Karim Benzema scored a hat-trick and Eduardo Camavinga netted on his debut as Real Madrid marked their return to the Santiago Bernabeu with a thrilling 5-2 win over Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Madrid last played at their iconic home on March 1, 2020, before remodelling work began on the stadium, and fans were treated to a real spectacle.

Twice Celta led in the first half, with Benzema's first strike sandwiched between Santi Mina's opener and Franco Cervi's rather fortuitous tap-in.

But Benzema nodded Los Blancos level again early in the second half before setting up in-form Vinicius Junior with a defence-splitting pass.

Camavinga put the game beyond Celta soon after his introduction from the bench and Benzema completed his treble from the spot after some dazzling play by Vinicius.

Celta stunned Madrid in the fourth minute as Miguel Gutierrez was robbed out wide and neither Casemiro nor Nacho Fernandez could clear, allowing Iago Aspas to nudge the ball on to Mina and he slotted past Thibaut Courtois.

Madrid's response was good, their subsequent dominance rewarded with the equaliser – Benzema driving in a Federico Valverde cut-back from 12 yards.

But the visitors soon restored their lead. Hugo Mallo latched on to Aspas' lay-off and produced a disguised pass to pick out Cervi, whose initial audacious flick hit the post and came back to him for an easy finish.

Marshalling Benzema continued to prove difficult for Celta, however, and the Frenchman got his second of the day just after the restart with a wonderful header from Gutierrez's searching cross.

He then turned provider as Madrid went in front for the first time in the match, pulling out wide and playing a throughball beyond the defence for Vinicius, who capitalised on Jeison Murillo's dozing in the Celta offside trap and calmly stroked past Matias Dituro.

Camavinga got off the mark for his new club six minutes after coming off the bench, burying from a few yards out after Dituro could only parry Luka Modric's shot at the end of a surging solo run.

Vinicius then won a penalty, his feet too quick for Denis Suarez, and Benzema subsequently rounded off an engrossing match by securing his hat-trick with an emphatic finish.

Diego Simeone insists the referee was correct to add on 10 additional minutes in Atletico Madrid's dramatic late win at Espanyol due to the home side's time-wasting.

Atleti were heading for a first defeat of the season after Raul de Tomas gave Espanyol the lead through their first LaLiga goal in nine matches.

But Simeone's decision to make a triple substitution at half-time, before also turning to Joao Felix and Matheus Cunha in the second half, paid off for the reigning champions.

Yannick Carrasco fired in an equaliser in the 79th minute – Atleti's 300th LaLiga goal against Espanyol – and then set up Lemar's winner in the ninth of 10 added-on minutes.

Six substitutions were made in the second half and there was a lengthy VAR check for an earlier disallowed goal for Lemar after Luis Suarez was adjudged to have been offside in the build-up.

Espanyol scorer De Tomas complained about the amount of additional time played, but Simeone believes the hosts were made to pay for deliberately slowing down the game.

"It was a lot of minutes at the end, but I've never seen so much time wasted in a match either," Simeone said at his post-match news conference.

"You should look at what happened during the match."

 

Lemar dropped out of the starting line-up in place of Antoine Griezmann, who was making his second debut for Atleti, but made an impression during his time on the pitch.

Simeone explained after the game that the decision to overlook Lemar for a starting spot was down to fitness reasons following his return from international duty with France.

"Thomas is in a very good moment," Simeone said. "With the national team he had a digestive problem, he lost 3-4 kilos. 

"That is why I had doubts and thought about reserving him instead for Wednesday. I hope he can repeat those scenarios. 

"He was the player we signed from Monaco, the player that the team needs. Verticality he is good, he has a right foot, a left foot, he works had

"He grew a lot last season but lacked goals. Hopefully this season the goals will follow like today."

Atletico's late double came after Griezmann had been substituted off with an hour played following an underwhelming first game back since rejoining from Barcelona.

Griezmann had just four touches in the opposition box and managed only two shots, neither of which were on target, though nobody could match his three big chances created.

