Liverpool midfielder Marko Grujic has joined Porto on a permanent deal.

The 25-year-old spent 2020-21 on loan with the Primeira Liga club, making 39 appearances in all competitions.

That was Grujic's latest spell away from Liverpool, whom he joined from Red Star Belgrade in 2016, having also previously spent half a season with Cardiff City and two years at Hertha Berlin.

He was the first signing of ​the Jurgen Klopp era at Anfield but featured just 16 times for the Reds in all competitions.

Serbia international Grujic linked up with the Liverpool squad for this month's pre-season training camp in Austria, but the Merseyside outfit confirmed on Tuesday that he has officially ended his five-year association with the club.

"Everyone at Liverpool FC thanks Marko for his contributions to the club and wishes him the best in his future career," the 2019-20 Premier League champions said in a statement.

Porto are reported to have paid an initial €12.15million (£10.5m) for Grujic, who was also rumoured to be a target for fellow Portuguese side Sporting CP and Italian club Sassuolo.

Grujic scored twice as Porto finished second to Sporting in the Primeira Liga last season and featured eight times in Sergio Conceicao's side's run to the Champions League quarter-finals.

The 6.94 aerial duels Grujic won per 90 minutes in the Portuguese top flight last season was behind only Pedro Henrique (7.94) and Rio Ave's Ronan (8.62) among those to have featured more than three times in the competition.

Grujic also won more tackles per 90 minutes than any other Porto player who started six or more games in the league last season, the Serbian's tally of 1.32 putting him slightly ahead of Otavio (1.31).

Jack Grealish's refusal to shy away from wanting the ball is a talent that makes him "outstanding", according to former Chelsea and Italy star Gianfranco Zola.

The Aston Villa captain led his side to an 11th-place finish in their first season back in the Premier League, before enduring a quiet summer for England at Euro 2020, where he managed two assists across 173 minutes of action.

Grealish was streaks ahead in terms of creativity last term, creating 70 chances in the Premier League from open play – 26 more than any of his team-mates and just seven fewer than Bruno Fernandes' league-high 77.

Those figures translated into 10 assists for Dean Smith's main man – making him joint-fourth in the league with Son Heung-Min - despite his expected assists being just over 6.5.

A former number 10 himself, Zola is a fan of Grealish and what he offers to both Villa and England.

"I really like Grealish for his courage and his initiatives. Maybe sometimes it could be hard to give him a tactical task because he likes to be creative in every part of the forward front.", Zola told Stats Perform.

"But he always creates something important and, again, he never flinches. He always wants the ball and creates. These are qualities that will make him even more outstanding."

Grealish's ball carrying does not solely create chances from open play either, given he won the most fouls in the final third (41) – seven more than nearest competitor Wilfried Zaha – and regularly offers Smith's side opportunities from set-pieces, too.

Villa (62) ranked third in the league in terms of chances created from set-pieces behind Manchester United (64) and Chelsea (68), which means Grealish's direct running offers another facet to the Villans' attack.

The 25-year-old midfielder may want to add goals to his game, though – while he did net six times last campaign, the positions he gets himself into suggest he should be scoring more.

Contrastingly, however, Grealish outperformed his expected goals (4.65), therefore criticism of his finishing may seem a tad harsh and unwarranted.

With Smith at the helm and with Grealish hopefully staying at Villa Park, Zola saw reason for optimism amongst the Villa faithful.

"Aston Villa are not a random club. They have had a great season and ended in the left part of the table, always improving.", the former Azzurri forward added.

"They have a very good manager that is making the squad grow."

Eduardo Camavinga's future at Rennes hangs in the balance as the French club's president suggested the midfielder may be sold if a new deal cannot be agreed.

The 18-year-old made his debut for boyhood club Rennes in April 2019 and has emerged as one of football's most sought-after talents.

Camavinga, who has less than 12 months to run on his contract at Roazhon Park, is a rumoured target for the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Arsenal.

With a number of high-profile suitors monitoring the youngster, Rennes chief Nicolas Holveck is not ruling out a transfer during the current window.

"One of our priorities is to reduce the workforce. We have eight or nine players to leave," Holveck told RMC Sport.

"As for Eduardo, everything is still open, either for a possible departure or to prolong his stay. This is the big topic.

"He will not leave for nothing. We've had a lot of exchanges but nothing is done in one direction or the other."

