Montreal Impact head coach Thierry Henry has returned to his former club Barcelona to sign Canada international Ballou Tabla on permanent terms.

Winger Tabla left the Impact as an 18-year-old to join Barcelona in January 2018, becoming a member of the club's B team.

Tabla departs after two years of a three-year deal, however, having been unable to make a first-team breakthrough at Camp Nou.

The 20-year-old had a €25million release clause in his contract, to protect Barcelona in the event he developed at a rapid rate.

Such a rise to stardom did not materialise, and there was no mention of any fee in a statement from Montreal that said Tabla had returned to them on a two-year contract, with two option years.

Impact sporting director Olivier Renard said: "We are happy to have Ballou back with us following this transfer. The talent of this young Quebecer was never put into question. Now it's up to him to do everything and bounce back."

Tabla played 30 games for Barcelona B and had a loan spell with Albacete before joining Montreal on a temporary basis last August, making four MLS appearances.

That return is now a full-time arrangement, with Tabla set the challenge of earning a regular place in Henry's team.

Jean-Clair Todibo has signed for Schalke on loan from Barcelona, with the Bundesliga club having the option to make the move permanent at the end of the season.

Barca signed centre-back Todibo from Toulouse in January 2019, but the Frenchman has played just four times in LaLiga.

He will now spend the rest of 2019-20 on loan at Schalke, who have paid Barca a €1.5million loan fee and will cover Todibo's wages for the remainder of the campaign.

Schalke will also be able to make the deal permanent should Todibo impress, with Barca confirming a fee of €25m – plus €5m add-ons – has been agreed. 

Should Schalke decide to sign Todibo, Barca – who on Monday replaced head coach Ernesto Valverde with Quique Setien – have included a buy-back clause of €50m, plus €10m in variables.

"We said during the training camp in Spain that we would only be active in the market if something opened up that would help us," Schalke coach David Wagner said.

"That's definitely the case for Jean-Clair, who is one of the best young central defenders in Europe. Since Benjamin Stambouli's recovery is taking a little longer than we had all hoped, it makes sense to bring in another central defender. He can also play in defensive midfield.

"We will all do our best to support him in the development of his clear potential. We’re looking forward to having him."

Todibo was also linked with Serie A side Milan, with negotiations reportedly collapsing due to Barca's insistence that a buy-back option was included.

Schalke sit fifth in the Bundesliga and face second-place Borussia Monchengladbach at home on Friday.

Mikel Arteta has claimed there is "no truth" in speculation linking Arsenal with a move for Manchester City defender John Stones.

Injuries to Sead Kolasinac, Calum Chambers, Kieran Tierney and Hector Bellerin have left Arsenal short of numbers at the back.

Reports casting doubt over Stones' future at City have also emerged, with Arteta having been linked with a move for the England international, who he worked with for three-and-a-half years at City.

However, Arteta insisted there is little truth behind the speculation, despite acknowledging his admiration for Stones, who has not been a regular starter for City this season.

"Bad news for you guys I have nothing to say," Arteta told a news conference when asked if Arsenal were expecting any immediate incomings in the January transfer window.

"No, no truth at all," he added when pressed on the Stones reports, while the Gunners' coach also dismissed links with Milan midfielder Franck Kessie.

"John is a player I really like. When I look at centre-backs he's got many attributes I like but I'm not looking at him."

Arteta did, however, confirm Arsenal are keen to bolster their squad this window if the right opportunity arises.

"It has to be the right player, in the right context, that financially, we can do and attract," he said. "All these factors, we put them together, it's not easy in this market. I have a [wishlist] yes. 

"We have a lot of injuries, it can happen, between December and January it's very common. We have to live with the situation, it's what we have. We have to put 11 players out on the pitch on Saturday. They will try their best and I will try my best to select the ones which are the best fit."

Arsenal will be without leading scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Saturday's clash with Sheffield United and subsequent meetings with Chelsea and Bournemouth – in the Premier League and FA Cup respectively – after the striker's three-match suspension for a red card against Crystal Palace was upheld.

It means much of the goal-scoring burden will be on Alexandre Lacazette, who has not found the net in a Premier League match since December 5.

