Trent Alexander-Arnold survived the cull of England's extended Euro 2020 squad as Gareth Southgate named his final 26-man list on Tuesday.

The Liverpool defender, arguably the standout full-back in world football in the 2019-20 season, was expected by many to pay the price for a dip in form over the previous nine months.

England have riches at the position, and Southgate has also selected further specialist right-backs in Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier, Manchester City's Kyle Walker and Chelsea's Reece James.

The players to miss out as Southgate trimmed the 33-man group he named last week were Jesse Lingard, Ben Godfrey, Aaron Ramsdale, Ollie Watkins, James Ward-Prowse and Ben White, with Mason Greenwood withdrawing from contention due to what his club, Manchester United, described as an "underlying injury".
 

England squad for Euro 2020:

Dean Henderson (Manchester United), Sam Johnstone (West Brom), Jordan Pickford (Everton); Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ben Chilwell (Chelsea), Conor Coady (Wolves), Reece James (Chelsea), Harry Maguire (Manchester United), Tyrone Mings (Aston Villa), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Atletico Madrid), Kyle Walker (Manchester City); Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Jack Grealish (Aston Villa), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Mason Mount (Chelsea), Kalvin Phillips (Leeds), Declan Rice (West Ham), Bukayo Saka (Arsenal), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund); Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), Harry Kane (Tottenham), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City).

What does the future hold for Achraf Hakimi?

In his first season with Inter, the Morocco international claimed the Scudetto.

However, his time in Milan could already be coming to an end.

 

TOP STORY – HAKIMI TO PSG?

Paris Saint-Germain want to sign star Inter full-back Achraf Hakimi, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Inter won the Serie A in 2020-21 but find themselves in a tough financial situation due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with head coach Antonio Conte already opting to depart.

Hakimi, Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez and Alessandro Bastoni could reportedly be sold to ease some of the economic pressure at San Siro.

PSG are believed to be interested, though Inter are demanding more than €60million for the 22-year-old, who only joined from Real Madrid at the start of the season.

Madrid have the right of first refusal and can match any offer for their former defender, while Bayern Munich and Chelsea have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail claims Arsenal are plotting a shock bid for Manchester City star Raheem Sterling. The England international found himself out of Pep Guardiola's starting XI at times in 2020-21. Madrid and Barca have been previously linked.

Paul Pogba remains a dream signing for Juventus, reports Calciomercato. Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli and Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez have emerged as targets for Juve, though the Bianconeri are still keen on Manchester United star Pogba, though Udinese's Rodrigo De Paul is an alternative.

- Romano says Barca are open to selling Philippe Coutinho, though Arsenal are not interested in the former Liverpool attacker.

Lionel Messi's contract extension is a priority for Barca before any new signings are made, according to the front page of Saturday's Mundo Deportivo. Barca have been tipped to bring in Lyon captain Memphis Depay, Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Manchester City pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia on free transfers. Gianluigi Donnarumma – another free agent option as his Milan contract expires – is also a possible recruit.

- According to Romano and widespread reports in Italy, Luciano Spalletti has agreed to replace Gennaro Gattuso as Napoli head coach.

Jurgen Klopp believes Ibrahima Konate is a signing with "massive potential" as Liverpool aim to make sure they are not caught short at the back again, but what exactly can the club's fans expect from the new recruit?

The French defender's long-rumoured move to Anfield was confirmed by the Premier League club on Friday, an early deal done to bolster a defensive unit that was beset by injuries in recent months.

Indeed, in the 2020-21 season, Klopp used 16 different starting combinations at the heart of his defence in the Premier League. Midfielders Fabinho and Jordan Henderson were called upon at times to fill in for absent friends, with Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip all long-term absentees.

Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams formed an alliance to help solidify the situation for the critical run-in, but Liverpool are clearly not keen for history to be repeated in the future, having leaned heavily on two untested options.

If January additions Ozan Kabak and Ben Davies – who is still yet to play a minute of first-team football since arriving from Preston North End – were plasters hastily stuck to help cover a glaring issue, Konate is much more than a stopgap signed in case of an emergency.

The 22-year-old is a long-term investment who can make an immediate impact. For Klopp, he ticks all the boxes required to play the position in his Liverpool team.

"In Ibrahima we are signing a player who will add to the quality we already have here. His physical attributes are very impressive; he is quick, he is very strong and he is dominant in the air,” the German coach told Liverpoolfc.com.

"He comes to us after playing more than 90 times for Leipzig in the Bundesliga and European football. I'm sure that number would have been more but for some injury, but even so that means he already has experience of what it takes to compete in two outstandingly difficult competitions.

