Jurgen Klopp said he "couldn't care less" about rumours linking Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich ahead of Liverpool's Champions League final against Real Madrid.

The Liverpool manager could be poised to lose one of the most significant players in his squad at the end of the season.

Mane said earlier in the week that he would give "special" news regarding his future after the European showpiece game in Paris.

That and his suggestion it would be "the best answer" sparked speculation he would agree to stay at Liverpool, but it may not be quite so clear-cut, with Klopp having palmed away questions on Friday rather than offered any assurance that the 30-year-old will remain at Anfield.

"This is the wrong moment to speak about that. Wherever Sadio plays next season, he will be a big player," Klopp said.

Bayern raided Borussia Dortmund for talent during Klopp's time with BVB in the Bundesliga, with Robert Lewandowski notably prised away on a free transfer at the end of the 2013-14 season.

With Lewandowski's Bayern future now in doubt, as he seeks a move, possibly to Barcelona, the Bundesliga champions are on the hunt for a goalscorer.

Klopp said: "Sadio's in the shape of his life for sure. He's in brilliant shape. It's a joy to watch him at the moment.

"Football has asked him a lot this season – an incredibly long season, a lot of finals and this kind of things, one of the most successful for him and for us.

"The Bayern Munich rumours, I couldn't care less in the moment. We are all fully focused on the game. Sadio's completely focused on the game; he knows exactly how important it is to him and how important it is to us.

"So no concerns, completely normal."

Klopp said he could cope with the speculation surrounding Mane, who has helped Liverpool win the EFL Cup and FA Cup already this season.

The forward has played 50 clubs games this term, scoring 23 goals, as well as helping Senegal reach the Africa Cup of Nations final, scoring the penalty that clinched shoot-out success.

"It's not the first time in my career before decisive games that Bayern Munich rumours come up," Klopp said.

"I'm not exactly [sure] what I did that [means] it happens, but no problem at all."

Edinson Cavani admits enduring a poor final season with Manchester United after fans returned to Old Trafford left him with a "bitter taste", as he prepares to leave after two years at the club.

Cavani is moving on from United as a free agent at the end of his contract, having scored 12 goals in 41 Premier League appearances since joining in October 2020 from Paris Saint-Germain.

The Uruguay international initially impressed for United, scoring 10 goals in his first Premier League campaign as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Red Devils finished as runners-up in a 2020-21 season played almost entirely behind closed doors due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the 35-year-old then struggled for game-time under both Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick during his final campaign with the Red Devils, making just seven Premier League starts and scoring two goals in the competition.

Cavani, who suffered a number of frustrating injuries and was used largely as a back-up to Cristiano Ronaldo this term, told the club's official website he regrets not contributing more in his final season with the club, the first full campaign in front of supporters since the beginning of the pandemic.

"I wanted to contribute more this season," he said.

"One of the things that has left me with a slightly bitter taste is that when we had a highly enjoyable and pretty decent season [in 2020-21], we weren't able to have the supporters along with us.

"And now, this season, with the fans coming back into the grounds and stadiums, I haven't really been able to have the kind of campaign, if I'm being honest, on a personal front, that I would really have liked.

"I would have been able to score the kind of goals I did last season, and then be celebrating them a bit more with the fans – the kind of stuff that is great for a forward or a striker to be doing.

"But I want to sincerely thank the fans from the bottom of my heart, because they have always shown me a lot of affection, and that is very important for a footballer."

Borussia Dortmund have completed the signing of Manchester City youngster Jayden Braaf on a free transfer as the Bundesliga side's recruitment drive continues.

Braaf announced on Thursday that he would leave City, where he was offered limited first-team chances after joining from the PSV youth academy in 2018.

The 19-year-old was previously linked to a move to Dortmund in 2020 but ended up joining Udinese on loan, scoring once in four appearances before a knee ligament injury ruled him out for a year.

Dortmund confirmed on Friday that they have captured the promising winger on a three-year deal, Braaf following in the footsteps of Jadon Sancho and Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, who traded City for the Bundesliga side.

Braaf's arrival marks another new addition for Dortmund, who signed Karim Adeyemi to help replace the City-bound Erling Haaland, while also bringing in Niklas Sule, Nico Schlotterbeck and Salih Ozcan.

"Jayden, whose development we have been following closely for years, has shown in the past that he can be a difference player with his pace and talent," soon-to-be sporting director Sebastian Kehl said.