 

Camavinga has appeared 82 times for Rennes in all competitions, with 67 of those appearances coming in Ligue 1.

He leads the way in the French top flight for tackles attempted (226) and tackles won (138) since his debut, followed by Marseille's Valentin Rongier in both categories (194 and 125 respectively).

At international level, the teenage midfielder became the youngest player to be capped by France in 106 years when he made his senior international debut in September 2020.

The following month he became the second youngest goalscorer for Les Bleus when he found the net against Ukraine aged 17 years and 11 months.

Asked what type of fee Rennes are seeking for Camavinga, Holveck replied: "Setting a price limit during this atypical market would be presumptuous."

Memphis Depay says his attacking game is perfectly suited to Barcelona and is hopeful of winning many trophies during his time at Camp Nou.

Barca confirmed the signing of Depay on June 19 and the 27-year-old's move officially went through on July 1 when his contract with Lyon expired.

After a short break following the Netherlands' last-16 exit to the Czech Republic at Euro 2020 last month, Depay arrived in Catalonia on Monday ready to begin pre-season preparations.

The Dutchman, who got his career back on track at Lyon following a disappointing spell with Manchester United, believes his style of play will help him thrive at LaLiga giants Barca.

 

"This is a special day for me. I am very excited about going to this club, to this stadium," he told Barca TV.

"I hope to win a lot of trophies, which is why I moved to this beautiful club with a very rich history. I'm looking forward to meeting everyone.

"I just got back from vacation and I have to focus on the season and be fully focused, be settled in as quick as possible. I will try to adapt as soon as possible.

"I like attacking football, I like to create chances, give assists and score goals myself. The style of Barca is perfect for me, I am happy."

Depay scored 76 goals in 178 appearances for Lyon after joining from Manchester United in January 2017.

He enjoyed an impressive final season in Ligue 1 with 20 goals, trailing only Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe (27 goals).

The former PSV youth product's 12 assists and 94 chances created were more than any other player managed in France's top flight in 2020-21.

In all competitions, meanwhile, Depay scored 22 goals last term at an average of one goal every 141.5 minutes, making it his second-best season since arriving.

He massively exceeded his expected goals (xG) tally of 12.38 and also had 12 assists, down on his 2017-18 best of 17.

While the Netherlands ultimately disappointed at Euro 2020 with their exit in the first knockout round, Depay stood out with two goals and an assist in his four appearances.

Depay previously played under Barca boss Ronald Koeman for the Oranje and is looking forward to reuniting with his compatriot at Camp Nou.

"I had a great relationship with Koeman with the national team," Depay said. "He gave me confidence and helped me when I was injured.

"He supported my transfer here, to the best club in the world. I am glad that he is here and I am ready to fight for him."

The top two teams in MLB opened a four-game series at Dodger Stadium on Monday, with the San Francisco Giants taking a 7-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

The latest installment in the decades-old rivalry started with a bang, as the Giants got home runs from Buster Posey and Wilmer Flores in the top of the first inning and the Dodgers answered with two of their own from Max Muncy and Justin Turner in the bottom half.

But the pitchers recovered from there and the teams went scoreless until the seventh, when the Giants put four more on the board thanks to a sacrifice fly from Jason Vosler and run-scoring doubles by Thairo Estrada and Austin Slater.

That proved to be the winning margin as the Dodgers' bats went silent. After Giants starter Kevin Gausman escaped a bases-loaded jam in the second by striking out Will Smith to end the inning, San Francisco pitchers allowed only two more Dodgers to reach base the rest of the game.

The victory improved San Francisco's MLB-best record to 59-34 and gave the Giants a two-game lead on the Dodgers in the National League (NL) West.

 

Red Sox explode early against Jays

The Boston Red Sox got a grand slam from Hunter Renfroe and two-run homers from Jarren Duran and Kike Hernandez in an eight-run first inning, then added three more homers later in the game on the way to a 13-4 rout of the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Oakland Athletics had no luck against Shohei Ohtani, so they bided their time until he left the mound. After Ohtani limited them to three hits in six scoreless innings, Oakland pounced on Los Angeles Angels reliever Steve Cishek in the seventh, with Ramon Laureano's three-run homer providing all the offence they needed in a 4-1 win.

A day after rallying from a 6-0 first-inning deficit, the New York Mets won another wild game, this time in Cincinnati. Trailing 7-3 after two innings, the Mets fought back to take a 9-8 lead in the eighth, saw the Reds tie it in the ninth, then scored five in the top of the 11th for a 15-11 victory, hitting seven home runs in all.