"He also played for a team in the Champions League in high-pressure matches, who have a similar football vision to ourselves.

"I am confident we are signing a player who can play for us right away, but he is a boy of 22 years of age who has room to improve because of his massive potential. I know that's something he is eager to work on with us to become an even better player."

Konate endured injury issues himself in his final campaign in German football, part of the reason why he was restricted to just eight Bundesliga starts.

However, when available and selected by Julian Nagelsmann, the former Sochaux product impressed. As Klopp pointed out, Konate was dominant in the air – he won 76 per cent of his aerial duels – and also averaged the highest number of clearances per 90 minutes for Leipzig, ahead of Bayern Munich-bound Dayot Upamecano.

Per Opta, of the 742 defenders to play at least 20 games in Europe's top-five leagues since the beginning of the 2019-20 season, only Bruno Alves at Parma (81 per cent) posted a better aerial duel success rate than Liverpool's latest addition (78 per cent).

His tackle success rate of 66.67 per cent sits right in line with those Klopp called upon at centre-back in a see-saw season, level with Gomez – such a key component of the title-winning team from 2019-20 – and well ahead of Kabak, whose future remains unclear having joined on loan from Schalke.

Crucially for a Klopp team, Konate has also demonstrated his skills when in possession too, averaging 13.4 progressive carries (which is when an individual carries the ball five or more metres upfield) and completing 86.1 per cent of his attempted passes. In a side expected to dominate during the majority of games they play, being comfortable on the ball is crucial.

Those abilities on the ball outlined by the numbers, married with the defensive aspects of his game, show why Konate could be an ideal fit at Liverpool.

Liverpool have confirmed the signing of defender Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig.

The centre-back signs a long-term deal to move to Anfield after the Premier League club triggered his release clause, reportedly set at £36million.

Konate, who is currently away with the France squad at the European Under-21 Championship, will add further depth at a position where the Reds were beset by injuries during the 2020-21 season.

Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip were long-term absentees for Jurgen Klopp, who leaned on the inexperienced pairing of Nathaniel Phillips and Rhys Williams during the run-in as Liverpool finished strongly to secure a top-four place.

 

Is David de Gea's time at Manchester United coming to an end?

De Gea has spent a decade with the Red Devils but his form has been scrutinised in recent years.

A swap involving Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak could solve United's problems.

 

TOP STORY – DE GEA OUT, OBLAK IN?

Manchester United are lining up a swap deal involving star goalkeeper David de Gea and Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak, according to The Sun.

De Gea's future has been uncertain since Dean Henderson signed a long-term contract extension at United, who remain uncertain about the pair.

Spain international De Gea joined United from Atletico in 2011 and the Red Devils are prepared to offer the LaLiga giants a reunion in exchange for star Oblak.

 

ROUND-UP

- TV3 reports Barcelona have offered Lionel Messi a new contract. Messi's current deal is due to expire on June 30 and the superstar captain has been linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

Saul Niguez is adamant he wants to leave LaLiga champions Atletico and Juventus lead the race to sign the Spaniard, claims Marca. United – long-term admirers – Bayern Munich and PSG are also interested.

- PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, says the front page of Friday's Mundo Deportivo. Zidane has announced his departure. Former Inter boss Antonio Conte, Castilla coach and club great Raul and Xabi Alonso – currently in charge of Real Sociedad's reserve side – are also on the list. Pochettino has also been linked with a sensational return to Tottenham.

Barca have held talks regarding goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, according to Fabrizio Romano. Donnarumma's Milan contract is due to expire and his departure is already confirmed. After talking with agent Mino Raiola, Barca are set to decide whether to sign Donnarumma, who has also been linked with Juve and United.

- Premier League champions City are looking to smash their transfer record to bring in £100million-rated Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, reports the Daily Mail. City are also interested in Tottenham's Harry Kane – a target for rivals United, Chelsea, Madrid and Barca.

- The Telegraph says United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to sign a new three-year contract in Manchester. Solskjaer guided United to a second-placed finish in the Premier League, while the club were stunned by Villarreal in the Europa League final this season.

Barca are close to completing free transfers for Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Lyon star Memphis Depay, according to Mundo Deportivo. Ronald Koeman's men are also eyeing City's free agent pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.

- FootMercato reports PSG have made an approach for star Milan full-back Theo Hernandez.

Chelsea and Tottenham both have strong interest in Borussia Monchengladbach attacker Jonas Hofmann, claims Sport1.

Zinedine Zidane's career as head coach of Real Madrid looks set to come to an end after a trophy-less 2020-21 season.

