Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku is glad to see Cristiano Ronaldo back in the Premier League but will never compare his record to that of the Manchester United forward.

In the same week he completed a shock return to United, Ronaldo made history on Wednesday by becoming the all-time leading goalscorer in men's international football.

Ronaldo scored a couple of late headers to earn his side a 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over the Republic of Ireland and surpass Ali Daei's previous high of 109 goals.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner's 111 international goals have come from 180 appearances, an average of 0.62 goals per game.

That compares to 0.66 goals per game for Lukaku at international level, the 28-year-old having scored 66 times in 99 outings for Belgium in all competitions.

While Lukaku still has plenty of time on his side to potentially chase down Ronaldo's ever growing tally, the prolific striker is not interested in individual accolades over team honours.

"I don't have a goals number in mind, all that interests me is to win trophies," he said at a news conference on Saturday previewing Belgium's qualifier against the Czech Republic.

"I will never compare myself to Ronaldo – he is one of the three best players of all time. I am proud to have played against him and it's good for English football he's come back."

Lukaku's latest two-goal haul earned Belgium a 5-2 comeback win over Estonia on Thursday.

He extended his lead at the top of the Red Devils' all-time top scorers list, with Eden Hazard and Bernard Voorhoof second and third with 32 and 30 goals respectively.

Forty-nine of Lukaku's international goals have come in his last 47 appearances, with 2014 being his most prolific calendar year as he netted 14 times in 14 caps.

A grinning Max Verstappen celebrated taking a home Dutch Grand Prix pole ahead of Lewis Hamilton on Saturday, while George Russell and Williams endured a day to forget.

Verstappen is only three points behind Formula One world championship leader and defending champion Lewis Hamilton after last week's controversial Belgian GP, and he has the backing of a fervent crowd this weekend.

No Dutch driver has ever won this event, but Verstappen will attack the race from pole position on its return after 35 years away.

The Red Bull superstar edged out Hamilton, who recovered well from missing a session on Saturday after breaking down, and another Mercedes in Valtteri Bottas.

Sergio Perez failed to even escape Q1, though, meaning Verstappen will not have the support of his team-mate at the front of the grid.

"It's an amazing feeling of course to get pole position here," Verstappen said over a significant din. "The crowd is incredible, and today was very enjoyable.

"The car was really nice to drive, and this track as well for qualifying, once the fuel comes out, it's really cool."

Verstappen had escaped a penalty for a potential red-flag breach when overtaking Lance Stroll in FP2 on Saturday.

And pole is set to be especially important at Zandvoort, where overtaking is always difficult.

The Dutchman's final run of one minute and 8.885 seconds increased his Q3 advantage, but Hamilton's late dash – 0.038 seconds slower – at least put him on the front row, enjoying a better outing than countryman Russell, who was second last time out.

It had looked like being another positive day for Williams – even with team principal Jost Capito absent as a precaution after contact with Kimi Raikkonen prior to his positive coronavirus test.

The team came into this race having had both drivers collect points in back-to-back races for the first time since 2016.

And Russell and Nicholas Latifi each again advanced through to Q2.

But there their day took a turn, with Russell prompting a first red flag when he lost the rear of his car heading into the final corner.

The short delay did not give the Briton enough time to resume the session, as he explained there was "a bit of damage on the rear suspension" but "nothing the guys won't be able to fix overnight".

Russell told Sky Sports: "We weren't quite on the pace this week as much as we would have hoped, and I was on a really good lap.

"I was just pushing too hard and ultimately just attacked that last corner too much and lost the rear. I'm sorry to the team, because that's not how we wanted to end qualifying."

By the time Russell faced the media, the session had been disrupted again, with team-mate Latifi careering into the barrier.

That brought a premature end to Q2 that at least gave Russell P11 as a consolation, knocking Lando Norris out.

PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:08.885
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.038secs
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.337
4. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) +0.593
5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +0.642
6. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.652
7. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) +0.705
8. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +1.048
9. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1.071
10. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +1.281

Radamel Falcao has completed a move to Rayo Vallecano after Galatasaray agreed to terminate his contract at the start of the month.

The Colombia striker, 35, left Galatasaray having played just 25 minutes across three games in three competitions so far this season.

Falcao scored 20 goals in 43 matches in all for the Turkish giants, having signed as a free agent in 2019.

He now returns to LaLiga with Rayo, who were promoted through the play-offs last season.

Rayo registered their first win of the campaign ahead of the international break, beating Granada 4-0.

And they will now be boosted by the experience of Falcao, whose previous stint in Spain saw him star for Atletico Madrid between 2011 and 2013.

Over two seasons, only Lionel Messi (96) and Cristiano Ronaldo (80) scored more LaLiga goals than Falcao's 52.

He averaged a goal every 112.4 minutes, scoring with 21.1 per cent of his 247 shots and marginally outperforming his expected goals value of 51.4.

Falcao, signed from Porto, went on to play for Monaco, Manchester United and Chelsea, ending his eight-year stay in Europe's top five leagues when he joined Galatasaray.

Between 2011 and 2019, his 122 goals in 212 games ranked 14th across Europe.

Luis Enrique remains optimistic that Spain will book their place at next year's World Cup, but is now focused on progressing via the play-offs rather than topping their qualifying group.

La Roja's hopes of topping Group B were dented by a 2-1 defeat to Sweden on Thursday, leaving them two points behind the leaders and having played an extra game.

It was the first time Spain had lost a World Cup qualifying match since a 1-0 reverse by Denmark in 1993, ending a 66-game unbeaten streak.

At the midway point in the campaign, Luis Enrique believes that topping the group is out of his side's hands and has turned his focus to securing second place and a play-off berth.

Addressing the media ahead of Sunday's meeting with Georgia, the head coach said: "Football is a game of mistakes; individual and collective. 

"There is no single cause as to why we lost the [Sweden] game. It's the sum of everything.

 

"It's no longer up to us. But it's up to us to win our own and be in the play-offs, win it and be in the World Cup. 

"There are two sides. You can always improve, but I try to see the bottle half-full."

Luis Enrique also backed defender Eric Garcia, who came under scrutiny following his performance against Sweden.

"I disagree with the criticism," he said of the Barcelona defender.

"He suffered in the transitions, but also [Aymeric] Laporte, because of the conditions of the Swedes. I'm delighted with their performance."

The San Francisco Giants reclaimed the National League (NL) West lead with a dramatic 3-2 walk-off victory over rivals and World Series champions the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Sole possession of top spot was on the line as the Giants and Dodgers clashed in a heavyweight MLB showdown in San Francisco on Friday.

The score was deadlocked at 2-2 until a bizarre walk-off throwing error lifted the Giants past the Dodgers in the 11th inning.

With the bases loaded in the 11th and two outs, Buster Posey appeared to have hit an inning-ending groundout, but Trea Turner's throw went wide of Will Smith, whose toe came off the bag.

Posey was initially ruled safe, and it stayed that way despite a lengthy Dodgers (85-50) review – the Giants (86-49) moving back to the top of the NL West again.

 

Comeback of the year?

The Toronto Blue Jays emerged from the jaws of defeat in stunning fashion, somehow conquering the Oakland Athletics 11-10. Toronto – chasing the last Wild Card spot – trailed 8-2 entering the eighth inning at home to fellow playoff hopefuls the A's. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hit a game-tying grand slam after a two-out rally. Mark Canha's two-run homer restored Oakland's advantage in the top of the ninth, but Marcus Semien delivered an incredible walk-off three-run homer in the bottom of the inning. Gurriel became just the third Blue Jays player ever to hit three grand s lams in a season after Edwin Encarnacion (2015) and Darrin Fletcher (2000).

