Julian Nagelsmann is not surprised Robert Lewandowski is being linked with a move away from Bayern Munich and has revealed he has already held talks with the star striker.

Lewandowski enjoyed his most prolific campaign yet last time out with 41 Bundesliga goals for Bayern to break Gerd Muller's long-standing single-season record.

His 48 in all competitions were the most scored by any player in Europe's top five league in 2020-21, followed by Kylian Mbappe (42) and Erling Haaland (41).

Poland striker Lewandowski has netted 294 goals in 329 appearances overall for Bayern since joining from domestic rivals Borussia Dortmund in 2014, including 203 in 219 league games.

Reports from Spain earlier this week suggested the 32-year-old is ready for a new challenge and Real Madrid are his preferred club should he leave the Allianz Arena.

 

Lewandowski is no stranger to transfer speculation, though, and Nagelsmann – named as Hansi Flick's successor in April – is not concerned by the gossip as the striker is under contract until 2023.

"The rumours about Robert have been around for ages, ever since he has been with FC Bayern," he told Sky Sport.

"I think it's somewhat normal when someone scores so many goals that almost every club puts out its feelers.

"On one hand Robert knows what he has in Munich, what he has in this team. Point two is his contractual situation – this is also clear.

"I've spoken to him. I'm not very fond on the first act with a player being to immediately discuss his contractual situation."

Lewandowski is currently enjoying an extended break after featuring in all three games for Poland at Euro 2020.

The former Dortmund striker scored three times as Poland suffered a disappointing group-stage exit after finishing below Sweden, Spain and Slovakia.

That return of one goal every 90 minutes was the fifth-best of any player to have scored more than once in the competition, behind Karim Benzema (87.25), Patrik Schick (81), Kasper Dolberg (75.33) and Cristiano Ronaldo (72).

Bayern Munich have confirmed defender Lucas Hernandez has had successful surgery on a knee injury.

Hernandez tore the medial meniscus of his left knee during France's 2-2 draw with Portugal at Euro 2020 on June 23.

Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic said in a statement on Sunday: "We wish Lucas a full and speedy recovery. Our doctors are very pleased with the course of the operation. He will be available again in a few weeks."

Hernandez has made 62 appearances for Bayern in all competitions since joining from Atletico Madrid two years ago.

The 25-year-old has suffered only one defeat in his 42 Bundesliga games, while he did not lose a single one of the 25 league matches he played in his first season at the Allianz Arena as Bayern won the treble under Hansi Flick.

The German champions, now coached by Julian Nagelsmann, begin their title defence away to Borussia Monchengladbach on August 13.

 

With France out of Euro 2020, Kylian Mbappe has time to mull over his club future.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has been linked with Real Madrid.

Liverpool have reportedly entered the frame too, while PSG are eager to re-sign him.

 

TOP STORY - MBAPPE REACHES PSG DECISION

Kylian Mbappe has informed PSG he is not planning to sign a new contract, according to L'Equipe.

The 22-year-old France international does not currently want to extend his current deal which expires in mid-2022, the sports daily reported.

Mbappe will respect the final year of his contract with PSG as suitors circle for his signature.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United have agreed terms with Jadon Sancho and now have set their sights on West Ham's Declan Rice, Villarreal's Pau Torres and Tottenham's Harry Kane. The Guardian claims they are all on United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's wish list.

- Bild claims United are also interested in Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka, who has one year remaining on the his current contract.

- Son Heung-min is expected to sign an extension with Tottenham regardless of Kane's decision on his future, claims Fabrizio Romano.

- Arsenal, Milan and Roma are all interested in RB Leipzig's Austria international Marcel Sabitzer who is set to be allowed to leave on a cut-price deal according to Bild.

- The Daily Mail reports Manchester City will open talks with Raheem Sterling on a new deal following Euro 2020 where he has starred with three goals for England. Sterling, who has two years left on his current deal, fell out of favour at City late last season.

What does the future hold for Kylian Mbappe?

The Paris Saint-Germain star is wanted in France and Spain.

France striker Mbappe is reportedly facing a decision over his future.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE HAS DECISION TO MAKE

Kylian Mbappe has a decision to make over his future as he enters the final year of his Paris Saint-Germain contract, according to the front pages of Wednesday's Marca and Diario AS.

