Romelu Lukaku would prove to be a "gigantic" signing for Manchester City, according to former Citizens star Elano.

Sergio Aguero has been a fringe player for City this season, with the 32-year-old struggling with multiple injury issues as well as coronavirus-enforced lay-offs.

Aguero is out of contract at the end of 2020-21 and talks are yet to begin over a new deal, while Gabriel Jesus has also struggled to solidify his place in Pep Guardiola's team in the Argentine striker's absence.

With Aguero making just five league appearances – only two of them starts – and failing to score or assist, Jesus has netted four times and teed up two more goals from 14 games, 10 of them starts.

Phil Foden, Ferran Torres, Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne, who is currently out injured, have all been deployed in a central attacking role this season by Guardiola, who is reportedly set to target a forward in the upcoming transfer window.

Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland is a name that has been mooted, though all of Europe's major clubs no doubt harbour an interest in the 20-year-old.

From 15 Bundesliga appearances this term, Haaland has scored 14 goals, second to only Eintracht Frankfurt's Andre Silva (17) and Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski (19) in Germany's top tier.

However, another name which has emerged in relation to City's transfer targets is former Manchester United, Chelsea and Everton striker Lukaku, who has enjoyed another strong season with Inter following a stellar maiden campaign in Italy.

The 27-year-old is a player whose style may not be an obvious fit with Guardiola's way of playing, yet Elano believes the Belgium international would be a supreme addition.

"When you play at a club at a high level, the competitiveness is huge. And if a guy like Lukaku is free, it's not only City who want him, many others do too," Elano, who became a cult hero during a two-year stint with City between 2007 and 2009, told Stats Perform News.

"The way that City play these days everybody wants to play for City don't they? It's an amazing way to play.

"Jesus has his place at City, but if a transfer like that really happens, it would be a gigantic reinforcement for the club and all three would have to fight for the opportunity. And City will have opportunities to compete in all competitions."

City are 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League as it stands, having won a 10th straight top-flight match on Sunday, when they demolished defending champions Liverpool 4-1 at Anfield.

Asked if he believes City, who also have a game in hand over their title rivals, will go on to reclaim the league crown they won consecutively in 2017-18 and 2018-19, Elano said: "They went through a tough time, which is normal.

"When you rise so fast, they won two Premier Leagues, if I am not wrong, they also won the FA Cup so… after that, they went through a turbulent moment because they didn't win, but now they are playing well again, which is normal when you have an amazing squad like that.

"The manager has a good base to work from and I believe City has all the potential to win the title again.

"I consider [Guardiola] the best alongside some others. Each coach has his own way to play. But the most beautiful way to play football I guess is the Guardiola way."

WHAT WOULD LUKAKU BRING TO CITY?

Having spent the majority of his senior career in England, Lukaku would have no trouble adapting, and though his United connections may at first seem to represent a stumbling block, the Belgian never really settled during his time at Old Trafford.

Nevertheless, he still netted 28 league goals across 66 appearances for United, converting 42.22 per cent of 45 big chances he had, while also creating 54 goalscoring opportunities.

In his time at Inter, Lukaku has far surpassed that total in Serie A, scoring 37 times, while adding another four Coppa Italia goals and 13 in European competitions.

Last August, Lukaku became the first player to score in nine successive UEFA Cup or Europa League games when he netted in a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen. He went on to score a penalty and an own goal in Inter's defeat to Sevilla in the final.

His partnership with Lautaro Martinez helped Inter to a second-placed finish last season and they are now battling it out with rivals Milan and Juventus for this term's Scudetto.

Lukaku's big chance conversion rate has been upped to 54.72 per cent in Serie A, while he averages a goal every 121 minutes, and with the quantity of opportunities City create – they top the Premier League for that metric this season with 259, with their big chance total of 65 matched only by United – he would surely hit the ground running.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the "exception to all rules" and anything is possible regarding an extension to his Milan contract, says the club's CEO Ivan Gazidis.

