Lionel Messi is reportedly open to staying at Barcelona, but the LaLiga giants have work to do.

Messi, 33, stayed at Barca after sensationally requesting to leave ahead of this season.

But the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is out of contract at the end of the campaign, leading to more talk over his future.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI OPEN TO BARCELONA STAY

Messi is open to staying at Barcelona and is prioritising the sporting project over the economic offer, according to Marca.

The report says Barca strengthening their squad could convince Messi, who has been linked to Manchester City.

Signing City forward Sergio Aguero, Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, Chelsea's N'Golo Kante or Liverpool's Roberto Firmino would help Barca's position in their bid to re-sign the superstar.

ROUND-UP

- With Real Madrid linked with a move for Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, such a deal could lead to questions over Eden Hazard. AS reports Mbappe joining Madrid could lead to an exit for Hazard, who has struggled with injuries since joining the LaLiga giants.

- Staying at Real Madrid and there is uncertainty over Raphael Varane's future. AS reports Madrid are prepared to listen to offers for Varane ahead of next season if they cannot agree to a new deal with the defender, who is out of contract in 2022. Manchester United have been linked with Varane, who is valued at £60.7million (€70m).

- Harry Kane has again starred for Tottenham this season. The Telegraph reports the forward, who is contracted until 2024, is set to stay at Spurs for at least another campaign.

- Amid suggestions Sevilla defender Jules Kounde is too expensive, Manchester United could look elsewhere. Eurosport reports Villarreal's Pau Torres may be a more realistic target due to his reported release clause of around £43m (€49.6m).

- Alexandre Lacazette seems set for an Arsenal exit. The Mirror reports Monaco are targeting the forward ahead of next season.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino insisted Kylian Mbappe's below-par display was not solely to blame for Sunday's 2-0 defeat against Monaco.

In-form Monaco upset Ligue 1 champions PSG in a blow to their title hopes as the Parisians slipped four points behind leaders Lille with 12 games remaining.

PSG have already lost six Ligue 1 games this season, their worst tally in a single campaign since the beginning of the Qatar Sports Investment (QSI) era in 2011/-2, and their worst since the 2010-11 campaign (eight).

Mbappe grabbed global headlines in midweek with his hat-trick against Barcelona in the Champions League but Monaco put extra work into minimising his impact in the French capital.

Pochettino, though, leapt to the defence of Mbappe – who continues to be linked with LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

"Today, it's not only Kylian but the whole team that hasn't been at the level," Pochettino said post-game.

"That didn't show what it takes to win. But as I said, the first person responsible is the manager and I take responsibility for it.

"When you lose, the first person responsible is the manager and I fully assume it."

Niko Kovac said Monaco had to nullify star Kylian Mbappe as he revealed how the French side shocked Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

Monaco became the first team to beat PSG twice in a single Ligue 1 season since Nancy in 2011-12 thanks to Sunday's 2-0 upset in Paris.

Sofiane Diop opened the scoring in the sixth minute before Monaco defender Guillermo Maripan doubled the lead six minutes into the second half.

Mbappe was kept quiet by fourth-placed Monaco, who moved within two points of PSG and six of leaders Lille through 26 matches.

Afterwards, Monaco head coach Kovac told Canal+: "I am very happy with the performance of my team. Paris are a great team.

"We played very hard for 90 minutes and we deserved the victory. They didn't have a lot of opportunities. I have to congratulate my players.

"Our plan? We had to erase Kylian Mbappe because he's a great striker. Deprive him of the ball by being three or four on him. In defence, we showed another face of Monaco, because we didn't concede many chances.

"Tonight was wonderful. This is what we needed. We managed to beat PSG for the second time, now we are going home and going to rest."

Kovac's Monaco have won their last six away games in Ligue 1 – only Lille (seven) are on a longer current run.

Monaco's only previous longer win streak away from home in the top flight was in February-August 2017 (eight).

"The top three? As I said before, we mainly have to increase the gap with the fifth and sixth," added former Bayern Munich boss Kovac, who is leading Monaco back to the upper echelon of Ligue 1, having languished ninth and 17th in the previous two seasons.

