Between 2003 and 2009, Cristiano Ronaldo won three Premier League titles and the Champions League among other honours at Manchester United.

Ronaldo has since gone on to play for Real Madrid and Juventus, but he could be set for an Old Trafford reunion.

Watch this space…

 

TOP STORY – UNITED MAKE RONALDO CONTACT

Manchester United have made contact with Cristiano Ronaldo's agent Jorge Mendes over a return to Old Trafford, according to the front page of Friday's Gazzetta dello Sport.

Juventus superstar Ronaldo has been tipped to leave Turin, where he arrived in 2018, amid links with former clubs United and Real Madrid, as well as Paris Saint-Germain.

Ronaldo, who starred for United between 2003 and 2009, would have to take a wage cut in order to make a Manchester reunion a reality.

 

ROUND-UP

- Diario AS claims Madrid are willing to sell Raphael Varane in order to raise transfer funds amid strong links with Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and PSG star Kylian Mbappe. Varane has been linked with United and Chelsea.

- Staying at the Santiago Bernabeu, and AS says the future of captain Sergio Ramos looks less likely to be at Madrid. The likes of United and PSG have emerged as possible destinations for the superstar Spain skipper.

Barcelona are prioritising the signing of Lyon captain Memphis Depay, reports RMC Sport. Juventus have also been linked.

Rodrigo De Paul is wanted by Leeds United, Juve, Inter and Napoli, according to Calciomercato. Juve have been eyeing the Udinese star, but the Italian giants are also weighing up moves for United's Paul Pogba and Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli.

The implosion of the European Super League (ESL) over the past 48 hours was more about the breakaway group losing out to the establishment and had little to do with the fans.

Juventus remain convinced over the validity of a European Super League but admit the planned breakaway competition cannot possibly go ahead following a raft of withdrawals.

Milan followed Serie A rivals Inter in pulling out on Wednesday, as did Spanish side Atletico Madrid in a move welcomed by head coach Diego Simeone.

All six English teams – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham – ended their involvement on Tuesday following widespread criticism of the proposal, including from some of their own players and coaches.

Juve president Andrea Agnelli confirmed to Reuters that the mass exodus of the Premier League contingent had effectively ended the possibility of a Super League going ahead – for now at least.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the Bianconeri made clear the necessary procedures required for clubs to end their involvement have yet to be completed, as well as outlining how such a tournament still has merit from a sporting and commercial viewpoint.

"With reference to the press release issued by Juventus on April 19, relating to the project to create the Super League, and the subsequent public debate, the issuer specifies that it is aware of the request and intentions otherwise expressed by some clubs to withdraw from this project, although the necessary procedures under the agreement between the clubs have not been completed," a statement read.

"In this context, Juventus, while remaining convinced of the validity of the sporting, commercial and legal assumptions of the project, believes that it currently has limited possibilities of being completed in the form in which it was initially conceived.

"Juventus remains committed to building long-term value for the club and for the entire football movement."

Milan's U-turn came after taking into consideration the reaction from supporters to the tournament. The founding members would have been involved each season regardless of their performances in domestic leagues, a rule that received widespread condemnation.

"We accepted the invitation to participate in the Super League project with the genuine intention to deliver the best possible European competition for football fans around the world and in the best interest of the club and our own fans," Milan said in a statement.

"Change is not always easy, but evolution is necessary for progress, and the structures of European football have evolved and changed over the decades.

"However, the voices and the concerns of fans around the world have clearly been expressed about the Super League, and Milan must be sensitive to the voice of those who love this wonderful sport.

"We will continue to work hard to deliver a sustainable model for football."

Leaders of the European Super League were weighing up their options after half of their proposed member clubs pulled out Tuesday. 

The six English clubs - Manchester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham and Chelsea - have all confirmed their withdrawal.

Their departure leaves Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Milan and Inter to continue.

"Despite the announced departure of the English clubs, forced to take such decisions due the pressure out on them, we are convinced our proposal is fully aligned with European law and regulations as was demonstrated today by a court decision to protect the Super League from third party actions," the European Super League said in a release. 

"Given the current circumstances, we shall reconsider the most appropriate steps to reshape the project, always having in mind our goals of offering fans the best experience possible while enhancing solidary payments for the entire football community."

The European Super League statement also reiterated that the "current status quo of European football needs to change". It said the current European system "does not work".

The project has received widespread condemnation from fans, players, coaches, federations and national governments since its initial announcement on Sunday.

"Profit-driven" projects like the European Super League threaten the existing structure and mission of sport, according to International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach.

