For a club like Milan, 11 years make for a long wait.

Let alone the enormous hierarchical changes that have taken place at Casa Milan over that period, with turbulent changes of ownership and coaches that have impacted various transformations in approach both on and off the pitch, those 11 years in European football have witnessed a seismic tactical shift.

The Rossoneri's last Serie A title in 2010-11 sits as a stark contrast to this year's title charge that ended in success, glory sealed on Sunday with a 3-0 win at Sassuolo.

In 2010-11, the Scudetto was like a perfect storm – upon Massimiliano Allegri's hiring as coach, Alexandre Pato was coming into his own before injuries started to take their toll, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva were solidifying their respective statuses as world-class footballers in their positions, amid the career tail-ends of Clarence Seedorf and Alessandro Nesta.

That Milan team was inherently reflective of its time, leaning on the likes of Ibrahimovic, Pato and Robinho to provide goals, moments and the eventual title. Despite Ibrahimovic's added contribution of 12 assists that season, their equal share of 14 league goals each was fitting. But coming into the final game of the season this weekend, Rafael Leao was the only Milan player to have scored over 10 goals.

Reflecting the totality of role that midfields at the top of European football must now characterise, Milan have effectively challenged for the Scudetto this season – and last season – without a front third it can lean on. Less diplomatically, Milan's front third has been a collection of misfit toys jumbled together as the purse strings have tightened.

Despite falling away after Christmas, it is what made last season's run so distinct, for it was ultimately volatile in the second half of the season and served as a precursor to this term. Following Ismael Bennacer and Ibrahimovic's injuries against Napoli in November 2020, Milan were performing the proverbial smash and grab on a weekly basis, on the back of Franck Kessie's penalty exploits and Theo Hernandez doing Theo Hernandez things at left-back. Their 3-2 win over Lazio coming into that Christmas was a particularly distinct example.

How has this Milan team achieved this Serie A title with a largely dysfunctional frontline in possession? How do the Rossoneri build something sustainable from it, given the Scudetto for this project has arguably come ahead of schedule, despite losing Gianluigi Donnarumma to Paris Saint-Germain, along with successive injury spells for Ibrahimovic and Simon Kjaer?

In contrast to last season, Milan have come home strongly, going undefeated since their loss in mid-January to Spezia. Following the African Cup of Nations as well as a debilitative run of injuries and Covid-19, Bennacer has finally been able to put together a consistent run of games since February. With the arguable exception of Marcelo Brozovic, the 24-year-old has re-established himself as the best midfielder in Serie A.

Along with the ever-improving Sandro Tonali, the diminutive Algerian gives Milan oxygen while taking it away from the opposition, in both attacking and defensive senses. The latter is a critical aspect for under Stefano Pioli, Milan press high up the pitch more than any team in Serie A. Among players over 500 minutes, Bennacer leads the team for combined tackles and interceptions (4.08) per 90.

Something that's particularly important is how he can compress the pitch and close off the middle for the opposition through where he wins the ball, not simply how much of it he wins. Bennacer has an innate ability to step onto the opposition's initial pass into Milan's defensive half and come out with the ball, allowing the Rossoneri to spring into transition or maintain territorial superiority.

 

 

His spatial awareness also transfers to the offensive side of the game, as an extension of the simple fact he shows for the ball to feet in areas his team-mates in midfield do not.

It unlocks his technical aptitude and sense of balance on the ball, with the ability to wriggle out of tight spots and get the team up the pitch. As a result, Bennacer (2.18) dwarfs Tonali (1.05) and Kessie (1.34) for successful dribbles per 90, while seeing more of the ball over the course of a game and in more damaging areas, with 83.9 touches per 90 in comparison to Tonali's 65.51 and Kessie's 66.63.

 

 

Meanwhile, Kessie playing a more advanced role in midfield for periods this season has not translated to a correspondent gap in chances created from open play.

Kessie - who scored against Sassuolo - leads the three with 1.05 per 90 this term, in comparison to Tonali's 0.84 and Bennacer's 0.98. Kessie's forthcoming departure for Barcelona might actually unlock Milan's best tandem in Pioli's 4-2-3-1.

With Bennacer, Milan can play through their midfield and not have to rely on the attacking force of nature at left-back that is Hernandez. His open play xG p90 of 0.11 and 1.06 chances created from open play p90 is simply eyewatering from left-back - especially in comparison to Alessandro Florenzi and Pierre Kalulu's respective 0.55 and 0.34 in the latter category.