"There are still a few games left, if we have the opportunity to close the gap then we will do it. But we are not yet at the level of the first three."

Marco Verratti acknowledged Paris Saint-Germain are "starting to lose a lot of opportunities" to retain the Ligue 1 title after their 2-0 home defeat to Monaco.

Five days after their thrilling 4-1 victory over Barcelona in the Champions League, PSG crashed to a damaging loss at the Parc des Princes on Sunday.

The defeat is the second of Mauricio Pochettino's tenure and leaves PSG third in Ligue 1, two points ahead of Monaco, in fourth, and four behind leaders Lille.

It means PSG remain winless in their four games against the other sides currently in Ligue 1's top-four positions this season, losing 3-2 and 2-0 to Monaco, 1-0 at home to Lyon and drawing 0-0 at Lille.

Verratti, outstanding against Barca, came on as a 55th-minute substitute in Paris, going on to attempt 43 passes – with an accuracy of 81.4 per cent – and create one chance.

"It was a difficult match; they have very good players, we knew it. It's the kind of match you have to win," Verratti told Canal+. "We are starting to lose a lot of opportunities for the title.

"We concede a goal after five minutes, that can't happen. We have to understand that there are great teams in France.

"We must always play as a team; no one gives us gifts, the other teams are playing the game of their lives against us.

"You have to rise to the occasion, deserve it, play 100 per cent, because otherwise you won't win."

After scoring a hat-trick against Barca, Kylian Mbappe turned in a disappointing performance against his former club.

Since he joined PSG in 2017, Mbappe has scored seven goals against Monaco in Ligue 1; he has only found the net more often against Dijon (nine) in the top-flight during that period.

However, he failed to shine on Sunday. The 22-year-old did not register an attempt on goal and created just one chance.

Pochettino refused to pin the defeat on Mbappe, though.

"In football there are many situations, different opponents, different circumstances," Pochettino told a news conference.

"Football is not mathematical. We weren't at the level today to win at the collective level, not just Kylian. If we have to find a responsible, it's me."

Paris Saint-Germain crashed back to earth with a bump after their Champions League heroics as they suffered a 2-0 Ligue 1 defeat to Monaco on Sunday.

Mauricio Pochettino's side claimed a stunning 4-1 win over Barcelona in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Tuesday, but they never looked like scaling those heights as they slumped to a sixth league defeat of the season.

Sofiane Diop's sixth goal of the campaign handed Monaco an early lead before Guillermo Maripan put the game beyond the hosts' reach shortly after the interval.

The result means third-placed PSG are four points behind leaders Lille, who beat Lorient 4-1 earlier in the day, with Niko Kovac's Monaco two points back in fourth.

Monaco went ahead after just six minutes, Diop heading past Keylor Navas from six yards after Kevin Volland nodded Ruben Aguilar's cross into his path.

That did little to spark PSG into life, and the home team struggled to carve out any clear opportunities in the first half.

The closest they came was when Idrissa Gueye's powerful drive from distance flashed past Benjamin Lecomte's right-hand post.

Things did not get any better for PSG after the interval as Maripan dispossessed Ander Herrera in the penalty area before slotting a fine finish past Navas from 15 yards to double Monaco's advantage in the 51st minute.

Volland inexplicably headed wide from four yards soon after, but it mattered little in the end as Monaco held on to stretch their unbeaten run in Ligue 1 to 11 games.


What does it mean? PSG slump against top-four opposition... again

The swashbuckling side that demolished Barca in midweek was nowhere to be seen at the Parc des Princes as PSG - who managed just one shot on target - suffered a first home defeat in Ligue 1 since Lyon triumphed in the capital on December 13.

Indeed, the defending champions are now winless in their four games against the other sides in the league's top four positions this season. That does not bode well for Pochettino's chances of sealing his first title win as head coach.

Aguilar epitomises Monaco display

Aguilar was at the heart of everything good about Monaco’s fine win. His cross led to Diop’s opener – one of a team-high two key passes – while he made three clearances and three interceptions.

