Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic is winning plenty of admirers.

The 21-year-old Serbian has netted 10 times in 12 appearances at club level this season.

Vlahovic is currently under contract until June 23, although La Viola want him to sign an extension.

TOP STORY – PSG TO ENTER VLAHOVIC RACE

Paris Saint-Germain will enter the race to sign Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic, claims Le10Sports.

The Parisians are lining up the Serbian striker as a potential successor to Kylian Mbappe should he exit the club when his contract expires at the end of this season, with Real Madrid circling.

Hot property Vlahovic is being pursued by JuventusLiverpool and Tottenham.

ROUND-UP

- Unai Emery will not be the first permanent manager in Newcastle United's new era, BBC Sport journalist and Spanish football expert Guillem Balague understands. The Basque coach is set to stay at Villarreal for now, though his job there is under threat amid a poor start to 2021-22.

- The Sun reports Antonio Conte's arrival at Tottenham has seen Harry Kane abandon any plans he had to quit the club. Kane apparently wished to join Manchester City during the most recent transfer window.

- New Spurs boss Conte wants to sign Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, according to Metro. Conte also has Inter defender Stefan de Vrij in his sights, claims Football Insider.

Milan are in the race to sign talented River Plate star Julian Alvarez in the off-season, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. Fiorentina have also shown interest in 21-year-old Alvarez, who has four caps for Argentina.

Norwich City are considering a move to replace embattled manager Daniel Farke with former Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe, claims the Daily Mail. The Canaries have only two points from 10 games following their return to the Premier League. Howe has also been linked with the vacant Newcastle job.

Newcastle want to make Inter's Croatian midfielder Marcelo Brozovic their first major signing in January, says The Sun. Brozovic is out of contract at the end of the season.

Lazio are looking to convince Luiz Felipe to ink a new deal with the club amid interest from BarcelonaSevilla and Real Betis, reports CalcioMercato. The Brazilian centre-back's contract expires at the end of this season.

Ronald Koeman has been sacked as head coach of Barcelona following a poor start to the club's first season without Lionel Messi in 17 years. 

Financial difficulties saw the six-time Ballon d'Or winner leave for Paris Saint-Germain and, in his absence, Koeman's side have struggled. 

The Dutchman replaced Quique Setien at Camp Nou in August 2020 and led Barca to Copa del Rey success in his first season, although they finished third in LaLiga and suffered a Champions League last-16 exit, as well as losing the Supercopa de Espana final to Athletic Bilbao. 

A shock 1-0 loss at Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday was the final straw and with the club in turmoil, it is imperative that Koeman's successor is chosen with great care. Stats Perform takes a look at the leading contenders who have been linked with the position. 

Xavi

With Koeman dismissed, Barcelona could turn to another club legend in Xavi, hoping the La Masia graduate can succeed where his predecessor failed with an unbalanced squad of ageing regulars and young talent. The former Spain international has presided over Qatari side Al Sadd since his retirement in 2019, leading them to a league title and six domestic cups.

Turning to a young coach who does not have any experience in Europe amid a time of upheaval could be viewed as a huge risk, however. Plus, will Xavi see this as the right time to return? The opportunity to manage Barca is likely to come around again at some stage.

Andrea Pirlo

Another candidate who enjoyed a glittering career as a central midfielder in his playing days, Pirlo replaced Maurizio Sarri at Juventus in August 2020 and won the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italiana, but was sacked at the end of his debut season following a fourth-placed Serie A finish and another disappointing European exit, this time against Porto.

While Pirlo has experience of coaching in a top-five league, his stint in Turin hardly demonstrated the Italian has the credentials at this stage of his career to rescue an ailing Barcelona side.

Roberto Martinez

Martinez has a greater coaching pedigree, although the highest level he has managed at has come on the international stage with Belgium — a job he still holds. The 48-year-old guided the Red Devils to a third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup and took them to number one in the FIFA world rankings, though a major trophy continues to elude them.

At club level, however, he has managed Everton and Wigan Athletic in the Premier League, winning the FA Cup but also suffering relegation with the latter, and also Swansea City below the top tier — rather different jobs to the one that faces the newcomer at Barcelona.

