Chelsea are chasing defenders and Niklas Sule is reportedly a target, with David Alaba seemingly set for Real Madrid.

Premier League outfit Chelsea have been linked with defenders, particularly since Thomas Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard at the helm.

They have three at the top of their list.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA EYE SULE

Bayern Munich defender Sule is on Chelsea's shopping list, according to Sport Bild.

The report says Sule's Bayern team-mate Alaba , who is out of contract at the end of the season, and RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano are also among their targets.

Chelsea have kept back-to-back clean sheets since Tuchel took over last month.

 

ROUND-UP

- Alaba seems set to head elsewhere. Marca reports Real Madrid have a four-year agreement in place with Alaba, who has passed his medical.

- Borussia Dortmund seem to be preparing for Jadon Sancho's exit. Sport Bild reports PSV attacker Donyell Malen and Lyon star Memphis Depay, who is also apparently wanted by Barcelona, are targets for Dortmund with Sancho likely to leave at season's end.

- With Andre Villas-Boas having left his post, Marseille are looking for a new coach. Sky Sport reports former Chelsea and Juventus boss Maurizio Sarri has turned down an approach from the Ligue 1 side.

- John Terry is on the list of candidates to become the next Bournemouth manager, according to the Daily Mail. The Championship side sacked Jason Tindall and are said to be looking at the Aston Villa assistant.

- Martin Braithwaite could have left Barcelona. Sport reports the forward turned down a loan move to West Brom during the previous transfer window.

Mauricio Pochettino said Paris Saint-Germain should be left to work on signings "in silence" amid Barcelona's anger over Lionel Messi.

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman hit out at PSG on Wednesday, saying the Ligue 1 giants had been "disrespectful" by regularly discussing Messi.

Angel Di Maria became the latest person connected to PSG to discuss Messi, with coach Pochettino, sporting director Leonardo and Neymar having also spoken about the Argentina star in recent months.

Pochettino would not be drawn into discussing Di Maria's comments about Messi, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

"I am not going to talk about what our player's comment, as you know, because my words can be misunderstood, and then these words can go to another country in another way," he told a news conference after a 3-0 win over Nimes.

"I have to be focused on trying to improve this team, from now to the end of the season, to try to achieve our goals, knowing that it is not going to be easy because we are in a difficult competition, in a weird situation, with the pandemic that it is affecting all of us, and also football.

"And then, the Champions League and Coupe de France, we will try to compete and go as far as we can, try to win, because in Paris, is all about to win.

"But I don't want to give names, don't want to think on the future. I'm sure that the club is working in different situations to improve. So let's leave the club working in silence, in secret, in order to have a better team and with more possibilities to win."

Di Maria opened the scoring in PSG's win over Nimes before goals from Pablo Sarabia and Kylian Mbappe.

Pochettino praised the performance of Di Maria, who is also out of contract at the end of the season.

"I'm happy with [Di Maria's] performance and compromise within the team," he said.

"I think that as every player, he needs time but Angel is a very important player for the team. He's been at this club for many years. So I'm happy for his goal and his performance."

Ronald Koeman hit out at Paris Saint-Germain, accusing the Ligue 1 giants of being "disrespectful" for continuing to talk about Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Messi, 33, has been heavily linked with a move to PSG when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Angel Di Maria became the latest person connected to PSG to discuss Messi, with coach Mauricio Pochettino, sporting director Leonardo and Neymar having also spoken about the Argentina star in recent months.

After opening the scoring in Wednesday's 3-0 win over Nimes, Di Maria – who is also out of contract at season's end – talked up a potential PSG move for his compatriot.

"I hope to renew with PSG. Play with Messi? Yes, hopefully, I think there are many possibilities," he said.

"I have to be calm, think about my own thing and continue in Paris because I am very happy here."

Barcelona coach Koeman is growing tired of the Ligue 1 giants speaking about his star.

