Robert Lewandowski was "unbelievably proud" to follow in the footsteps of Bayern Munich legend Gerd Muller by scoring 40 goals in a Bundesliga season.

Muller's long-standing record from the 1971-72 campaign was finally matched by Lewandowski on Saturday.

The Bayern striker's landmark goal came from the penalty spot in a 2-2 draw with Freiburg, just his 28th league appearance of the season.

Lewandowski has netted with 31.75 per cent of his 126 shots in the Bundesliga in 2020-21, although he passed up a pair of late chances to move clear of Muller.

The forward's final opportunity to reach 41 will come next week against Augsburg, but Lewandowski is for now delighted simply to draw level at the top.

"I achieved a goal that once seemed impossible to imagine," Lewandowski wrote on Twitter with the hashtags "#Lewy40" and "#4EverGerd".

"I'm so unbelievably proud to make history for @FCBayern, and to play a part in creating the stories that fans will tell their children - following in the footsteps of legends like Gerd Muller."

Having also provided seven assists this season, Lewandowski has 47 goal involvements, by far the most of all players in Europe's 'top five' leagues.

Lionel Messi, the Barcelona superstar, is second with 38 combined goals and assists this term.

Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski matched Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 goals in a Bundesliga season on Saturday.

Muller, another Bayern legend, netted 40 times across the 1971-72 campaign.

However, his record now looks set to tumble after Lewandowski equalled his haul with a game to play, converting a penalty to open the scoring in a 2-2 draw at Freiburg.

The Poland international revealed a t-shirt reading "4EVER GERD" with a picture of Muller on it, while his celebrations included receiving a guard of honour from Bayern players and staff by the visiting dugout as he hailed the historic goal, which arrived in the 26th minute.

Lewandowski might have then moved ahead of Muller on Saturday, too, but passed up a pair of late opportunities, first denied by Freiburg's Mark Flekken and then somehow scuffing a second effort straight at the goalkeeper from close to the goal line.

His final opportunity to set a new outright benchmark will come as Bayern conclude their season in Munich against Augsburg next Saturday.

Lewandowski's 40 goals this season have come across 28 games. Five of them have been with his head, with 31 on his right foot and four from his left.

A penalty box specialist, Lewandowski has netted 37 times from inside the area, while eight of his strikes have come from the penalty spot.

Having netted 40 times from 126 shots, the former Borussia Dortmund man has an outstanding shot conversion rate of 31.75 per cent.

With seven assists, Lewandowski leads all players in Europe's 'top five' leagues in 2020-21 with 47 goal involvements, clear of Lionel Messi's 38 for Barcelona in second place.

Robert Lewandowski equalled Gerd Muller's record of 40 Bundesliga goals in a single season as Bayern Munich were held to a 2-2 draw by a determined Freiburg on Saturday.

With a ninth-straight league title already sewn up, the focus for Bayern was all about Lewandowski's pursuit of a notable milestone that was set back in the 1971-72 season.

Lewandowski had closed in on the magical number with a hat-trick against Borussia Monchengladbach last time out, helping Hansi Flick's side celebrate being crowned champions in style with a 6-0 win at the Allianz Arena.

The Poland international matched the legendary Muller's haul thanks to a first-half penalty awarded following the involvement of the video assistant referee.

On-field official Florian Badstubner deemed Lukas Kubler had pulled down Thomas Muller at a corner after receiving a recommendation to review the incident, allowing Bayern's number nine to reach 40 from the spot.

The scorer received a guard of honour from Bayern team-mates and staff next to the visiting dugout in the immediate aftermath, though he failed to take two glorious chances late in proceedings that would have seen him move clear in the history books.

Less than three minutes after conceding the opener, Freiburg capitalised on a set-piece situation to draw level. Vincenzo Grifo's corner into the near post was met by Manuel Gulde, who beat Niklas Sule to the ball and flicked a header beyond Alexander Nubel – handed a first league start as Manuel Neuer watched on from the bench.

While Serge Gnabry had a tap-in finish ruled out for offside early in the second half, Bayern went back in front in the 53rd minute when Muller's volley across the face of the box was finished off by a sliding Leroy Sane.