Erik ten Hag

Could Barca turn to another Dutchman to try to turn their on-field fortunes around? Ten Hag has built his reputation at Ajax, having previously worked at Utrecht and Go Ahead Eagles, as well as a stint with Bayern Munich's second string. He has twice won the Eredivisie title, while he appeared set to reach the Champions League final in 2019, only for Tottenham to produce a stunning comeback in Amsterdam.

Barcelona, who know what it is like to be on the wrong end of a second-leg turnaround in Europe, have well-documented financial problems at the moment, potentially raising an issue if they want to try to lure away a coach under contract elsewhere.

Antonio Conte

Conte is out of work, at least meaning Barca would not have to pay any compensation to appoint him. However, that does not mean the Italian comes cheaply, considering he has a hugely impressive resume. The former Juve boss made a quick impact at his previous two jobs, having returned to club duties after a spell in charge of the Azzurri.

He won the Premier League title in his first season at Chelsea, during which they produced an impressive 13-game winning streak, then ended Inter's Scudetto wait last term, leading the Nerazzurri to a first championship since 2010. His San Siro departure amid Inter's financial cutbacks does raise questions over whether he would want to go anywhere near Camp Nou right now, particularly with Manchester United also reportedly interested.

Marcelo Gallardo

A name strongly linked with the post, Gallardo started out his coaching career with Nacional in Uruguay. However, he has been in charge of River Plate — a club he had three stints at during his playing career — since 2014, winning the Copa Libertadores twice among an impressive list of honours at Los Millonarios.

The last Argentinian coach to take the top job at Barca did not last too long: Gerardo Martino had just one season at the helm. Gallardo would have to cut short his River journey to do so, a move he suggested was not likely after revealing he plans to see out a contract that runs until the end of 2021.

Any hopes of Paul Pogba remaining at Old Trafford appear to be fading. 

The Manchester United stalwart has halted contract talks with the club. 

Multiple European clubs are said to be interested in the 28-year-old. 

 

TOP STORY – POGBA ENDS MAN UTD TALKS

Paul Pogba has ended talks over a potential new contract at Manchester United amid an apparent row with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, The Sun reports. 

The France international will be out of contract in June and appears likely to move on. 

The Sun reports he apologised to his team-mates but did not speak to Solskjaer after being sent off 15 minutes after coming on as a substitute in Sunday's 5-0 thrashing by Liverpool. 

His former club Juventus could be an option, while Paris Saint-GermainReal Madrid and Barcelona are also said to have shown interest. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona would prefer to have Jurgen Klopp take over whenever they sack Ronald Koeman, says Sport. Klopp is under contract with Liverpool through 2024. 

- Newcastle United are prepared to offer Alex Ten Hag £6million a year after taxes if he leaves Ajax for St. James' Park, reports the Mail. 

- Arsenal and Manchester City are interested in Barcelona's Spain international Sergi Roberto, says Fichajes. 

- Inter have had talks with Sampdoria midfielder Morten Thorsby's agent over a potential move, claims Calciomercato. 

- River Plate forward Julian Alvarez is drawing interest from Milan, Bayer Leverkusen and Aston Villa, says Calciomercato. 

Paul Pogba's future with Manchester United has been a constant point of speculation for the past few years.

The 2018 World Cup winner is into the last season of a five-year deal with the Red Devils.

Pogba has been on United's books since returning from Juventus in 2016.

TOP STORY – POGBA TO PEN BUMPER NEW DEAL

Paul Pogba has decided he wants to extend his stay with Manchester United, claims L'Equipe.

The French midfielder has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford, with interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid, as well as return to Juventus.

Pogba's renewal is expected to command one of the highest salaries in Premier League history.

ROUND-UP

- AS reports that Borussia Dortmund will double Erling Haaland's salary in a bid to ward off interest from Spanish pair Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well as Manchester City and Chelsea. Dortmund will bump the Norwegian's wages up from €8million to €15m in order to keep him, with the release clause in his contract to activate next off-season.

