RB Leipzig star Christopher Nkunku has been named Bundesliga's Player of the Season for the 2021-22 campaign as speculation over a Premier League move persists.

Nkunku won the German top flight's Player of the Month award a single-season record four times - in October, February, March and April - and has been subsequently rewarded with the end-of-season accolade.

Robert Lewandowski, Manchester City-bound Erling Haaland and Bayer Leverkusen's Patrik Schick were all in contention, but only the Bayern Munich talisman (38) can boast more direct goal involvements this term than Nkunku, who has scored 20 goals and recorded 13 assists in 34 league games.

Meanwhile, across Europe's top five leagues in all competitions only Karim Benzema (59), Kylian Mbappe (57) and Lewandowski 56) have been involved in more goals than the Leipzig striker (50).

That goalscoring form and creative prowess guided Leipzig to the Europa League semi-finals, where they were defeated by Rangers, and helped them finish fourth in the Bundesliga.

Nkunku's development has not gone unnoticed by France coach Didier Deschamps, as the 24-year-old made his Les Bleus debut in a friendly against Ivory Coast in March.

He will hope to make Deschamps' squad as France aim to defend their World Cup title at Qatar 2022 in November and December.

There remains uncertainty over who Nkunku will be playing for next season, with Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal all reportedly interested but Leipzig eager to keep him.

United could be the most likely destination for Nkunku, given Ralf Rangnick's association with the Bundesliga club.

Nkunku goes in search of DFB-Pokal success when Leipzig face Freiburg in the final in Berlin on Saturday.

Borussia Dortmund bade farewell to several players on an emotional day at Signal Iduna Park, with Erling Haaland signing off in style.

Haaland is moving to Manchester City ahead of the 2022-23 season, with that move confirmed this week.

The 21-year-old – who joined Dortmund from Salzburg in 2019-20 – was presented with a wreath prior to kick-off on Saturday, as Dortmund faced Hertha Berlin in their final Bundesliga game of the season.

He was not the only player given an ovation before the match, with Axel Witsel and Dan-Axel Zagadou, who are leaving the club following the expiration of their contracts, and departing loanees Marin Pongracic and Reinier Jesus also paraded on the pitch, along with Marcel Schmelzer, who has retired.

Long-time sporting director Michael Zorc is also retiring, and was given a huge send-off by the Dortmund crowd.

The enthusiasm in the stands was not initially matched on the pitch, as relegation-threatened Hertha took an 18th-minute lead through Ishak Belfodil's penalty.

However, Haaland got his farewell goal with 22 minutes of normal time remaining, coolly slamming in an 86th Dortmund strike from the spot, in what was his 89th appearance for the club.

Zagadou and Witsel were both subbed off with the game winding down and, fittingly, it was the latter's replacement who netted Dortmund's winner.

Marco Rose insisted Dortmund would "not stop playing football" in the wake of Haaland's departure and 17-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko showed the future is bright as he converted from Jude Bellingham's sublime pass.

Haaland was able to enjoy a standing ovation as he made way, with Dortmund's 2-1 victory also ensuring Hertha will be in the relegation play-off.

Dortmund's place in second was already sealed, but below them, Freiburg's attempt to get into the Champions League fell just short as they lost 2-1 to Bayer Leverkusen, who took third, while RB Leipzig finished fourth.

Freiburg still have the DFB-Pokal final against Leipzig to look forward to but ultimately slipped down to sixth, with Taiwo Awoniyi's late penalty sending Union Berlin into fifth with a 3-2 win over VfL Bochum.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst hopes to buck history when Rangers face Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League final, as he aims to become just the second manager to win a European trophy at the club.

The Dutchman will lead the Scottish Premier League giants in Seville next Wednesday against their Bundesliga rivals as the famous Glasgow club bid for only a second continental trophy.

Rangers were beaten by Zenit in the UEFA Cup final in Manchester 14 years ago

Their only previous taste of European glory came in the 1972 European Cup Winners' Cup final, which they won under Willie Waddell with a defeat of Dynamo Moscow in Barcelona.