Madrid finished as runners-up in LaLiga, while they were knocked out in the Champions League semi-finals and exited in the last 32 of the Copa del Rey.

Zidane returned to take charge of Los Blancos in 2019, after a previous stint from 2016 to 2018 where they won Europe's continental crown three times in a row.

 

TOP STORY - ZIDANE STEPS DOWN AT MADRID

Spanish outlets AS and Marca both are reporting Zinedine Zidane will step down as Real Madrid head coach.

The former France international has reportedly informed the club of his final decision following weeks of speculation around his post.

Zidane had requested a few days to consider his options and has now made his final decision and contacted his players individually, the reports say.

 

ROUND-UP

- Het Nieuwsblad reports that Belgium international and Leicester City's FA Cup final hero Youri Tielemans is among Liverpool's targets as they seek to replace Georginio Wijnaldum.

- Liverpool have also reportedly agreed to a five-year deal with RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate, according to ESPN.

- The Mirror reports that Leicester City may offer a deal to Schalke defender Ozan Kabak after he spent the second half of the season on loan at Liverpool.

- Kicker reports that Bayer Leverkusen are pondering an off-season swoop for Arsenal defender William Saliba.

- Le10Sport claims that French champions Lille are ready to replace the departed Christophe Galtier with Thiago Motta at the helm.

Netherlands head coach Frank de Boer agrees with Virgil van Dijk's decision to sit out Euro 2020 and expects Georginio Wijnaldum and Matthijs de Ligt to fill the leadership void.

Dutch skipper Van Dijk confirmed two weeks ago that he will miss the tournament to focus on getting fully fit for the start of pre-season with Liverpool.

The 29-year-old missed the majority of the 2020-21 campaign due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained against Everton in October, though he is now back in individual training.

De Boer accepts Van Dijk will be a big loss for Oranje in their quest to win a second European Championship title, but understands the decision taken by the centre-back.

"Virgil made the decision himself," De Boer said at a news conference on Wednesday. "I think that's the way it should be. 

"We all hoped that he would have been able to join us, that he would have had the same scenario as Daley Blind, that he would have been able to play one or two games. 

"If we would reach the final, he would have been fit to play, that's what he said himself. In the end, it's been a very well thought out choice of his, even though it sucks for us. 

"We hope we'll reach the World Cup, too, which will be played pretty soon. He doesn't want to miss two big tournaments and he also wants to be important for his club next season. 

"We have all seen how big of an impact his absence has had on us and on Liverpool."

Wijnaldum took over captaincy duties from club-mate Van Dijk last November and will wear the armband at the delayed Euro 2020 finals.

De Boer can also call upon the likes of Inter's Stefan de Vrij and Juventus defender De Ligt, who became the youngest captain in Ajax's history in 2017.

Asked who in his squad will spur the players on, De Boer said: "At this point, it's our captain [Wijnaldum]. 

"But there's different types of leaders: some are charismatic, some are very vocal. That's why you're asking this.

"I think Virgil van Dijk has everything: he has charisma, he's vocal and he looks like a true leader. Now we need to find others. 

"Matthijs de Ligt was captaining Ajax at 19. He is also a similar leader. Stefan de Vrij has proven to be able to do so as well in his recent years at the highest level at Inter. 

"It's something that has to grow within the squad. Daley Blind might not be a very physical leader, but he's very vocal and clear about what he wants others to do – a big plus for us.

"I don't think we have one single leader that has all of those qualities, but it's now time for multiple leaders to stand up and work as one, both on and off the pitch."

De Boer was speaking after naming his finalised 26-man squad for the Euros on Wednesday.

Tottenham forward Steven Bergwijn was the biggest casualty of the eight players cut from the initial 34-man group.

Anwar El Ghazi, Hans Hateboer, Rick Karsdorp, Marco Bizot, Jeremiah St. Juste, Kenny Tete and Tonny Vilhena were the other players omitted by De Boer.

The Netherlands begin their Group C campaign against Ukraine in Amsterdam on June 13, before facing Austria and North Macedonia.

 

Netherlands squad in full:

Jasper Cillessen (Valencia), Tim Krul (Norwich City), Maarten Stekelenburg (Ajax); Nathan Ake (Manchester City), Daley Blind (Ajax), Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus), Stefan de Vrij (Inter), Denzel Dumfries (PSV), Jurrien Timber (Ajax), Patrick van Aanholt (Crystal Palace), Joel Veltman (Brighton and Hove Albion), Owen Wijndal (AZ); Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona), Marten de Roon (Atalanta), Ryan Gravenberch (Ajax), Davy Klaassen (Ajax), Teun Koopmeiners (AZ), Donny van de Beek (Manchester United), Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool); Steven Berghuis (Feyenoord), Luuk de Jong (Sevilla), Memphis Depay (Olympique Lyonnais), Cody Gakpo (PSV), Donyell Malen (PSV), Quincy Promes (Spartak Moscow), Wout Weghorst (Wolfsburg).

