The futures of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, arguably the two most sought-after players in world football, could be determined by the end of the January transfer window.

While the forwards look set to stay at Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain respectively this month, moves away at the end of the campaign look increasingly likely.

And despite intense competition from fellow heavyweight clubs, Real Madrid are determined to win the race for both players.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID TO PUT ASIDE €350m FOR HAALAND

Madrid had two bids knocked back for Mbappe last year but, according to Marca, they remain in pole position to sign the France international in six months' time.

Landing Haaland could prove to be a little more complicated, though, given he will still have two years to run on his contract at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

However, the Spanish publication reports that Madrid are willing to spend big on the prolific striker, who is thought to have a €75million release clause in his deal.

On top of triggering that, it is claimed that Los Blancos will have to set aside cash for Haaland's father, agent Mino Raiola and a hefty salary for the player himself, which could total around €350m.

 

ROUND-UP

- Madrid may be considered the frontrunners to sign Mbappe and Haaland, but they already have a back-up plan in place should either of those moves fail to materialise. According to El Nacional, Fiorentina's in-demand Dusan Vlahovic is also on the Spanish giants' radar.

- CalcioMercato reports that Milan have joined the queue to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen. Christensen, who comes out of contract at the end of this season, is being chased by Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.

- Newcastle United could beat Manchester United in the race for RB Leipzig's Amadou Haidara, with The Mirror reporting that the newly-rich Magpies are set to make an offer.

- The Everton board got together on Saturday to discuss manager Rafael Benitez's future in the job, according to Sky Sports. Everton have won one of their past 13 league games and lost to bottom club Norwich City 2-1 on Saturday.

- PSG, Bayern and Madrid are among Kalvin Phillips' suitors. El Nacional reports that Leeds United have a battle on their hands fending off interest in the midfielder, who has been capped 19 times by England.

- The Mirror reports that Chelsea are considering a move for Inter's Ivan Perisic. The Blues are in the market for a versatile player who can play at left-back while Ben Chilwell recovers from a long-term injury.

 

Anthony Martial has insisted he would never refuse to play for Manchester United, despite Ralf Rangnick's claims that he asked not to feature against Aston Villa.

The 26-year-old forward was absent as Rangnick named just eight substitutes, including two goalkeepers, for United's trip to Villa Park, which ended all square after Philippe Coutinho completed a late comeback from two goals down. 

Rangnick was already without Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo due to injury, with Anthony Elanga chosen to start on the left flank.

The United interim manager revealed last month that France international Martial is seeking a move away from the club due to a lack of minutes.

Sevilla were reported to be interested in Martial but are understood to be unable to afford his wages, with United apparently rejecting an approach to take him on loan until the end of the season.

Rangnick told reporters: "He didn't want to be in the squad.

"He would have been in the squad normally but he didn't want to and that's the reason why he was not travelling with us yesterday."

However, Martial – who joined from Monaco in 2015 – subsequently refuted his manager's claims.

On his Instagram story, Martial said: "I will never refuse to play a match for Man United.

"I've been here for seven years and I have never disrespected and will never disrespect the club and the fans."

Paulo Dybala said Juventus "don't play good football" after refusing to celebrate his goal in Saturday's 2-0 Serie A win over Udinese.

Dybala's future is in doubt as the Argentina forward's contract expires at the end of the season and the 28-year-old has been linked with a move to Serie A rivals Inter.

He did not celebrate his opener in the victory at the Allianz Stadium, instead glaring intensely towards the stands.

Asked if that was a signal to the club's directors over contract negotiations, Dybala dryly told Sky Sport Italia: "I invited a friend and couldn't see him. There are many people up there watching and I couldn’t find him."

After being asked if he was telling the truth, Dybala responded: "I don't know, that's up to you. There have been a lot of stories, and many things happened that I prefer not to talk about."

The result stretched Juve's unbeaten streak to eight games – only Inter have a longer run (12) – while they moved level on points with fourth-placed Atalanta as they chase a Champions League qualification spot.

Since the start of November, Juve have gained 26 points in Serie A – more than any other side in this period, although Inter (25) and Atalanta (22) have played two fewer games.

Dybala was less than complementary about Juve's playing style, though, and said they need to focus on working harder than their opponents during the closing months of the season.

"I think we played well. We must try to be more consistent after scoring goals, as too often we score and then start to defend more, become afraid of attacking, and we can't keep doing that," he added.

"We are Juventus, of course we are in the running for the Champions League spots and must try to win. We don't play good football; that is not our strength, so we need to focus on hunger and trying to run harder than anyone else."