Half a century on, Van Bronckhorst could repeat the feat with a triumph in Spain, and the Rangers boss is desperate to lift the trophy.

"It means a lot," he told a press conference. "There aren't many managers in the history of this club who played a European final.

"There's only one who actually won it. For the club, it would be fantastic to win a second prize in Europe."

Referring to the lack of European success for Scottish clubs, the Dutchman added: "It's not often you play finals, it's not often you play finals in Europe as a Scottish team.

"It's very rare that it happens. We're really honoured and proud that we are in the final in Seville, and can enjoy this occasion with many fans all around the world.

"We're representing this beautiful club, we're representing Scotland, so we have to make sure we give a good impression, and that's what we want to do."

Touching on his side's impressive exploits in beating RB Leipzig to reach the final, Van Bronckhorst says the memory will live him with a long time, while stressing the job is not yet done.

"The Leipzig game was one of the best nights I've experienced as a player and a manager," he added. "But it is very important that we keep going.

"The last two games we've played, against Dundee United and Ross County, we didn't relax because we need the same intensity, the same desire to play against Frankfurt.

"I don't want my players to slip up. Saturday [when Rangers play Hearts] is a bit different, because we're going to change some players, but I think we're ready for the final. That's all that matters now."

Raphinha has been a bright spark for Leeds United as they have battled relegation from the Premier League this season.

Following the weekend's results, the Whites are in huge danger of going down after they dropped into the bottom three. As is the case in football, the vultures will circle in that eventuality.

The Brazil international has long been on the list of targets for Barcelona and the winger looks likely to move on at the end of the season, when Leeds could find themselves back in the Championship.

 

TOP STORY – LEEDS RELEGATION TO SPEED UP RAFINHA'S BARCELONA MOVE

Leeds United's potential relegation from the Premier League could help force Raphinha's move to Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Even if Ousmane Dembele signs a new contract, the Catalan giants are keen to land another winger.

While Dembele's future has reportedly depended on Barcelona's qualification for the Champions League, the desire to sign Raphinha has been clear regardless. 

Leeds' relegation would reportedly allow the the 25-year-old to leave for €25million (£21.4m), though there is no clause in his contract that establishes an exact price.

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal's bid to sign Lautaro Martinez could be scuppered with Inter Milan not looking to sell the 24-year-old, per the Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Manchester City's deal with Borussia Dortmund for Erling Haaland could be finalised and announced next week, the Sun is reporting.

- Liverpool are ahead of Real Madrid and Chelsea in the race to sign Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni , according to Marca.

- Bayern Munich are preparing to begin talks with RB Leipzig over midfielder Konrad Laimer , Fabrizio Romano reports.

John Lundstram saluted his "best night by a country mile" after firing Rangers to the Europa League final after their dramatic victory over RB Leipzig on Thursday.

The midfielder was the hero as he struck the winner 10 minutes from time for Giovanni van Bronckhorst's side, who prevailed 3-2 on aggregate at Ibrox.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, first-half goals from James Tavernier and Glen Kamara turned the tie on its head, before Christopher Nkunku squared proceedings with 20 minutes remaining.

But there was to be one late twist as Lundstram sent Ibrox into ecstasy, with his goal setting up a showdown with Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville on May 18.

"I can't put it into words," he told BT Sport. "I came in with a good feeling, but to actually go out and do it, I can't put it into words.

"We've been through so many ups and downs this season but to come through it and reach a Europa League final, wow!

"It's my best night by a country mile."

Lundstram also paid tribute to Rangers' much-loved kit man Jimmy Bell, who died on Wednesday at the age of 69.

"Words can’t describe how much Jimmy meant to everyone," the midfielder added. "He was the bedrock of the team. 

"I want to dedicate the goal tonight to him, I love him to bits."

Skipper Tavernier added: "It's unbelievable. A European final; it's what you dream of.

"We'll go there [Seville] full of confidence. Frankfurt got there for a reason, but it's one game and we'll fully back ourselves. 

"We're in this to win it. We want to make all the fans proud."

Meanwhile, Van Bronckhorst was delighted with the efforts of his players, and has urged them to grasp their opportunity in the final.

"It's very hard to find the words. It's been an amazing night," the head coach said.