Tottenham have been linked with a host of big names as their search for a new head coach continues, but could they be set to turn to a familiar face?

Spurs dismissed Jose Mourinho last month amid an underwhelming campaign where they fell off the top-four pace in the Premier League, as well as crashing out of Europe to Dinamo Zagreb despite having led 2-0 from the first leg.

With speculation mounting around superstar forward Harry Kane's desire to leave, Spurs are getting busy.

 

TOP STORY - SPURS PLOT POCHETTINO RETURN

The Sun reports that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy will consider if he can convince former boss Mauricio Pochettino to complete an astonishing return to the club.

Pochettino, who took Spurs to the 2019 Champions League final, is currently in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, who finished Ligue 1 runners-up on the weekend.

The Sun claims that Pochettino is unhappy in Paris and would consider heading back to north London, where he was sacked in November 2019 after a poor run of results.

Sky Sports also reports that Spurs are in talks with Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fresh from winning the Serie A title, Antonio Conte and Inter could split by mutual consent according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Inter are trying to cut their salary bill, offloading key members and restricting their off-season business, with those details not yet agreed with Conte.

- Sport claims that Barcelona have stepped up their pursuit of off-contract Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and they are close to a three-year agreement after his representative met with president Joan Laporta.

- Wolves are ready to sell midfielder Ruben Neves as they look to fund a rebuild after Nuno Espirito Santo's exit, according to The Athletic. They want £35million for the Portugal international.

- Sky Sports reports that Willian wants to return to Chelsea, barely a year after leaving the Blues for London rivals Arsenal.

- Bild claims that RB Leipzig defender Nordi Mukiele is being chased by Paris Saint-Germain and Spanish champions Atletico Madrid.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen wants to stay with Barcelona and is not considering any other option with Borussia Dortmund not pursuing him, claims Fabrizio Romano.

Trent Alexander-Arnold received praise to go with his recall from Gareth Southgate as the England boss hedged his bets for Euro 2020 by naming a 33-man provisional squad.

The Liverpool right-back could yet face exclusion agony when Southgate trims his list to 26 next week, but for now Alexander-Arnold is back in the England picture.

Once seen as a player who would hold down the right full-back berth for England for years to come, the 22-year-old was dramatically dropped from Southgate's squad in March, with the head coach questioning his recent level of performance at club level.

Atletico Madrid's Kieran Trippier and Manchester City's Kyle Walker – both title winners with their clubs this season – look to be ahead of Alexander-Arnold, who may be battling Chelsea's Reece James for a place in the final group.

After a late-season surge to a Champions League place by Liverpool, helped by an improved Alexander-Arnold, the England head coach was left with a quandary.

"I could easily get drawn into individuals who might be in the 26, get myself in a mess," said Southgate in a news conference following his squad announcement.

"People feel I have an obsession with right-backs. I see four good footballers. Trippier can play right-back or left-back, Trent can play right-back, wing-back. I think he can play in midfield.

"In the last few days I've seen Reece James play right in a three, at wing-back, in midfield. We're going to a tournament and those sorts of flexible players that can fulfill different roles but are good footballers are going to be hugely important for us.

"We don't know how it will play out with injuries, what our best systems will be with people available, we've got too many question marks.

"That will all become far clearer. We know what we'd like to do, we've got good contingencies in place."

Southgate selected an expanded squad because of injury worries over the likes of Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson, the captains of Manchester United and Liverpool. By including Alexander-Arnold, Southgate at least delays any criticism over his exclusion, and it may be that a space opens up for the attack-minded defender.

Alexander-Arnold is a slightly different flavour of defender to Southgate's other options, as a player who had 13 assists in Liverpool's 2019-20 title-winning campaign and seven in the league season just ended.

James has just two Premier League assists in 2020-21 and Walker only one, with the City defender creating just eight chances compared to the 77 set up by Alexander-Arnold. Trippier assisted on six goals in LaLiga, however.

 

James, Walker and Trippier are all well ahead of Alexander-Arnold in terms of dribble and tackle success rates, and Southgate can be expected to be aware of such factors.

Alexander-Arnold's 2020-21 league dribble success rate stood at just 47.06 per cent, with Walker posting 53.33 per cent, James 65.38 per cent and Trippier 76 per cent.

