Coming off the 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Catalonia earlier this week, Jamaica has named a 20-man squad to take on Suriname and Mexico in the CONCACAF Nations League starting on June 4.

The squad sees the return of striker Shamar Nicholson, who has made himself available after his self-imposed hiatus from the national programme, as he attempted to bed in with Spartak Moscow in Russia. The oft-injured Leon Bailey has also been recalled after spending much of the recent Premier League season on the Aston Villa injury list.

The remainder of the squad includes Andre Blake, Damion Lowe, Richard King, Javain Brown, Devon Williams, Ravel Morrison, Tyreek Magee, Leon Bailey, Rolando Aarons, Amarii Bell, Jamoi Topey, Kaheem Parris, Junior Flemmings, Jamal Lowe, Amal Knight, Atapharoy Bygrave, Daniel Green, Oquassa Chong and Kenroy Campbell.

Notably absent is West Ham’s Michail Antonio, who was among Jamaica’s leading scorers in the shambolic World Cup qualifiers.

Following the June 4 encounter, the Reggae Boyz return to Jamaica a day later before tackling Suriname at the National Stadium on June 7 at 8pm. Jamaica returns to action on June 14 when they play Mexico at the National Stadium in Kingston.

Trent Alexander-Arnold has been impressed by Vinicius Junior in Real Madrid's run to the Champions League final, but says Liverpool have a plan to deal with the Brazilian.

Vinicius has been directly involved in 37 goals for Madrid in all competitions this season, a tally that includes three goals and six assists in the Champions League.

With those nine goal contributions, Vinicius is one short of becoming the first South American player 21 or under to be involved in 10 or more since Lionel Messi in the 2008-09 campaign.

While it may be Karim Benzema who is at the centre of much of the pre-match focus in Paris, Alexander-Arnold will be tasked with dealing directly with Vinicius down Madrid's left.

Asked ahead of Saturday's showpiece at the Stade de France how he intends to go about stopping Vinicius, Alexander-Arnold said: "You expect to come up against the best.

"There will be battles all over the pitch; we have game plans for everyone we face.

"As for Vinicius, he's an exciting player to watch, but we have a job to do as a collective and as individuals. There are individual battles, but it's the team that wins."

Alexander-Arnold is set to start his third Champions League final, which would see him surpass the record for the youngest to do so, held by Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller (23y, 245d). Alexander-Arnold will be 23 years and 233 days old on Saturday.

The England international has started 46 games for Liverpool this season – only Virgil van Dijk (50) and Alisson (53) have been used from the beginning more often.

 

 

The most recent of Alexander-Arnold's starts came in last Sunday's 3-1 win against Wolves, which was not enough to prevent Manchester City from pipping the Reds to the Premier League title.

Despite the dream of a quadruple being ended, Alexander-Arnold insists that loss will not linger over Liverpool in the French capital.

"Not at all. We've put that behind us," he said. "We have the experience this season to focus on the competition we have ahead of us.

"For us, we've found it useful to ignore other competitions. Whatever has happened before last week, yes it was disappointing and hard to take, but you put it behind you.

"We have a Champions League final to prepare for and what better way to make up for it by coming to Paris and an amazing venue to win the best competition in the world."

Andy Robertson will almost certainly be selected on the opposite flank to Alexander-Arnold, with the left-back himself playing a huge part in the Reds' latest European run.

Liverpool are playing their 63rd game of the season – no side in Europe's top five leagues will have played more – having gone all the way in winning the FA Cup and EFL Cup.

Indeed, the last side from across the Premier League, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Serie A and Bundesliga to play more times in all competitions were Manchester United in 2016-17 (64 games).

Madrid have played 55 matches, meanwhile, and sealed the LaLiga title with four matches to spare, allowing Carlo Ancelotti to heavily rotate in recent weeks.

But Robertson is adamant that fatigue will not be an issue for his side against the Spanish champions.

