"I am not a magician," said Carlo Ancelotti. "Just a coach who has to give players the confidence they need to express their qualities."

The Real Madrid boss was talking about arguably the standout player from Los Blancos' strong start to the season – and, brilliant as he continues to be, it's not Karim Benzema.

When Ancelotti spoke before Madrid's 2-1 win at Valencia, Vinicius Junior was on a run of four goals in as many games in LaLiga. That tally reached five in five after he fired in a late equaliser at Mestalla – as many goals as he had scored in 59 previous league matches.

For attacking players, nothing builds belief like the support of a coach and regularly sticking the ball in the net. Vinicius has both of those things going for him right now, and it's yielding the best form of his Madrid career.

 

NEW-MAR

Signed amid much fanfare from Flamengo three years ago, it has taken Vinicius time to fully find his feet in the Spanish capital. Patience is notoriously thin on the ground where Madrid are concerned, but fans have been more willing than usual to play the long game with the Brazil international, who has already played 88 times in Spain's top flight, a tally bettered by just six compatriots in the club's history.

Given Marca ran a headline this week asking whether Vinicius' form in 2021-22 meant Madrid had found "the new Neymar" – a player they once wanted to bring back to Spain, no less – it would appear the wait has been worth it.

Along with five goals, Vinicius has provided two assists and created 10 chances this term, all of them from open play. Only Eden Hazard (12) and Karim Benzema (14) have created more among Madrid's squad. Indeed, among players aged 21 and under, only Erling Haaland (seven goals, three assists) has been directly involved in more goals in 2021-22 in Europe's top five leagues.

 

After the first six matches of 2020-21, Vinicius had two goals and zero assists, with three chances created for team-mates. Granted, he had spent 52 fewer minutes on the pitch in those six games than he has this season, but he has undeniably made better use of the time given to him of late.

In the first six games of 2021-22, Vinicius' 17 shots have come amid a 2.64 expected goals (xG) total, but they account for 4.36 expected goals on target (xGOT), giving some indication as to the high quality of his attempts. (The xG metric assesses the quality of chances, and xGOT looks at the player's actual effort at goal.)

By contrast, at the same stage of last season, he had xG of 2.58 but xGOT of just 1.49 from 13 shots.

KYLIAN (IN THE NAME OF)

A strong indicator of Vinicius' form, his willingness to stand up in matches and why those Neymar comparisons are a little closer to the mark than they once were, is the upturn in his impact when running with the ball.

 

After six games in LaLiga last term, he had completed only five of 17 attempted take-ons. That success rate of 29.4 per cent was the lowest of any Madrid player to complete at least one dribble.

This season, that success rate has jumped to 47.6 per cent, Vinicius having completed 20 of 42 attempted take-ons. These are identical figures to one Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain – another Madrid transfer target.

Not only that, but 42 attempted take-ons is the most by any player in LaLiga in 2021-22, while Vinicius also ranks highest for take-ons in the box (eight) and those ending with a shot (four), and joint-highest for drives into the penalty area (also four).

 

HEARTBEAT

Vinicius is also averaging 62 touches of the ball per 90 minutes, an increase from 57 at this stage of the season in 2020-21. It follows that he is more heavily involved in the action at the top end of the pitch: he has had 36 involvements in shot-ending sequences in LaLiga, a figure bettered only by Real Betis' Nabil Fekir (38) and Madrid's own Benzema (51). On average, his tally has jumped from just over three per game in 2020-21 to more than seven in 2021-22. And, of those sequences this season, 10 have ended in a goal – only Benzema (14) can do better.

This is a player embracing responsibility, demanding the ball, and dazzling when he gets it: in short, he's showing all the best qualities of Neymar, Mbappe or anyone else Madrid may wish to buy, and offering fans everything they hoped for when he first arrived for €46million in 2018.