Juve are next in action on Tuesday when they host Sampdoria in the last 16 of the Coppa Italia. 

Anthony Martial "didn't want" to be involved in Manchester United's 2-2 draw with Aston Villa, claimed Red Devils boss Ralf Rangnick, as the attacker continues to push for a move away from Old Trafford.

The 26-year-old forward was absent as Rangnick named just eight substitutes for United's trip to Villa Park, which ended all square after Philippe Coutinho completed a late comeback from two goals down. 

Rangnick was already without Marcus Rashford and Cristiano Ronaldo due to injury, with Anthony Elanga chosen to start on the left flank.

The United interim manager revealed last month that France international Martial is seeking a move away from the club due to a lack of minutes.

Sevilla were reported to be interested in Martial but are understood to be unable to afford his wages, with United apparently rejecting an approach to take him on loan until the end of the season.

Martial seems intent on forcing his way out, however, with Rangnick confirming after the Villa draw that the player unilaterally decided to not be in the squad.

 

Rangnick told reporters: "He didn't want to be in the squad.

"He would have been in the squad normally but he didn't want to and that's the reason why he was not travelling with us yesterday."

Martial was out with a knee injury during Rangnick's first weeks, but he has yet to make an appearance in any competition since.

Inter have been linked with Juventus star Paulo Dybala, but Simone Inzaghi instead focused on his delight with the recent form of Alexis Sanchez.

Dybala is out of contract at Juve at the end of the campaign and recent reports have suggested that the Nerazzurri will move to add him to their ranks ahead of next season.

But speaking at a news conference ahead of Inter's trip to Atalanta on Sunday, Inzaghi refused to comment on the possibility of moving for the Argentine, who has scored nine goals and registered four assists in 20 games in all competitions for the Old Lady this season.

"I've read and heard things but I don't like talking about players from other teams, I'm proud of the ones I have," he told reporters.

One of the players the former Lazio manager is proud of is Sanchez, who scored the winning goal in the last minute of extra time as Inter beat Juve 2-1 in the Supercoppa Italiana on Wednesday.

"Sanchez has been decisive and I am happy to coach him," Inzaghi added. "For a coach, to see the action that determined the match, with the four players who came on during the match and [Arturo] Vidal was also decisive with his entrance, is a great satisfaction.

"Sanchez is a great asset, but I'll evaluate him for the game against Atalanta.

"I've already said it, Sanchez is a champion who always wants to learn. He didn't need the goal against Juve, he's already settled down for two months."

Inzaghi also had words of praise for Atalanta boss Gian Piero Gasperini, who once again has the Bergamo side in the top four of Serie A, three points ahead of Juve in fifth with a game in hand, with only Inter (51) and Milan (46) having scored more goals in the league than Atalanta's 44.

"Gasperini has been doing well for many years at Atalanta," he said. "Football has evolved over the years and occupying space at the right time is increasingly important.

"It's going to be a good, physical game, one to be experienced. Like the first game [2-2 at San Siro in September], with a very high tempo."

Despite being eight points behind Inter heading into the game, when asked if Sunday's opponents are a part of the race for the Scudetto, Inzaghi insisted: "Absolutely. Atalanta are in fourth place and they're improving all the time. It's a title race match."

Kylian Mbappe is widely expected to join Real Madrid as a free agent at the end of this season.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has stalled on signing a new deal with the French giants.

Madrid have long courted Mbappe with a view to signing him, but PSG remain determined to keep their man.

TOP STORY – PSG RE-ENTER TALKS WITH MBAPPE

PSG have launched a determined attempt to retain Mbappe after making the France frontman a new contract offer, claims Telefoot.

The Parisians are said to have offered Mbappe a massive two-year deal to fight off attempts to woo him by Real Madrid.

Mbappe is reported to be unwilling to make a decision yet and could let his contract expire. It runs only until the end of June.

 

ROUND-UP

- La Repubblica reports Arsenal are closing in on a deal for Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic, with Fiorentina said to be considering accepting a £58million offer from the Gunners.

- Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano claims both Barcelona and Bayern Munich are keen to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen at the season's end.

- Manchester United are interested in Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi taking over as their manager next season, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- Southampton have contacted Manchester United about signing goalkeeper Dean Henderson, reports Football Insider. Saints also want to sign Chelsea's Armando Broja permanently but will stiff competition, claims Sky Sports.

- Lille are pursuing former Newcastle United winger Hatem Ben Arfa, reports L'Equipe. Ben Arfa left Bordeaux at the end of last season.

