Thomas Tuchel seemed relaxed about the condition of Edouard Mendy after the goalkeeper suffered a rib injury in Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa, less then a week before the Champions League final.

Mendy was replaced by Kepa Arrizabalaga at half-time, with the Senegal international having hurt his ribs after colliding with the goal frame.

Chelsea went on to secure qualification for the Champions League regardless of their defeat to Villa, though the fitness of their first-choice goalkeeper was undoubtedly a concern with such an important game on the horizon.

Mendy joined Chelsea last year and quickly established himself as the club's primary option between the posts under Frank Lampard, before retaining his place when Tuchel came in four months ago.

The German expects a firm update on Monday but is optimistic the goalkeeper will be available to face Manchester City in Porto Saturday.

Asked how they handled Mendy's loss, Tuchel told reporters: "It is easy to handle.

"He fell into the frame of the net. He feels a big pain in his ribs. We will have an update tomorrow with what's going on.

"We will see if it is possible [for him to play on Saturday] and if it is possible, we will push to do everything so he is in goal on Saturday."

Mendy has kept 16 clean sheets in the Premier League this season, a haul bettered by only Thibaut Courtois (17), Jan Oblak (18), Ederson (19) and Mike Maignan (21) across the top five European leagues in 2020-21.

His nine clean sheets since Tuchel's appointment is only behind Maignan's 11 over the same period.

Nevertheless, his xGOT (expected goals on target) conceded does leave a little to be desired, as his 26 goals let in is from a xGOT of 22.8.

This means the average goalkeeper would have expected to only let in roughly 23 goals from the quality of chances against him, therefore suggesting Mendy can do better.

Oblak has the best record (among goalkeepers to have played 15 or more games) in this regard over Europe's top five leagues, preventing LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid from conceding 8.6 goals more than they have.

However, Kepa's form from last season still shows how much of an upgrade Mendy has been.

Kepa conceded 47 Premier League goals from an xGOT value of 34.3, which suggests he was at fault for 12.7 goals – that was the third-worst such record across the top five leagues.

The Spaniard cannot be blamed too much for Sunday's defeat, though, the only goal he conceded coming via a penalty.

However, Tuchel accepts Chelsea got lucky, with Tottenham's 4-2 win over Leicester City ultimately vital in ensuring the Blues finished fourth.

"We are lucky that Tottenham did the job for us and finished the job for us today. Like I said, we came to win and to put any doubts to the side but it was not possible," Tuchel continued.

"We are in the position, were in it, that it was possible to end in the four even with a defeat and that was possible because of the team's hard work and consistently good results.

"We need to adjust details and we need to be spot on on Saturday as we want a positive outcome."

Sergio Aguero hopes he has sent a Champions League final message to Pep Guardiola after he said his Premier League farewell with a brace in Manchester City's 5-0 win over Everton.

The champions closed out their domestic campaign in emphatic fashion, with Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus on target before Phil Foden made it 3-0 early in the second half.

That cleared the stage for Aguero, making his final appearance for City at the Etihad Stadium as a 65th-minute substitute.

A cute finish with the outside of his right foot brought the 10,000 in attendance to their feet before a superb header from Fernandinho's right-wing cross completed the rout.

Aguero moved on to 260 goals for City, where he is the all-time record goalscorer, and usurped Wayne Rooney as the highest one-club scorer in Premier League history by chalking up goals 183 and 184 in the competition.

The 32-year-old has been widely linked with a move to Barcelona on a free transfer when his deal expires next month after an injury-ruined campaign, but first there is the small matter of next weekend's Champions League final against Chelsea in Porto.

"I hope, I hope," Aguero told Sky Sports when asked whether Guardiola had been handed a timely reminder of his qualities.

"I don't know. If I play some minutes I will do all the best because I love the football."

Speaking about Aguero to Sky afterwards, a visibly emotional Guardiola struggled to choke back tears.

"We love him so much," he said.

"He's a special person for all of us. It's so nice.

"He helped me a lot. We cannot replace him, we cannot."

Aguero lifted his fifth Premier League title across 10 seasons in England – the first of which was unforgettably sealed by a last-gasp winner against Queens Park Rangers to snatch glory from Manchester United.

"For me, when I came here I didn't know what would happen," he said. "The first title was most important, to go on to win many titles more.

"I'm happy. It's not easy to be at one club for 10 years. It's an honour.

"Before the game I feel so strange. Before the game, the sensation is not good but I prefer to think and enjoy this moment."

Harry Kane has won the Premier League Golden Boot award for the third time in his career after edging out Mohamed Salah.

The Tottenham forward netted in the dramatic 4-2 win over Leicester City on Sunday, while Salah did not find the scoresheet as Liverpool defeated Crystal Palace 2-0.

That meant Kane emerged triumphant from a season-long battle, both players having gone into the final weekend locked on 22 goals.

Kane, who finishes the season with 23 goals from 35 games, also won the Golden boot in 2015-16 and 2016-17 campaigns.

Salah had won the award in 2017-18 and shared it the following season with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mane.

But he falls just short of another triumph after netting 22 times from 36 top-flight matches this season.