Herrera well off the pace

The former Manchester United midfielder endured a game to forget and it was little surprise to see him hauled off before the hour mark. He was at fault for Monaco's second goal and failed to register a single shot or key pass during his time on the pitch.

What's next?

PSG will hope to return to winning ways when they visit Dijon on Saturday, while Monaco host Brest a day later.

Paris Saint-Germain's aggregate lead over Barcelona will not result in a change in Neymar's scheduled return from injury.

Kylian Mbappe made up for the absence of his star team-mate on Tuesday, with his sensational hat-trick propelling Mauricio Pochettino's PSG to a 4-1 victory at Camp Nou in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 tie.

Neymar – who scored twice in Barca's famous 6-5 aggregate triumph over PSG in 2017 – missed the game through an adductor injury sustained in a Coupe de France win over Caen.

The 29-year-old is set to miss four weeks, which would put him in line to be available for the return leg against his former club at the Parc des Princes on March 10.

However, asked if PSG's 4-1 lead heading into the game will mean there is less pressure on Neymar to recover on schedule, Pochettino insisted the result has had no impact on the Brazilian's lay off.

"Neymar's recovery is following the plans put in place and the strategy by our medical team," Pochettino told a news conference ahead of Sunday's Ligue 1 clash with Monaco.

"Whether it's one game, one competition or another, the priority is the player's well-being.

"We want players to get back as quickly as they can, but not linked to any specific game. The priority is for Neymar to make a good recovery and he will be back in the week when he is back."

Moise Kean also stepped up to fill the void left by Neymar, and scored the other goal in PSG's rout, heading in from Leandro Paredes' free-kick.

Kean, on loan from Everton, has now netted on his last three starts across all competitions, taking his tally to the season for 14 in total – he has scored a goal every 1.5 shots on target in Ligue 1 this season (10 goals, 15 shots on target), with only Lens' Gael Kakuta (1.3) having a better ratio in the top-flight among players with five or more goals.

"I was not surprised by Moise Kean's performance, if I said I was surprised it would be for a different reason," Pochettino replied when asked if Kean's display at the Camp Nou had shocked him.

"I think he has confirmed he has the potential that we knew about, but players don't surprise us in our team.

"When we take a decision to include a player – possibly they are young or playing in a different position – it's because of what we've seen in training and we think they can contribute positively in the match.

"Sometimes they may not perform as we expect, but he certainly does not surprise us."

With Monaco going into Sunday's game on the back of a 10-game unbeaten streak in Ligue 1 – the best current run in the division – Pochettino also stressed that PSG must avoid complacency, especially with the defending champions having taken only one point from their three matches against teams also in the top four this season.

"PSG is a club that has to win, and that is our responsibility," added Pochettino, who has suffered just one defeat, at Lorient on January 31, since he took over at PSG.

"I don't think you can relax in any way, or use that as an excuse not to perform in the same way we have been doing, and as we did against Barca.

"If we think we can be calmer we would unconsciously be making a big mistake, you have to respect everyone in football and always give your best in every competition.

"That's why we have to work hard, with enthusiasm and focus, so that competing at our best becomes a habit."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's double in Arsenal's first-half dismantling of Leeds United on Sunday took the Gunners forward onto 200 goals in Europe's "top five" leagues, before the star striker then rounded off a first Premier League hat-trick.

Aubameyang, making his first league start since January 18 following a leave of absence to care for his ill mother, marked his return to Arsenal's line-up in style at Emirates Stadium.

The 31-year-old opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a low shot which had the power to beat Illan Meslier, whose clumsy challenge on Bukayo Saka then gifted Aubameyang the chance to make it 2-0 from the spot.

Having sent Meslier the wrong way, Aubameyang brought up his 200th goal in Europe's 'top five' leagues, in what was his 369th appearance – he is the ninth player to reach the landmark in those divisions.

It was his 61st Arsenal goal, which is 37 shy of the total he managed during his time with Borussia Dortmund (98).

Aubameyang's first goal in Ligue 1 came for Lille in December 2009, before he then went on to have spells at Monaco, Saint-Etienne in France prior to leaving for Dortmund in 2013 and eventually joining the Gunners three years ago.