"After more than a year out through injury, he will certainly need time to regain his former strength and fully establish himself in men's football. 

"We want to give him this time and gently introduce him. If Jayden masters the phase ahead of him and stays clear, we have a great talent on board in him."

Dortmund, who appointed Edin Terzic as Marco Rose's successor for the next term, have also signed Alexander Meyer on a two-year contract from 2. Bundesliga side SSV Jahn Regensburg on a free transfer.

Meyer is expected to be the second-choice goalkeeper behind Gregor Kobel following the departures of Marwin Hitz and Roman Burki.

"Alexander Meyer convinced us both in terms of sport and personality. In him, we get a very experienced goalkeeper who exudes calmness and has shown in recent years as a regular keeper in Regensburg that he has high quality," Kehl said. 

"He was undoubtedly one of the strongest goalkeepers in the 2nd Bundesliga in recent years.

Meyer added: "When a club like BVB calls, I don't have to think twice. From a sporting point of view, they're an absolute top team, and there's no need to talk about the atmosphere in the stadium. 

"Just thinking about the Yellow Wall gives me goosebumps. I'm really looking forward to the new task and also to being part of the BVB family."

Sadio Mane has revealed he came close to joining Manchester United in 2016, agreeing a contract with the Red Devils before making a last-minute decision to join Liverpool after a call from Jurgen Klopp.

Mane has scored 23 goals in 50 appearances for Liverpool in all competitions this term, helping Klopp's team to win the EFL Cup and FA Cup trophies, while the Reds could yet add the Champions League when they face Real Madrid in Saturday's final in Paris.

The 30-year-old scored when Liverpool faced Madrid in the 2018 final in Kyiv, though substitute Gareth Bale netted a brace to condemn Klopp's side to a 3-1 defeat.

Liverpool are bidding to win their seventh European crown at the Stade de France, and Mane has been touted as a potential Ballon d'Or contender after also firing Senegal to their first Africa Cup of Nations title earlier this year.

However, things could have been very different for Mane, who said he had the chance to join Liverpool's rivals United when he departed Southampton in 2016.

Speaking to former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher in an interview for the Telegraph, Mane recalled how a phone call from Klopp, who had attempted to sign him for former club Borussia Dortmund on a previous occasion, saw his head turn.

"I have to say, I was really close to going to Manchester United," Mane said. "I had the contract there. I had it all agreed. 

"It was all ready, but instead I thought, 'no, I want to go to Liverpool'. I was convinced to go with Klopp's project. 

"I still remember the first time I got the call from Klopp. He said, 'Sadio, listen, I want to explain to you what happened at Dortmund'. 

"That was when he thought of signing me for Dortmund and for some reason, it didn't work out. He tried to explain and I said, 'it's okay, it happened'. I forgave him.

"Then he said, 'now I want you at Liverpool', and I said, 'okay, Dortmund is behind us, let's focus on the future'. He said, 'we have a big project at Liverpool and I want you to be part of it'."

Mane scored in both legs of Liverpool's Champions League semi-final win over Villarreal, setting up the Reds' ninth European Cup/Champions League meeting with Madrid.

Having won the first three such contests between 1981 and 2009, however, Liverpool are winless in the last five (one draw, four defeats), including their 2018 final loss.

Harry Kane has revealed he took much of his early inspiration and self-belief from watching NFL star Tom Brady, who hinted at his retirement U-turn to the Tottenham forward.

Kane came through Tottenham's youth academy and was promoted to the first team in 2009, before being sent out on various loans to Leyton Orient, Millwall, Leicester City and Norwich City.

The striker struggled throughout those loan spells, scoring just 11 goals across four seasons, but started to find his feet when Mauricio Pochettino took charge of Spurs in 2014.

Kane has since managed 183 goals in 279 appearances for Tottenham, winning the Premier League Golden Boot award three times, and acknowledged the role Brady played in helping him realise his ambitions.

The England international has also been celebrated in the Museum of London, with a free display aimed at inspiring the younger generations to pursue their dreams.

"I was good when I was younger, but I don't think I was the best player on the team. I really had to work hard to prove people wrong," Kane told Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show in the United States.

"I think that's what made me who I am today and got me to the level I got to. That kind of self-belief, that drive, that determination. 

