Jurgen Klopp is the best manager in world football and would be Liverpool's first-choice candidate if searching for a new boss in 2019, the club's owners Fenway Sports Group (FSG) said following his contract extension.

Liverpool confirmed on Friday that Klopp has signed a new four-and-a-half-year contract to keep him at the club until 2024, as they surge towards an historic first Premier League title.

Klopp joined the Reds in 2015 and quickly began to oversee a steady improvement in their fortunes, reaching two finals in his first year.

Although they fell at the last hurdle on both of those occasions in the EFL Cup and Europa League, two years later Klopp guided Liverpool to a first Champions League final since 2007.

Another final defeat did little to deter them and they lifted European football's biggest prize earlier this year in Madrid, while they are coasting towards a first league title in 30 years having dropped only two points in 16 Premier League matches this term.

Klopp's commitment - which was announced shortly before he was confirmed as the Premier League's Manager of the Month for November - unsurprisingly left FSG's leadership team in triumphant mood.

"We feel this represents one of the big moments of our stewardship of Liverpool so far, as we believe there is no better manager than Jurgen," a statement on behalf of FSG principal owner John Henry, chairman Tom Werner and president Mike Gordon read.

"The decision also keeps with the club's overall strategy of building from a position of strength.

"It means Jurgen will oversee the ongoing transition from Melwood to the new Kirkby training base as the club continues to pursue a vision of being elite in all facets of the industry.

"It also provides us with continuity with the existing football operations management structure, overseen by sporting director Michael Edwards, whose input into the project cannot be overestimated.

"He has been – and will continue to be – as indispensably important as anyone else to the direction of Liverpool. In Jurgen and Michael, we are blessed with world-class leadership.

"This is a collective partnership that has seen the club reach and then re-establish itself as an elite performer at home and abroad.

"Back in 2015, we used the phrase 'ideal fit' when we appointed Jurgen. This continues to apply today and, if anything, the circumstances make it more pertinent. We consider him to be the best there is.

"If Liverpool were looking to appoint the most outstanding, elite manager for our current status today, Jurgen would be the first choice – no question. We believe this deal cements a relationship built on trust and mutual benefit: Jurgen has delivered for LFC, and LFC has delivered for Jurgen.

"Both parties have come to the conclusion that by continuing to work together and build on the work of the last four years, the opportunity exists to maximise each other's potential."

Jurgen Klopp has signed a new two-year contract extension with Liverpool, keeping him on Merseyside until 2024, the club confirmed on Friday.

The German sees the agreement as an indicator of where the club is heading, convinced Liverpool's development will only continue.

"For me, personally, this is a statement of intent, one which is built on my knowledge of what we as a partnership have achieved so far and what is still there for us to achieve," Klopp said.

"When I see the development of the club and the collaborative work that continues to take place, I feel my contribution can only grow.

"People see what happens on the pitch as a measure of our progress and, although it is the best measure, it's not the only measure. I have seen the commitment from ownership through to every aspect and function of the club you can think of.

"When the call came in autumn 2015, I felt we were perfect for each other; if anything, now I feel I underestimated that.

"It is only with a total belief that the collaboration remains totally complementary on both sides that I am able to make this commitment to 2024. If I didn't, I would not be re-signing."

Klopp has overseen a steady improvement since joining the club in 2015, making them top-four regulars again before building from that platform and restoring fans' faith in Liverpool's ability to challenge for major honours.

The Reds were beaten in both the EFL Cup and Europa League finals in the manager's first season, and they have shown immense progress from there.

In 2017-18, Liverpool reached the Champions League final for the first time since 2006-07, although they were defeated 3-1 by Real Madrid.

Klopp's men were not to be deterred and returned the following year, going all the way and winning 2-0 against Tottenham in the final in June, becoming champions of Europe for a sixth time.

And while Liverpool missed out on a maiden Premier League title in 2018-19 - chasing a first top-flight championship since 1989-90 - as they finished a point adrift of champions Manchester City, the Reds are well on course to put that right in 2020.

The European champions sit eight points clear at the top of the league table after 16 games.

Klopp insists all of the focus should not be on him, however, as he paid tribute to sporting director Michael Edwards.

"This club is in such a good place, I couldn't contemplate leaving," he continued. "I must also highlight the role of Michael Edwards in this journey so far.

"His input and collaboration has been just as important as anyone else's in getting us into a position to compete for the game's top titles.

"For anyone in football who aspires to compete in an environment where every element of the organisation is at its very best - from the support of the supporters to the vision of the owners - there can be no better place than this."

Klopp's assistants Peter Krawietz and Pepijn Lijnders have also extended their respective contracts until 2024.

