It is a new era under Ange Postecoglou at Parkhead.

Tasked with leading an embattled Celtic back to the Scottish summit, having been dethroned by bitter rivals Rangers last season, Postecoglou is slowly putting his stamp on the club.

Prised from Yokohama F.Marinos after ending the club's 15-year J1 League title drought in 2019, Postecoglou has returned to Japan to raid Andres Iniesta's Vissel Kobe for Kyogo Furuhashi.

Postecoglou knows Furuhashi well from their time together in Japan, where the 26-year-old forward has starred since arriving from second-tier outfit FC Gifu in 2018.

Regarded as one of the country's most exciting talents, the Japan international brings plenty of goals, pace, creativity and dribbling ability to Glasgow, with Celtic fans hoping he can follow in the footsteps of country great Shunsuke Nakamura - who won six trophies during his time in Scotland.

Stats Perform looks at the numbers behind Furuhashi, using Opta data.

Endorsed by Barca great

If there is one player who knows a thing or two about succeeding in Europe, it is former Barcelona captain Iniesta.

Iniesta - the most decorated Spanish footballer of all time thanks to 35 trophies at Camp Nou - was lured to Japanese club Vissel in 2018, the same year as team-mate Furuhashi.

Furuhashi tops the league's scoring charts this season with 15 in 21 appearances for third-placed Vissel, three more than ex-Brazil international Leandro Damiao (Kawasaki Frontale), Anderson Lopes (Consadole Sapporo) and Ado Onaiwu (F.Marinos).

He scored in his farewell appearance for Vissel on Saturday, the opening goal in the 1-1 draw with Cerezo Osaka.

Only Kawasaki's Yu Kobayashi (44) has scored more goals in J1 League than Furuhashi since his first appearance in the competition (August 5, 2018).

"To be honest, Kyogo absolutely has the talent to play in Europe," Iniesta said previously. "He's leading the J1's scoring chart, but it's not just that. He's got strong technique, and I believe he can succeed in Europe."

Since his J1 League debut three years ago, Furuhashi has been involved in 58 goals (42 goals and 16 assists), the most number in this period.

"I'm sure he's got scouts watching him already, but it's going to be tough for us because he scores a lot of goals," Iniesta added.

"It'll be tough but if he goes to Europe, I'll be incredibly happy for him, because for Japanese players it's a dream to play in Europe."

Ange turns to familiar face as Celtic rebuild

Furuhashi evidently left his mark on Postecoglou in Japan.

Coming up against Postecoglou's F.Marinos, Furuhashi scored three goals across all competitions.

On paper, Furuhashi seems to be the perfect fit for Postecoglou's high-octane, attacking style of football, having been involved in 106 shots (82 shots himself and 24 chances created) - the highest figure in J1 League this season.

Before his farewell appearance on Saturday, Furuhashi had the highest non-penalty expected goals (10.9), best non-penalty xG per shot (0.14), most shots following a carry (30) and most shot involvements following a carry (37) in the competition in 2021.

"We are delighted to bring Kyogo Furuhashi to Celtic. He is a player of real quality and clearly someone I know well," Postecoglou said after a four-year deal was agreed following the arrivals of Liam Shaw, Joey Dawson, Osaze Urhoghide, Liel Abada and Bosun Lawal.

Furuhashi - who has managed three goals in six appearances for Japan, with only two starts - will now test himself in Europe.

He has won the most points thanks to his goals and assists in the league this season (16 points).

Points won thanks to a player's goal is based on how many points a team would have accrued had a certain player not scored in that game at all. For example, a hat-trick in a 6-1 win gains no points, whereas one in a 1-1 draw gets one, two in a 2-1 win gets three, two in a 2-0 win gets two and so on.

"I think he will add something special to our squad and I am sure the way he plays will excite our supporters," Postecoglou said. "We look forward to welcoming him to Celtic."

After winning the Champions League, Chelsea are looking to add a goalscorer. 

With Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland seemingly no longer a possibility, the Blues could look elsewhere in Germany.

Robert Lewandowski has become the name to watch. 

 

TOP STORY - CHELSEA LINE UP LEWANDOWSKI BID

Robert Lewandowski has moved to the top of Chelsea's wish list, according to the Sun. 

The Poland international scored a record 41 league goals for Bayern Munich last season and is under contract through 2023.

But Thomas Tuchel wants a prolific scorer and Lewandowski would certainly fit the bill, should Bayern accept a £50million offer for the 32-year-old.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United will make an offer for Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane this week, says the Daily Mail, but not at the rumoured £50m asking price. Fabrizio Romano reports Varane wants to move to the Premier League and is ready to accept United's contract proposal. 

United also are in the mix for Real Madrid's winger Vinicius Junior, claims the Mirror. 

Mauro Icardi could leave Paris Saint-Germain for Juventus, says Footmercato.

– Barring a Lewandowski move, Chelsea could wind up as a surprise landing spot for Harry Kane if he does not end up at Manchester City, according to The Athletic.

Liverpool will extend Alisson's contract through 2026 within the next few weeks, Fabrizio Romano reports, while the Mirror says Jordan Henderson will sign a new deal at Anfield through 2023. 

Roma and Inter could lure Alex Telles away from United, according to Calciomercato. 

Arsenal are hoping to complete a deal for Anderlecht midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga within the next week, says the Daily Mail.

Tottenham are eyeing Atalanta's Pierluigi Gollini, says Calciomercato. 

The possibility of moving to Milan brought childhood memories rushing back to Olivier Giroud. 

The Frenchman made official his departure from Chelsea for a reported two-year deal with the Serie A giants on Saturday. 

Now the veteran striker has designs on winning trophies with the Rossoneri himself. 

“I still feel like a little kid, 35 -- or almost 35 -- years old,” Giroud told Milan TV. “When I was young, I looked up to Jean-Pierre Papin, Andriy Shevchenko and obviously Paolo [Maldini].

“This team made me dream. I was also a big fan of Marco van Basten. So many great players have played in this massive club in Europe.

“Milan have a massive history in Europe and that’s why I wanted to join the club.

"Also to play in the best competition in Europe, in the Champions League, and I hope we can achieve great things with the team."

Milan will return to the Champions League this season for the first time since 2013-14. 

Only Real Madrid (13) have won more European titles than Milan's seven, but the Rossoneri have not triumphed in the competition since 2007. 

After winning the Champions League and the Europa League with Chelsea over a three-year span, Giroud wants to have the same type of experience in Milan. 

“I feel blessed that I had the opportunity to win trophies, playing for big clubs,” Giroud said.

“I think Milan is a club that deserves to play at the highest level." 

Beyond helping the team return to glory, Giroud is especially excited to play alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic. 

“I think he’s an example for the youngsters, he’s one of the best strikers in Serie A and I’m looking forward to playing alongside him," Giroud said. "I think we will have fun!”

“I just want to win something with Milan, and with Zlatan it’s even better, you know.”

Mikel Arteta confirmed Arsenal are on the verge of a transfer breakthrough after his team were held 2-2 by Rangers in their second pre-season friendly.

Nuno Tavares, the left-back acquired from Benfica, scored on his first Arsenal appearance, and striker Eddie Nketiah also netted in the draw at Ibrox.

Arsenal are thought to be close to bringing in centre-back Ben White from Brighton and Hove Albion for a fee that could be close to £50million, as Arteta looks to strengthen his defence.

An announcement of that deal may come before Arsenal head off to the United States on Wednesday for a training camp in Florida, although it has been reported that White is currently on holiday.

"We're going to have some new faces arriving probably, so very positive," Arteta said after his team's run-out in Glasgow.

White won his first two England caps last month in warm-up games for Euro 2020, and he could provide the sort of defensive leadership that Arsenal have lacked in recent seasons.

