Could Darwin Nunez be the next Benfica star to make a big move?

Portuguese sensation Joao Felix swapped Benfica for Atletico Madrid in a club-record deal in 2019.

Now, Uruguay international Nunez is attracting interest from across Europe.

 

TOP STORY – CITY FRONT OF QUEUE FOR NUNEZ

Manchester City are leading the race to sign Darwin Nunez from Portuguese giants Benfica, according to the Daily Star.

Premier League champions City are desperate to sign a forward amid links with Tottenham's Harry Kane, Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic.

Nunez has also reportedly attracted interest from BarcelonaLiverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Bayern Munich, Milan, Inter and Atletico Madrid.

 

ROUND-UP

– United forward Edinson Cavani could join Real Madrid in January, claims Mundo Deportivo. It comes as Cavani finds himself battling Cristiano Ronaldo for regular game time at Old Trafford, where the club's hierarchy are concerned amid their form under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

- The Daily Star reports Arsenal are weighing up a move for out-of-favour City forward Raheem SterlingBarca are also believed to be interested in Sterling, according to The Sun, as they face the prospect of missing out on Leipzig's Dani Olmo. The Spain international has been linked with United, Juventus and Bayern.

Liverpool are eyeing Pogon Szczecin midfielder Kacper Kozlowski, says the Mirror. The 17-year-old has been linked with Bayer Leverkusen, Milan, RB Leipzig and Salzburg.

Paris Saint-Germain continue to plan for Kylian Mbappe's potential departure. 

The Ligue 1 giants have been linked with several possible replacements. 

Robert Lewandowski is the latest rumoured target.

 

TOP STORY – PSG EYE LEWANDOWSKI AS MBAPPE REPLACEMENT

With seemingly everyone expecting Kylian Mbappe to depart Paris Saint-Germain after the season, the club have been linked with several potential attacking options. 

Robert Lewandowski is the latest, with Le10Sport reporting the Bayern Munich and Poland striker could make a lucrative move to PSG. 

The 33-year-old is under contract with Bayern through 2023, though, and could end up agreeing to a new deal to remain in the Bundesliga. 

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid are set to take another run at Manchester United's Edinson Cavani during the January transfer window, says El Nacional. 

Andrea Pirlo and River Plate's Marcelo Gallardo are candidates to replace Ronald Koeman if he is sacked by Barcelona in the coming days, the Express reports. 

PSG are eyeing midfield help, with Inter's Nicolo Barella a possibility, according to Calciomercato, along with N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Franck Kessie.

Liverpool are interested in Bayer Leverkusen winger Moussa Diaby, according to Calciomercato. 

Timo Werner could look to leave Chelsea if he does not receive more playing time the rest of the season, says the Telegraph.

Dani Olmo departed Barcelona's youth setup in 2014, moving to Croatian giants in Dinamo Zagreb.

Now playing for RB Leipzig, the 23-year-old continues to catch the eye.

Olmo is reportedly eyeing another chance at Barca.

 

TOP STORY – OLMO WANTS BARCA COMEBACK

RB Leipzig star Dani Olmo is hoping to return to Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Olmo came through Barca's famed La Masia before joining Dinamo Zagreb's youth team in 2014 and eventually Bundesliga outfit Leipzig in 2020.

The 23-year-old Spain international, however, wants a new chance at Barca and has reportedly set yes to a Camp Nou comeback without looking at contract terms.

 

ROUND-UP

- Everton are hopeful of launching a bid to sign Edinson Cavani from Manchester United following Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford, per Todo Fichajes.

- Calciomercato says Inter are considering a move for Eintracht Frankfurt and Serbia winger Filip Kostic, who was poised to join Lazio on deadline day before a move fell through.

- The Sun says Wolves are set to make Adama Traore their highest earner amid interest from Tottenham and Liverpool.

Chelsea could target Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly in January, reports Football London. The Senegal star has previously been linked with Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Barca and others.

- Le10 Sport claims Paris Saint-Germain never made an offer for Ronaldo, who left Juventus for United.

Real Madrid have not given up on their hopes of adding Kylian Mbappe. 

He will be a top priority for Carlo Ancelotti following the 2021-22 season.

But could Los Blancos add two stars for the price of one? 

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID EYE MBAPPE-HAALAND PAIRING

Real Madrid will be the favourites to land Kylian Mbappe following the season if he does not reach a new deal with Paris Saint-Germain, but they will not be content adding only him. 

According to Marca, Erling Haaland is also a prime target at the Santiago Bernabeu and Madrid could pursue both players. 