Marouane Fellaini has revealed he is still in contact with "special" Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho but ruled out a January reunion.

The 32-year-old played under Mourinho at Manchester United and has been touted as a target for Spurs ahead of next month's transfer window.

But while having a lasting relationship with his former boss, who was appointed by Tottenham in November, Fellaini is happy in the Chinese Super League with Shandong Luneng.

"Jose is special for me. We text each other, we call each other from time to time," he told Eleven Sports.

"He's taken over at Spurs and he's doing well. I wish him all the best. But I am good where I am now."

Fellaini moved to China in February 2019 and helped Shandong to a fifth-placed finish in his first season with the club.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer revealed how he first identified Mason Greenwood's talent when the Manchester United prodigy was aged just seven.

Greenwood, now 18, became the youngest player to notch a brace for the club in a major European competition when he struck twice in the 4-0 Europa League win over AZ on Thursday.

The teenage attacker has scored six times in total this term despite starting only seven matches.

Solskjaer described Greenwood's finishing as "different class" after the AZ win and explained the origins of his admiration for the exciting homegrown prospect.

"I actually remember when I met him the first time," the United manager told reporters.

"My son was training at The Cliff [United's former training base] as an eight-year-old. Mason was seven. The first time I saw him he stood out.

"I took a picture with him and he's now here. It's just what we do. When he signed his contract, we had a nice little memory."

Asked who requested the photo, Solskjaer joked: "I asked him because I knew he was going to be a [great] player! He's probably got it [the photo]."

Greenwood may still have to settle for a place among the substitutes when United entertain Everton on Sunday.

The Toffees will again be under the stewardship of interim manager Duncan Ferguson, who celebrated a 3-1 victory against Chelsea last weekend.

Solskjaer suggested the trend of ex-players taking charge of their former clubs could become commonplace in the Premier League.

"Duncan knows Everton, Frank [Lampard] knows Chelsea, Frederik [Ljungberg] has been at Arsenal and knows Arsenal well, I know this club well," the Norwegian said.

"I don't know how other clubs think, but I know we have traditions we need to keep, and we need to stick to them.

"We need to stick to the values of the club and probably others might start thinking the same."

The Red Devils boss indicated Jesse Lingard is expected to be fit to face Everton after sustaining a knock in the Manchester derby, while Paul Pogba will "probably" return to full training next week alongside Eric Bailly and Timothy Fosu-Mensah.

Murmurs about Pep Guardiola's potential departure from Manchester City are not going away.

Recent reports have suggested the successful Catalan could look to leave the Etihad Stadium at the end of the season.

It now appears Guardiola has the power to make that happen.

 

TOP STORY – GUARDIOLA'S ESCAPE ROUTE

An exit clause in the contract Guardiola signed last year gives the two-time Premier League winner the chance to leave City at the conclusion of the campaign, reports the Daily Mail.

Guardiola's deal, which he renewed in May 2018, runs through to 2021, but it seems he will have a decision to make when the club's title defence comes to a close.

City have formulated contingency plans, according to the report, and are "known to be admirers" of former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Guardiola, 48, has been linked with a return to Bayern Munich but last month said he was "open" to signing another contract extension with City.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United missed out on Liverpool-bound Takumi Minamino because the Old Trafford club were unaware of a £7.25million exit clause in the winger's Salzburg contract, says the Mirror.

- Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund want to keep Jadon Sancho in January but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United are confident of pushing through a transfer for the England international, claims the Mirror.

- Inter are monitoring Argentine attacking midfielder Rodrigo De Paul but are not prepared to meet Udinese's €35m asking price, according to CalcioMercato.

- Carlo Ancelotti is set to fly to London for talks with Everton as the managerless Merseysiders look to beat Arsenal to the ex-Napoli boss, says the Sun.

- Ivan Rakitic appears set to stay at Barcelona after all. The midfielder wants to continue at Camp Nou after breaking back into the starting XI over the past four matches, reports Marca.

Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has suggested he is ready to delve into the January transfer market.

Mason Greenwood scored a superb brace as United built on consecutive 2-1 wins over Tottenham and Manchester City by breezing past AZ 4-0 to top their Europa League group.

Solskjaer has leant on Greenwood and other promising youth products, much to the delight of United fans, but he is keen to deepen his squad and could act during the mid-season window.

"We are looking to strengthen in many positions," he said at his post-match news conference.

"If you look at our squad compared to the others, we are getting there but we still need two or three players to have enough numbers to rotate through a long season.

"So we'll see what we sign."

Irrespective of who comes in, Solskjaer has a talent in Greenwood he insists he will be happy to use frequently on the big stage.

