After winning the Champions League, Chelsea are looking to add a goalscorer. 

With Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland seemingly no longer a possibility, the Blues could look elsewhere in Germany.

Robert Lewandowski has become the name to watch. 

 

TOP STORY - CHELSEA LINE UP LEWANDOWSKI BID

Robert Lewandowski has moved to the top of Chelsea's wish list, according to the Sun. 

The Poland international scored a record 41 league goals for Bayern Munich last season and is under contract through 2023.

But Thomas Tuchel wants a prolific scorer and Lewandowski would certainly fit the bill, should Bayern accept a £50million offer for the 32-year-old.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United will make an offer for Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane this week, says the Daily Mail, but not at the rumoured £50m asking price. Fabrizio Romano reports Varane wants to move to the Premier League and is ready to accept United's contract proposal. 

United also are in the mix for Real Madrid's winger Vinicius Junior, claims the Mirror. 

Mauro Icardi could leave Paris Saint-Germain for Juventus, says Footmercato.

– Barring a Lewandowski move, Chelsea could wind up as a surprise landing spot for Harry Kane if he does not end up at Manchester City, according to The Athletic.

Liverpool will extend Alisson's contract through 2026 within the next few weeks, Fabrizio Romano reports, while the Mirror says Jordan Henderson will sign a new deal at Anfield through 2023. 

Roma and Inter could lure Alex Telles away from United, according to Calciomercato. 

Arsenal are hoping to complete a deal for Anderlecht midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga within the next week, says the Daily Mail.

Tottenham are eyeing Atalanta's Pierluigi Gollini, says Calciomercato. 

Gianluigi Donnarumma is Euro 2020 winners Italy's star player and will be the best goalkeeper in the world for the next 10 to 15 years, according to Fabio Cannavaro.

The 22-year-old was named UEFA's Player of the Tournament for his penalty shoot-out heroics in Italy's victory over England in last Sunday's final at Wembley.

Donnarumma kept out efforts from Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka, after Marcus Rashford had earlier hit the post, as Italy ended their 53-year wait to win a second Euros crown.

He has won all five of the shoot-outs he has been involved in for club and country, having also made a crucial save in the semi-final shoot-out victory against Spain.

Italy legend Cannavaro believes Donnarumma answered any of his remaining critics with his displays at Euro 2020 and expects his compatriot to shine for at least the next decade. 

"Donnarumma is the real champion of this Azzurri side," Cannavaro told Tuttosport. "I am surprised that, before the Euros, some people thought he was an average goalkeeper. 

"There's nothing average about Gigio. Just think of the tranquillity he has at 22. He will be the best goalkeeper for the next 10 to 15 years."

Donnarumma played more minutes at Euro 2020 than any other player (719), missing only the closing stages of Italy's win against Wales in the group stage.

After spending time celebrating the Azzurri's triumph, the young keeper this week completed a free transfer from Milan to Paris Saint-Germain, where he will compete with Keylor Navas.

"At least we will enjoy him with the national team," Cannavaro added.

 

In his final season at San Siro, where he has spent his entire senior career to date, Donnarumma recorded a joint-high 14 Serie A clean sheets alongside Inter's Samir Handanovic.

While Italy ended a long wait for continental silverware last week, Argentina did likewise by claiming their first Copa America crown since 1993.

Lionel Messi was the star performer for Argentina, scoring four goals and assisting five more to win his first trophy at international level.

Despite Donnarumma's impressive displays for Italy, Cannavaro is backing Messi to win a record-extending seventh Ballon d'Or crown later this year.

"He is the absolute number one and he was the protagonist of a great Copa America," Cannavaro said.

Cristiano Ronaldo's future has been widely discussed this off-season.

The 36-year-old five-time Ballon d'Or winner has only one more year on his existing Juventus contract.

Ronaldo has been linked with several suitors among Europe's elite clubs as well as a switch to MLS after Juve failed to win the 2020-21 Serie A title.

 

TOP STORY - RONALDO SET TO EXTEND JUVE STAY

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to remain with Juventus amid talk of a new cut-price deal, reports Gazzetta dello Sport.