Jamie Vardy was last season's winner but it was Manchester United's Bruno Fernandes who finished third with 18 goals.

Another Tottenham star, Son Heung-min, shares fourth place with Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford on 17.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin (16), Vardy (15), Ollie Watkins (14), Ilkay Gundogan and Alexandre Lacazette (both 13) round out the top 10.

Kane's accomplishment comes amid huge speculation over his future after he reportedly asked to leave Spurs at the end of the season.

The England captain is now one away from the record of four Golden Boots held by Arsenal great Thierry Henry, with Alan Shearer the only other player to have won it three times in the Premier League era.

Kane also had 14 assists in a fine individual season, giving him 37 total goal involvements, his best-ever return.

Sergio Aguero signed off on his Premier League career with another record as he came off the bench to score a brace in Manchester City's 5-0 thrashing of Everton.

Aguero, already the top-scoring overseas player in Premier League history, entered the fray at 3-0 in the 65th minute and converted with the outside of his boot when Fernandinho snaffled possession six minutes later.

He then headed home a superb delivery from the veteran Brazilian for his 184th top-flight City goal, usurping Wayne Rooney's 183 for Manchester United as the Premier League's largest one-club haul.

City's all-time record goalscorer has endured an injury-ravaged season and was only fit enough for a place on the bench, leaving Pep Guardiola's champions to again demonstrate how expertly they have shared the goals around in his absence.

Kevin De Bruyne's 10th of the season in the 11th minute made him the seventh City player into double figures this term, with Gabriel Jesus scoring his 14th shortly afterwards and Phil Foden his 16th after half-time.

Six days out from their Champions League final showdown with Chelsea, City were not always at their best defensively and Golden Glove winner Ederson needed a 36th-minute penalty save from Gylfi Sigurdsson's effort to preserve a 19th league clean sheet of the season.

There was little Jordan Pickford could do little when De Bruyne got Riyad Mahrez's pass out of his feet to thump home emphatically from 20 yards.

Jesus quickly got in on the act himself, with De Bruyne back in his customary role of provider, leaving the Brazil international to engineer space in the box and score his eighth Premier League goal against the Toffees.

After a week when he was voted FWA Football of the Year, Ruben Dias was unusually lax at the heart of the City defence and brought down Richarlison in the box, only for Ederson to spring right and keep out Sigurdsson's kick.

Mahrez clattered the bar from distance before the interval and Foden extended City's advantage further six minutes after the resumption, slotting in right-footed from Raheem Sterling's pass.

A bedraggled Everton then proved to be very accommodating opponents on Aguero's victory lap, with only a superb Pickford save when he met an 81st-minute De Bruyne corner preventing a fairy tale hat-trick.

Sergio Aguero will have to make his final Premier League appearance for Manchester City from the bench, with Pep Guardiola naming the departing striker among the substitutes against Everton.

A total of 10,000 fans will be supporting City at the Etihad Stadium, though 32-year-old Aguero, who is reportedly bound for Barcelona, was among nine potential replacements for the champions.

City's all-time record goalscorer has had a season blighted by injuries, having made just eight starts across all competitions.

Aguero, who joined City in 2011 from Atletico Madrid, is the highest scoring non-English player in Premier League history with 182 goals, while he has so far averaged a goal every 109 minutes in the competition – the best rate of any player to have scored at least 10.

Yet it was Gabriel Jesus who got the nod ahead of Aguero. The Brazil forward has scored seven Premier League goals against Everton, more than he has against any other opponent in the competition, including two braces in his previous two appearances against the Toffees at home.

There was little in the way of a second-string line up from Guardiola ahead of next week's Champions League showdown with Chelsea.

Kevin De Bruyne returned to the XI for his first action since the semi-final win over Paris Saint-Germain on May 4, while Riyad Mahrez and Phil Foden were also selected.

Ilkay Gundogan – who sustained a knock against Brighton and Hove Albion last time out – joined Aguero on the bench, although first-choice pairing Ruben Dias and John Stones started in defence.

While City were looking to celebrate their title with a win, Everton headed into Sunday's contest in need of at least a point to keep their hopes of European football for next season alive.

Carlo Ancelotti was without James Rodriguez, who has returned to Colombia to link up with their Copa America squad, and the playmaker's compatriot Yerry Mina.

Everton have lost their past six league games against City, only losing more consecutively in the competition against Manchester United (nine between 1999-2004), though they were boosted by Seamus Coleman being able to make the bench – Ancelotti had initially expected the club captain to miss out through injury.

There is no title race to be run or relegation battle to be won, but the Premier League always seems to deliver on its final day.

Indeed, the Opta data bears it out.

In 23 of the 28 Premier League campaigns prior to 2020-21, the average number of goals per game was higher on the final matchday than across the rest of the season.

Indeed, the highest-scoring date in the history of the competition (May 8, 1993) was part of the final matchweek of the Premier League's debut campaign.

There were 47 goals from just nine matches, with 53 across the 11 total games that weekend – or a staggering 4.8 per game.

Once the prizes are largely secured, the pressure's off, the sun's out (sometimes...) and the holidays – or major tournament flights – are booked, the goals tend to flow.