Asked what he made of Griezmann's performance, Simeone said: "I saw quite a lot in the first half that was not good from us. Espanyol were better in the first half.

"In the second we changed and looked for other alternatives to what we saw in the first half. The team had an extraordinary second half."

While Atletico have now picked up three wins and a draw from their opening four games, Espanyol remain winless on their return to the top flight.

Despite the controversy surrounding the added time at the end of the game at RCDE Stadium, home boss Vicente Moreno did not feel the need to criticise referee Juan Martinez Munuera.

"I don't think about it. It may seem like more minutes or fewer than expected, but it's down to the referee. Little can change what he saw," Moreno said.

"You rarely see 10 minutes added on in a game, but I am totally respectful. I just hope it's the same when we need a goal.

"As for the other comments made [by Simeone], I am respectful of what everyone says."

Atletico, who had failed to win on their previous three league visits to Espanyol, return to action on Wednesday with a home match against Porto in the Champions League.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has been accused by LaLiga chief Javier Tebas of "psychologically kidnapping" Barcelona in recent years.

Tebas has previously criticised Barcelona for supporting a proposed Super League, which failed to get off the ground as a backlash quickly led to the withdrawal of nine of the 12 founding members.

The 59-year-old also more recently hit out at Barca and Madrid for rejecting a €2.7billion arrangement with CVC Capital Partners, a deal that he argued would have allowed the Catalan giants to keep hold of Lionel Messi.

In the latest exchange between two of the most powerful men in Spanish football, Tebas has now claimed Perez swayed Barcelona counterpart Joan Laporta's decision to not accept the offer on the table.

"I have the feeling that at Barca there's a 'psychological kidnapping' regarding Florentino, like an inferiority complex," Tebas told Sport. 

"Florentino is a very intelligent guy and Jose Angel Sanchez, his director general, is the most empathetic man in European football. 

"All that glamour and know-how, up against someone (Laporta) who's been outside the world of football for more than 10 years.

"Barca were in favour of the CVC deal right until Real Madrid said no... In the last 72 hours everything changed. I think it was very much connected to the Super League and the strategy that Real Madrid are following."

Years of financial mismanagement caught up with Barcelona last month when they were unable to offer a new contract to Messi due to LaLiga's financial restrictions.

However, Tebas has reiterated that Barca could well have kept hold of Messi – who has since joined Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent – had they signed up to the CVC investment.

"Yes, it could have been avoided," he said. "I spoke about it with Laporta personally... I think next season with the figures Barca put out, we'll see if Messi could really have stayed or not.

"It wasn't a financial decision. I know that for sure. If Laporta shook hands with Messi, it was because for a month he had accepted the CVC offer. 

"He was in favour for a month. That's why he said things were going well. He even called me twice to speed up the CVC operation, because Messi was getting nervous."

Losing six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi to Ligue 1 giants PSG is a major blow for LaLiga, even more so than the previous high-profile exits of other big name players and coaches in the view of Tebas.

"Just like when Cristiano Ronaldo, Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho left. We knew that one day this would happen," he said.

"We have had the great luck of having the two best footballers in the world in the two best teams in the world and from LaLiga we have been able to take advantage of this to put ourselves on the world front line. 

"Perhaps Messi's departure has been a bit more painful, because personally I consider him the best in history, and he didn't deserve to leave like that, not only for Barça but for LaLiga as well."

Borussia Dortmund teenager Jude Bellingham is attracting plenty of interest.

The 18-year-old England international's price is valued at around £80 million (€94m).

Bellingham made 46 appearances for Dortmund last season and already has eight England caps.

 

TOP STORY – CITY PLACE BELLINGHAM ON WISH LIST

Manchester City have turned their attention to Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham, claims the Daily Star.

City have placed the 18-year-old England international on their wish list, as they look for a long-term replacement for veteran Fernandinho.

Pep Guardiola's side will join the queue alongside Liverpool, Chelsea and Bayern Munich.