Bach appeared at the UEFA Congress in Montreux, Switzerland on Tuesday.

The furore caused by 12 of Europe's leading clubs announcing a breakaway competition that would see them leave existing structures in place under UEFA and FIFA continues to cause intense debate.

Bach warned that self-interest and commercialism would come at a huge cost for European sport.

He insisted such an approach was not what was needed as society rebuilds as it emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

"We have to realise that this European sport model is under threat today," Bach said. 

"In fact, the very existence of the values, solidarity and volunteer-based model is under threat. 

"It is challenged by a purely profit-driven approach that ignores the intrinsic values the social mission of sport and the real needs of the post-coronavirus world. 

"It is under threat because the social mission of sports organisations is losing ground to the purely profit-oriented goals of commercial sport providers and investors. 

"If everything is only looked at from a business perspective. If only the economic rules are applied to measure the impact of sport on society then the social mission of sport is lost.

"In this polarising environment narrow self-interest and egotism have been gaining ground over solidarity, shared values and common rules. 

"We can only address the challenges of the post-coronavirus world in solidarity. This means for us solidarity within sports organisations and solidarity among sports organisations."

At the same conference, FIFA president Gianni Infantino condemned the European Super League.

Infantino warned clubs involved they "cannot be half in or half out" and must fully commit to the breakaway competition.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino condemned the European Super League as he warned clubs involved they "cannot be half in or half out" and must fully commit to the breakaway competition.

Twelve elite clubs announced on Sunday their plans to launch a tournament to rival the Champions League in which they would be assured of qualification.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United, among others, would compete in the Super League every season without risk of demotion.

The news has prompted a strong reaction throughout the football world, with governing bodies, rivals clubs, players, coaches and fans critical of the idea and its anti-competitive format.

An initial FIFA statement on Sunday read: "FIFA can only express its disapproval to a 'closed European breakaway league' outside of the international football structures."

Infantino, FIFA president since 2016, had not subsequently discussed the Super League in public until Tuesday's UEFA Congress, however.

But he made clear in Montreux, Switzerland, that the clubs involved could not continue in their domestic leagues, as proposed, while bans from international football for players at those clubs have been threatened.

"At FIFA, we can only strongly disapprove the creation of the Super League, which is a closed shop, which is a breakaway from the current institutions, from the leagues, from the associations, from UEFA, and from FIFA," Infantino said.

"There is a lot to throw away for maybe a short-term financial gain of some. People need to think very carefully. They need to reflect and they need to assume responsibility.

"If some elect to go their own way, then they must live with the consequences of their choice. They are responsible for their choice.

"Concretely, this means either you are in or you are out. You cannot be half in or half out."

Everton have accused the six Premier League clubs who have signed up to the European Super League of "betraying" football supporters.

Plans for a breakaway league were announced on Sunday, with Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham among the 12 teams confirmed to have signed up.

The news was met with a wave of criticism from across the spectrum, including fans, governing bodies, players, ex-professionals and other clubs.

And on Tuesday the Toffees made clear their feelings on the matter in a scathing statement which attacked the involvement of their fellow English top-flight outfits.

"Everton is saddened and disappointed to see proposals of a breakaway league pushed forward by six clubs," read a statement from the club's board of directors.

"Six clubs acting entirely in their own interests.

"Six clubs tarnishing the reputation of our league and the game.

"Six clubs choosing to disrespect every other club with whom they sit around the Premier League table.

"Six clubs taking for granted and even betraying the majority of football supporters across our country and beyond."

The Merseyside club were particularly critical of the timing of the move, coming amid a global pandemic which has threatened the very existence of some clubs.

"At this time of national and international crisis – and a defining period for our game – clubs should be working together collaboratively with the ideals of our game and its supporters uppermost," the statement continued.

"Instead, these clubs have been secretly conspiring to break away from a football pyramid that has served them so well.

"And in that Pyramid Everton salutes EVERY club, be it Leicester City, Accrington Stanley, Gillingham, Lincoln City, Morecambe, Southend United, Notts County and the rest who have, with their very being, enriched the lives of their supporters throughout the game's history. And vice versa.

"The self-proclaimed Super Six appear intent on disenfranchising supporters across the game – including their own – by putting the very structure that underpins the game we love under threat."

Since the plans were made public, the dissenting voices have come from every corner, with UEFA threatening sanctions, fans protesting and even players and managers speaking out against them.

It is a reaction that Everton say must be taken on board by those leading the charge for a European Super League.

