Liverpool have offered support to former defender Dominic Matteo and his family after he underwent an operation on a brain tumour.

The 45-year-old, who also played for Leeds United, Blackburn Rovers, Stoke City and Scotland during a 17-year playing career, had an operation on Monday and is being treated in hospital after being released from intensive care.

Matteo emerged from the Liverpool academy and made his first league appearance for the Reds in October 1993.

He made 155 appearances for the club before joining Leeds, where he formed part of the team that reached the 2001 Champions League semi-finals.

A statement on Liverpool's official website said: "We wish Dom a full and speedy recovery and will offer any support we can to his wife and family.

"Dom's family would like to place on record their gratitude to all staff at Leeds General Infirmary and express their thanks for all of the messages of support they have received."

Manchester United have hatched a plan that could help bring Erling Haaland to Old Trafford.

The Premier League side are reportedly contemplating a compromise that will curry favour with Salzburg, the young star's present employers.

Considered the favourites in that chase, United also appear set to jump the queue for another of Europe's most admired teenage talents.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED WILLING TO WAIT FOR HAALAND

Manchester United are prepared to consider loaning Erling Haaland straight back to Salzburg if a deal can be struck in January, such is their determination to land the sought-after striker.

According to ESPN, United could allow Haaland to stay in Austria until the end of the season in an attempt to defuse a potential bidding war.

Spanish newspaper AS suggest the Red Devils are "pushing the hardest" for the 19-year-old, who has been valued at €100million – a figure that might price even Real Madrid out of the market.

 

ROUND-UP

United are unlikely to stop at Haaland when the transfer window reopens. The club are weighing up whether to bring forward a planned end-of-season approach for Jadon Sancho in order to capitalise on uncertainty over the winger's Borussia Dortmund future, reports The Guardian.

Juventus are becoming concerned about the increasing level of interest from Spain and England in highly rated Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali, according to Calciomercato. The Serie A champions could be forced to make a move sooner rather than later as his suitors gain in number and his price tag rises above €40m.

- That sum, Calciomercato claims, is the minimum Juve will demand for out-of-favour defenders Daniele Rugani and Merih Demiral. Both players have been linked to Arsenal.

Boca Juniors are eyeing another showpiece signing. Argentina-based football journalist Martin Castilla told CNN Deportes the South American giants are keen on luring Luis Suarez away from Barcelona. San Lorenzo vice-president Marcelo Tinelli expressed interest in the 32-year-old earlier in the week.

- Returning to Serie A and it looks like Wojciech Szczesny will be staying in Turin. Sky Sport Italia reporter Gianluca Di Marzio says the Polish goalkeeper has agreed a contract extension with Juve through to 2024.

Virgil van Dijk is focused purely on ensuring Netherlands complete the job and qualify for Euro 2020, not on Liverpool's Premier League title bid.

The Reds defeated reigning champions Manchester City 3-1 at Anfield on Sunday to open up an eight-point gap at the top of the table, with Pep Guardiola's side nine back.

Powerful centre-back Van Dijk was asked by Sky Sports whether establishing such a commanding lead made it feel like this season could see Liverpool end a 30-year wait for top-flight glory.

But Van Dijk will not look beyond Saturday's contest with Northern Ireland in Belfast, where a point will be enough for Netherlands to book their place in the Euros.

"I'm not gonna say that [it feels like Liverpool's year]," he said. 

"It's something for the media. For players the main thing is we focus on the game ahead of us. 

"For me personally it's Northern Ireland, it's a tough task. What happens with Liverpool in the future we'll see, we have no influence on it, the season is so long. My focus is on the next game, at the moment that's [with our] national teams."

Van Dijk could be joined in the Premier League by international team-mate Memphis Depay, with the Lyon forward linked with a move to Tottenham or a return to Manchester United.

Depay endured an unhappy 18-month stay at Old Trafford before moving to Ligue 1 in January 2017, but Van Dijk feels he would be an asset to any team.  

"He's a fantastic player, a very important player for our team here at the moment, wherever he goes in the near future it will be a good thing for him," he added.

"But he's still at Lyon at the moment you have to respect that, until things happen you have to see how they go."

Edwin van der Sar has signed a new four-year contract as Ajax's general manager, seemingly ending any chance of him moving to Manchester United.

Van der Sar returned in 2012 to the Dutch club he served as a player, joining as a marketing director before being elevated to his current key leadership role four years later.