Ultimately, amid Ibrahimovic running on fumes at 40, the members of Milan's attack have largely singular skill sets and as a sum of their parts, are still largely inflexible.

 

Players like Leao, Alexis Saelemaekers, Olivier Giroud and Junior Messias – and even Ante Rebic when available - are all necessary in some capacity on top of what they provide in defensive pressure up the pitch, but with the ball Milan are a much less flexible team in the absence of that Tonali/Bennacer tandem – something last weekend's win over Atalanta arguably only reinforced despite the result.

The need to maximise midfield balance in relation to attacking personnel is a distinct dynamic across Serie A, particularly in contrast to Juventus' diminishing power and as the arms race for forwards intensifies across the rest of the top five. Yet in a season where the Italian title winner will not break 90 points, none reflect that dynamic more than the Rossoneri.

The narrative accompanying Milan's Scudetto triumph this season will be one of a European giant being quote unquote "back". 

Their ability to maintain this level domestically in coming seasons - as well as challenging on the continent, with meek group stage exits in the Champions League like this season only being tolerable for so long among an ambitious fan base - will ultimately depend on how this relatively young team builds around Tonali and Bennacer.

For a club like Milan, 11 years make for a long wait.

Let alone the enormous hierarchical changes that have taken place at Casa Milan over that period, with turbulent changes of ownership and coaches that have impacted various transformations in approach both on and off the pitch, those 11 years in European football have witnessed a seismic tactical shift.

The Rossoneri's last Serie A title in 2010-11 sits as a stark contrast to this year's title charge that ended in success, glory sealed on Sunday with a 3-0 win at Sassuolo.

In 2010-11, the Scudetto was like a perfect storm – upon Massimiliano Allegri's hiring as coach, Alexandre Pato was coming into his own before injuries started to take their toll, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva were solidifying their respective statuses as world-class footballers in their positions, amid the career tail-ends of Clarence Seedorf and Alessandro Nesta.

That Milan team was inherently reflective of its time, leaning on the likes of Ibrahimovic, Pato and Robinho to provide goals, moments and the eventual title. Despite Ibrahimovic's added contribution of 12 assists that season, their equal share of 14 league goals each was fitting. But coming into the final game of the season this weekend, Rafael Leao was the only Milan player to have scored over 10 goals.

Reflecting the totality of role that midfields at the top of European football must now characterise, Milan have effectively challenged for the Scudetto this season – and last season – without a front third it can lean on. Less diplomatically, Milan's front third has been a collection of misfit toys jumbled together as the purse strings have tightened.

Despite falling away after Christmas, it is what made last season's run so distinct, for it was ultimately volatile in the second half of the season and served as a precursor to this term. Following Ismael Bennacer and Ibrahimovic's injuries against Napoli in November 2020, Milan were performing the proverbial smash and grab on a weekly basis, on the back of Franck Kessie's penalty exploits and Theo Hernandez doing Theo Hernandez things at left-back. Their 3-2 win over Lazio coming into that Christmas was a particularly distinct example.

How has this Milan team achieved this Serie A title with a largely dysfunctional frontline in possession? How do the Rossoneri build something sustainable from it, given the Scudetto for this project has arguably come ahead of schedule, despite losing Gianluigi Donnarumma to Paris Saint-Germain, along with successive injury spells for Ibrahimovic and Simon Kjaer?

In contrast to last season, Milan have come home strongly, going undefeated since their loss in mid-January to Spezia. Following the African Cup of Nations as well as a debilitative run of injuries and Covid-19, Bennacer has finally been able to put together a consistent run of games since February. With the arguable exception of Marcelo Brozovic, the 24-year-old has re-established himself as the best midfielder in Serie A.

Along with the ever-improving Sandro Tonali, the diminutive Algerian gives Milan oxygen while taking it away from the opposition, in both attacking and defensive senses. The latter is a critical aspect for under Stefano Pioli, Milan press high up the pitch more than any team in Serie A. Among players over 500 minutes, Bennacer leads the team for combined tackles and interceptions (4.08) per 90.

Something that's particularly important is how he can compress the pitch and close off the middle for the opposition through where he wins the ball, not simply how much of it he wins. Bennacer has an innate ability to step onto the opposition's initial pass into Milan's defensive half and come out with the ball, allowing the Rossoneri to spring into transition or maintain territorial superiority.

