Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich announced on Saturday he is handing over the "stewardship and care" of the club to the trustees of its charitable foundation.

One topic sure to take up plenty of column inches at the end of the season will be the appointment of Manchester United's next permanent manager, but one front-runner may be out of the race already.

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino has been heavily tipped to make a sensational return to the Premier League to take over at Old Trafford.

However, the former Tottenham manager may have already turned down the opportunity while he waits for what he considers to be a better offer from elsewhere.

TOP STORY - POCHETTINO HOLDING OUT FOR REAL MADRID

Pochettino has been linked with the manager's role at Man Utd since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked in November, but has turned the opportunity down as he waits for Real Madrid, according to Sport.

Ralf Rangnick was appointed as interim manager at the Premier League club after Solskjaer's departure and will play a role in deciding on the next permanent Red Devils boss at the end of the campaign.

However, it seems the Argentine may have ruled himself out of contention as he believes he could have an opportunity waiting for him at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The report claims that Los Blancos president Florentino Perez has Pochettino "in mind as one of Madrid's future coaches", and that should the Spanish giants decide to dismiss Carlo Ancelotti at the end of the season, he would be one of the leading candidates to replace the Italian at the helm.

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- PSG are considering an off-season move for Chelsea star N'Golo Kante, whose contract at the Blues expires in 2023, according to the Telegraph.

- The Daily Express reports that Harry Kane may once again try to force a move away from Tottenham if manager Antonio Conte does leave the club.

- Georginio Wijnaldum could leave PSG after only one season, with West Ham, Atletico Madrid and Aston Villa among those interested in the former Liverpool midfielder, says Calciomercato.

- The same publication also believes that RB Leipzig left-back Angelino could leave Germany at the end of the season, with Barcelona, Arsenal and Tottenham all interested in the former Manchester City man.

- Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen will not join another Premier League club when his contract expires at the end of the season, but could move to either Barcelona or Bayern Munich, according to Fabrizio Romano.

- Romano also reports that PSG are "really convinced" to make the loan move of left-back Nuno Mendes from Sporting CP permanent for a fee of around €40million.

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel admits that potential government sanctions for club owner Roman Abramovich are "distracting and worrying" for him and his players.

Abramovich was named in parliament on Thursday as the UK government considers sanctions after Russia's invasion of Ukraine which may impact the Blues.

Labour MP Chris Bryant informed parliament from a leaked 2019 Home Office document that Abramovich had been identified for having links with the Russian state.

The 55-year-old Russian has owned Chelsea since 2003 and invested vast amounts into the European champions with Tuchel admitting the situation had left his mind "clouded".

"We should not pretend that this is not an issue and I agree,” Tuchel told reporters ahead of Sunday's EFL Cup final with Liverpool. “The situation in general, for me and for my staff and for everybody here at the Cobham, for the players, is horrible. Nobody expected this.

“It’s pretty unreal, it’s clouding our minds, it’s clouding excitement towards the final and it brings huge uncertainty. Much more to all people and families who are actually more involved than us. And our best wishes and our regards and thoughts are obviously with them.

“Still, there are so many uncertainties around the situation of our club and of the situation in the UK with scenarios like this that it makes no sense if I comment on it."

The Home Office document linked Abramovich to "corrupt activity and practices" with the Russian state, which he has vehemently disputed along with reports he has a close relationship with Vladimir Putin.

“I am aware of all these scenarios and I am aware of all these discussions at the moment,” Tuchel said. “I would love to take my right not to comment on this until there is a decision made. But we are aware of it and it’s distracting us, it’s worrying us.

"To a certain degree I can understand the opinions and the critical opinions towards the club, towards us who represent that club. I can understand that and we cannot fully free ourselves from it.

“Maybe people understand that me as a coach or the players, we don’t have the insight what is really going on. At the moment we don’t feel responsible for all this. We feel that it is horrible and there can be no doubt about it.

"War in Europe was unthinkable for me for a long period. The impact is clear and the discussions have an impact. Let’s be a bit more patient and understand what the measurements will be and then we have to maybe deal with it.”

Liverpool's "one club mentality" has been proven by their run to the EFL Cup final, according to Jurgen Klopp's assistant Pep Lijnders.