Mbappe will become a free agent at the end of the 2021-22 season and the PSG star continues to be heavily linked with LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

L'Equipe, however, claims PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi has taken over from sporting director Leonardo in contract negotiations and Mbappe is reportedly pleased with the club's early transfer business as Gianluigi Donnarumma prepares to join Georginio Wijnaldum in Paris.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano reports Cristiano Ronaldo's future at Juventus is uncertain. The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has been linked with PSG, Madrid and Manchester United. Contracted to Juve until 2022, Romano says Ronaldo is not negotiating a new deal as the Serie A giants wait for the superstar to decide whether he stays or leaves.

- Aston Villa are hopeful of keeping star captain Jack Grealish amid interest from Premier League champions Manchester City, per The Telegraph.

- Bild reports RB Leipzig are set to sign Eintracht Frankfurt forward Andre Silva. The Portugal international starred in 2020-21 and has been linked with Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Madrid, United and City.

- United are eyeing Bayern midfielder Leon Goretzka as a possible replacement for Paul Pogba, according to Sport Bild. Bayern and Goretzka have been discussing a new deal. It comes as Bayern also try to re-sign Kingsley Coman and Joshua Kimmich. Coman has been linked with United and Liverpool.

Atalanta are in advanced talks to sign Udinese goalkeeper Juan Musso, claims Sky Sport Italia. Musso has previously been linked with Serie A champions Inter, who are reportedly eyeing Ajax's Andre Onana.

- Le10 Sport claims negotiations between PSG and former Madrid captain Sergio Ramos have hit a snag due to the club's unwillingness to offer a two-year deal. Ramos has also been linked with United, City, Chelsea and Juventus on a free transfer.

- A resolution for Lionel Messi's contract renewal at Barcelona does not seem to be close as he is set to officially become a free agent at midnight on Wednesday, claims Marca. Barca are pushing to complete the new deal.

Sergio Ramos' Real Madrid contract is due to officially expire on June 30.

The 35-year-old defender has been with Los Blancos since 2005.

There appears to be no shortage of suitors lining up for Ramos' signature.

 

TOP STORY – RAMOS WEIGHING UP POWERHOUSE TRIO

European heavyweights Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich have all approached Sergio Ramos about a potential move, ESPN reported.

Ramos, who will leave Madrid as a free agent this off-season, is said to be assessing the interest.

Family considerations are a big part of Ramos' decision-making, while it is claimed City could offer him a two-year deal.

ROUND-UP

- Jose Mourinho's new club Roma are closing in on a deal to sign Wolves' Portuguese goalkeeper Rui Patricio , reports Sky Sports.

- Arsenal target Aaron Ramsey has opted to stay with Juventus following the appointment of Massimiliano Allegri, claims The Sun.

- Uruguayan prospect Martin Satriano is attracting attention from Premier League clubs Arsenal , Everton and Tottenham , claims the Daily Mail. Satriano is currently on the books of Inter.

- Turkey international Merih Demiral wants to leave Juventus but the Serie A club have set an asking price of €40million (£34m), according to Calciomercato.

- Chelsea are close to agreeing a loan deal with Norwich City for Billy Gilmour , reports Sky Sports.

Bayern Munich have confirmed that goalkeeper Alexander Nubel will spend the next two seasons on loan at Monaco.

And the German champions have brought Sven Ulreich back to the club on a free transfer in order to fill the newly created vacancy behind first choice Manuel Neuer.

Nubel, who signed from Schalke in June 2020, took on that role last term and ultimately made just four appearances across all competitions.

The 24-year-old is considered a long-term successor to Neuer but had made clear to Bayern his desire to play more regularly next season.

As sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic explained: "It was Alexander Nubel's wish to gain match practice. We supported that."

Nubel joins Monaco on a two-year deal with Bayern reserving the right to recall the player at the end of the coming season.

Of his move, the German said: "I'm pleased to be taking the next step in my development at Monaco. 

"It's important to play at a high level, and now I've got that chance at Monaco. I'd like to thank the officials at Bayern Munich for this opportunity. My big goal is to repay their trust in the future."

Ulreich returns as a free agent after his contract with Hamburg, where he spent just one season, was terminated by mutual agreement.

Prior to joining the 2.Bundesliga club, the 32-year-old spent five years with Bayern Munich, whom he signed for from Stuttgart.

Salihamidzic said of the goalkeeper's return: "The condition was that we could sign a serious back-up. 