 

 

His spatial awareness also transfers to the offensive side of the game, as an extension of the simple fact he shows for the ball to feet in areas his team-mates in midfield do not.

It unlocks his technical aptitude and sense of balance on the ball, with the ability to wriggle out of tight spots and get the team up the pitch. As a result, Bennacer (2.18) dwarfs Tonali (1.05) and Kessie (1.34) for successful dribbles per 90, while seeing more of the ball over the course of a game and in more damaging areas, with 83.9 touches per 90 in comparison to Tonali's 65.51 and Kessie's 66.63.

 

 

Meanwhile, Kessie playing a more advanced role in midfield for periods this season has not translated to a correspondent gap in chances created from open play.

Kessie - who scored against Sassuolo - leads the three with 1.05 per 90 this term, in comparison to Tonali's 0.84 and Bennacer's 0.98. Kessie's forthcoming departure for Barcelona might actually unlock Milan's best tandem in Pioli's 4-2-3-1.

With Bennacer, Milan can play through their midfield and not have to rely on the attacking force of nature at left-back that is Hernandez. His open play xG p90 of 0.11 and 1.06 chances created from open play p90 is simply eyewatering from left-back - especially in comparison to Alessandro Florenzi and Pierre Kalulu's respective 0.55 and 0.34 in the latter category.

Ultimately, amid Ibrahimovic running on fumes at 40, the members of Milan's attack have largely singular skill sets and as a sum of their parts, are still largely inflexible.

 

Players like Leao, Alexis Saelemaekers, Olivier Giroud and Junior Messias – and even Ante Rebic when available - are all necessary in some capacity on top of what they provide in defensive pressure up the pitch, but with the ball Milan are a much less flexible team in the absence of that Tonali/Bennacer tandem – something last weekend's win over Atalanta arguably only reinforced despite the result.

The need to maximise midfield balance in relation to attacking personnel is a distinct dynamic across Serie A, particularly in contrast to Juventus' diminishing power and as the arms race for forwards intensifies across the rest of the top five. Yet in a season where the Italian title winner will not break 90 points, none reflect that dynamic more than the Rossoneri.

The narrative accompanying Milan's Scudetto triumph this season will be one of a European giant being quote unquote "back". 

Their ability to maintain this level domestically in coming seasons - as well as challenging on the continent, with meek group stage exits in the Champions League like this season only being tolerable for so long among an ambitious fan base - will ultimately depend on how this relatively young team builds around Tonali and Bennacer.

For a club like Milan, 11 years make for a long wait.

Let alone the enormous hierarchical changes that have taken place at Casa Milan over that period, with turbulent changes of ownership and coaches that have impacted various transformations in approach both on and off the pitch, those 11 years in European football have witnessed a seismic tactical shift.

The Rossoneri's last Serie A title in 2010-11 sits as a stark contrast to this year's title charge that ended in success, glory sealed on Sunday with a 3-0 win at Sassuolo.

In 2010-11, the Scudetto was like a perfect storm – upon Massimiliano Allegri's hiring as coach, Alexandre Pato was coming into his own before injuries started to take their toll, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva were solidifying their respective statuses as world-class footballers in their positions, amid the career tail-ends of Clarence Seedorf and Alessandro Nesta.

That Milan team was inherently reflective of its time, leaning on the likes of Ibrahimovic, Pato and Robinho to provide goals, moments and the eventual title. Despite Ibrahimovic's added contribution of 12 assists that season, their equal share of 14 league goals each was fitting. But coming into the final game of the season this weekend, Rafael Leao was the only Milan player to have scored over 10 goals.

Reflecting the totality of role that midfields at the top of European football must now characterise, Milan have effectively challenged for the Scudetto this season – and last season – without a front third it can lean on. Less diplomatically, Milan's front third has been a collection of misfit toys jumbled together as the purse strings have tightened.

Despite falling away after Christmas, it is what made last season's run so distinct, for it was ultimately volatile in the second half of the season and served as a precursor to this term. Following Ismael Bennacer and Ibrahimovic's injuries against Napoli in November 2020, Milan were performing the proverbial smash and grab on a weekly basis, on the back of Franck Kessie's penalty exploits and Theo Hernandez doing Theo Hernandez things at left-back. Their 3-2 win over Lazio coming into that Christmas was a particularly distinct example.