Mbappe would be available on a free and Haaland could be had from Borussia Dortmund via his €75million release clause. 

 

ROUND-UP

- Declan Rice expects to leave West Ham after the season, according to 90min, which reports he has asked the club to include a release clause in any new contract offer the Hammers might make. 

- Juventus declined the opportunity to sign Edinson Cavani from Manchester United after Cristiano Ronaldo's move in the other direction, the Mirror reports. 

- Former Tottenham right-back Serge Aurier prefers to remain in the Premier League and could end up at Arsenal, according to Sky Sports. The Ivory Coast international and Spurs terminated his contract by mutual consent this week. 

- Nicolas Nkoulou could be an option for Lazio if they cannot sign David Luiz, reports Calciomercato. 

Manchester United have confirmed Cristiano Ronaldo will wear the number seven shirt for the 2021-22 season.

Ronaldo, who broke Ali Daei's long-standing record of international goals with a double for Portugal against the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday, re-joined United in a sensational transfer from Juventus at the end of the transfer window.

The superstar forward, who on Thursday was released from international duty, wore United's iconic number seven during his first stint at Old Trafford, which ended in 2009.

He wore the number nine during his first season at Madrid, before taking the number seven shirt after club legend Raul left for Schalke in 2010.

Ronaldo has since worn the number seven in every season for both Madrid and Juventus, as well as for Portugal.

However, there was some doubt over whether he would be able to take the seven shirt upon his return to Manchester, with United having already confirmed their squad numbers for the upcoming campaign.

Edinson Cavani previously wore the number, and the Uruguay forward made his first appearance of the season against Wolves last time out.

Reports suggested United would seek special dispensation from the Premier League to alter their squad numbers, however, and Ronaldo has now been handed the famous number previously worn by greats such as George Best, Eric Cantona and David Beckham.

In turn, Cavani has taken the number 21 shirt, which was vacated by Daniel James when he completed a move to Leeds United on Tuesday.

He has worn the 21 shirt for Uruguay since 2010-11.

Transfer deadline day has already been a busy one, even if the biggest move of all was one that was expected.

Manchester United, Juventus and West Ham have all made moves, while changes are expected at Arsenal and Tottenham before the window closes.

There is also a good chance of a young France star joining Real Madrid – but it's not Kylian Mbappe.

Here is a round-up of some of the deadline-day deals, and what could be coming...

Ronaldo in, Cavani out?

The biggest deal of the day was concluded early, as Manchester United completed the signing of Cristiano Ronaldo from Juventus for an initial £12.9million (€15m).

The Portugal star dedicated his return to Old Trafford to Alex Ferguson after his two-year contract was announced by the Red Devils.

Ronaldo's arrival has complicated things for Edinson Cavani, though. The striker was convinced to spend another year at the club by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer after impressing last season, but his pre-season was disrupted due to personal reasons and he did not start any of United's first three league games of the season.

There are reports Barcelona are interested in signing Cavani as Ronald Koeman is desperate for another striker, but the Red Devils are expected to resist offers unless they are particularly lucrative. Of course, if Cavani does leave, it would free up the number seven shirt for Ronaldo.

United's business is mostly concluded but Dan James is expected to sign for Leeds United on deadline day for a reported £25m.

Real Madrid close to Camavinga

With Kylian Mbappe apparently not going to get his move in this window, Real Madrid have turned their attentions to Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, who is expected to sign for Carlo Ancelotti's side before the deadline.

With Mbappe staying put at Paris Saint-Germain for now, any dramatic late offer for Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland looks unlikely. BVB have in fact bolstered their squad, signing Marin Pongracic on loan from Wolfsburg.

Kean and Vlasic on the move

Juventus moved quickly to confirm Ronaldo's replacement, announcing a two-year loan with a potential obligation to buy for Everton striker Moise Kean. Kean returns to Turin for an initial €7m (£6m) after having left for the Toffees two years ago.

There was also video footage early on Tuesday of Junior Messias arriving for a medical at Milan, the 30-year-old apparently poised to sign on loan from Crotone.

Croatia international Nikola Vlasic has secured his move to West Ham from CSKA Moscow for a fee said to be worth £25m. His arrival would appear to cast doubt on any further bid from the Hammers for Jesse Lingard, who impressed on loan last season.

Brighton and Hove Albion have also been active, signing Getafe left-back Marc Cucurella – formerly of Barca – after the Seagulls matched his €18m (£15.5m) release clause.