However - after Mark Flekken had denied Lewandowski, who also scuffed another opportunity at to the goalkeeper - Freiburg captain Christian Gunter fired in a deserved equaliser to earn his side a point.

Dayot Upamecano has claimed he turned down an opportunity to join Manchester United as a teenager because Ralf Rangnick presented such a persuasive alternative.

The defender, who will leave RB Leipzig to join Bayern Munich at the end of this season, was targeted by United as a teenage prospect when he was with French club Valenciennes.

He elected to turn down United and move to Austrian club Salzburg, Upamecano says, after being wowed by Rangnick's precise vision for his career.

At the time, Rangnick was sporting director for Salzburg and Leipzig, with both clubs part of the Red Bull empire, and talking Upamecano into a move proved one of many successes he achieved in that role.

United had tempted the youngster, however, and Upamecano told The Athletic: "I was a young boy. I wanted to sign for them straight away. Manchester United! But then my parents took me aside and said: 'Let's think carefully about this'.

"We thought about it for a long time and then decided that going 'etape par etape' [step by step] was the best option for me. Everything Ralf said came true."

Upamecano was loaned out to Liefering before returning to make an impact with Salzburg while still in his teens, and at the age of 18, in January 2017, he was moved through the ranks to join Leipzig.

Rangnick, who had already enjoyed one spell as head coach of Leipzig, returned for another in 2018, and Upamecano said: "Ralf was the most important coach for me. He's a professor, a scientist of football, and he also cares about everything. He's always there for you with advice on matters football and non-football, every single day."

Before joining Bayern, Upamecano has the chance on Thursday to land a DFB-Pokal title with Leipzig as they head into the final in Berlin against Borussia Dortmund.

Julian Nagelsmann, who succeeded Rangnick in 2019, has been another major influence on the career of Upamecano, who describes the 33-year-old as "an unbelievable manager".

Like Upamecano, Nagelsmann will also move to Bayern at the season's end.

"He really takes you to another level," Upamecano said. "For example, because of Julian, I have improved a lot in terms of opening the game from the defence with precise passes into the midfield, and he told me to use my dribbling abilities in order to create spaces going forward."

That is borne out by data that shows Upamecano has progressed significantly while at Leipzig.

Following his mid-season arrival in 2017, Upamecano had an overall passing accuracy of 78.6 per cent in the Bundesliga, while his accuracy with passes ending in the final third of the field was just 46.2 per cent.

These numbers belong firmly in Upamecano's past, because his precision now shows a marked improvement.

In 2017-18, he stepped up those percentages to 83.7 and 55 in the Bundesliga, while attempting 130 passes into the final third of the pitch.

But in 2019-20, his overall accuracy stood at 89.1 per cent and his accuracy into the final third was a healthy 74 per cent, with Upamecano attempting 232 balls into that attacking area in league games. Each figure put him in the top 10 for Bundesliga defenders who played at least 20 games.

This season has seen a minor step back, but an 88.5 per cent total accuracy and 70 per cent accuracy into the final third continues to reflect well on the French defender, a player United must sorely regret failing to recruit.

What does the future hold for Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez?

The pair helped Inter to their first Scudetto since 2009-10.

But both could depart San Siro as Inter look to cut costs.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU AND LAUTARO TO LEAVE INTER?

Inter could be forced to sell star forwards Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Antonio Conte's Inter have been crowned Serie A champions this season, but the Nerazzurri have financial problems as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lukaku has been linked with former club Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid, while team-mate Martinez has long been tipped to join Barca.

Alessandro Bastoni is also listed in the report amid links to Manchester City and Liverpool, while star full-back Achraf Hakimi is said to be of interest to Arsenal and Bayern Munich.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Thursday's Mundo Deportivo reports Barca look at the idea of signing City's Sergio Aguero favourably. Aguero is out of contract at season's end and he has been linked with Inter, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham. But the Argentina star reportedly wants to play alongside countryman Lionel Messi. A move for Aguero would not prevent Barca from signing fellow free agent and Lyon captain Memphis Depay. Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland is also a target for the LaLiga giants. It comes amid doubts over the future of head coach Ronald Koeman.

Manchester United and Arsenal are battling to sign Sparta Prague sensation Abdallah Sima, claims the Mirror. Sima is reportedly valued at £25million (€29m).