Perhaps competition is bringing the best out of Vinicius: with Gareth Bale back at the Santiago Bernabeu (although presently injured), Eden Hazard showing more encouraging signs and Marco Asensio fully fit again, there is no shortage of options for the Benzema support act. Or maybe Ancelotti really does have the magic touch to keep Vinicius in vibrant form for a whole season, beyond the fleeting glimpses displayed under Zinedine Zidane.

Whatever the reason, Vinicius has never looked so dangerous in a Madrid shirt. Worryingly for his opponents, there could be plenty more to come.

Carlo Ancelotti is taking no enjoyment from bitter rivals Barcelona's ongoing struggles as he backed Real Madrid to continue improving.

Barca have managed just two wins from their opening five LaLiga games of the season and were beaten 3-0 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League last week.

The pressure is mounting on head coach Ronald Koeman following Thursday's stalemate with Cadiz, a result that leaves the Catalan giants down in seventh place.

LaLiga leaders Madrid are already seven points better off than Barca, albeit having played a game more, but Ancelotti is only concerned about his own side's performances.

"I'm not happy if a team has a bad time," he said at Friday's news conference previewing Madrid's home match with Villarreal on Saturday. 

"I focus only on my team. If things don't go well for another team, be it Barca or another, It doesn't make me happy."

 

Madrid's thumping 6-1 win over Real Mallorca on Wednesday moved them two points clear of reigning champions Atletico Madrid at the summit ahead of the visit of Villarreal.

Los Blancos are now unbeaten in 24 league games, which is their longest such run since going 28 without defeat between March 2016 and January 2017.

Marco Asensio scored a hat-trick against his former side in that most recent match, while Karim Benzema claimed a double and provided two assists.

Benzema has now been directly involved in 15 LaLiga goals this season, surpassing former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo (14) for the most of any player in the Spanish top flight this century after six games.

The France international turns 34 in December, but Ancelotti feels the prolific striker is only getting better with age.

Asked if Benzema is a contender for the Ballon d'Or award, Ancelotti said: "Because of what he's doing and has done, he has to be on the shortlist.

"But Karim still has time to win it. This will not be his last season. He's like wine – it gets better with time."

Thanks to the form of Benzema, Madrid have scored 21 goals after six LaLiga matches – their best tally at this stage since 1987-88 when registering 26 goals.

The capital club have not been as strong defensively, though, with only seven teams in the division having conceded more goals than the eight Madrid have let in.

With that in mind, Ancelotti believes there is still more to come from his side.

"The players are doing well. I have to be honest, we have focused a lot on the defensive side of our game because that needed the most improvement," he said.

"It's difficult to have a high line if there is no pressure on the ball. If there is no pressure we defend with a low block. 

"We'd like to have a line in the centre of the pitch, but it's not always possible.

"I was satisfied with the Mallorca game compared to our previous match against Valencia, but you quickly have to focus on what can be improved."

Ancelotti also revealed Eden Hazard has "trained well" this week but could not guarantee the forward, who was an unused substitute against Mallorca, would feature this weekend.

Madrid have lost just one of their 21 home LaLiga matches against Villarreal, winning 15 of those and drawing the other five.

Villarreal have therefore lost 71.4 per cent of their away matches against Los Blancos, which is their highest percentage against any opponent with at least two games played on the road.

Marco Asensio was considering leaving Real Madrid on loan before Carlo Ancelotti told the midfielder to stay with the LaLiga leaders.

The Spain international was concerned that his first-team opportunities would be limited this season due to the options at Ancelotti's disposal in his second spell as Madrid boss.

Liverpool were among the clubs linked with Asensio, but the 25-year-old was still with Los Blancos when the transfer window closed at the end of last month.

Asensio, who missed most of the 2019-20 due to a knee injury, marked his first start of the season with a hat-trick in a 6-1 LaLiga hammering of his former club Real Mallorca on Wednesday.

Horacio Gaggioli, Asensio's agent, has revealed it could have been a very different story.

"We had been considering a loan for him to get back in form as soon as possible, either in Spain or abroad," he told Cadena SER's El Larguero show.

"There were no problems in that sense. But four days ago, Carletto (Ancelotti) told him to stay.