Since Van der Sar took up that position, Ajax have taken a significant step towards being the European force they were when the former goalkeeper played for the club in the 1990s.

"Very happy with my contract extension at this beautiful club," he wrote on his official Twitter account.

"We've had some difficult moments, but the good times are definitely back. And of course we want more in the future!"

Although last season's Eredivisie title was their first since 2014, Ajax reached the Europa League final in 2016-17 and then captured the imaginations of neutrals en route to the Champions League semi-finals last term.

Long renowned for their impressive academy, Ajax have been particularly effective at bringing through talented players in the past few seasons, while their recruitment has also been praised in recent times.

Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong are among those to have come through and been sold on at a massive profit, while David Neres, Hakim Ziyech, Nicolas Tagliafico, Lisandro Martinez and others highlight Ajax's excellent talent identification.

Van der Sar's overseeing of such areas saw him become one of the favourites to land a similar role at another of his former clubs, Manchester United, when executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward was reportedly looking into hiring a director of football in 2018.

However, United have provided precious few updates on their search for that position, with Van der Sar now apparently out of reach if the Old Trafford club do ultimately decide to fill the void.

Manchester City's appeal against UEFA's investigation into alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations has been ruled "inadmissible" by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The Premier League champions lodged proceedings with CAS in June after UEFA's Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) referred their case to its adjudicatory chamber.

The CFCB's investigatory chamber opened a probe into City in March following allegations the club broke rules relating to FFP, third-party ownership and youth player recruitment in articles by German publication Der Spiegel, which drew upon documents purportedly obtained by whistleblowers Football Leaks.

When UEFA referred their case in May, City said in a statement: "The accusation of financial irregularities remains entirely false and the CFCB IC referral ignores a comprehensive body of irrefutable evidence provided by Manchester City FC." 

In a media release on Thursday, CAS explained City's appeal was not admissible because UEFA has not reached a final decision in the case.

The statement read: "The CAS Panel determined that MCFC’s appeal was inadmissible, considering that 'An appeal against the decision of a federation, association or sports-related body may be filed with CAS… if the Appellant has exhausted the legal remedies available to it prior to the appeal, in accordance with the statutes or regulations of that body.'(Article R47 of the CAS Rules).

"In the present case, the decision rendered by the CFCB IC to refer a case to the CFCB AC is not final and can therefore not be appealed to CAS directly, because the AC is competent to take any of the decisions listed in Article 27 CFCB Procedural Rules, that are described as being final."

City must now await a decision from the adjudicatory chamber, which could in theory extend to a Champions League ban. However, a report by The Athletic on Wednesday claimed UEFA will only issue the club with a fine and not suspend them from taking part in its competitions.

In August, FIFA fined City CHF 370,000 (£314,725) for breaching rules in relation to signing youth players but did not impose a transfer ban.

The Football Association found no evidence to support Der Spiegel's claim City made an illegal payment to the agent of their former winger Jadon Sancho and closed an investigation earlier this month, while the Premier League's own probe into the claims emanating from Football Leaks remains ongoing.

Inter have a fight on their hands to retain the services of star forward Lautaro Martinez.

Martinez has been heavily linked to LaLiga champions Barcelona as they search for Luis Suarez's long-term replacement.

But Manchester City and United are both reportedly interested in the Argentina international.

 

TOP STORY – CITY & UNITED TARGET MARTINEZ

Manchester City and Premier League neighbours United want to sign Inter star Martinez, according to The Mirror.

Martinez – who is only in his second season in Milan after joining from Racing Club in 2018 – has flourished this term with eight goals across all competitions for Antonio Conte's Inter.

LaLiga champions Barcelona have been linked, while the two Manchester clubs are also reportedly targeting the 22-year-old forward.

 

ROUND-UP

- Unhappy at Barcelona, Ivan Rakitic could remain in LaLiga. The Croatia international has attracted interest from the likes of Inter, United and Paris Saint-Germain in his pursuit of more game time. However, Movistar+ claims Atletico Madrid are willing to meet Barca's €40million valuation of Rakitic. Marca adds that Atletico do not plan to replace Diego Costa due to salary constraints.

- The Mirror says Arsenal scouted Leicester City defender Caglar Soyuncu during Turkey's Euro 2020 qualifier against Iceland on Thursday. Soyuncu moved to Leicester from Freiburg in 2018 and the 23-year-old has stepped up to fill the void left by Harry Maguire, who joined United in a world-record deal.