"That's why the museum is there, so kids can go and look and see my journey and hopefully one day they will be inspired to be where I am.

"One thing that inspired me growing up was a Tom Brady documentary. I was away at another club on loan and I wasn't getting in the team and I was 18 years old and I was like: 'If I can't play here, how can I play for my team Tottenham?'

"Then I came across the documentary on YouTube called The Brady Six and it was about how he got picked in the sixth round and how he became one of the greatest sportsmen ever. It just gave me a real belief that it was possible for me to go on and have that career."

It appeared as though the 2021 season would be Brady's last when he announced his retirement after seven Super Bowl wins.

But the quarterback backtracked on that decision, returning to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he has one year remaining on his contract.

Kane suggested he already knew the 44-year-old was going to change his mind when the pair met after a clash between Spurs and Manchester United in March.

"He came to one of our games in the UK about two months ago, it was actually the day before he announced he was coming back to play," Kane said.

"And I asked him: 'How you getting on? How's retirement treating you?' And his face was just like: 'Mmmmm, I'm not sure if I'm ready yet.' The next day he announced it."

Rio Ferdinand accused former England team-mate John Terry of having a "fragile ego" after he took exception to a seemingly innocuous list of all-time greatest Premier League centre-backs.

Manchester United great Ferdinand listed himself first and Chelsea legend Terry fifth during an interview with Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk.

Ferdinand had his former United centre-back partner Nemanja Vidic second, with both Van Dijk and Jaap Stam ahead of Terry.

The BT Sport pundit said of Terry: "In terms of his longevity at that club, what they won, body on the line, a much better footballer than people give him credit for, could play off his left and right foot."

Terry was seemingly unimpressed by Ferdinand's assessment, though, and took to Instagram to showcase his list of achievements and writing: "Opinions are great but stats don't lie…"

The spat was then taken to Twitter, with Ferdinand making reference to Terry being accused of using racist language towards his brother Anton in 2011.

Terry was found not guilty in court, though he did serve a four-match ban and was fined £200,000 by the Football Association, who deemed he had used "abusive and/or insulting words and/or behaviour" which "included a reference to the ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race of Anton Ferdinand".

In his post Ferdinand wrote: "@JohnTerry26 The moment one has to start pushing their own records and stats it's really time to start addressing the fragile ego.

"Your (sic) lucky I even put you in the top 5 after the racism case with my brother so be thankful you made it."

Terry took his own shot back, writing in reply: "A fragile Ego is putting yourself at Number 1 @rioferdy5. Thanks for putting me in your top 5."

When accused of ignoring Ferdinand's point on the racism allegations by another user, Terry replied: "Stats don’t lie: not guilty. Addressed it, now what?"

Ferdinand was a six-time Premier League winner with United, while he also lifted the Champions League, Club World Cup, and EFL Cup twice.

Terry's list of achievements with the Blues included five Premier League titles, five FA Cups and three EFL Cups. He also has winners' medals in the Champions League and Europa League, though he did not play in either of Chelsea's winning finals in 2012 and 2013.

You could be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja vu when Liverpool take on Real Madrid in the Champions League final at the Stade de France on Saturday.

The two European giants faced off in 2018 in Kyiv, with Los Blancos running out 3-1 winners thanks to, among other things, a sensational Gareth Bale overhead kick.

Four years later Liverpool and Madrid ready to battle it out to be crowned kings of the continent, with 19 European Cups/Champions Leagues already between them.

Just how much have the two teams changed since then, though? Stats Perform has taken a look at both to see if there are any similarities and marked differences to expect in Paris.

From nearly men to trophy collectors

One of the many reasons defeat in Kyiv hurt for Liverpool was it would have not just been another Champions League success, but the first trophy won since Jurgen Klopp had taken over.

The German coach had been at Anfield since October 2015, and while there had been clear progress, it had not yet manifested in the form of silverware.

The idea that the loss was merely a bump in the road on the start of a journey has since been proven correct, as Liverpool have since hoovered up a Champions League, Premier League, UEFA Super Cup, FIFA Club World Cup, EFL Cup and FA Cup.

At the time, though, it may not have felt that inevitable given the Merseyside club went into the final having finished fourth in the league, 25 points behind champions Man City, having also been knocked out of the EFL Cup in the third round and the FA Cup in the fourth round.

