaz, whose acrobatic attempt flashed over from close range. 

Turkey should have been made to pay, but Bale – having drawn a clumsy tackle from Zeki Celik – sent his spot-kick soaring over. 

Danny Ward made a stunning save to deny Merih Demiral and Wales made it count – Bale driving in from a last-minute corner to tee up Roberts, who prodded home to put the last 16 firmly within reach.

It was billed as the Eden Hazard show: Belgium's global star was back in Lille, the north-eastern French town where he made his name, a stone's throw from the Belgian border.

Instead, the Euro 2016 quarter-final between Wales and Belgium was dominated not by the number 10 in blue, but in red.

Aaron Ramsey produced the finest performance of his career on that unforgettable night as Wales achieved the greatest result in their history, fighting back from a goal down to win 3-1 and reach the semi-finals of a major tournament for the first time.

"That Belgium game was a historic moment for us, for Wales," Ramsey said this week. "Obviously, that's going to live in people's memories for a long, long time. We started a bit shaky, they scored a screamer, but we settled down and played some unbelievable stuff. That was definitely a great night."

It was certainly the greatest individual display Ramsey had ever delivered. He created five goalscoring chances in the first half alone, more than any other player, and ended the game with two assists – the first time a British player had done so at the Euros since David Beckham for England against Portugal 16 years earlier.

He also picked up a yellow card – almost literally, since he was punished for a deliberate handball – that meant he was suspended for the semi-finals. It was such a brutal blow to Wales' hopes of beating Portugal that fans unsuccessfully petitioned UEFA to rescind it prior to their 2-0 defeat.

We have not seen Ramsey play at an international tournament since. Nor, indeed, have we seen him reach such a level of performance in the past five years. So, what can we expect from him at Euro 2020?

 

'Every international team would love a player like Aaron'

The Belgium game was the zenith of a brilliant tournament for Ramsey, one in which he was directly involved in half of Wales' 10 goals from group stage to final four.

His two assists in the quarter-final, a corner for Ashley Williams' equaliser and a sublime touch and cross for that Hal Robson-Kanu turn and finish, took him to four for the tournament, a joint-record at the Euros along with Hazard in 2016 and Ljubinko Drulovic in 2000.

After creating 23 chances in qualifying, more than any other Wales player, Ramsey built on those standards at the finals in that roving role assigned to him by Chris Coleman. He created 15 chances at Euro 2016, a tally beaten by only five players, and at an average of just over three per 90 minutes. Seven of those chances were created following carries – a run with the ball of more than five metres – which was second only to Hazard (10) among midfielders.

Ramsey was top six for passes into the penalty area (40) and touches in the opponents' box (16), with six of his 10 shots hitting the target, the highest rate of any player to reach double figures for attempts. Yet there was so much to admire about Ramsey's less glamourous work, too: he attempted the same number of tackles as N'Golo Kante (12) and averaged 14.9 duels per 90 minutes. Among midfielders to play in at least five games, only two posted fractionally better numbers, the highest being Paul Pogba on 15.1.

Joe Ledley, a team-mate of Ramsey from their teenage years at Cardiff City to that famous night in Lille, knows exactly what the Juventus man brings.

"He's a special player who will drift around midfield," Ledley told Stats Perform. "He's an opposition midfielder's nightmare because he will chase, he'll go behind them and then he'll come short.

"Against Belgium, he was just flowing, against quality players as well and that just proves how good he is. That's why he deserves to be at a team like Juventus and hopefully, he'll play a little bit more.

"For me, he was probably one of our best players at the Euros. As an outsider looking in, without Aaron, they're not as good. Every international team would love a player like Aaron, and we're blessed to have him. The players will love working with him because he's such a good player and links up the play from midfield and helps out by doing the dirty work as well.

"Hopefully, he can just stay fit and we can see him again in the Euros and see how well he does."

 

'It's been quite a challenging time'

Ramsey started 34 times for Arsenal in all competitions prior to the Euros. It remains the highest number he has managed in a single season in his club career.