- Zlatan Ibrahimovic out and Edinson Cavani in for LA Galaxy? According to Gianluca Di Marzio, MLS side the Galaxy are targeting Paris Saint-Germain's Cavani following Ibrahimovic's exit. The Uruguay forward is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked to David Beckham's Inter Miami franchise, who will open their inaugural season against the Galaxy next year.

Inter will need to fork out €30m if they want to sign Udinese's Rodrigo de Paul in January, reports Calciomercato. The Express also reports that Inter are ready to offer out-of-favour Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud an 18-month contract. Conte is determined to add depth up front, with Martinez and Romelu Lukaku leading the way in the absence of injured loanee Alexis Sanchez.

- Corriere dello Sport claims Roma have joined the chase for Everton forward Moise Kean. The 19-year-old has struggled since moving to the Premier League from Juventus, and the likes of Sampdoria and AC Milan are lining up to bring the teenager back to Serie A on loan.

Spain head coach Robert Moreno insists he did not call up Wolves winger Adama Traore "on a whim" for this month's Euro 2020 qualifying matches.

Traore was surprisingly named as a replacement for the injured Rodrigo Moreno only for a hamstring issue to force him to withdraw from the squad.

It had been suggested Traore was only called up so that he would make a competitive appearance for Spain and therefore no longer be eligible to represent Mali, the country of his parents.

However, Moreno - who worked with the player at Hospitalet and Barcelona, where he made his senior debut - says he has long considered calling up Traore due to his ability to unsettle deep-lying defences.

"I'm looking for players who can create an imbalance. Adama Traore has that and is very different from others," he told a news conference.

"He suffered a little problem on Sunday. I spoke with him and he told me he couldn't come.

"Adama is very well-known because he came out of La Florida, my local club. He was at Hospitalet, where I was, and we gave him his debut at Barcelona. Nobody knows him like I do.

"He wasn't called up on a whim. We've been following him for a long time and he has been on two preliminary squad lists."

Spain, who have already qualified for the Euro 2020 finals, face Malta and Romania in their final two games in Group F.

Moreno is eager to see a more clinical edge in attack from his players given they were held by Norway and Sweden in their most recent games.

"We lacked aim in the last two games against Norway and Sweden. We create chances, but you still have to create more," he said.

"This week, we've emphasised working against teams who close things down, as I think that's how the games against Malta and Romania will be."

Moreno also suggested he could give Roma goalkeeper Pau Lopez a chance to impress, as the battle for the number-one position continues between Kepa Arrizabalaga and David de Gea.

"I said I wanted to try everyone and I'm a man of my word. It could be that Pau Lopez plays one of the next two games," he said.

The Premier League and refereeing body Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) have outlined plans for greater communication with supporters in stadiums regarding VAR decisions.

VAR was introduced at the start of the 2019-20 season but has increasingly been the subject of controversy.

Ahead of the ongoing international break, notable decisions aided by the system saw Sheffield United denied a goal at Tottenham for a marginal offside, while there was an unpunished handball by Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold in his own penalty area immediately before the league leaders opened the scoring in their 3-1 win over Manchester City.

VAR was discussed at a Premier League shareholders' meeting on Thursday, with the 20 clubs represented to debate the issue.

One of the key matters up for discussion was how decisions are communicated to fans within stadiums, and changes are coming in December 2019.

There will be greater written detail to checks on big screens, although it was explained International Football Association Board protocol meant imagery of the incidents could not be shown live and referees could not communicate with supporters via microphones.

The Premier League offered an example of how changes would come into effect next month, with a handball check in the penalty area displayed on the screen as: "Checking Penalty – Possible Handball".

Prior to December, the screen would simply read: "Checking Penalty".

The Premier League released a statement following Thursday's meeting which promised improved consistency with the implementation of VAR.

It read: "The implementation of VAR was discussed at length and the Premier League and PGMOL committed to improving the consistency of decisions, speeding up processes and increasing communication to fans.

"Mike Riley, managing director of PGMOL, addressed the clubs and accepted improvement is required."

Riley described VAR as "an ongoing process" and said the system "has corrected a significant number of on-field errors" but added "speed and consistency of decision-making are priority areas of work".

It was reported decisions were now made with 91 per cent accuracy - up from 82 per cent prior to VAR.

Arsenal need to give Unai Emery time and believe in themselves, according to former Emirates Stadium favourite Santi Cazorla.

Gunners boss Emery is under pressure in his second season in the Premier League, with the team - who missed out on Champions League qualification last term - sixth in the table after 12 games, eight points off the top four.