Erling Haaland has stated a decision on his future will be made soon, with the 21-year-old claiming Borussia Dortmund are pressuring him to make a call.

Haaland scored his 14th and 15th Bundesliga goals of 2021-22 on Friday, in a 5-1 win over Freiburg.

That victory lifted Marco Rose's Dortmund team to within three points of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich, who are in action on Saturday.

Across 2021, only Robert Lewandowski (58) scored more than Haaland (43) in all competitions, of players in Europe's big five leagues.

Haaland has consistently been linked with a move away from Dortmund, with his agent Mino Raiola regularly flirting with Europe's elite clubs.

Barcelona, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City are all said to be interested, with the forward reportedly having a €75million release clause in his contract that will activate at the end of the season.

Haaland has so far kept quiet about his next move yet, in an interview with Viaplay's reporter Jan Aage Fjortoft after Friday's match, the youngster confirmed he would soon be making a decision.

And it seemed Haaland was putting the onus back on Dortmund, claiming the club have been applying pressure on him for some time.

"The last six months I have chosen not to say anything out of respect for Dortmund, but now the club has started to press me into making a decision, but all I want to do is to play football," he said.

"But they press me to make a decision now about my future. So that means that I have to make a decision soon.

"They have started to put a lot of pressure on me, I have to accept that. I have chosen not to say anything out of respect for the club and the fans. But now a lot of pressure is coming from the club, so now is the time to get things started.

"This is what they want. It means that things will happen now. I have said from the beginning that I want to focus on football because that is when I am at my best, not when other things come to mind. So yeah, now they have put pressure for a while, it is time to get things started.

"Not now, because we are in the middle of a difficult period with a lot of games. All I want to do is to play football, but I can't do that now."

Massimiliano Allegri says there is no questioning the "extraordinary" Paulo Dybala's value to Juventus and does not expect Arthur to leave this month.

Dybala's future is in doubt as the Argentina forward's contract expires at the end of the season and the 28-year-old has been linked with a move to Serie A rivals Inter.

Juve director Maurizio Arrivabene this week called for Dybala and his team-mates to show "character, grit and a desire to win" as the Turin giants battle for a Champions League spot.

Bianconeri head coach Allegri, who will take charge of the club for a 300th time when they face Udinese in Serie A on Saturday, says Dybala still has a big part to play.

He said: "The evaluations of the contracts are the job of the company, they are not things that concern me.

"I raised Dybala, he was a child when he arrived from Palermo, now he's grown up and he's an extraordinary player. I expect a lot [from Dybala] in this second part of the season. The value of the player is not discussed. He is a great player "

He added: "We are in a situation where we are temporarily out of the Champions League, so all the evaluations will be done in March/April. Juventus plans like this and we have to think about playing and working, we will see the rest later."

Midfielder Arthur has been strongly linked with a move to Premier League side Arsenal during the January transfer window.

Allegri is not planning for life without the Brazilian and also reiterated that Alvaro Morata will not be departing.

He said: "I don’t want to repeat myself. We have to get to the end of the season with these players in the best possible way.

"This means trying to reach the top four and go ahead in the Champions League and Coppa Italia."

Italy centre-back Leonardo Bonucci will miss Udinese's visit to Allianz Stadium due to a muscle injury.

Donny van de Beek has struggled to make much of an impression since his £35million move to Manchester United from Ajax in September 2020.

The Netherlands international was overlooked for regular selection by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and is also a fringe player under interim boss Ralf Rangnick.

But Van de Beek, who previously starred in a talented Ajax side, could be offered a route out of Old Trafford this month.


TOP STORY – DORTMUND, NEWCASTLE IN FOR VAN DE BEEK

Van de Beek is reportedly considering a move away in order to win back his place in the Netherlands side.

According to the Manchester Evening News, Bundesliga heavyweights Dortmund and Premier League strugglers Newcastle United are possible suitors for the midfielder.

However, United will have the final say on any loan deal, which would not be expected to contain an option to make the deal permanent at the end of the campaign.

The 24-year-old has featured 49 times for the Red Devils – just 19 of those being starts – since arriving at the club 16 months ago.


ROUND-UP

– Barcelona will make one final effort to sign Alvaro Morata this month, according to Sport. Memphis Depay could be used as part of any deal.

– Liverpool want to sign Jarrod Bowen and the West Ham forward is keen on the move, says Football Insider. It will not be in January, though.