"Our goalkeeping coach Toni Tapalovic advised us about Sven Ulreich, and we're pleased we could reach an agreement with Sven. 

"This combined situation is very appealing. It helps everyone involved and fits within our financial framework because Sven returns on a free. 

"FC Bayern continues to plan for the future with Alexander Nubel."

In a move that football purists, romanticists and aficionados of 1990s Serie A will be excited by, Gianluigi Buffon is returning to Parma after 20 years away.

Buffon came through the club's academy in the early '90s and made 220 appearances for them in all competitions, winning the Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana and UEFA Cup during a six-year spell in the first-team.

Juventus made Buffon the world's most-expensive goalkeeper at the time when they paid €52million for him in 2001 and he played 685 times for them across two spells, 20 short of Alessandro Del Piero's club record.

Nevertheless, Buffon's longevity has ensured he is the record holder for the most Serie A appearances (657) and titles (10) in the league's history.

After leaving Juve at the end of the 2020-21 season, it was unclear what would be next for Buffon, but links with Parma began to stir despite their relegation to Serie B.

And on Thursday the club confirmed Buffon is back. While the days of challenging for major honours are long gone for Parma, the goalkeeping great represents a coup and the kind of transfer that tugs at heartstrings.

In honour of Buffon's momentous return, Stats Perform takes a look at other greats who've gone back to their spiritual home to close out their career.

Arjen Robben - Groningen

Arjen Robben's retirement lasted just a single season, as the Netherlands and Bayern Munich great announced last year that he was returning to his boyhood club Groningen for the 2020-21 campaign. Robben, now 37, initially brought an illustrious playing career to an end in July 2019 shortly after his 10-year spell with Bayern finished. Although at the time he was linked with a potential return to the team that gave him his professional debut, Robben – who suffered with numerous injury problems throughout his career – opted to retire. He then caused something of a shock as he finally went back to the place where it all began, but once again injuries blighted his season, restricting him to just seven Eredivisie appearances. It's unclear if he'll play on into 2021-22, though either way it's safe to assume Groningen will be where he retires once and for all.

Juan Roman Riquelme - Argentinos Juniors

Perhaps more synonymous with Boca Juniors, where he made his professional debut and also spent most of his final years, Riquelme also had a strong affinity with Argentinos Juniors. He came through the club's academy in the early-to-mid 1990s, before then finishing his immense career at Estadio Diego Maradona in 2014, having also played for Barcelona, Villarreal and Argentina. Although the iconic attacking midfielder appeared close to joining Paraguay's Cerro Porteno the following year, the move never materialised.

Dirk Kuyt - Quick Boys

Kuyt briefly came out of retirement three years ago to help Quick Boys, with whom he spent 13 years as a youth. Playing in the Derde Divisie Saturday league, Kuyt was already working as assistant at the time, but made himself available for selection during a striker shortage and he made three appearances. The former Netherlands and Liverpool forward had retired the year before following a second spell with Feyenoord, where he had made his initial breakthrough in the mid-2000s, his form at the time earning a move to Anfield.

Rafael Marquez - Atlas

One of Mexico's greatest players, Marquez's longevity at such a high level was nothing short of incredible, as he accumulated 147 international caps. After breaking into the Atlas team as a teenager having come through their academy, the elegant centre-back enjoyed a sparkling career in Europe, winning 14 titles across spells with Monaco and Barcelona. Time with New York Red Bulls, Leon and Hellas Verona followed, before a final two-year stint back at the Jalisco ended in 2018. Although plagued by off-field allegations towards the end of his career, Marquez went on to become the club's sporting president, before standing down last in 2019 to focus on other areas of the sport. He is expected to be taking up a youth coaching role at Barca next season.

Juan Pablo Angel - Atletico Nacional

Angel perhaps never quite lived up to the expectations he set during his early days as part of River Plate's so-called 'Fantastic Four' with Javier Saviola, Ariel Ortega and Pablo Aimar, having joined from Colombia's Nacional. Nevertheless, he became a fan favourite at Aston Villa in the Premier League, before spending six years in MLS with New York Red Bulls, Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA. In 2013 he returned to Nacional for two seasons, having left them in 1997. He called it quits in late 2014, just a few days after losing to his former club River in the final of the Copa Sudamericana. "I am ending my career with a final between the two clubs I love the most," he said.