In tackling success, Alexander-Arnold's 58.93 per cent success rate was beaten by his three right-back rivals, who each scored at least 63 per cent, led by 65.52 per cent by Walker.

The Liverpool man's attempted dribbles may at times have been high-tariff manoeuvres, given he regularly plays high up the field, but Alexander-Arnold loses possession at a rate that could give England problems. He gave up the ball 25.49 times on average per 90 minutes in 2020-21 league action, compared to 14.83 by James, 16.35 by Trippier and a mere 13.32 by Walker.

As Southgate toys with that big call, he must also decide whether Mason Greenwood, United's 19-year-old forward, makes the cut.

Greenwood scored just seven Premier League goals at one every 261 minutes in 2020-21 but, after a strong end to the campaign, he has again caught the eye of England's manager, who sent him home along with Phil Foden at the start of the season after a breach of COVID-19 protocol while on national team duty in Iceland.

"In terms of the past it is absolutely the past," Southgate said. "Young people make mistakes, we move on from it, the same with Phil [Foden].

"He's an absolutely outstanding finisher, no question about that."

Is the Gianluigi Donnarumma-Milan relationship coming to an end?

Donnarumma made his debut as a 16-year-old for Milan in 2015, however, the Italy international is reportedly close to making the move to Serie A rivals Juventus.

Step forward Mike Maignan…

 

TOP STORY – DONNARUMMA OUT, MAIGNAN IN?

Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan is poised to undergo a medical with Milan as Gianluigi Donnarumma edges closer to a blockbuster Juventus switch, according to widespread reports.

Donnarumma is set to become a free agent and the Milan star is yet to re-sign with the Rossoneri, who qualified for the Champions League.

Gianluca Di Marzio reports Milan are no longer waiting on Donnarumma as they step up their pursuit of Maignan, who will arrive in Italy on Tuesday after helping Lille to Ligue 1 glory.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano says Massimiliano Allegri's priority is to take charge of Real Madrid, despite interest from former club Juve and Napoli in Serie A. Allegri is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane should he leave the Spanish capital. Despite securing a top-four finish, Andrea Pirlo is being tipped to leave Juve.

- There is set to be a coaching merry-go-round in Serie A this off-season. The front page of Tuesday's Corriere dello Sport says Porto boss Sergio Conceicao is favourite to succeed Gennaro Gattuso at Napoli, with the latter tipped to replace Simone Inzaghi at Lazio. Ex-Roma head coach Paulo Fonseca is the new first choice to join Fiorentina.

Inter must sell one star – Lautaro Martinez or Alessandro Bastoni – due to their financial situation, according to Corriere dello Sport. Martinez has been linked with Barcelona and Real Madrid, while Bastoni has attracted interest from Liverpool and Manchester City. There is also speculation regarding the future of coach Antonio Conte and star Romelu Lukaku, who is reportedly wanted by Chelsea, Barca and Madrid.

- The Telegraph claims Manchester United are prioritising the signing of Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, who has long been tipped to join the Red Devils. Dortmund team-mate Erling Haaland is also wanted at Old Trafford, while Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has been linked with a sensational return.

Tottenham are interested in re-hiring Mauricio Pochettino, reports the Independent. Pochettino is in charge of Paris Saint-Germain after replacing Thomas Tuchel in January but he was unable to oversee a successful title defence this season.

Bayern Munich and Barcelona are targeting Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum on a free transfer, says Sky Sports.

The domestic football season concluded at the weekend in typically dramatic fashion.

The title went down to the wire in France and Spain, while Champions League qualification was up for grabs for some big names in England and Italy.

Much of the focus during the closing rounds in Germany was on Robert Lewandowski's record bid, but there was no shortage of intrigue whichever way you looked.

It was in keeping with the rest of an unpredictable campaign, one that Stats Perform breaks down with the use of Opta data.
 

LILLE, LALIGA AND LUKAKU SHAKE THINGS UP

Lille, Atletico Madrid and Inter all have relatively recent history of league glory, but a pre-season wager would have fetched long odds.

In Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain had won seven of the previous eight titles and would have expected to do so again, having claimed a domestic treble and reached the Champions League final in 2020.

As it was, under new coach Mauricio Pochettino, they had to settle for pushing Lille all the way.

Les Dogues claimed the title but had already set a club points record when they reached 79 with two games to spare. PSG finished on 82, though, meaning Lille desperately needed the final two results to boost their tally.

Despite the presence of Real Madrid and Barcelona in LaLiga, Atletico's triumph was perhaps more likely, even if the impressive nature of it may have come as a surprise.