"He played against Tottenham and was class. I'm not afraid of playing him in the Premier League," he added.

"Not at all. But it's about sharing the minutes and finding the right minutes for him. Of course he's ready to play in the Premier League."

Chelsea have announced Fikayo Tomori has signed a new long-term contract, with the young defender committing his future to the club through to 2024.

Tomori is one of the players to have earned the trust of Frank Lampard this season, having shone for the Chelsea boss when on loan at Derby County last season.

The 21-year-old centre-back has started 11 Premier League games and made his England debut in a Euro 2020 qualifier against Kosovo last month.

Though Chelsea are reportedly set to spend in January having had their transfer ban reduced on appeal, Tomori has been rewarded for his fine form with a new deal.

"It's obviously a very proud moment for myself and my family. I've been at the club since I was seven years old so I don't really know much else other than Chelsea," Tomori told the club's official website.

"The club has been so good to me, looking after and developing me during that time into the player and the person I am today. 

"It's a dream come true to sign a new five-year contract. I'm really happy the club have shown this faith in me and I'm just excited to carry on."

Tomori is the latest Chelsea academy product to sign new terms this year, following team-mates Mason Mount and Callum Hudson-Odoi, who have also broken into the senior England squad.

"We are very happy to see another fantastic young player come through from our academy into the senior team," said Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia. 

"Fikayo has been with us since he was seven years old and has contributed to many Chelsea successes at youth level.

"Having enjoyed an impressive loan spell at Derby last season, Fikayo had a strong start to this campaign and we are enjoying seeing him grow into a key player for us. We are delighted he has committed to the club for the coming years."

Chelsea have announced Fikayo Tomori has signed a new long-term contract, with the young defender committing his future to the club through to 2024.

Harry Kane has no limits to what he can do and is still yet to reach his peak, according to former Tottenham team-mate Roberto Soldado.

Soldado joined Spurs from Valencia in 2013 but the striker – a regular scorer in LaLiga – found life tough in England, managing just seven goals in 52 league appearances over the course of two seasons before leaving for Villarreal.

However, Soldado believes he was not helped by the emergence of Kane, who quickly impressed his fellow frontman during their time working together in England.

"I always say that if there is one period of my career I'm not happy with, it's my time at Tottenham," Soldado, now at Granada, said in an interview with The Guardian.

"I also had Harry Kane's boom to contend with, I understood perfectly because you could see it from the start.

"I saw his level in training and it was amazing. I don't think there's a limit to what he can do; we still haven't seen the best of Harry Kane.

"When we did shooting drills… pfff. With both feet, he was prolific. He plays so well back to goal, gives assists, is intelligent, thinks quicker than before.

"Maybe he had struggled this season because the team wasn't having the best time, but he's continually improving."

Soldado came through the ranks at Real Madrid and believes Kane would fit right in at the Spanish club, adding: "I'd like to see it."

The 34-year-old has watched from afar as Tottenham have struggled this season, leading to the departure of Mauricio Pochettino.

Jose Mourinho has since taken charge, with Soldado confident the Portuguese will "get them competing" after a sticky start.

"I don't know [what went wrong for Pochettino]," Soldado said on the current situation. "I still talk to Danny Rose and Jan Vertonghen, but about personal stuff. You could see it wasn't working. 

"[Mauricio] Pochettino had a very clear idea; he worked us very hard tactically and physically, which I think we needed after Tim Sherwood. From the start, he connected with the dressing room and every year it got better.

"The level Pochettino got from the players was higher than anyone could have expected. [But] they lost consistency and maybe Spurs needed a change.

"Now one of the best coaches has arrived and he’ll get them competing. Kane will always be grateful to Pochettino, I’m sure: his big change came with him. But he’ll trust José Mourinho because he’s a great coach."

Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus has admitted he struggled to cope with the weight of expectation on his shoulders prior to his recent goalscoring run.

Jesus has filled in for injured team-mate Sergio Aguero over the past fortnight and scored a hat-trick in Wednesday's 4-1 Champions League win over Dinamo Zagreb.

That made it five goals in three matches for the Brazil international, who ended an eight-match wait for a goal with a brace against Burnley last week.

Jesus revealed his confidence took a battering during his recent goalless run, but he refused to give up and is pleased to have been rewarded.

"Honestly, last month I was no good and I wasn't happy," he said, quoted by several British newspapers. "I played nine or 10 games, didn't score and I missed chances so I'm not happy with that. 

"When this happens, of course I cannot be happy. Sometimes football is like that. You have to keep working hard and try to score, try to help the team and that's what I have done.