Henrik Larsson - Hogaborgs

While the Swedish club most may associate with Larsson is Helsingborgs, he actually made the breakthrough at a smaller side – Hogaborgs. It was here where he trained from the age of six, before eventually becoming a regular in the senior side and earning a move to Helsingborgs. A trophy-laden career followed, taking him to Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United. Although he retired in 2009, he returned to the pitch for Raa in the Swedish third tier three years later, before then finding himself back in the team at Hogaborgs in 2013, helping out due to an injury crisis despite him only previously being registered to a casual team for 'seniors'. This gave him the chance to play alongside his son, Jordan.

Carlos Tevez - Boca Juniors

The Tevez-Boca love affair has dominated most of the striker's successful and complex career. After coming through their youth ranks, the feisty forward was seen as the heir to Maradona. A brief stint in Brazil with Corinthians followed, but Europe had long since beckoned, even if West Ham was by no means the expected destination. He went on to play for Manchester United and Manchester City, increasing tension between the clubs, before then going to Juventus, but throughout this time Tevez seemed to long for a return to Boca. He went back to La Bombonera in 2015, his homecoming interrupted by a brief spell with Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 in the Chinese Super League, though even Tevez acknowledged he saw his time in China as a "holiday". "He filled Santa's sack with dollars and now he has returned to Boca" was Maradona's assessment upon 'El Apache's' return from the CSL. His third spell with Boca ended in June 2021, though it remains to be seen if he ever plays for another club.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting has signed a new two-year contract with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. 

Choupo-Moting, 32, joined Bayern in October 2020 after spending two seasons with Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain, initially signing a one-year deal.  

The striker made 32 appearances in all competitions in his maiden season with the club – only 13 of which were starts – and scored nine goals. 

Choupo-Moting, who will play under new head coach Julien Nagelsmann next term after Hansi Flick left to take the Germany job, said: "I am proud to be here. FC Bayern is a very special club; the number one club in Germany and also one of the best clubs in the world. 

"My first year here was great. On the pitch, but also off the pitch, we had a lot of fun together. I want to continue to have success with the team. I'd like to reach the DFB-Pokal final in Berlin and ideally win the Champions League." 

Board member for sport Hasan Salihamidzic added: "We are happy that Maxim will stay with us for another two years. 

"He is a very important player for us, performing strongly last season and scoring many goals. Maxim can be used in several positions, has very good technique, a lot of experience and is a goal threat. 

"Aside from his sporting quality, Maxim is also important for our team as a person. He will help us achieve our goals in the next two years."

After a year's delay, Euro 2020 will finally get under way when Italy take on Turkey in Rome on Friday, June 11.

Some of the world's top talents will be on display in the month-long tournament, including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe, Robert Lewandowski and Harry Kane.

But away from the elite players, there are a clutch of others looking to overshadow those aforementioned names and leave their own mark on the pan-European competition.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform picks out eight under-the-radar stars – those that would not necessarily be considered as one of the favourites for individual honours before a ball is kicked – ahead of the tournament.

 

Federico Chiesa (Italy and Juventus)

Juventus may have endured one of their worst campaigns in recent memory last time out, but Chiesa can hold his head up high after impressing in his first year at the Allianz Stadium.

He was the man for the big occasions, scoring a couple of goals in January's league victory over Milan and the winner in Juve's Coppa Italia triumph against Atalanta.

The 23-year-old was a regular threat down both flanks ​– only Benevento forward Riccardo Improta (77, 29.87 per cent) had more open-play crosses in Serie A last season with a higher success rate than Chiesa (69, 27.54 per cent).

That ability to both create and score goals, plus his never-say-die spirit – best embodied by his three goals in two legs of the Champions League last-16 knockout defeat to Porto – means he is already a fan favourite in Turin.

"He tries to ignite the fans at home on the couch to let them feel the game like the players in the pitch," former Juve striker Fabrizio Ravanelli told Stats Perform. 

"He always sends a strong message to Juventus fans, the true DNA of Juventus of never giving up like it says in the motto: 'Till the end'."

 

Alexander Isak (Sweden and Real Sociedad)

Whisper it quietly, but Sweden may have a new superstar forward emerging to rival the legendary figure of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Isak's 17 strikes in 34 league appearances for Real Sociedad last season saw him become the Swede with the most goals in a single LaLiga campaign, surpassing Ibrahimovic's 16 for Barcelona in 2009-10.