The Detroit Tigers lit up the Cincinnati Reds 15-5 behind Dustin Garneau's two-run homer and solo shot, plus Robbie Grossman's three-run blast.

Kyle Schwarber hit a lead-off homer in the opening inning to fuel the Boston Red Sox's 8-5 victory at home to the Cleveland Indians. Hunter Renfroe added a three-run homer for the Red Sox, who have won three straight games.

 

Keuchel's woes continue

Dallas Keuchel struggled again as the Chicago White Sox went down 7-2 to the Kansas City Royals. Keuchel allowed six runs in three innings – the 2015 American League (AL) Cy Young winner has a 7.26 ERA through his past 11 starts. He gave up five earned runs, seven hits and two walks with just one strikeout against the Royals.

 

Arenado homers twice as Wainwright and Molina celebrate milestone

St Louis Cardinals star Nolan Arenado recorded his 21st multi-homer game since entering the majors in 2013 – tied for the second most alongside Bryce Harper in the NL in that span, behind Giancarlo Stanton (22). The Cardinals crushed the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers 15-4. Cardinals team-mates Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina started together for the 300th time – the fourth most prolific battery in history.

 

Friday's results 

Chicago Cubs 6-5 Pittsburgh Pirates
New York Yankees 4-3 Baltimore Orioles
New York Mets 6-2 Washington Nationals
Toronto Blue Jays 11-10 Oakland Athletics
Boston Red Sox 8-5 Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers 15-5 Cincinnati Reds
Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 Minnesota Twins
Miami Marlins 10-3 Philadelphia Phillies
Kansas City Royals 7-2 Chicago White Sox
St Louis Cardinals 15-4 Milwaukee Brewers
Colorado Rockies 4-3 Atlanta Braves
Los Angeles Angels 3-2 Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners 6-5 Arizona Diamondbacks
Houston Astros 6-3 San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants 3-2 Los Angeles Dodgers

 

A's at Blue Jays

With both teams vying for a Wild Card berth, the Blue Jays (71-62) and Athletics (74-61) will continue their series on Saturday. Jose Berrios will start for the Blue Jays as the A's counter with Paul Blackburn.

Carlos Alcaraz was lost for words after making history in the Spanish teenager's shock five-set upset of world number three Stefanos Tsitsipas at the US Open.

Alcaraz – rated by many as Spain's best young male player since 20-time grand slam champion Rafael Nadal first emerged – sent Tsitsipas packing 6-3 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 0-6 7-6 (7-5) in the third round on Friday.

The 18-year-old Alcaraz became the youngest player to reach the last 16 of the US Open since Americans Michael Chang and Pete Sampras in 1989.

Alcaraz also became the youngest man to beat a top-three opponent at the tournament since the ATP introduced its world ranking system in 1973.

After more than four hours on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Alcaraz told reporters: "I have not words to explain how I feeling right now.

"I just don't know what happened out there in the court. I can't believe that I beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in an epic match.

"For me it's a dream come true."

Amid comparisons with countryman Nadal, Alcaraz added: "Honestly I don't copy any style of a players. I just play my game.

"But if I have to say one player that is similar my game, I think it's [Roger] Federer. I think similar as mine game, trying to be aggressive all the time. I think it's a good similar for me."

After his US Open campaign came to a surprise end, third seed Tsitsipas tipped Alcaraz for future success.

"A hundred percent," Tsitsipas replied when asked if he had a sense of Alcaraz's potential. "I said he can be a contender for Grand Slam titles. He has the game to be there."

"I've never seen someone hit the ball so hard," French Open runner-up Tsitsipas added. "Took time to adjust. Took time to kind of develop my game around his game style.

"It's one of these matches and one of these feelings where, you know, you pick up at some point of the match, you feel like you're in control, and it doesn't really go your way at the end.

"It's kind of bitter, I would say, especially after such an incredible first set by my side, dominating, being just so aggressive, not dwelling on the past. It was a great first set.