The Portugal international has attracted interest from Paris Saint-Germain and former club Manchester United this off-season.

However, Ronaldo is close to extending his Juve stay with a fresh one-year contract, taking a pay cut.

 

ROUND-UP

– Manchester City are determined to sign Aston Villa's Jack Grealish, according to The Athletic, although the Birmingham Mail claims the England winger is expected to sign a new deal at Villa Park.

– The Sun reports Inter are ramping up their bid to sign Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin on a one-year loan deal with the option of a permanent switch.

– Real Madrid have not received any offers for Gareth Bale, who is expected to remain in the Spanish capital for another season, according to Mundo Deportivo.

– Goal claims Juventus have had their initial €30million offer for Manuel Locatelli rejected by Sassuolo, who have a higher price in mind.

Arsenal are set to land Brighton's Ben White, having agreed to a deal in principle, worth around £50m, reports The Athletic.

When we look ahead to the Olympics, we usually think about track & field sports, swimming, cycling, maybe even wrestling and boxing.

Given it dominates so much of the sporting agenda for the rest of the year, football may not be among those sports we initially associate with the Olympics, but it has offered numerous stars the opportunity to show their talents to a global audience and to potentially take home a coveted medal.

Of course, the Olympic football tournament is geared more towards lesser-established players, given the age-restriction rules in place.

While teams are usually allowed no more than three players over the age of 23, that age limit has been increased to 24 so not to penalise those around the cut-off who may well have missed out as a result of the 12-month delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Superstars such as Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi may be missing, but there are still plenty of familiar faces. Barcelona's Pedri will be involved after starring for Spain at Euro 2020; Brazil great Dani Alves is joined by Arsenal and Everton forwards Gabriel Martinelli and Richarlison; and dynamic Milan midfielder Franck Kessie will be the Ivory Coast's go-to man.

But there are plenty of other relatively unheralded talents ready to make you sit up and take note. Below, Stats Perform takes a look at 10 of them.

Facundo Medina, 22, centre-back – Argentina

It's fair to say Lens defender Medina has enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence. The French side brought him in from Club Atletico Talleres just last July and he's already being mentioned as a potential target for clubs like Manchester United.

While he may not be the most physically imposing central defender, he's a good technician, which is demonstrated by his ease on the ball – only three Ligue 1 centre-backs (more than 1,000 minutes played) embarked on more ball carries per 90 minutes (20) than Medina, while his average of 56 successful passes per game was more than any of his team-mates.

Bryan Gil, 20, winger – Spain

La Roja's squad is packed with familiar names – as many as six were at Euro 2020, and that doesn't include the likes of Marco Asensio, Carlos Soler and Dani Ceballos. But of the players with less global recognition, old-fashioned left-winger Bryan is arguably the most exciting.

He just completed a very encouraging loan spell away from Sevilla with Eibar, where his direct and brave style of play was frequently on display, with only Lionel Messi, Javi Galan and Yannick Carrasco attempting more dribbles than him (132). In January he became only the second player born this century to score a LaLiga brace, and he won his first senior Spain caps this year.

 

Diego Lainez, 21, winger – Mexico

It feels like Lainez has been tipped for a big future for a long time now – after all, he first burst on to the scene with Club America four years ago. Two-and-a-half years into his time in LaLiga with Real Betis, he's yet to really establish himself with only 13 of his 48 league appearances coming as a starter. He's still not scored a goal.

But there's no doubting he's a talent. In 2020-21, he attempted a dribble every 17 minutes, which was a record among Betis players and ahead of even Nabil Fekir (21 mins). Lainez is an entertainer and clearly gifted, but perhaps lacking consistency in his end product. Who knows, as one of the more talented players in the Mexico squad, being seen as a go-to player may aid his quest for maturity.

Teji Savanier, 29, central midfielder – France

Savanier is the odd one out in this list, given he's the only one who actually counts towards an over-age quota, though it could be argued that it's to players like him that playing at the Olympics may matter the most. Savanier's never even played for France's youth teams, let alone the senior side, and he only made his top-flight bow as recently as 2018, but he's one of those central midfielders that's a joy to watch with his wonderful ability on the ball.