Arsenal are winless in five in all competitions, while Granit Xhaka has been stripped of the club's captaincy and divisive playmaker Mesut Ozil has struggled for regular minutes.

Yet Spaniard Cazorla, who won two FA Cups in a six-year Arsenal career, is urging patience with countryman Emery and says Arsenal have "everything" to be successful.

"Unai Emery is a good coach and it's a very good team," he told the Independent. "I watch them play often, but he needs time.

"It's a new generation and it's very difficult to compete against teams like Manchester City and Liverpool.

"It's difficult to know [what has gone wrong]. They have the players, they have the fans, the stadium, they have everything to do it but they have to believe it."

Cazorla left Arsenal for former club Villarreal in 2018 amid a near-two-year injury lay-off, meaning he was unable to say goodbye to Gunners fans on the pitch.

The 34-year-old hopes to get the opportunity to play at the home of the London club again before he retires, while he could be open to a role at Arsenal post retirement.

"When you are at a big club like Arsenal, sometimes you don't realise what it means to be there until you are gone," he said. "I never got to say a proper goodbye.

"It was the biggest team I played for in my career and I miss everything about Arsenal. I don't know what my legacy is there, you would have to ask the fans, but I want to say thank you to them all.

"I would like to play at the Emirates one last time before I retire. 

"I don't know what I will do afterwards - maybe a coach, maybe a sporting director - but I would love to go back to Arsenal.

"I lived in London for six years. My son loved it there. In the future, we will see if I have the possibility."

Newcastle United captain Jamaal Lascelles has been ruled out for the rest of 2019 with a knee injury.

The centre-back was hurt during the 2-1 Premier League win over Bournemouth at St James' Park last Saturday.

Newcastle confirmed on Thursday that Lascelles will not play again until the new year.

The 26-year-old has played in all 12 of Newcastle's league games this season and scored in the 1-1 draw with Wolves on October 27.

He will now miss matches against Aston Villa, Manchester City, Sheffield United, Southampton, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Manchester United and Everton.

Steve Bruce's side begin 2020 at home to Leicester City on January 1 and head to Wolves on January 11, after the third round of FA Cup matches.

Jadon Sancho could be about to spark a bidding war.

The England international is reportedly ready to leave Borussia Dortmund, a development that will have his numerous European suitors on red alert.

Manchester United have long been linked to Sancho, but could face stiff Premier League competition for his signature.


TOP STORY – SANCHO SEEKING DORTMUND DEPARTURE

Jadon Sancho has become unsettled at Borussia Dortmund and wants to leave, according to the Daily Mail.

The exciting teenage winger is said to have grown dissatisfied with life at Signal Iduna Park after being dropped for a Bundesliga fixture last month for disciplinary reasons.

Head coach Lucien Favre further tested their relationship when he withdrew the Manchester City product before half-time of the heavy Der Klassiker loss to Bayern Munich.

News of Sancho's decision to depart will be noted at Old Trafford, but the report claims Manchester United's bitter Premier League rivals Liverpool are also showing strong interest. 

LaLiga giants Real Madrid appear to be another potential destination for one of the continent's most coveted young stars.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sancho could be heading in the opposite direction to Leroy Sane. The Daily Mirror says Bayern Munich have reignited their interest in the Germany international, who has been sidelined since the start of the season due to a knee injury.

- Granit Xhaka is not the only Arsenal midfielder on AC Milan's radar. According to Calciomercato, the Rossoneri are even more eager to land Lucas Torreira, and will make a move in June after failing to prise him away from north London at the end of last season.

- Chelsea are set for another fight to keep in-form winger Willian as Juventus and Barcelona circle the 31-year-old, the Daily Mirror reports. Frank Lampard wants to keep the Brazilian at Stamford Bridge but Willian's contract is up at the end of the campaign.

- Manchester City captain David Silva could follow in the footsteps of Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres and David Villa by seeing out his career in Japan. Spanish television programme El Chiringuito says the 33-year-old is in talks to join Vissel Kobe following the completion of his 10-season spell at the Etihad Stadium.

- Leicester City and Aston Villa have been linked to Alfredo Morelos but Rangers are in no rush to sell. That is the assurance of the Scottish side's new sporting director Ross Wilson, who "categorically" stated that an annual loss of £11.3million would not impact the club's determination to keep their Colombian striker.

Lionel Messi has earned his first inclusion in FIFA Ultimate Team's Team of the Week this season following his stunning hat-trick in Barcelona's 4-1 win over Celta Vigo.