So, with scope for another final-day epic in 2020-21, as Leicester City host Tottenham and Everton go to Manchester City, we look back on the four highest-scoring last hurrahs – unfortunately discounting 1992-93, when not all top-flight teams played at the same time on the same date.
 

May 21, 2017: Spurs hit seven to complete stunning week (37 goals)

Had Tottenham played out a goalless draw at Hull City, in a match with nothing on the line, the final day of the 2016-17 season would have been only marginally above the campaign's average of 2.8 goals per game.

As it was, a 7-1 Spurs win made this the highest-scoring last day in the competition's history.

That result is unsurprisingly the biggest ever away win on a final day – although City's 5-0 demolition of Watford on the same afternoon ranks second – and Tottenham's most convincing victory on the road in the Premier League.

Remarkably, that club record had stood for only three days, with Mauricio Pochettino's men 6-1 winners at Leicester earlier in the same week.

Harry Kane scored four against the Foxes and three at Hull, becoming the first player since Wayne Rooney in 2011 to bag hat-tricks in consecutive Premier League games as he clinched the Golden Boot.

The England captain has seven final-day goals in the competition, including another two the following year in a 5-4 win... against Leicester – Sunday's opponents.

May 19, 2013: Fergie farewell finishes with five apiece (36 goals)

Tottenham's nine-goal thriller against Leicester in 2018 is merely joint-second among final-day fixtures for the most goals in a game. The top spot belongs to a ludicrous 2013 draw.

West Brom 5-5 Manchester United is the highest-scoring draw in Premier League history, the sole such example of two sides evenly sharing 10 goals.

And it was a fitting end to an Alex Ferguson tenure at United that was rarely dull, with his side – champions for the 13th time in his premiership – leading 3-0 and then 5-2.

Future Red Devil Romelu Lukaku hit a hat-trick, though, and West Brom incredibly claimed a point.

Although Kane's against Hull in 2017 was the most recent example of a final-day treble, Lukaku had company in 2013 as Kevin Nolan also scored three in a 4-2 West Ham win over Reading.

Meanwhile, this was the 11th of 13 occasions on which a player has scored a hat-trick in a draw in the Premier League. The 10th had also come courtesy of a West Brom player on a final day, as Somen Tchoyi stunned Newcastle United in 2011.

May 12, 2019: City take title again but avoid frantic finish (36 goals)

Already champions this term, City know a thing or two about last-day title triumphs and the Premier League will do well to ever see a victory as dramatic as that of 2011-12.

However, one scenario that might come close would see the team starting the day in second go away with the silverware. For all the customary entertainment on the season's closing weekend, that has never happened in the Premier League.

In fact, there have only been eight examples of a team falling into the relegation zone right at the last – and none since 2011 – and a single occurrence of the team in fifth breaching the top four. That was Arsenal leapfrogging Tottenham in 2006, although Leicester will hope to join them on Sunday.

Therefore it should have come as little surprise in 2019 that City protected their narrow advantage over Liverpool at the top, even though the leaders briefly trailed at Brighton and Hove Albion.

A 4-1 comeback win sealed Pep Guardiola's second success and he boasts a 100 per cent record on the final day.

The only other manager never to have dropped a point on the last matchweek while overseeing four or more such games is Chris Coleman, all from his time as Fulham boss.

May 11, 2008: City smashed and Reading rout unrewarded (34 goals)

Crucially, Guardiola has never had to face Middlesbrough on the final day as City manager. Boro have a bizarre hold over the Etihad Stadium outfit at this time of year.

In 2004-05, as David James appeared in attack, Robbie Fowler's failure to score from the spot in stoppage time took Boro into Europe at City's expense. Three years later, it was even worse.

Although City still qualified for the UEFA Cup through the UEFA Fair Play ranking, their season ended with a humiliating 8-1 defeat at the Riverside – at the time the biggest loss on a final day and still City's heaviest in the Premier League, all while rivals United won the title.

Yet the real drama was at the foot of the table, as Fulham's triumph meant Reading and Birmingham City were relegated, at least, much like Buzz Lightyear, falling with style thanks to respective 4-0 and 4-1 victories over Derby County and Blackburn Rovers.

Five other teams have won on the day they have been relegated from the Premier League, but never two in the same season, let alone the same day, and never as emphatically as Reading.

The Royals were at least by then used to scoring four times and going away disappointed. This was the third occasion on which they had done so in 2007-08 and, remarkably, they had lost the prior two matches – 7-4 at Portsmouth and 6-4 at Tottenham.

Pep Guardiola would love to bring a free-scoring striker to Manchester City, amid speculation surrounding Harry Kane, with Sergio Aguero saying goodbye to the club.

Aguero will leave City after next week's Champions League final against Chelsea in Porto.

The Argentine, who joined the club in 2011 and has gone on to become the Premier League's leading foreign goalscorer, as well as City's record scorer, has won five top-flight titles in Manchester.

Injuries have marred his final season, with the 32-year-old – who has reportedly agreed to join Barcelona – featuring for just 682 minutes across 18 appearances (eight starts) in all competitions.