ROUND-UP

- Dortmund's Erling Haaland will not rush into a decision on his club future when a release clause of approximately £70m (€81m) takes effect in 2022 amid interest from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester City,  claims 90min.

- Man City will rival Manchester United and look to complete a deal for West Ham midfielder Declan Rice in 2022, reports The Sun. Rice is valued at £100m by the Hammers.

- The Daily Mail claims Alexandre Lacazette's future at Arsenal is in some doubt after the club reportedly tried to replace him during the recent transfer window.

- Free agent Dani Alves has been heavily linked with a move to Argentine giants Boca Juniors,  according to Marca.

- Barcelona have already tabled a contract extension offer to 18-year-old talent Ansu Fati,  reports Mundo Deportivo.

Mauricio Pochettino insisted Kylian Mbappe has plenty of love for Paris Saint-Germain after the speculation surrounding a move to Real Madrid last month.

PSG reportedly rejected three bids - the last one said to be worth up to €200million - from Madrid for the 22-year-old, whose contract with the Ligue 1 giants runs out at the end of the season.

Mbappe has so far turned down the opportunity to sign a new deal, though the speculation has not affected his form, and he scored with a typically composed finish in PSG's 4-0 rout of Clermont on Saturday.

The France forward has now scored against 26 of the 27 teams he has faced in Ligue 1, while he has also directly contributed to a goal in each of his last 10 appearances in the competition.

Mbappe, who was taken off with 11 minutes remaining, ended Saturday's match with a game-leading five attempts, with three of those on target, including a shot that was parried out to Idrissa Gueye for PSG's fourth goal.

However, prior to his strike against Clermont, there appeared to be something of a mixed reaction from the PSG faithful at Parc des Princes, with some sections of the home fans appearing to whistle and jeer the youngster.

Pochettino claimed not to have heard anything untoward, but was adamant that Mbappe has nothing but respect for PSG.

"I didn't hear the whistles, but I heard the ovation he received when he went to take a corner in the second half with the affection of all the supporters of Paris," Pochettino told a news conference.

"He is a great professional, a great player and a good boy, he has a lot of love for this club. He has shown it since he got here.

"He is focused on improving every day, helping the team and fulfilling the club's goals. He shows great respect every day for this club, you have to salute him."

Next up for PSG is a Champions League encounter with Club Brugge. Lionel Messi and Neymar, who were both absent for Saturday's match, are likely to return and may well start in a front three with Mbappe for the first time.

Paul Pogba will be in demand when his contract expires after this season.

While several big clubs are in the mix, one has reportedly taken the lead.

The Santiago Bernabeu could be Pogba's next home.

 

TOP STORY - REAL MADRID WANT POGBA

Real Madrid are confident they can land Paul Pogba on a free transfer after this season, Mundo Deportivo reports. 

The interest apparently is mutual, as the report says Pogba would favour a move to Los Blancos over interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus

The deal might not be so easy to close if Manchester United decide to sell Pogba during the January window, but he remains a top target for Madrid either way.

 

ROUND-UP

- After failing to find a landing spot in Europe following his departure from Arsenal, veteran centre-back David Luiz will join Flamengo through the end of 2022, according to reports by Fabrizio Romano and Goal Brazil. 

- Alexandre Lacazette appears on the way out at Arsenal after the Gunners made a significant effort to sign Tammy Abraham during the transfer window, Romano reports. 

- Chelsea and Bayern Munich could pursue a swap deal that sends Timo Werner back to Germany and brings Leroy Sane back to the Premier League, according to Todo Fichajes.

- Everton will make another attempt to prise Ainsley Maitland-Niles from Arsenal during the January window, ESPN reports.

- Ajax defender Jurrien Timber is drawing interest from Chelsea and Tottenham, according to 90min. 

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin would not mind if Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona quit the Champions League after the trio "tried to kill football".

Juve, Madrid and Barca were three of 12 clubs announced as founding members of the Super League in April, along with Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Milan, Inter and Atletico Madrid.