How has this Milan team achieved this Serie A title with a largely dysfunctional frontline in possession? How do the Rossoneri build something sustainable from it, given the Scudetto for this project has arguably come ahead of schedule, despite losing Gianluigi Donnarumma to Paris Saint-Germain, along with successive injury spells for Ibrahimovic and Simon Kjaer?

In contrast to last season, Milan have come home strongly, going undefeated since their loss in mid-January to Spezia. Following the African Cup of Nations as well as a debilitative run of injuries and Covid-19, Bennacer has finally been able to put together a consistent run of games since February. With the arguable exception of Marcelo Brozovic, the 24-year-old has re-established himself as the best midfielder in Serie A.

Along with the ever-improving Sandro Tonali, the diminutive Algerian gives Milan oxygen while taking it away from the opposition, in both attacking and defensive senses. The latter is a critical aspect for under Stefano Pioli, Milan press high up the pitch more than any team in Serie A. Among players over 500 minutes, Bennacer leads the team for combined tackles and interceptions (4.08) per 90.

Something that's particularly important is how he can compress the pitch and close off the middle for the opposition through where he wins the ball, not simply how much of it he wins. Bennacer has an innate ability to step onto the opposition's initial pass into Milan's defensive half and come out with the ball, allowing the Rossoneri to spring into transition or maintain territorial superiority.

 

 

His spatial awareness also transfers to the offensive side of the game, as an extension of the simple fact he shows for the ball to feet in areas his team-mates in midfield do not.

It unlocks his technical aptitude and sense of balance on the ball, with the ability to wriggle out of tight spots and get the team up the pitch. As a result, Bennacer (2.18) dwarfs Tonali (1.05) and Kessie (1.34) for successful dribbles per 90, while seeing more of the ball over the course of a game and in more damaging areas, with 83.9 touches per 90 in comparison to Tonali's 65.51 and Kessie's 66.63.

 

 

Meanwhile, Kessie playing a more advanced role in midfield for periods this season has not translated to a correspondent gap in chances created from open play.

Kessie - who scored against Sassuolo - leads the three with 1.05 per 90 this term, in comparison to Tonali's 0.84 and Bennacer's 0.98. Kessie's forthcoming departure for Barcelona might actually unlock Milan's best tandem in Pioli's 4-2-3-1.

With Bennacer, Milan can play through their midfield and not have to rely on the attacking force of nature at left-back that is Hernandez. His open play xG p90 of 0.11 and 1.06 chances created from open play p90 is simply eyewatering from left-back - especially in comparison to Alessandro Florenzi and Pierre Kalulu's respective 0.55 and 0.34 in the latter category.

Ultimately, amid Ibrahimovic running on fumes at 40, the members of Milan's attack have largely singular skill sets and as a sum of their parts, are still largely inflexible.

 

Players like Leao, Alexis Saelemaekers, Olivier Giroud and Junior Messias – and even Ante Rebic when available - are all necessary in some capacity on top of what they provide in defensive pressure up the pitch, but with the ball Milan are a much less flexible team in the absence of that Tonali/Bennacer tandem – something last weekend's win over Atalanta arguably only reinforced despite the result.

The need to maximise midfield balance in relation to attacking personnel is a distinct dynamic across Serie A, particularly in contrast to Juventus' diminishing power and as the arms race for forwards intensifies across the rest of the top five. Yet in a season where the Italian title winner will not break 90 points, none reflect that dynamic more than the Rossoneri.

The narrative accompanying Milan's Scudetto triumph this season will be one of a European giant being quote unquote "back". 

Their ability to maintain this level domestically in coming seasons - as well as challenging on the continent, with meek group stage exits in the Champions League like this season only being tolerable for so long among an ambitious fan base - will ultimately depend on how this relatively young team builds around Tonali and Bennacer.

Barcelona have already secured the signings of two free agents, Joan Laporta says, and Leeds United winger Raphinha could be their next recruit.

Rejuvenated under Xavi, Barca are now setting in motion their plans for the transfer window at the end of the season.

In an interview with RAC1, president Laporta suggested the Blaugrana would struggle to afford Erling Haaland or Kylian Mbappe and ruled out a return for Lionel Messi.

But he did have positive news for Barca fans, too, revealing: "We have closed two players who end their contracts this season."

It is widely thought Laporta's comments relate to Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen – unable to renew terms at Stamford Bridge due to government sanctions – and Milan midfielder Franck Kessie.

