Brentford manager Thomas Frank hinted at the club's potential interest in signing Christian Eriksen as he bids to make a return to top-level football, and even the rumours have the Danish coach pinching himself.

Eriksen has not played since suffering a cardiac arrest during Denmark's Euro 2020 opener against Finland in June last year, an emergency that meant he had "died for five minutes".

He was subsequently fitted with an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) – while the device could potentially save his life should something similar happen in future, it effectively ended his time at Inter due to Italian football regulations prohibiting professionals from having such implants.

However, ICD are permitted in other European leagues, and the mutual contract termination between Inter and Eriksen last month means the player is free to seek a contract elsewhere.

Former club Tottenham, with whom he spent six and a half years, had been mooted as a potential destination, but reports on Monday claimed Brentford had offered him a six-month deal with the option for another year.

Frank, who coached Eriksen in the Danish youth setup, was initially coy on the rumours, saying: "I can tell you that Christian is a really good player. Everyone knows that. I worked with him in the past.

"He needs to find a club. I love to speak about players that are in house and go running around training pitch. I don't think I should discuss that. I'm not discussing that too much.

"I really hope he comes back to top football and plays football again. He spoke to Danish TV about playing at the World Cup and I hope he does succeed for all football, and for Danish fans. He's our biggest star from the Euros, we want the best for him and his family."

He soon opened up a little more, seemingly confirming Brentford's interest in both Eriksen and Bologna's Scottish left-back Aaron Hickey before also making reference to a joke made about potentially signing Kylian Mbappe in a recent interview.

"I'm interested in a lot of players, both Hickey and Eriksen," Frank added. "Someone spoke about Mbappe, I'd take him as well!

"A lot of rumours. I love to discuss if and when we sign a new player and give my insight. We're in the market and we're looking for players."

Even if Brentford cannot ultimately land Eriksen, Frank believes the fact he was even discussing such a rumour showed just how far the club had come, though he recognised the unusual circumstances of this particular story.

He added: "We all know the journey this club has been on over the last eight to 10 years. Ten years ago someone would say we're crazy to [think we'd] be linked with Eriksen.

"We're playing in the best league in the world, the club is progressing, it's positive. There are so many rumours out there, coaches being sacked, new players. I think it's more fun to talk about other things – let's speak about reality.

"This a player that only plays for the top clubs. Something unfortunate happened with Christian, he deserves to play at the highest level and I hope he does.

"In normal circumstances, there would be no rumours with a club like us. We should be flattered with Brentford involved with a player of Christian's qualities. It's the same with all the players out there… [Lionel] Messi, Mbappe, Eriksen… if they fill in the criteria, they are right for us."

Real Madrid's squad is already packed with a magnitude of talent – and it could become even stronger should Erling Haaland arrive from Borussia Dortmund later this year.

Haaland has scored 78 goals in his two years with Dortmund – only Robert Lewandowski (107) has more in Europe's top five leagues – and would be a major coup for Madrid.

But while the Spanish giants remain confident of bringing in the in-demand striker from Dortmund, it could have a negative knock-on effect.


TOP STORY - HAALAND IN, BENZEMA OUT?

Karim Benzema is a much-loved figure at the Santiago Bernabeu and is enjoying another impressive campaign, but El Nacional claims that Madrid risk losing the Frenchman.

The report suggests that Benzema does not like the fact that president Florentino Perez is so fixated on bringing in a new player to lead Los Blancos' attack from next season.

While the 34-year is not currently seeking an exit, that could change should Madrid reach a pre-contract agreement with Haaland in the coming weeks, as has been suggested.

Benzema would not feel the need to move on should Kylian Mbappe join, though, as he considers that case to be different given the PSG striker is set to become a free agent.


ROUND-UP

Barcelona accept that it is increasingly likely Ousmane Dembele will leave Camp Nou as a free agent at the end of the season. According to Sport, Manchester United and Juventus have held talks with the player's camp, while Chelsea and Bayern Munich have an outside shot of signing the forward.

Arsenal have made their first move to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina, with Corriere Della Sera reporting that the Gunners have tabled an offer of £50million (€60m) plus Lucas Torreira, who is currently on loan with the Serie A side.

Chelsea are interested in signing Layvin Kurzawa on loan as they look to bolster their full-back ranks. However, Fabrizio Romano claims that the Blues have not yet officially opened talks with PSG.