– Desperate for a replacement for Kieran Trippier, Atletico Madrid are interested in Manchester United's Diogo Dalot, according to AS.

– Tuttomercatoweb says Arthur is keen on the idea of joining Arsenal on loan, but Juventus and Massimiliano Allegri have yet to okay any departure.

– Meanwhile, TMW also claims Paulo Dybala is not yet prepared to listen to offers from other clubs, with a contract summit with Juventus set for February.

– The Daily Mail reports that Arsenal are frontrunners to sign Youri Tielemans after Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers admitted the midfielder may leave the club.

Fiorentina general manager Joe Barone has told Dusan Vlahovic to publicly state whether he wants to leave the club and revealed no bids have been made for the prolific striker.

Vlahovic has been linked with a host of top European clubs after scoring 16 goals in 20 Serie A appearances this season.

Arsenal have been strongly linked with a move for the 21-year-old Serbia international, who is the leading scorer in the Italian top flight.

Fiorentina are reportedly holding out for a fee of €75million for their prized asset.

Barone has urged Vlahovic to make his intentions clear amid constant speculation over his future, which began even before the transfer window opened this month.

He told Mediaset: "Dusan is talked about every day, but I would like to talk about the group. We expect an answer from him on the future, obviously we have our plans and we want to take action.

"Two days ago I had a conversation with Dusan, saying if you want to stay, please state it publicly and sign. A city cannot wait, but from what I have heard he does not seem willing to speak and therefore we as a club have to make decisions."

Barone said Fiorentina are willing to consider bids for Vlahovic, whose contract runs until the end of next season, but stressed they have not received any.

"All offers will be evaluated. But nothing has arrived at the moment." he added.

Vlahovic was named in the starting line-up for his side's Coppa Italia clash at Napoli on Thursday.

Fiorentina president Rocco Commisso has urged Dusan Vlahovic to recognise how the club gave him his big break.

A host of wealthy European clubs are keeping a close eye on the 21-year-old striker, who is going from strength to strength with the Viola.

Arsenal and Atletico Madrid have been among the teams most recently linked, with Tottenham and Juventus also potentially keen on a deal.

Vlahovic joined Fiorentina as a teenager from Belgrade giants Partizan, making his Serie A debut in the 2018-19 season.

He has 18 club goals this season, netting on average once every 104.17 minutes. Only four strikers from Europe's top five leagues have scored more in 2021-22: Robert Lewandowski (31), Mohamed Salah, Karim Benzema (both 23) and Erling Haaland (19).

Commisso said in an interview with the Financial Times: "He developed here. And he should give recognition, whatever happens, to the club that got him to where he is."

Vlahovic is massively outperforming his expected goals (xG) total of 12.61, and that points to sharp finishing from the Serbian. Indeed, he has tucked away 80 per cent (12 of 15) of the opportunities defined by Opta as big chances.

That is the best big-chance conversion rate among all forwards with 10 or more goals in the Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, Bundesliga or Ligue 1 this season.

 

Fiorentina chief Commisso gave his interview to the newspaper in November, with the interview published on Thursday.

According to the FT, he said Fiorentina were "under active considerations as to what to do" about Vlahovic.

Fiorentina have a high-value player on their hands, but Vlahovic's contract runs only until the end of next season, when he could walk away from Florence on a free transfer.

He has turned down big-money offers to extend his deal, with Commisso saying in October that Fiorentina would have been willing to make him the best-paid player in the club's history.

Commisso, an Italian American businessman and billionaire, acquired Fiorentina in June 2019 and admits he has been amazed by the goings-on within football.

"The more I live here, with this crazy sport, the more I realise how screwed up it is," he said.

The 72-year-old also said he has poured money into Fiorentina and is not banking on a return.

"I'm not doing it for the money," he added. "Why do I need another 100 million, you follow me? I'm gonna lose money."

Lucas Digne has completed his move to Aston Villa from Everton.

Villa have secured a deal reportedly worth up to £25million for the France full-back, who moves to Villa Park on a long-term contract.

Digne becomes Villa's second signing of the January transfer window after Philippe Coutinho linked up with former Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard – now manager at Villa Park – on loan from Barcelona.

Villa confirmed Digne's arrival on their official website on Thursday and Gerrard added: "When Lucas became available we jumped at the opportunity to bring him to the club.

"To sign a player of his pedigree and quality in the January window is a great addition to our squad and his arrival excites me and everyone associated with Aston Villa."

Asked about Gerrard's influence in completing a move between Everton and Villa, Digne said: "It was the main factor. I came here for the manager.