"I cannot talk about other players, I can only talk about me, but when I'm not happy with myself I want to shoot myself in the head because it's difficult for me.

"I take it [personally] of course. I think, 'Oh my God, I have to score, I have to score, I have to score.' When I have the chance, sometimes I miss because I think I put too much pressure on myself.

“In my head it was like that. Always I think, ‘Wow, I have to score’ because I'm playing for a big club in big competitions with big players and it's like I shoot in my head. I say, 'Next game'. 

"Sometimes it can happen that you don't score. It happened with me but I keep working and this month has been a good month for me." 

With Aguero doubtful for Sunday's trip to Arsenal, Jesus acknowledged the pressure is still on to score goals.

The 22-year-old, who made it 101 career goals for Palmeiras, City and Brazil with his treble in Croatia, said: "I try all the time to do my best and sometimes I cannot do it and that's the way. 

"But it's important for me to keep scoring goals because I have to. I'm at a big club and play with big players.

"I'm in a single competition with Sergio - a friendly competition. I hope that when he plays, he scores. I always want him to help the team and his team-mates. 

"When I play he does the same, which is amazing. I have to learn from him because he's scored a lot for the club and throughout his career but I'm happy to reach 101 goals in my career."

Brendan Rodgers has categorically ruled out selling any of his Leicester City players in the upcoming transfer window.

Leicester are soaring in second place, six points ahead of Manchester City – whose title defence looks in tatters – though eight behind Premier League leaders Liverpool.

The Foxes, champions under Claudio Ranieri in 2015-16, face both City and Liverpool in the space of two games across the festive period.

Left-back Ben Chilwell has been linked with a January move to Chelsea, who will be able to sign players next month after their transfer ban was lifted, while centre-back Caglar Soyuncu is reportedly a target for City.

However, Rodgers has moved to quash any rumours, insisting Leicester have no intention to sell in January.

"There will be no one leaving in January. Categorically," Rodgers told a news conference ahead of Saturday's contest with lowly Norwich City.

"I'm sure if we speak [to the hierarchy], they will have the same message. I speak regularly with Jon [Rudkin, director of football] and Top [Khun Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha, chairman].

"It's very clear we want to keep this squad together. We want to ensure they stay around beyond January."

James Maddison is another player rumoured to be interesting one of the Premier League's biggest clubs, with Manchester United reportedly keen on the playmaker, who has scored five goals and provided three assists in the league so far this season.

Rodgers, though, does not believe the speculation over Maddison's future will impact the 23-year-old.

"It's the nature of the game," said Rodgers. "When you're doing well, there will always be speculation around you and James and one or two of the boys, they understand that.

"He's been brilliant. He's started the season very well, he's been very efficient and very productive. And he's getting better. He's a bright young player and he’s got a bright future."

Rodri has described "fearsome" Liverpool as the best team he has faced but warned the Premier League leaders that Manchester City will not give up their title without a fight.

Liverpool have opened a 14-point gap on the defending champions, who have already dropped as many points this term as they did in the whole of 2018-19 when the Reds finished second.

Third-placed City head to Arsenal on Sunday for their next league outing and Rodri, used 14 times in the top flight this season, has urged his team-mates to focus on the task at hand.

The Spain international, who played a full part in last month's 3-1 defeat at Anfield, told Goal: "On an individual basis I can say that Liverpool are the best team I have faced.

"They dominate at both ends of the field and are very aggressive. They dominate the lines well and that makes them a fearsome team.

"They are very good, but anyone can beat them so we are going to fight until the end.

"I don't know if the goal is to beat Liverpool, who are European champions, as I think you always have to focus on yourself.

"If we focus on Liverpool too much we are wrong. We would better looking at ourselves and play as we did at Atletico under [Diego] Simeone, game by game.

"You can't stop competing and that's what [Pep] Guardiola instils in us every day, that every game is a final."

Rodri spent one season with Simeone at Atletico Madrid prior to making a reported £62.8million switch to the Etihad Stadium, where he is working under Guardiola.

Asked how the two coaches compare, Rodri said both have the characteristics of "winners" and added: "Simeone is consistency and perseverance. Guardiola is innovative, growing day by day."

The Premier League has appointed Richard Masters as its new chief executive with immediate effect.

Masters, who first took the job on an interim basis last year, was approved by Premier League clubs at a special meeting on Thursday.

"I feel privileged to be given the opportunity to lead the Premier League in what will be one of the most exciting stages of its development," said Masters in a statement.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the clubs and our partners and other stakeholders over the past year. This is one of the most incredible jobs in the world of sport and I now look forward to leading the League in the many opportunities and challenges that lie ahead."