He may be tall and blessed with great technical ability, but Isak is a lot different to Ibrahimovic – ruled out of Euro 2020 with a knee injury – in terms of his playing style.

And with clubs such as Barcelona and Manchester City reportedly keeping a close eye on the 21-year-old, it may well be one day that other youngsters from the Scandinavian country are described as 'the next Isak'.

 

Unai Simon (Spain and Athletic Bilbao)

Luis Enrique has not shied away from putting his faith in youth at the expense of those who have been there and done it, with veteran centre-back Sergio Ramos arguably the most high-profile omission from any squad at Euro 2020.

That is also true between the sticks, where 23-year-old Athletic Bilbao stopper Simon has usurped David de Gea to take control of the number-one spot.

Unlike Manchester United keeper De Gea and Chelsea's Kepa Arrizabalaga, who has not made the cut for Spain, Simon played regularly for his club side in 2020-21.

Indeed, the only Spanish goalkeepers to play more minutes last term in Europe's top five leagues than Simon (3,330) were Alex Remiro and Fernando Pacheco of Real Sociedad and Deportivo Alaves respectively.

Simon saved 63.3 per cent of the shots he faced in LaLiga in 2020-21, compared to 65.22 per cent for De Gea in 26 Premier League games, and the six-cap keeper will need to be at his best if Spain are to banish their demons from the 2018 World Cup.

 

Jamal Musiala (Germany and Bayern Munich)

Musiala switched international allegiance from England to Germany four months ago in the same week he became Bayern's youngest Champions League goalscorer at the age of 17 years and 363 days.

Despite strong competition for places, Musiala featured regularly for the German champions last season with 35 appearances in all competitions, albeit the majority of those outings being as a substitute.

The former Chelsea product made his first two appearances for Germany in March's World Cup qualifiers and only adds to a plethora of options available to Joachim Low in the final third.

Musiala may not be considered a regular just yet, but the stats suggest Low should perhaps consider using the youngster from the beginning of games.

Bayern's win rate increased from 62.5 per cent without Musiala in their side in the Bundesliga last term to 73.1 per cent with him, while their average goals for climbed from 2.5 to 3.0, and their passing accuracy in the final third went from 72.4 to 74.1.

Not so much a lucky omen, but a player who is clearly already good enough to make a telling impact on even the biggest sides.

 

Marcus Thuram (France and Borussia Monchengladbach)

No nation boasts a collection of forwards quite like France, who can call upon Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Wissam Ben Yedder, Thomas Lemar, Kingsley Coman, Olivier Giroud and the returning Karim Benzema.

What chance does Borussia Monchengladbach forward Thuram have, then, of ousting any of those players from the side?

While the 23-year-old may not be used as a regular starter, he will provide an intriguing option for spoiled-for-choice head coach Didier Deschamps to choose from off the bench for group games against Germany, Portugal and Hungary.

Thuram, the son of World Cup winner Lilian, certainly knows how to make the most of his minutes on the field and has the ability to score via a range of different ways.

All eight of his Bundesliga goals last term were scored inside the box, but they were shared between his right foot (three), left foot (two), head (two) and other means (one).

In fact, he was one of just nine forwards to start 20 games or fewer in Europe's top five leagues last season and still score more than once with his right foot.

 

Aleksandr Golovin (Russia and Monaco)

Monaco midfielder Golovin was plagued by injuries and illness in 2020-21 but still played a starring role in Monaco's unlikely Ligue 1 title bid that went down to the final game.

The 25-year-old found the net five times and set up nine more in 21 appearances, three of those goals coming in one game against Nimes in early February.

That made Golovin the first Russian to score a hat-trick in Europe's top five leagues since ex-Fulham striker Pavel Pogrebnyak in 2012.

He is undoubtedly the key creative talent in the Russia squad and, in a group that contains a defensively-strong Denmark and Belgium, plus Finland, it will likely be the Monaco man that holds the key to his side's hopes of progression.

His effectiveness with set-piece deliveries could be particularly vital.

 

 

Yusuf Yazici (Turkey and Lille)

Lille's incredible Ligue 1 triumph was down to a collective effort, but a few players certainly stood out for the shock title winners.