"I had a very good meeting with him and we spoke a couple of times during this month. I feel his desire to win, to show his football as a manager – the attacking football, the possession. I feel it’s what I want and what I want to show to the fans."

Digne moved to Everton from Barcelona for a reported £18m in August 2018 and had been a fan favourite at Goodison Park.

However, the left-back has not featured for the Toffees since a 4-1 home defeat to Merseyside rivals – and Rafael Benitez's former club – Liverpool on December 1.

Digne had fallen out of favour following a rift with Benitez over tactics employed by an Everton side who have won just one of their past 12 Premier League matches.

The defender appeared to aim a parting shot at Benitez in a social media post on Wednesday, stating "sometimes it only takes one person from outside to destroy a beautiful love affair".

He had also been heavily linked with Chelsea, who are seeking a reinforcement in the position following a long-term injury to Ben Chilwell, while Newcastle United, West Ham, Inter and Napoli were also credited with an interest. 

What will Digne bring to Villa?

Having replaced Leighton Baines as first choice at Everton, Digne went on to be a creative fulcrum under Marco Silva and Carlo Ancelotti, both from set-pieces and open play.

Since making his Everton debut on August 11, 2018, Digne has created 211 chances in the Premier League, ranking him behind only Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold (267) among defenders.

Digne's 34 big chances created is the third most, behind Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, with his 18 league assists also only bettered by the Liverpool duo.

Alexander-Arnold (1,408) is also the only defender to have played more passes/crosses into the area than Digne (902), highlighting just how much of a persistent threat the Frenchman can be.

But on the defensive side of things, Digne has proven himself slightly more reliable in the tackle than Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, with the former Paris Saint-Germain full-back boasting a better success rate (63.2 per cent) than both in such situations.

That also translates to his duels involvement, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Charlie Taylor the only full-backs (minimum 50 games played) to have a better duel success rate than Digne's 59.4 (712/1,199) since the Everton man made his Premier League debut.

Matt Targett will likely lose his place to Digne, who even in a more restricted attacking role has still created 1.7 chances per 90 minutes this season, compared to Targett's 1.3.

Digne's 1.5 tackles is also an improvement on Targett's 1.1, though he has averaged fewer interceptions (1.1) per 90 minutes than either Targett or Villa right-back Matthew Cash.

Chris Wood has signed for Newcastle United in a reported £25million move from fellow relegation candidates Burnley.

With Callum Wilson expected to miss around eight weeks due to a calf tear sustained in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United in December, Newcastle have moved to bring in a Premier League-proven goalscorer as they aim to bolster their chances of survival.

Newcastle and Burnley both sit in the bottom three on 11 points apiece – two from safety.

Wood, who joined the Clarets from Leeds United in 2017, has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal at Newcastle, having travelled to the north-east on Tuesday for a medical. 

The 30-year-old has become the Magpies' second first-team signing under Eddie Howe – and the club's new Saudi Arabia-backed ownership – after England full-back Kieran Trippier, who joined for a reported £12m last week.

Trippier made his debut in the shock 1-0 FA Cup third-round defeat at home to Cambridge United on Saturday.

With three league goals to his name this season, Wood is Burnley's second-highest scorer after Maxwel Cornet, who was signed from Lyon in August.

Wood has scored at least 10 league goals in each of the four previous seasons, with his tally of 14 in 2019-20 a personal best in the competition. However, he has not found the net since November 20.

"This is a very exciting opportunity for me and I'm delighted to be a Newcastle United player," Wood told his new club's official website.

"I have played at St. James' Park a few times and it's an amazing place, so to have the chance to represent this club with those incredible supporters behind me and my team-mates is very special.

"The club and manager have been first class during this process, and I really can't wait to get onto the pitch and repay the faith they have in me, especially with a vital part of the season ahead of us."

In total, the New Zealand international played 144 Premier League matches for Burnley, helping the Clarets to 44 wins, with Sean Dyche's team suffering 63 defeats and drawing 37 times.

With Wood in the team, Burnley scored 149 times, compared to netting just 21 times across 23 fixtures in which the striker did not feature.

Burnley's win percentage without Wood in their side dropped to 26.1 per cent from 30.6 per cent with him playing, while their average goals for per game dropped by just 0.1, from one to 0.9.

His 49 strikes came from an expected goals (xG) value of 49.5, suggesting Wood's finishing was on par with the quality of chances created for him by his team-mates.

Newcastle boss Howe said: "Chris is an important signing for us at a crucial time and I'm very pleased we have been able to move quickly and bring him here.