"They've obviously had a bit more relaxed preparation and wrapped up their league two or three weeks ago," Robertson said.

"They've maybe not played as many games and at a high tempo. We knew how hard our run was going to be on our bodies, but we're in the best possible shape.

"We've come through a lot and yes we've had injuries and problems, but the lads are fully fit. It's important we take the competitive nature of a tough season into the last game.

"Real have had a fantastic season winning the league and being in incredible games in the Champions League, they've been a joy to watch.

"We have to stand in their way. Our fans demand a lot this season and we want to win it for them."

Rafael Leao expressed his excitement over speculation of interest from Real Madrid, but the Milan forward assured his "feet will remain firmly on the ground".

The Portugal international has starred for Milan since joining from Lille in 2019 and played an integral role as Stefano Pioli's side secured their first Scudetto in 11 years.

Leao scored 11 times and assisted eight in 34 Serie A appearances over the 2021-22 season, setting up two goals in the final-day 3-0 win over Sassuolo that sealed the title.

No Milan player outscored him – Olivier Giroud also scored 11 league goals – or recorded more assisted for the Rossoneri this term.

Leao regularly tormented Serie A defences with his powerful runs down the left flank, with only Adama Traore (107), Kylian Mbappe (112) and Allan Saint-Maximin (150) completing more dribbles than him (98) across Europe's top five leagues.

The form of Pioli's key man has led to reports Madrid are interested after missing out on Paris Saint-Germain's Mbappe, but Leao insists he is focusing on life with the Rossoneri.

"I'm at Milan, I have another two years on my contract," he told A Bola. "Untouchable? I'm happy with these words. I feel at home, but right now my focus is on the national team.

"[The rumours about Real Madrid] make me happy, but my feet are firmly on the ground. It is a pride to work with highly experienced players. 

"As for my development, I left Sporting [CP] when I was young and went to Lille. People may not know it, but Ligue 1 is a strong league, I have evolved."

Leao will now target World Cup success with Portugal in Qatar as he looks to partner fellow Sporting academy graduate Cristiano Ronaldo.

"Two years have not gone as I would have liked, but now I am more mature and confident, the season has gone as I wanted," he added.

"I hope to do great things in the future. I want to be a point of reference in my club and in the national team… the highest point is, for example, winning a World Cup."

Meanwhile, Milan technical director Paolo Maldini insists Leao will never be put up for sale by the Rossoneri.

"Of course he is not for sale," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "He is still a rough diamond who from one year to the next has already improved so much.

"We signed him from Lille for €24million and immediately put a €150m release clause on him, because we believed so much in this player.

"He was always potentially a great champion, but he needs to continue this growth process that he is only part-way through.

"He is extremely intelligent but needed to be helped along the way and I spoke to him a lot.

"Clearly, if in future Milan are not at the level of Leao or if Leao is not at the level of Milan, things could change. But at this moment, the growth is exponential for both the club and the player."

Jurgen Klopp said he "couldn't care less" about rumours linking Sadio Mane to Bayern Munich ahead of Liverpool's Champions League final against Real Madrid.

The Liverpool manager could be poised to lose one of the most significant players in his squad at the end of the season.

Mane said earlier in the week that he would give "special" news regarding his future after the European showpiece game in Paris.

That and his suggestion it would be "the best answer" sparked speculation he would agree to stay at Liverpool, but it may not be quite so clear-cut, with Klopp having palmed away questions on Friday rather than offered any assurance that the 30-year-old will remain at Anfield.

"This is the wrong moment to speak about that. Wherever Sadio plays next season, he will be a big player," Klopp said.

Bayern raided Borussia Dortmund for talent during Klopp's time with BVB in the Bundesliga, with Robert Lewandowski notably prised away on a free transfer at the end of the 2013-14 season.

With Lewandowski's Bayern future now in doubt, as he seeks a move, possibly to Barcelona, the Bundesliga champions are on the hunt for a goalscorer.