- Sky Sports says United are interested in Juventus defender Cristian Romero, who could cost £34m (€40m). The 23-year-old Argentinian joined Atalanta on a two-year loan deal from Juve and the Serie A side have an option to buy Romero. United have also been linked with Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Lille defender Sven Botman, Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres and Real Madrid duo Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.

- Former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard could replace Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace after emerging as a leading contender, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski said it would be amazing to break Gerd Muller's Bundesliga record after taking another giant step towards history.

Lewandowski scored a hat-trick in a 6-0 demolition of Borussia Monchengladbach as Bayern celebrated a ninth successive Bundesliga title on Saturday.

Poland international Lewandowski took his league tally to 39 for the season, moving him to within one of Muller's all-time Bundesliga single-season record of 40 set in 1971-72.

"I have the chance to break this record," Lewandowski, who claimed his 249th Bundesliga victory – surpassing Claudio Pizarro as the foreign player with the most wins in the league, said. "It won't be easy, for sure. Ok, we have two games but if I want to break it, I have to score two goals.

"I have to work hard in the next game because I know it won't be easy. But to break the record would be something amazing for me as well because if you have 34 games – even less in my situation this season – it will be something.

"I have to believe it can happen. I have the chance. I have to be ready for this."

Bayern were crowned Bundesliga champions before kicking a ball thanks to Borussia Dortmund's dramatic win over RB Leipzig.

Hansi Flick's Bayern proceeded to put on a worthy celebration against Gladbach, humbling the visitors at Allianz Arena to maintain their stranglehold on the Bundesliga – equalling the record in Europe's top-five divisions (Juventus) with their ninth straight league crown.

Bayern won their 30th Bundesliga title (31-time German champions overall). Indeed, 52 per cent of the 58 trophies since the Bundesliga was founded in 1963 have gone to the Bavarian powerhouse.

For Bayern, it is their 16th title this millennium. Dortmund, Gladbach (five each) and Werder Bremen (four) have a combined total of 14 championships since the league was founded. 

"We knew one hour before the game for sure that we were already champions," added Lewandowski, who has now scored 201 Bundesliga goals for Bayern – after Muller (365 for Bayern), he is only the second player in league history to net 200-plus goals for a single team.

"But for us, it was more important to show on the pitch why we are champions and to show the best football. What we did during the game was spectacular, it was amazing because we scored so many goals. We showed that we are the best this season."

Thomas Muller joked Robert Lewandowski is "not normal" after the Bayern Munich star scored a hat-trick to close in on a Bundesliga record.

Bayern were crowned Bundesliga champions on Saturday before kicking a ball thanks to Borussia Dortmund's dramatic win over RB Leipzig.

Hansi Flick's side proceeded to put on a worthy celebration against Borussia Monchengladbach, hammering them 6-0 at Allianz Arena to mark their ninth straight title in sensational style.

Lewandowski was integral, scoring a hat-trick to take his tally of league goals to the campaign for 39, moving him to within one of Gerd Muller's all-time Bundesliga single-season record of 40 set in 1971-72.

With two games remaining – against Freiburg and Augsburg respectively – it seems almost certain that Lewandowski will etch his name into the record books, and current team-mate Muller remains in awe at his prowess.

"We do have to say, that we as a team try our hardest for him. But how he is able to score those goals is not normal as well," he joked.

Muller has now won 10 Bundesliga titles, though conceded it has not always been a smooth ride this season. Indeed, his fellow long-time team-mates Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez and David Alaba, along with head coach Flick, are all leaving at the end of the campaign.

"I do have to say that the game was more championship-like than the actual championship," Muller said.

"It was a great game today. We were there from the first until the last minute. Thanks to all the emotions and the euphoria, we knew that we had won the championship before the actual match.

"If you look at the big picture, then it was very hard for us over the past two weeks to be honest. Through all the talks I had with the others, the elimination in the Champions League really hurt us.

"We felt like we could do something in the Champions League this season. But we were able to overcome that in the recent two weeks. We were able to properly take a deep breath.

"There is not a lot of romance in this business, but we tried to have as much romance at the end of the season today as we could.