- Former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey is to be put up for sale by Juventus, according to the Daily Mail. Juve are ready to listen to offers for the Wales midfielder, who has fallen out of favour in Turin.

- Liverpool have entered the race to sign Fiorentina's Serbian forward Dusan Vlahovic, according to the Mirror. Vlahovic's contract talks with Fiorentina have collapsed.

- Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks is willing to make a January loan move away from Spurs and is open to moving abroad, claims The Times.

- Calciomercato reports that River Plate's 21-year-old Argentina international Julian Alvarez is drawing attention from city rivals Inter and Milan .

- French defender Samuel Umtiti will be made available in January by financially-embattled Barcelona, reports Sport. Umtiti has not played in LaLiga this season.

Marcelo Gallardo has made clear he plans to see out his contract with River Plate amid links to Barcelona.

Ronald Koeman is the head coach at Camp Nou but his time in charge could be coming to an end, despite Barca being unbeaten in LaLiga so far this season.

Wednesday's 3-0 defeat away to Benfica in the Champions League means the Spanish club have lost back-to-back group games in the competition in the same campaign for the first time in 21 years.

Koeman also has a fractured relationship with Barca president Joan Laporta, leading to speculation the Dutchman is on his way out. Gallardo is one of those seen as a potential candidate to take over, though the former Argentina international responded to the rumour on Friday.

Speaking to the media ahead of the huge game against Boca Juniors on Sunday, Gallardo said: "I am focused on the Superclasico and also everyone knows that my thought and my decision is to fulfill the contract with River.

"I have no reason to be distracted by other things and thoughts of others. I have a contract and a commitment to River.

“I want to continue connected with what it means to be River's coach and it never crossed my mind to leave the club."

Gallardo's deal with his current employers expires at the end of the year. Reports in Spain suggested he had already been contacted by Barcelona, though he refused to confirm or deny such speculation.

"If they contacted me or not, what's the point of revealing it," he added.

"The only thing I can say is that my goal is to end the contract with the club. Then we will see, but my focus is on the game against Boca."

Koeman is set to take charge as Barca visit reigning LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid on Saturday, though the Catalan club do not then play again until October 17 due to the upcoming international window.

As well as Gallardo, Belgium national team boss Roberto Martinez and Barcelona legend Xavi have been rumoured as potential options to become the new head coach, along with Italian duo Antonio Conte and Andrea Pirlo.

Enzo Perez believes River Plate showed "the kind of people we are" as he played a full match out of position in goal on Wednesday.

Perez, an injured midfielder, had to volunteer for a place between the posts against Independiente Santa Fe, with River heading into their Copa Libertadores group-stage match with just 11 players available.

The team have been hit by a COVID-19 outbreak, which on top of a spate of injuries left River heavily depleted, with the four goalkeepers included in their Libertadores squad testing positive for the virus.

They were not allowed to call up a keeper from their academy, instead relying on 35-year-old Perez in goal while having no substitutes to call on.

Regardless, River took an early two-goal lead – Federico Angileri and Julian Alvarez scoring within the first five minutes – and conceded only once to Kelvin Osorio with 17 minutes remaining.

Perez had only four saves to make in the 2-1 win, despite Colombian side Santa Fe attempting 22 shots and bossing 69 per cent of the possession.

Jersson Gonzalez, Daniel Giraldo, Jorge Ramos and Osorio were all denied by Perez, although their 22 efforts were worth a measly 1.1 expected goals (xG) combined. River scored twice from nine chances with an xG value of 1.6.

"Unfortunately, we had to suffer the contagion issue, but we rescued everyone's heart, manhood and personality," Perez told ESPN.

"We once again demonstrated the group and the kind of people we are. I don't fall too much into everything we've been through, I tried to focus and help the team. There is going to be a lot of talk about this game.

"I was asking questions, practicing with the goalkeeping coach, listening to advice. I lost a bit, but always took the penalty spot as a reference."

River's win sees them top Group D heading into their final game, against Fluminense on Tuesday. The embattled side could still be knocked out, should they lose and third-placed Junior win, but will hope to by then have a bigger squad – and a goalkeeper – to call upon.