After a stunning comeback to get past Granada in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals, Koeman hit out at PSG, who face Barca in the Champions League last 16 beginning this month.

"It is disrespectful that so many people from PSG talk about Messi. They are spicing up the [Champions League] game," he said.

"He is still a Barca player."

Barcelona took a "giant step" towards a successful season with a thrilling comeback win over Granada, Ronald Koeman said.

The Catalans claimed a remarkable 5-3 Copa del Rey quarter-final win on Wednesday after forcing extra time at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes.

Barca were trailing 2-0 as late as the 87th minute only for Antoine Griezmann and Jordi Alba to force the additional period, after Francisco Trincao, Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele had all hit the woodwork.

Griezmann made it 3-2 only for a Fede Vico penalty to level matters again, but Frenkie de Jong scored from a rebound and Alba smashed home a stunning volley to secure Barca's semi-final spot.

Koeman last week suggested his side were not ready to compete for the biggest trophies and the Barca boss remains unconvinced they could end 2020-21 winning LaLiga, the Copa and the Champions League.

However, he believes their fightback against Diego Martinez's side could perhaps be a turning point in their campaign.

He said: "I was referring to winning the three trophies: LaLiga, the Champions League and the Copa. I don't believe [we can win all three]. But I've always believed in the team. We've improved many things, above all in character. We've taken a giant step forward.

"It helps to have spirit and strength in the team. That's the way. We've worked a lot to get to the moment when the team starts to believe and it's a proud feeling. And it's come at an important moment of the season.

"We started the game really strongly, we played really well in the first 20 minutes. A mistake in playing where we shouldn't be playing cost us a goal.

"You have to highlight the team's mentality because we never gave up. We had really bad luck with the woodwork. We did everything to win the game.

"We deserved it due to the mentality of the team, but on this occasion, we showed we know how to suffer. We knew how to defend the result and we deserved the win."

Griezmann proved pivotal to the result, scoring Barca's first before setting up Alba's equaliser with a cushioned header from a Messi cross.

The France star then converted an emphatic header of his own and teed up Alba's spectacular second with a clever outside-of-the-foot pass.

It was the first time the €120million man had been directly involved in four goals in the same game for the Catalans.

"I'm really pleased with Griezmann," said Koeman. "I know it's really important for him. The team needs him. With his effectiveness, we're more dangerous."

Barcelona fought back from the brink of defeat to beat Granada 5-3 after extra time in an extraordinary Copa del Rey quarter-final at Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes.

Ronald Koeman's side won at this ground 4-0 in LaLiga last month but were facing a battle when Kenedy scored against the run of play after an error by Samuel Umtiti, making just his fifth start of the season.

Roberto Soldado struck a second on the break early in the second half and Barca struggled to get back into the contest against an exemplary Granada defence and inspired goalkeeper Aaron Escandell.

However, Griezmann turned in Lionel Messi's cross from deep with two minutes of normal time left and the same combination set up Jordi Alba to head in an injury-time equaliser.

Griezmann's fine header put Barca ahead in extra time but Fede Vico struck back straight away from the penalty spot, only for Frenkie de Jong and Alba again to settle the encounter at last.

Aaron was forced into six saves in the first half as Barca dominated proceedings, with a double stop to deny Messi and Francisco Trincao the pick of them.

It was Barca's own slack play that gifted Granada the lead, as some loose passing in defence ended in Umtiti being dispossessed by Alberto Soro, who teed up Kenedy for a tap-in.

Granada delivered a sucker-punch in the first two minutes of the second half. Angel Montoro intercepted a Griezmann pass and launched a long ball forward to Soldado, who raced away from Umtiti and slotted past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Trincao, Ousmane Dembele and Messi all hit the woodwork and Griezmann was denied from an overhead kick by a brilliant Aaron save, but the France forward turned a Messi cross in off post and keeper to give his side a lifeline.