Arteta was largely impressed by Arsenal on Saturday but hinted at disappointment about the way they allowed Rangers to get on the scoresheet.

"Overall I'm really pleased with the performance. I think we dominated the game, we created so many chances – I counted about eight or 10 clear chances to score – but this game is decided in both boxes," the Arsenal manager told his club's website.

"We weren't clinical in the opponent's box and we conceded two goals from two corners, which were the only chances they had apart from the counter-attack from our own corner."

Olivier Giroud has joined Milan in a reported €2million (£1.7m) deal from Chelsea.

Giroud has signed a contract with the Rossoneri – said to be for two years – after they met the modest release clause in his contract.

Chelsea triggered a one-year extension for Giroud last season, which meant a free transfer was not possible, but there were otherwise few obstacles to block the move.

While Giroud was rarely a first-choice option at Chelsea following his arrival from Arsenal in January 2018. He found starts particularly hard to come by following the appointment of Thomas Tuchel.

After the German replaced Frank Lampard in late January, Giroud made only three Premier League starts, none of which came after February 28.

Previously, under Lampard, Giroud had taken on a fairly important role after the three-month coronavirus-enforced pause, scoring six goals in seven starts.

The signings of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz restricted Giroud from building on that form at the start of 2020-21 – he did not score a Premier League goal until December, though he did net five times in the Champions League group stage.

That included a remarkable four-goal haul in Chelsea's 4-0 win away to Sevilla, which made him the oldest player (34 years, 63 days) to score a hat-trick in the Champions League/European Cup since Ferenc Puskas (38y, 173d) for Real Madrid in 1965.

Although Giroud did not feature for Chelsea in their Champions League semi-final nor final matches, he did get a medal in the competition and heads to Milan as a European champion.

Giroud will hope he enjoys a resurgence similar to his new team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Milan, with the Swede scoring 15 goals in just 19 appearances last term before sustaining an injury.

The French World Cup winner is the second player to swap Stamford Bridge for San Siro this year, following Fikayo Tomori to Serie A after his loan move was made permanent.

On top of Giroud, Milan are close to two other incomings, with Brahim Diaz – who spent last season at San Siro on loan from Real Madrid – set to rejoin on a two-year deal from Los Blancos, with an option to buy.

Monaco left-back Fode Ballo-Toure, meanwhile, is also set to sign.

Cristiano Ronaldo's future has been widely discussed this off-season.

The 36-year-old five-time Ballon d'Or winner has only one more year on his existing Juventus contract.

Ronaldo has been linked with several suitors among Europe's elite clubs as well as a switch to MLS after Juve failed to win the 2020-21 Serie A title.

 

TOP STORY - RONALDO SET TO EXTEND JUVE STAY

Cristiano Ronaldo is set to remain with Juventus amid talk of a new cut-price deal, reports Gazzetta dello Sport.

The Portugal international has attracted interest from Paris Saint-Germain and former club Manchester United this off-season.

However, Ronaldo is close to extending his Juve stay with a fresh one-year contract, taking a pay cut.

 

ROUND-UP

– Manchester City are determined to sign Aston Villa's Jack Grealish, according to The Athletic, although the Birmingham Mail claims the England winger is expected to sign a new deal at Villa Park.

– The Sun reports Inter are ramping up their bid to sign Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin on a one-year loan deal with the option of a permanent switch.

– Real Madrid have not received any offers for Gareth Bale, who is expected to remain in the Spanish capital for another season, according to Mundo Deportivo.

– Goal claims Juventus have had their initial €30million offer for Manuel Locatelli rejected by Sassuolo, who have a higher price in mind.

Arsenal are set to land Brighton's Ben White, having agreed to a deal in principle, worth around £50m, reports The Athletic.

Nuno Espirito Santo insists Harry Kane is very much part of his plans as he aims to propel Tottenham back into the Champions League.

Nuno was appointed by Spurs in June, replacing Ryan Mason, who had been interim charge since Jose Mourinho's dismissal in April.