Reds assistant coach Lijnders has taken all of the pre-match news conferences ahead of EFL Cup games this season and Liverpool saw no reason to break with that tradition ahead of Sunday's clash with Chelsea at Wembley.

It will be the third major final between the sides, with Chelsea winning the previous two meetings – 3-2 in the 2004-05 EFL Cup and 2-1 in the 2011-12 FA Cup.

Liverpool, however, are in the hunt for a record ninth EFL Cup crown, with their last success in the competition coming in 2012 via a penalty shoot-out win over Cardiff City. This is their 13th final in the competition – at least four more than any other side – though their first since 2016, when they lost to Manchester City.

Lijnders believes Liverpool have blended youth and experience perfectly throughout their run to Wembley, and thinks this is a sign the Reds are now a truly elite club.

"We have tradition in both, history in both [cup competitions]," he said.

"This is a competition where we want to bring young talent to showcase, that's really important.

"If you look at the best teams in the world, what do they have in common? It is the one club mentality and this journey in the EFL Cup shows we have exactly that.

"Now we are two days away from a final and we want to go into it with all we have, make it a proper game, we can't wait of course to go to Wembley, see all the fans, hear them, feel them.

"For the whole club it is a big compliment. This competition is so much more than just the first team, it was a proper compliment to our academy as well.

"We have to be spot on but we really look forward to it. We don't want to be the best team in the world, but we want to be the team that is capable of the best teams in the world."

Lijnders has come more into the foreground this season, at least in terms of his media duties, but he emphasised the importance of Klopp's entire backroom team as Liverpool aim to win a third major trophy under the German.

"Jurgen is so much more than a colleague, I am really grateful and happy with the way we work together," Lijnders added.

"It's not just me and him, it's so much more backroom staff who constantly are in our ears to make decisions or put us to the right path. Our togetherness comes from something.

"If you have a group of staff that show leadership it is probably the most powerful tool, we want our team to see how we are and it is important that they see that the manager, assistant manager, the other assistants, all of us are so close. There's a team behind the team and a manager is as good as the team behind the team."

Liverpool, however, will not be changing their routine just because they are playing in a final.

"When we started this project, we came to the conclusion that the way to be successful was just to focus on the next game," Lijnders said.

"Our group created the mentality that each next game was a final, or we could never have reached the levels we reached. We see each game literally as a final so nothing changes. We really see each game as a final, believe me."

It was a sentiment echoed by captain Jordan Henderson, who said: "Nothing different to what I normally do. Yes, it's a cup final, you get everything around that, but you have to treat it as any other game. We'll give everything, hopefully that's enough for us to win the trophy."

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel suggested Liverpool are slight favourites ahead of the EFL Cup final, but says it will be a "pleasure" to face off against his compatriot Jurgen Klopp.

Chelsea are facing the Reds in a major final for the third time in their history - excluding the Community Shield and the UEFA Super Cup - with the Blues winning on both previous occasions, 3-2 in the 2005 EFL Cup final and 2-1 in 2012's FA Cup showpiece. 

But with Liverpool on a run of nine consecutive wins in all competitions and on the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple, Tuchel believes that Klopp's team should be considered slight favourites on Sunday.

"I think maybe 50 to 55 per cent, they are the favourites, because of their recent form and their recent results", the 48-year-old said at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"It's a big challenge, a big occasion, and we feel competitive. It's a pleasure to meet Jurgen in a final at Wembley. We are very grateful for the chance.

"Playing against teams coached by Jurgen is not only about pleasure, because they give you a very hard time!

"But we have things to draw on, we have experienced tight matches against Liverpool, I think the last three were draws. 

"That won't happen this time, there will be a winner somehow, but we know what it takes in a tough match against them, and we feel confident that we have what it takes. 

"It's the same for them, and it's nice to have a match like this in a final."

Sunday's outing will represent Chelsea's ninth final appearance in the competition's history, and the Blues have won the EFL Cup on five occasions, with only Manchester City and Liverpool (both eight) posting more triumphs.

Tuchel was also asked about the condition of striker Romelu Lukaku, who was dropped for Chelsea's 2-0 Champions League victory over Lille, after he managed just seven touches in a 1-0 Premier League win over Crystal Palace.

 

The German boss questioned whether too much focus has been placed on Lukaku in recent weeks, and refused to engage with speculation that he was unsettled.