"We knew the quality Real Madrid had in midfield, probably the best in the world. So where would he play? It's not that we had no faith in him, because he can also play on the wing.

"But we knew that the year after the injury was going to be difficult and Real Madrid can't wait for anybody. They have to win every week and recovering from an injury isn't easy at Real Madrid."

Gaggioli says Asensio had no desire to leave the Spanish capital, adding: "We cannot be more grateful to Real Madrid."

With his treble against Mallorca, Asensio became the sixth Spanish player to score a hat-trick for Madrid in LaLiga this century and the first since Alvaro Morata in April 2017. 

He has two years to run on his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu and Ancelotti insists the versatile midfielder has a big role to play.

"Marco was important to us even before the Mallorca game," Ancelotti said on Friday. "He has shown his quality for us. He can play in different positions and is a very important player in the squad."

Erling Haaland is the name on everyone's lips.

Europe's elite are reportedly queuing up to sign the Borussia Dortmund and Norway sensation.

If Haaland leaves Dortmund, the Bundesliga outfit have a replacement in mind.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND OUT, CHIESA IN AT BVB?

Borussia Dortmund see Juventus forward Federico Chiesa as a replacement for in-demand star Erling Haaland, according to Calciomercato.

Haaland is tipped to leave Dortmund at the end of the season amid links with Real Madrid, Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Barcelona, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain.

Should Haaland depart, Dortmund are eyeing Juve and Italy star Chiesa, who has previously caught the attention of Chelsea and Liverpool.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato reports Juve, Inter and Milan are interested in Madrid forward Luka Jovic, who has been linked with a January exit.

- A contract extension for Liverpool's Naby Keita is not as close as previously thought, claims Bild. It comes as Liverpool reportedly eye Dortmund sensation Jude Bellingham.

Tottenham will make a January move for Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic, according to Calciomercato. The Serbia international forward has also been linked with City, Arsenal, Juve and Atletico Madrid.

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti hailed Marco Asensio following his hat-trick performance in the 6-1 LaLiga rout of Real Mallorca.

Asensio scored three goals in his first start of the season against former club Mallorca as Madrid returned to the league summit at the Santiago Bernabeau on Wednesday.

After Karim Benzema opened the scoring in the third minute, Asensio took centre stage – the Spaniard scored on either side of Lee Kang-in's goal to give Madrid a 3-1 half-time lead.

Asensio completed his treble 10 minutes into the second half as he became the sixth Spanish player to score a hat-trick for Madrid in LaLiga this century and the first since Alvaro Morata in April 2017. 

Benzema and Isco added gloss to the scoreline, though Ancelotti heaped praise on Asensio post-match.

"I invest my experience in the team and look to give them my all, both in terms of experience and confidence," Ancelotti told reporters, with Madrid now boasting 16 points from their opening six league matches – their best start to a season at this stage since 2013-14, when the Italian boss was last in charge.

"I'm lucky to coach this brave team with a lot of quality and players who learn quickly. Asensio played very well. We knew that he can do a lot of damage and they had a lot of quality between the lines, he's a very good shot taker and he combines very well.

"Asensio has performed very well and during next week he can hopefully score three goals as well. I think this is the position.

"It can be sometimes that if we push with the full-back, defending, he can play more on the outside, but with the ball it's always the same position because he likes it. When he comes inside he has the ball on the left and he is very dangerous there."

Benzema also impressed in the Spanish capital – the in-form France international has been directly involved in 15 goals in LaLiga this season (eight goals and seven assists).

It is the best start in goal involvement of any player after the first six league games of the campaign in the 21st century.

"Karim is doing well," Ancelotti said. "He's scored eight goals and can make you forget that he is playing very well with the team, he gets behind, he contributes to the other players.

"He's a striker who doesn't just score goals. He is complete in every way.

"The day when he needs a rest weell play [Luka] Jovic, who has been doing really well. Jovic is up against really tough competition, but when he's played he's done well.

"He had two chances today and he also played extremely well against Valencia. He'll play when Benzema isn't available."