– Calciomercato reports that Man Utd forward Anthony Martial has emerged as a January target for Juventus. The France international has struggled for games this season and has openly admitted he wants to find a new club this month.

Everton are on the lookout for a new manager after parting company with Rafael Benitez on Sunday and hope to make a swift appointment. According to ESPN, former boss Roberto Martinez – now in charge of the Belgium national team – is the leading candidate to take over.

Newcastle United have already brought in Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood this window, but The Telegraph reports that they have been knocked back in their bid to bring in Donny van de Beek on loan. The Man Utd midfielder is said to have been put off by the Magpies' position in the Premier League.

The futures of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, arguably the two most sought-after players in world football, could be determined by the end of the January transfer window.

While the forwards look set to stay at Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain respectively this month, moves away at the end of the campaign look increasingly likely.

And despite intense competition from fellow heavyweight clubs, Real Madrid are determined to win the race for both players.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID TO PUT ASIDE €350m FOR HAALAND

Madrid had two bids knocked back for Mbappe last year but, according to Marca, they remain in pole position to sign the France international in six months' time.

Landing Haaland could prove to be a little more complicated, though, given he will still have two years to run on his contract at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

However, the Spanish publication reports that Madrid are willing to spend big on the prolific striker, who is thought to have a €75million release clause in his deal.

On top of triggering that, it is claimed that Los Blancos will have to set aside cash for Haaland's father, agent Mino Raiola and a hefty salary for the player himself, which could total around €350m.

 

ROUND-UP

- Madrid may be considered the frontrunners to sign Mbappe and Haaland, but they already have a back-up plan in place should either of those moves fail to materialise. According to El Nacional, Fiorentina's in-demand Dusan Vlahovic is also on the Spanish giants' radar.

- CalcioMercato reports that Milan have joined the queue to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen. Christensen, who comes out of contract at the end of this season, is being chased by Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.

- Newcastle United could beat Manchester United in the race for RB Leipzig's Amadou Haidara, with The Mirror reporting that the newly-rich Magpies are set to make an offer.

- The Everton board got together on Saturday to discuss manager Rafael Benitez's future in the job, according to Sky Sports. Everton have won one of their past 13 league games and lost to bottom club Norwich City 2-1 on Saturday.

- PSG, Bayern and Madrid are among Kalvin Phillips' suitors. El Nacional reports that Leeds United have a battle on their hands fending off interest in the midfielder, who has been capped 19 times by England.

- The Mirror reports that Chelsea are considering a move for Inter's Ivan Perisic. The Blues are in the market for a versatile player who can play at left-back while Ben Chilwell recovers from a long-term injury.

 

Mauricio Pochettino believes that Paris Saint-Germain's win over Brest can give them confidence for their Champions League tie with Real Madrid.

Runaway Ligue 1 leaders PSG sit 11 points clear at the summit after cruising to a 2-0 victory over Brest at Parc des Princes on Saturday.

Kylian Mbappe opened the scoring with his 10th Ligue 1 goal of the season, meaning he has now hit double figures in six straight league seasons – in that period, no other player has managed to do so more than three times – before Thilo Kehrer sealed the three points.

With Madrid to come in the Champions League last-16 in February, Pochettino insisted that his side can use the triumph as a base to build confidence.

"Every game, every competition is different," he told reporters at his post-match news conference. "But this performance, especially in the second half, gives us confidence. 

"It reaffirms certain ideas and concepts that we must work on. It's true that the team was good and did what we expected.

"We started well but then we lost a few balls and we got into trouble. In the second half we made better decisions. 

"We saw good collective play, we controlled the match. I am happy with the involvement of all the players. We had better circulation by being aggressive. Yes, I am satisfied, because it was not an easy game.

"We would have liked to win more broadly so that it corresponds to the number of chances we created. But the most important thing is to get chances. 

"We know that we have players who have the goals in their legs. If they didn't score today it will be next time."

Pochettino also had time to introduce centre-back Sergio Ramos for his home debut after the hour mark.

And the former Tottenham head coach suggested that the Spain international could offer him a different dimension with his team, with the option of playing a three-man defence.

He responded to reporters when asked about deploying three defenders: "It is an option. Everything is possible in football. We can consider it. We have already done this during the match. 

"It's not just putting in players but yes, it's an option."

Kylian Mbappe and Thilo Kehrer were on target as Paris Saint-Germain cruised to a 2-0 Ligue 1 win over Brest at Parc des Princes.