The same Messi pass and Griezmann run teed up Alba to net an unlikely header, but Luis Suarez almost snatched a win for Granada with seconds left, the substitute dragging a shot wide after racing through on goal.

Aaron could do nothing to deny Griezmann's emphatic second in extra time as he rose highest to head in Alba's cross, but Vico restored parity three minutes later from the spot after Carlos Neva won a soft penalty from Sergino Dest.

But De Jong denied Granada a second semi-final in succession, side-footing into the net after Aaron had parried Messi's shot in the 109th minute, and Alba blasted home a stunning volley from Griezmann's clever pass to make certain the contest was over.

Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar has reportedly decided to stay with the Ligue 1 giants.

Neymar's contract is due to expire in 2022 and the forward has repeatedly been linked with a return to Barcelona.

But the Brazil international seems set to remain at PSG.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR AGREES TO FOUR-YEAR EXTENSION WITH PSG

Neymar has agreed to a four-year extension with PSG, according to TNT Sports Brasil correspondent Marcelo Bechler.

The deal will keep Neymar, who arrived at PSG from Barcelona in 2017, tied to the Parc des Princes until 2026.

Neymar has won nine domestic trophies, including three Ligue 1 titles, since arriving in Paris.

 

ROUND-UP

- Also out of contract next year is Neymar's star PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe. TNT Sports Brasil reports selling the forward, who has been linked to Real Madrid previously, would give the Ligue 1 giants the chance to sign Barcelona star Lionel Messi or Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos, or both.

- Real Madrid could also be set for other business. AS reports LaLiga's champions are prepared to sell Vinicius Junior in the next transfer window, with the 20-year-old having netted just three times in 25 appearances in all competitions this term.

- Arkadiusz Milik joined Marseille on loan from Napoli in January, but Juventus are still considering a move for the forward, according to CalcioMercato.

- Dele Alli was reportedly wanted by PSG in January, but the midfielder ended up staying at Tottenham. The Telegraph reports Spurs chairman Daniel Levy blocked Alli's move due to the club's injuries and run of poor form.

- A free agent, Daniel Sturridge's future remains unclear. The Daily Mail reports the forward is wanted by MLS clubs.

Antoine Griezmann being a Barcelona success is important to head coach Ronald Koeman.

Barca are preparing to face Granada in an away Copa del Rey quarter-final on Wednesday.

They are favourites to win the competition after Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid crashed out against lower-league opposition.

Griezmann scored twice and set up another as Barca won 4-0 at Los Carmenes in LaLiga last month.

Ahead of their latest meeting in the cup, Koeman praised the World Cup winner for his turnaround in form, which was partly sparked by that outing.

He has five goals in his last seven games, including the winner in Sunday's 2-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao.

"All season Antoine is working well," Koeman said at his pre-match news conference.

"[He has done] what a player has to do, which is help the team to the maximum. 

"With Antoine there have been moments when he has been scoring and those when he hasn't scored, but they are phases that any footballer goes through, we have all experienced it. 

"Now he is very good and that is important to me. We want to get the most out of each player in the squad."

Griezmann has seven goal involvements in his last six games at Los Carmenes and, prior to his star showing in the last meeting, had netted just three times in his first 16 LaLiga appearances this season.

Barca have five straight away wins in LaLiga, four of which have come with clean sheets. It is their best run under Koeman, who hopes they can carry that form into the cup.

"It is a different game because it is the cup and they are always different games from the championship," said the Dutchman.

"Also I think that both they [Granada] and we have played many games – they have had even more. 

"Do not forget that at the start of the other game we had quite a few complications in playing our game. We expect a difficult game in which we have to be very focused."

Koeman would not go as far as saying the Copa del Rey was now his top priority over LaLiga.

But he concedes it is the most likely route to domestic silverware with Atletico Madrid sitting 10 points clear with a game in hand atop the table.