Paulo Fonseca and Gennaro Gattuso were among the coaches who had been in talks with Tottenham prior to Nuno's appointment, with the former Wolves boss having previously been close to joining Crystal Palace and then Everton.

One of Nuno's first tasks will be helping to convince star man Kane, fresh from his run to the Euro 2020 final with England, to stay put.

Kane disclosed in May that he was open to moving away from Tottenham, with reports claiming he is hoping to sign for Manchester City, who have held discussions with Spurs – rumours of a £100million bid, which included potential player swaps, surfaced last month.

However, Nuno is adamant Kane will remain a Spurs player.

"Harry’s our player. Period. No need to talk about anything else," he said in his first news conference as Tottenham boss.

"Now is the moment for him to recover his energy and rest. Then we can speak. I am looking forward to him joining the group.

"I have no doubts in my mind. What I wish is for Harry to recover well, to have a good rest and when he arrives he will feel that every one of us needs to commit themselves to become better.

"We are very ambitious people. We want to do it well. We count on Harry on that.

"I am excited to work with all the players. Harry is one of the best players in the world. That is all I need to say."

Kane failed to register a single touch in the penalty area during England's defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, though he had netted four goals in the knockout stage to equal Gary Lineker as the country's leading goalscorer in major tournaments with 10.

The 27-year-old finished as the leading scorer (23) and leading assister (14) in the Premier League last term but could only help Spurs to a disappointing seventh-placed finish.

While Kane's future remains up in the air, Spurs may also be facing something of a reshuffle elsewhere in their squad.

Toby Alderweireld has reportedly asked to leave, while Lucas Moura, Davinson Sanchez, Serge Aurier and Erik Lamela could all be sold.

"A lot of work to be done. Improving this squad is not easy because of the quality we have," Nuno said when asked about incoming transfers.

"We [the coaches] have opinions and ideas. We do our job and try to find the best decisions."

Tottenham fans would understand if Harry Kane pushed for an exit from the club in this transfer window, according to former Spurs star Chris Waddle.

Kane is yet to win a major trophy despite a prolific Premier League career and this year is seen as a pivotal one to determine his long-term future.

Spurs finished seventh last season which was only good enough to reach the new UEFA Conference League, with the forward being open with the media on thinking seriously about his future.

Manchester City are rumoured to have already had a £100million offer knocked back by Tottenham, while Manchester United have also been linked with the England captain.

Kane revealed last week towards the end of Euro 2020 that he had yet to speak to new Spurs boss Nuno Espirito Santo, who has replaced Jose Mourinho.

Fabio Paratici, now managing director at the Premier League club, has stressed Spurs have no intention of selling the "special player" while he has three years to run on his contract.

Waddle believes Spurs fans would not query Kane, who suffered heartbreak with England at the Euro 2020 final on Sunday when Italy triumphed on penalties, if he decided to move on.

"Tottenham fans I don't think would have any complaints if he left," Waddle said to Stats Perform.

"I think they've got it and accept that he's given a lot of service to Tottenham – he's enjoyed it, he supports them and he'd love to win trophies.

"Now Harry Kane can win the golden boot each year and be the top scorer of the Premier League, top scorer of the Premier League and top scorer of the Premier League again.

"When he looks back, he will say personal achievements have been great.

"Now he probably wants to say I want to stand up and lift that trophy to say Tottenham have won the FA Cup, League Cup – something! - and I think he feels he needs to win trophies.

"He has done everything he's wanted to do personally, obviously he'd love to win something with England but personal-wise I think he's probably thought I've got them [the individual accolades].

"But [he will think], 'I've not won any medals as a footballer as a team player' and it's probably getting to him now." 

Kane, who turns 28 this month, finished as the Premier League's top scorer with 23 goals in 2020-21.

He also set up 14 goals to become only the second player in the Premier League era to top the charts for both goals and assists, the other being Andy Cole for Newcastle United in 1993-94.