"Jerome will leave, David will leave, Javi will leave and the coach will leave. I know that Hansi hasn't been here for so long, but the other three were my team-mates for nearly ten years now, so they were always there when we won the championship for nine times in a row."

When it comes to Lewandowski, however, Muller added: "Well that is not about romance. I don't know how many hat-tricks and braces this guy had. It is more like mathematics!"

It proved to be a bittersweet moment for Flick, who is entering the final two games of a short but hugely successful tenure in which Bayern have won seven trophies.

"It's outstanding what the team has achieved," he said. "You could see that we were ready. That's the mentality of this team. The game today was worthy of champions.

"The whole club creates this atmosphere that you can be successful. Bayern has always been my club, I was a big fan when I was young, Gerd Muller was my big idol, Paul Breitner, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

"I have now experienced two fantastic years here. To experience this togetherness on a daily basis is outstanding. These two years have been very valuable for me."

Robert Lewandowski scored a hat-trick as Bayern Munich marked their ninth successive Bundesliga title in style with a 6-0 thrashing of Borussia Monchengladbach.

Borussia Dortmund's earlier defeat of RB Leipzig meant Bayern had their 30th Bundesliga crown sealed before kick-off on Saturday, and though no fans were in attendance at Alianz Arena, Hansi Flick's team nevertheless put on a party befitting of their achievement.

Lewandowski was sensational, scoring twice in the first half as Bayern stormed into a 4-0 lead – Thomas Muller and Kingsley Coman also on target – before scoring his 39th league goal of the season from the spot, taking him to within one of Gerd Muller's all-time single-season record.

A red card for Tanguy Kouassi somewhat marred Bayern's second half, though Leroy Sane rounded off the rout late on.

Recent upheaval might have leant a touch of anti-climax to Bayern Munich's latest title win but 2020-21 has shown their total dominance of the Bundesliga does not look likely to end anytime soon.

A thrilling quarter-final tie against Paris Saint-Germain saw Bayern's reign as European champions end as they were eliminated on away goals.

The aftermath of that dramatic Champions League showdown saw speculation mount over Hansi Flick's future and the Bavarian giants were in the unusual position of naming the coach of their nearest rivals, RB Leipzig's Julian Nagelsmann, as their next boss before domestic glory had been rubber stamped.

However, familiar celebrations can now begin after rivals Borussia Dortmund beat second-placed RB Leipzig 3-2, with the prints of some familiar faces all over this latest success.

FC Hollywood on cloud nine

Continuing a streak started by Jupp Heynckes' treble winners in 2012-13, Bayern have now won the Bundesliga for nine seasons in a row. Much as this statistic can draw mirth in some quarters over the competitiveness of Germany's top flight, it certainly did not always used to be this way.

Previously, the longest stretch of consecutive titles in a row was three, although on three of the four occasions this occurred, Bayern were the team responsible.

Indeed, Die Roten's 30th crown overall means they have won 52 per cent of the championships on offer since the Bundesliga was founded in 1963. The picture was a little more even before the turn of the century, with Bayern having now won 16 this millennium.

Bayern have equalled the record established by Juventus in Europe's top five leagues and can go clear on their own with 10 in a row next term, given the collapse of Andrea Pirlo's men in Serie A this season.

This era of success is built upon a number of mainstays. Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer and outgoing trio David Alaba, Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez have been present for all nine of the title wins.

Muller and Alaba now have 10 overall, setting a new player record in Germany, while Martinez is the only player in Bundesliga history to win the title as many as nine times without ever failing to do so in any season.

 

Hansi off with incredible record

Flick's involvement with Bayern has been more fleeting than the stalwarts above, but he has nevertheless left an indelible impression upon one of Europe's great clubs.

His record overall is 68 wins from 83 games, with eight draws and seven defeats. That amounts to an 82 per cent win percentage – a record for any Bayern coach.

Similarly, a goals-per-game average of 2.9 is better than any of his predecessors, numbers that were enhanced during the German record-breaking run of 23 straight wins in all competitions between February and September 2020.

Consequently, the trophies stacked up and Flick's six major honours amount to one every 14 games.

He averages 2.45 points-per-game from 55 Bundesliga outings, a figure only bettered by Pep Guardiola (2.52 PPG from 102 matches).