However, the contentious project failed to get off the ground as a backlash quickly led to the withdrawal of all six English teams involved, followed by Atleti, Milan and Inter.

All 12 founding Super League members quit the European Club Association (ECA) before the competition collapsed, but nine of the rebel clubs have since been welcomed back.

Madrid and financially stricken LaLiga rivals Barca retain a commitment to the ill-fated collaboration, as do Serie A giants Juve, yet each of those teams will compete in the Champions League when the group stage begins next week.

Taking aim at the presidents of the three breakaway clubs, Andrea Agnelli, Florentino Perez and Joan Laporta, Ceferin told Der Spiegel: "These three clubs simply have incompetent leaders. Those guys have tried to kill football.

"I would not mind if those teams left. It is very funny that they want to create a new competition and at the same time they want to play in the Champions League this season."

Speaking in April, Super League president Perez argued the competition would be the saviour of football as clubs struggled to adjust to the financial problems brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Just four months on, though, Madrid tabled three offers for Kylian Mbappe, who is into the final year of his Paris Saint-Germain contract, with the third of the rejected bids reportedly worth up to €200million.

"He is criticising UEFA and saying that the club can only survive with a Super League, then he tries to sign Mbappe," Ceferin said of Perez.

Cristiano Ronaldo will pull on the Manchester United shirt for the first time in over 12 years on Saturday, with the five-time Ballon d'Or winner all set for his second Red Devils debut.

Ronaldo secured his return to United at the end of the most recent transfer window, with the deal reportedly set to cost an initial £12.9million (€15m).

But it's fair to say the player United have re-signed is rather different to the one they sold for a then world-record fee.

Then a flying winger, Ronaldo has adapted his game as he's grown older and is now a clinical penalty box poacher – diminishing goal returns he may have, but 36 in all competitions last season would still have had him as the leading goalscorer in English football.

Saturday's visit of Newcastle United will provide Ronaldo with the opportunity to make his return, and ahead of that match, Stats Perform has used Opta data to look at how the formerly flamboyant trickster has altered his game since his Old Trafford departure in 2009.

Positional sense

In his final league game with United – a goalless draw against Arsenal in May 2009 – Ronaldo played on the right, though was given license to roam infield and exert his influence, as had been the case for much of a season in which he scored 26 goals across all competitions. 

However, only five of his touches on the day came inside Arsenal's penalty area, with the majority out on the right wing and a cluster from an advanced, central position. 

Contrast that appearance with his final Serie A start for Juve back in May, when he scored in a 3-2 Derby d'Italia triumph against Inter: only three touches in the area but fewer overall, heavily weighted to the centre of the pitch.

It speaks to the way Ronaldo has greatly changed his game over the past 12 years. 

During his time at United, he netted 115 goals in all competitions, making him the club's leading scorer in that six-year span from 2003 to 2009. In his final season at Old Trafford, Ronaldo scored eight goals from outside of the area – a feat he matched in four of the next five seasons and surpassed in the other, with 10 in 2011-12 (his third season at Madrid).

Yet by his final season at Juve, Ronaldo had refined his game to become the poacher United are adding to their squad. Across his three seasons at Juve, the 36-year-old scored just seven times from outside the area, from a total of 101 goals.

Wing wizard to penalty box king

During his formative years at United, Ronaldo's mazy dribbling and eye for a showboat caught the eye. It is no surprise, then, to see the numbers back this up. In 2004-05, he attempted 9.55 dribbles per 90 minutes, a career high. 

As he grew in stature, adapted to the rigours of English football and became a more powerful presence, rather than the wiry winger that burst onto the scene, Ronaldo's dribbling figures dropped – 8.22 in 2005-06, 5.65 the following year and 6.28 in 2007-08.

By 2008-09, Ronaldo's attempted dribbles per 90 were down at a relatively modest 4.73, completing 1.92. By the end of his last year at Juve, Ronaldo was down to 3.07 dribbles per 90, though his success rate of 61.7 per cent ranks as the highest in his career. He has not lost the ability to dribble, but rather picks his moments to do so.