Klopp said: "Sadio's in the shape of his life for sure. He's in brilliant shape. It's a joy to watch him at the moment.

"Football has asked him a lot this season – an incredibly long season, a lot of finals and this kind of things, one of the most successful for him and for us.

"The Bayern Munich rumours, I couldn't care less in the moment. We are all fully focused on the game. Sadio's completely focused on the game; he knows exactly how important it is to him and how important it is to us.

"So no concerns, completely normal."

Klopp said he could cope with the speculation surrounding Mane, who has helped Liverpool win the EFL Cup and FA Cup already this season.

The forward has played 50 clubs games this term, scoring 23 goals, as well as helping Senegal reach the Africa Cup of Nations final, scoring the penalty that clinched shoot-out success.

"It's not the first time in my career before decisive games that Bayern Munich rumours come up," Klopp said.

"I'm not exactly [sure] what I did that [means] it happens, but no problem at all."

Tammy Abraham has been joined in the Europa Conference League team of the season by Roma team-mate Lorenzo Pellegrini, who was named the player of the season.

Roma claimed their first UEFA trophy on Wednesday with a 1-0 win over Feyenoord in the inaugural Conference League final.

Nicolo Zaniolo grabbed the decisive goal for the Giallorossi, but his attacking colleagues were preferred in a best XI named on Friday.

Leading scorer Abraham and captain Pellegrini were among four Roma players recognised, with goalkeeper Rui Patricio and centre-back Chris Smalling also included after inspired performances against Feyenoord.

Italy midfielder Pellegrini scooped the top individual award, but Feyenoord were also well represented, including young player of the year honours for Luis Sinisterra.

Sinisterra registered 10 goal involvements (six goals and four assists) throughout the tournament, second only to team-mate and top marksman Cyriel Dessers (11 involvements), whose 10 goals made him the sole man to beat Abraham's tally of nine.

Both Feyenoord forwards made the cut for the team selection, alongside defenders Lutsharel Geertruida, Gernot Trauner and Tyrell Malacia.

Dimitri Payet was also included, as well as sealing the goal of the season award for his sweetly struck effort against PAOK in Marseille's quarter-final.

 

Europa Conference League team of the season: Rui Patricio (Roma); Lutsharel Geertruida (Feyenoord), Chris Smalling (Roma), Gernot Trauner (Feyenoord), Tyrell Malacia (Feyenoord); Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Dimitri Payet (Marseille), Kiernan Dewsbury-Hall (Leicester City), Luis Sinisterra (Feyenoord); Cyriel Dessers (Feyenoord), Tammy Abraham (Roma).

Kylian Mbappe is already the best player in France and can continue to make history after signing his new contract with Paris Saint-Germain, according to Ronaldinho.

Last week, Mbappe agreed a new three-year deal with the Ligue 1 champions, rejecting Real Madrid's public advances in a huge transfer blow to the Champions League finalists.

The World Cup-winning forward scored 39 goals and added 21 assists during a remarkable individual season with PSG, as Mauricio Pochettino's team secured a10th league title in the club's history.

The 23-year-old is already the second-highest Ligue 1 goalscorer in PSG history, scoring 171 goals in 217 league outings for the Parisian giants – only Edinson Cavani (200 goals in 301 games) has more.

Former PSG star Ronaldinho, who scored 25 goals in two seasons with the club before departing for Barcelona in 2003, says Mbappe is already out-shining team-mates Lionel Messi and Neymar.

However, Ronaldinho also insisted PSG would have been able to cope had the France star left for Madrid, highlighting the quality of his team-mates.

"Right now, of the future... he's a player that could be part of history," he told Mail Online. "He deserves all the respect he's getting. He is making history and can continue to create happiness for us in this game.

"Today he is the best player for PSG. If he left to go anywhere else, it would only be to have the chance to be the best player in another country. He's already the best in France.

"Paris Saint-Germain has some of the best players in the world right now – Messi, Neymar, Sergio Ramos. 