 

Hail King Lewy

Flick is likely to reflect fondly upon the fact his brief Bayern tenure has coincided with Robert Lewandowski taking his phenomenal goalscoring exploits to another level.

Even though the Bundesliga boasts the sought-after talents of Erling Haaland and Andre Silva, each of whom have managed 25 top-flight goals this season, the race for the Torjagerkanone has not even been particularly close.

Despite spending a spell on the sidelines recently, arguably decisively when it came to Bayern's derailed Champions League hopes, Lewandowski has scored an astounding 36 goals in 26 appearances, leaving him in direct competition with Gerd Muller's celebrated all-time mark of 40 goals in a single campaign, rather than his contemporaries.

The Poland superstar's haul comes from 112 shots overall and 55 on target. Lewandowski's goals-per-minute average of 60.9 is the best of any Bundesliga player to have scored multiple goals this season.

Among players with 10 goals or more, only Max Kruse (37.04 per cent) has a better shot conversion rate than Lewandowski's 32.14.

He has 30 non-penalty goals, outstripping an expected goals (xG) figure of 21. By way of comparison, Haaland's non-penalty goals to xG comparison is 23 to 19.8 and Silva's is 19 to 18.1.

Like most great strikers, Lewandowski has a fine foil in Thomas Muller, whose 17 assists are comfortably a Bundesliga best this season, placing him five clear of Eintracht Frankfurt's Filip Kostic on 11.

 

Kimmich the man in control

The foundations for Lewandowski's incredible exploits come from Bayern's smooth control of matches and no one has been more responsible for that in 2020-21 than Joshua Kimmich.

A defensive utility man when he broke into the Bayern team under Guardiola, Kimmich is now one of the premier midfielders in world football and at the heart of his club's considerable achievements.

Among Bundesliga midfielders, Kimmich has completed the second-most passes – behind Stuttgart's Wataru Endo (1,479) – with 1,465 at an accuracy of 87.8.

He has supplied 10 assists from 59 chances created, with Kostic (80), Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho (65) and Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku (63) the only players among those classed as midfielders by Opta to have crafted more openings for team-mates.

Kimmich has made 32 interceptions, 35 tackles and is joint-seventh among Bundesliga midfielders when it comes to his 184 recoveries.

 

Time for a Neu last line of defence?

Neuer is now the first goalkeeper to win nine Bundesliga titles, putting him one clear of Oliver Kahn.

However, it might be fair to ask whether his position as Bayern number one might come under renewed threat from understudy Alexander Nubel once Nagelsmann is in position.

Of goalkeepers to have played 20 or more Bundesliga games this season, five – Peter Gulacsi, Lukas Hradecky, Koen Casteels, Alexander Schwolow and Andreas Luthe – have conceded fewer than Neuer's 40.

Similarly, eight clean sheets have him fourth overall behind Gulacsi, Casteels and Stefan Ortega Moreno.

Neuer's 77 saves from 116 shots on target faced give him a save percentage of 65.52 – leaving him around the middle of the pack when it comes to the Bundesliga's elite stoppers. Florian Muller of Freiburg leads the way, repelling 71.07 per cent of shots to have threatened his goal.

Bayern's skipper has an expected goals on target (xGOT) against figure of 40.6. Having conceded 39 non-penalty goals, Neuer has conceded fractionally fewer goals than he would be expected to, given the quality of chances coughed up by a backline lacking its previous assurance. 

 

Nagelsmann could bring fresh solidity to Bayern that would be welcomed by the 35-year-old Neuer, whose aptitude outside of his penalty area enabled Flick to operate with such a daringly high defensive line, sometimes at the expense of the goalkeeper's personal statistics.

Leipzig's number one Gulacsi has only been breached 28 times, but has faced 41 fewer shots on target than Neuer this term, actually giving him a lower save percentage (62.67). His 25 non-penalty goals conceded align with an xGOT of 25.62.

The arrival of Nagelsmann and Leipzig's best defender Dayot Upamecano might well be great news for Neuer, one of the few Bayern players to emerge from this latest success with a few question marks over their form.

Bayern Munich claimed a record-breaking ninth consecutive Bundesliga title thanks to Borussia Dortmund's 3-2 win over RB Leipzig.