 

Rangers blanked again

After being shut out in both games of a doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday, the Texas Rangers lost 14-0 to the Detroit Tigers on Monday. They have not scored a run since putting two on the board in the ninth against the Blue Jays on Friday, giving them 23 consecutive scoreless innings, and have been outscored 39-2 since the All-Star break.

 

Lester does it all for Nats

Washington Nationals pitcher Jon Lester turned in his first scoreless outing since his April 30 season debut, striking out seven without walking a batter in seven innings, but the real highlight of the Nats' 18-1 demolition of the Miami Marlins was Lester's fourth career home run.

Noted Slugger Jon Lester launched a 419-foot home run.

NOTED SLUGGER JON LESTER LAUNCHED A 419-FOOT HOME RUN @JLester34 // #NATITUDE pic.twitter.com/SRlV0zoFBS

— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) July 20, 2021

 

Monday's results

Minnesota Twins 3-2 Chicago White Sox
Chicago White Sox 5-3 Minnesota Twins
Washington Nationals 18-1 Miami Marlins
Baltimore Orioles 6-1 Tampa Bay Rays
New York Mets 15-11 Cincinnati Reds
Boston Red Sox 13-4 Toronto Blue Jays
Detroit Tigers 14-0 Texas Rangers
Houston Astros 4-3 Cleveland Indians
St Louis Cardinals 8-3 Chicago Cubs
Oakland Athletics 4-1 Los Angeles Angels
Arizona Diamondbacks 4-2 Pittsburgh Pirates
San Francisco Giants 7-2 Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres v Atlanta Braves (postponed)

 

Phillies at Yankees

The Philadelphia Phillies send Aaron Nola to the mound on Tuesday as they open a two-game series at the New York Yankees, who will give Domingo German the start.

In search of his first championship in his 16th NBA season, Chris Paul has written a mantra on his shoes throughout the playoffs. 

"Can't give up now" has become a rallying cry for Phoenix Suns fans and the sentiment has never been more appropriate than it is now. 

Tuesday's Game 6 of the NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks will be the Suns' 22nd playoff game this season, and it will be the first in which they have faced elimination. 

"It's for real," Paul told reporters Monday. "It's no looking back now. We got to come out, be ready to play and it's either win or go home.

"Coach [Monty Williams] has said all season long, everything you want is on the other side of hard, and it doesn't get any harder than this.

"So we know that this is a must-win game for us. Nothing more than that. Now we got to hoop."

The Suns have done just that throughout their playoff run, winning nine in a row across three series at one point. 

They have now dropped three straight games for only the second time this season, the other skid coming in late January. 

Despite those setbacks after taking a 2-0 series lead, multiple Phoenix players spoke Monday about embracing the challenge. 

Suns forward Jae Crowder was in the same position as a member of the Miami Heat last season, and although they lost Game 6 and the Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers, he will take what he remembers from that disappointment into Tuesday's game. 

"As a player, it brings out a sense of desperation," he said. "It brings out a sense of urgency. It brings a sense of collectiveness within your group, knowing what you're battling and knowing what you're going up against.

"I just feel like you have to continue to fight each and every position. You have to take it a possession at a time. It's a dogfight. I've been on both sides of it. I've tried to close out teams and I know how hard it is.

"It's just a sense of desperation on our end, a sense of just collectively get the job done by any means, have a positive mindset and just have a mindset of just get the job done by any means necessary, and that's each and every possession, just giving it your all, selling out each and every possession for your team and for your team-mates."

With no margin for error, the Suns remain appreciative of the opportunity they have, particularly on the heels of a 34-39 campaign in 2019-20. 

"It's definitely exciting," said Paul. "Something that Coach and everybody has been saying: If you went to the beginning of the season and said we had a chance to be where we are right now, would you take it? Absolutely. Absolutely.

"And we get a chance to determine the outcome. It's not like the game is going to be simulated or somebody else got to play. We get a chance. We control our own destiny."

The Pittsburgh Steelers have bolstered their pass rush with the signing of veteran Melvin Ingram on a one-year deal.

Knee injuries limited the edge rusher to just seven games in the 2020 season, his final campaign with the Los Angeles Chargers.

He did not register a sack last year but the 32-year-old Ingram has been a consistently productive pass rusher in his career.