Marco Asensio scored a hat-trick against former club Real Mallorca to help Real Madrid to a 6-1 win that lifted them back above Atletico Madrid at the top of LaLiga. 

Mallorca youth product Asensio added to Karim Benzema's early opener and doubled his personal tally after Lee Kang-in had pulled one back for Mallorca in a lively first half to Wednesday's contest. 

Making his first start of the season, Asensio curled in a delightful third before Benzema – who also assisted a couple of goals – and Isco rounded off a thumping victory for Los Blancos at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Madrid have now collected 16 points from their opening six matches, making this their best start to a season at this stage since 2013-14 when Carlo Ancelotti was last in charge. 

Benzema scored a late winner for Madrid in their victory against Valencia last weekend and opened the scoring inside three minutes, nicking the ball off Josep Gaya's toes before racing through and coolly sliding past Manolo Reina. 

Asensio put Madrid on course for a sixth successive home league win against Mallorca 21 minutes later with a close-range finish after Rodrygo's pass was deflected into his path. 

Mallorca took just 71 seconds to respond, however, as Matthew Hoppe picked out Lee and the South Korea international got the better of Thibaut Courtois. 

But Asensio raced through to restore Madrid's two-goal lead and nearly completed his hat-trick moments later with a shot that Martin Valjent blocked on the line. 

Benzema set up Asensio's second goal and thought he had further extended Madrid's lead early in the second half, only for VAR to rule it out for a push on Joan Sastre. 

It did not take much longer for the fourth Madrid goal to arrive, though, as Asensio curled a shot away from Reina into the bottom-left corner for his first Madrid treble. 

Madrid did not let up as Benzema controlled a David Alaba pass with his back and fired a deflected shot past Reina in the 78th minute. 

The Mallorca keeper had to pick the ball out of his net once again six minutes later when Vinicius Junior teed up Isco for a simple finish. 

Carlo Ancelotti sympathised with Ronald Koeman's poor start at Barcelona as Real Madrid prepare for the visit of Real Mallorca on Wednesday.

Madrid left it late against Valencia last time out, scoring twice in three minutes to win 2-1 and extend their unbeaten run to 23 LaLiga games.

Meanwhile, Barcelona have only won twice in the Spanish top flight so far, most recently being held to a 1-1 draw by strugglers Granada on Monday.

Reports from Spain on Tuesday suggest that Barca are considering sacking Koeman and replacing him with Belgium boss Roberto Martinez.

However, Ancelotti warned that teams will always go through difficult periods, with his side included in the anecdote despite their impressive 13-point haul from five games this term.

"You always have problems, now everything goes well for us, but surely problems will come to us," Ancelotti responded when asked about Koeman's difficulties.

"And a coach should focus on solving problems when they come.

"If we are able to maintain this attitude and with the quality that the team has, we will move forward. The spirit is the most important lately because we have always fought to the end.

"Winning comes first but if you play well you have a better chance of winning. But what does it mean to play well? For me the key is balance, playing well with or without the ball."

Los Blancos could record their best start to a league campaign since 2013-14 – also under Ancelotti – if they beat Mallorca, who have lost more top-flight games against Madrid than any other opponent (37).

But Ancelotti refused to be drawn on questions of how his side compares to his previous team from his first tenure in Spain's capital.

"I must take into account the characteristics of these players, different from those of 2014, learn and try to put them in a good position on the field," he continued.

"That's the job. At the club they know me well and we're having a good time now I think.

"It is very good, it is a honeymoon for me. We will live good times and bad times but I will never lose the respect that I have for this club.

"And the same way backwards. Difficult times will come but we will have a good time, just as it happened in my first stage here."

Could a Premier League switch be on the cards for Kingsley Coman?

Coman is reportedly disgruntled at Bayern Munich amid talks over a new contract.

Liverpool and Chelsea are believed to be ready to pounce.

 

TOP STORY – COMAN WANTED IN ENGLAND

Premier League giants Liverpool and Chelsea are monitoring Bayern Munich star Kingsley Coman, according to The Mirror.