As well as making the final, the 2017-18 season was memorable for the Reds acquiring one Mohamed Salah, who went on to score 44 goals in all competitions.

They lost Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona in the January transfer window, but signed Virgil van Dijk from Southampton to help out a troubled defence.

The team that started against Madrid included at least six players you would think will start in Paris in Trent Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Andrew Robertson, Jordan Henderson, Salah and Sadio Mane, while James Milner and Roberto Firmino will at least be on the bench.

It is perhaps the additions made that will make the difference this time, most notably in goal.

Loris Karius suffered a concussion after an elbow to the head from Sergio Ramos that night, which could explain his bizarre performance after that where he threw the ball straight onto Karim Benzema's foot for Madrid's opener, before dropping the ball into the goal from a Bale shot for their third.

Brazil international Alisson is a significant upgrade on Karius.

Instead of the... shall we say... enigmatic Dejan Lovren, Van Dijk will be partnered by either Joel Matip or Ibrahima Konate, both of whom have performed well with the big Dutchman this season.

Should they be fit, Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho will play with Henderson in midfield instead of Milner and Georginio Wijnaldum, while Luis Diaz will almost certainly play alongside Mane and Salah in place of Firmino.

Klopp only made two changes off the bench that night, with Adam Lallana replacing the injured Salah in the first half, while Emre Can also arrived in the second half with little impact.

He will likely have players such as Firmino, Milner, Diogo Jota, Naby Keita and, for one last time, Divock Origi to make the difference if needed in the French capital.

But overall, how much have they changed as a team since that season?

In all competitions in 2017-18, Liverpool averaged 2.39 goals for and 1.11 goals against per game, while making 584.18 passes per game.

They created 2.26 big chances per game, attempted 62.19 long passes per game and won possession in the final third on average 4.94 times per game.

Compare that to this season, they have averaged slightly fewer goals for with 2.37 per game, though have conceded just 0.76 per game, and made 624.55 passes per game, suggesting they control matches more than they used to.

They have created 2.43 big chances per game, and make fewer long passes with 57.13 per game, so are also maybe not quite as direct.

One of the more interesting stats is that they have been winning possession in the final third on average 7.32 times per game this season, significantly more than they did four years ago, so Madrid will be wary of that.

Speaking to Stats Perform, former Liverpool player and assistant manager Phil Thompson - who was captain of the Reds when they beat Madrid in Paris to lift the European Cup in 1981 - said he feels their added experience will help them this time.

"They're better equipped all round," he said. "We're better defensively. The back four, the goalkeeper, I do think all round we're more experienced now in the way we play with Sadio, Mo Salah, and Luis Diaz has brought a different element to our game."

Madrid back as Champions League experts

Back in 2018, Zinedine Zidane guided Los Blancos to their 13th European Cup/Champions League, but otherwise it was a pretty ordinary campaign.

They finished third in LaLiga, 17 points behind the champions Barcelona. They were also knocked out of the Copa del Rey at the quarter-final stage by lowly Leganes.

They just had a knack in the Champions League, though, and remarkably won their fourth in five years.

Similarly to Liverpool, you would imagine at least five of their starting XI in Kyiv will also start in Paris, with Dani Carvajal, Casemiro, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Benzema key men in Carlo Ancelotti's side.

Thibaut Courtois has replaced Keylor Navas in goal, while Eder Militao, David Alaba and Ferland Mendy will probably be the ones to take the places of Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo.

It is up top where things have mainly changed though, and not just in personnel.

Isco has become a squad player, who will leave at the end of the season, while Cristiano Ronaldo has long since departed, paving the way for Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo to come in, while Benzema has drastically increased his output.

The France striker scored 12 goals in all competitions in 47 games in the 2017-18 season, but has bagged 44 in 45 this campaign.

As for the team overall, in 2017-18 they averaged just 2.14 goals for per game, and 0.91 against, creating 2.11 big chances per game.

Somewhat bizarrely, their goal averages both for and against are the same as Liverpool's were four years ago (2.39 goals for, 1.11 against per game), though they have increased their average of big chances created to 2.71 per game.

However, they have won LaLiga this season, in addition to the Supercopa de Espana, and somehow found their way past Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City to reach the final.

Looking at those numbers and what has been achieved since, it is fair to say that both teams have improved since their Kyiv meeting.