Look no further than breakthrough star Yazici, whose return of a goal every 153.71 minutes was the fourth best of any midfielder with at least five goals in Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21, trailing just Joe Willock, Lars Stindl and Musiala.

The 24-year-old scored seven league goals in total and netted the same amount in the Europa League, where Lille made it to the knockout stages before being eliminated by Ajax.

That includes a couple of three-goal hauls in the group stage as he became the first player to score an away hat-trick against Milan in all competitions since Rivaldo in October 2000 for Barcelona.

With experience of scoring in big matches and winning silverware with rank outsiders, Yazici will now be looking to guide many people's dark horses Turkey deep into Euro 2020.

 

Ryan Gravenberch (Netherlands and Ajax)

A member of the Netherlands' Under-17s European Championship-winning squad in 2018, Gravenberch has gone from strength to strength in the three years since and is now a regular in Ajax's central midfield.

Gravenberch also has two Eredivisie titles and two Dutch Cups to his name to go with that age-grade continental triumph, all before he even turned 19 last month.

The teenage talent, another product of Ajax's fabled academy, made his senior international debut earlier this year and has a chance of starting – or at least playing a prominent part in – the Oranje's quest for a second European Championship crown.

If nothing else, Gravenberch will certainly bring a level of calmness to the Dutch midfield.

He had a pass accuracy rate of 87.21 per cent in the Eredivisie last season – the only midfielders younger in Europe's top five leagues to play 20 or more times with a better return were Pedri (87.66) and Lucas Gourna-Douath (87.29). 

Julian Nagelsmann will have "a lot of fun" with the quality at his disposal as Bayern Munich coach, according to his predecessor Hansi Flick.

Nagelsmann will replace Flick at Bayern ahead of next season, after two encouraging years at RB Leipzig.

Flick confirmed his impending departure from Bayern in April. He took over from Niko Kovac – initially on an interim basis – in November 2019 and will leave the club having won two Bundesliga titles, the Champions League, the DFL-Supercup, the DFB Pokal, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup.

The 56-year-old's next position will be as head coach of the German national team; he will succeed Joachim Low after Euro 2020.

And Flick promised his successor at Bayern will have much joy taking charge of such a talented squad.

"I think Julian Nagelsmann will have a lot of fun with this team because it is of enormous quality and a great attitude," Flick told Bayern's official media channels.

"I wrote that to him too. It's a top team that knows what's important. And here you have to support them as a trainer."

It is not just Flick who will be leaving Bayern.

There is something of a changing of the guard ahead of next season, with CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and club stalwarts Javi Martinez, Jerome Boateng and David Alaba also departing – the latter having agreed to join Real Madrid.

Nagelsmann will have to contend with the fact Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski – who broke Gerd Muller's long-standing Bundesliga record of 40 goals in a single season – and Manuel Neuer are approaching the twilight of their respective careers, yet Flick hailed the performances of the three Bayern greats.

"Thomas [Muller] is a phenomenon for me," Flick said.

"He doesn't always get everything right in the game, but he brings you as a coach significantly more moments of joy than those in which you are upset about him – for example, when he goes out to the corner again, where he shouldn't be, loses the ball, and then a counter-attack emerges. 

"Sometimes I almost had to laugh and had the feeling that he was doing this on purpose to annoy me a little and get the adrenaline going again. But he means so much for the team and this club, someone like him will never be around again. What he has achieved in his career is unique."

Muller, along with Lewandowski, Neuer, Alaba and Joshua Kimmich, who has developed into a world class central midfielder, were five players Flick could always count on.

"For me and for all coaches, the central axis is the decisive element," he added. "And there has been nothing better in the world in the past two years. 

"I never really want to single someone out of my team because we can only achieve our goals together, but I could always rely on these five players 100 per cent, it was pure joy."

Bayern played 86 games under Flick, winning 70 and losing just seven, while only one of their nine draws finished goalless.

Flick's Bayern kept 34 clean sheets and scored 255 goals, averaging one every 30.4 minutes and outscoring their expected goals tally of 215.95, racking up 1,545 shots – the third-highest total in all competitions by a team from Europe's top five leagues, behind Manchester City (1,694) and Manchester United (1,557), though both of those Premier League sides played at least 17 more matches over the time in question.

Indeed, Bayern's goal tally under Flick makes them the top scorers from Europe's top five divisions in all competitions since he took charge, with Pep Guardiola's City (229) some way behind in second.

Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski has hit out at the demands placed on footballers in the modern era, insisting the schedule players face in the coming years poses a "big problem".

The Pole has made 46 appearances for club and country over the course of a 2020-21 campaign condensed by the coronavirus pandemic, and is set to add to that at Euro 2020.

The coming years are unlikely to be any easier, with a mid-season World Cup in Qatar coming up in 2022 and Champions League reforms set to add an extra four group games from 2024.

And Lewandowski is concerned that players are at risk of burnout as the demands on their bodies continue to build.

"So many people forget we're humans, we're not machines, we cannot play every day at the highest level of performance," he told The Times.

"For football and for young players, that will be the big problem, to stay at the top for many years, because now and maybe the next two years, that will be extreme: so many big games."

Lewandowski top scored with 15 goals as Bayern won the Champions League for the first time in seven years in 2019-20.

But he thinks the addition of extra fixtures to Europe's premier cup competition could ultimately ruin the spectacle for supporters.

"Even for the fans, I think so many games will be more boring because if you wait for the games longer, there's more expectation, that feeling that you've been waiting for this," he added.

"The quality of games will go down. It's not possible to stay with this quality on the top with so many games."

Lewandowski's own form showed no sign of fading amid the 2020-21 schedule as he broke Gerd Muller's long-standing Bundesliga record for goals scored in a single season with his 41st top-flight strike of the campaign in Bayern's win over Augsburg.

David Alaba is to join Real Madrid on a free transfer upon the expiry of his Bayern Munich contract, Los Blancos have confirmed.

The versatile Austria defender announced back in February that this season would be his last at the Allianz Arena, having initially joined Die Roten's youth set-up in 2008.

LaLiga giants Madrid have now swooped to bring Alaba to the Santiago Bernabeu on a five-year deal, beating off a host of Europe's elite clubs for his signature.

Alaba made his debut in a DFB-Pokal meeting with Greuther Furth in February 2010, becoming the club's youngest player in history at the time and setting up a goal for Franck Ribery within a minute of coming on.

The Austrian was 17 years, seven months and 18 days old when he made his debut, but Jamal Musiala is now Bayern's youngest debutant.

Alaba has gone on to make 448 appearances for the Bavarian giants, scoring 35 goals and supplying 47 assists in all competitions. 

The 28-year-old has won 27 trophies with Bayern, lifting the Bundesliga title 10 times and winning the Champions League twice – both of those European successes forming part of trebles.  

It remains to be seen whether Alaba, who will be presented as a Madrid player after the completion of his Euro 2021 campaign, will be playing alongside Sergio Ramos next season, or acting as a replacement for the veteran centre-back.

Ramos is out of contract next month, and has been left out of Spain's squad for Euro 2020.

David Alaba is to join Real Madrid on a free transfer upon the expiry of his Bayern Munich contract, Los Blancos have confirmed.

The versatile Austria defender announced back in February that this season would be his last at the Allianz Arena, having initially joined Die Roten's youth set-up in 2008.

LaLiga giants Madrid have now swooped to bring Alaba to the Santiago Bernabeu on a five-year deal, beating off a host of Europe's elite clubs for his signature.

Alaba made his debut in a DFB-Pokal meeting with Greuther Furth in February 2010, becoming the club's youngest player in history at the time and setting up a goal for Franck Ribery within a minute of coming on.

The Austrian was 17 years, seven months and 18 days old when he made his debut, but Jamal Musiala is now Bayern's youngest debutant.

Alaba has gone on to make 448 appearances for the Bavarian giants, scoring 35 goals and supplying 47 assists in all competitions. 

The 28-year-old has won 27 trophies with Bayern, lifting the Bundesliga title 10 times and winning the Champions League twice – both of those European successes forming part of trebles.  

It remains to be seen whether Alaba, who will be presented as a Madrid player after the completion of his Euro 2021 campaign, will be playing alongside Sergio Ramos next season, or acting as a replacement for the veteran centre-back.

Ramos is out of contract next month, and has been left out of Spain's squad for Euro 2020.

Erling Haaland has been named the Bundesliga Player of the Season for 2020-21, despite Robert Lewandowski's 41-goal campaign.

Lewandowski broke Gerd Muller's record of 40 league goals in a single campaign when he netted with the last kick of the game – and the season – in a 5-2 win over Augsburg on Saturday.