Despite being 39, Ibrahimovic continues to dazzle in Serie A and has 14 goals in just 11 league appearances for the table-topping Rossoneri.

A brace in the weekend's 4-0 rout of Crotone saw Ibrahimovic surpass 500 career goals and led technical director Paolo Maldini to suggestion an extension to the veteran Swede's deal – which runs out at the end of the season – is in the works.

Gazidis struck a similar tone when speaking to Sky Sport about a potential renewal for Ibrahimovic, who some outlets have reported could be offered a two-year deal.

"Ibrahimovic is the exception to all rules, always, he's special," Gazidis said.

"He has incredible personal and physical qualities. Ibra changes the rules. Anything is possible [in terms of a renewal], this challenge is the most romantic of his career because he has a history with this club.

"He could retire tomorrow. He has already done everything. I think he feels this challenge in a special way. He can renew, why not?"

The futures of goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and attacking midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu also remain unresolved, with both players out of contract at the end of the season.

Asked about the star duo, Gazidis added: "We will do everything possible to reach an agreement.

"We want them to stay, they are two important players for the club and great professionals.

"We will do everything possible, but the choice will also be theirs and we will respect it. I am confident that an agreement can be found."

Gazidis and Maldini endured a tumultuous time early in the former's tenure, largely due to the departure of Zvonimir Boban from the technical team and reported interest in hiring Ralf Rangnick to take over as head coach from Stefano Pioli.

A deal to bring the German to San Siro ultimately broke down and Pioli is overseeing a title charge for the Rossoneri.

Gazidis now says he and Maldini enjoy a strong relationship that he hopes will be a long one at the club.

"Initially we had different languages and cultures, now we are growing together and ours is a strong relationship," he said.

"Sometimes we disagree but it is normal.  Maldini represents the history of the club for me but this is not the reason why I chose Paolo, I chose him because I see something special in him.

"He is a man with values, modern, human and with a desire to learn. I hope he will stay here for a long time."

Manchester United are considering putting together a blockbuster deal to sign Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos.

Ramos is in his 16th season with LaLiga champions Madrid but the upcoming free agent has reportedly rejected a two-year contract extension to stay in the Spanish capital.

The 13-time European champions are not expected to go back to the 34-year-old with an improved offer, leaving the door open for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side to swoop.


TOP STORY – UNITED TO DECIDE ON RAMOS

Manchester United will decide in the coming months whether or not to lure the 178-cap Spain international to Old Trafford, according to Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano.

Ramos' contract expires in June 2021 and the Red Devils are yet to make an approach, although Champions League rivals Paris Saint-Germain are said to be interested.

Mauricio Pochettino's PSG will only pursue Ramos if he is available on a free transfer. That will remain the case unless Madrid make a late move to keep the club icon at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Thomas Tuchel insists Chelsea will conduct business behind closed doors after refusing to comment on the club's reported interest in Erling Haaland and Dayot Upamecano.

The German head coach was hired to replace Frank Lampard less than a week before the January transfer window closed and the Blues did not make any mid-season signings.

The 47-year-old will need to wait until the off-season before adding his own recruits and Borussia Dortmund's prolific striker Haaland and highly rated RB Leipzig defender Upamecano are two of the players the Blues are rumoured to be monitoring.

When asked about the reports, Tuchel said he is focused on developing his own centre-backs and forwards before discussing any new players arriving at Stamford Bridge.

"I can understand your interest in the question and the interest of every fan and supporter to talk about these subjects," said Tuchel.

"I am always a fan and am interested in what's going on. But now it is February and there is a long way to go.

"As you get to know me, you will know I will not talk about other players publicly when they are under contract. This is the type of respect we show to them but also to our own players.

"We think about our central defenders and strikers first and push them to the limits. Everything else will be decided behind closed doors. I'm sorry."

After signing an 18-month contract with the west London club, Tuchel has led the Blues to three wins and a draw from his four Premier League games in charge.

