Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford deserves recognition on the United Kingdom's honours list for his charity work, Kick It Out's Troy Townsend says.

Rashford has been widely praised for his effort to ensure vulnerable young people have access to free meals during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 22-year-old partnered with FareShare and helped to raise £20million to provide three million free meals to those in need before turning his focus onto a similar problem in UK schools.

Thanks to his campaigning on social media and direct appeal to MPs, the government decided to go back on their decision not to extend the scheme for free school meals for underprivileged children into the summer months and committed to spending £120m to ensure those vouchers would stay available.

Townsend, who was a teacher with first-hand experience of the importance of work like Rashford's before he joined anti-discrimination body Kick it Out, is proud of the way footballers have responded during the COVID-19 crisis to raise money and awareness for valuable causes.

He now wants Rashford's efforts to be recognised in the right way.

"What I like is the maturity in the way he talks," Townsend, who is Kick It Out's head of development, told Stats Perform News. "You can put statements out and you can write tweets and you can think, 'Well, someone's done that for him', and that's been labelled at players in the past.

"But when you hear him talking about this issue, his understanding is from what he lived. He's an old head on young shoulders: the innocence is still there because he's a 22-year-old who is developing into his life, but the maturity and the way he talks, because of this experience, has been amazing.

"I've been tweeting for the last three or four days – there's got to be a knighthood coming along here, or whatever it is. We question our sports people, individuals, not just football but predominantly football because of the status it has, we question them, we question them. This man has stepped up to the plate and then some. I don't think he wants the plaudits that maybe he's getting, but the least we can do is recognise that when the honours list comes back around.

"What this period of time has, I hope, really taught the players is that there is a lot of strength and power behind them, not just with what Marcus Rashford is doing but with what a number of players were doing, how they've collectively come together and made sure their money that they have donated is going to the right and relevant people, that they want it to go to. Marcus is the standout story among many stories. At the start of this pandemic, they were instantly painted with a bad brush and it was unfair because they were already working behind the scenes, seeing all the contributions the players make anyway, but wow, what a response."

Rashford was initially met with opposition from the government over his free school meals drive, but his persistence in generating support online eventually forced a policy U-turn.

Townsend thinks the cutthroat nature of professional football is what gives someone like Rashford that sort of determination, especially when fighting for a cause from which he benefitted as a child.

"It's instilled in footballers," he said. "If you make it in this game, somewhere along the line you've been released, you've been rejected, you've been told you're not good enough or you've suffered a long-term injury, and that perseverance to get back up and running and to the levels you were at before – without a doubt, you've either got it or you haven’t, and that determination, that will to win, that desire to better yourself is instilled in all footballers, bar none.

"Some fall by the wayside unfortunately because it's a big industry and it's very harsh and critical at times, and some grow. This has happened as a period of time when Marcus could devote a lot of his attention to it, particularly when the players were not back in training and were doing their little bits, but also a focus that he's driven by because of his experience and because of what he would have had to have gone through as a young lad going through the educational system.

"It's quite easy to say, 'Oh, look what he's done', and I've seen some comments and I can't understand people who talk about, 'Yeah, you've got the financial power to do it'. He's driving things on in his own way."

Lautaro Martinez has been tipped to make the move to Camp Nou.

The Inter forward is at the top of Barcelona's list of targets as the Spanish giants eye a long-term replacement for veteran Luis Suarez.

But Inter are not making things easy for Barca.

 

TOP STORY – INTER NOT BUDGING OVER MARTINEZ

Inter are standing firm over Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez, according to Sky Sport Italia.

LaLiga champions Barca are determined to sign the Argentina forward but Inter are unwilling to budge on their demands – either pay his €111million release clause or splash €90-95m plus a player chosen by the Serie A club. 

The same network claims Inter loanee  Alexis Sanchez  could renew his loan deal from Manchester United.

 

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Inter are interested in Real Madrid full-back Achraf Hakimi, reports Calciomercato. Achraf, who has spent the past two seasons on loan at Dortmund, has been linked with the likes of Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and others. Inter are admirers of the Morocco international but remain some way off luring him to Milan.