"The backlash is understandable and deserved – and has to be listened to," the club's board said.

"This preposterous arrogance is not wanted anywhere in football outside of the clubs that have drafted this plan.

"On behalf of everyone associated with Everton, we respectfully ask that the proposals are immediately withdrawn and that the private meetings and subversive practises that have brought our beautiful game to possibly its lowest ever position in terms of trust end now.

"Finally we would ask the owners, chairmen, and Board members of the six clubs to remember the privileged position they hold – not only as custodians of their clubs but also custodians of the game. The responsibility they carry should be taken seriously.

"We urge them all to consider what they wish their legacy to be."

If you are a football fan there is simply no escaping the controversy caused by the announcement 12 teams have signed up to form a breakaway European Super League.

Talk of such a competition is nothing new, rumours have been swirling for years, but the furore caused has still been widespread with pundits, players and fans alike united in their disapproval.

UEFA and the major European governing bodies and leagues have vowed to do all they can to kill the proposals and huge sanctions have been threatened if the teams go ahead with the league.

But part of the debate has also centred around the credentials of some of the teams who have been invited to participate, with six from the Premier League, three from LaLiga and three from Serie A agreeing to join. Below we have reviewed each of the 12 clubs involved.

THE 'BIG SIX' FROM THE PREMIER LEAGUE

Arsenal

Arsenal's place on the list comes with the club having failed to qualify for the Champions League since the 2016-17 season, the penultimate year of Arsene Wenger's long reign. The Gunners appear unlikely to make a return via the domestic route this season, as they sit well adrift of the top four in the Premier League. However, they are still in the Europa League, with a semi-final tie against Spanish side Villarreal – coached by former Arsenal boss Unai Emery, no less – to come.

Founded: October 1886 (initially as Dial Square)

Trophies won: 
First Division/Premier League: 13 times (last time was in 2003-04)
FA Cup: 14 times
EFL Cup: 2 times
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: Once

Social media following: 
Twitter: 17.3m
Instagram: 19.2m
Facebook: 38.3m

Chelsea

The outlook for Chelsea changed dramatically in 2003, when Roman Abramovich became the new owner. Prior to the Russian's arrival, the Blues had one the top-flight title just once. They have been crowned Premier League champions five times since, however, and also enjoyed Champions League success in 2012. In overcoming Porto across two legs, they have reached the semi-finals of the competition this term for the first time since 2014.

Founded: March 1905

Trophies won:
First Division/Premier League: Six times 
FA Cup: Eight times
League Cup: Five times
Champions League: Once
Europa League: Twice 
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: Twice
UEFA Super Cup: Once

Social media following: 
Twitter - 16.6m
Instagram - 25.9m
Facebook - 49.4m

Liverpool 

The Reds have a storied history, but there has been success in recent seasons under the guidance of Jurgen Klopp. No British club has won Europe's premier club competition more times than Liverpool, while the 2019-20 Premier League title triumph finally ended a 30-year wait to get back on their perch at home. However, they only featured in the Champions League once between the 2009-10 and 2017-18 campaigns, while their hopes of repeating their success of 2019 since lifting the trophy in Madrid have resulted in exits to Spanish opponents who also involved in the Super League. 

Founded: June 1892

Trophies won:
First Division/Premier League: 19 times
FA Cup: Seven times
League Cup: Eight times
Champions League: Six times
UEFA Cup: Three times
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: Twice
UEFA Super Cup: Four times
FIFA Club World Cup: Once

Social media following: 
Twitter - 17m
Instagram - 30.5m
Facebook - 39.1m

Manchester City

The Premier League champions in waiting are on course to claim a third title with Pep Guardiola at the helm. However, City slipped down to the third tier of the English football pyramid as recently as 1998, while only became one of the powerhouses of the domestic game following the arrival of a new owner in Sheikh Mansour. They first appeared in the Champions League in 2011-12 and are yet to get beyond the semi-final stage, meaning the Cup Winners' Cup success in 1970 remains the club's only European trophy.

Founded: April 1894

Trophies won:
First Division/Premier League: Six times
FA Cup: Six times
League Cup: Seven times
European Cup Winners' Cup: Once

Social media following:
Twitter - 9.5m
Instagram - 23.3m
Facebook - 40.2m 

Manchester United

United were the dominant force in the Premier League era under Alex Ferguson, winning the title 13 times to overtake Liverpool's record tally. However, since their legendary manager departed, the Red Devils have not managed to add to their overall tally as 20-time top-flight champions. There was FA Cup success under Louis van Gaal - who was then sacked - and an EFL-Europa League double during Jose Mourinho's time in charge at Old Trafford. In the Champions League, United have only gone as far as the last eight since losing the 2011 final to a Lionel Messi-inspired Barcelona.