Koeman added: "The cup is not more important than the league, but it is true that it is closer [to being won] because there are fewer games left. 

"It is not normal for Atletico Madrid to get so many points, they are very strong. In the league we can only wait for them to fail. We have lost many points at home that cannot be dropped.

"I don't give more importance to Wednesdays game than to the weekend [against Real Betis], but we want to keep winning and get through this tie to be in the semi-final. 

"Squad rotation depends on the physical condition of the players. It is a vital match, but if there is a player who is not physically well, he will not play."

Ronald Koeman believes it is "absurd" that a report over Lionel Messi's contract is still dominating headlines but has been delighted with the way his captain has responded.

The build-up to Barcelona's Copa del Rey quarter-final at Granada has been overshadowed by an apparent leak of Messi's deal at Camp Nou, which was signed in 2017.

A report by El Mundo on Sunday claimed the contract, which expires at the end of this season, is worth more than €555million.

It was already believed that Messi was on an extraordinary salary at Barcelona, given he is recognised by many as the greatest active player of the world's most popular sport.

But the leaking of the exact sums payable to Messi has caused a stir, coming at a time when the embattled LaLiga giants are in financial trouble.

Koeman has previously rejected any suggestion that Messi's contract was connected to Barcelona facing a financial hurdle.

He was unhappy that it remained the central story prior to Wednesday's last-eight tie, with Barca favourites to win the cup due to Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid already being eliminated.

"It is something absurd that you [the media] have been on with this issue for three or four days," Koeman said at his pre-match news conference.

"The team and Leo have responded in the way that I like, which is to try to leave the things from the press aside and concentrate on the game.

"I am happy with the team and how he [Messi] is currently working."

Koeman has previously said anyone inside Barca who is found to have leaked sensitive details would be fired.

But he reiterated his comments made after Sunday's 2-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao – where Messi scored his 650th club goal – that the leak could well have come from outside.

Koeman added: "It can come from many places, because there is always competition between the big clubs and there are people from outside with friends inside.

"As a coach I defend the players and the club. Leaks like these are not good and have bad intentions.

"When things come out it is important to be more united in the dressing room."

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman remains hopeful Lionel Messi will opt to stay at Camp Nou, but is "not confident" about that outcome.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and has been heavily linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

The 33-year-old wanted to leave last season after the club finished without a trophy and he fell out with then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Messi agreed to stay for the last year of his contract when Barca refused his request and has impressed under Koeman, scoring nine goals in his last 10 games.

But Koeman is not convinced a happier Messi this season will result in him remaining with the club for the long term.

"I'm not confident about that," Koeman said to The Athletic.

"I'm hopeful, yes, about this because he's still a great player and he's still winning matches for us, for the team. 

"I'm enjoying being his coach, if you look at his qualities every day in the training sessions, it's incredible. 

"Of course, he came as a young kid to Barcelona. And I still don't see Leo Messi in another shirt other than the Barca shirt."

Messi reached 650 Barca goals in Sunday's 2-1 home win over Athletic Bilbao.

After the match, Koeman said Barcelona "can't aspire to much" without Messi as he reflected on a leak by El Mundo which claimed the deal his captain signed in 2017 is worth more than €555million.

Koeman was thrilled to get the Barcelona job ahead of 2020-21 but reflected on how tough it had been to immediately handle the Messi saga, which was already under way and has raged on since.

"It was a difficult time because he's still the best player, but he was angry about some situations in the club," added Koeman. 

"And he was not happy that he was in a team who lost 8-2 against Bayern Munich in the quarter-final of the Champions League. 

"Of course, he was angry, he had to leave, he wanted to leave the team.

"First of all, what I said to the club was, 'OK, it's not my problem. It's a problem between the club and Leo Messi. And you have to resolve that'. 

"Finally, the club said, 'We don’t make a transfer for him. He needs to stay'. It was a difficult time for Leo but he finally accepted it."