"I don't know. I felt like he played the fifth one completely -- the way he played the first set basically, careless, going for every single shot. I have never seen someone play such a good fifth set, honestly."

Eduardo Camavinga labelled his Real Madrid transfer a dream come true after swapping Rennes for the LaLiga powerhouse before the end of the transfer window.

Camavinga signed a six-year contract with Madrid in a deal reportedly worth up to €45million, having also been linked to the likes of Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain.

After his big move, the 18-year-old France international reflected on the transfer to the Santiago Bernabeu.

"It's a dream I had when I was a kid. I can't wait to discover the stadium, which is very impressive," Camavinga said.

"I hope to play there as soon as the building work is finished."

Camavinga made 71 Ligue appearances for Rennes and 88 in total following his debut in 2019.

At 18 years and nine months old, he is the youngest outfield player to feature in that many games in France's top flight since Basile Boli in 1985.

 

In making his senior France debut on September 8 last year, Camavinga was the youngest player to do so since Maurice Gastiger against Luxembourg 107 years ago.

Only Gastiger (17 years and five months) scored for Les Bleus at a younger age than Camavinga, who was 17 years and 11 months old when he netted against Switzerland last October.

In 2019-20, Camavinga's breakthrough season at Rennes, he attempted 105 tackles in top-flight football. Among midfielders in Europe's top five leagues, only Declan Rice (116) and Wilfred Ndidi (129) attempted more. 

"My move to Real Madrid was done very quickly. I am very happy and proud," Camavinga said.

"But I don't want this announcement to change my work with [France's] under-21s. Whether I play at Rennes or at Real Madrid I will continue to give my best, and of course I dream of the senior team, but step by step.

"Now I'll go to Rennes to pack my bags, I'll move to Madrid and I'll continue on my journey."

Naomi Osaka's quest for back-to-back US Open crowns came to a shock end, the defending champion imploding in a remarkable 5-7 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 loss to teenage sensation Leylah Fernandez.

Up a set and 6-5, Osaka had the chance to close out the third-round contest before the four-time major champion suffered an epic meltdown on Arthur Ashe Stadium, where fans booed the titleholder.

Osaka – typically reserved and quiet but in the spotlight amid her mental health concerns after withdrawing from the French Open, having skipped Wimbledon – threw her racquet three times in the unsuccessful second-set tie-break on Friday.

The Japanese star received a warning after hitting a ball into the crowd in the final set and while she tried to dig herself out of a hole, 18-year-old Canadian Fernandez completed a stunning upset in New York.

Fernandez showed no fear in her first career meeting with Osaka, going toe-to-toe against the former world number one.

There were no breaks of serve through nine games – Osaka serving to stay in the set at 5-4 and she did so easily before flicking the switch.

Osaka broke to love in the very next game, reeling off nine successive points to take the opening set.

In the third round of the US Open for the first time and with a 1-2 record against top-10 players, Fernandez was not overawed on the big stage.

Behind her big first serve and powerful baseline hitting, Fernandez ensured the second set followed a similar pattern as Osaka was prevented from racing away with the match.

It appeared as though the second set would go down the same path as the first after Osaka broke for a 6-5 lead.

But Osaka imploded on centre court – after failing to serve out the match, she lost her composure in the tie-break, throwing her racquet on numerous occasions as Fernandez forced a deciding set with ease.

Osaka immediately left the court and emerged with a towel over her head before the start of the final set, however, she still looked off her game, broken in the opener.

Continuing to struggle, Osaka was then given a warning for hitting the ball into the crowd, though she boosted her confidence by holding serve and avoiding falling 3-0 behind.

But Fernandez's sole break point was all she needed, sending the defending champion home, much to the delight of the crowd.