Meanwhile, Brazil international Raphinha would demand a fee, but Laporta confirmed his interest in a player who is represented by ex-Barca man Deco.

"We have had good reports," Laporta said.

"Deco has his work and informs us of details so that we do not commit errors. In some cases, he has helped us a lot."

Barcelona are reportedly too restricted by LaLiga financial rules to enter the race for the world's best players, even after inking a deal with Spotify worth up to $235million.

Xavi's side have gone from strength to strength recently, finding form and re-establishing Barcelona as a prime destination, with a number of strong signings rumoured to be heading to Camp Nou in the next transfer window.

While there may be interest in bringing in the biggest names in the world, Barcelona supporters will likely need to lower their expectations.

TOP STORY – BARCELONA OUT OF SALAH RACE

It was reported that Barcelona have interest in signing Liverpool's Mohamed Salah, but The Daily Mirror claims that it will not be possible due to LaLiga's financial rules.

Salah – who boasts 28 goals and 10 assists in 36 matches for Liverpool this season – is likely to fetch a price similar to Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, who Barcelona president Joan Laporta ruled out when talking with RAC 1, as well as Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, due to the lofty figures.

While Barca may not be willing to fork out €100m for a single signing, they are rumoured to have agreed to terms with Robert Lewandowski, who could fetch up to €60m at 33 years old, as well as Franck Kessie and Cesar Azpilicueta, with further interest in Ajax's Antony and Manchester United's Paul Pogba.

ROUND-UP

– Borussia Dortmund are interested in signing Premier League strikers Timo Werner and Anthony Martial from Chelsea and Manchester United, according to 90Min.

– According to The Sun, Newcastle United are keen on signing Watford's Ismaila Sarr in the upcoming transfer window in a deal believed to be worth around £35m.

– Leeds United have placed an asking price of £67m on Brazilian winger Raphinha, per The Daily Mirror, with The Athletic also reporting that the club insists his only release clause is triggered if the Whites are relegated from the Premier League.

– Calciomercato is reporting that Arsenal and Atletico Madrid will be competing for the signature of Inter Milan striker Lautaro Martinez, with the Italian club said to be interested if the fee hits £58m.

– According to Mundo Deportivo, Paulo Dybala is interested in joining Atletico Madrid when his contract expires after this season, and while Inter also have interest, they would need to sell Martinez to do so.

Franck Kessie will not stay in Serie A, but instead will be forming part of Xavi's rebuild at Barcelona.

After a long contract saga at Milan, the Ivorian midfielder will reportedly leave the Serie A title contenders at the end of the season on a free transfer.

The 25-year-old will be the last player to leave from Milan's notorious splurge of 2017, which saw the club nearly break the €200million mark on over 10 players.

TOP STORY – KESSIE SET FOR BARCELONA MOVE 

Those who have followed Franck Kessie's contract situation with Milan will be aware a €6.5million salary was his reported benchmark. Milan have been reticent to pay that figure gross, but Barcelona are said to be willing to pay it net.

Protracted contract renegotiations between Kessie and Milan have failed to come to a resolution, and while  Ismael Bennacer and Sandro Tonali become more central to Stefano Pioli's plans, letting Kessie go has seen increased scope.

According to the Guardian, Kessie will leave the Rossoneri at the end of the season on a Bosman and join Barcelona with a contract that will last until 2026.

ROUND-UP

- According to reports from La Gazzetta dello Sport, Juventus are preparing a substantial package to lure 29-year-old Mohamed Salah away from Liverpool.

- Having started on the bench with Karim Benzema injured in El Clasico, Luka Jovic is not considered as a requirement going forward at Real Madrid and will leave the club in the summer, as reported by Marca.

- Brazilian winger Raphinha has rejected Leeds United's first approach over a new contract, per UOL.

- Former Manchester United and Netherlands striker Ruud van Nistelrooy is tipped as the frontrunner to take over as coach at another former club of his, PSV, according to the Mirror.

Edinson Cavani's stay at Manchester United seems to be coming to an end.

Signed as a free agent from Paris Saint-Germain in 2020, Cavani has found his game-time limited this season by both injury and managerial preferences, while it has also been claimed recently he has opted out of playing.

He is out of contract at the end of the season and appears determined to find a new club.

 

TOP STORY – CAVANI WANTS LALIGA SWITCH

Fabrizio Romano has reported that Cavani's preference is to join a team in LaLiga.