Leicester City are said to be exploring the opportunity to bring in Ademola Lookman on loan from RB Leipzig, while Odsonne Eduoard is close to a move to Crystal Palace from Celtic.

Spurs and Arsenal still active – but will Chelsea spend again?

Tottenham are expected to complete a deal for Barca's Emerson Royal for around £25.8m (€30m). That sale could give Barca just a little leg room when it comes to pursuing the striker Koeman wants.

There are also likely to be changes at Arsenal. With Hector Bellerin tipped to sign for Real Betis on loan, the Gunners are said to be close to signing Takehiro Tomiyasu from Bologna.

Meanwhile, Reiss Nelson could be on the verge of a loan move to Feyenoord, who had agreed to sign Amad Diallo from Manchester United for the rest of the season until the winger suffered a thigh injury.

Chelsea have already spent huge money on Romelu Lukaku, but it remains to be seen whether a loan for Saul Niguez or a permanent deal for Jules Kounde could be concluded.

Luis Suarez will not feature for Uruguay in September's World Cup qualifiers after suffering a knee injury against Villarreal on Sunday.

Suarez started for the first time of the new season for Atletico Madrid and equalised for Diego Simeone's men to record his eighth goal involvement in 13 games against Villarreal.

However, the Atletico forward was forced off 14 minutes later after appearing to have discomfort in his left knee.

Following scans in Spain, Atletico have found a moderate swelling in Suarez's knee and informed Uruguay that the 34-year-old will not be available for the World Cup qualifiers against Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador.

The former Barcelona forward is expected to undergo further treatment throughout the week, though it remains unclear whether he will be fit enough to feature against Espanyol on September 12.

Fortunately for the reigning LaLiga champions, they acquired Matheus Cunha in late August and Angel Correa is in fine form, scoring three in his first three games of 2021-22.

Uruguay, though, have not been so lucky. Suarez's injury further compounds Oscar Tabarez's problems as he is left without two strikers for the qualifiers, Edinson Cavani his other absentee.

Manchester United striker Cavani's absence was confirmed on Monday, too, as Uruguay announced he would not be travelling to South America amid issues over quarantining on his return to the United Kingdom.

Uruguay face Colombia in the Copa America quarter-finals in Brasilia on Saturday buoyed by recent form that could see them challenge for the trophy again.

La Celeste are the most successful side in the competition's history with 15 wins but their last came 10 years ago when they beat Paraguay in the final in Buenos Aires.

Their 2021 campaign began inauspiciously with defeat to Argentina and a draw with Chile, but consecutive wins over Bolivia and Paraguay secured their place in the quarter-finals.

They may only have scored once through Edinson Cavani's first-half penalty, but Oscar Tabarez's men fired in 18 shots in their previous game and 22 in the win over Bolivia. Those are the most they have attempted against South American sides in this competition since they lifted the trophy a decade ago.

Uruguay are also on a run of consecutive victories at the same finals for the first time since 2011 and are beginning to look a far more confident side than the one that scored only once in five competitive games from November 2020 until June 21 this year.

By contrast, Colombia have failed to build on their opening win over Ecuador. A disappointing stalemate with Venezuela was followed by a 2-1 defeat to Peru, before they then lost to Brazil via the same scoreline after a late Casemiro winner settled a controversial clash in Rio de Janeiro.

Their previous meeting with Uruguay at this tournament was in the third-place play-off in 2004, in which they lost 2-1. Prior to that, their last victory over these opponents was in September 1975, when they won the first leg of their semi-final tie 3-0.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Uruguay – Edinson Cavani

With two goals in two games, Cavani is the primary reason Uruguay have reached this stage and he is likely to be pivotal to their hopes of progressing further.

The Manchester United striker needs one goal to make this his most productive Copa America campaign.

Colombia – Yerry Mina

If Colombia are to keep Uruguay's attack quiet, they will need an imperious performance from centre-back Yerry Mina.

The Everton man has won 20 aerial duels at this year's finals, the most of any player.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Uruguay have registered four wins, one draw and one defeat in their previous six meetings with Colombia at the Copa America.
- This will be the second quarter-final meeting between these sides in this competition. The previous clash was in 1993: after a 1-1 draw, Los Cafeteros advanced to the next round on penalties.
- Uruguay have lost only one of their past nine games at the Copa America (W5 D3). They have two consecutive victories, something they have not achieved in the same edition of the tournament since 2011, when they ended up becoming champions.
- Uruguay and Paraguay are the only teams that have not conceded goals in the second half of their matches at this year's Copa America.