Barca – who went into the game having not won either of their previous two matches – appeared to be in a spot of bother on Saturday when Lucas Olaza cancelled out Messi's penalty.

But two stunning free-kicks either side of the break lifted a generally sloppy Barca and Sergio Busquets completed the scoring late on.

Messi is joined in the TOTW's attack by arguably Europe's deadliest striker in Robert Lewandowski, whose brace in the 4-0 crushing of his former club – and Bayern Munich's bitter rivals – Borussia Dortmund took him to a remarkable 16 Bundesliga goals from 11 matches.

Salzburg hotshot Erling Haaland is enjoying a similarly incredible campaign. The Norwegian youngster netted hat-trick number five of the season at the weekend, but he only takes a place among the substitutes.

Below, we examine the entire squad that is now up for grabs online.

FUT Team of the Week

GK: Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus/Piemonte Calcio) – 87

RB: Ander Capa (Athletic Bilbao) – 82

LB: Alex Telles (Porto) – 86

LB: Andrew Robertson (Liverpool) – 86

RB: Ricardo Pereira (Leicester City) – 84

CM: Nicolo Barella (Inter) – 83

CDM: Donny van de Beek (Ajax) – 84

LW: Dimitri Payet (Marseille) – 84

CAM: Radja Nainggolan (Cagliari) – 86

ST: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) – 91

RW: Lionel Messi (Barcelona) – 95

SUBSTITUTES

GK: Ben Foster (Watford) – 83

CB: Sergiy Kryvtsov (Shakhtar Donetsk) – 81

LM: Mislav Orsic (Dinamo Zagreb) – 82

LM: Denis Bouanga (Saint-Etienne) – 81

RW: Patrick Herrmann (Borussia Monchengladbach) – 81

ST: Erling Haaland (Salzburg) – 82

ST: Rouwen Hennings (Fortuna Dusseldorf) – 80

RESERVES

CF: Henry Martin (Club America) – 80

LM: Victor Rodriguez (Seattle Sounders) – 79

RWB: Christopher Trimmel (Union Berlin) – 79

ST: Cyriel Dessers (Heracles) – 76

ST: Christian Doidge (Hibernian) – 75

Gareth Southgate can understand if Raheem Sterling is not "hugely enthusiastic" about him after dropping the Manchester City star for his part in an altercation with Joe Gomez, but is hopeful time heals any ill-feeling.  

England confirmed on Monday Sterling would not to be considered for selection when Montenegro visit this Thursday following a bust-up with Gomez.

The pair clashed during Sunday's Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool and were involved in an incident in a private area of England's St George's Park training base.

Details appeared in the media before England released a statement to confirm a row had taken place and that Sterling had been dropped as a consequence. 

Some former players have suggested Southgate had been too heavy-handed in his approach and the manager accepts Sterling may not be keen on him for the time being.

"Well, I wouldn’t imagine that he's hugely enthusiastic [about Southgate], but I can understand that," he told reporters on Wednesday.

"In the end, he's with the group, that's the most important thing. He's a massive part of what we do – has been, will be.

"He's with us for the game, he's back with the team on the training pitch enjoying his football. [He] trained superbly well, as he always does. So, for me, the thing is finished.

"I know, as a player, my relationship with my managers and how I felt about them changed day to day, and there were many occasions when I had the hump with them, usually when I wasn’t in the team.

"So, I understand that, I hope that time takes its course on those things. As a manager, you hope that you bring lots of good moments for players.

"There are those occasions where you give them their debut, you give them the chance to play, but there are inevitably occasions when you don't start them, where you have to take them off, and that will always be the landscape.

"I hope that all of my players know that, first and foremost, I care about them, that I want to be fair with them, that I want to do what's right for all of them, and that they can lean on me when they need me.

"And I also accept that, at times, they're not going to be bouncing with joy when they see my face walking through the meal room.

"So, that is part and parcel of being a manager, and if you're not up for that challenge, then [it's] better to go and do something else."

The Sterling and Gomez controversy comes just before a vital couple of matches, with England still to secure their place at Euro 2020.

Despite the poor timing of such a situation, Southgate insists life is rarely simple with England.

When asked if the past week had been the trickiest as England boss, Southgate said: "Most of them are pretty difficult weeks.

"I don't remember many… I don't know what a normal week with England would be, frankly. So, the key is always to go and win the football matches and that's where my focus has been for the last 48 hours and for the three weeks before that.