 

 

Data slam: Fernandez steps up

Her only top-10 victory came against Belinda Benic at the 2020 Billie Jean Cup, having lost to Elina Svitolina and Sofia Kenin last year. But Fernandez claimed the unlikely scalp of Osaka on Friday. The result also ended Osaka's bid to come the first woman to defending the US Open since Serena Williams in 2014.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Fernandez – 28/24
Osaka – 37/35

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Fernandez – 6/2
Osaka – 15/2

BREAK POINTS WON

Fernandez – 2/5
Osaka – 2/5

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said he is "definitely ready" to make his NFL return against Super Bowl champions the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1.

Prescott's 2020 season ended in Week 5 with a fracture-dislocation of his right ankle and the Cowboys star has been stepping up his comeback ahead of the September 9 trip to Tom Brady's Buccaneers.

Two-time Pro Bowler Prescott – who also hurt his shoulder during preseason, having undergone ankle surgery – expressed excitement over his imminent return for the 2021 opener following Friday's practice.

"I'm definitely ready. I'm excited," Prescott told reporters. "I put in a lot of work to get to this point.

"Whether it was months ago, rehabbing the ankle, to the last few [weeks] keeping the feet working while I was letting my arm rest.

"There is so much work I put into this I'm just excited to go out there and be a part of the full game. Just being out there with my brothers and being able to do something I love."

Since taking the starting role as a rookie in 2016 from an injured Tony Romo, Prescott has thrown for 17,634 yards with 106 touchdowns and 40 interceptions.

The 28-year-old Prescott has also rushed for 1,314 yards and a further 24 touchdowns.

Though he missed most of last season, Prescott is 10th among qualifying quarterbacks in yards per attempt (7.69) and 12th in passing plays of 25 yards or more since 2016.

"I think we went about this process the right way that part of it was protecting me from myself," Prescott said. "I mean, the moment I got into any team reps, I wasn't dialling anything down. I wasn't trying to throw a certain amount of percentage.

"I think that's just the way I play the game, I just went out there and playing within the moment, ripping passes, not thinking about it, just making the plays I needed to make. Then after two days like that realising there wasn't any residual effect and I wasn't sore.

"I've been sticking to the plan and it's all worked out. Yeah, from the shoulder to the leg to my mind, I'm ready to go."

Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy added: "You've got to give him credit for the process that he worked himself through. It isn't like he just stood in the back and didn't do anything while he wasn't throwing.

"He's staying on top of the footwork. His conditioning couldn't be better. All the extra work that all these guys put into it, Dak took advantage of that time."

Carlos Alcaraz put his name up in lights in New York as the 18-year-old stunned third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in a massive US Open third-round upset.

Spanish teenager Alcaraz scored an astounding 6-3 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 0-6 7-6 (7-5) victory in a battle lasting four hours, seven minutes inside Arthur Ashe Stadium on Friday.

French Open runner-up Tsitsipas became the biggest casualty of the men's tournament so far as hot prospect Alcaraz showed his mettle on the grand slam stage at Flushing Meadows.

It means Alcaraz, rated by many as Spain's best young male player since Rafael Nadal first emerged, has reached the fourth round of a major for the first time in his career.

He becomes the youngest player to reach the last 16 of the US Open since Americans Michael Chang and Pete Sampras in 1989.

The US Open said the win made Alcaraz the youngest man to beat a top-three opponent at the tournament since the ATP introduced its world ranking system in 1973.

Alcaraz put a dire fourth set behind him and looked to have won the match with a lob at 6-4 in the deciding tie-break, but his ball landed a whisker long.

That meant the players were back on serve, but Alcaraz was unbowed and sealed victory with a scorching forehand winner, announcing himself as a likely superstar of the near future. He struck 61 winners in all.

He will face German qualifier Peter Gojowczyk in the fourth round, with a quarter-final place at stake.

Speaking on court after his win, Alcaraz hailed the supportive New York spectators who were firmly in his corner.

"I think without this crowd I haven't the possibility to win this match," he said. "Thank you to you the crowd for pushing me up in the fifth set

"It has been an incredible feeling for me. This victory means a lot to me. It's the best match of my career, the best win.

"For me to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas is a dream come true for me and to do it here is more special."