Edinson Cavani's 21st-minute penalty lifted Uruguay into second spot in Group A and booked a quarter-final date with Colombia after a 1-0 win over Paraguay at the Copa America on Monday.

In the final group game, Manchester United forward Cavani's goal moved Uruguay up from fourth to second position, avoiding a last-16 meeting with hosts and defending champions Brazil.

Paraguay came into the contest hoping to claim their first Copa win against Uruguay since 1947, with an outside chance of topping Group A, but instead slipped to third and will next face Peru.

To make matters worse for La Albirroja, influential Paraguay midfielder Miguel Almiron limped off, placing his quarter-final availability in doubt.

Uruguay needed to avoid defeat to ensure they would not face Group B winners Brazil in the quarters and started with intent as Cavani headed wide in the third minute, while team-mate Giorgian De Arrascaeta grazed the post moments later.

La Celeste won a penalty following a clumsy challenge from Angel Romero as Cavani emphatically hammered the spot-kick past Paraguay goalkeeper Antony Silva.

Uruguay continued to dominate as Nicolas De La Cruz went on a superb run, beating two opponents, before laying off for Cavani, whose dangerous cutback across goal was cleared by Omar Alderete.

Almiron went off injured on the half-hour mark, before Uruguay thought they had a second via Matias Vecino, although it was disallowed with Cavani offside in the build-up.

Paraguay had a goal disallowed early in the second half too, when an offside Oscar Romero nodded home.

Luis Suarez replaced Cavani in the 68th minute and should have made it 2-0 when he broke clear alongside Rodrigo Bentancur but the pair got their wires crossed.

Edinson Cavani was on target as Uruguay booked their spot in the knockout stages of the Copa America with a 2-0 victory over Bolivia at Arena Pantanal.

After losing their opening match to Argentina, Oscar Tabarez's men drew 1-1 with Chile on matchday two to breathe a bit of life into their campaign, and a first Group A win was enough to seal a place in the last eight. 

They largely struggled in the first half against Cesar Farias' side, yet went in at the break 1-0 up courtesy of an unlucky own goal by Bolivia goalkeeper Carlos Lampe. 

La Celeste dominated the second period and scored a deserved second 11 minutes from time through Cavani, who had earlier missed a host of glorious chances.

Bolivia held their own in the opening stages, with Uruguay reduced to little more than half-chances inside the first 20 minutes.

Cavani had a golden opportunity to break the deadlock midway through the first half, but the Manchester United forward was thwarted by Lampe after struggling to get the ball out of his feet.

Uruguay went ahead five minutes before the interval in fortuitous circumstances, Luis Suarez's low cross diverted into his own net by Lampe after Jairo Quinteros' attempted clearance had crashed against him.

Cavani fired straight at Lampe shortly after the interval when it looked easier to score, while at the other end Fernando Muslera tipped over a powerful strike from Ramiro Vaca. 

Lampe twice denied Suarez before the hour mark – the first seeing him keep out the Atletico Madrid striker's audacious 40-yard half-volley – before the Bolivia keeper pawed over a fierce drive from Rodrigo Bentancur. 

Substitute Facundo Torres missed a glaring opportunity at the back post, but the 21-year-old made amends with a fine low cross which was clinically dispatched by Cavani from 12 yards to wrap up all three points.

Uruguay really should have scored a third deep into stoppage time, yet Maxi Gomez inexplicably skewered wide with the goal at his mercy.

Uruguay face Bolivia in the Copa America on Thursday and need Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez to start producing in attack.

After losing their opening match to Argentina, Oscar Tabarez's men drew 1-1 with Chile on matchday two to breathe a bit of life into their campaign.

The goal was their first since November 2020, yet it came via Chile midfielder Arturo Vidal, who turned into his own net under pressure from Suarez.

Uruguay's problems in attack are clear: they have the lowest shooting accuracy at the Copa America (20 per cent), and the worst shot conversion rate (five per cent).

That is in spite of the fact they boast a strike partnership in Suarez and Cavani who have plundered 114 international goals between them. They have only managed a combined seven shots at these finals, six of which came against Chile.

Uruguay do, at least, have a strong recent record against Bolivia, who have lost to Paraguay and Chile at this tournament and only won one of their past 12 meetings with La Celeste – a qualifier for the 2014 World Cup.

Indeed, Bolivia are on a 10-game winless run in Copa America matches played in Brazil and have not beaten Uruguay at a neutral venue since 1949.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bolivia – Roberto Fernandez

Fernandez belied his inexperience with a strong performance against Chile, making six clearances and four interceptions at left-back, with only two team-mates having more than his 67 touches of the ball.