Of course, there is less need for taking on the opposition when you are positioned in the opposition's area, ready to pounce on a cross or run onto a throughball.

Ronaldo's adaptation into a number nine had started before his move to Turin. Indeed, in his final campaign with Madrid, Ronaldo registered 1,913 touches in total, with 409 of these coming in the opposition's area – his highest total in the box in a single campaign.

Contrast that figure with his totals from his second season in the Spanish capital – just 82 of his 3,344 touches came inside the opponent's box as he scored 60 times in all competitions, a tally he bettered in 2014-15 (61).

The 2014-15 season was undoubtedly Ronaldo's zenith. Turning 30 halfway through the campaign, he was at his best in front of goal and creatively. His 21 assists were a career high, as were the 97 chances created.

If United are looking for a creative force now, though, they have chosen the wrong forward.

Ronaldo's 2008-09 season saw him create 82 opportunities and lay on 10 assists (at an average of 1.71 and 0.21 per 90). Last term, he created a career-low 1.15 chances per 90, with his average of 0.12 assists each game better only than the previous campaign with Juve.

Ronaldo averaged 50.6 touches per 90 in 2020-21, with 6.8 in the penalty area. In only four seasons, all at Madrid, did the Portugal captain touch the ball less on average, though his figure of penalty box touches ranks as the fourth-highest across his career.

Heads up

Looking back at images of Ronaldo's early days at United, it is hard to imagine how that rapid, tricky winger developed into one of the most feared headers of the ball in world football.

Ronaldo's leap – his ability to almost hang in the air at great height, while generating unbelievable power – is something few players have come close to emulating. It might as well be trademarked, at this stage.

If his all-round array of talents were not already enough, Ronaldo also gives Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's team an aerial threat that only Edinson Cavani brings. Cavani, another veteran at 34, can no longer play every game.

Ronaldo scored seven headed goals across all competitions in 2020-21, as many as Cavani and Everton's Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who were the leading players from Premier League clubs in that regard.

Since he left United, 70 of Ronaldo's 450 club goals have come with his head – no player across Europe's top five leagues has scored more, with Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski ranking second with 57.

With Luke Shaw rejuvenated as an attacking force and Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Jadon Sancho and Paul Pogba all capable of brilliant deliveries, Premier League centre-backs should fear Ronaldo's leap in 2021-22.

Erling Haaland was not lured away from Borussia Dortmund in the most recent transfer window despite widespread interest.

But the race to sign the 21-year-old Norway international will heat up in the coming months.

Haaland scored 41 goals for Dortmund last term, making him one of European football's hottest properties.

 

TOP STORY - MADRID LEAD HAALAND RACE

Real Madrid have a verbal agreement for Dortmund star Haaland to join the club next year, reports Diario Madridista.

The Spanish club leads the way amid widespread interest in the Norwegian forward, including from BarcelonaChelsea and Manchester City.

Additionally, Los Blancos' decision to respect Dortmund's stance to not sell the 21-year-old during the previous window has helped any potential deal.

 

ROUND-UP

Leicester City are planning to make a move to sign Sassuolo and Italy winger Domenico Berardi in January, reports CalcioMercato. Berardi, who has attracted interest from Milan and Fiorentina previously, could be available for approximately €35million (£30m).

- Dortmund will not sell Jude Bellingham amid reported interest from Liverpool as they plan to offer the 18-year-old England international a new contract, claims 90min. Bellingham's current deal runs until 2025.

- Milan midfielder Franck Kessie is on Chelsea's radar as they plan for Jorginho's potential departure, seeing him as a replacement, according to the Daily Express. Paris Saint-Germain are also interested in Kessie, who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Chelsea will revive their interest in Sevilla's Jules Kounde in January, but the Blues still only want to offer approximately €50m (£42m), according to ESPN. Sevilla previously demanded a deal in the region of €70m (£60m), before then informing the English side only depositing his release clause – understood to be between €80m (£68.3m) and €90m (£76.8m) – would suffice in the final two days of the transfer window.