"I would say [he has been] good, like everybody else," Tuchel responded when asked about the Belgium striker. 

"You know, I know, he's an important player, if you pay a lot of money these days for one single player there's a lot of focus on the player. Sometimes it's not fair, sometimes it's a bit too much.

"I did not read the headlines. This is maybe the best thing to do. I trust my players and their focus.

"What other choice is there? There is no transfer period right now and everybody is hugely involved in the goals that we want to achieve together.

"The truth is we can only achieve them together, and we can only achieve them with a strong Romelu, a strong Jorginho, a strong everybody."

Liverpool will monitor the fitness of Diogo Jota ahead of their EFL Cup final against Chelsea on Sunday, but Reds assistant manager Pep Ljinders confirmed Roberto Firmino is out of contention.

Jota and Firmino suffered knocks against Inter in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 clash on February 16, and subsequently missed Premier League wins over Norwich City and Leeds United.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp conceded that the pair were both doubts for the final before the Leeds' game, in which fellow attackers Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane netted two goals each.

Ljinders provided another update on the duo on Friday as he offered faint hope that Jota could play some part against Thomas Tuchel's men.

"Bobby [Firmino] we will have to see in the next two days, he's pushing himself really hard, but he will not be available for the final, to reach the squad," Ljinders said.
 
"We hope he will be back really soon because you all see and feel how important he is for our way of playing. [We are] happy that he's pushing himself, hopefully he's soon back.
 
"Jota, there has been so far no reaction on the things he did – the straight-line running, the little ball work he did, so that's a good sign. He isn't ruled out but it will still be a challenge."

The Reds will be hoping Jota can beat the clock to feature, given he could become only the second ever Liverpool player to score in each of the quarter-final, semi-final and final of the competition in a single season (replays included), after Kenny Dalglish in 1980-81.

Nevertheless, Klopp's side will be left in capable hands even without Jota, with new boy Luis Diaz, Salah and Mane to call upon in the frontline.

Mane has scored eight goals against Chelsea in all competitions, only netting more in his career in England against Crystal Palace (13), while Salah leads the Premier League scoring charts with 19 this term.

The Senegal international, however, is yet to score an EFL Cup goal for the Reds in three previous appearances for them in the competition, the most recent of which was against Chelsea in the 2018-19 third round.

Thomas Tuchel hopes to have a fully-fit Chelsea squad for the EFL Cup final against Liverpool after Hakim Ziyech and Mateo Kovacic recovered from knocks, while Reece James could also return.

Ziyech and Kovacic were both doubtful for the Wembley showpiece after picking up injuries in Chelsea's routine 2-0 Champions League win over Lille in midweek, while James has not appeared since December 29.

Chelsea are seeking their fourth trophy under Tuchel, having already won the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup, and the FIFA Club World Cup.

The Blues will also be the first team in English football history to compete in one of the major domestic cup finals (League Cup/FA Cup) in six consecutive campaigns on Sunday, having reached FA Cup finals in 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021, and EFL Cup finals in 2019 and 2022.

The Chelsea head coach's cause has been aided by the return of several key figures ahead of the clash with Jurgen Klopp's side.

"We had training today with everybody out on the pitch, except for Ben Chilwell," Tuchel said at Friday's pre-match news conference. "It's brilliant news.

"Both [Ziyech and Kovacic] are okay, today they were not out training with separate programmes, everybody joined in with team training.

"We have no [bad] reactions, only positive reactions. I hope it will stay like this. We have another training session tomorrow, but we hope to have everybody available."

James recorded four goals and five assists in the first half of the Premier League season, and could provide another boost for Tuchel, who remains excited by the prospect of the wing-back's return. 

However, the German boss conceded that he was unsure whether James would be fit enough to start at Wembley.

"He looked brilliant in the last two training sessions," he added. "Let's wait another session and let's see if I'm crazy enough to put him on the pitch!"

Tuchel was guarded as to which of his goalkeepers would start against the Reds, with Kepa Arrizabalaga starting all five matches in the competition so far, while Edouard Mendy has starred in trophy wins for both club and country in 2022.

Asked about the goalkeeper decision, Tuchel responded: "I will not tell you. I will take the decision later. 

"Kepa played in the Club World Cup semi-final and brought us to the final, but then we took the decision to go with Edou for the final, who was back from the Africa Cup of Nations.