He could find himself in with a tough battle against Federico Valverde down the Uruguay right.

Uruguay – Facundo Torres

Torres attempted three shots and created two chances against Chile, as many as Cavani managed, despite the 21-year-old only coming on for the final 30 minutes.

This could be a good opportunity for Tabarez to hand the Penarol forward a chance to impress from the start.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Uruguay have lost only one of their past 12 games against Bolivia in all competitions (W8 D3), 1-0 in La Paz in World Cup 2014 qualifying. 
- Uruguay have won 11 of their 13 games against Bolivia at neutral venues (D1 L1). The only win for Bolivia was in 1949, 3-2 in Rio de Janeiro in the Copa America.
- Bolivia have lost their past five games and have failed to win in their previous 10 Copa America matches played in Brazil (D2 L8). They have won only four games in the competition in this country, all of them at the 1949 edition.
- Bolivia have the lowest possession average (31.2 per cent) but the highest forward passes percentage (39.4 per cent of their 597 total passes) at the tournament.
- Uruguay have the lowest shooting accuracy at the Copa America 2021: only the 20 per cent (4/20) of their shots have been on target. They have the lowest shot conversion rate, too (five per cent).

For a period in the build-up to the 1-1 draw between Uruguay and Chile, it was anyone's guess as to whether the game would go ahead or not, with the Chilean ranks appearing to be in chaos.

While the Football Federation of Chile (FFC) accepted a group of unnamed players had broken its COVID-secure bubble by bringing a barber into the team hotel, further allegations refused to go away.

Media reports claimed there was a second breach that revolved around several women being brought into accommodation, and head coach Martin Lasarte was apparently considering resigning over the matter.

It didn't stop there. The Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) is said to have asked CONMEBOL to check security footage from the hotel to see if there was only the one breach, seemingly in the hope of being awarded the three points in the event of major sanctions.

As it was, three of the Chile players allegedly involved were named in the starting XI in Cuiaba, and perhaps it was predictable – in more than one sense – that one of them put La Roja in front.

Eduardo Vargas latched on to Ben Brereton's clever first-touch offload and burst into the right side of the penalty area. Having noticed he had no one else in support, the Atletico Mineiro forward lashed a right-footed striker beyond Fernando Muslera and into the top-left corner.

Vargas wheeled away and, just before sharing a strong embrace with Chile's unlikely new hero Brereton, the goalscorer made a 'talking' gesture with his hand, presumably showing his disapproval of the chatter surrounding he and his team-mates in the last few days.

In converting, Vargas moved above the likes of Gabriel Batistuta in the Copa America's all-time leading scorers rankings, going joint-fifth with Paolo Guerrero on 14 – the record, shared by Norberto Mendez and Zizinho with 17, is certainly within his reach.

Vargas' need to be withdrawn could play a role in that regard, however, as the 31-year-old went off just before the hour clutching the back of his thigh.

Nevertheless, his job was done to a certain extent, Vargas' goal a devastating show of clinical finishing that Uruguay just haven't seen in recent times – and not just in the Copa America.

La Celeste went into the game without scoring in their previous four games, a run that stretched back to November when Darwin Nunez netted the last in a 3-0 win over Colombia.

They were especially toothless in attack – despite the presence of talismanic duo Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani – in their first match against Argentina, their 0.1 xG (expected goals) a tournament-low figure only previously achieved by Venezuela (against Brazil and Colombia) in this year's competition.

In fact, at the halfway point on Monday, Suarez and Cavani had only managed one shot on target between them in 135 minutes of Copa football – that solitary accurate attempt coming in the first half in Cuiaba as Claudio Bravo made a necessary, albeit expected, block to deny the Atletico Madrid man.

Of course, a key nuance to the struggles of Uruguay's front two would be that the service to them had been underwhelming – so much so that Suarez appeared determined to try and take matters into his own hands as a cross forced the Chile defence into action just before the break, while he also played a match-high three key passes over the course of the 90 minutes.

It arguably wasn't until the inexperienced Facundo Torres – making just his fourth appearance for Uruguay – came on in the 60th minute that La Celeste started to look genuinely lively in attack, though.

The 21-year-old quickly saw a rasping volley tipped wide by Bravo, and his lovely delivery from the resulting corner was flicked on by Matias Vecino, and the ball subsequently found its way in via a combination of Suarez and Vidal, who was ultimately credited with the own goal.