Kane then finished the Euros with four goals – only Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrik Schick (five each) managed more – to draw level with Gary Lineker as his nation's leading scorer at major tournaments.

Waddle understands why a striker of that calibre feels the urgency to seek a resolution on his club future, with Manchester being his likely destination one way or another.

"He's 27, 28 years old and his next contract will be the last big contract he will think where he's going to win something," added Waddle.

"And let's be honest, it's only Man City who are definitely a fair chance of winning a trophy, two or three.

"Manchester United is another club, but if you look abroad, most teams are skint.

"So I think there's only a couple of teams who can afford Harry Kane."

Waddle is certain Spurs chairman Daniel Levy will hold out as long as it takes to get a huge transfer fee for Kane, even if that results in a protracted transfer saga.

While the final transfer fee could be eye-watering, Waddle insists Kane is worth it.

Waddle said: "Tottenham will hold out for money because they want to buy their own players on their budget.

"So it's going to be an interesting two or three weeks because if he's desperate to get away, Daniel Levy as we've seen in the past does drive a hard bargain.

"He may not be forced into Harry Kane leaving on the cheap, put it that way, and if it means keeping hold of him for a longer period, then they will do that.

"They want the money and if we look at the valuation, yes, it is a hell of a lot of money.

"But you've got to say in modern-day football he is worth it."

Milan target Dusan Tadic will not be moving to San Siro, with the forward having agreed a new three-year deal with Ajax.

Ajax captain Tadic was reportedly close to a switch to the Serie A giants, who are back in the Champions League for the 2021-22 season after a second-place finish last term.

However, the 32-year-old has opted to stay in Amsterdam, penning a new deal keeping him at Ajax until June 2024.

It is a one-year extension on his previous contract, which was set to expire at the end of the 2022-23 campaign.

Tadic joined Ajax from Premier League side Southampton in 2018 and went on to play a key role in the Dutch team reaching the Champions League semi-finals that season.

He scored 28 goals in the Eredivisie and added a further six in the Champions League proper, following three goals in Ajax's qualifiers.

Only Lionel Messi (12) and Robert Lewandowski (eight) scored more times than Tadic in UEFA's flagship competition in 2018-19, with his tally of four assists second to Kylian Mbappe and Jordi Alba (five). No player created more chances than the Serbian (37), who was eight ahead of his nearest rival in that regard (Toni Kroos, 29).

Tadic outscored his expected goals (xG) figure of 4.79, suggesting his finishing from certain situations was more proficient than would be expected. His standout performance came in a 4-1 last-16 win at Real Madrid, with the former Twente forward scoring a stunning effort and assisting two other goals.

In total, Tadic has played 149 competitive games for Ajax, scoring 76 times, and he was named Dutch footballer of the year in 2020-21 as he helped Ajax retain the title, with the previous season having been voided due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ajax's director of football Marc Overmars told the club's official website: "It is no secret that Dusan plays a very important role for the team.

"Both on and off the pitch, he is a real leader. So, it's fantastic that we can keep him at Ajax even longer."

Real Madrid's desire to sign a new forward is not a secret.

The Spanish giants missed out on silverware in 2020-21, much to their dismay.

Carlo Ancelotti has replaced Zinedine Zidane as head coach with big expectations.

 

TOP STORY - MADRID TARGET SALAH IF MBAPPE FAILS

Ancelotti has told Real Madrid president Florentino Perez he wants to sign Liverpool's Mohamed Salah , reports Fichajes.

The Italian believes Los Blancos needs another forward, with Salah seen as his back-up plan if they fail to land Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe.

Madrid's financial situation is complicated, with the club not making any major signings in 2020-21 amid the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, but they appear determined to land a major forward this off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

- 90min reports that Manchester United's Jesse Lingard has emerged as a target for Spanish champions Atletico Madrid, having caught Diego Simeone's eye during his loan spell at West Ham United.

- Chelsea have shopped around striker Tammy Abraham and Arsenal are interested, according to The Telegraph.