Although they stuttered on the home stretch and had to come from behind on the last day to edge out Madrid, Atleti spent 30 matchdays at the top of the table – a mark only bettered once in their 10 other title-winning campaigns (36 matchdays in 1995-96).

Indeed, Atleti are used to having to wait to celebrate, with 10 of their 11 championships seeing the destination of the trophy decided on the final day (all except 1976-77).

Inter are another big name but had been waiting even longer than Lille for their most recent title, with one Milan victory and then nine in a row for Juventus since the 2009-10 Nerazzurri treble.

Antonio Conte's men completed the job in style, though, confirmed as champions with four games to play before finishing with 91 points (behind only their 2006-07 haul of 97) and 89 goals (third-most behind the classes of 1949-50 and 1950-51 – 99 and 107 respectively).

Talisman Romelu Lukaku was involved in 35 of them, becoming the first Serie A player to have at least 20 goals and 10 assists in the same season since at least 2004-05.


BAYERN BACK ON TOP, CITY SCALING NEW HEIGHTS

In Germany, the title race was a little less exciting. Winners of everything in 2020, Bayern Munich took home the Bundesliga crown for a ninth successive season.

Prior to this run, no team had won more than three on the bounce, yet there appears no end to Bayern's dominance in sight. They have now won 52 per cent of the championships since the formation of the competition in 1963.

Julian Nagelsmann, arriving from RB Leipzig, will be the coach tasked with achieving 10 in a row and Hansi Flick has set the bar high. His 86 games brought seven trophies.

Manchester City could soon be reflecting on a similarly dominant dynasty having now claimed three titles in four seasons.

Pep Guardiola played a big part in Bayern's run and now has nine league wins in 12 top-flight seasons as a coach, although this was an unprecedented achievement, with City eighth on Christmas Day – the lowest position at that stage for an eventual Premier League champion.

A record English league run of 12 away victories played a pivotal role in City's season, while defending champions Liverpool saw a club-record 68-game unbeaten home run in the Premier League ended as they subsequently lost six consecutive league matches at Anfield for the first time in their history.

City could yet win the Champions League too, where Sergio Aguero is in line for his final appearance before his contract expires. He will hope it is as successful as his last league outing, during which he scored twice against Everton on Sunday to set a new record for the most Premier League goals by a player for one club (184).
 

RECORD-BREAKING LEWY DELAYS NEXT GENERATION

Aguero might have had his say on the final day, once the title was secure, but he largely took a backseat – unlike Lewandowski at Bayern.

His 41 Bundesliga goals broke Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 in a single season. The next-best tally in Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21 saw Lionel Messi trailing well behind on 30.

Lewandowski unsurprisingly also led Europe in expected goals, with his chances worth 32.2 xG, and expected goals on target, producing shots with a value of 35.8 xGOT.

As Lewandowski took the Kicker-Torjagerkanone and Messi went away with the Pichichi, Cristiano Ronaldo (29 goals) won the Capocannoniere, having also previously topped the charts in England and Spain.

Kylian Mbappe (27) was the leading marksman in France, while Harry Kane (23) earned the Premier League Golden Boot for a third time.

Kane is set to be the subject of intense transfer speculation throughout the close-season – replacing Aguero at City might be one option if he gets his wish to leave Spurs – and he will join Mbappe and Erling Haaland in that regard.

Haaland also scored 27 league goals and only just trailed Mbappe's seven assists with his six.

The expectation is both players will establish themselves as the world's best in the coming seasons, but it is now Lewandowski, rather than Messi and Ronaldo, they must surpass.

Ronald Koeman's first season in charge at Barcelona was less than convincing, creating doubts about his future.

Koeman guided Barcelona to third place in La Liga in 2020-21, as well as lifting the Copa del Rey, but they bowed out of the Champions League in the last 16.

It was a season of change at Barcelona, with Joan Laporta taking over as president in March and recently stating they will undergo an off-season "renovation" and that their "cycle has ended".

 

TOP STORY - KOEMAN SET FOR BARCA SHOWDOWN TALKS

Ronald Koeman will sit down with Barcelona president Joan Laporta this week for showdown talks about his future, claims Diario Sport.

Koeman was appointed by previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu on a two-year deal in August last year.

Laporta will also likely inform the Dutchman to sell up to 10 players to fund their off-season transfer plans.

Barcelona have been linked with a host of players including Sergio Aguero, Erling Haaland and Georginio Wijnaldum this off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano claims that David Alaba will join Real Madrid irrespective of Zinedine Zidane's future. Alaba has completed and agreed to a pre-contract.