"He is a very dangerous attacking threat, has a physicality and character that I really like, and he has vast experience in the Premier League. He will be a great fit for us."

Mikel Arteta may be confident that his side can still recruit any player in the world, but Arsenal may have to wait if they are to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina.

The in-demand Serbia international is the joint-fourth highest scorer in Europe's top five leagues this term and is wanted by an array of clubs across the continent.

While a January move has been touted, however, Fiorentina appear to be playing hardball when it comes to the future of the 21-year-old striker.


TOP STORY – FIORENTINA DEMANDS PREVENTING ARSENAL'S VLAHOVIC PURSUIT

Arsenal are reportedly willing to match Fiorentina's €75million (£62.62m) asking price for Vlahovic, which would make him the second-most expensive player in their history.

However, The Independent reports that the Serie A side want the majority of that money paid upfront, whereas Arsenal intend to spread the cost over the next four years.

The Gunners may therefore have to wait until the end of the campaign, at which point Vlahovic will have a year to run on his contract, before renegotiating with Fiorentina.

 


ROUND-UP

– It is shaping up to be a busy conclusion to the January window for Arsenal as Goal reports that the Premier League side have made contact with Juventus over a loan move for midfielder Arthur Melo, while Leicester City's Youri Tielemans is another potential target.

– L'Equipe claims that Paul Pogba remains a target for Paris Saint-Germain as he nears the end of his Manchester United contract. The midfielder has not featured since November due to injury and is not expected to return until next month.

– According to The Mail, Man Utd are eyeing a move for Brighton and Hove Albion's Tariq Lamptey as an upgrade on Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Diogo Dalot. Interim boss Ralf Rangnick is said to be a big fan of the right-sided player's versatility.

– Sticking with Rangnick and United, the German coach has put Ajax boss Erik ten Hag's name forward as the best option to replace him when his interim spell at Old Trafford ends in June. That is according to Le Parisien, with the French outlet also suggesting PSG's Mauricio Pochettino still remains in the frame.

– Ambitious Newcastle United have already brought in Kieran Trippier this month and more players look set to follow. Tuttomercato suggests that Roma's Chris Smalling could be lured to St James' Park as the Magpies desperately attempt to strengthen at centre-back.

Freiburg's Nico Schlotterbeck is attracting plenty of interest this month, with Bayern Munich and Real Madrid among those being linked. Bayern appear to be leading that particular race if reports from Spain are anything to go by, with the defender supposedly keen to stay in the Bundesliga.

Lucas Digne appeared to aim a parting shot at Everton boss Rafael Benitez ahead of his move to Aston Villa, stating "sometimes it only takes one person from outside to destroy a beautiful love affair".

Digne is on his way out of the Toffees to join Premier League rivals Villa in a deal reportedly worth up to £25million.

The France left-back has fallen out of favour since Benitez arrived at Goodison Park and the Everton manager last week accused Digne of putting his own interests ahead of the team.

Benitez said: "I have had a couple of conversations with him, he told me what he thought. What do you expect a manager to do when a player tells a manager he doesn’t want to be here?

"I think he was very clear. I want to ask a question to any fan or former player, what [former Everton player] Peter Reid will say if a player doesn't want to be here? He told me what he thought, so what do you expect the manager to do?

"I have no explanation. We are professionals, we are paid big money to do our job. In modern football, maybe the priorities have changed and people think about themselves ahead of the team."

Digne took to Instagram on Wednesday to express his gratitude to Everton fans and made it clear he could no longer work with former Liverpool manager Benitez.

He posted: "Only one year ago I signed a new contract with the ambition of staying in this club for a long time, giving everything for my club, for the development and project, that I believed in – and for the passionate fans.

"My dream was helping the club back to where it belongs. Wearing the captain's armband in some matches always made me proud.

"Everything must come to an end. I just did not expect it to end this way.

"What has happened and some things that was said about me in the last month has made me very sad. But I will not enter a war of words with anyone.

"The club doesn't deserve that, the fans don't deserve that – and to be honest, I don't feel that I deserve that.

"There are so many good and decent people in and around Everton who want the best for this club and not only for themself – and to them I can only say from my heart: I wish you the best!

"Thank you, to all the wonderful, proud and passionate true Evertonians. It has been an honour and a true pleasure to play for you, the fans, the people – because a club does not belong to a player or a manager, but to the fans. I will always carry you with me in my heart wherever I go.

"Sometimes it only takes one person from outside to destroy a beautiful love affair."

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