Chelsea travel to face Championship club Barnsley in the FA Cup fifth round at Oakwell on Thursday, before returning to league action against Newcastle United on Monday.

Liverpool have been forced to pay "substantial compensation" to Fulham following the transfer of England Under-17 ace Harvey Elliott.

Elliott signed his first professional contract with the Reds as a 17-year-old in July 2020, having made his debut for the club in an EFL Cup match against MK Dons in 2019, becoming the youngest player to start a game in Liverpool's history.

The Fulham youth product went on to make 13 appearances for Jurgen Klopp's side before moving to Blackburn on a season-long loan in October 2020 and he has played 23 games and scored four goals this season for Rovers.

Elliott became the Premier League's youngest ever player while at Fulham, playing in a 1-0 defeat to Wolves in May 2019, and has been capped at England under-15, under-16 and under-17 level.

After the clubs could not agree a fee at the time of his transfer, the case went to tribunal, and the Professional Football Compensation Committee (PFCC) made its judgement on Wednesday.

The London club revealed in a statement that they are "very pleased" to be awarded a record compensation fee for a 16-year-old player.

"The Professional Football Compensation Committee has today given its decision with regards to the compensation payable following Harvey Elliott's move to Liverpool in 2019," said the statement.

"Under the Youth Development Rules, the PFCC is tasked with assessing the compensation due for a player who leaves an Academy at the end of his registration, if the parties cannot agree the figure between themselves.  

"After a full hearing, the PFCC has decided that Fulham should be entitled to substantial compensation. 

"The award [undisclosed] is a record amount for a 16-year-old player and, in the circumstances, Fulham is very pleased and thanks the PFCC for its careful consideration of the arguments we put forward."

Manchester City will need to take their search for a new striker elsewhere with top transfer target Lautaro Martinez set to snub the Premier League giants.

Pep Guardiola had reportedly lined up the Argentina international as the long-term replacement for club legend Sergio Aguero.

But Martinez is on the brink of a sensational U-turn to remain in Serie A to the delight of coach Antonio Conte and the Milan-based club.


TOP STORY – LAUTARO SET TO REJECT CITY AND STAY WITH INTER

Eurosport reports that City's pursuit of their player at the top of their shopping list has come to an abrupt end with Martinez set to sign a new deal with Inter.

The report suggests the 21-cap international will double his money to stay in Italy, dealing a blow to City after they have monitored his situation closely for a year.

While City continue to prepare an offer for Lionel Messi should he decide to leave Barcelona, they are also set to turn their attentions to Dortmund striker Erling Haaland. 

Mauricio Pochettino urged people not to mistake France Football for Paris Saint-Germain amid continued talk of Lionel Messi moving to the Parc des Princes.

Messi, who attempted to force a switch from Barcelona prior to this season, is due to be out of contract at Camp Nou at the end of the campaign.

He has been frequently linked with PSG and the latest edition of France Football magazine ratcheted up the speculation, as the cover of the magazine featured Messi mocked up wearing a PSG shirt.

That will do little to improve the mood in the Barcelona camp, with head coach Ronald Koeman having previously accused PSG midfielder Angel Di Maria of disrespect.

Koeman's comments followed Messi's Argentina team-mate Di Maria saying there is a "big chance" the six-time Ballon d'Or winner will join PSG.

Pochettino was again asked about Messi prior to PSG's Coupe de France tie at Caen, which takes place on Wednesday.

The PSG head coach told a pre-match media conference: "I think we are talking about a magazine that has nothing to do with Paris Saint-Germain.

"When a player speaks, he might speak with emotion and affection, but there is no type of controversial situation here that we have thought up at the club.

"At no point has there been a lack of perspective. At no point has anything happened that is incorrect.

"I understand that players can talk and say whatever they like and that goes for Barcelona, Real Madrid. They might talk about fellow footballers at other clubs.

"Here we have total respect for every club and every player. We must not confuse what was said in France Football with PSG itself."