He has completed 58.4 per cent of his 279 dribbles in Ligue 1 since July 2018, which is bettered by only three players (more than 150 attempts) in the same period. For greater context, Neymar's completion rate in that time is 52.5 per cent. Savanier should also provide France with a threat at set-pieces, as only Benjamin Bourigeaud created more chances (40) from such situations than the Montpellier star (37) in 2020-21.

 

Thiago Almada, 20, attacking midfielder – Argentina

La Albiceleste's squad boasts numerous talented young attacking players – Ezequiel Barco, Pedro de la Vega, Ezequiel Ponce, but Almada's arguably rated highest of the lot.

A diminutive attacking midfielder from Carlos Tevez's old neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, Fuerte Apache, Almada is skilful, explosive and creative. Among players born this century, Almada boasts the best chances created per game frequency (two) in the Copa Libertadores (at least two games played) this season, as well as being the youngest player to have netted at least twice in the competition in 2021.

Claudinho, 24, forward – Brazil

All roads point to Europe for Claudinho, who looks poised to be the first major export of Red Bull Bragantino, the energy drink giant's Brazilian club. While no move has been confirmed yet, it seems only a matter of time before RB Leipzig look to bring him over to Germany.

 

After all, he was the joint-top scorer in the 2020 Brasileirao (18 goals), with his finishing abilities highlighted by the fact a league-high seven of those were scored from outside the box. Claudinho also created 25 more chances than anyone else in the division, and scooped both the Young Player of the Year and MVP awards.

 

Nathanael Mbuku, 19, winger – France

He may not necessarily be a starter for Les Bleus, given they've plenty of attacking talent in the squad, but at the very least left-winger Mbuku could be an interesting option from the bench. Reims are reported to already value him at €15million, and he has previous when it comes to excelling in national team colours – he netted five goals in six games as France finished third at the 2019 Under-17 World Cup.

Mbuku enjoyed a smattering of Ligue 1 appearances that season, though it was in 2020-21 that he truly established himself, making 28 starts – that was tied with Eduardo Camavinga for the most by a player born in 2002 or after. He caught the eye with his ability to beat a man, completing a highly respectable 58.1 per cent of his 74 dribbles last term, a completion rate bettered by only 10 players who attempted at least 70.

Felix Uduokhai, 23, centre-back – Germany

Wolfsburg plucked Uduokhai from 1860 Munich in 2017 with much expected of him. He fell well out of favour in his second season before moving on loan to Augsburg, who triggered their purchase option on him last year. Since moving to Bavaria, he's hardly looked back.

He earned his first senior call-up to the Germany team in November and now there is chatter that some of the Bundesliga's biggest clubs are circling for him again. Whoever gets Uduokhai will land an imposing centre-back whose 102 aerial wins was the fourth-highest in the league last term, while only Amos Pieper (160) bettered his 157 clearances.

 

Brenno, 22, goalkeeper – Brazil

For years, goalkeeper was considered the only position where Brazil struggled to develop world-class players, though Alisson and Ederson have firmly disproved that notion and Brenno could be another to keep an eye on.

In the 2021 Brasileirao, Brenno is averaging the fourth-most amount of saves per 90 minutes (3.5) among those to have played at least four times, and is reportedly interesting Portuguese clubs. A solid showing in Japan might see a potential transfer sped up.

Amad Diallo, 19, winger – Ivory Coast

Manchester United fans will be eager to get a good look at Amad during the Olympics, given they only got glimpses of him in 2020-21 after joining from Atalanta. Amid those eight appearances, he certainly showed flashes of his exciting ability and silky footwork, but they will hope to see some performances of a little more substance.

As much as anything, it could be an opportunity for Amad to earn himself a loan move or prove to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer he's worth keeping around. Jadon Sancho's arrival will likely further impact his exposure to first-team football, but impressing in Japan might encourage his manager to use him as a regular back up to the England international, with Mason Greenwood moved into a central position.

Real Madrid's desire to sign a new forward is not a secret.