"The last decision will be taken after training, as always. Kepa did fantastic in the period that we had to be without Edou, so it's [both] an uncomfortable and very comfortable situation to be in."

Kepa refused to be substituted as Chelsea were beaten on their last EFL Cup final appearance, losing on penalties to Manchester City in 2019 under Maurizio Sarri.

But the goalkeeper has impressed with two clean sheets in four league appearances during Mendy's recent stint on international duty, leaving Tuchel with options heading into the domestic final.

Romelu Lukaku has not had the desired impact since his move from Inter to Chelsea in August.

The Belgium international has scored 10 goals in all competitions but appears unsettled.

As a result, Lukaku has been linked with a move away from the European champions.

TOP STORY - LUKAKU KEEN FOR INTER RETURN

Chelsea forward Lukaku is open to the idea of taking a pay cut to facilitate a proposed move back to Inter , according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

Lukaku dropped a bombshell in December, revealing his regret at leaving Inter for Chelsea and has come under fire recently after managing only seven touches in a Premier League game.

The report claims that the Belgian forward has contacted the Italian champions to persuade them to bid for him, although they may not be able to afford a deal.

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- Eden Hazard is interested in a return to Chelsea after an unhappy time with Real Madrid, claims Fichajes. The Belgian made a €100 million (£84m) move to Madrid in 2019 but has underwhelmed, with the Blues open to a short-term deal.

- SPORT claims that Arsenal will make a fresh approach to sign Real Sociedad's Swedish forward Alexander Isak . The striker has an €80m (£67m) release clause in his contract and has been linked with Barcelona .

- Manchester United have tabled an offer for Borussia Dortmund's Manuel Akanji ,   reports BILD. The Red Devils will offer the defender, who is contracted until 2023, a four-year deal worth €15m (£13m) per season.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Madrid are angling to sign Fabian Ruiz after contract extension talks with Napoli stalled. The 25-year-old is understood to want to return to Spain.

- Fabrizio Romano reports that Barcelona will back head coach Xavi in the off-season as they push on with plans to lure Chelsea's Cesar Azpilicueta .

- Newcastle United are considering an off-season move for Lyon defender Jason Denayer , claims The Mirror. Denayer's contract expires in June.

Paul Pogba's future with Manchester United remains up in the air.

Pogba is out of contract at the end of this season and deferred contract talks with United.

The midfielder is reportedly open to offers with Pogba's agent Mino Raiola shopping him around.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE ENTER POGBA PURSUIT

Newcastle United have entered the race to sign Manchester United's Pogba, reports Fichajes.

The Magpies are hoping to land the 28-year-old France international on a free transfer, although it is unclear if he would entertain the move to a club that is currently battling relegation, albeit Newcastle will hope that will be different next season.

Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Juventus have also been linked with Pogba, who could also opt to stay at Old Trafford.

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- Tottenham's Harry Kane will not decide on his future until the end of the season, after trying to join Manchester City last year, reports The Standard. Kane is currently not interested in discussing a contract extension with Spurs.

- Madrid have tabled a final offer for Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland claims Sport. Haaland has been pursued by several top clubs including PSG, Barcelona, United, Chelsea and Manchester City.

- Marca claims that Barcelona will swoop for Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen should he become a free agent this upcoming off-season.

- The Daily Star claims that Donny van de Beek will push for a permanent move away from Manchester United to Everton if his loan spell goes well.

- Milan are interested in Tottenham winger Steven Bergwijn, reports Calciomercato.

Kylian Mbappe's name continues to dominate the transfer columns as he nears the end of his Paris Saint-Germain contract.

While Mbappe's future beyond this season remains uncertain, PSG appear to already have plans in place should he depart.

And if one superstar forward leaves the French capital, another could arrive in his place.


TOP STORY – PSG TO BRING IN RONALDO

According to The Mirror, PSG are looking to bring in Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United should they be unable to convince Mbappe to sign a new big-money deal.

Ronaldo only returned to Old Trafford last August, but the 37-year-old is said to be considering his future after an underwhelming campaign.

Should Ronaldo be tempted to move to Ligue 1, having already plied his trade in the Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A, he would get the chance to link up with Lionel Messi.

The pair have 12 Ballons d'Or between them and are regarded as two of the greatest players of all time.