Injury problems stopped Ramsey from consistently hitting top form for the Gunners. Despite 64 goals in 369 appearances, including an FA Cup final winner against Hull City in 2014, he never quite became a fan favourite at Emirates Stadium as he struggled to string regular runs of games together.

Those problems have continued at Juventus, whom he joined on a free transfer two years ago after accepting a contract offer reported by some to be worth £400,000 per week. Further injuries, along with changes in coaches and systems, have not helped his cause; six goals and five assists in 33 starts over two seasons is a modest return for a player of Ramsey's calibre and rumoured wages.

The problems have manifested for Wales, too: Ramsey has played in just 19 of their 44 games since Euro 2016 and missed training on Thursday, just 48 hours out from their opening game against Switzerland.

"It's been quite a challenging time over the last couple of seasons," said Ramsey, who has employed his own personal fitness team to get ready for Euro 2020. "Many factors and changes that I haven't been used to.

"I've got my own team around me who are focused on me, to get myself into the best possible shape. Obviously, football is a team sport and a lot of the time it is about the team and everybody doing the same things, when maybe some players need a bit more attention.

"So, I take it into my own hands really and I have the right people around me to try to come up with the best possible plan for me to get myself back into a place where I am feeling good and confident again."

Confidence and form invariably go hand in hand. Ramsey exuded such belief five years ago that even Hazard wilted in his shadow at Stade Pierre-Mauroy, and his place in UEFA's team of the tournament seemed secure even as he left the pitch knowing he would not be involved in the next game.

Not many predict Wales can match their achievements in France but, with Ramsey fit and firing alongside Gareth Bale, Ledley is not ruling out a few surprises.

"I think Bale has missed Aaron quite a lot because he's been struggling with injury," he said. "Those two, when they're on their game, they're unstoppable."

Manchester City have been linked with Erling Haaland.

As Sergio Aguero appears headed for an exit, Pep Guardiola wants to bolster his attack.

But Danny Ings has reportedly emerged as an alternative to the expensive and in-demand Haaland.

 

TOP STORY – CITY TARGET INGS

Manchester City are considering a move for Southampton star Danny Ings, according to Sky Sports.

City's all-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero is out of contract at the end of the season and no closer to extending his deal in Manchester.

Pep Guardiola's City are reportedly among the admirers of Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland, who has also been linked with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool and Juventus.

With Haaland set to command a huge fee, City are eyeing former Liverpool forward Ings as a cheaper alternative.

 

ROUND-UP

- Gazzetta dello Sport and Corriere dello Sport report Juventus head coach Andrea Pirlo is on the brink of being sacked. Juve are out of the Champions League and 10 points off the pace following their shock loss to Benevento. Former boss Massimiliano Allegri has been linked with a return, while La Repubblica claims Atalanta's Gian Piero Gasperini, Lazio coach Simone Inzaghi and Luciano Spalletti are on a three-man shortlist.

- Former Chelsea and Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri is Roma's number one option should they sack head coach Paulo Fonseca, says Gazzetta dello Sport. Fonseca – under pressure in the Italian capital – has also been linked with Napoli, alongside Hellas Verona's Ivan Juric. Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso has been linked with Fiorentina, Torino and Bologna.

Neymar re-signing with Ligue 1 holders PSG is "just a matter of time", according to Fabrizio Romano.

Aaron Ramsey is interested in a move to Premier League champions Liverpool, according to Calciomercato. The Juventus midfielder, who left Arsenal for Turin in 2019, is seen as a possible replacement for rumoured Barca target Georginio Wijnaldum at Anfield.

- The Daily Express reports Arsenal are eyeing Barcelona misfit Philippe Coutinho. However, a move will depend on whether Arsenal sign loanee Martin Odegaard permanently from Madrid.

Xabi Alonso is set to become the new head coach of Borussia Monchengladbach next season, replacing Dortmund-bound Marco Rose. Romano, however, insists no contract has been signed as the former Bayern Munich star remains in charge of Real Sociedad's B team.

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