Aguero faces a late fitness test to see if he will be able to play against Everton on Sunday, in City's final league game of the season, which will take place in front of 10,000 fans at the Etihad Stadium.

In Aguero's absence this term, and with understudy Gabriel Jesus not quite hitting the heights initially expected of him, Guardiola has often utilised a false nine system, with Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Ferran Torres and Kevin De Bruyne called upon to fill in up top.

It has served City well, Guardiola's team reclaiming the league title, winning their fourth straight EFL Cup and reaching their first Champions League final.

However, links to a new striker have not gone away, with Borussia Dortmund's in-demand forward Erling Haaland a mooted target, though Kane's recent comments about the possibility of leaving Tottenham will not have gone unnoticed. 

Kane added further fuel to the fire when, in an interview with Gary Neville on The Overlap, he declared his admiration for De Bruyne, labelling the Belgian playmaker a "striker's dream".

Pressed on possibly targetting a striker of Kane's ilk, Guardiola told a news conference: "I would love to have a guy who scores 50 goals.

"I would love it – but at the same I don't like just to have all the pressure on one player. Even at Barcelona Lionel Messi scored more than 50 goals every season, but in that team for example, in our first season Samuel Eto'o scored a lot.

"To win titles, especially the Premier League, the statistics speak for themselves, you need at least three guys [scoring] more than 10, 12, 15 goals to be competitors. But when you have a guy who scores 25 or 30, it helps a lot.

"We will try due to the way we play to have everybody involved in scoring goals – the more players we have with this quality the better we will be."

HOW HAVE CITY'S GOALS COME IN 2020-21?

With Aguero only managing four goals in all competitions – and just two from open play – the onus has been on other players to step up.

The standout in this regard has been Ilkay Gundogan, who has transformed himself into a superb attacking midfielder this term, scoring a team-high 17 times across all competitions, with the German averaging a goal every 194 minutes.

De Bruyne has tallied the most attempts (104), scoring nine goals and teeing up a further 17, while Riyad Mahrez is tied on 14 goals with Raheem Sterling.

Foden has netted 15 goals, all of which have come from open play. Torres and Jesus have both contributed 13, with John Stones and Bernardo Silva (both five) also chipping in with their fair share.

THE FINAL FAREWELL

It will no doubt be an emotional day for Aguero on Sunday, though he can take solace in the fact that there will be supporters on hand to wish him well.

"My message to the fans is: 'Thank you,'" Aguero wrote in a statement on the club's offciial website. "Thank you to the City fans for always supporting me.

"When you feel the love from your fans, everything is a lot easier. It's the same for anyone in any line of work – when someone believes in you, you do better. I owe a lot to the people at this club because I have the City fans to thank for everything.

"We have won a lot of games. I leave here feeling very satisfied with what I have achieved here. In the last games, I will do my best so that I can leave on a high.

"I want all the fans who saw me play in the stadium to remember me for what they saw me do on the pitch. I always say that you enjoy yourself on the pitch because of the support of the fans."

Jurgen Klopp claims Manchester City could not have won the Premier League had they endured the same sort of injury crisis Liverpool have, and says clinching a top-four spot will mean as much as winning a trophy.

Liverpool ended a 30-year wait for top-flight glory in memorable fashion during the heavily disrupted 2019-20 campaign but it has been a disappointing title defence.

The Reds have been blighted by injury issues, particularly at centre-back where Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez each sustained season-ending injuries and Joel Matip has missed large chunks of the campaign.

Liverpool's struggles were highlighted by a record run of six consecutive home league defeats between January and March, leaving thoughts of Champions League football next term looking fanciful at best.

But since the last of those, a 1-0 loss to relegated Fulham, the Reds have won seven and drawn two in the Premier League and three points against Crystal on Sunday will likely be enough to finish fourth – although an unlikely scenario whereby Chelsea and Leicester City each win and the latter manage to overtake Liverpool on goal difference could scupper that.

Klopp paid tribute to the character of his side and is convinced even Pep Guardiola's runaway champions would have faltered in similar circumstances.

"This year, with the amount of injuries we have had, it was not the year to become champions. No chance. For nobody," Klopp said.

"As good as they are, if City have their three centre-halves out, no [they don't win the league]. Three centre-halves of [Manchester] United, no. For the whole season pretty much too, that is how it is.

"We have fought back a bit, accepted the difficulties and made the best of it. And if we win on Sunday, and if we qualify for the Champions League then we made the best of it. That is it.

"Sometimes we suffer things, we don't have a lot of influence on that. That's why things go the wrong way but I never question the character or the mentality of this team."

Klopp has delivered Champions League and Premier League glory to Anfield during his time at the helm but says the possible top-four achievement, a significantly more modest accomplishment on paper, will mean just as much given the context.

"Look, I don't know in how many years, but we will look back at our time here and this season is part of our story and our history, definitely," he added.

"Yes, it means as much to me [as winning a trophy], definitely. It is clear we wouldn't come to this situation if the boys wouldn't have shown this kind of character. They have very special character.

"For a long time it looked like this would not be a year they will talk a lot about in the future. 'Okay, that happened and then rest...forget it'. But the boys still did something really special, I have to say. Really special.