- The Athletic believes Tottenham may make a move for Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini, although he has a £26m (€30m) release clause.

-  Poor relations between Spurs and Southampton, stemming from 2020's Pierre-Emile Hjobjerg deal, may scupper a proposed move for Danny Ings, according to Standard Sport.

- Newly promoted Brentford are set to splash a club record transfer fee of £13.5m to land Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer, claims The Telegraph.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta is optimistic Lionel Messi will sign a contract extension with the club but knows they must stay patient.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner is now a free agent after his deal at Camp Nou expired on June 30.

According to reports, Messi has agreed a new five-year deal with the Blaugrana while accepting a substantial pay cut – although there has yet to be official confirmation.

Barca's significant financial difficulties are likely to mean other players must leave before Messi – or any of the club's new signings, including Sergio Aguero – can be registered.

Nevertheless, club president Laporta says negotiations are progressing well and is confident there will be a positive update in the near future.

"The professionals are doing their job well," he said. "We are very satisfied with how everything is progressing.

"But you know that it is a special market that requires patience, skill and sometimes some juggling.

"But I think, as the summer progresses, we will be able to give good news."

Messi has spent his entire playing career with the Catalan giants, for whom he is the all-time leading scorer with 672 goals in 778 appearances.

The 34-year-old has also won 10 LaLiga titles with Barca since making his senior debut in 2004, as well as the Copa del Rey seven times and the Champions League on four occasions.

And he recently captured his first major international honour; captaining Argentina to Copa America glory following a 1-0 victory over Brazil in the final.

Arsenal have loaned defender William Saliba to Marseille for the duration of the 2021-22 campaign.

The 20-year-old has yet to make a competitive appearance for the Gunners since being signed for a reported £27million (€29.7m) in July 2019.

Saliba was loaned straight back to Saint-Etienne and spent the second half of last season with Nice after being left out of Arsenal's Premier League and Europa League squads.

He will now return to Ligue 1 for another spell after Marseille reached an agreement with Arsenal over a season-long loan.

Following confirmation of the deal on Thursday, Arsenal technical director Edu told the club's official website: "Together with William, we have decided it will be good for his continued development to spend another season on loan.

"William joined us as an 18-year-old, and he is still only 20, so he is still developing all the time. William is a player with strong natural ability and next season has the potential to be really beneficial for him at Marseille, a good club.

"To play another season in Ligue 1 will be very important for his development. We will of course be keeping in close contact with William during the season and wish him all the best in France with Marseille."

 

Speaking earlier this year during his time on loan with Nice, Saliba claimed he was "judged on two and a half matches" by Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

The France Under-20 international featured 22 times for Nice in all competitions in the second half of last season, 20 of those appearances coming in Ligue 1.

Among defenders to have played at least four times in the French top flight last season, Saliba ranked fifth for successful passes per 90 minutes (66.75), behind Marquinhos (67.98), Nayef Aguerd (70.02), Dante (72.81) and Presnel Kimpembe (72.95).

He averaged 73.15 attempted passes per 90 minutes in Ligue 1 last term, which compares to 69.85 for Gabriel Magalhaes for Arsenal in the Premier League, 55.17 for Rob Holding and 55.1 for Pablo Mari.

Marseille have already signed Matteo Guendouzi from Arsenal on a permanent transfer during the close season.

Reports in Spain suggest Atletico Madrid and Antoine Griezmann could be set for a reunion, just two years after Barcelona broke their transfer record to sign the France star.

Griezmann spent five seasons at Atleti, joining Diego Simeone's team from Real Sociedad.

He went on to score 94 LaLiga goals for the club, before a long-mooted switch to Barca went through in 2019.

Yet Griezmann, who turned 30 in March, has never quite managed to scale the same heights at the Camp Nou as he did in Madrid.

A disappointing first campaign marred by injuries and inconsistency left Griezmann playing catch up last term, though he did net 20 times across all competitions to finish as Barca's second-highest goalscorer, behind the imperious Lionel Messi.