- The Times says Chelsea are prepared to sell star midfielder N'Golo Kante to raise funds for extra transfers. Madrid are thought to be keen on the Frenchman as Chelsea look to sign Leicester City full-back Ben Chilwell and Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz.

Napoli have reached a "total agreement" with Lille for defender Gabriel Magalhaes, says Footmercato. The Brazilian centre-back has also been linked to Everton and Tottenham.

- Sky Sport Italia journalist Gianluca Di Marzio reports Fiorentina are battling Milan and Everton for outgoing PSG defender Thiago Silva, who is a free agent.

Milan have been mooted as the most likely destination for Naby Keita as Liverpool consider selling the former RB Leipzig midfielder, according to Milan Live.

David Alaba to leave Bayern Munich? The Telegraph claims the Bundesliga champions are open to a sale, alerting the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City, United and PSG.

Jose Mourinho praised Marcus Rashford following his successful free school meals campaign, describing the Manchester United forward he knows well as a "man with principles".

Rashford's lobbying of the United Kingdom government led to a U-turn as the food voucher scheme for vulnerable school children was extended beyond term time, with the subject close to the player's heart due to his own childhood experiences.

The 22-year-old, who has spoken about his own reliance on free school meals and food banks when growing up, had already helped charity FareShare reach a goal of supplying three million meals to the vulnerable by the end of June.

Mourinho worked with Rashford during his time in charge of United and, as he prepares to come up against his former employers on Friday, has championed the England international for his off-field work.

"He did amazingly well, I congratulate him on that," the Spurs boss told the media ahead of the Premier League fixture.

"It's a bit strange for me that one football player can make it happen and, if it happens, it's because the government realises it is the right thing to do. The government shouldn't wait for one player to come out publicly and put some pressure on them for that to happen.

"The 18-year-old kid I met a few years ago to be now a man, and a man with principles.

"To fight for kids very similar too him when he was a young kid is something very nice from Marcus."

Rashford's focus on Friday will be dealing his old boss a serious blow as Spurs attempt to claw back the gap to United in the table.

Mourinho's side – boosted by the return of Harry Kane from injury – have nine games remaining in a Premier League season delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, though they face a battle to finish in the top four again.

United sit in fifth place ahead of the pivotal clash at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea. Spurs, meanwhile, are eighth, leaving them in danger of missing out on qualifying for next season's Champions League.

"The battle for the top four would be amazing if we all started with the same number of points but unfortunately that's not the case," Mourinho said.

"It's a strange battle to fight but it's a street challenge, motivation. I will try not to look to that difference, I honestly cannot tell you the difference in points, we have to look at this incredible challenge in the way we have to do it.

"Every game we have to try and win. At the end of the nine matches, we will see what we did and our opponents did.

"Normally in this fight we don't depend as much as we do on our exact opponents. But let's focus on one match at a time and tomorrow is Manchester United and the points are there to fight for."

Jose Mourinho is frustrated he cannot call on Dele Alli for Tottenham's big clash with Manchester United on Friday.

England midfielder Alli must serve a one-match ban for a racially insensitive social media post he made in February, forcing him to miss Spurs' first game since the Premier League returned.

A video on Snapchat showed Alli in an airport mocking an Asian man in reference to coronavirus, before the lockdown. Alli said he videoed the man because he was coughing, not because of his ethnicity and admitted he made an "extremely poorly judged joke".

According to Mourinho, others have avoided punishment despite committing more serious misconduct during the pandemic.

Mourinho said in a news conference, held by video link on Thursday: "I feel very, very sorry that Dele is not playing. He is a player that works so, so hard during all this period and he's really frustrated that he cannot play the first match.

"I don't want to say much more than I don't think he deserves a one-match ban compared with wrong behaviours at much bigger dimensions that happened during this period without any consequences.”

The video posted by Alli showed him wearing a protective facemask in an airport and was entitled "Corona whattt, please listen with volume". It cut to the gentleman, who appeared to be unaware he was being filmed, before panning to a bottle of antiseptic handwash.