Mauricio Pochettino's side headed into Saturday's meeting on an 11-game unbeaten league run, albeit with four draws in their last five, and were ahead when Mbappe struck in the 32nd minute.

That strike was the 23-year-old's 10th in Ligue 1 this term, meaning he has hit double figures in six straight seasons – in the same period, no other player has done so more than three times.

Kehrer extended PSG's advantage after the interval as the hosts coasted to three points to move 11 clear of second-placed Nice at the summit.

Irvin Cardona twice forced smart stops from Gianluigi Donnarumma in the opening stages, while Mbappe drilled narrowly wide at the other end.

But there was no stopping Mbappe after 32 minutes when he fired through Brendan Chardonnet's legs and into the bottom-left corner, before Mauro Icardi saw his header disallowed for an apparent foul on Marco Bizot.

Marco Verratti almost added a second immediately after the break, only to be denied by the post, though the hosts doubled their lead soon after.

Nuno Mendes danced past Ronael Pierre-Gabriel to find Kehrer, who applied a first-time finish into the top-right corner from near the penalty spot.

Bizot then denied Marquinhos with a fantastic reflex save before making two fine stops from Mbappe to keep the scoreline respectable for Brest.

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid as a free agent at the end of this season.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has stalled on signing a new deal with the French giants.

Madrid have long courted Mbappe with a view to signing him, but PSG remain determined to keep their man.

TOP STORY – PSG RE-ENTER TALKS WITH MBAPPE

PSG have launched a determined attempt to retain Mbappe after making the France frontman a new contract offer, claims Telefoot.

The Parisians are said to have offered Mbappe a massive two-year deal to fight off attempts to woo him by Real Madrid.

Mbappe is reported to be unwilling to make a decision yet and could let his contract expire. It runs only until the end of June.

 

ROUND-UP

- La Repubblica reports Arsenal are closing in on a deal for Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic, with Fiorentina said to be considering accepting a £58million offer from the Gunners.

- Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano claims both Barcelona and Bayern Munich are keen to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen at the season's end.

- Manchester United are interested in Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi taking over as their manager next season, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- Southampton have contacted Manchester United about signing goalkeeper Dean Henderson, reports Football Insider. Saints also want to sign Chelsea's Armando Broja permanently but will stiff competition, claims Sky Sports.

- Lille are pursuing former Newcastle United winger Hatem Ben Arfa, reports L'Equipe. Ben Arfa left Bordeaux at the end of last season.

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid at the end of this season.

The 23-year-old attacker has stalled on a new contract offer at Paris Saint-Germain.

Madrid have been circling for Mbappe's signature for a long time and had multiple bids rejected in 2021.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE COULD STILL RE-SIGN WITH PSG

Mbappe could spring a surprise and renew his current PSG deal prior to the end of this season, claims Le Parisien.

The 2018 World Cup winner had been expected to become a free agent when his contract expires on June 30 and join Madrid .

Le Parisien claims that PSG have hope that Mbappe may pen an extension to force a transfer fee from Los Blancos, should they pursue a move. Mbappe is still undecided on his future, according to the report.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United 's superstar forward Cristiano Ronaldo has held crisis talks with his agent Jorge Mendes as he considers his future with the Red Devils, according to The Sun. Ronaldo reportedly may leave United depending on their choice of a new permanent manager.

- El Nacional claims that Liverpool are ready to offer Barcelona teenager Gavi a deal worth £80,000 (€96k) per week to secure his signature, while Manchester City are also interested. Barca have a £42m (€50m) release cause in the 17-year-old's contract.

- Arsenal want to sign a new midfielder in January with Lyon's Bruno Guimaraes on their radar while a loan deal for Arthur Melo was discussed but has not advanced to talks with Juventus yet, claims Fabrizio Romano.

- Argentinean forward Dario Benedetto is set to return to his homeland to join Boca Juniors from Marseille although the deal may take several days to complete, reports Cesar Luis Merlo.

- Nicolo Schira claims that Newcastle United have opened discussions with Sevilla on a four-year deal to sign Brazilian defender Diego Carlos .

- West Ham United and Newcastle may be priced out of their pursuit for Marseille's Boubacar Kamara,  who wants a £150,000-per-week (€180k) deal according to The Sun.

Kylian Mbappe has received the glowing praise of France's president Emmanuel Macron, who hopes the star continues to "enchant the public".

Mbappe has enjoyed a sensational rise and, at just 23, is already considered one of the world's best players.