With the uncertainty over Messi's future seemingly set to be resolved by a new five-year deal, reportedly worth half of the 34-year-old's previous contract, Barca have to clear their wage bill if they are to comply with LaLiga's salary cap.

The Blaugrana have added Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Emerson Royal in the close-season, though are unable to register those new signings until players are moved out.

Griezmann, who is one of the club's highest earners, looks set to be one of the names to make way in a swap deal involving Saul Niguez – though Renan Lodi and Mario Hermoso have also been touted as potential options for Barca. Ahead of his potential return, Stats Perform assesses how Griezmann's efforts last season match up to his best campaign from his first Atleti stint.

 

GRIEZMANN AT HIS PEAK

Griezmann was the perfect example of consistency throughout his time at Atleti, as he became the perfect, versatile forward for Simeone's disciplined side.

He partnered Mario Mandzukic, Fernando Torres and Diego Costa among others during his time at the club, transforming himself from a nippy winger to a central striker with predatory instincts in the area, as well as harbouring plenty of creative talents.

Though he played more games (54) and scored more goals (32) during the 2015-16 season, Griezmann's finest campaign at Atleti arguably came in 2017-18.

His tally of 19 LaLiga strikes was 11 more than any other Atleti player, as he finished sixth in the scoring charts overall.

Griezmann added another 10 goals across the cup competitions, however, including a brace in the Europa League final, which Atleti won 3-0 against Marseille in Lyon.

Only Griezmann got into double figures for Atleti in terms of assists (13), while only Koke (81) created more chances than his 65.

Griezmann was clinical when opportunities came his way, too, converting 52.38 per cent of the 42 "big chances" that were crafted for him, and he ranked top for attempts (124) as he averaged a goal every 133 minutes.

To cap off an exceptional domestic campaign, Greizmann put in a man of the match display as France beat Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 World Cup final.

 

PAST HIS BEST?

After making much of his call to stay put at Atleti – Griezmann having taken part in a mini-documentary to confirm his decision before the World Cup – the 28-year-old completed a €120million switch to Barca a year later.

It came with controversy; Atleti insisting Barca had fallen some €80m short of the obligated fee, but the transfer was nevertheless upheld.

His first season at Camp Nou was one to forget. The coronavirus pandemic merely prolonging a dismal campaign by Griezmann's lofty standards – the nadir for all involved at Barca coming in the humbling 8-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.

Yet Griezmann came into his second season with a renewed sense of purpose and finally seemed to click under new boss Ronald Koeman.

While still having to fit in around key man Messi, Griezmann played 51 times in all competitions, making 45 starts, clocking up 3,904 minutes in total (the second most he has managed in a campaign since his move to Atleti).

A total of 20 goals sees him fall some way short of the 29 he managed in 2017-18, though his 12 assists come close to matching his Atleti peak.

 

His expected assists (xA) total of 8.99 does, however, suggest the quality of opportunities he created was perhaps not wholly responsible for his 12 goal provisions. Given he was linking up with Messi, that is perhaps no surprise. This was, though, also the case in 2017-18, with Griezmann tallying an expected assists figure of 6.3, suggesting his Atleti team-mates were finishing chances they may not have been expected to.

Griezmann created more chances (67) last term than in his 2017-18 season, though his conversion rate of gilt-edged opportunities dropped to 39.39 per cent from 33 such openings.

Only in 2018-19 (15.11) did Griezmann have a lower shot conversion rate than last term (18.02) while there was no international glory for him this time around either – he scored once as France dropped out of Euro 2020 in the last 16.

Arjen Robben has decided to bring his playing career to an end just a year after announcing his return with boyhood club Groningen.

Former Bayern Munich and Netherlands great Robben initially called it quits in 2019 following a decade in Bavaria, having seen the final few years of his time in the Bundesliga partially interrupted by fitness problems.