"It's a concern for me if he is concerned about not scoring," said Arteta of Lacazette. "In terms of his performances, I'm really happy.

"You can give him confidence but the ball has to end up in the net. That's the best medicine."

Napoli have bolstered their midfield options with the reported €24million signing of Stanislav Lobotka from Celta Vigo.

The length of the 25-year-old's contract is yet to be confirmed by the club, but he is said to have signed until 2024 and becomes Napoli's second signing of the month following Diego Demme's switch from RB Leipzig.

Napoli are reported to have paid an initial €20m, with another €4m in variables and clauses.

Lobotka joined Celta in 2017 from Danish side Nordsjaelland and the Slovakia international quickly established himself in Juan Carlos Unzue's team, playing every match in the 2017-18 campaign and starting 34 of them.

He remained a key player until his departure, often earning rave reviews with his enterprising blend of technical quality and combativeness.

The last Slovakian player to represent Napoli was Marek Hamsik, who went on to become a club icon after spending almost 12 years in Naples until last February.

Lobotka leaves a significant hole to fill for Celta, who are languishing just above the relegation zone in LaLiga, with goal difference the only metric keeping them out of the bottom three.

Real Madrid youngster Andriy Lunin has completed a loan move to Segunda strugglers Real Oviedo after his temporary stay at Real Valladolid was cut short.

The Ukraine international, 20, moves to Oviedo until the end of the season and will compete with 34-year-old Nereo Champagne and former Real Madrid Castilla goalkeeper Alfonso Herrero for a starting role between the posts.

It had been hoped Lunin would be exposed to regular first-team football with La Pucela this term, but he has been unable to dislodge Jordi Masip in goal – the Barcelona product playing all 19 of Valladolid's LaLiga matches this term.

Lunin's time at the Nuevo Jose Zorrilla looked set to come to an end when Jose Antonio Caro's loan at Ponferradina was concluded on Sunday.

Valladolid is the second successive club with whom Lunin has struggled to make an impact, having played only five league matches with Leganes last season.

A reported €8.5million signing from Zorya Luhansk in July 2018, Lunin will finally hope to prove his talents in Spain during the second half of the season, with Oviedo languishing just a point above the relegation zone having conceded the second-highest number of goals in the division.

Jose Mourinho was a major factor in Gedson Fernandes' decision to join Tottenham, the Benfica loanee has revealed.

Fernandes moved to Spurs for an initial 18-month stint on Wednesday, becoming Mourinho's first signing for the London club.

There is an option for the deal to be made permanent for a reported €50 million (£42.8m).

For now, though, Portugal international Fernandes is relishing the prospect of working with compatriot Mourinho and playing in the Premier League for the first time.

"All young players want to work with Jose Mourinho because he's one of the best – all of us as players want to stay near the best, so it's fantastic to work with him," the 21-year-old told Tottenham's official website.

"The Premier League is a different competition – every player in the world wants to play in the Premier League. For me, it's one more motivation because I always dreamed of playing in this league and now let's make my dream come true. 

"I think we're going to do fantastic things because this is a fantastic club.

"I'm very happy to be here – I make my dream a reality.

"I will try to give my best for the club every day, in every training session and in every game and I will try to help the team wherever I can, working hard every day for this shirt."

Spurs, who progressed to the FA Cup fourth round with a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough on Tuesday, travel to Watford in the league on Saturday.

 

 

Jose Mourinho has secured his first signing as Tottenham head coach, with midfielder Gedson Fernandes joining on an initial 18-month loan from Benfica.

The deal includes an option for the Premier League club to make the move permanent for a reported €50 million (£42.8m).

Fernandes, 21, came through Benfica's famed academy and established himself in the first-team squad in 2018, going on to make 22 Primeira Liga appearances last term.

His form early last season saw Fernandes earn a two Portugal caps, but he fell out of favour at Benfica at the start of last year.

Only one of his 11 Primeira Liga starts last term came in 2019, while he has also lined up just twice in 2019-20 prior to joining Spurs.

A technically gifted and creative midfielder, Fernandes was also rumoured to have interested West Ham, but Spurs managed to complete his capture to ease their midfield issues.