Coman is contracted to Bundesliga champions Bayern until 2023 but the Frenchman has been previously linked with Manchester United.

The 25-year-old is tipped to leave Bayern as clubs reportedly queue up.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo says Barcelona are dreaming of signing RB Leipzig's Dani Olmo, Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and United midfielder Paul Pogba, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Haaland has been linked with United, Bayern, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Liverpool, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain. Pogba is also reportedly wanted by PSG, Madrid and Juve.

Paulo Dybala is close to signing a new contract at Serie A giants Juventus, reports TyC Sports.

- Tuttomercatoweb claims Roma are trying to prise Denis Zakaria from Borussia Monchengladbach.

- Jaime Ojeda claims Bayern are among the teams interested in United States and Dallas sensation Ricardo Pepi.

Karim Benzema bailed out Real Madrid once again, but the French striker insisted the 2-1 win at Valencia was richly deserved, as their unbeaten LaLiga run stretched to 23 games. 

The capital giants had trailed to a fine 66th-minute strike from Hugo Duro that looked set to take Valencia to the top of the table, but instead it is Madrid who sit on that perch with 13 points from five games. 

Captain Benzema teed up Vinicius Junior to slot in an 86th-minute leveller, with the help of a deflection, before roles were reversed for the winner two minutes later. 

A teasing cross from Vinicius was perfect for Benzema to attack, and although the ball went in off his shoulder rather than his forehead, as was the intention, they all count. 

Benzema has now scored in his last six games against Valencia, and Sunday's late show was sweet revenge for the 4-1 thumping that Madrid took at Mestalla last November. 

Coach Carlo Ancelotti described his team's spirit as "indomitable" and Benzema saw it similarly. 

The 33-year-old said: "I think it was a difficult game for us against a great team who are always difficult to beat here. 

"I think we deserved the three points that are important to us. Each game is a final, today was another final and we won. 

"All the players on the pitch and the people who came on at the end of the game to help us, it is a victory for the squad. If I can continue like this, scoring, the most important thing is that they are important for the club." 

Madrid are unbeaten in their last 18 away trips (W12 D6) in LaLiga, which equals their best such run in the competition's history, having previously reached 18 games unbeaten in 1997 (W11 D7) and 2016 (W13 D5). 

Benzema has six goals already this season in LaLiga from an expected goals (xG) total of 2.61, indicating he is having an outstanding run in front of goal. 

He has become the first player since Lionel Messi in 2011-12 to be directly involved in 11 or more goals in the first five games of a LaLiga campaign (six goals, five assists). 

This season has seen Vinicius very much come to the party too, bagging five goals from an xG of 2.3, also outperforming expectations substantially, and now adding a first assist. 

Quoted by AS, Vinicius said the win at Valencia was credit to Madrid's refusal to accept they are ever beaten.

"It is always difficult to play here, but we continue to believe and Madrid never give up," said the 21-year-old Brazilian.

"The main virtue is patience. It was the job of the coach and the whole team. We are doing things like never before. We played well, but things didn't work out and in the end we got the comeback. I am happy with the victory "

It was a victory that delighted Ancelotti, who has yet to lose a competitive game since returning to the club in the close season.

"We have not won because of quality, but because of the indomitable spirit of the team," said Ancelotti. "We continued to the end."

Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema rescued Real Madrid from a Mestalla deep hole as they stunned Valencia 2-1 after a quick-fire late double strike. 

Carlo Ancelotti's visitors were second best for the first 80 minutes of the game and trailed to Hugo Duro's elegant finish, as former Getafe coach Jose Bordalas looked set to take his Valencia team top of the table. 

A long unbeaten streak in LaLiga looked sure to end, but Vinicius struck a deflected leveller in the 86th minute and Benzema grabbed the winner two minutes later, silencing the home crowd as the ball went in off his shoulder. 

The capital giants had won just one of their previous seven league games at Mestalla (D2 L4), but a never-say-die attitude has served them well in recent times, and it paid off once again. 