The 35-year-old, who has scored two Premier League goals this season, has not yet played in LaLiga, having previously starred for Napoli in Serie A before his move to PSG in 2013.

Cavani was previously linked with a move to Atletico Madrid, prior to joining United. Romano also reports that Argentine giants River Plate have approached the Uruguay international, but that potential move does not interest the striker.

ROUND-UP 

- Barcelona want to tie up deals for Ajax full-back Noussair Mazraoui, Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta and Milan's midfield powerhouse Franck Kessie, who are all approaching the end of their contracts, reports Romano.

- The Daily Mail, citing The Mirror, are reporting that United will consider making a move for Tottenham star Harry Kane at the end of the season.

- Aston Villa are one of the clubs monitoring Kalvin Phillips' situation at Leeds United, so say The Daily Mail.

- SPORT claim that Sergino Dest is willing to leave Barca and join Roma.

- According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Juventus and Milan are both keeping tabs on Lille midfielder Renato Sanches.

They say you should never judge a player on one good international tournament.

In fairness, when Bayern Munich splashed out a reported €35million on an 18-year-old Renato Sanches in 2016, he had already impressed at Benfica, but it was his showings at Euro 2016 for eventual winners Portugal that sped up the hype train.

Just over a year later, he was struggling to get game time during a loan move at Swansea City.

Sanches' star had fallen almost as quickly as it had risen, and after being unable to establish himself at Bayern, the midfielder made the move to Lille in 2019.

At the French side he finally settled and became a crucial part of Christophe Galtier's underdogs, who impressively beat Paris Saint-Germain to the 2020-21 Ligue 1 title.

Sanches followed up his championship medal with another comeback, standing out as one of the best players again at Euro 2020.

As football never seems to learn its lessons, hype rebuilt around Sanches following his performances for Portugal in last year's rescheduled tournament, and the 24-year-old has been linked with a transfer to one of Europe's elite pretty much ever since.

Clubs including Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid have all been mooted as possible destinations, but recent reports suggest that Milan could be where Sanches takes the next step of his journey, and potentially where he could finally fulfil that much-discussed potential.

Although Lille have failed to come close to defending their title this season, Sanches has continued to impress when available.

He has played 25 games in all competitions (21 starts), registering one goal and five assists, three more than any other Lille midfielder.

Sanches has completed 57 dribbles, with Jonathan Ikone – more of a forward player and who moved to Fiorentina in January – completing the next most at the club this season (38), and he has created as many big chances (eight) as Ikone having played the same number of games. A big chance is defined by Opta as a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score.

Comparing the same numbers to Milan's midfield, he has created twice as many big chances as the Rossoneri's most creative players (Sandro Tonali and Alexis Saelemaekers – four), and only Saelemaekers has completed more dribbles (58), albeit from more appearances. Sanches averages more completed dribbles than the Belgian per 90 minutes (3.01 to 2.51).

One assumption would be that Sanches has been earmarked to replace Franck Kessie, who appears likely to be leaving San Siro when his contract expires at the end of the season, though the two are not all that similar as players.

Kessie has six goals this season, two from the penalty spot, but just one assist, and has only created two big chances. Sanches also makes far more dribbles, attempting 91 compared to 38 from Kessie.

Sanches has made almost as many recoveries as the Ivory Coast international (146 to 158) but has attempted fewer tackles than all of Milan's midfielders (20), with the lowest tackle success rate (45 per cent).

His pass success percentage is also worse than Kessie's (81.77 to 88.73). You might think that could be down to the intent of those passes, but Kessie is even more comfortably ahead when it comes to pass success percentage in the opposition half (75.53 to 85.53).

Sanches, of course, plays in a different league, and so how do his numbers compare in this season's Champions League?

While it must be noted that Lille had an easier time of things in the group stages than Milan, who went up against Liverpool, Atletico Madrid and Porto, Sanches did seem to shine on the big stage more than Stefano Pioli's current crop.

Only Ismael Bennacer (39) made more recoveries than Sanches' 38, having played a game more, while no-one at the Serie A side attempted as many as his 209 passes, and none won possession in the opposition's final third more than him (four).

Milan suffered elimination in their group, while Lille won theirs and put up a respectable fight against Chelsea in the first leg of their round-of-16 clash at Stamford Bridge.

Sanches in particular looked good again, though he was unable to prevent the Premier League side taking a 2-0 lead over with them to the Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Wednesday, where Sanches sadly will not play after picking up a muscle injury in the 0-0 draw with Saint-Etienne on Friday.

