Rumour Has It: Chelsea and Liverpool monitor Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer

By Sports Desk October 04, 2022

Chelsea and Liverpool are reportedly both interested in Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer, who could become available at the end of this season.

Bennacer, 24, spent time at Arsenal's academy before heading to Empoli, where he impressed enough to earn a €16million move to Milan in 2019.

He already has 42 international caps for Algeria after debuting as an 18-year-old, and he has started in seven of Milan's eight Serie A fixtures to begin this campaign, but his contract situation could accelerate his exit from Italy.

 

TOP STORY – PREMIER LEAGUE HEAVYWEIGHTS CIRCLE BENNACER

Bennacer's contract expires in 2024, at the end of next season, but the more time that passes before signing an extension, the more pressure Milan will be under to cash in as opposed to letting him leave for free.

According to Calciomercato, Milan value him at €50million as Chelsea, Liverpool and Serie A rivals Juventus all keep a close eye on his progress.

The report says to pry him away from Milan in January would take a "sensational offer", but if Milan decide to see out the rest of the season their leverage in negotiations will be significantly weakened.

Both Bennacer and team-mate Rafael Leao have high levels of interest from elite clubs, and Milan will likely not have the budget to hand out two big extensions.

ROUND-UP

– The Telegraph is reporting Manchester United will not stand in Cristiano Ronaldo's way if he wishes to leave in January.

– According to the Daily Mail, Chelsea are interested in signing Arsenal's Gabriel Martinelli.

– 90min is reporting Chelsea are also trying to push RB Leipzig into accepting deals for centre-back Josko Gvardiol and forward Christopher Nkunku as soon as possible.

Paris Saint-Germain are hopeful of getting Lionel Messi to agree to a new contract with his deal set to expire at the end of this season, although they will hold off on negotiations until after the World Cup, per Mundo Deportivo.

– January will mark 18 months remaining on Sergej Milinkovic-Savic's contract with Lazio, and according to Gazzetta dello Sport, Italy's top clubs are all keeping a close eye on the 27-year-old's availability.

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    Portugal coach Fernando Santos insists his relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo is unchanged despite dropping the captain for Tuesday's 6-1 win over Switzerland at the World Cup.

    Ronaldo was benched after Santos expressed his disappointment with the striker's attitude following his substitution during last week's defeat to South Korea.

    Santos said on Monday the matter had been resolved internally, but Ronaldo was then dropped to the bench for the clash at Lusail Stadium, starting a major-tournament match among the substitutes for the first time since 2008 (31 games).

    A fan poll on the website of Portuguese newspaper A Bola suggested 70 per cent of Portugal fans wanted Ronaldo out of the team, and the Selecao went on to produce one of their best performances at a major tournament in years.

    Goncalo Ramos replaced Ronaldo in the attack and had a hand in four goals, including a hat-trick, but Santos did not commit to keeping faith in the Benfica prospect for the quarter-final against Morocco.

    Santos told reporters: "That's still something that has to be defined [who starts in the next game]. I already answered in yesterday's press conference [regarding Ronaldo]; there is no problem between us.

    "I have a strong relationship with him, I always have. I have known him since he was young and at Sporting [CP], and then it started to develop in the national team.

    "This relationship only developed. We've been friends for many years, things don't affect us.

    "I already explained everything was resolved. I said that and I repeat that now. This is something that's finished and resolved.

    "How he came in with a lot of will, he set an example as a great captain."

    In scoring his hat-trick, Ramos became the first player to net three times on his first World Cup start since Miroslav Klose in 2002.

    Similarly, it only took him 17 minutes to do what Ronaldo has never managed: score in a World Cup knockout game.

    For most, Ramos starting the quarter-final clash would be a simple decision to make, but Santos intends to keep people guessing.

    "Obviously I have my ways to observes things, I always have," he continued. "The players we have in this position obviously have many different characteristics.

    "Andre [Silva] plays more advanced, Cristiano is more fixed, he plays in a determined area. Goncalo is dynamic.

    "That's what he ended up showing us, but it was nothing new because he came on in two other games.

    "I have three players I fully trust and for each match I will use what I think is the right strategy, as I have always done in my career."

    Tuesday's success was Portugal's biggest ever victory in the knockout rounds of the World Cup, with it the first time they have scored six beyond the group stage.

    It was a truly rampant performance, though Santos was particularly pleased that his team did not get carried away with the euphoria.