"It was a tough one, it is a tough one – losing all of our centre-halves, we broke our leg.

"But nothing came between us. Yes, we had our moments, players were not in the best shape or the best mood. I was not in the best mood but we always found a way to stick together.

"We never blamed each other or pointed a finger at each other and said 'it is because of you or you'. We didn't get distracted. We always knew, we came here together, we go through this together and we will get stronger because of it.

"We have to show that next year obviously in the new season, but we will give it a proper try to use all the experiences from this year as well."

Ruben Dias' thirst for defensive dirty work and natural leadership qualities are among the reasons for his outstanding debut season in the Premier League, former Manchester City defender Nedum Onuoha told Stats Perform.

Dias was named FWA Footballer of the Year on Thursday after inspiring City to their third title in four years under Pep Guardiola, whose team also won their fourth consecutive EFL Cup.

The 24-year-old Portugal international is the first defender to the win the prize since Steve Nicol in 1989 and the third man to lead the voting on his first season in English football after Jurgen Klinsmann (1994-95) and Gianfranco Zola (1996-97).

Onuoha believes Dias has a natural aptitude for the qualities most celebrated in Premier League defenders, something that could yet bring elusive European success to City in next weekend's Champions League final against Chelsea.

"We're in a country where a fan will clap you just as much for making a tackle as they will for scoring and a goal. That's not the norm around the world," he said.

"All those things that sort of made the Premier League what it what it is, I think he thrived within them. He seemed to take up a leadership-type role, he's somebody who wants to defend all the time, somebody who wants to try and win all the duels possible.

"When somebody's trying to wind up to have a shot, he wants to throw his body in there. He fits perfectly what's required from an elite centre-back in the Premier League."

Dias' desire to hurl himself in front of goal-bound shots was a hallmark of City's Champions League semi-final triumph over Paris Saint-Germain, while he and centre-back partner John Stones have regularly been seen celebrating their defensive interventions as if they were goals.

Unsurprisingly, Dias has made more blocks than any other City player in the Premier League this season (22) and also leads the way in terms of clearances (88).

A passing accuracy of 93.16 per cent is the best among any player to have amassed 2,500 or more minutes – not necessarily unexpected for a central defender in a Guardiola team, but Dias' 209 passes into the final third overall and 16.3 progressive carries per 90 minutes show he is adept at getting City on the front foot.

Nevertheless, it is his infectious defending that catches the eye.

"He wants to go and duel with his attacker, he wants to make it as hard as possible for him all the time," Onuoha said.

"Ruben Dias has made a point of doing everything he can to stop the ball going in his goal.

"Even though you can play diagonal balls, he can play through balls do all that stuff, his success is based on a foundation of making it as hard as possible for the opposition.

"That's been so contagious throughout the City backline. When you have somebody who is on it all the time, you can't help but match that."

A 5-2 defeat at home to Leicester City last September immediately before his arrival suggests a very different campaign might have unfolded without City sanctioning their club-record £62million signing of Dias from Benfica.

"I think they would still have found a way to be more competitive than they were at the start of the season, but they were in mid-table. They weren't part of the title conversation until we got towards the end of 2020," Onuoha added.

"In that moment, if you don't have a strong defence, or strong leaders who were capable of like trying to catch up then they would have struggled and would have had a disappointing season.

"City found ultimate consistency and it was based around a sort of toughness – we have to win this.

"It wasn't because they were beating teams 10-0. They could there could beat a team 4-0 or could grind out a 1-0. Ultimately, that type of stuff falls back on mentality. When you bring in a mentality like Ruben Dias, then it fits perfectly."

There might be few dry eyes in the house when Sergio Aguero bids farewell to the Manchester City faithful on Sunday, but it could be carnage if the Premier League champions replace him with Harry Kane.

Aguero, the leading overseas goalscorer in Premier League history and City's all-time record scorer, is set to play for the final time in England's top flight when Pep Guardiola's side host Everton before lifting the trophy for the fifth time in the Argentina international's 10 years at the club.

However, as is often the case in football and almost always true of the game's superstar forwards, plenty of attention has already turned towards the next move.

After 258 goals in City colours, Aguero has reportedly agreed a two-year deal at Barcelona, raising the tantalising prospect of a link-up with his great friend Lionel Messi.

Even though fitness problems have dogged his final year in Manchester, the 32-year-old will leave a considerable void, meaning Kane's apparent desire to leave Tottenham comes at an intriguing time.

"I think it will be hard to ignore the importance of all of these goals," former City defender Nedum Onuoha told Stats Perform when pondering life after Aguero.

"For Pep, it's about the collective, and if you can find somebody who fits into the collective and also has that desire for goals, then it's carnage.

"If City get Kane, if Kane's healthy for the whole time he's at City, with his footballing IQ, it could be absolutely outrageous. And I hope something like that does happen, it'll be a joy to watch.

"But then, in the same breath, in Pep we trust. He's found a way to get the team to play well to the point where we can see Raheem Sterling and Aguero sitting on the bench. That's over 300 goals for the football club."