"Renato Sanches underwent tests this morning following the injury contracted on Friday during the match between LOSC and AS Saint-Etienne," read a statement from Lille. "The midfielder has suffered an injury to the biceps femoris muscle in his left thigh.

"His unavailability is estimated at three weeks, depending on the clinical evolution of his injury."

And this is arguably the thing that has held Sanches back more than anything, his injury record.

For context, at the age of just 24, he already has two pages of injuries listed on his injury history on Transfermarkt, the vast majority of which have been muscle issues that just do not seem to go away.

In terms of what he has shown on the field in the past couple of years, Sanches seems more than ready for another shot at an elite club.

Whether he can stay fit long enough to do so is another matter.

Victor Osimhen has netted 11 goals in all competitions, prompting admiration from some top clubs.

The Napoli striker is valued at around €80million by the Serie A leaders.

Manchester United are understood to be interested in Osimhen.

TOP STORY – REAL TO RIVAL MAN UTD FOR OSIMHEN

The race for Napoli forward Osimhen is heating up with Real Madrid joining United in pursuit of his signature, according to Calciomercato.

Osimhen's Napoli contract does not expire until 2025 but both clubs are ready to flex their muscles and move for him in the off-season transfer window.

The 23-year-old forward's stock has risen dramatically since Napoli signed him for €70m from Lille in 2020.

ROUND-UP

- Inter are lining up a move for Borussia Monchengladbach's Marcus Thuram as they prepare for Lautaro Martinez to be prized away amid interest from Manchester City, claims The Sun.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Milan have agreed personal terms with Lille defender and Newcastle United target Sven Botman, who has been lured by a five-year deal.

- Barcelona are set to join the race for Wolves midfielder Ruben Neves, who has interest from Arsenal and Manchester United, reports the Mail.

- The Express claims that Aston Villa are interested in manager Steven Gerrard's ex-Liverpool team-mate Luis Suarez along with Milan's Franck Kessie .

- Teenage England international Jude Bellingham has opted to remain with Borussia Dortmund for one more season, claims Bild.

- Kicker claims that Roma have joined the pursuit for Stuttgart's Sasa Kalajdzic along with Tottenham, West Ham, Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig .

- West Ham are interested in Bristol City striker Antoine Semenyo, according to The Mirror, while Celtic are also tracking him.

Paul Pogba's future at Manchester United has been the subject of widespread speculation.

The 28-year-old midfielder will be out of contract at the end of this season.

Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are among the sides linked with the World Cup winner.

TOP STORY – JUVE TO PRIORITISE POGBA DEAL

Juventus have made signing Manchester United midfielder Pogba their top priority, reports Calciomercato.

Pogba has regularly been linked with a move away from Old Trafford as he stalls on a new deal with the Red Devils.

The Frenchman spent four years with the Bianconeri from 2012 to 2016 and they are dreaming of his return.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo reports that Roma are leading the way to sign Mexico international Hector Herrera, who is expected to leave Atletico Madrid at the end of this season.

- Milan have swooped in on Newcastle United target Sven Botman and are set to beat them to the Lille defender's signature, claims Calciomercato.

- Milan midfielder Franck Kessie's next destination is becoming more likely, with Barcelona moving closer to sealing a deal for the Ivorian on a free transfer, reports SPORT.

- Fichajes reports that Crystal Palace have enquired with Real Madrid about their asking price for midfielder Dani Ceballos .

- Robert Lewandowski is out of contract in 2023 and wants a new deal with Bayern Munich but no talks have yet taken place, claims Fabrizio Romano.

Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid has often felt like a never-ending transfer saga, but it appears a resolution might now be in sight.

Los Blancos are apparently confident of getting the Paris Saint-Germain star in 2022 even though their performance did not impress him in the Champions League.

However, Madrid do have a back-up plan.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID CONFIDENT ON MBAPPE BUT MANE IS PLAN B

Real Madrid believe they will win the battle to sign Kylian Mbappe on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain in 2022.

Carlo Ancelotti's side are preparing to announce the deal at the end of the season, according to Goal.

However, should their efforts to sign Mbappe or Erling Haaland fail, Madrid have a back-up plan: Fichajes claims they will submit an offer for Sadio Mane.

ROUND-UP

Arsenal are interested in signing Joao Felix from Atletico Madrid, according to television show El Chiringuito.