Moussa Sissoko is facing a prolonged spell on the sidelines with a knee injury, Tanguy NDombele has struggled with niggling fitness issues and Christian Eriksen's form is a cause for concern, with the Dane seemingly set to leave the club before the start of next season.

Fernandes could make his debut at resurgent Watford this Saturday.

 

Jose Mourinho has secured his first signing as Tottenham head coach, with midfielder Gedson Fernandes joining on an initial 18-month loan from Benfica.

Christian Eriksen appears set to get his move away from Tottenham.

Out of contract at the end of the season, Eriksen has been keen to test himself elsewhere after moving to Spurs in 2013.

Inter look poised to bring the Denmark playmaker to Milan…

 

TOP STORY – INTER IN NEGOTIATIONS WITH SPURS OVER ERIKSEN

Inter have offered €10million (£8.5m) plus bonuses to Tottenham after agreeing personal terms with Spurs star Eriksen, claims Sky Sport Italia.

With Inter head coach Antonio Conte keen for midfield reinforcements and soon-to-be free agent Eriksen eyeing a new club, a transfer is reportedly on the horizon.

However, The Mirror reports that Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain are ready to rival Inter for Eriksen.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to Sky Sports Germany, Paul Pogba is likely to leave Manchester United at the end of the season. Recovering from ankle surgery, Pogba continues to be linked with LaLiga giants Real Madrid and former club Juventus.

Manchester City will reject any bids for centre-back John Stones as Premier League rivals Arsenal circle, says the Daily Mail.

- Corriere dello Sport reports Matteo Politano and Leonardo Spinazzola are set to swap clubs. Inter winger Politano will join Roma, while full-back Spinazzola will move to the Nerazzurri.

- According to Gianluca Di Marzio and Tuttomercatoweb, PSV are prepared to pay €6m for Milan full-back Ricardo Rodriguez.

- Globoesporte says LaLiga champions Barcelona are close to signing Palmeiras midfielder Matheus Fernandes.

Tottenham head coach Jose Mourinho said Christian Eriksen should "hold his head high" if he leaves Spurs amid growing links to Inter.

Serie A outfit Inter are reportedly in talks with Tottenham to bring soon-to-be free agent Eriksen to San Siro in January.

Eriksen – who is out of contract at the end of the season – is keen for a new challenge, having joined Spurs from Ajax in 2013.

Asked about Eriksen after he was booed by Tottenham fans during Tuesday's 2-1 FA Cup third-round replay win over Middlesbrough, Mourinho told reporters: "He played very well. Played very well, very professional which is what I expect from him.

"If his decision is to leave, I think he has to leave with his head up, if he gives everything which is what he tries to do for the team.

"Fans, it's always to respect, we have to respect but I think the boy did it for us today."

While Eriksen's future appears away from Tottenham, Benfica midfielder Gedson Fernandes is reportedly close to arriving on loan from the Portuguese giants.

Amid talk of an initial 18-month loan deal, Mourinho said: "No news. I didn't want to know anything during the day.

"During the day it was just about the game. He doesn't have news for me so nothing."

Edinson Cavani has been left out of Paris Saint-Germain's squad for Wednesday's Ligue 1 visit to Monaco.

Cavani will miss out due to a groin complaint but his absence comes amid reports Atletico Madrid are stepping up efforts to sign the Uruguay striker.

The 32-year-old is PSG's all-time record goalscorer but has fallen behind Mauro Icardi in the pecking order at the Parc des Princes this season.

Midfielder Leandro Paredes will also miss the rescheduled match due to an ankle problem.

Cavani and Paredes both appeared as late substitutes when PSG shared a thrilling 3-3 draw with Monaco in Paris on Sunday.

Watford have signed Argentine winger Ignacio Pussetto from Udinese for a fee reported to be in the region of £7million (€8m).

Pussetto, 24, joined the Serie A outfit from Huracan in 2018 and scored five times in 50 appearances - including one during last month's 3-1 defeat to Juventus, although he has been used predominantly as a substitute this term.

Udinese owner Giampaolo Pozzo is the father of Watford owner Gino Pozzo and transfer business between the clubs has been frequent over recent years.

The Hornets' scheduled FA Cup third-round replay at Tranmere Rovers was postponed due to heavy rainfall on Tuesday.