Guardiola guiding an often striker-less team to the title means this season is arguably the fullest realisation of his tactical vision and also something unimaginable when Aguero fired 23 goals in his maiden Premier League campaign to win City a first league championship for 44 years in 2011-12.

Goal number 23 of that haul remains the moment that will define him, one that will be replayed countless times this weekend alone and still gives Guardiola – who was Barcelona head coach at the time – "goosebumps".

For Onuoha, a boyhood City fan who lined up for QPR on May 13, 2012, the memories of his former employers scoring twice in injury time for a 3-2 win to snatch glory away from Manchester United are not as warm and fuzzy.

Briefly, before learning Bolton Wanderers had failed to get the win they required at Stoke City, he thought Aguero's strike for the ages had condemned him to relegation.

"I was the last QPR player to touch it before they went on to score," Onuoha recalled. "So I thought I'd been relegated by my old team in my home town. It was an absolute disaster.

"There was an incredible, huge sinking feeling within me as he scored the goal and I didn't watch him celebrate or anything like that. But I remember looking at our bench and I saw them celebrating. From there it was a huge sense of relief. I looked at the QPR fans and knew we were safe.

"It took me two, three days to figure out who scored the goal. I didn't watch any TV or anything for days after, because the stress of it was just too much. So even though it was a very, very iconic moment, I would say myself and a few others, we didn't necessarily catch the best of it because we were very much living it.

"Even now, instead of feeling the emotion that people associate with that moment, I feel the exact opposite emotion because I remember thinking to myself, 'this is the lowest point in my career', but thankfully it never happened."

The most impressive element of Aguero's Premier League career is how it has consistently lived up to that finest hour through sheer weight of numbers.

Of players to have scored 20 or more goals, none can better Aguero's rate of one every 109 minutes in the history of the competition. That figure only climbs slightly to 128 minutes per goal against the so-called big six, with 44 in 75 appearances across those fixtures.

He has more hat-tricks than any other Premier League player (12) and only Alan Shearer (seven) has hit 20 goals in a campaign more frequently than Aguero, who accounts for six of the 10 20-goal seasons produced by City players in the division.

No player from outside Europe has more than his five top-flight titles in England but, even as a weekend victory lap looms in front of City's first home crowd of the season, another record is within reach.

Aguero's 182 Premier League goals make him the league's second highest one-club scorer, one shy of the 183 Wayne Rooney managed at Manchester United. It will not have escaped his attention.

"This is a guy that's obsessed with scoring goals," Onuoha explained. "Joleon Lescott told me if Sergio would see if the big players scored in games before him, it would doubly motivate him to go out and score in the next game.

"That desire to score goals is something that only exists in the people who do score the most, when you looking at Kane, looking at [Mohamed] Salah and so on, you know they all have that thing within them where like goals are everything to them.

"I spoke with Sergio just this week and asked him how many goals have you scored [for City] so far? And he said 258. I said, do you remember them? He said every single one. Every single goal."

After Everton there is the final frontier, the one major honour Aguero or City have not won during his prolific decade.

Even though he is highly unlikely to start next weekend's Champions League final against Chelsea, what price a decisive contribution from the bench at Estadio do Dragao? An injury-time winner that even Onuoha could fully enjoy this time around.

"The best-case scenario for me is Aguero starts the game and he scores five goals like a did against Newcastle a few years ago and City absolutely batter Chelsea in the final," he replied.

"I'm not for 90 minutes of stress. I'd rather he just went out as a dominant force. But yes, second best-case scenario, I'll take what you said."

 

***Nedum Onuoha's 'Kickback with Nedum' podcast is available via Apple, Spotify, Google and all other major podcast platforms***

Harry Kane's reported desire to leave Tottenham has created a race for his signature.

A lack of silverware is believed to be behind Kane's alleged urge to move on, with Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea the leading suitors.

In the post-COVID world where club finances have been hit hard, some clubs are getting creative.

 

TOP STORY - CHELSEA'S PLAYER-PLUS-CASH SWAP DEAL

Chelsea are launching a player-plus-cash swap deal to land Kane from Tottenham involving goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga and forward Tammy Abraham, claims ESPN.

Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris is expected to leave the club, hence the lure of Kepa who has been back-up to Edouard Mendy, while Abraham, who is not a regular starter for the Blues, could help to fill the void left by Kane.

Kane is contracted with Tottenham for another three seasons and Spurs are believed to want a transfer fee of £150 million, so the addition of players would drop that figure down to an affordable level.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Guardian reports that Sergio Aguero has agreed to a two-year deal with Barcelona, with his departure from Manchester City this off-season already confirmed.

- Arsenal's Sead Kolasinac will leave the Gunners, with Schalke 04 and Lazio circling for the Bosnian's signature, reports Football London.

- Fernandinho was set to exit Manchester City, but The Times claims he will renew with the club on a one-year deal.

- The manager merry-go-round is in full swing, with The Mirror claiming that Wolves are looking at ex-Roma boss Paulo Fonseca, while The Sun reports that Tottenham will try to convince Brendan Rodgers to join the club if Leicester City fail to qualify for next season's Champions League.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel suggested there could be something of a frenzy among the world's best football managers for Harry Kane in the coming months, adamant every coach will want the England star.