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck, who heads the Premier League nominations committee, added: "Richard took on the role of interim chief executive a year ago. Since then, the clubs have seen Richard rise to the occasion, dealing with our various stakeholders and partners with aplomb and skill.

"As interim chief executive, he has faced challenges head-on and has proved himself. The clubs believe that this is the right appointment now in the long-term interests of the Premier League."

Masters is the third person to be named as the new chief executive since Richard Scudamore stood down after almost 20 years in the role.

It was initially announced that Discovery executive Susanna Dinnage would take over, but she changed her mind about the role last December.

David Pemsel was named the new choice in October and was due to start in the job in February, only to withdraw in the wake of newspaper claims about his private life.

Masters joined the Premier League as director of sales and marketing in 2006, having previously worked at the English Football League and England and Wales Cricket Board, and in 2015 was promoted to managing director.

Salzburg sporting director Christoph Freund has confirmed Liverpool are in talks to sign midfielder Takumi Minamino.

It was reported on Monday that Jurgen Klopp's side are keen to bring the 24-year-old to Anfield in January after being impressed by his performances in this season's Champions League.

Minamino is said to have a release clause of just £7.25million and apparent interest from rival clubs is said to have pushed Liverpool into making a move.

Speaking on Thursday about the rumours, Freund said: "I can confirm there are currently discussions with Liverpool. It is an honour to have such clubs interested in our players."

Japan international Minamino has scored nine goals and provided 11 assists in 22 appearances in all competitions this season.

He scored in the 4-3 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in October and posed a threat in the first half of the meeting in Austria this week, which the Reds won 2-0 to confirm their place in the last 16.

Minamino would be eligible to play for the holders in the knockout phase after UEFA scrapped a rule saying no player can appear for two different teams in the competition in the same season.

Manchester United were also linked with the winger, along with Serie A giants Juventus and Roma and Bundesliga sides Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig, Salzburg's affiliate club.

Ashley Cole hopes Arsenal appoint interim head coach Freddie Ljungberg as their permanent new boss because "he knows the club inside out".

Ljungberg was put in temporary charge following Unai Emery's sacking two weeks ago, celebrating his first win on Monday with a 3-1 triumph at West Ham.

The 42-year-old is reportedly in contention to stay on at the Emirates Stadium helm until the end of the campaign while the club continue their search for Emery's successor.

However, Cole has called on Arsenal chiefs to consider sticking with Ljungberg - whom he played alongside for seven years - for the long term, rather than looking elsewhere.

"Every club has to change. They're in another transition period at the minute where they tried Emery and for whatever reason it didn't work out," Cole, speaking on behalf of Nissan, told Omnisport.

"Now Freddie is there and hopefully he can take over as permanent manager because he knows the club inside out. Freddie was my friend when I was at Arsenal and hopefully he can change some things there."

Another of Cole's former clubs, Chelsea, are also going through a transition period after appointing club legend Frank Lampard as head coach in July.

Lampard has showed faith in young players such as Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori and Reece James, who all spent time on loan in the Championship last term.

And Cole, currently working as an academy coach at Chelsea, is full of praise for the work Lampard has done so far in the early stages of his Stamford Bridge tenure.

"I'm delighted," he said. "I was lucky enough to work with him at Derby County before he came here and I knew how good he could be.

"He's obviously come here and changed a few things, brought his own philosophy here, the way he wants to play. I think the team has done brilliantly so far, so no, no surprise how good he's done.

"The youth players have been great. A lot of people were probably saying he had no choice to play them, but I think he knows if they weren't good enough he wouldn't play them.

"But they've been brilliant, they've adapted well from playing in the Championship as most of them did last season and I think they are the driving force of this team at the minute."

The emergence of young talent has come at a cost for some players, though, with captain Cesar Azpilicueta recently losing his place at right-back to James.

"I wouldn't say his time is coming to an end," Cole said when asked about Azpilicueta's future. "Tactically sometimes maybe the manager wants fresh ideas, fresh players.

"It comes with the job, you can't play every game. It happened to me: Cesar took my place. He's still the Chelsea captain.

"It's not about just what he does on the pitch, it's how he motivates the players off it and I've been around that and seen how good he is at that. 

"I don't think it will worry him. It will probably spur him on to be even better and train even harder, which is hard to do because he is a beast at training."

Nissan are proud partners of the UEFA Champions League. UEFA ambassador Ashley Cole was at the Chelsea FC v LOSC Lille match on Tuesday 10th December, along with the UEFA Champions League Trophy, which is being driven around the UK by the next generation Nissan Juke.

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