After a season away he announced in June 2020 that he was to return to football with Groningen, the club at which he started his career, in an attempt to help them out amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It was to be his first season in the Eredivisie since 2003-04, which was the last of his two campaigns with PSV prior to joining Chelsea.

However, injuries and fitness issues restricted Robben to just six league outings and he hinted at the end of the season that he may not return.

Now it is official that Robben has hung up his boots, with another U-turn somewhat more unlikely this time at the age of 37.

He said: "A year ago I announced my comeback as an FC Groningen player. I embarked on this adventure with great energy and enthusiasm.

"Looking back on the past season, I have to come to the honest conclusion that the number of match minutes was disappointing. After the last game I said I would take the time to make an informed decision about the future.

"That was very difficult, because the mind and the emotion were in direct opposition. The football heart wanted to move on, especially with that ultimate goal of a full Euroborg [Groningen's stadium] in prospect.

"But the decision to quit is fair and realistic. That is why from today I am no longer a player, but a supporter of our football club.

"I would like to thank all football supporters and enthusiasts for all the warm support and sweet messages I have received over the past year. That was wonderful and heartwarming.

"I wish everyone a great football season in full stadiums, but above all good health."

Groningen technical director Mark-Jan Fledderus was keen to stress that the club's wish was for Robben to carry on for another season, but his decision has been met with respect and understanding.

Fledderus said: "It was common knowledge that we really wanted Arjen to stick with it for another year, but we also said that we appreciate and respect every decision made by him.

"We are especially grateful to Arjen that he took the step last year to make his comeback at FC Groningen.

"What that decision has meant for the club is unique. It shows the incredible commitment to FC Groningen and his love of the club.

"That is unprecedented for a player with his track record. His presence and influence on and off the field was invaluable."

While the Groningen return perhaps was not the fairy tale ending he had hoped for, Robben's career was a glorious one.

Robben made his professional debut with Groningen in 2000 and spent two seasons there before joining PSV, where he won a league title in the 2002-03 season.

He won further championships in England, Spain and Germany with Chelsea, Madrid and Bayern respectively, in the process becoming one of the world's best wide players.

He helped win eight Bundesliga titles during his decade with Bayern, plus the Champions League in 2012-13, making 309 appearances across all competitions.

Despite the injuries, Robben still managed to score 144 times for Bayern, including six in 19 matches in his final campaign.

He won 96 caps for the Netherlands, scoring 37 times, and was part of the Dutch team that was beaten in the 2010 World Cup final by Spain in South Africa.

Manchester City's pursuit of a new striker is well known.

Sergio Aguero's exit has left a void for the Premier League champions.

City have been linked with a host of big names including Erling Haaland and Harry Kane.

 

TOP STORY - MAN CITY MONITORING LEWANDOWSKI

Manchester City are monitoring the status of Bundesliga top scorer Robert Lewandowski, according to the Daily Mail.

Lewandowski has two years remaining on his Bayern Munich deal but has previously indicated he may be open to a move elsewhere.

The report claims City are worried they may not succeed in their pursuit of Kane and see 32-year-old Lewandowski as an option given his quality and potentially lower asking price.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool is readying a £60million (€70m) bid for Inter and Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella according to La Repubblica. However, Fabrizio Romano claims Inter will not sell him.

- Everton have submitted a £30m (€35m) bid for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, but the Italian club have told the Toffees to double the offer, claims Calciomercato.

- The Telegraph reports that England full-back Kieran Trippier is desperate to return to the Premier League as he waits on a move from Atletico Madrid to Manchester United.

- The Telegraph also claims that Joe Willock will spend time on loan again at Newcastle from Arsenal. He will join the Magpies on a season-long deal.

- SPORT claims that Chelsea are tracking Sevilla's Jules Kounde after he recently rejected interest from Tottenham.

- Chelsea are looking to utilise Tammy Abraham as a sweetener in any deal to land Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, reports The Mirror.

- West Bromwich have turned down West Ham's offer for goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, claims The Athletic.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.