Klopp's men have gone from a relative also-ran in English football to one of the strongest teams in the world, and had it not been for City's incredible comeback against Aston Villa on Sunday, would be playing to complete a phenomenal and unprecedented quadruple on Saturday.

Madrid have taken back their place as the best in Spain, and whether it was through luck or determination, have toppled three of the best teams in the competition to make it here.

You would assume the match in Paris will be a closer affair than 2018, and as finals so often are, is likely to be decided by the fine margins.

With the strength of both teams, though, do not be surprised if this isn't the last time we are sat here preparing to do battle in Europe's showpiece club game in May.

Leeds United have agreed a deal to sign Salzburg's Brenden Aaronson after Jesse Marsch swooped on his former club for the United States midfielder.

Reports have indicated Aaronson will cost Leeds in the region of £24.7million (€29m) when the transfer officially goes through on July 1.

He has committed to a five-year contract and will strengthen the Leeds midfield after the Premier League side avoided relegation on the final day of the season thanks to a win at Brentford.

Former Philadelphia Union player Aaronson, 21, has earned 18 caps for the USA and scored five goals for his country.

He joined Salzburg in January 2021, fresh from being named in the MLS Best XI for the previous season, and had a key role as head coach Marsch's team wrapped up a Bundesliga and cup double.

While Marsch moved on to RB Leipzig at the end of that season and later arrived at Leeds, Aaronson stayed on in Salzburg and helped Matthias Jaissle's side reach the last-16 stage of the Champions League.

Salzburg also landed another domestic double, and Aaronson believes the time has come to move on to bigger things.

He told Salzburg's website: "I can barely believe that it was only a year and a half I spent playing for FC Red Bull Salzburg.

"This big step from my homeland in the US to Europe was made an extremely easy one by everyone at the club, from the players, coaches and all the staff, and I had a fantastic time here. To come to Salzburg was totally the best decision I could have made!

"After our strong performance in the Champions League and winning the double, it's the perfect time for me now to move to a new and really big league."

Aston Villa have agreed a deal with Sevilla to sign centre-back Diego Carlos for an undisclosed fee.

The club confirmed on Thursday the player will travel to England "in the next few hours" to finalise personal terms and undergo a medical, with reports suggesting the fee will be in the region of £26.4million (€31m).

Diego Carlos would be Villa's second signing in the space of a few days, with a deal also announced earlier this week for Marseille midfielder Boubacar Kamara, who will soon become a free agent.

Former Nantes defender Diego Carlos was pursued by Newcastle United for much of the January transfer window – even reportedly handing in a transfer request – but will now link up instead with Steven Gerrard's side, who finished 14th in the Premier League this season.

The 29-year-old played 136 games for Sevilla since his signing in 2019, winning the Europa League in 2020 when his overhead kick was turned into his own net by then Inter striker Romelu Lukaku for the decisive goal in the final.

Diego Carlos was also a part of the Brazil team that won gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

A statement on Sevilla's website also confirmed the news, with the Spanish club adding: "Sevilla FC wants to thank the player for his work during all these years in Seville and wishes him the best of luck in his new professional stage."

John Aldridge says Luis Diaz has the full package and backed the Liverpool forward to rise to the occasion in the Champions League final on Saturday.

Diaz has been a revelation at Anfield following his move from Porto in January for a fee of €45million (£37m), which could rise to €70m.

The 25-year-old has already won the EFL Cup and FA Cup during his short time with the Merseyside club and could lift the biggest trophy in European club football at Stade de France this weekend, with Real Madrid standing in the way of the Reds and Champions League glory.

Diaz has scored eight goals and provided five assists, offering another dimension to an already potent Liverpool attack.

Aldridge has been hugely impressed with the impact Diaz has made and thinks the Colombia international can torment Los Blancos in Paris.

The former Reds striker told Stats Perform: "Luis Diaz in the final, one thing I like is that he doesn't let the finals get to him.

"The two finals he's played [against Chelsea in the EFL Cup and FA Cup]… he's only been at the club for two minutes, but he's been man of the match in two finals, which shows you, it doesn't faze him.

"Nothing fazes the lad, he just plays with energy, commitment, desire, hunger, the lot, he gives you the package.

"And that's what I love to see, he doesn't leave anything on that pitch. And he came from a modest family in Colombia, he has had to make his way through life without a lot of things given to him. He’s been like a breath of fresh air. He’s been brilliant."