"We said before the game we'd do everything possible. The players were fantastic. You can't write a script better than this. We're all very proud.

"Not many players can play European finals. It's not for every player. Once we're there, we need to do everything to win it. It's remarkable."

John Lundstram's late strike saw Rangers through to the Europa League final as they roared back at Ibrox to beat RB Leipzig 3-1 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate.

Trailing 1-0 from the first leg, first-half goals from James Tavernier and Glen Kamara turned the tie in favour of Giovanni van Bronckhorst's side.

Leipzig, who were seeking their first European final appearance, levelled on aggregate when Christopher Nkunku neatly volleyed home in the 70th minute.

However, Lundstram popped up 10 minutes from time to snatch a dramatic winner for the hosts, who will play Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville on May 18.

Aiming to become only the fifth side to overturn a first-leg semi-final defeat and progress to the Europa League showpiece, Rangers levelled the tie in the 18th minute.

Kamara released Ryan Kent down the flank and the winger drilled the ball across the face of goal, with Tavernier applying the finishing touch at the far post.

The hosts turned the tie on its head just six minutes later, with Scott Wright teeing up Kamara, who brilliantly stroked the ball into the far corner from 20 yards.

Joe Aribo squandered a glorious opportunity to make it 3-0 on the night soon after, failing to turn home from six yards after Tavernier cushioned Borna Barisic's deep cross into his path.

Leipzig grew into the contest during the second half and levelled the tie with 19 minutes remaining. Moments after Allan McGregor did brilliantly to deny Konrad Laimer, Nkunku drifted to the near post to volley home from Angelino's centre.

Yet Rangers sealed their progress to Seville after a winner 10 minutes from time, Lundstram reacting quickest to finish after Kent's deep cross was headed off the line by Josko Gvardiol.

Barcelona are reportedly open to "big-money" offers for Manchester United target Frenkie de Jong.

De Jong, who has 40 caps for the Netherlands, arrived at Barcelona from Ajax for a €75million fee in 2019, accumulating 137 appearances for the club in all competitions.

The midfielder has been a key pillar in Barcelona's line-up this season, appearing 44 times, but the Catalan giants may be ready to move on as the interest from United intensifies.

TOP STORY – BARCA ARE CONSIDERING OFFERS FOR DE JONG

The Blaugrana are open-minded about potentially parting ways with De Jong, who is being closely linked with his former Ajax coach Erik ten Hag for his new venture at United.

He is one of the main players on the Red Devils' wish-list, which Fichajes reports also includes Southampton's James Ward-Prowse, Feyenoord left-back Tyrell Malacia and West Ham's Jarrod Bowen.

The Telegraph adds that Ten Hag has identified eight players "he can trust" at the club, while being on the fence about Marcus Rashford's future.

ROUND-UP

– L'Equipe is reporting RB Leipzig's Christopher Nkunku would like to leave the club after this season, with a desire to head to Manchester City, United, Paris Saint-Germain or Milan

Newcastle United have met with the agent of Watford's Ismaila Sarr but will have to match the club's £40million asking price, per FootballTransfers.

Bayer Leverkusen are planning a move for PSG youngster Eric-Junior Dina Ebimbe after failing to secure the deal during the January transfer window, according to RMC Sport.

– Sport is reporting Samuel Umtiti will leave Barcelona in the next transfer window and wants to return to Lyon, who will be competing for his services with Rennes, Montpellier and Nice

– Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha is unlikely to sign an extension with the club and could be sold in the next transfer window with his contract set to expire in 2023, according to The Times.

Barcelona's financial volatility has necessitated a cut of overall wage spend, and Philippe Coutinho has long been viewed as dispensable.

Since his big-money signing from Liverpool, the incompatibility the Brazil international has represented has only been reinforced with loan spells at Bayern Munich and Aston Villa.

However, in need of funds, the Blaugrana have reportedly set the Birmingham club a timeframe for confirming his permanent signing.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA GIVE ASTON VILLA COUTINHO ULTIMATUM

Barcelona have given Aston Villa until the end of the month to confirm whether they will sign Coutinho on a permanent deal, Sport is reporting.