Media reports this week claimed Kane has informed Tottenham of his desire to leave the club, and Spurs' response did little to reassure supporters as they urged "everyone" to focus on the end of the season.

The stories have not gone away since, with Kane acknowledging on Thursday in an interview with former England and Manchester United defender Gary Neville that he feels he is at a "crossroads" in his career.

Kane spoke of his yearning to challenge for trophies and reach the level of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, before stoking links with Manchester City when naming Kevin De Bruyne as the player who would help him score even more.

While Kane also insisted he would never say he wants to leave Spurs, the rumours combined with the decision to grant a major interview suggest he may well be angling for a move.

Although the rivalry between the two clubs could be a hindrance, Chelsea have also been tentatively linked with the Tottenham star, and Thomas Tuchel was asked about any interest on Friday.

The German was unequivocal in his admiration for Kane.

When asked if Chelsea were interested in Kane, a chuckling Tuchel said: "Good one!

"If you find any coach around the world who would not like to have Harry Kane in his team, call me again.

"I'd like to speak with the guy and hear about his ideas of scoring and attacking. Of course, everybody loves Kane.

"But let's be very, very clear, he's a player for Tottenham on a long-term contract, and we will not get involved in any press conference with any disrespectful comments about that."

One reason behind links between Kane and Chelsea is the fact the Blues' top-scorer in the Premier League this term is Jorginho with seven, all of which have been penalties.

Tuchel accepts that is not an ideal scenario.

"Is that what we want, Jorginho our top scorer? No. Not because we don't like Jorgi – he deserves all the fame and all the praise – but, of course, we don't want him to be our top scorer.

"But turn it around: if we let Timo take all the penalties, he could have seven more. Mason [Mount] scored from a penalty already and Jorgi has also missed. Timo missed [too].

"So, he could have had another 10 more goals and we have a very different discussion with the exact same performance.

"A lot of top scorers in Europe use penalties to improve their numbers to score. That's not with Timo. He is not that type of player.

"We try – in general we don't need to hide – we try to improve our statistics offensively. First of all, we do that with the guys who are here."

Gianni Infantino has denied FIFA colluded with clubs on the controversial Super League but stopped short of saying there had been no talks about the project.

The president of world football's governing body spoke out on Friday after the FIFA congress, describing the Super League attempted breakaway as "a rupture" in the game.

Asked whether FIFA had any involvement in the Super League planning or if it had offered support, Infantino gave a nine-minute response in which he said it was his job to always listen to anybody in the game considering a new format.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas recently accused Infantino of encouraging the Super League, but the FIFA chief rebutted that claim.

"Let me tell you that when we are analysing these questions, we should look at the facts and not rumours or corridor gossip, especially not coming from certain parts," Infantino said.

The proposed new competition was announced and quashed in the space of around 48 hours in April, a breath-taking episode that saw players, coaches, supporter groups, national associations, politicians and even royalty express dismay at the closed-door concept.

Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham announced they would be taking part, as did Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid from LaLiga, and Serie A giants Juventus, Milan and Inter also signed up. The project, a major threat to the UEFA Champions League, collapsed dramatically, but there are some who expect it to be revived.

"I know many clubs," Infantino told reporters in a conference call. "I speak with clubs for many years, since my days at UEFA, and when speaking to European clubs the Super League topic always is a topic for discussion.

"Everyone in football knows that, so let's not play games here. Everyone in football knows for years clubs have been studying and preparing for this or similar projects.

"In the 16 years I was in UEFA we always managed that, and I can tell you there were projects that were far more advanced than the one we have seen recently.

"At FIFA it is also my responsibility and our responsibility to discuss with football stakeholders. Now to listen to some clubs and to speak with some clubs doesn't certainly mean in any way whatsoever that FIFA was behind, was colluding, was plotting or I don't know what words you used for any Super League project."

Infantino pointed to a FIFA statement issued in January that said a breakaway competition would not be recognised by the world body.

"In that moment, the rupture was of course becoming inevitable and the rupture is never good, it's not good for anyone," Infantino said on Friday. "No war is good – never. We are ready to defend football from projects we know are wrong."

He added: "I don't close the doors to any discussion with anyone – never – about new formats, new ideas, new competitions. I'm ready to listen to everyone.

"This is my job ... the way I live the presidency of FIFA.

"I'm aware some people prefer to spin these discussions in a different way and I can understand that attacking me or FIFA is a good way to divert the attention from real problems that have never been addressed in the last years."

Infantino did not specify his target for that remark, but said: "I hope that as of today we can move to the real issues that football is facing."

Pep Guardiola conceded he did not expect Ruben Dias to have such a huge galvanising impact on Manchester City this season.

The Portugal centre-back became City's record signing when he joined for £62million from Benfica in September, in the immediate aftermath of Guardiola's men going down to a 5-2 defeat against Leicester City in their first home game of the season.

Dias quickly established himself as City's defensive lynchpin and helped to inspire them to glory in the Premier League and the EFL Cup, with a shot at a maiden Champions League triumph on the horizon against Chelsea next weekend.