"Some of the best players in the world are in this team. So, if one of the best players in the world leaves, other top players will continue in their place."

 

Meanwhile, Ronaldinho's former Barcelona team-mate Messi endured a mixed first season in France, recording 11 goals and 14 assists in all competitions but being jeered by his own fans in the aftermath of March's Champions League defeat to Madrid.

However, Ronaldinho insists the Argentine is happy in Paris, highlighting his 2021 Ballon d'Or win as evidence of his continued quality.

The former Camp Nou star also insists Barcelona will recover from Messi's departure and return to the top of the game under Xavi's management, backing the Blaugrana boss to create another "beautiful" team.

'If my friend is happy, it's the right decision, and I believe he is very happy," Ronaldinho said of Messi. "He is going through a period of adapting, but he's already been voted the best player in the world.

"People said they were surprised when I left Barcelona and when Messi left. But Barcelona continues to be Barcelona. 

"Things change in football, naturally. Now the club's hierarchy needs to bring in new players with talent to continue being successful.

"They already have a great coach who has a foundation in the history of the club. So, the club can begin it's rebuild with this manager to create a beautiful team. They need to now give the manager the opportunity to build a great team.

"It won't be easy. They need a bit more time to build a side that is based around the best players. But I think players are happy to be playing for one of the best teams in the world."

Borussia Dortmund have completed the signing of Manchester City youngster Jayden Braaf on a free transfer as the Bundesliga side's recruitment drive continues.

Braaf announced on Thursday that he would leave City, where he was offered limited first-team chances after joining from the PSV youth academy in 2018.

The 19-year-old was previously linked to a move to Dortmund in 2020 but ended up joining Udinese on loan, scoring once in four appearances before a knee ligament injury ruled him out for a year.

Dortmund confirmed on Friday that they have captured the promising winger on a three-year deal, Braaf following in the footsteps of Jadon Sancho and Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, who traded City for the Bundesliga side.

Braaf's arrival marks another new addition for Dortmund, who signed Karim Adeyemi to help replace the City-bound Erling Haaland, while also bringing in Niklas Sule, Nico Schlotterbeck and Salih Ozcan.

"Jayden, whose development we have been following closely for years, has shown in the past that he can be a difference player with his pace and talent," soon-to-be sporting director Sebastian Kehl said.

"After more than a year out through injury, he will certainly need time to regain his former strength and fully establish himself in men's football. 

"We want to give him this time and gently introduce him. If Jayden masters the phase ahead of him and stays clear, we have a great talent on board in him."

Dortmund, who appointed Edin Terzic as Marco Rose's successor for the next term, have also signed Alexander Meyer on a two-year contract from 2. Bundesliga side SSV Jahn Regensburg on a free transfer.

Meyer is expected to be the second-choice goalkeeper behind Gregor Kobel following the departures of Marwin Hitz and Roman Burki.

"Alexander Meyer convinced us both in terms of sport and personality. In him, we get a very experienced goalkeeper who exudes calmness and has shown in recent years as a regular keeper in Regensburg that he has high quality," Kehl said. 

"He was undoubtedly one of the strongest goalkeepers in the 2nd Bundesliga in recent years.

Meyer added: "When a club like BVB calls, I don't have to think twice. From a sporting point of view, they're an absolute top team, and there's no need to talk about the atmosphere in the stadium. 

"Just thinking about the Yellow Wall gives me goosebumps. I'm really looking forward to the new task and also to being part of the BVB family."

Leon Goretzka says Germany are not setting any firm World Cup targets after two disappointing tournaments, but hopes Die Mannschaft can "make a good impression" in their upcoming UEFA Nations League games ahead of their trip to Qatar.

The Bayern Munich midfielder has won 41 caps for his country, scoring 14 goals, but has enjoyed limited tournament success with the national team, featuring in underwhelming campaigns at the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020.