Ander Herrera does not believe it is possible for Paris Saint-Germain to add Lionel Messi to an all-star attack that already includes Neymar and Kylian Mbappe due to Financial Fair Play reasons.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi is out of contract with Barcelona at the end of the season and has been strongly linked with French champions PSG and Premier League leaders Manchester City.

PSG already have superstar forwards Neymar and Mbappe on their books, with the Ligue 1 giants in talks over extending both players' lucrative contracts beyond the end of the 2021-22 season.

However, as rumours persist over a possible end-of-season switch to the Parc des Princes for Messi, who saw details of his five-year contract made public last week, Herrera has cast doubt over whether a move is feasible for his side.

"Messi, Neymar and Mbappe together? I don't know how that would work with Financial Fair Play, but I don't think so," he told El Larguero. 

Former Manchester United midfielder Herrera was unwilling to discuss the transfer rumours in any further detail, though, out of respect for Barcelona.

"I'm not going to get into this one," he said. "When everyone at Barca was talking about Neymar, inside and outside the club, we did not like it.

"I'm not going to do something that I don't like being done to me. I have a lot of respect for Barca, Messi, his coach and his team-mates.

"It is not a strategy. Me, I will not speak about him. I respect those who do it, but I put myself in the shoes of the club in which Messi has evolved."

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman last week accused PSG of being "disrespectful" for continuing to discuss Messi in public after Angel Di Maria encouraged talk of a high-profile transfer going through.

Herrera added: "If I were I at Barca, I would not like people talking about Messi. It does not seem to me to be a lack of respect, but I will not do it."

William Saliba has cast further doubt on his time at Arsenal by claiming he was judged by manager Mikel Arteta after just two-and-a-half matches before being loaned to Nice.

The 19-year-old joined Arsenal from Saint-Etienne in July 2019 for a reported £27million (€29.7m) fee and remained with the Ligue 1 side for the 2019-20 season.

He returned to Emirates Stadium ahead of this season but was surprisingly left out of Arsenal's Europa League squad and did not make a single appearance in other competitions.

Saliba departed for Nice on loan last month for the remainder of the campaign and last week admitted to being "hurt" over his lack of playing time with Arsenal.

And the centre-back, who was brought to north London during Unai Emery's time in charge, has now taken another apparent swipe at Arteta.

"It is clear that so much has changed in the last year," Saliba told RMC. "When I saw that the coach changed, a lot changed for me too. In this year there has been a lot of change. He judged me on two-and-a-half matches. 

"I would have liked for him to play me more. But he told me I wasn't ready. I was waiting for him to give me a chance, but football is like that. 

"When I initially came to Arsenal the league looked very good so I showed up to training and wanted to train on my own to show the coach I was ready.

"I am happy now, I want to play for Nice. The idea when you're part of a team is a better feeling for me."

Saliba has impressed during his short time back in France and was last week named Nice's Player of the Month for January.

The France Under-20s international has started seven Ligue 1 games since joining last month, including the full 90 minutes of Sunday's 3-0 win over Angers.

He led the way for Nice in that game for total passes (64), successful passes (58) and touches (82), while no player on the pitch cleared the ball more often (eight times).

Indeed, since making his Nice debut on January 6, only Jose Fonte (439), Steven Nzonzi (472), Sven Botman (487) and Marco Verratti (489) have completed more Ligue 1 passes than Saliba's 437.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are still eyeing Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Unsurprisingly, Messi's future remains a talking point with his contract with the LaLiga giants expiring at the end of the season.

And the two clubs most strongly linked with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner remain interested.

 

TOP STORY – PSG, MAN CITY STILL EYEING MESSI

Paris Saint-Germain are quietly continuing their push to sign Barcelona star Lionel   Messi , according to France Football.

The Ligue 1 giants have angered Barca boss Ronald Koeman as those connected with PSG have regularly discussed Messi.

ESPN says Manchester City are also still tracking Messi, but will wait until March or April before making more of a move.