On Thursday, the 24-year-old was voted FWA Footballer of the Year and, speaking ahead of Sunday's concluding Premier League game against Everton at the Etihad Stadium, Guardiola lauded Dias' much-discussed leadership qualities.

"It was unexpected, honestly. We knew about his quality but you never know how it is going to happen [after you sign a player]," he said.

"Especially how he is happy helping the guys. The defender who plays only for himself is a problem.

"Ruben is always thinking about his partnership, the central defender, the holding midfielder, even the wingers.

"He is a guy who is so generous. He is a professional thinking about football 24 hours. He is so young.

"I'm pretty sure, in a short time, his mates and the backroom staff will choose him as one of the captains because he has shown he can lead.

"In the bad moments, always he is ready to help. He wants to improve, he listens. He admits his bad moments and the good moments he shares with his mates."

Among defenders to have played more than 2,000 minutes in the Premier League this season, Dias has the best minutes-per-goal conceded rate of 131 (21 conceded across 2,755 minutes).

Only Aston Villa's Matt Targett (15) has more than his 14 clean sheets when completing 90 minutes, while he also helps to get City on the front foot thanks to 16.3 progressive carries per game.

Dias boasts a stunning 71 per cent win rate in the top flight, and yet Guardiola is still predominantly drawn to those more intangible qualities of leadership and inspiration – things he feels he can take no credit for having taught.

"He is a man of communication on the pitch and off the pitch. You feel it. The trick is not for the club or the manager to give you a role [and say] you are a leader, it comes from inside in a natural way," he explained.

"If it's not real, not true what he wants to be then people realise it. It would be ridiculous.

"He is not, he is a guy who when he says something he believes it and wants to help the guys. He takes responsibility.

"And at his age, this is natural. It comes from his dad and mum and all the mates and managers he had in Benfica who helped him to grow."

And Guardiola believes the best is yet to come from a player who is set to be key in Portugal's defence of their European title next month.

"I am sure he is a guy who thinks he can improve," he added. "I get that feeling every day in the training sessions, how he prepares in all the departments – always thinking I can do better.

"That is why in this business he will have success. In the bad moments, he will not be depressed, completely the opposite. He will accept that it is not good, what is the best detail to improve and accept that he can do better."

Ryan Mason understands why Harry Kane would want to play with Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne – hailing the Belgian as an "exceptional" talent.

Interim Tottenham boss Mason faced further questions on Friday about the future of striker Kane, who has dropped heavy hints he wants to leave Spurs at the end of the season.

Kane said in an interview with Gary Neville on The Overlap that De Bruyne's service to City's front players is "a striker's dream", and that has only fuelled speculation the England captain could be heading to the blue side of Manchester.

Mason, who counts Kane as a close friend, said he had not heard the interview.

"But I would love to play with Kevin De Bruyne as well," Mason said. "I think every footballer in the world, every footballer in the Premier League [would want to].

"He's an exceptional player and from what I know – I've spoke to him a few times – he's an exceptional person as well.

"If you ask any footballer in world football right now, if they'd like to play with Kevin De Bruyne, I think they'd say yes."

Kane could play for Tottenham for the last time on Sunday, when Mason's team visit Leicester City on the final day of the Premier League season.

Mason says that is where his focus must be, rather than on the future of Kane or any other member of his squad.

Kane also has a strong personal incentive to perform strongly, given he sits level with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah on 22 goals at the top of the league scoring charts.

"I've been out on the training pitch, preparing for a game that we need to win. Harry is going to be part of that," Mason said.

"I hope Harry scores a couple, I think his performances this season have warranted the Golden Boot.

"I think he's the best player in the Premier League. Hopefully from an individual point of view, he gets the Golden Boot as well and, in doing that, helps Tottenham get three points.

"That's the most important thing. I can't speak on transfer value. In football, things change so quickly. At the moment, Harry's a Tottenham player. He's going to be involved and hopefully he can win the Golden Boot."

Kane has scored seven goals across his career on the final matchday of Premier League seasons – only Andy Cole (nine), Les Ferdinand (nine) and Matt Le Tissier (eight) have scored more such goals in the competition.

He has also scored more Premier League goals against Leicester – a club he previously represented on loan – than he has past any other opponent, with his 14 goals in 11 games a striking record.

Seven of those goals have come in six games at the King Power Stadium, including a four-goal haul in May 2017. He followed that three days later with a hat-trick against Hull City in a breathtaking finish to a season that saw Kane score four Premier League hat-tricks.

Mason, who played with Kane at Tottenham, was forced to retire early from playing football due to a head injury, and the 29-year-old knows more than most the importance of snatching every great opportunity that arises in what can be a short career.

Kane's firm stance is that he wants to be in a team that wins trophies, and Tottenham have not unlocked the potential that looked to be there during much of Mauricio Pochettino's reign.

Post-career "regrets" are the sought-after striker's biggest fear, he told Neville.

"No player wants to end their career with regret, I don't think any human being likes having regrets," Mason said. "It's normal. If you speak to any player in the world, they'd probably say the same.

"My attention and every player's attention is on the weekend. At the moment, the only conversations I'm having are about the weekend, with not only Harry but also every other player in the squad."

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