Germany crashed out in the group stages in Russia in 2018 before being eliminated by England in the last 16 at the Euros last year, also missing out on qualifying for the Nations League semi-finals in 2020-21.

Goretzka, who missed Germany's 2014 World Cup triumph after suffering an injury in a pre-tournament friendly, recalled those negative experiences as he insisted Hansi Flick's side had yet to set any targets for their trip to Qatar.

Asked by Sky Sports Germany whether winning the tournament was a realistic aim, the 27-year-old said: "Answering the question doesn't do us much good. 

"We'll play our Nations League games first and see that we make a good impression and can go to the World Cup free. 

"I've already taken part in tournaments where we were considered one of the favourites and we failed quite a bit. Then there were tournaments where nobody expected us [to perform well] and we won. 

"Basically, we are an absolute footballing nation with great successes in the past, and accordingly we have our expectations in such a competition."

Germany have been drawn into a tricky Group E for the tournament, alongside Japan, Costa Rica or New Zealand, and Spain, having lost their last meeting with La Roja 6-0 in November 2020.

Before that, Flick's side face several tough Nations League fixtures, including a home clash with England and a double-header against European champions Italy, and Goretzka believes those contests will provide Germany with a real test after Flick won eight of his first nine games at the helm. 

"The opponents we have now are much more important," he added. "These are top games at the very highest level.

"We haven't had one under Hansi yet, so [with] many games against top opponents, which is why we made a good impression. Now we can prove that at another level, higher up."

Meanwhile, at club level, Goretzka endured an injury-hit campaign with Bayern, making just 19 league appearances as Julian Nagelsmann's men won the Bundesliga title, fewer than fellow midfielders Marcel Sabitzer (25), Joshua Kimmich (28), and Jamal Musiala (30).

Despite their domestic dominance, the midfielder said Bayern's Champions League quarter-final exit against Villarreal meant the team's season "wasn't satisfactory", and is targeting better things next term.

"We have a lot of things to improve. We played a pretty good, if not excellent, first half of the season. We were in the flow then," he added.

"You can't say that about the second half of the season. We weren't up to par in the important games - that wasn't Bayern-like. Getting kicked out in the Champions League hasn't happened to us against such an opponent in recent years. 

"That's why this season overall wasn't satisfactory, but that's what makes many in the club extremely motivated to do better next year."

Harry Kane is hoping to break Wayne Rooney's England goalscoring record at the World Cup later this year, as he looks to help the Three Lions improve on their 2018 semi-final appearance.

Kane has scored 49 goals in 69 appearances for England after moving level with Bobby Charlton's international tally in a 2-1 friendly win over Switzerland at Wembley in March.

The Tottenham striker is now just four goals behind Rooney's Three Lions record, despite playing 50 international games fewer than the Manchester United legend.

Indeed, Kane has averaged 0.71 goals per game for his country, compared to Rooney's 0.45, and it looks to be a matter of time before Gareth Southgate's captain establishes himself as the greatest goalscorer in the national team's history.

Kane also enjoyed a successful season at club level, registering 17 goals and nine assists in the Premier League to help Antonio Conte's Spurs to Champions League qualification.

 

Speaking on The Tonight Show, the Spurs talisman expressed his excitement for England to build on their 2018 World Cup semi-final loss to Croatia, as he targeted breaking Rooney's record in Qatar.

"I'm excited," Kane told host Jimmy Fallon. "In the last World Cup we got to the semi-finals, which was the furthest we've gone in the tournament for 30 years.

"The country was going mad, but we fell just that one step short. I'm looking forward to this one as we've got a really good coach and a really good team. 

"We've been building nicely to this World Cup, and hopefully I can break the goal record while we're there."

Kane could even break the record before the tournament, with England facing four Nations League contests next month, including clashes with Germany and Euro 2020 final conquerors Italy.

The 28-year-old scored six goals as England progressed to the final four of the last World Cup in Russia, and a repeat performance would also see him become his country's record goalscorer at the competition, with Gary Lineker having scored 10 goals across the 1986 and 1990 tournaments.