Founded: 1902

Trophies won:
First Division/Premier League - 20 times
FA Cup - 12 times
League Cup - Five times
European Cup/Champions League - Three times
Europa League - Once
European Cup Winners' Cup - Once
European Super Cup - Once
FIFA Club World Cup - Once

Social media following:
Twitter - 25.1m
Instagram - 40.1m
Facebook - 73.2m

Tottenham

Now searching for a new manager following the dismissal of Jose Mourinho less than 24 hours after confirming their Super League involvement, Spurs' best-ever finish in a Premier League season came in 2016-17 when second behind champions Chelsea. There was a Champions League final appearance in 2019 too, though they missed out on glory when losing 1-0 to Liverpool. Indeed, Tottenham have not secured silverware since the League Cup triumph in 2008, while the most recent of their two top-flight league titles was way back in 1960-61.

Founded: 1882

Trophies won:
First Division - twice
FA Cup - eight times
League Cup - four times
UEFA Cup - twice
European Cup Winners' Cup - once

Social media following:
Twitter - 5.8m
Instagram - 10.2m
Facebook - 22.5m

THE REMAINING CLUBS INVOLVED

Atletico Madrid

A huge club in their own right, of that there is no doubt. But the last of Atleti's LaLiga title wins came in 2014, and that was only their second since 1977. Three times runners-up for Europe's greatest continental prize but as yet there has been no Champions League triumph for Atletico Madrid. While Diego Simeone has overseen a great period at Atleti, and the club has muscled into the fight with their more illustrious Clasico rivals, it should certainly be no shoo-in that Atleti deserve an automatic spot at this table.

Founded: April 1903

Trophies won:
LaLiga: 10 times
Copa del Rey: 10 times
Supercopa de Espana: Twice
Europa League: Three times
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: Once
UEFA Super Cup: Three times

Social media following:
Twitter – 4.9m (Spanish account)
Instagram – 11.1m
Facebook - 13m

Barcelona

Another LaLiga heavyweight, boasting the talents of Lionel Messi of course, that would certainly not be out of place in a Super League, both in terms of history and trophies won. Barcelona's well-documented financial issues off the pitch may also offer a further explanation for the desire for a mind-boggling windfall. While Barca were beaten to LaLiga by Clasico rivals Madrid last term, they have already collected silverware this time around in the form of the Copa del Rey. Champions League success has not arrived since 2015 but Barca's credentials stand up to scrutiny.

Founded: March 1899

Trophies won:
LaLiga: 26 times
Copa del Rey: 31 times
Supercopa de Espana: 13 times
Champions League/European Cup: Five times
UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: Four times
UEFA Super Cup: Five times
Club World Cup: Three times

Social media following:
Twitter – 15m (Spanish account)
Instagram – 95.9m
Facebook - 103m

Inter

The Milan giants are a club rich in history, who have scaled the heights in European football.  But also another who have struggled to reach such past glories until this term – with Antonio Conte's side appearing primed to win a first Serie A title since 2010, the year Jose Mourinho oversaw a famous treble also comprising the Coppa Italia and Champions League. While some would dispute Inter's place in a Super League, the signs are the Nerazzurri are on the way back to consistently challenging among the elite.

Founded: March 1908

Trophies won:
Serie A: 18 times
Coppa Italia: Seven times
Supercoppa Italiana: Seven times
Champions League/European Cup: Three times
UEFA Cup: Three times
Club World Cup: Once

Social media following:
Twitter – 2.3m (Italian account)
Instagram – 6.5m
Facebook – 28m

Juventus

The Old Lady of Italian football. With 36 Serie A titles to their name, Juventus are the most successful club in the history of the Italian top flight. While the Bianconeri have not won the Champions League since 1996, they have been runners-up in 2015 and 2017 and no one can doubt the grandeur of this historic club. The past decade in Italy has been dominated by Juventus who have won nine titles in a row, but their quest for 10 has hit a bump as a side spearheaded by the evergreen Cristiano Ronaldo sits fourth in the maiden campaign of Andrea Pirlo.