The cash-strapped Catalan giants loaned Coutinho to Villa in January with a €40million (£33.7m) purchase option, but Villa have now been given until the end of May to finalise the deal.

Barcelona have reportedly insisted that the finances be resolved by the end of June, as it would help balance their accounts for the season. 

The 29-year-old has played erratically despite four goals and three assists in 14 appearances, not directly contributing to a league goal since early March against Leeds.

ROUND-UP

- Romelu Lukaku has no intention of joining Milan or Newcastle United despite frustration over a lack of opportunities, according to the Evening Standard.

- Chelsea want to sign 20-year-old Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol from RB Leipzig, Goal reports.

- Football Insider reports Inter Milan are looking to sell Stefan de Vrij, with Tottenham and Aston Villa among the clubs interested.

- Lazio are willing to lower their asking price for Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to around €80million, per Calciomercato.

A stunning volley from Angelino gave RB Leipzig a 1-0 win in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final with Rangers on Thursday.

Domenico Tedesco's men were the aggressors for much of the game, but the Bundesliga side struggled to create chances against a resolute Gers backline, until the former Manchester City left-back's strike with five minutes remaining.

Leipzig dangerman Christopher Nkunku – who has 30 goals and 16 assists in all competitions this season – was unable to add to his tally, with the visitors keeping the Frenchman relatively quiet at Red Bull Arena.

It was not quite the famous night in Germany that Rangers experienced earlier in the campaign when they beat Borussia Dortmund 4-2 at Signal Iduna Park, but with just a one-goal deficit, it leaves the tie open ahead of the second leg at Ibrox next week.

Despite a dominant start, the closest Leipzig came in the first half was when Konrad Laimer managed to break down the left side of the Rangers penalty area, but his shot was well blocked by Connor Goldson.

The Scottish side were happy to sit deep and try and release Ryan Kent and Scott Wright with long balls, which could explain why their pass completion percentage in the first half was just 66.9.

Giovanni Van Bronckhorst's side had their first real chance early in the second half when Kent received the ball in space on the left, before beating his man on the outside and firing a shot across Peter Gulacsi's goal, but wide.

The first shot on target arrived in the 53rd minute as Nkunku hit a strong effort from just outside the box, which Allan McGregor palmed away, with the former Paris Saint-Germain attacker then somehow missing the target after rounding McGregor with 20 minutes to go.

The deadlock was finally broken in the 85th minute when a corner from Nkunku was headed away by Fashion Sakala, only for Angelino to volley the ball back through everyone and past the despairing dive of McGregor as the German side take a slender lead to Scotland.

The dominance of Bayern Munich is not just down to financial muscle, but more the lack of consistency from their Bundesliga competition.

That is according to former Bayern midfielder Toni Kroos, who played 130 times for the Bundesliga giants before swapping Bavaria for Real Madrid in 2014.

Bayern became the first team across Europe's top five leagues to win their respective top flight on 10 successive occasions after a 3-1 victory over Klassiker rivals Borussia Dortmund last Saturday.

Julian Nagelsmann's side had previously shared the record of nine with Juventus, who won Serie A each year from 2012 to 2020, before cruising to their record-setting triumph with three games to spare.

Many cited Bayern's financial power as an issue in the German top flight, such as being able to prise Robert Lewandowski from Dortmund in 2014.

Indeed, Lewandowski helped power Bayern to the title with 33 Bundesliga goals so far this term, netting once every 81 minutes on average.

However, Kroos does not believe that it is just the disparity in transfer activity that has aided Bayern's dominance, but also the lack of constant pressure from title contenders Dortmund and RB Leipzig.

"The competition has to be more constant. Teams like Dortmund or Leipzig are quite capable of keeping up in certain phases," said Kroos in the Simply Mal Luppen podcast.

"But they are not as consistent. It's not just about money."

While Kroos was quick to question the competition provided by Dortmund and Leipzig, the 32-year-old could take nothing away from another fantastic season for Nagelsmann's men.

"It's an exceptional performance, especially mentally," said the midfielder. "It's no surprise that they are the best team in Germany in terms of quality.