Having burst onto the scene at Monaco in 2016-17, Mbappe has gone on to win four Ligue 1 titles, three Coupe de France crowns, the Coupe de la Ligue twice and the 2018 World Cup.

Since joining Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, Mbappe has scored 150 goals in 196 appearances, ranking him third out of players across Europe's top five leagues within that timeframe, behind Robert Lewandowski (208 goals) and new PSG team-mate Lionel Messi (162).

This week, Mbappe was placed at number one on French sports newspaper L'Equipe's list of "30 who make French football".

President Macron, who last year expressed his desire to see Mbappe remain at PSG amid interest from Real Madrid, provided a glowing appraisal of the Parisian forward.

"Kylian Mbappe may be so young, but he espoused the excellence of his sport for [his] club and national team, he lived the most extreme experiences and he demonstrated the qualities of the greatest: lucidity, courage, resistance. I am sure of one thing: he will continue to amaze us," Macron wrote.

"Everyone obviously wishes him to make this promise come true by building the best track record in European football and above all to continue to enchant the public with his jubilant gestures, his brilliant passes and his magical goals. We know that he can.

"But if Kylian Mbappe has taken a special place in the hearts of the French, it is also through his attitude on and off the field."

Mbappe may not be in Ligue 1 for much longer. He does not seem to intend to sign a new deal with PSG and, from this month, he is eligible to sign pre-contract agreements with teams from other countries.

Madrid, who had multiple bids rejected by PSG in August 2021, are the frontrunners for his signature.

Carlo Ancelotti insisted Real Madrid's planning for next season was "already done" but did not reveal whether the club have made a fresh bid for Kylian Mbappe.

Paris Saint-Germain frontman Mbappe has entered the final six months of his contract at the Parc des Princes and it is no secret that Madrid want to bring him to Spain.

The 23-year-old was a target for Los Blancos during the last transfer window but recently ruled out leaving PSG in mid-season.

However, Italian agent Giovanni Branchini claimed LaLiga leaders Madrid have offered €50million to sign Mbappe now, less than six months after they reportedly offered up to €200m.

They could hire him as a free agent at the end of the campaign should Mbappe refuse new terms in Paris, but getting the France international through the door now would also be a major coup.

Ancelotti was asked about Branchini's comments in Madrid's news conference on Tuesday, but elected to sidestep the issue.

"Talking about players who are not here does not seem fair to me," said Ancelotti.

"I have a good relationship with Branchini. I prefer not to comment on this."

Mbappe scored a hat-trick in PSG's 4-0 Coupe de France win over Vannes on Monday and has indicated he wants to fight for trophies with Mauricio Pochettino's side this season.

Madrid are looking both short term and long term, and Ancelotti said: "The planning for next season is already done. I would find it unprofessional if a club like Madrid hadn't planned already."

On Wednesday, Madrid face Alcoyano at the Copa del Rey last-32 stage, a year on from being humiliated by the minnows at the tiny Estadio El Collao in Alcoy.

Madrid's then-coach Zinedine Zidane and his players had to swallow a 2-1 defeat last January against the third-tier team, who snatched an extra-time winner while down to 10 men.

Ancelotti said his preparation for the rematch had not involved watching a video nasty of last year's upset.

"I haven't seen last year's game," Ancelotti said. "I know what happened because the players have told me about it. It's still an open wound.

"The players know better than I what happened and what doesn't have to happen tomorrow."

A 1-0 defeat to Getafe on Sunday was a jolt to start the new year for Madrid, and Ancelotti quipped afterwards that it was as though he and his players had taken an extra day of holiday. But it will be down to business for the cup game.

"We are going to take it seriously. We know the difficulties we may have, and I will put the best team possible together," Ancelotti added.

Gareth Bale will be absent, unwell rather than injured, but Ancelotti said the Wales forward could come into the equation for the LaLiga tussle with Valencia on Saturday.

Kylian Mbappe scored a second-half hat-trick as Paris Saint-Germain breezed through to the Coupe de France last 16 with a 4-0 win over Vannes.

Presnel Kimpembe was also on target for the defending champions, who remain unbeaten in 90 minutes in the competition since 2014.

The skipper headed the runaway Ligue 1 leaders in front after 28 minutes at Stade de la Rabine.

Mbappe then took centre stage after the break, striking three times to put the fourth-tier side to the sword.