Koeman has not had any issues with Messi's attitude.

The former Netherlands head coach added: "I spoke to him in his house before we started the season and I made plans with him and he was really enthusiastic.

"I knew that he had some problems with the club and I was out of that.

"I said to Leo, 'I'm really happy if you stay. If you don't stay, it's your decision and it's what you have to handle with the club. If you stay, you will be part of the team and this will be your position to get all the best out of yourself'. 

"Little by little, he accepted that situation. And look how he is playing in the last few weeks, he is really involved in the club, in the team. 

"But nobody knows what will happen in the future."

Achraf Hakimi only moved to Inter from Real Madrid at the start of the 2020-21 season.

But the future of the Morocco international is already making headlines.

Will Hakimi still be an Inter player at the end of the campaign?

 

TOP STORY – HAKIMI WANTED IN ENGLAND

Manchester City are interested in signing Inter star Achraf Hakimi, according to Calciomercato.

Hakimi has established himself as a key player for Antonio Conte's Inter after arriving from Real Madrid.

But Inter – in the spotlight amid reported financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic – are facing a battle to keep Hakimi, with Chelsea and Arsenal also chasing the Morocco international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato says Napoli want to bring back former head coach Maurizio Sarri. Gennaro Gattuso is under pressure and Sky Sport Italia claims the two parties will part in June. Sarri left Napoli for Chelsea in 2018. Former boss Rafael Benitez has also been linked.

Lionel Messi could help bitter rivals Madrid. According to El Chiringuito, Messi's proposed switch from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain could aid Madrid in their quest to prise Kylian Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu. Mbappe has also been linked to Liverpool.

- Fabrizio Romano says Liverpool, City, Chelsea, Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus are interested in Erling Haaland, but Borussia Dortmund have no intention of losing both the Norwegian and Manchester United target Jadon Sancho at the end of the season.

Barcelona defender Jean-Clair Todibo has joined Nice on an initial loan deal until the end of the season.

The Ligue 1 club have the option to buy the 21-year-old for €8.5million when the loan concludes, in an agreement that could be worth an additional €7m to Barca in variables.

Todibo joined Barcelona from Toulouse two years ago when he was regarded as one of the brightest young talents in European football.

His two LaLiga games in the Blaugrana's ultimately successful 2018-19 title defence yielded neither a win nor a goal, with a 0-0 draw at Huesca on debut followed by a 2-0 loss at Celta Vigo.

This is Todibo's third consecutive January move after he joined Schalke on loan last year, going on to make eight Bundesliga appearances before a €25m purchase option was declined.

Opportunities to progress at Barcelona this season were hindered by a positive coronavirus test in August.

The switch to Nice has been made possible by Benfica agreeing to terminate Todibo's loan without the player making a single appearance in the Portuguese top flight.

Manchester City have loaned highly-rated defender Taylor Harwood-Bellis to Championship side Blackburn Rovers. 

The 19-year-old made his debut for City against Preston North End in the EFL Cup in September 2019 and has gone on to make a further eight appearances across all competitions for Pep Guardiola's side. 

Harwood-Bellis will spend the rest of the 2020-21 campaign with Rovers, who are eighth in the Championship. 

His move means it is unlikely fellow central defender Eric Garcia will be allowed to join LaLiga giants Barcelona. 

There had been suggestions Garcia would return to his boyhood club before the close of the mid-season transfer window on Monday, but Guardiola will want to ensure he has adequate cover for the heart of his defence in the second half of the season. 

The 20-year-old's contract expires at the end of this season and it appears he will have to wait until then to rejoin Barca.

Former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has denied leaking Lionel Messi's contract details and says the Argentina captain deserves his eye-watering salary.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo on Sunday reported that the deal Barca captain Messi signed in 2017 could earn him in excess of €555million.

The leak of the mercurial forward's earnings came as it was revealed Barca's debts have reportedly risen above €1.1billion, with the coronavirus pandemic having such a huge impact. 