Muller, a Bayern Munich great, had achieved the feat during the 1971-72 season.

For a long period of Saturday's game at Allianz Arena, it appeared as though Lewandowski would fall agonisingly short of sitting out in front on his own.

 

In total he had 10 shots, six of which were on target, in a game that marked the last of Hansi Flick's tenure as Bayern head coach, but the Poland star finally got his goal at the final moment.

Yet this effort was not enough to warrant the Bundesliga's Player of the Season award going Lewandowski's way, with another of the league's outstanding goalscorers instead scooping it.

Haaland, who has been linked with a huge move this close season, netted 27 times in 28 Bundesliga appearances for Borussia Dortmund. 

It saw him finish third in the scoring charts, behind Lewandowski and Eintracht Frankfurt's Andre Silva (28 goals in 32 appearances).

Haaland's tally did include the 20-year-old scoring two or more goals in 11 Bundesliga matches, with only Muller – also in the 1971-72 campaign – doing so on more occasions in a single season (12).

Whereas Lewandowski and Silva scored eight and seven penalties respectively, only two of Haaland's goals came from the spot.

His trusty left foot delivered 24 goals, and he scored two with his right. Surprisingly for a player with such height, only one goal came from Haaland's head, and all but one came from inside the area.

 

Haaland averaged a goal every 89 minutes, a total bettered by some distance by Lewandowski, who hit the net every 60 minutes – a remarkable feat nevertheless by the former Salzburg striker.

Overall, Haaland helped Dortmund to 17 victories as they qualified for the Champions League – Lewandowski helping Bayern to 20 while playing one game more than his Norwegian counterpart.

"An honour to be awarded with the Bundesliga Player of the Season! An achievement not just for me but for the whole BVB family," Haaland tweeted on Tuesday.

"We won this award together!"

Hansi Flick has been confirmed as Germany’s new head coach on a three-year deal.

Flick, who led Bayern Munich to a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title this season, will replace Joachim Low after the Euro 2020 finals. 

It marks a return to the Germany fold for Flick, who previously served as Low's assistant between 2006 and 2014, a span that included being crowned world champions in Brazil in 2014.

Flick joined Bayern as an assistant coach in 2019 but was promoted to the senior role following the departure of Niko Kovac.

He subsequently led Bayern to a famous treble in his first campaign, securing the Champions League after domestic success in the league and DFB-Pokal.

Although they were knocked out of the Champions League quarter-finals by Paris Saint-Germain in 2020-21, Flick helped Bayern add the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, as well as another Bundesliga crown.

However, amid increasing speculation, the coach announced in April he would leave Bayern at the end of the season. Julian Nagelsmann was confirmed as his replacement.

In a German Football Association (DFB) statement announcing his appointment on Tuesday, Flick said: "It all went surprisingly quickly for me with the signature, but I am very happy to be able to work as national coach from autumn onwards. 

"The season has just ended and the two years at Bayern Munich have helped. The team spirit and the attitude of the players were outstanding, and I'll take a lot with me that will continue to shape my work. 

"I'm really looking forward to it because I can see the great quality of the players, especially the young players in Germany. 

"That's how we have every reason to approach the upcoming tournament with optimism. I wish Jogi Low, Marcus Sorg, Andy Kopke and the team the greatest possible success. Jogi Low has more than deserved a big end to his career as national coach."

Oliver Bierhoff, DFB national team director, added: "I am very proud that we have succeeded in signing Hansi for the post of national coach. He was from the start at the top of my wish list. 

"I have known and appreciate the human and professional qualities of Hansi since our many successful years together with the national team. During his time at Bayern Munich, he showed where he can lead a team as head coach. 

"We quickly came to an agreement on the future tasks. It was important for me to create clarity before the start of the Euros. We have one big common goal: to get back to the top."

Low, who was previously assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann, announced in March he would step down after the delayed Euro 2020 following 15 years in charge. 

As well as winning the World Cup in 2014, Germany were runners-up to Spain at Euro 2008 and reached the semi-finals of Euro 2012 and Euro 2016.

Standards have since slipped, though, with Low's men out in the group stage at Russia 2018 and suffered humiliating defeats to Spain – 6-0 in the Nations League – and North Macedonia – 2-1 at home in World Cup qualifying – in the past 12 months.

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