Last season's treble winners missed out on Champions League glory this term, but they remain far ahead of their closest rivals in German football.

Bayern were set to have the chance to seal glory when hosting Borussia Monchengladbach later on Saturday but goals from Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho, who struck twice after half-time, gave Dortmund victory over second-placed Leipzig at Signal Iduna Park to complete the formalities.

Before this staggering run, no team had won more than three successive Bundesliga titles.

Bayern have now matched deposed Serie A kings Juventus for the longest streak of domestic championships won by teams from Europe's top five leagues.

The latest championship success for Bayern means they have won the Bundesliga 30 times since the league was founded in 1963, with Dortmund and Gladbach next on the list with five titles each.

Bayern have a 16th title since 2000, underlining their growing domestic dominance, and stalwarts Thomas Muller and David Alaba have both been champions with the club 10 times, setting a new record.

Alaba will leave Bayern at the end of the season, and Hansi Flick has also announced he will depart after barely 18 months at the helm, with the widespread assumption he will become the new Germany national team head coach.

Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann will step in to try to continue the dynasty he was, until very recently, looking to bring down.

Saturday sees the third meeting between Manchester City and Chelsea this season, but crucially not the last.

Both sides advanced through their Champions League semi-finals in dominant fashion this week, setting up an all-Premier League final in Istanbul.

This weekend's game at the Etihad Stadium is a big one for City, who will clinch the title with a win, but it will also be interesting to see how Chelsea approach it.

The Blues were blown away by City under Frank Lampard earlier this season, losing 3-1 at home, yet Thomas Tuchel then masterminded an FA Cup semi-final success against Pep Guardiola's men.

The German will hope to have the upper hand heading into the big European showpiece.

This is far from the first time two teams from the same league have contested the Champions League final, though.

We take a look at the previous seven examples and how the form book looked heading into those matches.
 

Real Madrid 3-0 Valencia – 2000

The change in the competition's format in the 1990s made these clashes a possibility, and the first such match-up was an all-Spanish affair.

Real Madrid were too strong for Valencia in Paris, scoring through Fernando Morientes, Steve McManaman and Raul, but that game was out of keeping with the rest of the campaign.

Madrid finished fifth in LaLiga, two points behind third-placed Valencia, and took just one point from their two league meetings before saving their best performance for the big stage.

Juventus 0-0 Milan (2-3 pens) – 2003

Milan also lagged behind in the league – perhaps a positive omen for Chelsea – before scraping past Serie A champions Juventus on penalties in Manchester.

The Rossoneri finished third, 11 points off the pace despite each side winning 2-1 in their respective home games against one another.

But Milan brushed aside rivals Inter (second in Serie A) in the semi-finals before getting the better of the Bianconeri from 12 yards.

Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (6-5 pens) – 2008

Manchester United set the tone early for their Moscow spot-kick success against Chelsea, also beating the Blues on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the 2007-08 Community Shield.

That curtain-raiser kicked off a superb season for United, who recovered from a slow start in the Premier League to beat Chelsea at home in September. They lost at Stamford Bridge in April but still won the title on the final day.

Even then, Alex Ferguson's side relied on "Terry's slippy", as Guardiola put it, to claim a third European crown.

Borussia Dortmund 1-2 Bayern Munich – 2013

These single-country clashes have become increasingly common in the past decade, starting with a treble triumph for Bayern Munich.

They had lost the 2011-12 final on home turf while finishing runners-up to Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, but they righted both wrongs the following year.

Bayern beat Dortmund in both the DFL-Supercup and the last eight of the DFB-Pokal, while a pair of 1-1 draws in the league protected a 25-point advantage at the summit, setting the stage for Arjen Robben to cap the campaign off at Wembley.

Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid – 2014

Madrid and Atletico matched the Dortmund-Bayern five-match epic 12 months later with a gripping year-long back-and-forth.

Atleti won the league with Los Blancos three points back in third, having crucially lost the home Derbi and then only drawn at the Calderon.

But Madrid proved their worth in knockout ties by winning both legs of a Copa del Rey semi-final and thrashed poor Atleti in extra time in the final game of the season to complete La Decima after Sergio Ramos' 93rd-minute equaliser.