With much talk of who might have been responsible for passing on such confidential information, Bartomeu says he had nothing to do with it.

He told Esport3: "It's a very serious issue and it's totally illegal to leak professional contracts.

"Speaking on TV and making accusations is easy, but it's not a joke and this will end up in court."

Bartomeu added: "By the way, Leo deserves what he earns. Both for professional and commercial reasons. Without the pandemic, Barcelona could easily pay those figures."

LaLiga president Javier Tebas also said it is unfair to put Barca's financial situation down to Messi's staggering contract, which expires at the end of this season.

He wrote on Twitter: "Barcelona's delicate financial situation [like other big clubs] is not Messi's fault but the devastating effect of COVID.

"Without the pandemic, the income generated by the best player in history would prop up that expenditure. The sensationalism that surrounds the matter is unfair."

Will he stay or will he go?

That is the question regarding Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, who is a reported target for Real Madrid and Liverpool.

If Mbappe opts to call time on his PSG stall, the French champions are still aiming high.

 

TOP STORY – LIFE WITHOUT MBAPPE IN PARIS?

Paris Saint-Germain are more determined than ever to give head coach Mauricio Pochettino a dream forward line amid doubts over Kylian Mabppe's future, according to Le10 Sport.

Mbappe – out of contract in 2022 – has been heavily linked with LaLiga champions Real Madrid and Premier League holders Liverpool.

If Mbappe does not remain in Paris, PSG will step up their pursuit of Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.

 

ROUND-UP

Massimiliano Allegri has turned down Roma as he waits for Madrid, repots Todofichajes. Zinedine Zidane is under mounting pressure in the Spanish capital, while it is a similar situation for Roma boss Paulo Fonseca.

Manchester City are willing to sign a striker and Messi this offseason, according to The Athletic. With City yet to offer Sergio Aguero a new deal, Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Inter pair Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku are reported targets as Pep Guardiola's side also eye soon-to-be free agent Messi.

- Fabrizio Romano says Liverpool have agreed to sign Ben Davies from Preston North End ahead of Monday's deadline day. Jurgen Klopp has been eyeing a defender due to the club's injury crisis.

Dele Alli's proposed switch from Tottenham to PSG is not progressing, reports Romano. Struggling for game time at Spurs, Alli has been keen for a loan move to PSG, but Tottenham are unwilling to sanction a departure as Inter block Christian Eriksen's return.

Leicester City are the frontrunners to sign Arsenal's Ainsley Maitland-Niles, claims The Mirror.

Barcelona's financial situation is due to the coronavirus pandemic and not Lionel Messi, insisted LaLiga president Javier Tebas.

Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported on Sunday that the deal superstar captain Messi signed in 2017 – due to expire at season's end – is worth more than €555million over four years.

It comes after Messi attempted to leave Camp Nou prior to the 2020-21 campaign and amid Barca's financial woes caused by the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.

But Tebas wrote via Twitter: "Barcelona's delicate financial situation [like other big clubs] is not Messi's fault but the devastating effect of COVID.

"Without the pandemic, the income generated by the best player in history would prop up that expenditure.

"The sensationalism that surrounds the matter is unfair."

Messi, who has been heavily linked with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League giants Manchester City as his contract expires, scored his 650th Barca goal in Sunday's 2-1 LaLiga victory against Athletic Bilbao.

The six-time Ballon d'Or opened the scoring with a 20th-minute free-kick before Jordi Alba's own goal restored parity, though Griezmann secured maximum points 16 minutes from the end.

Messi has scored two direct free-kick goals from his last four attempts for Barcelona in all competitions, after scoring just one from his previous 62 attempts.

Of Messi's 650 goals for Barcelona, 49 of them have been direct free-kicks – 38 in LaLiga.

Messi has 12 goals and two assists in the league for Barca, who are second and 10 points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid.

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