- Le10Sport claims Paris Saint-Germain are shaping as the favourites to sign Liverpool's off-contract midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum rather than Barcelona who are yet to make an offer for the Dutchman.

- Barcelona are weighing up an off-season move for Atalanta's German versatile full-back Robin Gosens, claims Diario Sport.

Milan will look to secure Fikayo Tomori from Chelsea on a permanent deal, with a €28million option to buy him, claims Fabrizio Romano.

- Arsenal have opted out of the race for Brighton's Yves Bissouma, boosting Liverpool's hopes of signing him reports The Mail.

- Leicester City are in the hunt for Sassuolo midfielder Jeremie Boga, joining the race along with Atalanta and Napoli, according to Calciomercato.

The Premier League race is run. A season that has seemingly been a never-ending story finally concluded on Sunday with the focus centred on the top four.

Chelsea lost but still ended up securing Champions League qualification, Liverpool won to astonishingly end an eventful campaign in third and poor Leicester City missed out after a crazy game at home to Tottenham as Harry Kane clinched the Golden Boot.

West Ham finish above Spurs in sixth to make the Europa League, while Manchester United ruined Nuno Espirito Santo's last game in charge of Wolves. There was yet another goal for Joe Willock, while David McGoldrick made sure he will no doubt be the subject of a pub quiz question in years to come.

Manchester City had clinched the title long ago, but a home game with Everton offered a chance for their returning fans to say farewell to a club legend.


Aston Villa 2-1 Chelsea: Tuchel slips up on the road as Blues lose

Thomas Tuchel's side held on to their top-four spot thanks to the result at the King Power Stadium, with the German coach able to celebrate despite suffering his first away defeat in the league since taking charge at Stamford Bridge.

Bertrand Traore scored the opener for Villa, in the process becoming the 25th different player to manage a Premier League goal against Chelsea having previously been at the Blues. Anwar El Ghazi doubled the lead with the 100th penalty scored in the competition this season, the first time a campaign has reached triple figures.

On the subject of penalties, Jorginho finished with the most goals for Chelsea in the league with seven – all from the spot. It is the lowest number for the club’s leading scorer in a top-flight season since 1974-75, when Ian Hutchinson also managed seven.

Liverpool 2-0 Crystal Palace: Mane helps Reds prosper at Anfield

Jurgen Klopp has now finished in the top four at the end of the five full seasons he has had in charge of the Reds, who handed their former boss Roy Hodgson a 2-0 defeat in his Palace swansong.

Sadio Mane got both goals, the second with the aid of a huge deflection. He has scored 10 or more in all seven of his Premier League campaigns, including his two with Southampton before moving to Anfield in June 2016.

Liverpool won their meetings with Palace by a combined 9-0 score; only against Ipswich in 2001-02 (11-0) have they enjoyed a bigger aggregate margin across two Premier League games in the same season. While he had no need to conjure up another last-gasp goal this time, Alisson Becker did manage to keep a clean sheet on his 100th league outing for Klopp's side.

Leicester City 2-4 Tottenham: Foxes run into trouble against Bale and Kane

Leicester spent 242 days in the Premier League's top four this term, only to end the final one sitting in fifth place. For a second successive year, a late loss of form has cost them a Champions League place.

A sixth defeat in 13 matches did not appear on the cards when they twice led against Spurs thanks to Jamie Vardy, who scored two penalties in a match for a third time this season. However, a Kasper Schmeichel own goal – his second in the top tier – levelled matters, with the visitors then moving clear in a frantic finish.

Gareth Bale scored twice late on in potentially his final game for Tottenham, but will Kane still be there when the transfer window shuts? The striker's 41st-minute effort lifted him to 23 for this term as he became only the third player to win the Golden Boot award as many as three times, following in the footsteps of Thierry Henry (four) and Alan Shearer (also three).

Aguero at the double, Willock matches Shearer (yes, really)

In scoring twice after coming on as a substitute, Aguero ended his City career as he had started it – with a brace off the bench (he had done just the same on debut against Swansea City, way back in August 2011). His double takes his final tally to 184 Premier League goals, in the process surpassing Wayne Rooney (183) for the most by a player for a single club.

As for Manchester United, a 2-1 triumph at Wolves sees them become just the fourth side to remain unbeaten away across an entire top-tier season, a feat most recently achieved by Arsenal in 2003-04. The current-day Gunners beat Brighton and Hove Albion 2-0, though still finished eighth for a second year in a row.

At Fulham, Willock was on target once more in a 2-0 win for Newcastle United. It means the on-loan Arsenal midfielder becomes only the second Newcastle player to score in seven consecutive Premier League appearances, after hall-of-famer Shearer in 1996.