The Spanish giants missed out on silverware in 2020-21, much to their dismay.

Carlo Ancelotti has replaced Zinedine Zidane as head coach with big expectations.

 

TOP STORY - MADRID TARGET SALAH IF MBAPPE FAILS

Ancelotti has told Real Madrid president Florentino Perez he wants to sign Liverpool's Mohamed Salah , reports Fichajes.

The Italian believes Los Blancos needs another forward, with Salah seen as his back-up plan if they fail to land Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe.

Madrid's financial situation is complicated, with the club not making any major signings in 2020-21 amid the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, but they appear determined to land a major forward this off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

- 90min reports that Manchester United's Jesse Lingard has emerged as a target for Spanish champions Atletico Madrid, having caught Diego Simeone's eye during his loan spell at West Ham United.

- Chelsea have shopped around striker Tammy Abraham and Arsenal are interested, according to The Telegraph.

- The Athletic believes Tottenham may make a move for Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini, although he has a £26m (€30m) release clause.

-  Poor relations between Spurs and Southampton, stemming from 2020's Pierre-Emile Hjobjerg deal, may scupper a proposed move for Danny Ings, according to Standard Sport.

- Newly promoted Brentford are set to splash a club record transfer fee of £13.5m to land Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer, claims The Telegraph.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta is optimistic Lionel Messi will sign a contract extension with the club but knows they must stay patient.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner is now a free agent after his deal at Camp Nou expired on June 30.

According to reports, Messi has agreed a new five-year deal with the Blaugrana while accepting a substantial pay cut – although there has yet to be official confirmation.

Barca's significant financial difficulties are likely to mean other players must leave before Messi – or any of the club's new signings, including Sergio Aguero – can be registered.

Nevertheless, club president Laporta says negotiations are progressing well and is confident there will be a positive update in the near future.

"The professionals are doing their job well," he said. "We are very satisfied with how everything is progressing.

"But you know that it is a special market that requires patience, skill and sometimes some juggling.

"But I think, as the summer progresses, we will be able to give good news."

Messi has spent his entire playing career with the Catalan giants, for whom he is the all-time leading scorer with 672 goals in 778 appearances.

The 34-year-old has also won 10 LaLiga titles with Barca since making his senior debut in 2004, as well as the Copa del Rey seven times and the Champions League on four occasions.

And he recently captured his first major international honour; captaining Argentina to Copa America glory following a 1-0 victory over Brazil in the final.

Carlo Ancelotti is glad to have reunited with David Alaba at Real Madrid and has backed the "complete player" to thrive in whatever position he is used in.

Alaba's free transfer to the Santiago Bernabeu was confirmed in May after bringing an end to his 13-year association with Bayern Munich.

The 29-year-old, who featured four times for Austria at Euro 2020, has built a reputation for his versatility with an ability to play centre-back, left-back or in midfield.

Ancelotti knows all about Alaba's adaptability, having previously worked together for one full season at Bayern, and is looking forward to getting the most out of the 10-time Bundesliga champion.

"Alaba is a complete player, with a lot of quality and tactically intelligent in defence," the coach told Real Madrid TV.

"I put him at centre-back in my last games at Bayern Munich, but sometimes he plays in midfield for Austria and can also play on the left. 

"He is a complete player who is going to do very well this season."

Alaba will also bring experience to the Madrid squad, having racked up 448 appearances for Bayern and won 27 trophies during his time in Bavaria.

He is expected to plug the void left by long-serving centre-back Sergio Ramos, who ​last week completed a move to Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

 

Marcelo has succeeded Ramos as captain and returned to pre-season training last week along with some other familiar faces.

Ancelotti, who is in his second spell as Madrid head coach, praised the dedication of some of the team's more senior pros.

"We have worked a lot," he said. "The players have done very well. There is a lot of quality in the youngsters and a great commitment from the veterans. 

"I really liked the commitment of Dani Carvajal, Nacho, Marcelo, Lucas Hernandez and Isco.

"They are players who have won everything and still have the desire, enthusiasm and hunger to have a great season as we would all like to have."