It was also the first time Aubameyang has scored in consecutive starts in the Premier League within a single season since last February, when he did so against Newcastle United and Everton, and the first time he has scored at least twice in successive starts in the English top flight.

Hector Bellerin's well-crafted goal made it 3-0 to Arsenal on the stroke of half-time – the Gunners scoring three first-half goals in a Premier League game for only the second time under Mikel Arteta, having previously done so in July 2020 against Watford.

Aubameyang headed in from Emile Smith Rowe's cross-shot just after the break to complete his maiden Premier League hat-trick.

AUBAMEYANG'S 'TOP FIVE' LEAGUE GOALS – A BREAKDOWN

Lille (2009-10) – 14 appearances, two goals.

Monaco (2010-11) – 19 appearances, two goals.

Saint-Etienne (2010-13) – 87 appearances, 37 goals.

Borussia Dortmund (2013-18) – 144 appearances, 98 goals.

Arsenal (2018-21) – 105 appearances, 62 goals.

"I think I would've been the best batsman in the world if I played cricket."

Christian Vieri is regarded as one of the greatest strikers to have played football.

Once the most expensive player in the world, the former Italy international won titles with Juventus, Inter, Lazio and Torino, while he claimed numerous individual honours – the Pichichi Trophy and Serie A Footballer of the Year to go with his FIFA 100 selection and other awards.

But it could have been a lot different for the cricket-mad 47-year-old after growing up in Australia – a far cry from his birthplace in Bologna.

"My whole family is a soccer-team family," Vieri, who also played for Milan, recalled to Stats Perform News. "My father played, I played, my grandfather, my brother. So when my father at the end of his career in Bologna, they asked him if he wanted to go play in Sydney with Marconi. He said yes and the whole family moved there. He played for some time and coached there. We all went with him. 

"I think I was about four years old and I stayed 10 years there, till about 14. I grew up there. It was good. Growing up with the kids, for me it wasn't strange. Now, if you tell people, it's a bit strange that I grew up in Australia but when I was there it was normal – going to school, playing soccer, playing cricket, playing different sports. I was a big fan of cricket. Even if we were 13-14, we would go watch Australia play Test matches, ODI matches in Sydney. I'm a very big, big cricket fan."

"I just love playing," Vieri said. "I was probably playing more cricket than soccer at school. You know what we would do? The tennis ball, we would tape it up to make it go faster and swing. I think I would've been the best batsman in the world if I played cricket. I was an all-rounder. I was really good. 

"You know what happened now? Two months ago before the second coronavirus wave, I spoke to someone from the cricket association, I'm going to start playing in March, April. It's a small thing in Italy, in Milan there is a cricket team. I spoke with the Italian cricket captain. They said listen, when you want to play with us, just come. I said listen, one thing is playing with a tennis ball when you're 14, one thing is playing with professionals. I want to come three or four days, train with you guys and see how it is. 

"I just love the game. I watch all the West Indies' games – Viv Richard, Clive Lloyd, Joel Garner, all those guys. I would watch Australia but in those days, the Windies were too strong for everyone. I'm on YouTube a lot watching cricket. My wife always says 'what are you watching? what is this?', three hours a day watching games from 1984 and 1986, and she is going 'what is wrong with you, why aren't you normal?' I say to her, 'listen, I grew up there, these are the days I was there following cricket'. She takes the p*** out of me. Pakistan had Imran Khan, I know the players. England had Ian Botham. It was fun. 

"I love the game. Couple of months when it gets a bit warmer and we can start to go out a bit easier, I would like to go training with the Italian team, see how fast the ball really comes at you, with your pads and everything. I think it would be a good experience."

So, as Vieri prepares to dust off his pads and helmet in Italy, who would he compare to in the current era of cricket?

"I think Chris Gayle from West Indies. I'm a left-hander," he added. "When I used to play, I'm not a Test match guy, I want to smash the ball outside the stadium. I think I would've been good."

And if Vieri remained down under in Australia, rather than returning to Italy at the age of 14, would he have opted for cricket over a football career?