West Ham secured a top-six finish for only the second time in the Premier League era thanks to a 3-0 win over a Southampton team who do not prosper on their travels – they ended up losing 10 of their 11 away fixtures in 2021, during which they leaked 33 goals and scored just seven times.

There was a win for Leeds United at home to West Brom, taking them up to 59 points – the most by a promoted club since Ipswich Town (66) in 2000-01. Sheffield United finished bottom, but at least signed off on a winning note. Striker McGoldrick grabbed the only goal against Burnley to earn his own place in history: it was the 1,000th scored in the Premier League during the 2020-21 season.

Jurgen Klopp paid tribute to his squad's togetherness in tough moments after Liverpool ended a testing season by claiming a place in the Champions League.

Top of the Premier League at the turn of the year, the Reds' title defence began to unravel as the absences of Virgil van Dijk, Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and countless other injury blows began to take their toll.

With 10 games of their campaign remaining, Klopp's side sat in eighth place, seven points shy of Chelsea in fourth and 10 behind third-placed Leicester.

But a run of eight wins and two draws – including victory over Crystal Palace on the final day – saw them climb to third and book their place in Europe's premier cup competition.

And Klopp was understandably delighted with how his players dealt with every challenge thrown at them to enjoy a successful end to the season.

He said: "It's great, it's absolutely great, it's outstanding. From outside you cannot really understand because we are just Liverpool: we have to perform, we have to win, we have to become champion or whatever. 

"It was not possible for us this year so you have to fight through and in the harder moments you can learn the most. In the harder moments you can show the most and we really stuck together all the time. 

"There was no argument or whatever about different things, we just knew some things are tough [and] we have to improve. That's true, we have to, but football is a game based on confidence and we did not have a lot of opportunities to gain confidence. 

"We were constantly sorting problems and that's so nice to see that we could use the last five, six, seven weeks to give this season a proper turnaround.

"I'm really happy for the Champions League that they don't have to play without us! So, we are in it, that will be great, can’t wait for that. Outstanding achievement from the boys. 

Klopp was also asked about Georginio Wijnaldum, who confirmed after full-time that his five-year stay at Anfield will come to an end when his contract expires on July 1.

Unsurprisingly, the German paid a heartfelt tribute to a player who has been a virtual ever-present as the Premier League, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup were secured in his tenure.

He continued: "Where can I start? I met this wonderful player for the first time – we played, obviously, against him, and the first time I met him was in my living room at home because I had to see him and talk to him. 

"From the first moment it clicked between us. He is a very friendly, very smart, very open person, and that never changed, that just improved. 

"Yes, it is very emotional for me because I lose a friend and I will miss him, that's how it is. But it's normal in football that these kinds of things happen – it's not always nice, but normal, and I am really sure he will find a great place. 

"Each club who is interested in him should call me and ask about him. Then you will take him, definitely, because I could not be more positive about what he did here. It's incredible. He was not only always available, he played 90 per cent of the time really, really good."

Georginio Wijnaldum has confirmed he will leave Liverpool on a free transfer this off season and suggested that the decision to depart was not his own.

The Dutchman is approaching the end of the five-year contract he signed upon arriving from Newcastle United in a £25m deal in July 2016.

In the build-up to his final appearance for the Reds – a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace that secured Champions League football for next season – both club and player had not let much slip over what the future held.

But, speaking after he was given a guard of honour by his team-mates, Wijnaldum explained that he will be leaving Anfield – and not of his own volition.

He told Sky Sports: "I'm fighting against tears right now. The people in Liverpool have shown me love during the five years. I will miss them, you know? 

"I hoped to have played many more years for the club but unfortunately things went different. I have to start a new adventure. 

"I knew I went to a big club. I remember that I was sitting in the living room and the manager said when I come to Liverpool we would win prizes. 

"I am happy it went that well. It would have been really painful to leave the club without any.

"It's really special. Since I've joined the fans have sung my name. Week-in, week-out they saw I was giving 100 per cent to give everything for this club. 

"That's what the supporters want to see and that's what they appreciate from me. It is something I'm going to miss."

Barcelona were linked with a cut-price move for Wijnaldum last summer, while Bayern Munich have emerged as potential suitors in recent weeks.

However, the 30-year-old insists no decision over his next move has yet been made.

He added: "I didn't sign somewhere else. Everyone knows in football everything can happen. The situation is right now that on 1 July I am not a Liverpool player. 

"We will see what I will do in the next couple of weeks. I will rest a little bit then go to the national team. I will have to look at my story and how everything went. 

"The fans deserve to know the story behind it."

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