Ancelotti was sacked by Madrid during his first stint six years ago, despite winning the Champions League, Copa del Rey, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup.

Los Blancos averaged 2.7 goals per game during Ancelotti's previous two-year reign, a number aided by the presence of the club's all-time leading scorer Cristiano Ronaldo.

In LaLiga, Ancelotti's side led the way in terms of goals, scoring 104 in 2013-14 and then 118 in the following campaign, eight more than a treble-winning Barcelona squad led by Luis Enrique.

His Madrid averaged 18.1 shots per game – the same number as Zinedine Zidane's side during the Frenchman's first stint – with a conversion rate of 14.9 per cent.

With Ronaldo long gone, Ancelotti may struggle to match the offensive numbers of his previous version of Madrid, but he is acutely aware of what is expected from his team.

"We have to take into account the history of this club," he said when asked to describe his preferred style of play.

"The team has to play well, showing the quality they have. Real Madrid's history is about energetic football, with intensity with the ball and without the ball, which is what today's football requires."

Reports in Spain suggest Atletico Madrid and Antoine Griezmann could be set for a reunion, just two years after Barcelona broke their transfer record to sign the France star.

Griezmann spent five seasons at Atleti, joining Diego Simeone's team from Real Sociedad.

He went on to score 94 LaLiga goals for the club, before a long-mooted switch to Barca went through in 2019.

Yet Griezmann, who turned 30 in March, has never quite managed to scale the same heights at the Camp Nou as he did in Madrid.

A disappointing first campaign marred by injuries and inconsistency left Griezmann playing catch up last term, though he did net 20 times across all competitions to finish as Barca's second-highest goalscorer, behind the imperious Lionel Messi.

With the uncertainty over Messi's future seemingly set to be resolved by a new five-year deal, reportedly worth half of the 34-year-old's previous contract, Barca have to clear their wage bill if they are to comply with LaLiga's salary cap.

The Blaugrana have added Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Emerson Royal in the close-season, though are unable to register those new signings until players are moved out.

Griezmann, who is one of the club's highest earners, looks set to be one of the names to make way in a swap deal involving Saul Niguez – though Renan Lodi and Mario Hermoso have also been touted as potential options for Barca. Ahead of his potential return, Stats Perform assesses how Griezmann's efforts last season match up to his best campaign from his first Atleti stint.

 

GRIEZMANN AT HIS PEAK

Griezmann was the perfect example of consistency throughout his time at Atleti, as he became the perfect, versatile forward for Simeone's disciplined side.

He partnered Mario Mandzukic, Fernando Torres and Diego Costa among others during his time at the club, transforming himself from a nippy winger to a central striker with predatory instincts in the area, as well as harbouring plenty of creative talents.

Though he played more games (54) and scored more goals (32) during the 2015-16 season, Griezmann's finest campaign at Atleti arguably came in 2017-18.

His tally of 19 LaLiga strikes was 11 more than any other Atleti player, as he finished sixth in the scoring charts overall.

Griezmann added another 10 goals across the cup competitions, however, including a brace in the Europa League final, which Atleti won 3-0 against Marseille in Lyon.

Only Griezmann got into double figures for Atleti in terms of assists (13), while only Koke (81) created more chances than his 65.

Griezmann was clinical when opportunities came his way, too, converting 52.38 per cent of the 42 "big chances" that were crafted for him, and he ranked top for attempts (124) as he averaged a goal every 133 minutes.

To cap off an exceptional domestic campaign, Greizmann put in a man of the match display as France beat Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 World Cup final.

 

PAST HIS BEST?

After making much of his call to stay put at Atleti – Griezmann having taken part in a mini-documentary to confirm his decision before the World Cup – the 28-year-old completed a €120million switch to Barca a year later.

It came with controversy; Atleti insisting Barca had fallen some €80m short of the obligated fee, but the transfer was nevertheless upheld.

His first season at Camp Nou was one to forget. The coronavirus pandemic merely prolonging a dismal campaign by Griezmann's lofty standards – the nadir for all involved at Barca coming in the humbling 8-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.