Ian Foster has challenged Jordie Barrett to bring a "calmness" to New Zealand at full-back when they attempt to complete a Bledisloe Cup clean sweep of Australia on Sunday.

The All Blacks racked up a record score against the Wallabies to win the Bledisloe Cup for a 19th successive year at Eden Park last month, winning 57-22.

Head coach Foster has made five changes to his side for the rearranged clash at Optus Stadium, with expectant fathers Sam Whitelock, Aaron Smith and Richie Mo'unga absent.

Barrett has got the nod over Damian McKenzie, while Brad Weber gets his second start at scrum-half and Ardie Savea has been named captain for the rest of the Rugby Championship, with Sam Cane injured.

Foster said: "We've been pretty happy with Damian at the back in terms of his influence in the first-receiver role and some of his decision-making from behind. Jordie we know is a quality player. We get asked a lot of questions decision-making-wise on attack and defence at 15, and that's probably his biggest work-on.

"We know he's a great individual athlete who can do some pretty special things, it's just about bringing that calmness to the back and making sure we have real clarity. There is a nice little battle going there at full-back."

Samu Kerevi returns at inside centre for Australia, while Izack Rodda will make his return from the bench and Folau Fainga'a makes his first start of the year.

Stats Perform use Opta facts to preview the Rugby Championship showdown in Perth.

 

AUSTRALIA V NEW ZEALAND

Form

New Zealand showed no mercy as they put Australia to the sword in Auckland last time out.

The Wallabies have fond memories of facing their trans-Tasman rivals at Optus Stadium, having scored their highest points total against the All Blacks two years ago in a 47-26 triumph.

New Zealand have lost only one of their past seven Tests against Australia (W5, D1), that 24-22 loss coming at Suncorp Stadium last November.

Foster's men have scored 50 points or more in four of their five Tests this year. The last time the All Blacks brought up a half-century of points more times in a calendar year was when they did so on five occasions in 2007.

 

Ones to watch

Kerevi has not played for his country since a heavy defeat to England at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

The centre's international career looked to be over when he moved to Japan but he is back on the Test stage as he replaces Matt Toomua.

Explosive powerhouse Kerevi, who will partner Len Ikitau, will be expected to make a big impact in the midfield battle.

Foster's pre-match words will be ringing in the ears of Jordie Barrett as he prepares to start in the 15 shirt.

Barrett has scored 106 points in 27 Tests, including 15 tries, and is capable of tormenting Australia.

Salernitana are attempting to sign Franck Ribery and claim the arrival of the veteran winger could have the same impact as Diego Maradona's move to Napoli.

Ribery, now 38, is a free agent after leaving Fiorentina at the end of last season.

The former France international is clearly past his peak, having won the Champions League with Bayern Munich eight years ago, but he still scored five goals and supplied nine assists in 50 Serie A games for Fiorentina – creating 70 chances and completing 117 dribbles.

Salernitana sporting director Angelo Fabiani believes bringing in Ribery would be a coup to rank alongside Napoli's 1984 Maradona deal.

The late Argentina legend established himself as one of the greatest players of all time over seven years in Naples in the 1980s and early 1990s, winning the Partenopei's only Scudetti in 1986–87 and 1989–90.

Ribery would not be expected to win games alone as Maradona was, though.

Salernitana have already landed one eye-catching signing in the form of Simy, the forward brought in on loan from Crotone after scoring 20 league goals last season.

His shot conversion rate of 31.75 per cent was the best of all players with 10 or more goals.

Fabiani feels Salernitana have such a strong squad, despite losing their first two matches of the season, that Ribery would merely be "the cherry".

"It is true that there may be an interest in this player," he told Radio Kiss Kiss Napoli. "But to make marriages you have to have two.

"We have the idea. To find an agreement, it takes days, continuous talks. It is not even an economic problem, it is a problem of feasibility.

"Salernitana may be interested, but the player's agreement must also arrive.