While further chances came and went at either end, a stalemate felt a fitting end to a match largely lacking in real quality.

But such situations are surely a by-product of the tournament's jeopardy-sapping format, with all but two of the 10 teams involved across the two groups set to reach the quarter-finals.

 

For those in Group A, it's a case of 'do better than Bolivia and you're through' – over the course of their four games, it would be a major shock if either Uruguay were to fail in that regard, while the point here sealed Chile's route through to the next round.

The main thing here for Uruguay was to finally get a goal on the board, even if it was given to Vidal, as it should provide something of a boost to their mentality, especially after significant criticism in the wake of that defeat to Argentina.

As such, it was all hugs and smiles between the two teams at full-time, with Chile and Uruguay well aware that dropping points here won't permanently burst their Copa bubble.

Uruguay will need to end a barren run in front of goal if they are to topple unbeaten Chile in Copa America Group A on Monday. 

La Celeste fell 1-0 to Argentina on Friday in their tournament opener, marking the fourth consecutive game in which Uruguay were unable to find the back of the net dating back to November. 

Oscar Tabarez's side will need more from the seasoned attacking duo of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, who each played a relatively quiet 90 minutes against their rivals. 

Uruguay did not manage to put a shot on goal despite having the majority of the possession, and will need a better effort against a confident Chile side. 

But Tabarez believes his side has time to figure things out in the remaining group-stage matches against Chile, Paraguay and Bolivia.  

"Our championship will be played in the next three games, where we aspire to qualify," said Uruguay's legendary head coach. "We must do what is necessary to get to the next phase."

While Uruguay struggle to find their footing, La Roja are joint leaders in the group with Argentina after their 1-0 defeat of Bolivia on Friday on the heels of an opening 1-1 draw against La Albiceleste.

Chile could have had far more against Bolivia, as they put 11 shots on goal, but La Roja have to be pleased with their form under new head coach Martin Lasarte. 

The Montevideo-born Lasarte is unbeaten in five matches (2W, 3D) since being appointed in February. 

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Uruguay – Edinson Cavani

After missing the previous two games through suspension, the 34-year-old believed he had won a penalty in the 27th minute against Argentina before the referee waved off his appeal. Cavani had the lone goal in a 1-0 win against Chile in their 2019 Copa America group-stage meeting. 

Chile – Ben Brereton

The England-born striker, whose mother is Chilean, made his international debut in the tournament-opening draw with Argentina and scored in the 10th minute of La Roja's 1-0 defeat of Bolivia on Friday. 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Uruguay and Chile have not drawn in the last eight official matches they have played: five wins for Uruguay and three for Chile.

- Uruguay have won three of their last four official matches against the Chile (L1). Uruguay have not lost against Chile since November 2016 (1-3).

- Chile have scored in their last nine games in all competitions (W3 D4 L2). The last time La Roja failed to score was in a 0-0 draw against Colombia in a friendly game on October 2019.

- Uruguay will try to record their first shot on target in the competition after failing to register one in their opening fixture against Argentina.

- Chile's Mauricio Isla is, along with Nicolas Otamendi (Argentina), the leader of the competition in terms of ball interceptions (six each).

There are aspects to the Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez of 2021 that make them wonderfully reflective of the Uruguay national team.

Impassioned? Yes. Belligerent? Certainly. A footballing pedigree to rival the best in the world? Absolutely.

What about quality? After all those years, are they still match-winners, entertainers, undimmed by the passing of time? Of course they are. Just ask Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona.

Last August, Suarez was informed by new Barca coach Ronald Koeman that he would not be in his plans at Camp Nou. Too old to be relied upon, too expensive to bench seemed to be the feeling. Regardless, the Catalans reportedly had a list of teams to whom they would not sell Suarez for fear of the deal coming back to haunt them, a list that, apparently, inexplicably, did not include Atletico Madrid. He duly went to the capital on a two-year deal.

Likewise, Cavani seemed to be offloaded all too readily by PSG, who had just lost the Champions League final to Bayern Munich and appeared eager to freshen things up without their record goalscorer. Manchester United were, eventually, the team to gamble on the striker, who joined on a one-year deal with an option for another in October, by which time the Red Devils had failed to sign top target Jadon Sancho and been linked with several other alternatives.

Both players, then, had a point to prove. Boy, did they prove it.

 

Suarez scored twice and set up another on his LaLiga debut for Atleti in a 6-1 win over Granada in September. He then scored three times for Uruguay in the October international break, and again in the 3-0 win at Colombia in November.