Yet Griezmann came into his second season with a renewed sense of purpose and finally seemed to click under new boss Ronald Koeman.

While still having to fit in around key man Messi, Griezmann played 51 times in all competitions, making 45 starts, clocking up 3,904 minutes in total (the second most he has managed in a campaign since his move to Atleti).

A total of 20 goals sees him fall some way short of the 29 he managed in 2017-18, though his 12 assists come close to matching his Atleti peak.

 

His expected assists (xA) total of 8.99 does, however, suggest the quality of opportunities he created was perhaps not wholly responsible for his 12 goal provisions. Given he was linking up with Messi, that is perhaps no surprise. This was, though, also the case in 2017-18, with Griezmann tallying an expected assists figure of 6.3, suggesting his Atleti team-mates were finishing chances they may not have been expected to.

Griezmann created more chances (67) last term than in his 2017-18 season, though his conversion rate of gilt-edged opportunities dropped to 39.39 per cent from 33 such openings.

Only in 2018-19 (15.11) did Griezmann have a lower shot conversion rate than last term (18.02) while there was no international glory for him this time around either – he scored once as France dropped out of Euro 2020 in the last 16.

Manchester City's pursuit of a new striker is well known.

Sergio Aguero's exit has left a void for the Premier League champions.

City have been linked with a host of big names including Erling Haaland and Harry Kane.

 

TOP STORY - MAN CITY MONITORING LEWANDOWSKI

Manchester City are monitoring the status of Bundesliga top scorer Robert Lewandowski, according to the Daily Mail.

Lewandowski has two years remaining on his Bayern Munich deal but has previously indicated he may be open to a move elsewhere.

The report claims City are worried they may not succeed in their pursuit of Kane and see 32-year-old Lewandowski as an option given his quality and potentially lower asking price.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool is readying a £60million (€70m) bid for Inter and Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella according to La Repubblica. However, Fabrizio Romano claims Inter will not sell him.

- Everton have submitted a £30m (€35m) bid for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, but the Italian club have told the Toffees to double the offer, claims Calciomercato.

- The Telegraph reports that England full-back Kieran Trippier is desperate to return to the Premier League as he waits on a move from Atletico Madrid to Manchester United.

- The Telegraph also claims that Joe Willock will spend time on loan again at Newcastle from Arsenal. He will join the Magpies on a season-long deal.

- SPORT claims that Chelsea are tracking Sevilla's Jules Kounde after he recently rejected interest from Tottenham.

- Chelsea are looking to utilise Tammy Abraham as a sweetener in any deal to land Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, reports The Mirror.

- West Bromwich have turned down West Ham's offer for goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, claims The Athletic.

Real Madrid revealed they have lost "close to €300million" in revenue during the coronavirus pandemic as their financial results were announced on Wednesday.

However, Los Blancos reported a post-tax profit of €874,000 for 2020-21, up from €313,000 in the previous financial year.

"In this way, the club will be one of the few big clubs in Europe that does not incur losses in these two years, given that – according to a UEFA study – the operating losses accumulated by European clubs between 2019-20 and 2020-21 will approach €6billion," Madrid said.

A statement attributed the club's financial performance to "intense spending saving measures in all areas".

These measures, Madrid said, were the only way to compensate for a sizeable nine-figure revenue loss, "to which we would have to add the loss of new income that could have been achieved if the pandemic had not existed."

The 13-time European champions did not make a single first-team signing in the 2020-21 season while selling Achraf Hakimi and Sergio Reguilon and allowing James Rodriguez to leave.

Further big names are following this year, with Sergio Ramos departing after claiming a contract offer was withdrawn and Raphael Varane widely linked to Manchester United.

However, Madrid are not considered to be in as tricky a situation as rivals Barcelona, who are closing on a new deal for Lionel Messi but must first clear room under their salary cap.

And Los Blancos – whose Santiago Bernabeu stadium is under renovation, with the team playing elsewhere during the pandemic – continue to be linked with high-profile moves for the likes of Kylian Mbappe.

But the final line in Madrid's financial report appeared to rule out sudden significant expenditure.