Mauricio Pochettino is "100 per cent" committed to Paris Saint-Germain and does not believe his future at the club will be decided by his relationship with Kylian Mbappe.

Both Pochettino and Mbappe have been the subject of speculation for much of this season.

But while the superstar forward has signed a new contract in Paris, snubbing Real Madrid, it is unclear how that development impacts his coach.

Pressure has been building on Pochettino since PSG again failed to win the Champions League, losing to Madrid in the last 16 despite Mbappe scoring in both legs.

Given reports suggest Mbappe has been given a significant say in the running of the club as part of his new deal, it would appear crucial Pochettino keeps the World Cup winner onside.

But in an interview with COPE, the former Tottenham boss seemed confident he would be given the opportunity to prove his worth at the Parc des Princes regardless.

"I have said I am 100 per cent here. Today I tell you I am 100 per cent here," Pochettino said.

"I have one more year of contract. The challenges are there and it motivates any coach.

"I don't think [the relationship with Mbappe is decisive]. I will be judged by the work. We have won all the titles that previous coaches have won. That is earned regularly, and you have to give it value. This league is not easy."

Asked if he wanted to keep his job, Pochettino added: "Of course, 100 per cent. It's a club that has ambition. The big disappointment is the Champions League because of the desire of the people."

Kylian Mbappe remains at the centre of a disagreement between French and Spanish footballing bodies after snubbing Real Madrid to stay at Paris Saint-Germain.

Mbappe, long linked with Madrid, announced last week he would be signing a new contract in Paris rather than joining the Champions League finalists as a free agent.

LaLiga chief Javier Tebas swiftly responded to the news by claiming it to be "an insult to football".

Those comments have unsurprisingly prompted replies from France, firstly from LFP president Vincent Labrune, whose letter to Tebas was reported on Thursday.

Labrune questioned "your latest attacks against Ligue 1 and one of our clubs", believing his counterpart's behaviour to be "completely inappropriate".

And that is a view shared by the UNFP, the French players' union, which released a statement also directed at Tebas later on Thursday.

"We can hear and understand the disappointment of people from Madrid and their compatriots, even knowing, especially in the world of football, that you don't win every time and that it is possible to say 'no' to Real Madrid, even for a third time," said the body on its website.

"But demonstrating to the point of incomprehension does not justify disrespecting the player, his club and all of French football in this way, unless we call into question the freedom for a footballer to sign a contract with the club of his choice?

"The arrogance of the remarks made is shocking and there is no need here to reply to our Spanish friends that they have hardly any lessons to give to French football in terms of financial management, protectionism and equality...

"Once again, the most enraged is Javier Tebas who, when it comes to PSG, forgets to turn his tongue in his mouth seven times before speaking.

"And his offensive, hateful remarks, without restraint or foundation, bring shame and discredit to him, especially with regard to his position.

"In the heart of the 70s, Jeannette sang 'Porque te vas?' ['Why must you leave?']. But Kylian Mbappe will not leave, no offence to the president of the Spanish league...

"So 'Porque Tebas?' asks the UNFP..."

Napoli announced two signings on Thursday, confirming midfielder Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa from Fulham on a permanent deal and the arrival of Mathias Olivera from Getafe.

The Cameroon international spent this season on loan at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona, and Napoli have taken up the option to make the move permanent for an undisclosed fee.

Zambo Anguissa joined Fulham from Marseille in 2018, making 66 appearances in all for the Cottagers.

He made 25 appearances for Luciano Spalletti's side in Serie A this season, recording two assists.

The Italian club also confirmed the signing of Olivera from Getafe, with the Uruguayan left-back having made 119 appearances during five seasons in Spain.

Aston Villa have agreed a deal with Sevilla to sign centre-back Diego Carlos for an undisclosed fee.