Manchester United have been quoted €75million (£62.5m) for RB Leipzig star Christopher Nkunku, Bild says.

- Meanwhile, United striker Edinson Cavani is ready to listen to an offer to join Botafogo when his contract expires, Goal claims.

- According to Sport, Tottenham have submitted the firmest offer to sign Paulo Dybala from Juventus, but Barcelona and Inter are also interested.

Milan are resigned to losing Franck Kessie after this season and could replace him with Renato Sanches, Tuttosport says.

UEFA has decided to move the Champions League final from St Petersburg, according to the BBC. The game could be held in London.

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.

Ousmane Dembele's future with Barcelona has been unclear for months.

The 24-year-old has snubbed a fresh contract extension offer at Barca.

On Thursday, it was confirmed the Blaugrana have subsequently put him up for sale in January.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA READY FOR DEMBELE MOVE

Chelsea are ready to make a January move for Barcelona's Dembele, claims The Sun.

France winger Dembele is out of contract at the end of this season and Barca now want him to leave this month.

Chelsea have interest in Dembele, although it is unclear if they want to sign him on loan or permanently.

 

ROUND-UP

- Roma are prepared to offer Jordan Veretout in exchange for Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. Goal and The Athletic claim that Paris Saint-Germain  are in talks with Spurs and Ndombele over a loan move.

- The Telegraph claims Tottenham are ready to make a January swoop for Milan's Franck Kessie, whose contract expires at the end of this season.

- Sevilla are still keen to sign Manchester United forward Anthony Martial on loan, according to Marca. The Spanish club had an initial offer rejected and could move for Lyon's Moussa Dembele as an alternative.

- Real Betis want to sign Manchester City full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko this month, with the lure of regular football, claims The Sun.

- Crystal Palace have pulled out of the race to sign Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey, reports the Daily Mail. Ramsey has had interest from Newcastle United, Wolves and Burnley.

Ivory Coast marched into the last 16 of the Africa Cup of Nations and sent holders Algeria crashing out with a 3-1 victory at Japoma Stadium.

Algeria needed a win to stay in the tournament, but the sorry defending champions are heading home after finishing bottom of Group E.

Ivory Coast exploited Les Fennecs' frailties to cruise through as group winners and set up a showdown with Egypt, Franck Kessie setting them on their way by volleying in with his left foot to finish off a slick move midway through the first half when Nicolas Pepe squared the ball into his path.

Ibrahim Sangare capitalised on terrible defending to double their lead with a free header six minutes prior to half-time and Pepe was allowed to run forward unchallenged before picking his spot to add a third goal early in the second half.

Riyad Mahrez rattled the right post with a penalty after Simon Deli was adjudged to have fouled Youcef Belaili before Sofiane Bendebka scored Algeria’s first goal of the tournament with a header 17 minutes from time.

Sebastien Haller had what he thought was the Elephants' fourth goal ruled out for offside right at the end, but they gained sweet revenge for a defeat to Algeria at the quarter-final stage of the 2019 showpiece.

Luis Suarez's future at Atletico Madrid is unclear with his contract to expire at the end of the season.

Suarez helped Atleti win LaLiga last term with 21 goals.

The Uruguayan joined Atletico from top-flight rivals Barcelona in 2020 on a two-year deal.

TOP STORY – SUAREZ WANTS GERRARD REUNION AT VILLA

Suarez wants a reunion with former Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard at Aston Villa, reports Gerard Romero.

The Atletico Madrid forward's contract expires at the end of this season and has been sounded out by numerous Brazilian clubs.

Suarez has had offers from Palmeiras, Corinthians and Atletico Mineiro but wants to link up with Gerrard who took over at Villa in January.

 

ROUND-UP

- ESPN claims Paris Saint-Germain have opened talks with Manchester United's Paul Pogba and Milan's Franck Kessie, as part of their effort to convince Kylian Mbappe to stay in the French capital amid interest from Real Madrid.

- Juventus have made an enquiry for Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria according to 90min as they prepare for Arthur Melo to join Arsenal .

- Arsenal's bid to sign Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic looks to have hit a roadblock with the Serbian only interested in joining Juventus, reports the Mail.

- Milan want to bolster their backline and are interested in a loan deal for Tottenham's Japhet Tanganga, claims Fabrizio Romano.

- Leicester City and Newcastle United may rival Brentford to sign Inter's Christian Eriksen, reports the Times.

Page 1 of 4
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.