"With regard to the economic situation, current forecasts indicate that the recovery from the pre-pandemic situation will not be immediate," the club said.

"In this context, the club will continue in the effort so far to contain spending."

Lionel Messi has agreed a five-year contract extension with Barcelona after accepting a substantial pay cut, according to reports.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner became a free agent when his contract at Camp Nou, where he has spent his entire senior career, expired at midnight on June 30.

However, following months of speculation regarding Messi's future, Catalan dailies L'Esportiu and Sport reported on Wednesday that the 34-year-old has agreed to stay on.

An announcement could be made as early as Thursday, it is claimed, once LaLiga officials have signed off on the contract.

Barcelona are facing high-profile financial problems and need to reduce their wage bill if they are to comply with LaLiga's financial fair play rules.

Speaking on Monday, however, Barca president Joan Laporta revealed talks between the Catalan giants and Messi were "progressing adequately".

The same reports suggest Messi has agreed to a far lower salary, potentially as much as 50 per cent on his previous deal that was signed in 2017.

The five-year contract will take the superstar forward through to the age of 39, though Barca may allow Messi to see out the final part of his career in Major League Soccer.

Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City were the main frontrunners for Messi last year, though neither club made an immediate move for the free agent.

 

Messi was again hugely influential for Barcelona last season, finishing as LaLiga's top scorer and managing 38 goals and 12 assists across all competitions.

Taking all competitions into account, he created 117 chances for others and netted a goal every 110.32 minutes. 

Full-back Jordi Alba was next on the list of the most chances created for Barca in 2020-21, teeing up 85 goalscoring opportunities.

Despite the speculation surrounding his club future, Messi carried his club form onto the international stage by inspiring Argentina to their first Copa America crown since 1993.

He scored four goals and chipped in with five assists to win his first piece of silverware for his country.

Javier Tebas will not turn a blind eye to LaLiga's financial fair play rules to allow Barcelona to keep Lionel Messi.

Barca president Joan Laporta said this week that talks with Messi, who became a free agent for the first time in his career this month, were "progressing adequately".

And reports on Wednesday claimed Messi had agreed a new five-year contract with Barca that will pay him half his original salary.

Speaking prior to the emergence those reports, LaLiga president Tebas rejected the notion he could ignore salary cap rules to allow Barca to retain the services of the Argentina superstar.

In doing so, he hinted Barca could come under scrutiny from the league if they release players or staff to enable them to keep Messi.

"No, I won't [turn a blind eye] for Messi, it's impossible. There are many workers [at LaLiga] and in the economic control [department] as well," Tebas told Radio Marca.

 

"We often have to explain [the economic controls] to agents and players because they don't know about it or think clubs are deceiving them, and we've had to explain it in recent years.

"We'll have to analyse everything properly, because if there are dismissals for economic reasons but then they bring in Messi and others... we'd have to look into that.

"Right now, I can only give my opinion, and that is that it is odd that there has been no offer [for Messi] from Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain.

"And I firmly believe there isn't and that the player wants to stay."

 

Messi is coming off a 2020-21 season in which he scored 38 goals in all competitions, the fourth-most across Europe's top five leagues behind Robert Lewandowski (48), Kylian Mbappe (42) and Erling Haaland (41).

The sole reward for his efforts was the Copa del Rey, as Barca missed out on LaLiga and lost in the last 16 of the Champions League to Mbappe and PSG.

However, he crowned the campaign with his first senior international trophy, helping Argentina to triumph in the Copa America on Saturday as they defeated Brazil 1-0 in the final.

Chelsea may have been European champions in 2021, but they have not won the Premier League since 2017.

Blues owner Roman Abramovich is reportedly ready to loosen the purse strings to end their league title wait.

Chelsea have been linked with several big-name signings this off-season.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA RELEASE FUNDS TO LAND HAALAND

Chelsea are ready to ramp up their bid to sign Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland now Euro 2020 is over.

Bild reports Abramovich has released the funds required to lure Haaland to London following an impressive 18 months in Germany.