River Plate will be forced to play without a recognised goalkeeper in their Copa Libertadores clash with Independiente Santa Fe after a coronavirus outbreak.

The Argentinian club have seen 20 players, including all of their eligible goalkeepers, test positive for COVID-19, leaving Marcelo Gallardo with just 10 fit members of his squad for the Group D game.

CONMEBOL ensured River will have to put an outfield player in goal after the governing body rejected a request from the club to add academy goalkeepers Alan Leonardo Diaz and Agustin Gomez to the squad.

Midfielder Enzo Perez, who has a hamstring injury, appears likely to play as River's stand-in goalkeeper following a decision that angered club president Rodolfo D'Onofrio.

"We would never have thought that they could make a decision of this type," D'Onofrio told ESPN. 

"We made a presentation where we perfectly clarified why we consider that the goalkeeper can be substituted at any time during the competition. 

"There is an article [in the competition's regulations] that talks about serious injury. We consider COVID as a serious injury. 

"We have 18 outfield players and three goalkeepers. We put the 32 players with four professional goalkeepers, who were infected. What we ask is to replace them."

Of River's available players, just six have started a top-flight game for the club, though the Colombians have their own coronavirus issues, with five Santa Fe players having tested positive ahead of the game.

River are second in Group D, level on six points with another Colombian club in Junior, who have played a game more. Santa Fe are bottom with two points from four games.

Argentina has the seventh most active cases of coronavirus in the world with over 307,000. Colombia is 19th with over 114,000 as the virus continues to ravage South America.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

HITS

Pep Guardiola

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

Zinedine Zidane

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

Antonio Conte

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

Roberto Di Matteo

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

MISSES

Alan Shearer

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

Filippo Inzaghi

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

Thierry Henry

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

Juan Jose Lopez

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

JURY'S OUT

Mikel Arteta

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

Andrea Pirlo

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

Palmeiras reached their first Copa Libertadores final since 2000 after edging River Plate despite a thrilling second-leg loss on Tuesday.

First-half goals from Robert Rojas and Rafael Santos Borre had River on track to sensationally overturn a 3-0 deficit in the semi-finals in Sao Paulo.

Champions in 2018, River had a goal ruled out early in the second half and a penalty call overturned after Rojas' red card, Palmeiras holding on for a 3-2 aggregate victory.

River found their way back into the tie before half-time.

Rojas produced a brilliant header from a Nicolas De La Cruz corner before Borre nodded in a Matias Suarez cross in the 44th minute.

River thought they had levelled the tie in the 52nd minute, but Gonzalo Montiel's volley was ruled out for offside following a VAR check.

There was more drama to follow.

Rojas was sent off in the 73rd minute after being shown a second yellow card.

But River were awarded a penalty just two minutes later for a challenge by Alan Empereur on Suarez, only for the decision to be overturned following a VAR check.

There was another check for a penalty for River in the 100th minute, but Palmeiras held on to move into the final against either Santos or Boca Juniors.

Palmeiras closed in on their first Copa Libertadores final appearance since 2000 after a stunning 3-0 win over River Plate on Tuesday.

The Brazilian outfit produced an emphatic display in the first leg of the semi-final in Argentina.

Rony opened the scoring and Luiz Adriano doubled the lead early in the second half, with Matias Vina sealing the win after Jorge Carrascal was sent off for River.

River, finalists in the previous two editions of the Libertadores, fell behind in the 27th minute after a huge error.

Franco Armani dealt poorly with a cross, his clearance with his feet falling to Rony, whose volley beat the River goalkeeper via a slight deflection.

Palmeiras – who had another effort ruled out for offside in the first half – doubled their lead shortly after the break.

Luiz Adriano easily turned Robert Rojas after a pass from Danilo before producing a fine composed finish past Armani.

Making matters worse for River, Carrascal was sent off for a rash challenge on Gabriel Menino on the hour-mark.

And the hosts were punished almost immediately, Vina heading in a Gustavo Scarpa set-piece to make it 3-0.

Palmeiras went close to adding a fourth late on, but River have a huge mountain to climb in the second leg in Sao Paulo on January 12.

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