Unbeaten against lower-league opposition in the Coupe de France since 2010, a much-changed PSG quickly imposed their authority on proceedings, enjoying over three-quarters of the possession.

The visitors, who have won six of the last seven editions of this competition, also registered eight shots inside the opening 25 minutes, with Kimpembe, Xavi Simons, Ander Herrera and Georginio Wijnaldum all drawing saves from Clement Petrel.

But there was no denying Kimpembe, who broke the deadlock with a free header from Nuno Mendes' corner.

Kimpembe turned provider 14 minutes after the restart, Mbappe latching onto his hopeful long ball and racing away before doubling the lead.

The France striker made it 3-0 in emphatic fashion in the 71st minute as he fired a stunning 20-yard effort into the top corner from Simons' pass.

That was the talisman's fourth brace in as many appearances for PSG in all competitions.

But hungry for more, he completed his hat-trick five minutes later, playing a neat one-two with Eric Ebimbe before sliding into the empty net.

Kylian Mbappe has convinced Mauricio Pochettino he will not be affected by transfer speculation as Paris Saint-Germain battle to keep the striker from Real Madrid's clutches.

France frontman Mbappe was targeted by Madrid in August and the Spanish giants are expected to attempt to sign the 23-year-old once more, with his contract less than six months away from expiring.

So far, Mbappe has given little indication about his plans, and it is an enviable choice that awaits the former Monaco player.

PSG head coach Pochettino will keep his focus on matters on the pitch, with contract negotiations not part of his remit. Mbappe could leave on a free transfer, but PSG hope he will agree to lucrative terms on a long-term extension.

Pochettino has been assured by Mbappe's words and deeds that the player who has 15 goals in 24 games this season will not be distracted by the question of where he will be playing next term.

"I think the contract situations in football only affects you if you are not mature enough," Pochettino said in a news conference on Sunday.

"Kylian Mbappe is mature and we know what the conditions are here. We do not think it is a problem. We all hope Kylian Mbappe can stay at the club for many years, but there are two sides to making this decision.

"We hope that Kylian Mbappe continues performing as he has been doing and that there is a positive solution for everyone."

Mbappe has said he has no intention of jumping ship in mid-season, meaning PSG can plan around him for the rest of this campaign.

They lead Ligue 1 and are through to the last 16 of the Champions League, where Madrid of all teams will be their opponents, which will inevitably trigger a new wave of speculation.

Speaking to CNN, Mbappe said in December: "No, I'm not joining Real Madrid in January. In January it's not happening.

"I'm in Paris Saint-Germain, I'm really happy, and I will 100 per cent finish the season as a PSG player. I'll give everything to win with Paris all titles this year."

PSG will hope to win the Coupe de France again, after taking that title in six of the last seven seasons, and begin their campaign against fourth-tier outfit Vannes on Monday.

"I like the Coupe de France," said Pochettino. "It's the oldest competition in France, we love this competition and playing against teams like Vannes. That's real football, it's a football that speaks to everyone and we can’t wait to be there."

January 1 2022 is a date Real Madrid and Kylian Mbappe have been anticipating for some time.

Los Blancos were the subject of two failed bids for the Paris Saint-Germain superstar in the previous transfer window.

But the new year sees Mbappe enter the final six months of his contract at the Parc des Princes meaning he is free to talk to clubs outside of France.

And it seems Madrid are more confident that ever of landing their top target.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID HAVE 'TOTAL OPTIMISM' ON MBAPPE

The future of Mbappe has dominated the rumour mill for months and Spanish publication Marca claims there is "total optimism" among the Madrid hierarchy they will land their man.

One complication is the fact the two teams are set to meet in a Champions League last-16 grudge match, with any announcement unlikely to happen before that tie.

But come July 1 there is growing expectation Mbappe will be a Madrid player, with the signing of Lionel Messi and potential future arrival of Zinedine Zidane as head coach seemingly not enough to convince him to remain in the French capital.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea's need for defensive reinforcements may be exacerbated by the fact Andreas Christensen has no intention of signing a new contract. Spanish paper Sport says the Dane, who is out of contract at the end of the season, is close to joining Barcelona.

- Speaking of Barcelona, AS reports the future of Memphis Depay is shrouded in doubt. With Ferran Torres having arrived from Manchester City and Alvaro Morata a top target, Depay may be set for a close-season exit after a solitary campaign at Camp Nou.