Ingram is one sack shy of 50 at the NFL level and should be in a good spot to reach that milestone playing for a Steelers defense that features one of the league's best pass rushers in T.J. Watt.

Watt led the NFL in sacks with 15 last season and was first among edge rushers with a pressure rate of 25.8 per cent.

The attention Watt commands could free up Ingram to regularly wreak havoc in the backfield and revitalise his career in Pittsburgh.

Ingram told ESPN's Josina Anderson: "I definitely feel like it's the place for me.

"I met with coach [Mike] Tomlin. You can tell he's very involved and a players' coach. That's what stood out to me.

"He wants to win and that is what I am on. My role is my role. He just told me to come in and be me. Everyone knows how I play."

Sergio Ramos, Achraf Hakimi, Georginio Wijnaldum and Gianluigi Donnarumma have all joined Paris Saint-Germain this transfer window - a haul of signings Mauricio Pochettino feels are befitting of the Ligue 1 giants.

Having been appointed in January to replace Thomas Tuchel, the Argentine led his side to semi-final elimination in the Champions League at the hands of Manchester City and they finished second to Lille domestically.

After bringing in numerous big names, Pochettino is preparing to bounce back in the 2021-22 season and has surrounded himself with some stars of European football.

"A club like Paris Saint-Germain deserves players of the highest level", Pochettino told the club's in-house media on Monday.

"And when you talk about players like Wijnaldum, Ramos, Hakimi or Donnarumma, these are all players who have shown their quality at other clubs and who have proven that they have the quality to play for Paris Saint-Germain."

Donnarumma, whose shoot-out heroics led Italy to their first European Championship triumph since 1968, will provide additional defensive solidarity - a characteristic synonymous with Ramos.

The former Real Madrid centre-back kept 206 clean sheets during his time with Los Blancos, while he is the only defender to score 100 goals in one of the top-five European leagues since the turn of the century.

Hakimi offers further quality at both ends for PSG. The wing-back contributed seven goals and nine assists last season for Inter, a total bettered by four defenders across Europe's top-five leagues.

 

And Pochettino appreciated the impact that experience could have on his team preparing for their next campaign.

"What we are looking for in all players that we want to see in the Paris Saint-Germain shirt is personality and a winning mentality," the former Southampton and Tottenham boss said.

"These players that we have signed have won things at different clubs, but most importantly, they haven't won anything here yet and they will do everything they can in order to do so."

Last season, PSG ranked 11th in Ligue 1 in terms of the number of times they recovered possession and Pochettino insisted this is an area that his team must improve if they are to succeed.

While PSG recorded 2,250 recoveries across the Ligue 1 campaign, champions Lille were the hardest working, recovering possession 2,460 times. The signing of Wijnaldum, who ranked fourth in terms of recoveries for Liverpool last season, may help their cause.

"The key lies in the way we recover the ball, the commitment and desire that each of the 11 players that are out on the pitch show when we don't have the ball", Pochettino added.

"That we have that aggression and collective effort in order to leave the opposition with very few options. I think that will be the key."

Australia are hoping captain Aaron Finch can overcome injury to lead the side in the ODI series against West Indies in Barbados, which starts on Tuesday.

Finch twisted his knee while fielding in the closing T20I in St Lucia before going on to score 34 – despite his movements being visibly compromised – as Australia lost by 16 runs and slumped to a 4-1 series defeat.

Matthew Wade is the most likely candidate to take the captaincy if Finch is absent, having done so in the T20I series against India last year.

The 34-year-old opener would be a big miss to an Australia side already without Steve Smith and David Warner, who are injured and rested respectively. Ashton Agar (hamstring) and Ben McDermott (quadriceps) are progressing well.

Australia named an expanded squad for their limited-overs trip to the West Indies to mitigate against the possibility of any coronavirus absentees, although reserves Nathan Ellis and Tanveer Sangha are both bowlers.

Handily illustrating the contrasting state in which both teams approach this three-match rubber, while the tourists are trying to scrabble together a serviceable top order, West Indies head coach Phil Simmons is asking his batsmen to kick on from recent success and post consistently imposing totals.

Shai Hope, Evin Lewis and Darren Bravo each hit centuries in the 3-0 win over Sri Lanka earlier in the year, although each of those successes came when batting second – meaning there was no need for the Windies to extend themselves to 300 and beyond.