- Fichajes claims Tottenham are planning to hand 34-year-old French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris a new two-year deal, with his current contract due to expire in June 2022.

Guus Hiddink, the former Real Madrid, Chelsea and Netherlands head coach, announced his retirement at the age of 74.

Hiddink declared in a television interview that he had decided to quit as boss of Curacao and would not return to football.

The Dutch great told SBS 6: "Lately, with COVID, I haven't worked much. Coincidentally I was talking with the president of the Curacao federation and we came to the conclusion it was better that I stop for a while, because they are going in a new direction.

"But I'm going to stop totally. Am I going to do a Advocaat. No, no."

That was a reference to his fellow veteran coach Dick Advocaat, who was expected to retire after leaving Eredivisie giants Feyenoord last season but instead took on the job of coaching Asian nation Iraq.

Hiddink began his career at PSV and had two spells with the Eindhoven club, from 1987 to 1990 and 2002 to 2006, winning three Eredivisie titles in each successful stint.

His PSV side won the old European Cup in 1988, beating Benfica on penalties in Stuttgart following a goalless draw, clinching a treble after already landing the domestic league and cup titles.

He twice led teams to World Cup semi-finals – the Netherlands in 1998 and South Korea in 2002 – and helped Australia reach the second round of the 2006 tournament.

His Russia team reached the Euro 2008 semi-finals, where they lost 3-0 to Spain, and he had his first short spell as Chelsea interim manager while still in that national team job, helping the Blues win the 2009 FA Cup.

Hiddink was not a success at Madrid, failing to complete the 1998-99 season before he was sacked. He managed one trophy while at the Santiago Bernabeu, helping Madrid beat Vasco da Gama in the Intercontinental Cup.

A long career as a head coach also took in jobs at Valencia, Real Betis, Turkey, Fenerbahce and Anzhi Makhachkala.

Hiddink had a brief and unsuccessful second stint as Netherlands boss, then succeeded Jose Mourinho at Chelsea in December 2015 and helped the team recover from a shocking start to their title defence season, but that was just a half-season tenure.

A year as China Under-21 coach followed, and then the curtailed spell as Curacao boss, his final act, barring a change of heart.

Kylian Mbappe remained at Paris Saint-Germain beyond the end of the transfer window, but his long-term future may not lie in the French capital.

The World Cup winner is a free agent at the end of the season and is reportedly ready to move.

Real Madrid, who bid for Mbappe at the start of this campaign, appear his most likely destination, but far less predictable is his potential replacement at PSG.

The Ligue 1 giants have months to plan their next move, so Stats Perform breaks down the possible options to fill Mbappe's big boots.

 

ERLING HAALAND

Borussia Dortmund remained firm in their stance of keeping hold of Haaland in the most recent transfer window, despite some heavyweight clubs reportedly showing an interest as deadline day approached. That interest will only increase in 2022 as the Norwegian has a widely reported €75million release clause that comes into effect at the end of the season. 

Landing Haaland would mean PSG replacing one of the world's best young goal-getters with another player of equivalent standing, the 21-year-old having scored 63 goals in 64 games since his Dortmund debut in January 2020, compared to 54 in 66 matches for Mbappe in all competitions.

HARRY KANE

Following Manchester City's failed pursuit of his signature, Kane announced towards the end of the transfer window he was staying put at Tottenham. City's loss – assuming they are not prepared to go back in for the England captain, as Pep Guardiola recently hinted at – could be PSG's gain.

A reunion with his former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino in Paris would appear to make a lot of sense, if PSG could stump up the huge fee that Tottenham would still insist upon next year. Having finished as Premier League top scorer in three separate campaigns – one of only three players to do so along with Thierry Henry (four times) and Alan Shearer – he will feel he deserves his move to an elite club that can challenge for major honours.