From December 19 to February 8, Suarez scored 11 goals in nine league games, including three braces in a run of four matches. He would end the season with winners against Osasuna and Real Valladolid, his 21 goals overall securing 21 points for Atleti throughout the campaign, the most of any player in the competition. And, of course, he won the title, for the fifth time in seven seasons.

Not that such a contribution should really have been in doubt. While he may no longer be quite the all-round dynamo of his Liverpool and early Barca days, his ruthlessness in the opposition box has scarcely diminished; since 2011-12, only Lionel Messi (492) and Cristiano Ronaldo (411) have been directly involved in more goals in Europe's top five leagues than Suarez (325).

 

Unlike his international team-mate, Cavani ended the club season empty-handed, despite scoring United's goal in the Europa League final with Villarreal, which they lost on penalties. Still, few could argue Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's decision to sign him was a mistake.

Cavani did not play a full league game until December 29, and he served a three-game domestic ban for a social media post deemed racist by the Football Association, a decision decried as culturally insensitive in Uruguay. He still ended 2020-21 with 17 goals and five assists at a rate of one goal every 128 minutes, the best return of any United player. He also became the third Red Devil to score 10 or more Premier League goals in a single season in which he was 33 or older at the start (also Teddy Sheringham in 2000-01 and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2016-17), and he equalled the record of five substitute goals over a whole campaign held by Javier Hernandez (2010-11) and Solskjaer (1998-99).

In the Europa League last-four tie against Roma, Cavani became the first player to score at least twice in each leg of a major European semi-final since 1986, when Klaus Allofs did so for Cologne against KSV Waregem. He was also the oldest player to score twice and assist twice in a Champions League or Europa League match, at 34 years and 74 days old. No wonder Solskjaer was so desperate to see him accept the one-year extension to his contract, and was presumably so relieved when he did.

Cavani and Suarez finished 2020-21 on 22 and 24 direct goal involvements, respectively. Among South America players, only Messi (50), Luis Muriel (36), Duvan Zapata  (31), Lautaro Martinez (26) and Neymar (25) had more.

 

So they come, then, to the Copa America, as two of the remaining members of that squad that lifted the trophy in 2011. They have the form, and undoubtedly the pedigree; they are Uruguay's all-time leading goalscorers, Suarez on 63 and Cavani 51.

And yet Uruguay are often consigned to the also-rans when it comes to tournament predictions. While they have waited a decade to lift the trophy, they are the most successful team in the competition's history, with the most appearances (45) and titles (15), yet few will look beyond emergency hosts Brazil and Argentina as favourites or Chile and Colombia as outside bets.

Perhaps the problem lies in a perception of bluntness around Uruguay's play, far removed from the ideals of jogo bonito. Despite holding the most Copa America titles, Uruguay boast a worse goal-per-game average (2.02) at the tournament than Argentina or Brazil; somewhat fittingly, their last triumph a decade ago came in the worst finals for goalscoring (54 in 26, or 2.08 per match) since 1922 (22 in 11, or 2.00 per match). Oscar Tabarez's men have also gone three games without a goal since a 3-0 win over Colombia last November.

If only they had a couple of star strikers who have spent the past year defying the doubters...

Before every major tournament, eyes are trained on the next generation of stars set to take the football world by storm.

This year's rescheduled Copa America is no different with the likes of Ecuador midfielder Moises Caicedo, Brazil right-back Emerson Royal and Colombia forward Jaminton Campaz on the scene.

But there is still no changing of the guard as Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, among others, continue to dominate on the international stage.

Stats Perform looks at six players above the age of 30 and their eye-catching numbers heading into the 47th edition of the Copa America.

 

Lionel Messi, 33, Argentina

Messi enters the showpiece South American tournament on the back of another impressive club campaign. With 30 league goals in 2020-21, Barcelona superstar Messi has now recorded 25-plus goals in each his past 12 league seasons. Craving senior international silverware with La Albiceleste following runners-up appearances at the Copa America in 2007, 2015 and 2016 and the World Cup in 2014, Messi scored 11 LaLiga goals direct following a ball carry last season – the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues. Following a third-placed finish in 2019, Messi – the country's all-time leading scorer with 72 goals, while only Javier Mascherano (147) has earned more caps than the six-time Ballon d'Or winner (144) – will be hoping this year's tournament delivers that much-coveted international prize. Argentina are in Group A alongside matchday one opponents Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Luis Suarez, 34, Uruguay

Suarez upstaged close friend Messi in 2020-21 after swapping Barca for Atletico Madrid. Having been forced out of Camp Nou amid concerns his best years were behind him, veteran forward Suarez found vindication and the ultimate revenge by leading to Atletico Madrid to LaLiga glory. His 21 goals were worth 21 points last season – the most of any player in the competition. Since 2011-12, only Messi (492) and Cristiano Ronaldo (411) have been directly involved in more goals in Europe's top-five leagues than Suarez (325 – 233 goals and 92 assists). Uruguay's all-time leading goalscorer (63), Suarez is far from a spent force as Oscar Tabarez's side – who are scheduled to open their campaign against Argentina – fight to win a first Copa America crown since 2011. Suarez has been directly involved in nine goals in 10 games at the Copa America (six goals and three assists).