Founded: November 1897

Trophies won:
Serie A: 36 times
Coppa Italia: 13 times
Supercoppa Italiana: Nine times
Champions League/European Cup: Twice
UEFA Cup/Europa League: Three times
UEFA Super Cup: Twice

Social media following:
Twitter – 9.1m (Italian account)
Instagram – 48.2m
Facebook – 45m

Milan

Once of the most revered and loved teams across the globe, the Rossoneri have fallen on hard times in recent years. Only Madrid can boast more than Milan's seven European/Champions League victories, while many of the all-time greats have donned the famous red and black jersey. But you have to go back to 2007 for the last time Milan were crowned champions of Europe, while 10 years have past since they lifted the Serie A title. Indeed, they have not even played in the Champions League since the 2013-14 campaign – albeit Stefano Pioli's men appeared destined to return to the competition this term.

Founded: 1899

Trophies won:
Serie A: 18 times
Coppa Italia: Five times
Supercoppa Italiana: Seven times
Champions League/European Cup: Seven times
European Cup Winners' Cup: Twice
UEFA Super Cup: Five times
Club World Cup: Once

Social media following:
Twitter – 7.7m
Instagram – 9.7m
Facebook – 24m

Real Madrid

While some of the teams in this controversial process may raise a few eyebrows, there is little doubt a club with the prestige of Real Madrid would not be involved. Record winners of the European Cup/Champions League on 13 occasions (the last of which coming as recently as 2018, the third in succession under Zinedine Zidane), and 34 times winners of LaLiga (including last season) there is little doubt Los Blancos are an established part of the European elite. This term, they are into the semi-finals of the Champions League and sit second in a tight race for the top flight title in Spain.

Founded: March 1902 (initially as Madrid football club)

Trophies won:
LaLiga: 34 times
Copa del Rey: 19 times
Supercopa de Espana: 11 times
Champions League/European Cup: 13 times
UEFA Cup: Twice
UEFA Super Cup: Four times
Club World Cup: Four times

Social media following:
Twitter – 36.8m (Spanish account)
Instagram – 97.1m
Facebook – 110m

France, Spain or Germany?

Eduardo Camavinga has admirers following his exploits for Rennes in Ligue 1.

Some of Europe's biggest clubs are interested, but could he be set for Bavaria?

 

TOP STORY – CAMAVINGA WANTED IN GERMANY

Bayern Munich are hoping to sign Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, according to France Football.

Camavinga is unwilling to extend his Rennes contract and the 18-year-old has been linked with Real Madrid, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal.

Borussia Monchengladbach's Florian Neuhaus is also on Bayern's list, though the Bundesliga champions reportedly feel Camavinga could be better value for money.

 

ROUND-UP

- Who will permanently replace Jose Mourinho as Tottenham head coach following his sacking on Monday? Football Italia claims Spurs have contacted former Juventus, Chelsea and Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri. The Daily Mail, however, reports RB Leipzig's Julian Nagelsmann is Tottenham's top candidate.

- La Razon says West Ham are leading the race to sign Sevilla forward Youssef En-Nesyri, who has also been linked with United and Liverpool.

PSG are the most likely suitors for Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin, according to Sport. Bellerin is likely to leave the Gunners and he has been linked to Barcelona.

- Sport says Barca's plans depend on Lionel Messi's future. Messi is out of contract at the end of the season, but president Joan Laporta is keen to re-sign the superstar amid reported interest from PSG and Manchester City. It comes as Barca target Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, who has also been linked with rivals Real Madrid, United, City, Chelsea, Liverpool, PSG and Juventus. Lyon captain Memphis Depay, City's Sergio Aguero and Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum are also reportedly wanted at Camp Nou.

Sunday's announcement of a long-feared European 'Super League' raised the possibility of unprecedented change in football, with the 12 founding clubs seemingly at threat of being kicked out of other competitions as a result.

The Premier League's so-called "big six", Spanish giants Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid and Serie A trio Juventus, Milan and Inter have broken ranks and agreed to the formation of the breakaway competition.

Sunday's uniform announcement from most of the clubs involved confirmed the Super League will be made up of 15 founding clubs – with three to be added to the initial 12 – and unconfirmed guest teams.

It will run as a midweek tournament alongside the teams' respective domestic leagues and guarantees the founding clubs a share of €3.5billion "solely to support their infrastructure investment plans and to offset the impact of the COVID pandemic".

But, pre-empting the announcement following widespread media speculation, UEFA released a statement co-signed by the national associations of England, Spain and Italy, and those countries' respective top-flight leagues. It reiterated a threat to ban players and teams involved from competing in other competitions.