- Manchester United could be about to get one over old boss Jose Mourinho by landing Boubacar Kamara. The Daily Mirror reports the Red Devils are attempting to beat Roma to the signing of the Marseille midfielder.

- Roma have also been in the hunt for Arsenal midfielder Ainsley Maitland-Niles, but they apparently face competition from Everton according to the Liverpool Echo.

- Over on the Red side of Merseyside, Italian agency ANSA is reporting Liverpool are about to pip Arsenal and Tottenham to the signing of Milan midfielder Franck Kessie.

- The Athletic suggested the Gunners are also likely to have more frustration. Arsenal have been linked with a move for Lille forward Jonathan David but will apparently have to wait until the end of the campaign to land their man.

January 1 ushers the start of a new year and, for many, a chance for a fresh start. That is particularly true in the world of football as it signals the day the transfer window opens and some of Europe's top talents can plot a lucrative move elsewhere.

A number of the sport's top talents, including Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe and Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba, are due to be out of contract at the end of 2021-22 and can therefore open talks with teams abroad in January.

While the futures of Mbappe and Pogba will be heavily discussed in the coming weeks, other big names across the continent will also become that little more attractive to buyers given their availability on a free (notwithstanding their lucrative salaries, of course!).

Stats Perform looks at the best players soon to be out of contract and therefore available to sign pre-contract agreements elsewhere from January 1.

 

Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)

Where better place to start than with a goalkeeper potentially seeking a new destination. Lloris has spent 10 seasons with Tottenham and has captained the side for the past six years, while also skippering the France national team since 2012.

Spurs have historically been reluctant to offer long-term deals to players in their 30s and that policy could see them lose one of European football's finest goalkeepers from the past decade. He has racked up 392 appearances for Tottenham, keeping 131 clean sheets in the process.

Anthony Martial (Manchester United)

Martial did not quite transform into the superstar forward many were expecting upon joining United from Monaco six years ago, but neither has the France international been as big a flop as some would suggest.

Indeed, since making his Premier League debut in September 2015, only Marcus Rashford (57) has scored more goals for United than Martial's 56. Those goals have come from an expected goals (xG) return of 43, with that xG differential of 13 the largest of any player at the club in that timeframe.

 

Antonio Rudiger (Chelsea)

Chelsea face the prospect of losing four defenders without receiving a fee of any sort at the end of the campaign, with Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta and Rudiger all nearing the end of their respective contracts.

Tying down Rudiger to fresh terms should be the priority, given there has arguably been no better defender in the Premier League since Thomas Tuchel first took charge of Chelsea on January 27, backed up by the centre-back's Premier League-leading 17 clean sheets over that period.

Paul Pogba (Manchester United)

No player has quite dominated the transfer column inches in the same manner as Pogba in recent years and, with no sign of a new contract being signed anytime soon, it now looks certain the 28-year-old will depart United for a second time.

Pogba may have struggled for consistency at Old Trafford, not helped by niggling injury issues, but he has averaged one assist per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season – a tally not matched by any player to have played more than once.

Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)

PSG rejected multiple offers from Real Madrid in 2020, but as it stands they are powerless to stop one of the game's leading lights departing at the end of the season.

As well as breaking a number of goalscoring records, Mbappe's 215 direct goal involvements in all competitions since making his PSG debut in September 2017 – 147 goals of his own and 68 assists – is a tally bettered by only Robert Lewandowski (242) and Lionel Messi (246).

 

Marcelo Brozovic (Inter)

Inter have so far been able to persuade Nicola Barella and Lautaro Martinez to extend their stays at San Siro, but Brozovic's future remains unclear heading into the new year.

Brozovic was a key part of Inter's Scudetto-winning side last term, featuring in 33 of their 38 games, and has started all 19 of their matches this campaign. Only Ruben Dias (1,713), Joao Cancelo (1,803) and William Saliba (1,840) have played more successful passes than the Croatia international (1,681) among players from Europe's top five leagues in 2021-22.

Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

Gareth Bale and Isco are two high-profile Madrid players set to move on either in January or at the end of the season, but as well as trying to seal Mbappe's signing, Madrid's other priority might be ensuring Modric does not bring an end to his decade-long spell at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2022.

Proving that age is just a number, 36-year-old Modric has been as good as ever for LaLiga leaders Madrid this season. The six big chances created by the midfielder in 2020-21, leading to four assists, has been bettered by only four others in the division.