 

LAUTARO MARTINEZ

Lionel Messi and Pochettino will know all about the qualities of their fellow Argentinian, who has shone brighter by the season for Inter over the past three years. At the age of 24 and having been linked with the likes of Barcelona, Tottenham and Man City, Martinez is reportedly on the brink of signing a new deal with the reigning Serie A champions, which could make PSG's life a lot more difficult when it comes to any negotiations.

Whether he is quite of the level to take the place of Mbappe is debatable, and this year should prove telling, with Martinez facing a greater onus to score heavily after Romelu Lukaku's departure from Inter. He has one goal in one appearance this term, a goal-per-game return he will be looking to maintain over the course of 2021-22.

ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI

While the likes of Messi, Lukaku, Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann all changed clubs during the transfer window, Lewandowski stayed put at Bayern Munich despite suggestions he was seeking a new challenge elsewhere. With Bayern under no pressure to sell, and the prolific striker having two seasons to run on his contract, a move away this year never seemed a realistic prospect.

But it will be a different matter in nine months' time and PSG could do a lot worse than go all out for the Poland international, even if he is now 33 years of age. Having last term scored 41 times in the Bundesliga – breaking Gerd Muller's single-season record – Lewandowski has maintained his lofty standards in the opening weeks of the new campaign with 10 goals in his first six matches for club and country, going a long way to strengthening his argument of being the best out-and-out striker around.

MOHAMED SALAH

Salah is in an identical position to Lewandowski insofar as the Egypt forward will be about to enter the final 12 months of his contract come the end of the campaign. After previously flirting with LaLiga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, PSG have their work cut out persuading Salah to make the move to Ligue 1 instead.

Should they manage that, though, they will have one of Europe's top attacking talents from the past four years. Indeed, since joining Liverpool from Roma ahead of the 2017-18 season, the 29-year-old's tally of 97 goals has been bettered by only four players in Europe's top five leagues: Ciro Immobile (104), Ronaldo (107), Messi (125) and Lewandowski (131).

 

DUSAN VLAHOVIC

The 21-year-old Serbian came of age in Serie A in the 2020-21 campaign, scoring 21 of Fiorentina's 47 goals to finish fourth in the league's scoring charts and earn the division's Under-23 MVP award.

While not quite in the same category as some of the others on this list, Vlahovic may well be the hottest property around come next June as he already has three goals in three appearances for his club in all competitions this term. 

RICHARLISON

Neymar's Brazil strike partner is another who has been touted for a move to Paris since Madrid launched their Mbappe offensive last month. Everton made clear that they were not interested in selling Richarlison in August, but that may change should PSG be prepared to spend big once again.

Now into his fourth season at Goodison Park, Richarlison has yet to score more than 15 Premier League goals in a campaign for the Toffees, but at the age of 24, he has gained huge experience and was a key member of Brazil's recent Olympic gold medal-winning squad in Tokyo. 

Real Madrid are desperate to bolster their attack.

Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland are both on the list.

But, if their efforts to sign Haaland are unsuccessful, Robert Lewandowski could reportedly be targeted.

 

TOP STORY – LEWANDOWSKI TO MADRID?

Real Madrid will turn to Bayern Munich talisman Robert Lewandowski if they are unable to sign Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, according to Diario AS.

Madrid are reportedly determined to sign in-demand star Haaland, who has also been linked with Manchester City, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus, Liverpool, Barcelona and Bayern.

But Lewandowski has emerged as an alternative for Madrid should they miss out on Haaland.

Madrid are also eyeing PSG star Kylian Mbappe on a free transfer.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato reports Juventus are considering a move for Barca forward Ousmane Dembele. The France international has been linked with United and Liverpool, while he is yet to agree terms over a new deal at Camp Nou.

City are interested in Milan full-back Theo Hernandez, claims the Manchester Evening News. The Frenchman has flourished at San Siro, also attracting the attention of PSG.

- The Manchester Evening News says United have earmarked West Ham star Declan Rice as their principal midfield target at the end of the season.

Real Madrid signing Eduardo Camavinga insists he is "ready to play" as he looks to make a name for himself quickly in Spain.