Recently appointed head coach Nigel Pearson has overseen a sharp upturn in form at Vicarage Road, with four wins from their past five matches lifting them out of the Premier League relegation zone.

Those inside Camp Nou on November 11, 2018 where treated to a true spectacle. Regardless of whether or not Barcelona fans were angered by the end result, a 4-3 defeat, they were almost certainly entertained.

It was Barca's first loss at home in any competition since September 2016 and the manner of the defeat was truly impressive.

Real Betis battered Barca for much of the match and finished with a commendable 48 per cent possession, a feat few clubs can match at Camp Nou. At no point did Betis trail.

Fourteen months on, that remains the last time Barca were defeated at Camp Nou, in any competition. But now, the man who masterminded Betis' win is in charge of the champions.

Quique Setien was announced as the successor to Ernesto Valverde following his unceremonious sacking on Monday, with the 61-year-old seemingly hired due to his football ideologies being closely aligned to those of Barca.

Despite being held in high regard by many for his philosophy and championing of Barca icon Johan Cruyff, there remain massive reservations about his adaptability and whether he truly is the right man for the club in the long-term.

If he is to be the perfect fit, there are a few things he needs to address at a clun that some feel has lost its identity.

Adapt his system to Messi and determine future of aging stars

A non-negotiable condition of the job that even the most vociferous cirtics of Valverde will accept he more than met during his two-and-a-half years in charge - get the best from Messi. In theory, Setien's possession-based football should make him the ideal fit for Barca, and therefore Messi. But his teams – namely Las Palmas and Betis – had as much of a reputation for a chaotic approach that bordered on all-out attack as they did for dominating possession. Betis in particular played some rip-roaring football at a blistering pace, but playing at break-neck speed won't always been the case for Barca, who often have to be more methodical to break down deep-sitting opponents. Messi should still be expected to thrive, but where Setien opts to utilise the 32-year-old and the other stars of an aging team will be crucial. Can Gerard Pique, Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and the others over the age of 30 still keep up?

Look to La Masia, promote Puig

During the 2016-17 LaLiga season, Setien's Las Palmas squad had 14 'cantera' products in it. While that might be more readily expected of a club with a significantly smaller budget than Barca, he continued to make the most of the academy when at Betis. Francis, Fabian Ruiz, Loren Moron and Junior Firpo – with whom he has reunited – were all prominent figures under Setien at the Benito Villamarin. Barca's famed La Masia has been less successful in recent years, but there are certainly talents coming through with the likes of Ansu Fati. An easy early win for Setien would be promoting Riqui Puig to the first-team, with the silky – albeit diminutive – midfielder ready for the step up. Don't be surprised to see teenager Pedri also link up with the senior squad when he officially joins from Las Palmas at the end of the season.

Sign a Suarez substitute

Luis Suarez is set to miss most – if not the rest – of the season after having knee surgery, leaving Barca with a significant hole to fill. It's likely Antoine Griezmann will be asked to take up a central position, but beyond him their options are more or less limited to Carles Perez. As such, Barca are reportedly considering bringing in another forward, with Girona's Cristhian Stuani seemingly among the most likely arrivals. But the burly Uruguayan is not an archetypal Setien striker – Chimy Avila of Osasuna is. The Rosario-born forward is said to be being monitored by Barca, as the Argentinian is enjoying a fine season. A feisty competitor, Avila's nickname 'Chimy' comes from his father's conclusion that he is "spicy like chimichurri", a popular South American sauce. Small, quick, agile and relentless, comparisons with Sergio Aguero are understandable, and his release clause is a fairly modest €25m.

Win LaLiga

To be fair, achieving league success in isolation may not be good enough to keep Setien in a job for long – just ask back-to-back LaLiga winner Valverde. No, Setien will have to do more. He'll essentially have to win LaLiga while playing exciting football and win the Champions League to earn an extension to his contract, which ties him to the club until 2022. But, as was made abundantly clear by Josep Maria Bartomeu in Setien's presentation, the length of a contract can be irrelevant if certain expectations aren't met. "Setien has signed until 2022, but there's also a caveat that there can be a change," the president said on Tuesday. "Valverde had a contract until 2021 [until 2020 with the option for another year] and we saw there's a change."