While that is a debate that will rage on for some time, with the legality of such measures unclear for the moment, it raises the possibility of a Premier League without its "big six", a LaLiga missing Barcelona and Real Madrid, and Serie A expelling Juve, Milan and Inter.

With that in mind, we looked at what those three divisions would look like in the – admittedly unlikely – event that the 12 Super League clubs are expelled and results involving them are expunged…

Premier League

Who'd have thought in 2013 when he was appointed as Alex Ferguson's successor at Manchester United that David Moyes' first Premier League title would come as West Ham boss?

Well, if the "big six" were expelled and their results were void, it would be the Hammers sitting at the top of the pile – and by some distance.

Moyes' men would be on 49 points from 21 matches having suffered just two defeats.

Curiously, the exclusion of the Super League clubs would seemingly harm Leicester City, as they have lost just three matches to them in 2020-21 – West Ham have been beaten seven times by "big six" opposition.

Nevertheless, Leicester would still be on course to get back in the Champions League. Leeds United (1.8) and Everton (1.6) would appear to be the favourites to join them, by virtue of their better points-per-game record than Aston Villa (1.5).

LaLiga

Fair play to Real Betis, who have already embraced a future without Madrid, Atletico and Barcelona by deleting them from the Liga table that sits on their website.

Unfortunately for Betis, that same table now has their bitter rivals Sevilla sitting pretty at the summit.

In fact, Sevilla probably shouldn't be ruled out of the real title race just yet given they are actually only six points behind leaders Atletico and still have to face Zinedine Zidane's Madrid.

In our LaLiga table excluding the "big three", Sevilla have 60 points from 26 games, giving them a 13-point lead over Villarreal.

It also highlights just how bad Los Nervionenses' record against Madrid, Barca and Atletico is, as they have taken just four points from them this term.

Rounding off the top four would be Betis in third and Real Sociedad in fourth.

Serie A

Juventus' stranglehold on Serie A looks set to end regardless of any action from UEFA and the league. Having won each of the previous nine Scudetti, the Old Lady have been dire under Andrea Pirlo for much of the season.

So, helping establish a new semi-closed competition under the guise of needing better opponents is the logical step…

While Atalanta would sit top of a Serie A without Juve, Inter and Milan, technically it's Lazio who would be on course for title success.

The Biancocelesti have played a game less than Atalanta but would only be behind them on goal difference – their points-per-game record is 2.24, slightly more than the Bergamo side's 2.15.

Napoli (2.12) and Roma (1.96) would remain in the running as well were the "big three" to be dumped out of the competition.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has branded the planned European Super League as a "disgraceful, self-serving proposal" fuelled by greed, as well as confirming players from the 12 breakaway clubs involved will be banned from international football.

The 'big six' from the Premier League have collaborated with Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Inter, Juventus, Milan and Real Madrid to reveal plans for a new midweek club competition.

Those founder members would automatically qualify each season no matter where they finished in their respective domestic leagues.

Speaking during a conference call to reveal "dynamic" changes to UEFA's current European club tournaments, Ceferin made clear how results on the pitch should always decide who participates, rather than a "closed shop run by a greedy few".

"We began this project to modernise the competitions in 2019 judged by the principle it should be: an exercise in inclusive leadership," Ceferin told the media.

"At the start of the process, we were driven by a desire to help all UEFA club competitions into something even better than the spectacles we know today. With the unanimous support of the European Club Association (ECA), we consulted widely across the game.

"Teams will always qualify and compete in our competitions on merit, not a closed shop run by a greedy, select few. That was our decision from the beginning.

"Any club, any fans should still have the dream of participating in the Champions League based on their results on the pitch."

The European Super League plan has come in for widespread criticism and Ceferin did not hold back in his own assessment, as well making clear the ramifications it will have for players outside of club football.

"I must address the extraordinary situation that has developed on the eve of this announcement," he continued.

"I cannot stress more strongly at this moment that UEFA and the footballing world stand united against the disgraceful, self-serving proposal in the past 24 hours from a select few clubs in Europe that are fuelled purely by greed above all else.

"Not only is the football world united, but society is also united, governments are united. It's part of our culture – we are all united against this nonsense of a project.

"We have the English FA, Spanish Federation, Italian Federation, Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, and also FIFA and all our 55 member associations unanimous in opposition to this cynical plan that are completely against what football should be.

"Our game has become the greatest sport in the world based on open competition, integrity and sporting merit. We cannot allow, and we will not allow that to change, ever. Never.