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- United are not expecting Paul Pogba to make a U-turn on his future by signing a new deal, according to the Manchester Evening News. The France international is set to become a free agent in four months' time and has been linked with PSG and former side Juventus.

- El Nacional claims that Chelsea are plotting a bid for Barcelona youngster Gavi. The Blues will reportedly have to pay £42million (€50m) to land the teenage midfielder, with other teams across Europe also showing an interest.

- Tottenham striker Harry Kane wants assurances that boss Antonio Conte will be backed in the next transfer window, suggests The Sun, after the Italian questioned the club's recruitment policy. That comes amid fresh rumours that Kane is considering his own Spurs future.

- According to Calciomercato, Real Madrid are ready to push ahead with plans to sign Kieran Tierney from Arsenal. Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti previously tried to sign Tierney during his time in charge of Napoli, but the Scottish left-back instead opted for the Gunners. 

- Manchester City are on the verge of getting a £5.4m deal over the line for Brazilian winger Savinho, says Fabrizio Romano. A medical is rumoured to have already been scheduled for the 17-year-old, who has impressed for Atletico Mineiro.

Manchester United face the prospect of losing key midfielder Paul Pogba on a free transfer at the end of the campaign.

The France international is into the final four months of his existing deal and there are few indications that he is prepared to extend his terms at Old Trafford.

And in a further blow for United, they could see Pogba head to one of their domestic top-flight rivals.


TOP STORY – POGBA OPEN TO PREMIER LEAGUE STAY

The Telegraph reports that Pogba, who rejoined United from Juventus in a big-money deal in 2016, is prepared to wait until the end of the season before deciding on his future.

Signing a new deal with United is said to remain an option, but Pogba will not be short of options should he become available to sign on a free – albeit with big wages to factor in.

The report indicates that the 28-year-old will weigh up any interest from fellow Premier League clubs, with Chelsea and Manchester City having previously been linked.


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- It is shaping up to be a busy transfer window for United as a number of other players are also out of contract. According to Ekrem Konur, Edinson Cavani and Juan Mata are attracting strong interest from clubs in the Middle East.

- Jesse Lingard is another who could be on his way out of Old Trafford, though The Express claims that the England international is not considering a free transfer to Tottenham. Lingard would reportedly prefer to move abroad ahead of next season.

- Arsenal have joined Everton and Wolves in the race to sign Rafael Leao from Milan, according to La Repubblica. The 22-year-old is enjoying his best campaign to date at San Siro, having registered double figures for goals.

- Italian outlet Tuttosport suggests that Juventus are pushing ahead with plans to sign Nicolo Zaniolo from Serie A rivals Roma, who are supposedly prepared to accept an offer in the region of €40million for a player with two years to run on his deal.

- Leeds United's in-demand winger Raphinha is holding off talks over a new contract at Elland Road, suggests GOAL. The Brazil international has previously been touted as a target for Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain.

Cristiano Ronaldo ended a run of six matches without scoring in Tuesday's win over Brighton and Hove Albion, but the Manchester United forward's future remains uncertain.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner's second spell at Old Trafford has not gone quite to plan and a number of European clubs are said to be circling should he depart.

If reports are accurate, it may well be that a reunion with former boss Jose Mourinho is on the cards for Ronaldo in the coming months.


TOP STORY – ROMA IN FOR RONALDO

Roma are one of three clubs currently in the running to sign Ronaldo should he depart United in the next transfer window, according to The Sun.

Giallorossi boss Mourinho previously managed Ronaldo at Real Madrid and is eager to bolster his squad with a superstar signing.

However, it is not known if the 37-year-old would welcome a return to Serie A, where he previously spent three seasons playing for Juventus ahead of rejoining United.

European heavyweights Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain are reported to be the other two sides to have expressed an interest in Ronaldo.


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- Fabrizio Romano claims Chelsea are now solely focused on signing Jules Kounde from Sevilla after being told that top defensive target Marquinhos will not be sold by PSG.

- According to The Sun, Armando Broja's form on loan with Southampton has seen the Chelsea youngster's name added to Bayern and Borussia Dortmund's list of targets.

- Manchester City have bid £5.5million (€6.5m) for Atletico Mineiro's teenage winger Savio, suggests The Guardian, with the intention of then loaning him out to PSV.

- Juan Mata will depart United as a free agent at the end of the campaign, claims Nicolo Schira. The midfielder may look to see out his career in his Spanish homeland.