Madrid beat Liverpool 3-1 in the 2018 Champions League final and Aldridge says Jurgen Klopp's side can use that to add further fuel in their quest to be crowned champions of Europe for a seventh time.

"I think you use it as a positive, in the right way," he said. "You don't let your heart rule your head. That's one thing in football that goes without saying. It can spur you on as a motivational weapon, big time."

Liverpool and Brazil forward Roberto Firmino has said he wants to stay at the Premier League club.

Firmino is out of contract at the end of next season, as are fellow attackers Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

Salah said at a media conference on Wednesday that he will still be at Liverpool next season, though stopped short of committing his long-term future to the club, while Mane said he will reveal his plans after Saturday's Champions League final against Real Madrid.

However, speaking to TNT Sports Brasil, Firmino was less cryptic, making clear his desire to stay on Merseyside.

"I am very happy here," he said. "I am grateful to God that I am here playing for a great club with great players, winning trophies, and I want to stay here. I want to be here.

"I'm happy here, so that's all that I can say."

Firmino has struggled for game time at Liverpool this season, partly due to injury and partly due to the January signing of Luis Diaz, whose arrival has seen Mane deployed in Firmino's usual role through the middle.

There was also the early season form of Diogo Jota, but the Brazil international has still made 34 appearances (17 starts) in all competitions, scoring 11 goals.

Manchester United are confident change is coming and they will be "relentless" in attempts to bring long-term success back to Old Trafford, according to CEO Richard Arnold.

United have become accustomed to not challenging for the Premier League title since Alex Ferguson's retirement in 2013, but the 2021-22 season saw them plumb new depths.

Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, caretaker manager Michael Carrick and then interim manager Ralf Rangnick, United accumulated just 58 points, their worst record in a single Premier League campaign.

But on top of that, champions Manchester City's haul of 93 points meant United finished the season 35 points adrift of the summit – that is comfortably the furthest off the top the Red Devils have ended a term in the Premier League era.

It was also the first time since 1989-90 that United failed to finish a league season with a positive goal difference, as they scored and conceded 57 goals.

United looked to get their preparations for next season started early by confirming the appointment of Erik ten Hag in April, and he has already taken up his role with a view to having a head-start when pre-season begins in late June.

And CEO Arnold, now in charge following the departure of executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward, insisted club chiefs share the fans' frustrations but was keen to emphasise the board's confidence in bringing success back to United with their long-term strategy.

Speaking at an April fans' forum from which the minutes were released on Thursday, Arnold said: "Suffice to say, we are not happy with where we are in terms of performance on the pitch.

"We understand fans are frustrated and want to see change and improvement. I can assure you that we share that frustration very intensely within the club.

"But we also feel confident that change is coming because of the action being taken to drive long-term success. The appointment of Erik ten Hag was the most visible example of that action, and the most important. We're pleased to have got that done early and we can't wait for Erik to get started.

"Success won't be achieved overnight but we are determined to get there, and we will be relentless in our efforts to achieve it. The support of fans will be crucial, and we accept that we have further work to do to strengthen that relationship, aided by the work of this forum."

When things are not going well on the pitch for United, frustrated fans quickly turn their attention to the club's owners, the Glazer family.

Thousands of supporters protested the Glazers' ownership during United's last three home matches of the season, but Arnold is convinced the club is doing more than most to engage with and listen to fans.

Additionally, he is hopeful an improvement in on-field matters next season will breed wider positivity.

"As stated earlier, everyone at the club, from the owners down, accepts that performances this season have been well below what we expect," he continued. "We are taking decisive action to improve things and there is huge commitment and passion across the club to return to where we think we belong: challenging for, and winning, titles.

"We are very aware of how fans are feeling and understand their concerns and frustration. Football is a game of passion and we fully respect fans' right to make their feelings known, as long as this remains legal and peaceful at all times. We have a duty of care to the fans who come to enjoy games, and to our staff who enable games to go ahead, and their safety will always be our priority.

"I would very much hope that all fans within Old Trafford approach next season with renewed optimism and confidence as we look forward to a fresh start under Erik ten Hag.

"We have the best fans in the world and when Old Trafford is at its loudest we have a significant advantage against our opponents. I hope this unrivalled passion will be used to support the team and the new manager as we start this exciting new chapter together.