"As previously announced by FIFA and the six confederations, the players that play in the teams that might play in the closed league, will be banned from playing in the World Cup and the Euros. They will not be able to represent their national teams in any matches."

UEFA announced plans for Champions League expansion that will see an increase to 36 teams as the present format -  whereby there are eight pools of four – will be scrapped.

Instead, each team will play 10 group games before advancing to a last-16 knockout format. The changes are due to be introduced for the 2024-25 season.

"Whoever thinks the Super League and UEFA are all about money is not right. Super League is only about money, money of the dozen – I don't want to call them the dirty dozen," Ceferin said. 

"UEFA is about developing football, about financing what should be financed, that our football and our culture survives. Some people do not understand it.

"The reforms preserve the value of the domestic game by retaining the principle that domestic performance should be the key to qualification – this should, and will not, ever change.

"The European game is the greatest success story of the modern sport, and there's a reason why – because of its pyramid, it's long history. We are constantly adapting the European competition to ensure it is more and more interesting, more and more modern, but the principles cannot change.

"Solidarity is something that cannot change, but for some people solidarity doesn't exist, unity doesn't exist. The only thing that exists is their pockets."

Thomas Tuchel refused to condemn the formation of a European Super League and is adamant he trusts Chelsea to "make the right decisions" as he called for all parties to remain calm.

Chelsea were confirmed as one of 12 founder clubs of a new semi-closed competition on Sunday, with The Super League – as it has been dubbed – attracting widespread criticism.

UEFA, in a statement co-signed by the national associations of England, Spain, Italy and those countries' respective top leagues, vowed to ban players and teams from other competitions if they become involved in the Super League.

It remains to be seen if UEFA and the domestic leagues have the power to stop the Super League, but Tuchel cut a relaxed figure amid the hysteria as he addressed the media on Monday ahead of Tuesday's meeting with Brighton and Hove Albion.

He told reporters: "I've known since yesterday, but I am here to be in the hardest competitions, it's why I came here, to play the toughest competitions in Europe.

"As you know, I don't get into the subjects around us. I was hoping to talk about Man City and Brighton but it's not the case.

"I am part of this club and I trust this club to make the right decisions. I think it's too early to judge everything and it's not my part.

"On my badge it says that everyone has to play their role. My role is to coach, be focused, and we've another game tomorrow.

"There are a lot of comments, arguments and opinions out there and I don't want to get involved in it because I don't know the details. I've known the general details since yesterday."

Regarding the opinions of players and staff, Tuchel added: "If I had a clear opinion right now I wouldn't mention it - it's too early to judge it and there are way too many opinions out there.

"I trust this club and my job is very clear. I am maybe not the right person to ask this of. I understand why there are many emotional reactions out there, but I don't know enough about it.

"The players were not involved in the decision making, I wasn't involved. Maybe it's a good thing to step back and not give our opinions about this. It's between the clubs and it's important to fight for the goals we still have this season."

UEFA has made its position on the Super League crystal clear regarding the potential exclusions of teams.

Whether it is able to enforce such decisions is another matter, but Tuchel hopes all parties can calm down as they look to find solutions.

Asked if he was worried about potential punishment impacting Chelsea's season, Tuchel said: "There was not too much time to get worried. Clearly, I hope not.

"Everyone wishes for a calm atmosphere and situation to have full focus. Do we have it, maybe not but it's clearly our choice if we get influenced, read too much about it, get lost in sports politics.

"We are involved in this club to play our role and make our challenge happen at the highest level. This is what I am here for. Nobody expects anything else from me, except for maybe you guys in the next few days.

"Nothing will change between me and the team. Sometimes in the middle of the storm is the calmest. Let's hope it is like this and I don't want to enter in this as it may sound like an excuse."

For a long time, Neymar had been tipped to re-join Barcelona after leaving Camp Nou in a world-record transfer in 2017.

But Neymar's future is close to being finalised.

Paris Saint-Germain are set to retain the Brazil international.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR AND PSG POISED FOR RENEWAL

Neymar is close to signing a new contract with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, according to Canal+.

PSG star Neymar has been in contract negotiations and publicly pledged his long-term future to the club following their progress to the Champions League semi-finals.

Previously linked with a return to Barcelona, Neymar could sign his renewal before the Champions League tie against Manchester City.

 

ROUND-UP

- Erling Haaland's future remains up in the air, reports Diario AS. The in-demand Borussia Dortmund sensation has been linked with Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, PSG, Juventus, Chelsea and Bayern Munich. Speculation over his next move intensified as he followed Barca captain Lionel Messi on Instagram amid the Camp Nou club's interest.