 

Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona)

Dembele has struggled to come close to justifying his hefty transfer fee, reported to be an initial €105million, but he was recently described as having the potential to be the best attacking player in the world by head coach Xavi.

Barca president Joan Laporta is also eager to keep hold of Dembele, who has managed 30 goals and 22 assists in 126 appearances since his debut in September 2017, meaning he has been directly involved in 0.6 goals per 90 minutes. For comparison, that is an identical number to Antoine Griezmann during his short-lived stint at Camp Nou.

Denis Zakaria (Borussia Monchengladbach)

Strongly touted as a target for the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Zakaria will depart Borussia Monchengladbach in 2022 after confirming to the German club that he intends to run down his contract.

The defensive midfielder averages 52.3 passes every 90 minutes and 47.1 successful ones, the latter being the ninth-most this season among Bundesliga midfielders with at least 500 minutes played. Among the same group of players, only seven average more than his two successful dribbles every 90 minutes – all of those being more attack-minded players.

Paulo Dybala (Juventus)

Dybala has indicated that he wants to remain a Juventus player beyond this season but the longer talks over a new deal drag on, the more unlikely it appears he will still be in Turin six months from now – and that would be a major blow for the Bianconeri during an already difficult period.

The Argentina international has eight goals and four assists in 17 appearances this term, without being at what many would consider his best form – at least three more direct goal involvements than Juve's next most threatening player Alvaro Morata and double that of Federico Bernardeschi in third.

Kylian Mbappe has promised he will not leave Paris Saint-Germain for Real Madrid in the January transfer window.

Mbappe has just six months left to run on his contract and was the subject of a big-money bid from Los Blancos in August, but PSG rejected that interest.

The 23-year-old says he has no intention of jumping ship in mid-season, however, and is focused on winning more silverware in the French capital.

"No, I'm not joining Real Madrid in January," Mbappe told CNN. "In January it's not happening.

"I'm in Paris Saint-Germain, I'm really happy, and I will 100 per cent finish the season as a PSG player. I'll give everything to win with Paris all titles this year.

"I will give everything I have to win the Champions League, the league and the cup. And to give all the pleasure to the fans, because they deserve it.

"I'm happy to stay. It's my city too. I'm French. I want to win everything this season."

The Ligue 1 giants are hopeful France striker Mbappe will agree a contract extension but risk losing him on a free transfer should he refuse a new deal.

PSG and Madrid meet over two legs in the Champions League round of 16 and Mbappe assured fans he remains fully committed to helping his current employers overcome prospective ones.

Despite significant spending on transfer fees and wages, PSG have failed to win Europe's premier club competition, going closest in 2020 when they were beaten 1-0 by Bayern Munich in the final.

"[The only thing on my] mind is to beat Real Madrid in February and March," Mbappe said. "We have to be ready. It's time.

"It's the most important part of the season. Of course, we want to step up now. It's been two years [that we've been in the] final [or] semi-final, but now we want to win."

Mbappe also revealed the emotional pull of playing for the capital club as a Parisian, as well as expressing his delight at this season's unexpected opportunity to link up with seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi.

"Paris is my city, it's where I was born, it's where I grew up," Mbappe said. "To play for PSG, it's an amazing feeling to play with your family and friends alongside of you.

"It's a big pleasure for me to say to my kids, to my friends, I play with [Messi]. We have to enjoy seeing him in Paris. It's an amazing moment in the history of the game."

Kylian Mbappe and Robert Lewandowski have expressed concerns about the lack of rest players will get if plans for a biennial World Cup come to fruition.

FIFA's proposal to host the tournament every two years instead of four has largely been met with scepticism.

Both Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe and Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski are not in favour of the change, with the former suggesting that the quality of the spectacle would suffer if the health of players is not taken into account. 

"We like to play but it's too much," Mbappe said in Dubai, where he was named men's player of the year at the Globe Soccer Awards. "If people want to see quality, we have to take a break.

"Playing the World Cup every two years would make this competition 'normal' and that shouldn't be the case. The World Cup, the Nations League... we love to play but it's too much.

"If people want to see quality, I think we have to take a break."

Lewandowski echoed the France international's sentiments, stating that the schedule is already congested even without the added burden of an increased number of World Cups.

"We have a lot of games in the year, very dense weeks," Lewandowski said at the same event. "If you want to give the fans something different, you need a break.

"We have to look into the future, if we want to play a World Cup every two years, the level will drop. It's impossible for the body and the mind to perform at the same level."

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