"But wanting to do it year after year and giving the championship title meaning is something special."

 

Thomas Muller was also integral to the success of Bayern once again, with his 17 assists in 30 top-flight games this season unmatched by any player in Europe's top five leagues.

The evergreen Muller also surpassed former team-mate David Alaba (10 titles) as the Bundesliga's most decorated player of all time, having been ever-present in the 10-in-a-row feat alongside the title win in 2010 (11).

Kroos believes his former colleague Muller relishes the prospect of protecting Bayern's dominance every campaign.

"You can also say at some point, after the eighth, ninth, tenth time: 'Well, then not for a year.'," Kroos added.

"But I have the feeling that he has a lot of fun defending the thing year after year."

Manchester United are preparing for a complete overhaul of the playing group in the upcoming transfer window as incoming manager Erik ten Hag begins to build things his way.

Ten Hag, who is arriving from Ajax, has reportedly already seen enough of a number of regular contributors at United, and they will make way for players he believes can get the club back to their former glory.

Forward, midfielders and defenders are all on the chopping block, with very few positions expected to be safe heading into 2022-23.

 

TOP STORY – TEN HAG TO SWING THE AXE AT UNITED

The Sun is reporting United "could sell" Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Eric Bailly, Phil Jones and Alex Telles at the next opportunity.

Meanwhile, Sky Sports claims United's needs include a new centre-back, two central midfielders, a winger and a striker in what could shape up as a complete rebuild.

One player who will reportedly get a chance to prove his worth at Old Trafford once he returns from loan is Donny van de Beek, who played for Ten Hag at Ajax.

West Ham's Declan Rice is also high on the Dutchman's wishlist, per The Guardian, while the Telegraph claims Benfica striker Darwin Nunez is a key target.

 

ROUND-UP

– Sky Sports Germany is reporting RB Leipzig have no interest in parting ways with Christopher Nkunku next season, despite interest from United and Arsenal.

– According to Goal, Milan are keen to sign Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku, who spent two seasons at Inter before rejoining Chelsea this season.

Real Madrid are monitoring Newcastle United midfielder Bruno Guimaraes, per AS.

Manchester City and Newcastle United are both interested in 18-year-old Rangers academy midfielder Alex Lowry, according to Football Insider.

– Todofichajes reports that Christian Eriksen has agreed to return to Tottenham when his contract with Brentford expires at the end of this season.

RB Leipzig are into the DFB-Pokal final for the third time in four years after a dramatic stoppage-time header from Emil Forsberg sealed a 2-1 comeback win over Union Berlin.

For a while, Union themselves looked on course for next month's final after taking a 25th-minute lead, but Leipzig fought back in the second half and sealed progress at the death.

During a first half of few chances, Union proved the more clinical as Sheraldo Becker guided home impressively on the break.

But there were warning signs from a Leipzig side that dominated possession and parity was restored by an Andre Silva penalty in the 61st minute, and just when extra time seemed to beckon, Forsberg nodded in to spark bedlam in the Red Bull Arena.

Christopher Nkunku has long been on the various of Europe's big clubs, but this season has been a breakout.

The 24-year-old France attacker has contributed an extraordinary 17 goals and 15 assists in 30 league appearances for RB Leipzig this term.

Investcorp's reported takeover of Milan from Elliott Management, and the consequent injection of funds, has reportedly put Nkunku in Milan's sights.

 

TOP STORY – NKUNKU ON MILAN RADAR

A change in ownership is allowing Milan to go after RB Leipzig's Cristopher Nkunku, the Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting.

Milan's Scudetto charges in recent years have fallen short up front despite the quality of their midfield, but the change of ownership can dictate a change in transfer strategy.

Meetings with Sassuolo for Gianluca Scamacca and Hamed Traore could be scuppered because the likes of Nkunku would become available.

Any such moves would reportedly not rule out a transfer for Liverpool striker Divock Origi that is already in the works, however.

 

ROUND-UP

– Liverpool have identified Barcelona's 17-year-old talent Gavi as a potential target in an attempt to bolster their midfield at the end of the season, Sport is reporting.