The club confirmed on Thursday the player will travel to England "in the next few hours" to finalise personal terms and undergo a medical, with reports suggesting the fee will be in the region of £26.4million (€31m).

Diego Carlos would be Villa's second signing in the space of a few days, with a deal also announced earlier this week for Marseille midfielder Boubacar Kamara, who will soon become a free agent.

Former Nantes defender Diego Carlos was pursued by Newcastle United for much of the January transfer window – even reportedly handing in a transfer request – but will now link up instead with Steven Gerrard's side, who finished 14th in the Premier League this season.

The 29-year-old played 136 games for Sevilla since his signing in 2019, winning the Europa League in 2020 when his overhead kick was turned into his own net by then Inter striker Romelu Lukaku for the decisive goal in the final.

Diego Carlos was also a part of the Brazil team that won gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

A statement on Sevilla's website also confirmed the news, with the Spanish club adding: "Sevilla FC wants to thank the player for his work during all these years in Seville and wishes him the best of luck in his new professional stage."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic revealed he has "never suffered so much" as he did in the past six months after the Milan striker underwent knee surgery.

The new Serie A champions on Wednesday revealed Ibrahimovic will be out for up to eight months following an operation on his left knee.

Ibrahimovic came off the bench in a 3-0 win over Sassuolo on Sunday that sealed the Rossoneri's first Scudetto for 11 years.

The 40-year-old Sweden striker only started 12 games for Stefano Pioli's side this season and with his contract expiring at the end of next month, his future is up in the air.

Ibrahimovic on Thursday opened up on the pain he has experienced this year.

"For the past six months I played without an ACL in my left knee," he posted on Instagram.

"Swollen knee for six months. I was only able to train with the team 10 times in the last six months.

"Took more than 20 injections in six months. Emptied the knee once a week for six months. Painkillers every day for six months.

"Barely slept for six months because of the pain. Never suffered so much on and off the pitch. I made something impossible to something possible.

"In my mind I had only one objective, to make my team-mates and coach champions of Italy because I made them a promise. Today I have a new ACL and another trophy."

Bayer Leverkusen have secured the future of their coveted striker Patrik Schick by signing up the prolific Czech for the next five years.

Schick was joint-top goalscorer alongside Cristiano Ronaldo at last year's delayed Euro 2020 tournament, hitting five goals.

He carried that form into the 2021-22 Bundesliga campaign, tallying 24 goals in 27 league games as Leverkusen finished third to earn a Champions League place.

Only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski scored more in the German top flight, and Schick had been linked with a host of clubs, including Premier League outfits Arsenal and Newcastle United.

He was prepared to forgo the possibility of such a switch as he extended a previous contract that ran to 2025 with the new deal that takes him through to the end of the 2026-27 season.

"I just feel good here," said 26-year-old Schick. "It's a lot of fun with these guys. Qualifying for the Champions League is a good next step. 

"A lot is possible here, which is exactly why I extended my contract at Bayer 04."

Leverkusen's departing sporting director Rudi Voller left a parting gift by playing a significant part in the negotiations, with the 1990 World Cup winner saying: "Renewing with such a player is an expression of our ambitions and a clear sign that things will continue at the top level at Bayer Leverkusen even after my departure.

"For me, Patrik Schick is currently one of the world's best centre forwards. I'm looking forward to seeing him in the Werkself shirt in the years to come."

Voller is vacating his position as former Leverkusen midfielder Simon Rolfes steps up to inherit the role.

Rolfes said: "There are only a few centre forwards of his stature internationally. Added to Patrik's exceptional sporting qualities as a full-fledged striker are the skills of a leader."

Schick came to international prominence thanks to his sensational long-range strike for the Czech Republic against Scotland, which was voted Euro 2020's goal of the tournament.

He showed brilliant vision to shoot from just inside the Scotland half, with the goal measured at 49.7 yards, making it the furthest distance from which a goal has been scored at the European Championship since such data was first recorded in 1980.

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