The 18-year-old joined on a six-year contract from Rennes in August in a deal reportedly worth up to €45million, the first time Madrid have spent money on a player since Eden Hazard signed from Chelsea for €100m in 2019.

Camavinga made 71 Ligue 1 appearances for Rennes and, at 18 years and nine months old, he is the youngest outfield player to feature in that many games in France's top flight since Basile Boli in 1985.

The teenager's breakthrough season with his former club came in 2019-20, attempting 105 tackles in top-flight football. Declan Rice (116) and Wilfred Ndidi (129) were the only players to attempt more across Europe's top-five leagues.

Despite a midfield that boasts Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Federico Valverde, Madrid's new signing declared he is keen to show coach Carlo Ancelotti what he can do.

"I'm ready to play now," Camavinga told reporters at a presentation on Wednesday.

"As I said before, it is true that I am a young player. Maybe I need time to adapt, maybe not. I feel ready.

"I have come to learn and then I have to show the coach that I am ready and enjoy playing time."

 

Camavinga made his senior France debut on September 8 last year, the youngest player to do so since Maurice Gastiger against Luxembourg 107 years ago.

Only Gastiger (17 years and five months) scored for Les Bleus at a younger age than Camavinga, who was 17 years and 11 months old when he netted against Switzerland last October.

Asked how the quality of midfield competition would impact upon him, Camavinga responded: "The competition from those players motivates me a lot.

"And I'm also going to learn a lot from those players, tactically and technically."

Borussia Dortmund's England international Jude Bellingham has been in Germany more than 12 months.

He has regularly been linked with moves back to England, having impressed in the Bundesliga.

Liverpool had a quiet transfer period, with only French defender Ibrahima Konate signed.

TOP STORY - LIVERPOOL TO LAUNCH RECORD BELLINGHAM DEAL

Liverpool will launch a record £80million (€93m) deal to secure central midfielder Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund claims the Daily Star.

The report says the England international is Reds manager Jurgen Klopp's top transfer target.

Theproposed deal would make 18-year-old Bellingham the club's most expensive ever signing.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid have joined Manchester United and Barcelona in the race to sign Leicester City midfielder Youri Tielemans according to AS. The current contract of the 24-year-old Belgium international expires in 2023.

- Leicester City's Senegal midfielder Nampalys Mendy will join Istanbul giants Galatasaray on loan before the Turkish transfer window closes, reports Foot Mercato. Mendy, who has been on international duty, will rush to Turkey to complete the deal.

- Le10Sport reports that veteran Brazilian free agent David Luiz is set to ignore options with Marseille and Salernitana and instead return to his homeland.

- Roma will make another move for Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria in January after missing out on him during the most recent transfer window reports Corriere dello Sport.

Luis Enrique has reiterated he would love to see Pep Guardiola take over as Spain coach in the future.

Former Barcelona coach Guardiola suggested last month that he wishes to try his hand in international football after leaving Manchester City.

Guardiola's City deal runs until 2023, and while he plans to take a break whenever his time at the Premier League club is up, he also wants to experience coaching a national team.

Luis Enrique helped continue the legacy his former team-mate built at Camp Nou and said he would have no issues in standing aside for Guardiola.

In fact, it is something Luis Enrique wants to see.

"I'd love that, I wish [Guardiola] was the Spain coach. I'd love it – it would be perfect," he enthused in a news conference ahead of Spain's World Cup qualifier against Kosovo.

"What's more, I'd love to see our national team with his stamp on them.

"I don't think Spain could have a better coach."

Spain have not had it all their own way in qualification but nevertheless sit top of Group B after they bounced back from a 2-1 loss to Sweden by thrashing Georgia 4-0.

The Euro 2020 semi-finalists only hold a one-point advantage over Sweden, however, having played two games more.

As was the case for the Euros, Luis Enrique again did not select any Real Madrid players in his latest squad, though he played a straight bat when pressed on his decision on Tuesday.

"My actions speak louder than words [with regards to Real Madrid players]," he said.

"I could only dig myself a hole with an explanation."

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