"At Salernitana, there is not only Simy. We have a strong team with many players who are certainties. The squad is complete in all its departments.

"Then if a cherry comes on the cake like Ribery, it will all be worth it.

"Bringing Ribery to Salerno would be like bringing Maradona to Naples. The player would raise the global vision of football in a market like ours.

"The offer is there and the player is evaluating it. We are confident."

Youssoufa Moukoko dismissed his latest goalscoring record as "worthless", believing he is still yet to achieve "anything concrete".

Borussia Dortmund teenager Moukoko has set a number of new benchmarks since making his senior debut last November.

That bow, the day after his 16th birthday, made the forward the youngest ever player in the Bundesliga, while he became the competition's most junior scorer in December.

Moukoko's Champions League debut 10 days before his strike against Union Berlin had seen him make history as the youngest player to appear in Europe's elite club competition.

And there was another record to add on Thursday when he belatedly made his Germany Under-21 breakthrough, a first appearance delayed by injury last season.

At 16 years and 268 days, Moukoko became Germany U21s' youngest debutant and scorer, netting twice in a 6-0 win at San Marino in qualification for the 2023 U21 European Championship.

Moukoko scored twice in the space of less than two minutes late in the first half, two of nine shots before he was substituted with 17 minutes remaining.

On Friday, the striker told the DFB's website there were "several moments in the game where I should have done better" and he would now "work on my weaknesses".

"It felt really good [to score]," Moukoko added. "I've already gotten plenty of texts and saw that I'm the youngest player to ever score for the U21s.

"Of course, I'm very proud of that, but a record like that is worthless at the end of the day. Instead, it's more of a motivation for me to continue to work hard."

Reflecting on the past year, he said: "There were many highs and lows, such as my injury in March. But that didn't set me back. Instead, it motivated me to come back even stronger.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that I'd be forced to take a break for a while, but I was able to refocus on my rehabilitation after a few days.

"I was very proud to debut in the Bundesliga and to score, just like I was yesterday. I worked hard to get here.

"But I still haven't achieved anything concrete. My journey is just beginning and it's far from being over."

Ivan Rakitic is planning talks with Sevilla team-mate Jules Kounde in a bid to lift his spirits after a move to Chelsea did not materialise.

Kounde has established himself as one of the best defenders in LaLiga over the past two seasons, prompting interest from a number of elite clubs.

Reports of interest from Chelsea were persistent throughout the recent transfer window, and Sevilla sporting director Monchi confirmed the European champions had made an approach.

It was a move that would have appealed to Kounde, Monchi confirmed, but the two clubs were unable to agree a fee, as Sevilla held out for the player's €80million release clause.

Kounde appeared well suited to a top Premier League side, ranking third among LaLiga defenders for aerial duels won (205) and sixth for successful passes (3,536) since the start of the 2019-20 season – an effective blend of physicality and finesse.

Yet veteran Rakitic hopes the 22-year-old can move on quickly.

"Hopefully, on his return from his national team, we can have a moment to be able to talk, sincerely, so that he knows that he has the confidence of us, that we are his second family," Rakitic said in a wide-ranging interview with ELDesmarque.

"It is very important to us. The first thing we need is for him to feel at ease, to be at his best and to know that everything we do, we do together."

Already a complete defender – also counted in LaLiga's top 25 for duels won (339, 11th), recoveries (303, 22nd) and clearances (191, 23rd) since his arrival – Rakitic wants Kounde to kick on again and show his quality.

"He is a boy, 22 years old, very young," Rakitic added. "He has been here for some spectacular years, that's why he attracts the interest of big clubs with those amounts.

"He has earned that with his game. The most important thing is that he understands that this has already happened.

"Besides being young, he has a lot of experience. He no longer has to teach anything to anyone. He is already a well-rounded player.

"He still has to improve, of course, but he has to continue to enjoy football. It doesn't help him now to be down, sad, or angry. He has to lift his spirits." 

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