ROUND-UP

- Out of contract at Real Madrid in 2022, Raphael Varane 's future is unclear. Marca reports the LaLiga giants suspect the defender will not renew and they could sell him for €50million at the end of this season as a result, with PSG and Manchester United interested.

- Madrid are favourites to land Bayern Munich star David Alaba . The Telegraph reports Alaba's wage demands, believed to be around £20m per year, are too high for Chelsea . Alaba is set to leave the Bundesliga giants when his contract expires at the end of the season.

- United 's sights may be elsewhere. The Independent claims RB Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate is their main centre-back target ahead of 2021-22. Konate has also been linked to Liverpool and Chelsea .

- Arsenal want a young left-back to learn from Kieran Tierney, according to The Athletic.

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti said he is excited about the prospect of playing alongside Lionel Messi at the Ligue 1 champions.

Barcelona superstar Messi is out of contract at season's end and the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has been heavily linked with PSG and Premier League giants Manchester City.

As Messi's future dominates headlines, PSG star Verratti discussed his possible arrival in Paris.

"Of course, I would like to play with Messi," Italy international Verratti told Canal+.

"To have him in the squad would be something magnificent, one more thing that football would give to me.

"I would give the ball to Neymar and Messi and stay behind to just [enjoy] watching them a bit."

PSG and Barcelona will meet in the Champions League last 16, with the first leg taking place at Camp Nou on February 16.

It will be a reunion for former Barca star Neymar, who has scored six goals in 11 Ligue 1 matches this season.

Neymar - who left Barca in a world-record €222million deal in 2017 - has scored 13 goals across all competitions.

"We are not stupid, we know that he is the best player and our role is to put him in the best possible condition," Verratti said. 

"He knows that when I have the ball, I'm looking for him. He always makes movements to receive the ball well."

Mauricio Pochettino's PSG are third in Ligue 1 after 24 rounds, three points adrift of leaders Lille following Sunday's 2-0 Classique victory against Marseille.

PSG face Caen in the Coupe de France on Wednesday before welcoming Nice to the French capital in Ligue 1 action on Saturday.

Milan technical director Paolo Maldini suggested Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in line to extend his contract with the Serie A leaders.

Ibrahimovic has been a revelation since returning to Milan for a second spell in January last year, the evergreen 39-year-old spearheading the club's Scudetto charge this term.

The star forward passed 500 club goals in Milan's 4-0 Serie A rout of Crotone, increasing his tally to 501 with his sixth league brace of the season on Sunday.

Ibrahimovic is one of the two players, alongside Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, to have scored the most braces in the top five European leagues in 2020-21, while the former Sweden international has netted 14 Serie A goals in 11 appearances this season - 16 across all competitions.

Out of contract at season's end, Maldini was asked about Ibrahimovic's future as Milan also look to re-sign stars Gianluigi Donnarumma and Hakan Calhanoglu.

"We are one of the youngest teams in Europe and we need a leader like Ibrahimovic," Maldini told BeIN Sports.

"We tried to sign him in 2018 when he was playing for LA Galaxy.

"He's told us that the contract extension depends on his body, but if he carries on like this, I don't see why he shouldn't be continuing.

"We have three players with expiring contracts in 2022, we are working. There must be to parties happy to continue together, footballers are professional who only think about the pitch, we hope we are going to reach agreements soon."

Milan are two points clear of city rivals Inter atop the table as they prepare to visit Spezia on Saturday.

Juventus are not targeting Eden Hazard, while Sergio Ramos looks set to wait for a new Real Madrid deal.

Hazard's future has become a talking point amid his struggles at Madrid since arriving from Chelsea in 2019.

But just where the playmaker could end up remains to be seen.

 

TOP STORY – JUVENTUS NOT INTERESTED IN HAZARD

Juventus are not interested in Real Madrid playmaker Eden Hazard for now, according to CalcioMercato.

Hazard has made just 24 LaLiga appearances for Madrid since arriving ahead of 2019-20 after battling numerous injuries.