Underneath, a caption read: "This virus gunna have to be quicker than that to catch me."

The 24-year-old deleted the video and posted an apology to the Chinese social media network Weibo.

Mourinho, who is preparing to face his former club, can recall England captain Harry Kane after a long injury lay-off, and that may allay the blow of losing Alli.

Asked how Tottenham would shape up without Alli, Mourinho said: “How are we going to play? I’m not going to tell you.”

Harry Kane will start for Tottenham against Manchester United in their first Premier League match following the coronavirus-enforced pause after recovering from a torn hamstring, Jose Mourinho has confirmed.

Kane, 26, suffered the injury in the 1-0 defeat at Southampton on New Year's Day, condemning him to a lengthy period on the sidelines.

Initially it was suggested he could potentially miss the rest of the season, but with the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a three-months suspension to the Premier League season, Spurs' chief goal threat will be able to play a major role in their final nine matches of the campaign.

Moussa Sissoko (knee) and Son Heung-min (broken arm) also suffered serious injuries before the lockdown, but they too are ready to return.

When speaking about team news in a virtual news conference on Thursday, Mourinho said: "We have little things [injuries] but we are going to wait until tomorrow [Friday, before ruling them in or out].

"Of course [Japhet] Tanganga has a stress fracture for a few months now and of course he didn't recover during this period, and we have some little problems that we have to analyse before we make a decision.

"But the ones that had the surgeries, Kane, Son and Sissoko, these three they recovered and they are ready to play.

"Kane doesn't play football for more than six months, so again he is working extremely well. I can tell you no problem he is going to start the game.

"Does harry have 90, 80, 70, 60 minutes in him? Only the game will tell us that. Is Harry on his top form? For him, I don't know. It's been around six months without a football match, but he works extremely well. He is an amazing professional and he's going to start tomorrow."

Mourinho was less certain about Giovani Lo Celso's prospects, however, as the Argentina international sustained an injury just before the lockdown, and regulations prevented him getting the treatment he required.

"I consider Gio one of the victims of the rules and one of the victims of the protocols, because he was injured in the end of the period before coronavirus," Mourinho said.

"He was in very bad condition in the last three or four matches. He played for five or 10 minutes against Burnley, he wasn't ready for Leipzig.

"Because of the rules, his injury isn't one in need of surgery, it needed daily treatment and close contacts with physios and fitness coaches, but that was not possible for about two months, he was injured and he couldn't recover from it.

"So, when the training ground opened and he started treatment. It was not enough to have him 100 per cent fit - only in the past days was he training with the team.

"Available for tomorrow? Yes, I think so, but we will test if he is going to play 90 minutes, start the game or not. It was a difficult process for him."

The Friday clash at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium could prove pivotal for both teams' Champions League aspirations.

Spurs, who are eighth, go into the match four points adrift of fifth-placed United, who will be looking to go level with fourth-place Chelsea, at least until Sunday, with a victory.

Marcus Rashford's achievement in persuading the UK government to extend its food voucher scheme is more important than any football match he will ever play, Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said.

United and England striker Rashford wrote a letter to members of the House of Commons on Monday imploring them to continue free school meals for disadvantaged children when the term finishes.

Vouchers were given out over the Easter holidays because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the scheme usually only runs during term time and so was due to end next month.

But the FareShare campaign fronted by Rashford forced the government to rethink its approach, with the widespread support on social media ultimately leading to Downing Street making a U-turn.

Rashford will return to his day job on Friday as United resume their Premier League season at Tottenham, but Solskjaer is well aware that no match the 22-year-old plays will be as impactful as the changes he has helped bring.

"As a club, and me as his manager, of course it's been fantastic to follow Marcus throughout the lockdown period as well," Solskjaer told a video news conference on Thursday.

"It's not only that he got the prime minister to change his mind, it's also what he's done over the last few months.

"Marcus is a top human being, he's brought his own experiences as a kid into this conversation and change the lives of many kids.

"He's already been captain of the club at such a young age and he's proving all the time his human qualities which is a main attribute for a Manchester United player.