Real Madrid 1-1 Atletico Madrid (5-3 pens) – 2016

It was heartbreak again for Atleti two years later, with these games between familiar foes often so agonisingly close.

Cristiano Ronaldo dispatched the decisive spot-kick in Milan and Atleti did not have a league triumph to fall back on this time.

Neither side could beat Barcelona to the title despite Diego Simeone's men again winning at the Santiago Bernabeu to take four points from their neighbours. Atleti were third, with Madrid second.

Tottenham 0-2 Liverpool – 2019

It is only two years since the last all-English final, although neutrals will hope this year's showpiece is rather more entertaining.

A Moussa Sissoko handball within a matter of seconds took European glory away from Tottenham, who were already underdogs against Liverpool.

Spurs had lost 2-1 home and away against the Reds and trailed them by 26 points in the Premier League, although Jurgen Klopp's men still fell short of City in the title race.

Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka have earned the top 2021 prizes at the Laureus World Sports Awards, while Patrick Mahomes, Lewis Hamilton and Mohamed Salah were all also recognised.

Tennis dominated the individual honours as Nadal collected a fourth award, named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for the second time.

The Spaniard, who has also previously taken the 2006 Breakthrough Award and the 2014 Comeback Award, was selected after winning the French Open to tie Roger Federer's record of 20 grand slam titles.

Nadal, who said he "can't be happier", added: "Winning the French Open and equalling the 20th grand slam of Roger Federer has been an unforgettable moment.

"It means a lot to equal my great rival, but at the same time, my great friend. It's something very special after all the history we have had together on and off court."

Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Osaka, the 2019 Breakthrough winner, claimed a second US Open triumph while supporting the 'Black Lives Matter' movement.

"I think it is important to use my voice, because, for me, I feel like I often hold back a lot and worry about what people think of me, but you know if you have a platform it is very important you use it," the Japanese superstar said.

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Mahomes won the Super Bowl last year and played in the big game again earlier in 2021, making him the latest Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year Award winner.

He and Formula One great Hamilton both joined Osaka in demonstrations against racial inequality.

Two-time Laureus winner Hamilton got his hands on the Athlete Advocate of the Year Award and said: "This past year has been incredibly difficult for so many, but it has also been heartening to see the power of our collective voices spark new conversations and change.

"The impact of each and every one of you who have stood up, is so inspiring, so I want to thank you. Please keep fighting, keep shining your light."

Liverpool's Salah supported a number of causes and led the Reds to Premier League glory, receiving the Laureus Sporting Inspiration Award, but Bayern Munich of the Bundesliga were the World Team of the Year for the second time.

Nadal and Osaka were not the only tennis stars to have their name called, as Billie Jean King took the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award.

Javi Martinez will leave Bayern Munich at the end of this season, the Bundesliga champions have confirmed.

Martinez joined Bayern from Athletic Bilbao in 2012 and straight away went about repaying what was then a club-record outlay of €40million, becoming a key member of their treble-winning squad under Jupp Heynckes.

Should Bayern complete the formalities of winning a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title – one that will in all probability be wrapped up this coming weekend – defensive midfielder Martinez will become the only player in Bundesliga history to have won as many as nine titles without failing to win the championship in any season.

Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer, David Alaba and Jerome Boateng have also been part of all nine of those successive successes, but the latter two will join Martinez and head coach Hansi Flick in leaving Bayern at the end of the campaign as a period of transition under new boss Julian Nagelsmann awaits.

Despite frequently suffering injury setbacks during his time at the Allianz Arena, Martinez has made 266 appearances for Bayern, scoring 14 goals and supplying 11 assists.

"I'm very proud and happy to have been part of the FC Bayern family for nine years. I’d like to thank this great club and especially our fans – you have made Munich my home," the 32-year-old told Bayern's official website.

"I'll never forget these nine years. From the very first day, I felt the 'Mia san mia' and the special nature of FC Bayern.

"I lived for this club, always gave everything for it, and am very happy about the many titles we won together. FC Bayern and its fans will forever be in my heart."

Martinez added a second Champions League to his Bayern haul last season, when Kingsley Coman scored the only goal to down Paris Saint-Germain in Lisbon.