    "It's exactly what I said [to the players]; when we are euphoric, I think we can go beyond what we should do in a match.

    "We can end up having a bit too much fun, to use that expression, and football is not fun. Yes, you have to play, have fun in the field, but too much fun is not appropriate.

    "In this aspect, in terms of how serious they were, they were fantastic."

    Portugal will face Morocco in their quarter-final at Al Thumama Stadium on Saturday.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo denies mega-money Al Nassr deal is signed and sealed Cristiano Ronaldo denies mega-money Al Nassr deal is signed and sealed

    Cristiano Ronaldo denied on Tuesday that he has agreed to join Saudi club Al Nassr after Portugal's World Cup adventure.

    The striker became a free agent after being released from his Manchester United contract last month and reports have claimed Ronaldo has agreed an extraordinarily lucrative deal to play in Saudi Arabia.

    Suggestions of a bumper contract offer from the Saudi Pro League club emerged last week, with Ronaldo said to be in line to earn well over £100million a year.

    However, the 37-year-old says the reports of him signing a deal with Al Nassr are wrong.

    Speaking after coming off the bench in Portugal's 6-1 win over Switzerland at the World Cup, a rare substitute appearance for his country, Ronaldo was asked about the move.

    "No, it's not true," he told reporters.

    Ronaldo was allowed to leave United after a television interview with Piers Morgan saw him criticise the club's owners and signal his lack of respect for manager Erik ten Hag.

    He said he felt "betrayed" by the club, alleging there were efforts being made to force him out, with his second stint at United ending in a messy break-up less than 18 months after his arrival from Juventus.

    The five-time Ballon d'Or winner may struggle to find a top-tier club in Europe, given his relative decline in form in recent times, compared to his peak years at Real Madrid, and the huge salary he is expected to be seeking.

    The money may be no object in Saudi Arabia, but it remains unclear whether Ronaldo does not fancy that switch, or whether the deal is simply not over the line yet.

    Ronaldo also sent his best wishes to Pele, who is being treated in a Sao Paulo hospital.

    A report in Brazil at the weekend claimed the three-time World Cup winner had entered palliative care following a cancer battle. That has not been confirmed by the hospital, family, or Pele himself.

    There have been a host of fond messages sent to the 82-year-old since concerns were raised about his health, and Ronaldo joined in. According to Record, Ronaldo said: "Get better, get better Pele. Our king has to get better. That's all we want."

  • Shaqiri apologises after Switzerland's humbling defeat to Portugal Shaqiri apologises after Switzerland's humbling defeat to Portugal

    Xherdan Shaqiri apologised for Switzerland's performance in their 6-1 loss to Portugal, crediting their opponents but saying: "We have to do better."

    Switzerland exited the World Cup with a dismal last-16 defeat, completely outclassed by a Portugal side who had left Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench.

    Goncalo Ramos replaced Ronaldo and scored one of two first-half goals before completing a hat-trick in a rampant second half.

    Murat Yakin's men were never in the contest, only reducing the arrears when Manuel Akanji bundled in from a corner to make it 4-1.

    "We are all disappointed, the whole team," Shaqiri said afterwards. "I just want to apologise to all the people in Switzerland, because we were not at our best today.

    "We lost the game already in the first half against Portugal, who are a very good team. You saw the kind of goal they can score. With all respect, we have to do better.

    "We have to learn from our mistakes, and if we are behind 2-0 against Portugal, it's always very, very difficult to come back. We just were not at our best today, from everybody."

    Yakin had changed system, starting with a three-man defence, but he did not believe this was the problem for his side.

    "We had a clear plan, we have practised it, we also had test games, the team was familiar with the system," the Switzerland coach said. "We tried to put pressure on using the flanks, but unfortunately it didn't work.

    "Ronaldo or not, our players are able to play in every position. Yes, our opponents got a good start in the game, we saw many things not work out for us. There's nothing we could've done today."

    Shaqiri did not dwell on Ronaldo's omission, indicating the depth of talent Portugal have at their disposal.

    "It's the whole team," he said. "You saw today: he was on the bench, and they scored a lot of goals, too. The quality is there from the whole team, and we saw this today."

    The winger added: "Portugal is for me a favourite and also was before the tournament. They have a good team, a quality team, and we will see in the end how far they're going to go.

    "You saw today, in the offensive, they are very good. They can go very far."

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