- Diario Sport claims Ousmane Dembele's contract talks with Barcelona have stalled. Dembele, who is contracted until 2021-22, has been linked with United and Liverpool.

United and Liverpool are both eyeing Sevilla star Youssef En-Nesyri, says Estadio Deportivo. Sevilla are reportedly demanding in the region of £40million (€46m) for the forward.

- Russian powerhouse Zenit are interested in signing Barca defender Samuel Umtiti, reports Fabrizio Romano. Liverpool, United and Chelsea have been linked previously.

Gianluigi Donnarumma and Milan remain at an impasse regarding contract talks, according to Gianluca Di Marzio. The star Milan and Italy goalkeeper is out of contract at the end of the season and the likes of PSG, Chelsea, Juve and United have emerged as possible destinations.

Thomas Tuchel was proud to have got the better of Pep Guardiola for the first time in his career after leading Chelsea to a 1-0 victory over Manchester City on Saturday.

Hakim Ziyech's goal sent Chelsea into the FA Cup final for the fourth time in five seasons and ended Premier League leaders City's hopes of winning a quadruple this season.

Guardiola was unbeaten in his five prior meetings with Tuchel, all of which came during the Catalan's time in charge of Bayern Munich between 2013 and 2016.

Since taking over Chelsea in January, Tuchel has also come out on top against Jurgen Klopp, Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti and Diego Simeone.

He was pleased to have got the beating of a manager he considers to be the best in the world but urged his team to quickly put it behind them and focus on their push to finish in the top four of the Premier League.

"If you play against Pep, you know you play against the highest level in Europe because everywhere he was on the sideline he was the benchmark with his teams and he is again. You can see this in the Premier League," Tuchel told a post-match news conference.

"But it was our target to close the gap for the 90 minutes because it's possible in football if you arrive in good momentum you can make this happen.

"I'm happy and proud of the performances because we played with a lot of courage. We were brave with the ball and against the ball.

"We deserved the win, which is most important. We were very active and didn't get passive. We deserved the win against like I said maybe the best manager and clearly one of the best teams, so we are very happy with the performance.

"It'll be a huge boost for our confidence and for our progression and our development because we arrived with a young team. It's important to have these experiences together.

"Most important now is to enjoy it today and from tomorrow it's the past and we need to perform in a crucial week in the Premier League.

"Today the target was to close the gap to Man City for 90 minutes completely. It was a huge target and we were focused on that and delivered very well.

"Now the next big target is to forget this performance and success and enter with full awareness a crucial week in the Premier League."

Chelsea entertain Brighton and Hove Albion on Tuesday before taking on top-four rivals West Ham at London Stadium next Saturday.

Kevin De Bruyne's ankle injury sustained in the FA Cup semi-final loss to Chelsea "doesn't look good", according to Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.

The Belgium international went off in the 48th minute as City's quadruple hopes were ended by Hakim Ziyech's second-half goal in a 1-0 defeat at Wembley on Saturday.

De Bruyne will undergo tests on Sunday to determine the severity of his injury, with the EFL Cup final against Tottenham coming next weekend and the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain following three days later.

Asked about De Bruyne's status, Guardiola told a news conference: "He has pain now. Tomorrow they are going to make a test with the doctors. It probably doesn't look too good but tomorrow we will see what he has."

De Bruyne was one of only three City players to retain their place in the starting line-up from the midweek victory over Borussia Dortmund.

Guardiola rejected the suggestion that his widescale rotation signified a lack of respect for the FA Cup.

"We had two days to recover [after Dortmund] and played away and had to travel by train for three hours [to Wembley] and everyone deserves to play, but don't say we don't pay attention," said Guardiola.

"A team that arrives in the final stages of all competitions couldn't say that. This team won four finals in a row in the Carabao Cup, so just say we lost the game and when we lost the game the decision is bad. But it's such a poor argument.

"We wouldn't get to the semi-finals of the FA Cup or the final of the Carabao Cup and semi-finals of the Champions League if we didn't pay attention. This team always plays to win.

"It was a tight game. Congratulations to Chelsea, they're a top side. But if you believe we didn't pay attention, what would happen if we won today with eight changes? Say it before the game, say 'Pep doesn't pay attention' or 'the players don't pay attention'. Don't just say it after because we lost a game.

"These guys in 10 months, 11 months fight every game like I've never seen. We lose a game against a top side and now we don't pay attention or care about this competition? We respect a lot the FA Cup, we play to win."

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