"What Marcus has done has been incredible, with his family, with his own personality of course. He's always been a great human being and coming up through the academy I think the club recognised that early, gave him chances.

"Of course, we saw the talent, but you need you need to be a really good human being too. He's changed the lives so many kids this summer, which is more important than any game he'll ever play, so hopefully he can keep both sides going as well as he's going now.

"Me at 22, I wouldn't have been in a position to affect people and change like this. I don't think he's thinking about this politically, in any other way than helping people and kids.

"He knows deep down he's helped children with food and to change their lives. I think that makes him feel good about himself and, using his position as a role model, one of the top players in the country, he can affect people in a good way.

"It's up to every individual of course, and footballers as a group have been criticised a lot, even over lockdown, but I think this lockdown has maybe changed people, maybe made them think about larger issues.

"Marcus has always been a good lad and the changes he's made are unbelievable. Footballers are easy targets at different times, but we can affect people in a good way too. If you can use your face to change something for the better, why not?"

Rashford has also been vocal in his support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has gained significant traction across the world following the death of George Floyd, an African-American man who died in police custody last month in Minneapolis.

As the Premier League returned on Wednesday, players, coaches and officials copied the demonstration made famous by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, when he protested against social inequality and police brutality by taking a knee.

Solskjaer is confident this time change will come.

"I feel now that, this time it is finally changing," he said. "It's been on the agenda for many years, this issue of racism and we've had a couple of incidents in the league, and we've talked about it and maybe forgotten, but this time it will hopefully affect more people, leaders and decision makers. I think we all support these actions [the pre-match gestures].

"It's been an event in history that's changed people's views and the movement, I think we know this [racism] shouldn't happen in 2020. Players, Premier League teams, we all make a stand to say enough is enough, and I don't think we'll be any different."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is hopeful Angel Gomes will agree to a new contract at Manchester United.

The 19-year-old is approaching the end of his deal and United are trying to tie him down to fresh terms.

Talks with the midfielder have been going on for many months and Solskjaer believes a resolution is close, though he did not rule out losing the player.

"Angel is a top kid, we've had him here for so many years," said the United manager. 

"We've offered him a deal and hopefully he'll take that, if not I'll wish him all the best.

"From what I understand it's not too far away. If not, we'll wish him all the best."

Gomes made his United debut back in 2017 and has made two substitute appearances in the Premier League this season.

Solskjaer also offered a team news update ahead of Friday's match at Tottenham, which could have a significant bearing on both clubs' Champions League aspirations.

The Norwegian revealed Marcus Rashford (back) and Paul Pogba (ankle) were available for the club's first game back after the coronavirus-enforced shutdown, with Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe the only absentees.

"We have two players – Jones and Axel – who will miss this game and let's see how bad they are, " he said, without disclosing the nature of their injuries.

"Apart from that, the rest of the squad is fit and available. And of course, Marcus and Paul have been out a long period, but they're available. How long they play – let's see."

United sit fifth, three points behind fourth-place Chelsea and four ahead of Spurs in eighth.

Lionel Messi is reportedly set to re-sign with Barcelona.

The Argentina star is out of contract at Camp Nou next year, but is seemingly set to extend his stay with the LaLiga giants a little longer.

Messi, 32, has spent his entire professional career at Barcelona – and he may yet end up a one-club player.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI TO EXTEND BARCELONA CONTRACT UNTIL 2023

Messi will extend his contract at Barcelona until 2023, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The report says the forward will get to decide if he wants to leave the club before then.

Messi is enjoying another fine season with Barcelona, scoring 26 goals in 33 games in all competitions.

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- Tottenham want to hold onto their stars. The Telegraph reports chairman Daniel Levy is eager to keep Spurs' best players, including Harry Kane – who has been linked to Real Madrid – and Dele Alli and Son Heung-min.

- It remains to be seen if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will stay at Arsenal. CalcioMercato reports the forward – out of contract until 2021 – is open to a move to Inter, but the Gabon international is not among the Serie A club's top choices if they need to replace Lautaro Martinez, who is wanted by Barcelona.