"Cricket, soccer or tennis," Vieri, who retired in 2009, responded. "I play paddle, I play tennis for 30 years. I like tennis too because it's an individual game – it only depends on you."

Vieri went on to make 49 appearances for his beloved Italy, scoring 23 goals (ninth on the all-time list) following an international career spanning eight years between 1997 and 2005.

He made two trips to the World Cup in 1998 and 2002 – his nine goals across the two major tournaments a joint national record alongside Paolo Rossi and Roberto Baggio, while he also featured at Euro 2004.

While Vieri joined forces with the likes of past greats Paolo Maldini, Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero, Filippo Inzaghi, Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta and Andrea Pirlo for the Azzurri, his younger brother Max followed a different path.

Max Vieri, who was part of Juve's youth team before going on to play for Napoli in a notable spell, opted to represent Australia.

A midfielder, Max earned six caps for the Socceroos, but Christian Vieri never considered wearing the green and gold.

"I had two dreams when I was in Sydney playing and I was only 12, 13, 14, so you're going to school playing soccer. That's why I left Australia when I was 14 – my two dreams were to play in Serie A and for the national team – the blue jersey," said Vieri. "I remember in 1982 when Italy won the World Cup – Paolo Rossi and all those big players – I had it stuck in my head that I wanted to become an Italian player. When I was 14, I started breaking my dad's head about going to play soccer in Italy.

"When I started playing for Marconi, I started left full-back and then after I while, I said to the coach 'put me up front' and that's it, I was scoring goals and that's how everything started. My brother wanted to play for Australia always and I just had my dream to play the World Cups with Italy."

"I think the Australian team has done well in the last 10-15 years World Cup-wise and qualifications," he added. "They've done good. Of course when I was there – the big sports were AFL, rugby league, cricket – football wasn't the main sport but I think it's getting bigger. The evolution of football around world is just so big now, so much money behind it. When I was there, we were playing soccer and it wasn't the main sport but the passion we have and the kids have, it was bigger than the other sports."

Vieri's choice to chase his dream in Italy proved a wise decision, winning the Scudetto with Juve in 1997 before joining Atletico Madrid after just one season in Turin.

An incredible return of 24 goals in as many LaLiga matches for Atletico, and 29 from 32 appearances across all competitions in 1997-98, led to head coach Radomir Antic famously saying: "Vieri dead is better than any other attacker alive".

"We had a good relationship. I won the goalscoring award. I was a bit crazy those days. I would go out a lot. He would always say don't go out too much, train," Vieri recalled. "He knew I wanted to go back to Italy after about seven, eight months. He said, 'where are you going? you are going to stay here, LaLiga is your competition. You stay here and you just train a little bit, you score 50 goals a year with a cigarette'. I said yeah but I wanna go back home. 

"I think it was the best experience in my life playing in the Spanish league. It's the best quality league. There is so much technique and the way all the teams play, they all play to win. A lot of ball possession. Those days, you had to be really good to play. I had an amazing season."

Like his time at Juve, Vieri's spell with Atletico was brief as he returned to Italy via Lazio in a €25million deal the following season.

After 14 goals in 28 appearances and a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup triumph in the Italian capital, Vieri became the most expensive player in the world when he reunited with former Juve boss Marcello Lippi at Inter, who splashed out €49m to partner the Italian with Brazilian great Ronaldo.

"The thing is that, if you play in Spain, Italy, England – they're the biggest competitions, so you can't block it out," Vieri said when asked about the pressures of being the world's most expensive player. "Automatically, from being normal to 100 times of pressure on you because 90billion Italian lire in those days, the player who cost more than anyone, every game you play you're judged… even more than before. 

"At Atletico, I was sold to Lazio – big scandal came out – then when I went to Inter for 90b [lire], the world went crazy. From Lazio, moving to Inter, going to play at San Siro, it's a heavy thing because San Siro – the biggest players in the world have played there, 85-90,000 people judging you all the time. They whistle if you don't play good. They've seen everyone. 