Madrid reportedly paid €100million for the Belgium international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sergio Ramos' future at Madrid is also uncertain. The defender is out of contract at the end of the season and is reportedly set to miss another two months after undergoing knee surgery. Marca says Ramos will still be without a contract by the time he returns, most likely in April.

- Changes are also expected at Barcelona at season's end. CalcioMercato reports Milan are interested in midfielder Philippe Coutinho, who has struggled to live up to expectations with the LaLiga giants.

- Barcelona and Arsenal are interested in bringing in Marc Overmars as sports director, according to Mundo Deportivo, with the former Netherlands international set to leave his role as Ajax director of football at season's end.

- After several impressive displays for Leicester City, the Premier League club are rushing to renew Youri Tielemans' contract, which runs until 2023, according to TodoFichajes.

Will he leave Paris Saint-Germain or not?

That is the question regarding French star Kylian Mbappe.

Real Madrid are keen, but they are reportedly prepared to wait.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID WAITING FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid have decided to wait to sign Kylian Mbappe until Paris Saint-Germain put the French star up for sale, according to Marca.

LaLiga champions Madrid have been tipped to sign Mbappe, who has also been linked with Premier League holders Liverpool.

PSG are trying to re-sign Mbappe as his contract runs out in 2022, and if they are unsuccessful amid their pursuit of Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, Madrid are ready to pounce.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca says Sergio Ramos' knee injury could spell the end of his illustrious career with Madrid. Ramos is out of contract at season's end and the star captain has been linked to the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, PSG, Chelsea and Juventus.

Liverpool are interested in Leeds United winger Raphinha, reports Football Insider. The Brazilian only moved to Elland Road at the start of the season.

- Gazzetta dello Sport claims Juventus are hoping to sign Roma sensation Nicolo Zaniolo.

David Alaba could well be on his way out at Bayern Munich but Michael Ballack does not believe Dayot Upamecano is ready to replace him.

Versatile defender Alaba will be out of contract at the Allianz Arena at the end of June and has been heavily linked with a move to Real Madrid.

Bayern have been tipped to bring in Upamecano should the Austria international opt to leave, with the RB Leipzig centre-back reportedly available for €42million.

Prior to Saturday's Bundesliga games, Upamecano had been involved in more clean sheets (seven to four) and made more tackles (22 to 14), recoveries (149 to 110), blocks (11 to nine) and clearances (41 to 38) than Alaba in the top flight this season.

While he has contested significantly more duels than Alaba (134 to 79) their success rate is similar, with the Bayern defender having the slight edge at 55.7 compared to 54.5.

Ballack acknowledges Upamecano's physicality would be useful and thinks he could improve at Bayern, but he does not see him as someone capable of immediately filling the void Alaba would leave.

"He is a completely different kind of player to David Alaba, who had a substantial part in building this new era of Bayern. He was a flagship for them, after all he was a product of their youth system and played there from a very young age," Ballack told Stats Perform News.

"He is now at an age where he wants to try out something different. You have to respect that and accept it as well. Of course, you can talk about the reasons, but this is the way it is.

"He is a very versatile player who lately played as a centre-back. He fulfilled this role completely. He can also play in the midfield and is therefore an all-round player who is hard to replace for Bayern due to his character and standing within the team. If Bayern will lose him, then it will be a significant loss for them.

"Upamecano is a player on their wish list. I heavily doubt whether he is ready for the role at Bayern. He is still very young and has outstanding moments, primarily due to his physicality.

"I'm very, very certain that he will improve a lot at Bayern. When you play together with high-class players, then you will improve automatically even in training.

"If it comes to an agreement, then this will be expected from Bayern. In terms of physicality, he brings in enough qualities to be of value."

Upamecano has shown he is good with his feet, starting on average 14.6 open play sequences per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga this season prior to kick-off in Leipzig's match against Schalke; that compares to 11.3 for Alaba.

He also ranks closely to Alaba (54.1) in terms of open play build up involvements with 53.6 per 90 minutes, suggesting he could fit in quite nicely with Bayern's style of play.

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