 

"We are looking for the way we batted to continue and improvements have to be made in the middle overs from 20-39 in order for us to get from 280-290 to the 320-330 we'll need against Australia," Simmons said, as quoted by ESPNCricinfo. "We've been discussing that since the Sri Lanka series so now it's time to put it into action."

Finch's opposite number Kieron Pollard is closing in on a return having sat out the T20I series due to a hamstring complaint while fellow all-rounder Jason Holder is set to return after being rested.

Australia need more Mitch-hitting

In the absence of Smith, Warner and possibly Finch, there will be even more onus on Mitchell Marsh. The powerful batting all-rounder enjoyed a superb series batting at number three during the T20Is and his 219 runs were the most by any player on either side. Marsh's ODI batting average of 34.36 is his best across the three international formats.

Windies opener Evin the time of his life

Fresh from plundering an explosive 79 to be named player of the match in St Lucia, thumping nine sixes from 34 deliveries, opener Lewis will be relishing taking his sparkling form onto the 50-over stage. The destructive left-hander followed 65 in the first match against Sri Lanka at North Sound with 103 – his fourth ODI century to stand alongside nine fifties.

Key Opta facts

- Australia have won 10 of their past 11 ODIs against West Indies but this will be just their second 50-over meeting in five years.
- West Indies' last ODI series win against Australia came in 1995; they have lost four of six since.
- Hope has posted a score in excess of 50 in each of his previous six ODI innings, including two centuries. Only Pakistan great Javed Miandad has bettered this streak in history, when he passed 50 nine consecutive times between March and October in 1987.
- Four of Shimron Hetmyer's past seven dismissals in ODIs cricket for West Indies have been against spin, more times than in his 14 prior (three).
- Finch is 69 runs shy of becoming the sixth player to score 2,000 runs for Australia as captain in ODIs. His batting average of 49.5 as skipper is the highest of any player to have captained Australia at least five times.

Tabraiz Shamsi's 4-27 ensured a routine 33-run win for South Africa over Ireland to secure a 1-0 series lead in the first bilateral men's T20I between the two sides in Malahide on Monday.

Quinton de Kock's 20 off nine balls threatened a promising start but came to an end as he found Paul Stirling's hands off the bowling of Mark Adair and that laid the foundations for a stuttering first-innings performance from the Proteas.

The visitors lost wickets at regular intervals, with Rassie van der Dussen (25 off 18), Aiden Markram (39 off 30) and David Miller (28 off 21) all showing incentive before failing to capitalise as South Africa reached 165-7, a touch above the average first-innings score of 152 in Malahide.

Simi Singh (2-19), Josh Little (2-27) and Adair (3-39) were the pick of the Ireland bowlers despite the latter being bludgeoned for four consecutive fours by Kagiso Rabada in the 20th over, which leaked 17 runs.

Stirling hoisted George Linde's first ball of Ireland's reply for six but that did not prove a sign of things to come given he was immediately bowled around his legs by the following delivery.

Captain Andy Balbirnie's 22 off 16 balls offered minor resistance as he watched his side struggle to 38-4 at the end of the six-over powerplay, courtesy of two wickets for Lungi Ngidi's wickets and one a piece for Linde and Rabada.

Linde and the world's number-one ranked T20I bowler Shamsi then rolled through the hosts' batting line-up to take 2-26 and 4-27 from their respective allocations and restrict Ireland to 132-9, with Harry Tector's 36 off 34 balls and Barry McCarthy's lower-order cameo of 30 off 25 balls offering the smallest of boosts for Ireland's poor batting showing.

Spin it to win it

Singh's maiden ODI hundred proved in vain in the third ODI defeat for Ireland but he proved his worth with the ball in Malahide, producing an economical four-over spell that saw him go for just one boundary.

Linde enjoyed similar spinning success, though, it was Shamsi who stole the show once again for the Proteas.

The left-arm leg-spinner is the most economical bowler in T20I cricket since the start of 2020 and, barring a trio of wides and two avoidable boundaries, Shamsi displayed his quality as he frequently spun the Ireland batsmen into a tangle.

 

O'Brien's ominous struggles

After playing five internationals and scoring just 27 runs, including a duck and three single-score returns, in 2021 heading into this match, Kevin O'Brien fell for another first-ball dismissal as he was caught and bowled by Rabada.

Turning out for Leinster Lightning in Ireland's inter-provincial T20 tournament, O'Brien has endured a lean domestic spell, too, managing a meagre 47 runs in six matches with a top score of 16.