"As a club we are doing more than ever before – and more than most of our peers – to engage with fans and listen to your views. We have strengthened and expanded this fans' forum, set up our new fans' advisory board, and continue to engage directly with [fan] groups. We are committed to listening to our fans and working collaboratively to improve the fan experience and keep the club strong and healthy. We need fans to keep engaging with us to be able to do this."

Chelsea moved a significant step closer to confirming new owners after the Portuguese government approved the sale of the club.

Such a deal required the green light from authorities in Portugal given that Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, Chelsea's owner since 2003, also holds Portuguese citizenship.

The clearance was confirmed a day after the UK government said it was satisfied "the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich".

Chelsea agreed to terms for the sale of the club to an ownership group led by Todd Boehly, Clearlake Capital, Mark Walter and Hansjorg Wyss for £4.25billion earlier in May. That deal was passed by the Premier League on Tuesday, pending governmental approval.

The UK government sanctioned Chelsea owner Abramovich due to his links to Russia's president Vladimir Putin following the invasion of Ukraine.

The Chelsea takeover promises investment of £1.75billion into the club, while proceeds of the sale are expected to be donated to victims in Ukraine.

Portugal's government said in a statement on Thursday morning that a decision had been reached in talks held the previous evening.

"Portugal gave authorisation, this Wednesday night, to the sale of Chelsea football club," the statement said.

"The two competent national authorities – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Finance – gave the green light to the request received from Roman Abramovich for a humanitarian waiver, allowing the English club to be transacted.

"The Portuguese authorisation stems from the guarantee given by the British authorities that the proceeds from the sale will be used for humanitarian purposes, not directly or indirectly benefiting the owner of the club, who is on the European Union sanctions list. The national position has the agreement of the European Commission."

Erik ten Hag will have an early chance to test his Manchester United team against European heavyweights after a clash with Atletico Madrid was revealed.

On the weekend before the Premier League season begins, Ten Hag's United will tackle Atletico at Oslo's Ullevaal Stadium.

The July 30 fixture sees United take on the team that knocked them out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage this season.

Ralf Rangnick oversaw a 1-1 draw in Madrid followed by a 1-0 defeat at Old Trafford, but the interim boss has stepped aside after former Ajax head coach Ten Hag was named manager on a three-year contract.

United football director John Murtough, who alongside Ten Hag is set to lead an overhaul of the club's playing staff during the close season, said the Atletico game would be a significant fixture.

"Pre-season is such an important part of the squad's preparations for the season ahead," Murtough said.

"Our players and coaching staff will be relishing the opportunity to play against such a high-calibre opponent in Atletico Madrid, as well as the chance to perform in front of a full stadium of passionate Norwegian fans."

United trailed home a dismal sixth in the 2021-22 Premier League, losing their last six away games, finishing with their fewest points since 1989-90, and ending the campaign with a goal difference of zero.

Atletico, a year on from winning the LaLiga title, finished third in the Spanish top flight as Real Madrid took top spot and Barcelona edged into second position.

As if the protracted transfer saga for Kylian Mbappe was not arduous enough, new transfer battle lines are being drawn for PSG and Real Madrid.

The need to rejuvenate Madrid's squad has been identified despite their LaLiga title win and progression to this season's Champions League final.

According to reports, however, they should prepare for not having everything their way again, with a new player in mind.

TOP STORY – PSG TO MAKE LATE PLAY FOR TCHOUAMENI    

PSG are preparing to make a late bid for Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni in an attempt to snatch him from Real Madrid , according to Goal.

The 22-year-old Monaco star is almost certain to leave the Principality this off-season, but his destination remains unclear.

Madrid have reportedly been in talks with Monaco over a prospective transfer for over a year, but have not yet completed the deal.

Kylian Mbappe was believed to have recommended Tchouameni when he was in talks over a move to the Santiago Bernabeu himself.

Now Mbappe has decided to stay in the French capital, it has accelerated the race to sign Tchouameni.

ROUND-UP

– Chelsea are considering a move for RB Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku, according to Goal.

Arsenal target Tammy Abraham insists he is happy at Roma but would not rule out a move back to the Premier League, per Metro.

– In need of a striker, Tuttosport reports the Gunners are also monitoring Alvaro Morata's situation, with his loan deal at Juventus expiring this off-season.

– Tottenham are targeting Inter centre-back Alessandro Bastoni, with Manchester United also interested, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport.

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