Avoid a Champions League collapse

Perhaps the biggest issue the fans had with Valverde was humiliating collapses in successive Champions League campaigns. In Valverde's first season, Barca took a 4-1 lead into their quarter-final clash with Roma, only to be eliminated by virtue of a 3-0 loss in the return leg. The next year they did go a step further, but the result was much the same – a 3-0 defeat of Liverpool at Camp Nou was following by a 4-0 Anfield annihilation by the eventual champions. The concerns some might have of Setien relate to his teams' defensive capabilities, as such an emphasis on attacking left Las Palmas and Betis vulnerable at the back. While he will have a greater calibre of player at Barca, if this side of his team is to be exploited, it'll likely be in the latter stages of the Champions League.

Manchester United are said to be closing in on the signing of Sporting CP's Bruno Fernandes, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claimed there was no news to relay on Tuesday.

Sporting captain Fernandes was said to be a United target in pre-season, but no move materialised and he ended up signing a new contract in November.

But that new deal has not stopped fresh speculation this month, United reported to be the frontrunners in the race for Fernandes, a Portugal international.

Sporting's demands differ between the various media reports, however they claim United are likely to have to pay in the region of £60million (€70m) for the attacking midfielder, while some stories claim Marcos Rojo could return to Sporting as part of the deal.

But Solskjaer insisted there was nothing new to tell the gathered media during his news conference on Tuesday.

"I've got no transfer updates, so no," said Solskjaer when asked if he could provide an update on the apparent pursuit of Fernandes.

"If we get something that we can tell you about we will, but I've got no news now."

But Solskjaer reiterated that United have the capability – and he has the backing – to enter the market if they wish, as he moved to downplay the importance of Deloitte claiming the Red Devils are at risk of losing their status as the Premier League's highest revenue-generating club for the first time next year.

"For me, the most important thing is we get the results sorted, the performances on the pitch," he said.

"That's got to be my focus, but I know we've got the resources and the backing if we've got to go into the transfer market, for example. We're still up there aren't we? So, we're still in a good place."

Speculation around Ashley Young's apparent move to Inter has gone quiet in recent days, though he remains out of contention for United's FA Cup third-round replay against Wolves on Wednesday.

"He's not going to be involved," Solskjaer said of the versatile 34-year-old.

Bruno Fernandes is seemingly set for Manchester United, but just whether a deal can be done appears uncertain.

Fernandes, 25, has been heavily linked with a move to Old Trafford from Sporting CP in January.

But there are contrasting reports over the status of a potential deal as United look to strengthen amid an injury crisis.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD SET TO COMPLETE FERNANDES SIGNING

Manchester United are set to sign Fernandes for £60million (€70m) by the end of the week, according to The Sun.

However, the Daily Mail reports United are offering £50m (€58.4m) plus £10m (€11.7m) in add-ons and Sporting want £64m (€74.7m) up front.

Meanwhile, Fernandes has told Sporting he wants to make the move this month, according to The Telegraph, while reports in Portugal suggest Marcos Rojo could return to Lisbon as part of the deal.

ROUND-UP

- Inter and Tottenham started talks over Christian Eriksen on Monday, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. The Serie A giants are reportedly hoping to land the midfielder for €10m (£8.6m) as his contract expires at the end of the season.

- John Stones has emerged as a transfer target for Arsenal. The Sun reports Mikel Arteta is targeting the Manchester City defender, even if it is a loan move. Stones has played just 10 Premier League games this season.

- With Harry Kane set to be sidelined until at least April, Tottenham are eyeing a forward. The Independent claims Milan's Krzysztof Piatek and Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani are options for Spurs this month.

- Another surprise target for Tottenham has emerged. Gazzetta dello Sport says Fernando Llorente could be set for a return to the Premier League club, having left at the end of last season and signed with Napoli.

- Inter are close to completing a deal for Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud, according to the Daily Mail. The report says Giroud has already agreed personal terms with Inter, who are set to pay between €5.3m (£4.5m) and €7.6m (£6.5m) for the Frenchman.

- Moves are expected at San Siro this month and Gianluca Di Marzio understands Roma have entered the race for Inter's Matteo Politano following Nicolo Zaniolo's serious knee injury.

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