O'Brien, scorer of Ireland's only hundred in the shortest limited-overs format, will be desperate to find form before the T20 World Cup gets underway in October.

Milan have re-signed forward Brahim Diaz on a two-year loan deal from Real Madrid.

The Rossoneri announced on Monday the 21-year-old Spaniard will be tied to the Serie A club until June 30, 2023 and will wear the number 10 shirt.

Diaz spent last season on loan at San Siro where he scored four goals and provided three assists in 27 games in Serie A, 17 of which ended in victories for Stefano Pioli's side.

The former Manchester City man, who signed for Madrid from the Premier League club in January 2019, had 26 shots for Milan last season with a conversion rate of 15.38.

Diaz, a technically gifted and skilful attacker, joined City in 2015 after showing promise in Malaga's youth ranks.

Although he was regarded as one of City's best prospects alongside Jadon Sancho and Phil Foden, Diaz followed the former in leaving the club in search of more opportunities.

He won his first cap for Spain in June when he started and scored in a 4-0 friendly win over Lithuania, a match where Luis Enrique was forced to call up his country's under-21 squad en masse. Sergio Busquet's positive COVID-19 test in the build-up to Euro 2020 left La Roja's senior team in isolation.

"Happy to be back. Thank you for all the love I have received," Diaz posted on his Twitter account.

 

 

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley does not know if he will be ready for Week 1 of the NFL season, though he is "feeling good".

The progress of the 24-year-old's injury recovery remains uncertain ahead of the start of training camp next week.

Barkley suffered a torn ACL in Week 2 of the 2020 season, a blow that contributed to a miserable 1-7 start for the Giants.

Optimism is high for New York in 2021, though, with reinforcements arriving in free agency after the team rallied to win five of their last eight games and finish 6-10.

The expected return of Barkley – who took the league by storm as the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018 – is part of that feel-good factor, but he is still unsure as to when he will make his comeback.

"I don't know," Barkley said, per SNY and the New York Post, when asked if he would be ready for Week 1 when the Giants play the Denver Broncos on September 12.

Asked if he was trying to keep his status a mystery, he replied: "I've been asked a lot - I guess that's the theme of the summer, going to be when I'll be back.

"But no, I don't have that answer, to be honest. I'm not trying to lead it up to it or something like that or put something up. 

"It's a fun process, but it's a tough process at the same time. Just have to continue to listen to my body, listen to my trainers, listen to the coaches and take it day by day."

Barkley ended on a positive note, adding: "I'm feeling good. I'm doing good, taking it day by day, trying to get one percent better every single day.

"I'm enjoying my time. Obviously, camp is approaching soon, so I'm enjoying time with my family and still trying to get the work in that I can before things ramp up."

In his first two seasons in the league, there were only five running backs who rushed for more yards than Barkley (2,310), while his yards per carry average of 4.83 was ninth during that span.

A huge part of former number two overall pick Barkley's value comes from his receiving ability out of the backfield.

His 143 receptions and 1,159 yards through the air in his first two seasons put him in the top six among running backs for both categories.

Barkley was third behind only Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott with 3,469 scrimmage yards over the two-year period, with quarterback Daniel Jones eager to have him back in the offense for a pivotal year.

The pressure is on for the Giants, who have not won a playoff game since their 2011 Super Bowl success.

Italy and England combined to produce a nail-biting finale to Euro 2020, which was enjoyed by an average audience of 6.4 million viewers in the United States.

Those staggering viewership numbers meant the 2020 showpiece became the most-watched European Championship final in the USA, surpassing the previous record from the Euro 2012 final (4.5 million for Spain v Italy). Viewership increased 43 per cent on the 2016 final.

Even the first two games of the NBA Finals failed to produce better viewing figures, with the USA appearing to have savoured a memorable European Championship.

In fact, as Gianluigi Donnarumma's shoot-out heroics clinched Italy's first European Championship title since 1968, the audience in the United States peaked at 8.1 million, according to ESPN figures.

The final, as expected, had the most American viewers glued to their screens but Euro 2020 produced wholesale improvements throughout the tournament.

Across all 51 matches at Euro 2020, ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 delivered an average viewership of 1.3 million, a 31 per cent increase on the previous edition in 2016.