He won a pair of Club World Cups and UEFA Super Cups on the back of those triumphs in Europe's top competition, scoring vital goals in each of the latter games – a last-gasp leveller against Chelsea in 2013 to force a penalty shoot-out and an extra-time winner versus Sevilla last year.

He also won five DFB-Pokals and four DFL-Supercups.

"Javi was a very important player for FC Bayern over nine years, a defining player not just on the pitch but also in the dressing room and all around the club," said sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.

"His track record is almost unparalleled, especially in the big games where he was one who made the difference, starting with the 2013 Champions League final.

"He was versatile, put himself at the service of the team and always gave his all. Javi has his permanent place in the FC Bayern family and will keep it.”

Erling Haaland and Romelu Lukaku appear to be the top forwards on English clubs' shopping lists this off-season.

But Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski may enter the frame amid rumours about his future.

Manchester City and Chelsea are known to be eager to bolster their attacking options and have the funds to finance a major move.

 

TOP STORY – ENGLAND ON LEWANDOWSKI'S RADAR

SportBild reports that Robert Lewandowski's likely next destination will be the English Premier League, if Bayern Munich opt to sell their Polish forward.

The report claims that Lewandowski's agent Pini Zahavi is trying to put pressure on Bayern for a lucrative contract extension or to sell him to one of England's financially powerful clubs.

Lewandowski still has two years to run on his Bayern contract and the Bavarians are believed to not be ready to negotiate.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano claims that Romelu Lukaku is not planning to leave Inter amid interest from Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona, pointing to comments he made following the club's Serie A title triumph on Sunday.

- Romano also claims that Watford, who have won promotion to the Premier League, have begun talks with Inter's Ashley Young who may be available as a free agent.

- Marca reports that PSG are increasingly concerned that Neymar will not sign a contract extension with the club amid talk of a Barcelona move.

- Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer is being tracked by Premier League club Newcastle United, claims the Daily Record.

- Tottenham are interested in Brazilian teenager Rodrigo Varanda who is currently with Corinthians, says The Sun.

Julian Nagelsmann has given his approval to RB Leipzig's choice of Jesse Marsch as his successor and future Bundesliga rival.

American coach Marsch will arrive from Salzburg, close affiliates of the German side, at the end of the season to take over from Bayern Munich-bound Nagelsmann.

The 47-year-old has spent two years as Salzburg boss and previously worked as an assistant coach with Leipzig so knows the club well.

Marsch was also head coach of New York Red Bulls from 2015 to 2018, and Nagelsmann sees him as an easy fit at Leipzig.

"I'm very happy that RB Leipzig have been able to quickly find a successor in Jesse Marsch," Nagelsmann said. "It was important to me that the club find a good coach and that they wouldn't have to deal with too much uncertainty following the news of my departure.

"Jesse Marsch is a very emotional coach and has a good connection to his players. I will definitely look to speak with him at the end of the season. I wish him all the best here and that he continues the club's success."

Nagelsmann will perhaps be mindful of being too helpful as the coaches cross and he leaves for Bayern as Marsch arrives at Leipzig, given they have been Germany's top two sides this season.

Bayern look like scooping the Bundesliga title for a ninth consecutive year. With 71 points from 31 games, they head Leipzig by seven points with three rounds of games remaining.

However, Leipzig are very much in the hunt for cup glory as they head into Friday's DFB-Pokal semi-final against Werder Bremen.

The winner of that tie will face either Borussia Dortmund or Holstein Kiel, the second-tier team that knocked out Bayern in the early stages of the tournament.

"Of course, it would be nice to end my time here by winning the DFB-Pokal," Nagelsmann said on Thursday.

"The pressure is there, but that's normal. If you've reached the semi-finals with your team, then it's obvious that you want to advance to the final and win there."

Quoted on Leipzig's official website, Nagelsmann said: "There's nothing worse than losing a final. If we have the chance to win the trophy, then we'll do everything possible to make that happen.

"We don't need any extra motivation for Friday night. The cup is motivation enough. The team will give it everything they have to meet the expectations. They are highly motivated.

"I still have a good relationship with the team and spoke to the lads. All the outside noise won't affect them. All of my players want to continue improving.

"Our goal is to make it to [the final in] Berlin. We also want to break the 67-point mark in the Bundesliga, in order to set a new [club] record this season."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.