Manchester United, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona all pursued Erling Haaland in the recent transfer window.

The 21-year-old Norway forward opted to stay with Borussia Dortmund.

But the race will heat up again at the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA INTERESTED IN STERLING

Manchester United still want to sign Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland and will make a move next European summer, reports the Express.

United made a major transfer splash when they landed Cristiano Ronaldo last month but remain in the Haaland race.

The Red Devils are looking to end their trophy drought and added Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho along with Ronaldo for this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- United are leading the way in the chase to sign Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund, according to The Sun. The 18-year-old is being pursued by Chelsea and Manchester City too.

- The Sun reports that United are planning a clear-out at the end of this season, including Donny van de Beek , Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial to free up funds.

- Calciomercato reports that Juventus have identified Real Madrid forward Luka Jovic as a transfer target in the January window on loan.

- Ligue 1 club Lens could make a bid for Liverpool's Belgium international forward Divock Origi , claims Fichajes.

- Crystal Palace are interested in signing US international forward Daryl Dike from Orlando City, reports The Sun. Dike is set to command a £18m fee.

- Transfer expert Ekrem Konur claims that Flamengo have tabled an offer to sign Brazilian veteran Dani Alves.

Raphael Varane believes he is fulfilling his destiny after moving to Manchester United from Real Madrid.

The centre-back won three LaLiga titles and four Champions League crowns in Spain's capital, while triumphing at the 2018 World Cup with France.

Varane, who joined Madrid in 2011 from Lens, completed a move to United in a deal worth a reported £42.7million (€50m) in August.

However, in an interview with Sky Sports, the France international revealed he almost arrived at Old Trafford 10 years prior as former United manager Sir Alex Ferguson travelled to his Lille home to tout the then 18-year-old's services.

"It was a special moment for me and my family," Varane said. "It's amazing to meet a person like him [Alex Ferguson] at 18.

"You know, after that, it's your destiny. Ten years in Madrid and now I'm here.

"This is a new challenge for me. A different competition, a different mentality, a different atmosphere. It's all new for me but I've enjoyed every day so far.

"It's a big challenge to get Manchester United back to the top but I feel people want to win, people want to do great things with this club, and that's a big motivation for me."

 

In the absence of Sergio Ramos last term, Varane shone for Los Blancos, who he ranked second among defenders for both duels won (110) and interceptions (36) in LaLiga.

United's defensive acquisition dominated aerially as well, winning 73 aerial duels – more than double the tallies of his defensive colleagues.

But despite his success at Madrid, he remained on the undercard as he was surrounded by big names such as Cristiano Ronaldo, who he has reunited with in Manchester.

"I don't play football for this focus [the headlines]," Varane continued. "I just want to help the team and do my best.

"I want to improve and be who I am on the pitch. That's my objective and my mentality.

"Playing with this type of player [Cristiano Ronaldo], you improve every day. If he is still playing to such a high level at his age, it's because his work is amazing. I'm very happy to play with him.

"I think he is the best example in the world in terms of work ethic and winning mentality."

Carlo Ancelotti deflected the credit for Vinicius Jr's upturn in form as Real Madrid prepare to face Valencia on Sunday.

Madrid boast the longest unbeaten streak in LaLiga, having gone 22 games without defeat but they have won only one of their last nine visits to Valencian sides in the top flight.

Vinicius has been an integral part of their positive start to this term, winning three and drawing one, as he has scored four times in as many appearances.

And while Ancelotti has been pleased with the Brazil forward's form, he has not been surprised by his impressive performances so far.

"At the game level I see a player with impressive one-on-one ability," Ancelotti told Saturday's news conference.

"Today's Vinicius is the same that I saw when he was not here, what happens is that this season he started scoring and that has given him confidence.

"I am not a magician, just a coach who has to give players the confidence they need to express their qualities." 

 Asked whether Vinicius can continue his form, the Madrid head coach responded: "It depends on the personality, the character, the charisma, the quality that one has. 