The round-of-16 fixtures and semi-final clashes provided the most significant improvements from 2016, with those rounds producing 38 and 37 per cent increases to draw in 1.8 million and 2.5 million viewers on average respectively.

Albert Sambi Lokonga's football intelligence can be a huge asset to Arsenal after the Belgium Under-21 international won the admiration of a Premier League great.

Mikel Arteta made Lokonga his second signing of the close season on Monday - the Gunners wrapping up a deal reported to be worth an initial £15million with Anderlecht.

Lokonga was coached by Vincent Kompany at Anderlecht and Arteta, who worked with the ex-Manchester City captain when he was part of Pep Guardiola's staff, did the expected background work on the highly rated midfielder.

"Albert is a very intelligent player who has shown great maturity in his performances during his development," Arteta told his club's official website.

"He has been coached well by Vincent Kompany and his team at Anderlecht. I know Vincent very well and he talks so highly about Albert and the positive impact he had to Anderlecht in recent seasons.

"We're confident Albert's ready for the next stage in his development and we’re looking forward to welcoming a new member to our squad with his quality and presence."

Lokonga made his Belgian Pro League debut in December 2017 and Opta statistics from his performances since then measure up well to those produced by Arsenal players over the same period.

Noted for his ability to play in front of the defence, the 21-year-old made 115 tackles and won 77 in 69 league appearances.

Somewhat predictably, Granit Xhaka is the only Arsenal player to have racked up more – 195 tackles and 114 won – during this time, although the Switzerland star did so over 111 games.

Lucas Torreira, who spent last season on loan at Atletico Madrid, perhaps provides a better point of comparison. In 63 Premier League games for the Gunners, the combative Uruguay international made 98 tackles and won 70.

Of Arsenal outfield players to have featured in 30 or more league games since December 2017, only the now departed Shkodran Mustafi (64.29 per cent) has a better duel success rate than Lokonga (60.7).

Overall, he has won possession 414 times – again a figure only bettered by Xhaka on 746, with Torriera (327) off the pace set by the new signing.

Lokonga is also accomplished in possession, with 86.1 per cent passing accuracy and 67 chances created in the top-flight for Anderlecht suggesting he is not afraid of operating in a progressive manner on the ball.

Xhaka, while continuing to bear in mind his greater game time, has made 94 key passes during the time in question, with attackers Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the only other current Arsenal players to have supplied more.

Roberto Mancini believes he and Gianluca Vialli came 'full circle' at Wembley Stadium, making amends for Sampdoria's European Cup final defeat against Barcelona by succeeding with Italy against England in the Euro 2020 final.

Mancini guided his country to their first European Championship triumph since 1968 with a shoot-out victory over Gareth Southgate's men, courtesy of Gianluigi Donnarumma's penalty-saving heroics.

Tasked with rebuilding after failing to qualify for the World Cup in 2018, Mancini led his side to a 34-game unbeaten run that culminated in the Euro 2020 success.

After the failure of 2018, the first year in which the Azzurri had failed to reach a World Cup since 1958, Mancini told SPORT1 "Italy was down".

"You [Italy] immediately felt that everyone wanted reparations and were ready to work their a***s for the country", the former Manchester City head coach added.

But Italy's title did not just represent success for this current crop of players, it also provided comfort for Mancini and the Azzurri's team delegation chief Vialli, who came up short with Sampdoria against Barcelona at Wembley in 1992.

"I still remember that game [the 1992 European Cup final] very well. We shouldn't have lost it, it wasn't deserved," said Mancini.

"But now the circle has come full. 30 years later. Madness! I'm also happy because this trophy also belongs to the Sampdoria fans to a certain extent. Unfortunately, they had to accept the bitter defeat at the time. Now the wounds are being healed."

Italy's impressive defence propelled them to their success as they conceded just four goals at Euro 2020, with England (two), Belgium and Finland (three each), the only teams able to boast better defensive records.

Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, whose 12 interceptions topped the defensive rankings alongside Ukraine's Mykola Matvienko, marshalled the backline in front of shoot-out hero Donnarumma and Mancini feels the pair deserve significant credit.

"Giorgio [Chiellini] and Leo [Bonucci], of course, have a very large part in our wonderful success. They deserve it so much because they represent 20 years of Italian football history," he explained.

The praise of Chiellini and Bonucci aside, Mancini batted off questions surrounding immortality and history to conclude: "This title is for all the Italians in our country.

"But it is also a gift to all Italians abroad. There is boundless joy right now."

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