- Ralf Rangnick is eager for United to bring in Christopher Nkunku from RB Leipzig, according to ESPN. Madrid, Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal have also been linked.

It's November 25, 2020. A young German winger stands on the touchline anxiously waiting to step on to the Allianz Arena pitch for his Champions League debut in his hometown.

But as he waits to be allowed on, there are people watching both on television and in the largely empty stands who know this isn't how it should've been.

Rather than wearing the all-red of Bayern Munich, Karim Adeyemi jogs on in the all-black of Salzburg with the Austrian champions 3-0 down.

A technically gifted and rapid forward, Adeyemi has long been considered one of Germany's most promising young players, having cost Salzburg a reported €3million when he was 16.

Adeyemi had left Bayern six years earlier. It's a detail that has dominated much of his early professional career, with questions about why he left never far away.

Now 20, Adeyemi has previously spoken at length about his attitude as a kid, how learning wasn't much to his liking and distraction was a regular nuisance to him. These factors certainly didn't help at Bayern.

Neither, Adeyemi alleged in the past, did the club, who he said showed little support to players who strayed from "the plan". The collective, rather than individualistic talents, was prioritised.

He and Bayern were simply not a good match at the time. He left Die Roten and, while such a disappointment might've been enough to derail other ordinary kids, Adeyemi has since proven he is rather extraordinary.

A move to a smaller local club, Unterhaching, soon followed. It was there that, according to youth coach Marc Unterberger, Adeyemi was able to develop with a greater degree of individual emphasis and that eventually translated into him becoming a better asset for the team as a whole.

"He had his own thoughts on how to deal with things," Unterberger told Stats Perform in 2021. "We never wanted to change him completely, and I think we succeeded quite well. Karim is a really great guy and a great person.

"Until the time Karim came to us, we had never had such an exceptional player in our youth division.

"Of course, as a young person, you benefit from being accepted for who you are, but I would like to make it very clear that there was no situation within the team in which Karim behaved in such a way that we as a club were forced to act.

"On the contrary, over time he developed more and more towards putting himself at the service of the team. He was easily distracted, that's right, but let's be honest, something like this is normal when young people develop."

Unterberger arguably knows Adeyemi better than any other coach, given he was there for the youngster's entire six-year stay at Unterhaching.

"I can still remember it very well, the first time I saw him play in an Under-11 tournament," he recalled.

"Back then he was still playing for TSV Forstenried. My first thought was: 'We absolutely need this player'. Fortunately, it worked out later!"

That might be something of an understatement in reality. The €3m fee that Unterhaching received made him the most expensive Under-18 German player ever at the time, while 2019 saw him win the Fritz-Walter Gold Medal, an award handed out to Germany's best youth player. Previous winners include Timo Werner, Emre Can and Mario Gotze.

But most importantly, that move proved an unequivocal success for the player, as did his next.

Adeyemi confirmed to Stats Perform last year that he rejected the chance to join Chelsea from Unterhaching in his teens, instead opting to move just over the border to Salzburg. Had he gone to London, maybe he would've broken into their first-team – but it's probably just as likely that he'd have been lost among the Blues' army of loan players.

That's not to say loans can't work. Adeyemi's Salzburg career was carefully mapped out for him even before he joined, and that included an initial 18-month stint with Liefering, who essentially act as a B team. A haul of 15 goals and eight assists in the second tier provided strong evidence the teenager was ready for the step up in 2020.

His introduction to top-tier football wasn't quite so explosive, only having a hand in goals in six of his first 29 Austrian Bundesliga matches, but a key factor here was the need to remain patient – only nine of those 29 games were as a starter.

It wasn't until the final three months of 2020-21 that Adeyemi began to nail down a starting role, with seven of his 11 starts coming between mid-February and the end of May. This period also yielded six of his seven league goals.

This proved the final push he needed – with Patson Daka leaving for Leicester City, Adeyemi went from being the forwards' supporting act to the leading man in attack.

As you'd expect, this led to a bit of a change in his role, but there's no doubt he's thriving, securing his first senior international cap in September and finding himself linked heavily with Borussia Dortmund.

 

Sure, chance creation frequency is down (2.7 per 90, to 1.6), but the pay-off in terms of his effectiveness in front of goal is more than worth it.