"Vinicius has taken the team on our backs on several occasions and at this moment is what he has to do, when he is more veteran he will be able to put his character and experience."

And Ancelotti believes the future of Madrid is in safe hands with another Brazil youngster Rodyrgo coming through the ranks.

The 20-year-old has made four appearances this term, though he has not managed any goal involvements in those outings.

"Rodrygo is very fast, very complete and is very young," Ancelotti continued. "He is the present and the future of Real Madrid."

Could Raheem Sterling leave Premier League champions Manchester City?

The Englishman has slipped down the pecking order in 2021-22.

LaLiga giants Barcelona are reportedly ready to offer Sterling regular football.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA INTERESTED IN STERLING

Barcelona are targeting a loan move for Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling, according to Sport.

Sterling has fallen out of favour under Pep Guardiola this season, leading to speculation over his City future.

The England international is reportedly open to reunion with former City team-mate Sergio Aguero at Barca.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Independent claims Manchester United are prioritising a move for West Ham's Declan Rice. The Red Devils are eyeing Rice to partner Paul Pogba, who himself is the subject of transfer speculation. Out of contract at the end of the season, Pogba has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Juventus.

Lazio are interested in free agent Dani Alves following his Sao Paulo exit, reports Calciomercato. The former Barca and Juve full-back terminated his contract and reportedly met with Brazilian rivals Flamengo.

- Fabrizio Romano says Roma are preparing a new five-year contract for Lorenzo Pellegrini, who has been linked with Premier League clubs.

- Serie A champions Inter are weighing up a move for Torino defender Bremer at the end of the season, says Calciomercato. The Brazilian has also been linked with United and Liverpool.

- According to Calciomercato, City have not given up on signing Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic. The Serbia international forward was linked with City as well as Tottenham, Arsenal and Atletico Madrid before the transfer window closed.

Luka Jovic is on the radar of Juventus, per Calciomercato. Jovic is out of favour at Madrid, with the Serbia international originally tipped to return to Eintracht Frankfurt on a permanent basis.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao have announced they will continue to challenge LaLiga's agreement with CVC Capital Partners. 

LaLiga last month struck a €2.7billion (£2.3bn) deal with CVC that will see the private equity firm acquire 10 per cent of the commercial business. The other 90 per cent of the investment was earmarked to boost cash-strapped clubs in the top two tiers of Spanish football as they deal with the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Madrid and Barca allege the agreement impacts all clubs' audiovisual rights for the next 50 years, with Los Blancos announcing legal action, including against LaLiga president Javier Tebas, last month. 

The deal was overwhelmingly passed by the LaLiga assembly on August 12, yet Barca, Madrid and Athletic still refuse to accept it, while the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) labelled the agreement as "totally illegal". 

In a statement released on Friday, the trio of top-flight clubs made clear their intentions to contest the resolution, following what they describe as a "highly irregular and disrespectful process". 

The statement read: "Barcelona, Athletic Club and Real Madrid announce that they have challenged the agreement adopted by the LaLiga assembly on August 12, 2021, relating to the operation between LaLiga and CVC, as it being an agreement that infringes the applicable rules set out (and in particular, amongst others, the Royal Decree Law 5/2015), and it was adopted as part of an highly irregular and disrespectful process toward with the minimum guarantees required to those purposes, especially faced with an operation of such importance and longevity." 

LaLiga boss Tebas claimed that Barca would have been able to keep Lionel Messi had they agreed to sign up. Due to the club's serious financial issues, the Argentina superstar was unable to sign a new contract and instead joined Paris Saint-Germain. 

Tebas also insisted CVC are investing to develop the league, rather than salvage the finances of Spanish clubs. 

"CVC were interested because of how we have developed, without help from Madrid or Barca. CVC have not come here to bail us out - they are not here because of the pandemic," he said. 

"Only 15 per cent of the money can be used to pay off debts, 70 per cent is for investment in infrastructure. So they are not here to bail out Spanish football, but to help build a stronger league."

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