Dortmund have reportedly told Chelsea it will take £150m (€176m) to sign the Norwegian, and Chelsea may sell Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech and Tammy Abraham to fund the move.

 

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Tottenham have set their sights on Southampton forward Danny Ings, making him a priority, claims The Telegraph. Manchester City are also apparently interested.

- Daily Express reports Chelsea are making plans to sign Antoine Griezmann on loan from Barcelona, with the Blaugrana attempting to reduce their wage bill in line with LaLiga salary cap rules.

- Another Barcelona player potentially on the move is Clement Lenglet. According to Sport, new Everton manager Rafa Benitez wants to build his defence around the France international.

- Monaco left-back Fode Ballo-Toure is close to signing with Milan, having already agree personal terms, according to Fabrizio Romano.

- Fabrizio Romano also claims Roma are interested in signing Alex Telles on loan from Manchester United to replace the injured Leonardo Spinazzola.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez claimed comments where he allegedly criticised Iker Casillas and Raul have been "taken out of the context".

Perez's controversial remarks came from an audio recording in 2006 that was leaked on Tuesday and published in Spanish newspaper El Confidencial.

At that time Perez had just left his position as Madrid president and in the audio he appears to at least partially link the influence held by the two players to his exit.

He is reported to have opined Casillas was not good enough to play in goal for Madrid while questioning the huge influence held by Raul.

Perez, who returned as Madrid's president in 2009, reckoned his support of the European Super League was the motivation behind the leaked audio.

In a statement released by Real Madrid, Perez said: "Given the story in El Confidencial, in which comments are attributed to me, I think it's necessary to clarify.

"The comments were made in conversation with D. Jose Antonio [Abellan], who has been unsuccessfully trying to sell them for years. It's surprising that given the time that has passed, they have appeared today in the newspaper El Confidencial.

"The comments are taken out of the context in which they were made. That they are reproduced now, after so many years, I believe is due to my role as one of the promoters of the European Super League.

"I have placed the issue in the hands of my lawyers who are studying possible legal action."

Former striker Raul is Madrid's all-time record appearance holder with 741 and was their leading goalscorer with 323 until that total was eclipsed by Cristiano Ronaldo, who found the net 450 times for Los Blancos.

Raul is currently coach of Madrid's reserve team.

Ex-goalkeeper Casillas is just behind Raul with 725 appearances and won all the major club titles during a 25-year stint with Madrid.

Talks between Lionel Messi and Barcelona over a new contract are "progressing adequately", according to Joan Laporta.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi, who has spent his entire senior career at Camp Nou, is now officially a free agent after his Barcelona deal expired at the end of June.

He has been linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain in the past, but the 34-year-old is widely expected to remain with the Blaugrana despite their financial problems.

However, Barca must first reduce their wage bill if they are to comply with LaLiga's financial fair play rules and offer Messi the deal he is holding out for.

Messi's club future is now back in focus after helping Argentina to Copa America success last week and Barca president Laporta remains hopeful terms can be agreed.

"[Messi's renewal] is progressing adequately," he told reporters during the presentation of Mago Pop's show 'Nothing is Impossible'.

"All the Catalans, Barcelona, Catalunya and the entire football world are happy because Leo won the Copa America.

"It is very exciting to see the best player in football history get excited about winning a title like this and he made all of us cry with joy.

"He is very happy, we are all happy. I am happy for Leo who has managed [to win the Copa America], together with his team-mates, and that Argentina are once again in the elite. 

"I am happy for Messi's family, for Argentina, for Barcelona who are recognised, admired and loved for having this bond with Leo."

 

Messi was again hugely influential for Barcelona last season, finishing as LaLiga's top scorer and managing 38 goals and 12 assists across all competitions.

Taking all competitions into account, he created 117 chances for others and netted a goal every 110.32 minutes. 

Full-back Jordi Alba was next on the list of the most chances created for Barca in 2020-21, teeing up 85 goalscoring opportunities.

Despite the speculation surrounding his club future, Messi carried his club form onto the international stage by inspiring Argentina to their first Copa America crown since 1993.

He scored four goals and chipped in with five assists to win his first piece of silverware for his country.

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