"When I went there, I said to myself, 'Bob, first game is at home, when I went to camp, in a month and a half, your first game is at home and whatever happens, you have to go score in that game. if you score in that game, you're gonna fly'. I trained a month and a half in camp, I wouldn't go out anywhere. First game, I scored three goals at home, 90,000 people went crazy. Took a lot of pressure off my shoulders that first game. Here they call me Mr. 90m guy, even today. It's a thing you're gonna call you that for the rest of your life."

Now, Vieri watches the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Mohamed Salah, Romelu Lukaku, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe bang in the goals across Europe. 

How would he fare in 2020-21?

"I think it's easier to score these days because there's less marking. Before, football, first thing was not to concede, in Italy league at least," Vieri said. "It was probably the hardest league in the world in those days. All the biggest players in the world were there. We started the competition where seven teams were trying to win the league, not one or two but seven big teams with big, big players. If we would shoot twice in 90 minutes, we were happy. Those two shots, we would score one goal, we had to score once. 

"Today, the game has changed. The defenders don't mark as much, they play. They're more like midfielders, you have to play with the ball at your feet – the whole team have to attack. Now you have 15 strikers who score more than 20 goals. It's fun to watch still but changed a lot."

Popular on social media and Italian television in his post-playing days, Vieri has ventured into coaching as he works to complete his UEFA A and B license alongside the likes of former team-mates Del Piero and De Rossi.

"All of us, the former players, when we talk about things, we only miss one thing – staying together and training... having fun. The everyday stuff. The dressing rooms, we had the craziest dressing rooms, people. Taking the p*** out of everyone 24/7. 

"I speak with all my ex-team-mates. It's just fun. Now, I'm doing the coaching course… We just laugh, we have fun. We are doing UEFA A and B together. The way we talk to each other, it's just like back in the days. With a lot of former team-mates, we play paddle ball here in Milan. When we can, we hang out."

"The first thing is you need a license to coach. It's very hard, it's not easy. When you're doing two courses together because the federations asked UEFA if just the top 10 players could do it, so we're doing it," added Vieri, when asked if he was eyeing a coaching career.

"We'll see what happens. If I have a nice project, anything can happen. 1,000 of doors will open like I always say."

Chelsea are reportedly interested in Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland and Bayern Munich defender David Alaba. 

Haaland and Alaba have been linked with moves, with the latter almost certain to leave Bayern when his contract expires at the end of the season. 

Chelsea spent big last year – but they are apparently eyeing the pair.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA INTERESTED IN HAALAND AND ALABA

Chelsea are interested in signing Dortmund star Haaland and Bayern defender Alaba ahead of 2021-22, according to Sky Sports.

Real Madrid have been strongly linked with the duo, while Alaba is said to be a target for several other European giants.

Thomas Tuchel has replaced Frank Lampard at the helm for Chelsea, who are eighth in the Premier League.

 

ROUND-UP

- Jesse Lingard could join West Ham. Sky Sports reports they have offered a £1.5million loan fee and to pay Lingard's wages for the rest of the season to land him on loan from Manchester United.

- Amid reports Lucas Torreira could leave Atletico Madrid, where he is on loan from Arsenal, to join Monaco, it seems that may not be the case. Fabrizio Romano reports Monaco are not negotiating for Torreira.

- Bayer Leverkusen are confident of completing a deal for Leicester City midfielder Demarai Gray, according to Sky Sports.

- Struggling for game time at Arsenal, Ainsley Maitland-Niles could make a move. The Athletic reports West Brom are looking at the 23-year-old for a potential loan deal.

Kylian Mbappe wants time to make a decision on his future as Real Madrid await a signal from the Paris Saint-Germain star.

Mbappe, 22, has been linked with a move to Madrid and his contract at PSG ends in 2022.

But will the forward end up at the Santiago Bernabeu?

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID WAIT FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid are waiting for a signal from Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to Marca.

The report says Mbappe has asked for time to decide his future.

While Madrid have been most strongly linked with a move for Mbappe, Liverpool are also reportedly interested.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Madrid and Fabrizio Romano says a new contract for midfielder Luka Modric is imminent. The Croatian midfielder's current deal expires at the end of the season.