"So, any manager of any big club or big nation knows that all of those situations are difficult. We're under huge scrutiny for performance and everything else, so I haven't viewed this as any more or less difficult than anything else."

Harry Maguire insists there are "definitely no cliques" in the England squad despite the altercation between Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez this week.

Sterling has been dropped for Thursday's Euro 2020 qualifier against Montenegro at Wembley after confronting England team-mate Gomez on Monday.

The two players had clashed the previous day, as Sterling's Manchester City were beaten 3-1 by Gomez and Liverpool, the Premier League leaders and the winger's former club.

Yet Manchester United defender Maguire is confident issues between players from rival clubs will not continue to dog England as they reportedly have in the past.

Asked at a pre-match news conference if there were any club cliques in the squad, Maguire replied: "No, everybody mixes.

"I think you've seen how good the unity in the squad is over the last couple of years. It's been a good two years and the group has grown together. We continue to keep on growing and that's really important.

"No, definitely no cliques. We all share tables and share jokes and laughs together."

England need just a point against Montenegro to qualify for the finals, where they would play a number of matches at their own Wembley home.

Maguire is hopeful, should the Three Lions' secure their progress, the home crowd can be a big factor next year.

"It would be really special to play in a major tournament and walking out at Wembley would be something that you dream of," he said. "People say it would give us a little advantage as well.

"We know that the crowd get right behind us at Wembley and the support over the last few years – especially since I've been playing – has been unbelievable.

"It's a big game [against Montenegro] and one that we're all looking forward to and we feel prepared for."

England's hopes at the Euros would also depend on improved defensive showings, though, with a number of individual mistakes hampering their qualification campaign so far.

Maguire added: "Obviously, we're coming off the back of a clean sheet [in a 6-0 win in Bulgaria], but we've conceded a few sloppy goals recently. I'm not proud of it and we're working hard on the training pitch to make that better.

"We know the firepower we have in our squad. We've got to a stage now where we're scoring near enough in every game, and we're creating problems for other people's defences.

"So my job and I'm sure all the rest of the defenders and the keepers as a group, we'll try to shut the shop up and start keeping clean sheets a lot more regularly."

Rodri believes Pep Guardiola is pushing his game to new heights at Manchester City.

Spain midfielder Rodri became City's record signing when he joined from Atletico Madrid for £62.8million in July.

The 23-year-old has operated predominantly at the base of Guardiola's midfield – a key position in City's system and the role the coach himself occupied during his playing days at Barcelona.

Rodri has produced some eye-catching performances but also started each of City's three Premier League defeats this term, including his return from a hamstring strain for Sunday's 3-1 loss at Liverpool that leaves the reigning champions nine points shy of the runaway leaders.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of his country's concluding Euro 2020 qualifiers against Malta and Romania, Rodri conceded he is enduring a fairly steep learning curve.

"I haven't been there much time, but since the beginning of the season I have added a lot of new knowledge," he said.

"[Guardiola] is how he shows himself in front of the cameras. He has a competitive edge, this desire to put pressure on the rivals, to study and analyse how to harm them. He is a workaholic, he dedicates the 24 hours of the day to his players, to himself and to find the way to win matches.

"At an individual level, it has helped me a lot that he played in the same position than me. He gives me lots of advice on how he sees football. I am growing a lot, not only tactically, but individually in many aspects I wasn't aware that a central midfielder should have, like driving the ball – something that is demanded in the Premier League.

"Obviously there are more factors than the coach that have an influence, but we have the best coach in that sense."

Injuries to the specialists in Guardiola's squad also saw Rodri pressed into action as an emergency centre-back for consecutive games against Crystal Palace and Atalanta last month.

"I am discovering myself also as a player. Guardiola asked me how I see myself there [as central defender] and I decided to try because the team needed me," he explained.

"Obviously there is always a time of adaptation, but because of my physical and technical characteristics, I also think that there is something in common with my normal position, apart from certain new aspects.

"It is true that the new position is a bit more delicate, but with time I think I could perfectly adapt myself.

"My virtues make me shine more as central midfielder, but with time I could also do well as central defender."

For now, Rodri is ready to continue the challenge of establishing himself as an influential midfield presence in a league noted for its frenetic pace.

"The Premier League is, along with LaLiga, the most competitive league," he added.

"This football is more vertical and makes you learn because you are not used to it. I am a more complete player.

"There are great teams in England that make you compete at the maximum level, the same as here in Spain. I feel I have a big room for improvement."

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