His 14 goals is a league high, while only Kelvin Yeboah (11.2) – who has since joined Genoa – can better Adeyemi's 10.1 non-penalty expected goals (np-xG). Though on a per-90-minute basis, Adeyemi ranks first in the division with 0.72 np-xG (minimum 650 minutes played).

But it would be doing Adeyemi a huge disservice to give the impression he's 'just' some poacher. He's an immensely exciting player characterised by his explosive pace, low centre of gravity and silky ability on the ball. Yeboah (21) is the sole forward with more carries leading to shots and chances created than Adeyemi (21), though the Ghanaian's total comes from nearly 300 minutes more on the pitch.

It's a similar story in the Champions League. His carries led to a combined total of eight shots and chances created in the group stage – the only Opta-defined strikers to better that were Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo (both nine) and Arnaut Danjuma (14).

 

Even if it's reductive to just look at that metric, there's no doubt his performances have translated to European football's biggest stage – Sevilla's Diego Carlos will have been hoping to never see the youngster again after terrorising the Brazilian in the group.

Adeyemi's displays were a major factor in Salzburg reaching the knockouts of the Champions League for the first time in their history.

It would be a truly inspirational tale were it to be him, the young Bavarian cast-off, who plotted Bayern's downfall this time.

Chelsea have been crowned European and world champions since Thomas Tuchel's appointment just over 12 months ago.

The Blues, however, finished fourth in the Premier League last season.

Chelsea are third this term but 16 points behind leaders Manchester City with a game in hand, and it seems recruitment is in the offing.

TOP STORY – BLUES SET TO SPLASH THE CASH

Chelsea are set for an off-season transfer splash as they prepare to back Tuchel fresh from their Club World Cup triumph, according to The Telegraph, 

The Blues have their sights firmly set on signing long-term target Jules Kounde from Sevilla as a priority in the upcoming off-season.

Chelsea are also interested in West Ham United's England international Declan Rice and Monaco's 22-year-old French midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni.


ROUND-UP

- Football London reports Arsenal are plotting a move for Chelsea forward Armando Broja, who is currently on loan at Southampton. The Gunners are short on attacking options after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's exit and with Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah running down contracts.

- Fichajes also claims that Arsenal are interested in Milan forward Rafael Leao, along with Newcastle United.

Barcelona are trying to agree new deals with star young pair Gavi and Ronald Araujo amid interest from Liverpool and Manchester United, reports ESPN.

Juventus are willing to listen to offers for Adrien Rabiot and Alex Sandro according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Fichajes claims that West Ham want to sign Lille defender Sven Botman, Villarreal left-back Pervis Estupinan and Real Sociedad centre-back Robin Le Normand.

The pursuit of 21-year-old Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland is well known.

Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich have all been linked with Haaland.

The race is set to heat up, with Haaland reportedly holding a €75 million (£68m) release clause in his Dortmund contract which triggers at the end of the current season.

TOP STORY – MAN CITY LEAD THE WAY IN HAALAND RACE

Football Insider reports that Man City are in the box seat to sign Haaland in a major development with his father Alf-Inge Haaland's connection with the club.

Alf-Inge played with City from 2000 to 2003 and is telling Erling to join the club ahead of other suitors.

City's Abu Dhabi owners are set to launch a concerted pursuit for the Norwegian and will be able to meet his release clause.

Madrid 's bid to sign Haaland may be aided by Adidas, who are associated with the club and looking to bring him on board, after his deal with Nike expired at the end of January.


ROUND-UP

- ESPN reports that Lyon are preparing a significant offer for Arsenal forward Alexandre Lacazette, whose contract expires at the end of this season. Lacazette joined the Gunners from Lyon in 2017.

- El Nacional claims that Madrid are open to selling Brazilian midfielder Casemiro, who is being targeted by PSG. Casemiro is a regular but his sale may open up funds for moves for Kylian Mbappe and Haaland.

- Franck Kessie will depart Milan when his contract expires at the end of this season, reports Calciomercato, with Barcelona entering the race to sign the midfielder, and Tottenham also interested.

- Sport claims that Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta already has an agreement in principle to join Barcelona on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the season.

- Edinson Cavani will exit Manchester United at the end of his contract in June, with Spain his preferred destination rather than returning to South America according to Fabrizio Romano.

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