– The Reds are also prepared to offer a new contract to Sadio Mane, whose current deal expires at the end of next season, per Football Insider.

Arsenal are interested in signing Lille's Kosovo attacker Edon Zhegrova, according to Sky Sports.

– Newcastle United have shown renewed interest in Torino defender Gleison Bremer, who is also on Arsenal and Tottenham's radar, Tuttomercato reports.

Ralf Rangnick has described the evolution of Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp as "no coincidence" – because his own career has involved developing a number of their key talents.

The Manchester United interim boss, whose future beyond the end of this season appears unclear, can point to a host of Liverpool players and say he had an important role in their careers.

Rangnick, 63, is regarded as one of football's best strategists, and during his various roles with the Red Bull group, which includes RB Leipzig and Salzburg, he helped to bring through the likes of Naby Keita, Ibrahima Konate, Sadio Mane and Takumi Minamino.

Before that, he was coach when Hoffenheim signed Roberto Firmino from Figueirense, albeit leaving within weeks of that deal being agreed, while Rangnick coached Joel Matip at Schalke.

It is remarkable, therefore, that Rangnick has ended up in charge of Liverpool's most fierce rivals, whom United will face at Anfield in the Premier League on Tuesday.

"They are good, they are extremely good. It's no coincidence that they're as good as they are," Rangnick said of Liverpool.

"Jurgen has built that team over the last six and a half years. Six or seven of those players used to be my – or our – players."

Klopp's Liverpool play a similar high-tempo game to the Leipzig and Salzburg teams that Rangnick oversaw, meaning the players acquired have been a natural fit for Klopp's Reds.

"We signed them for our clubs when nobody knew them," said Rangnick, "and again it's no coincidence that this is probably the club with the highest number of players from our former clubs.

"Their approach, their style of football, the way they want to play is pretty similar."

Rangnick's United side beat Norwich City 3-2 on Saturday in the Premier League thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick, and it vaulted them to fifth place in the table.

That treble papered over some rather major cracks, however, and Rangnick warned afterwards there would need to be a big improvement against Liverpool.

United were chaotic at times, particularly in defence, and Rangnick said: "Even the reason why the club contacted me in November was the fact we just conceded too many goals too easily.

"We reduced the number of goals conceded, but the way that we defend is still not the standard we need in order to be a top-four club."

Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini blasted the "absolute confusion" of the refereeing performance in his side's Europa League quarter-final exit to RB Leipzig on Thursday.

La Dea had high hopes following their draw in the first leg, but a Christopher Nkunku brace handed Leipzig a 2-0 win instead, with the German side going through 3-1 on aggregate.

With Atlanta down 1-0 on Thursday, however, Antonio Mateu Lahoz waved away what appeared to be a handball from Leipzig's Dani Olmo and also waved away the consequent call for a VAR review.

Nkunku then punished Atalanta for a second time in transition, while Gasperini was left to bemoan the lack of consistency in refereeing interpretation and decision-making with the tie in the balance.

"The strange thing is that he [Mateu Lahoz] gave a punishment that for me was a less obvious foul than it was a penalty. There is absolute confusion on handballs," he said. "The referee himself, in 30 seconds, evaluates the first instance more serious than the second which is much clearer.

"Well, it's not like you can cancel it [from context]. We had a good match, we conceded something, as is normal in these matches. There are goal situations on both sides in Europe. Everyone has an important attacking quality. It wasn't the defence that penalised us."

According to the 64-year-old, the penalty reinforced Atalanta's need to chase the result, which played into the fast, dynamic and ultimately reactive RB Leipzig's hands.

"It is always like this," he said. "They have pace and speed, they play very tightly and then go on the counter-attack.

"Sometimes they do them very well, we attacked for a very long time and unfortunately in recent weeks we have had difficulty in finding the final pass, the decisive shot. Even if for long stretches it was an excellent match for Atalanta."

Champions League qualification is likely unattainable now for La Dea, who sit 12 points off fourth-placed Juventus in Serie A, but are also four points behind Lazio in the Conference League playoff spot. They face Hellas Verona on Monday.

Page 1 of 15
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.