Edinson Cavani, 34, Uruguay

Cavani and Suarez are the face of a generation that delivered the 2011 title, finished fourth at the 2010 World Cup and reached the quarter-finals at Russia 2018. Cavani joined Manchester United on a free transfer from Paris Saint-Germain at the beginning of 2020-21 and made an immediate impact at Old Trafford, finishing the season with 10 Premier League goals and 17 across all competitions – his minutes per goal ratio both in the Premier League and in all competitions the best among his team-mates (137 and 128). In the Europa League final loss to Villarreal, Cavani became just the third player aged 34 or above to score in a major European decider for an English club, after Gary McAllister (36) for Liverpool in the UEFA Cup final against Deportivo Alaves in 2000-01 and Didier Drogba (34) for Chelsea in the Champions League final versus Bayern Munich in 2011-12. Only Suarez has scored more goals for Uruguay than Cavani (51 in 118 appearances), who earned a new deal in Manchester.

Alexis Sanchez, 32, Chile

Sanchez's club career had been on a steep decline since he left Arsenal for Premier League rivals United in 2018. But the Chile star has enjoyed success at Inter. Although a squad player under former Nerazzurri coach Antonio Conte, Sanchez – who joined Inter permanently last year – scored seven goals and supplied five assists in just 12 starts last term. An option in place of regular starting duo Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, Sanchez ranked better in shooting accuracy excluding blocks (69.6 per cent), passing accuracy (80.0), passing accuracy ending in the final third (73.5) and dribbled success rate (60.0) than both men. His big chance conversion rate (50.0) was only second to Lukaku, likewise his shot conversion rate (24.1). At international level, there is no disputing his role for Chile after leading La Roja to Copa America success in 2015 and 2016. Chile's most capped player (138) and leading goalscorer (46), Sanchez will once again carry the weight of his country this month.

Marcelo Martins, 33, Bolivia

The heart and soul of a nation? Look no further than Martins. The iconic forward stands alone as Bolivia's record holder for goals (25 in 83 appearances). Of those, 18 have come in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, also making Martins Bolivia's top scorer in that competition. Currently playing his football for Cruzeiro in Brazil, Martins scored three goals in the two qualifiers immediately prior to the Copa America, helping his side to earn four points. With their talisman leading the line, Bolivia – who won their only Copa America title on home soil in 1963 and lost the final when they hosted again in 1997 – are seeking to advance from the group stage for the first time since 2015. They start against Paraguay.

Paolo Guerrero, 37, Peru

Like Martins in Bolivia, Guerrero epitomises Peruvian football. The success of Peru has long been linked to the striker, who is in the history books for the most goals (38) for La Blanquirroja. Having debuted in 2004, this will be the captain's sixth Copa America appearance, having guided two-time winners Peru to third place in the 2011 and 2015 editions before securing a runners-up medal in 2019 – finishing as top scorer in all three of those tournaments. Guerrero is now the leading Copa America scorer in among active players (14) and only three shy of the all-time record (Norberto Mendez and Zizinho, both 17). While in the twilight of his career, Ricardo Gareca and Peru – who will come up against Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela – will be leaning on his experience across the border in Brazil.

Thiago Silva, 36, Brazil

There were some doubts about Silva's suitability to the Premier League when he saw out his PSG contract and opted to test himself with Chelsea. But the star centre-back did not look out of place in England, despite his advancing years, ending the campaign as a Champions League winner for the first time in his career. In all competitions in 2020-21, Silva led Chelsea in passing accuracy (93.0 per cent). He became Chelsea's oldest player (36 years and 249 days) to appear in a major European final, overtaking Claude Makelele against United in the 2008 Champions League decider (35 years and 93 days) as the Blues trumped Manchester City in Porto. The Selecao captain now turns his attention to Brazil's bid to claim back-to-back Copa America trophies. They have won five of the past nine.

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