- Dele Alli's future is set to be a constant talking point until at least the end of this transfer window. ESPN claims Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is reluctant to let the midfielder leave for PSG. Romano reports Spurs are still looking for a replacement and were working on re-signing Christian Eriksen, but Inter wanted a loan fee and the midfielder's salary paid in full.

- Lyon star Houssem Aouar was linked to Arsenal last close season, but the midfielder could head elsewhere. Gianluca Di Marzio reports Juventus are looking at the 22-year-old as an option ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

- Lucas Torreira seems set to move on from Atletico Madrid. Diario AS says Monaco are favourites to sign the midfielder, who is on loan at Atletico from Arsenal.

- Said Benrahma has made an impression at West Ham. Sky Sports reports West Ham have converted their loan for Benrahma from Brentford into a permanent move, paying £20million plus add-ons. The report says West Ham are also in talks to sign RB Leipzig forward Hwang Hee-chan.

Frank Lampard's appointment as Chelsea head coach was widely heralded by the club's fanbase, who were desperate for a returning hero to succeed in the dugout.

Just 18 months later and Lampard – the club's record all-time leading goalscorer who won 11 major honours at Stamford Bridge – has been sacked.

The Blues have proven in the past there is little time for sentimentality or to dwell on past successes and not even a player with the stature Lampard holds at the club has been granted extra time.

Lampard's first season in charge brought a top-four finish and an FA Cup final but a run of just two wins in eight league matches saw Chelsea wield the axe with the team ninth and 11 points off top.

A huge close-season recruitment drive that saw the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech and Ben Chilwell arrive perhaps gave the Blues hierarchy itchy feet and brought about the end for Lampard.

With that in mind, we have looked at some hits and misses when players have returned to a club as boss.

HITS

Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping down in May 2018, only to return 10 months later. He has already won LaLiga and the Supercopa de Espana in his second stint, though a slump this term has left his long-term future shrouded in doubt.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job in 2014. Conte is now battling to end the Bianconeri's domestic dominance as head coach of Inter.

Roberto Di Matteo

Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern, but he was discarded early in the following season.

MISSES

Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try to save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning just 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league position in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a relegation play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

JURY'S OUT

Mikel Arteta

Arteta served Arsenal with distinction as a player between 2011 and 2016, captaining the club and winning the FA Cup twice. Success in football's oldest cup competition followed last term, with Arteta having replaced Unai Emery in December 2019. After finishing eighth, Arsenal defeated Liverpool on penalties to win the Community Shield but eight defeats from 19 league games in this campaign have left Arsenal 11th and 13 points off top spot.

Andrea Pirlo

Lampard's opportunity at Chelsea arrived when Maurizio Sarri departed for Juventus, but his stint in charge at the Bianconeri lasted just one season despite winning the Serie A title. Pirlo won four Scudetti, the Supercoppa Italiana twice and the Coppa Italia during a four-year stint as a player in Turin and was appointed head coach just a week after being installed as Under-23 boss. So far it has been a mixed bag in Juve's hunt for a 10th straight title, with six draws and two defeats in 18 matches leaving them seven points back of league leaders Milan – albeit they do have a game in hand. Pirlo also collected a first trophy courtesy of victory over Napoli in the Supercoppa Italiana last week.

Paris Saint-Germain will visit either Guingamp or Caen when they begin their Coupe de France defence in the round of 64.

PSG won the competition last season as former head coach Thomas Tuchel masterminded a treble triumph, beating Saint-Etienne 1-0 in the final.

That successful campaign started away to sixth-tier Linas-Montlhery and Mauricio Pochettino's PSG will be on the road again after being drawn against Guingamp or Caen.

The Ligue 2 sides are set to face one another on January 20 for the right to host the French champions in February.

PSG have won the trophy a record 13 times, including five of the past six editions.

Saint-Etienne are also away - to Nancy or Sochaux - but Ligue 1 leaders Lyon will welcome Chateauroux or Ajaccio to the Groupama Stadium.

Marseille will visit Troyes or Auxerre, while Monaco are heading for Clermont or Grenoble.

Lille face Ligue 1 opposition in the form of struggling Dijon, and fourth visit seventh as Rennes go to Angers.

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