- Madrid are reportedly eager to sign Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga. But Sport says the Ligue 1 club are working to extend the the 17-year-old's contract, with his deal running until 2022.

- Liverpool could be set to make changes. The Sun reports Xherdan Shaqiri, Divock Origi and Dejan Lovren could make exits, while Marko Grujic and Harry Wilson may leave on permanent deals. It also says Liverpool are set to give Naby Keita one more season to prove his worth.

- Borussia Dortmund seem some way off landing Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham. Bild reports the Bundesliga club have offered just a little more than €20million (£17.9m) for Bellingham, who reportedly has a release clause of €35m (£31.4m).

- Empoli midfielder Samuele Ricci is reportedly catching the eye. CalcioMercato says Milan have kept an eye on the 18-year-old, while Napoli and Borussia Dortmund are also said to be interested.

Kai Havertz leaving the Bundesliga for the Premier League has emerged as a strong possibility.

Chelsea and Manchester United are reportedly vying for the Bayer Leverkusen attacker's signature.

However, Bayern Munich could keep the Germany international in his homeland.

 

TOP STORY – BAYERN IN POLE POSITION FOR HAVERTZ

Bayern Munich are favourites to sign Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz, according to the Telegraph.

The race is heating up for Havertz, who has been heavily linked to Premier League trio Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool.

Real Madrid are also reportedly interested but Bundesliga champions Bayern are in pole position to bring the Germany international to Bavaria as they also look to sign Manchester City's Leroy Sane.

 

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- Calciomercato says Milan are determined to lure Madrid forward Luka Jovic to San Siro. The Serbia international has struggled since swapping Eintracht Frankfurt for Madrid at the start of the season. Madrid want between €45 and €50million for Jovic and the report claims Milan could look to sell Rade Krunic, Lucas Paqueta, Andre Silva, Suso and Mateo Musacchio to raise funds.

- The front page of Tuesday's Diario AS claims Bayern will offer Achraf Hakimi a "galactic" salary to prise the Morocco international from Madrid. The full-back has spent the past two seasons on loan at Borussia Dortmund.

United are leading the chase for Watford defender Pervis Estupinan amid interest from Tottenham, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, according to the Express. The Ecuadorian is on loan from Osasuna.

Juventus and Barcelona have entered the chase for Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, reports Corriere dello Sport. Milinkovic-Savic has been heavily linked to Paris Saint-Germain, as well as United.

- Sport says Pedro's proposed move from Chelsea to Roma has collapsed amid an internal fallout in the Italian capital. The veteran forward has now been offered to Valencia.

Chelsea will finalise a deal to sign RB Leipzig and Germany forward Timo Werner this week, the Evening Standard claims. Liverpool and United were also eyeing Werner.

- Sport Bild journalist Christian Falk reports PSG are interested in signing Bayern's Lucas Hernandez to replace departing defender Thiago Silva. PSG will not renew Silva's contract in the French capital.

- Falk also says Dortmund have not received any official offers for star Jadon Sancho, who has been linked to United, City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Madrid and Barca.

Jadon Sancho has been linked to Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid among others.

Sancho is reportedly looking to leave Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund.

But a reunion with former club Manchester City could be on the cards for the England international.

 

TOP STORY – SANCHO WILLING TO RE-JOIN CITY

Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho is open to returning to Manchester City, according to The Sun.

Sancho is tipped to leave Dortmund at the end of the coronavirus-hit 2019-20 season amid strong links to Manchester United, as well as Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

However, Sancho is believed to be willing to re-join City – the club he left for Dortmund in 2017.

 

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- With uncertainty over Sancho, United could turn to Jack Grealish. The Daily Star says Aston Villa captain Grealish has his heart set on moving to Old Trafford.

Tottenham want to sign Paris Saint-Germain centre-back Thiago Silva, reports The Sun. Silva is set to leave the Ligue 1 champions on a free transfer and Jose Mourinho is keen to bring the Brazil defender to Spurs. Arsenal and Everton are also eyeing the 35-year-old.

- Corriere della Sera says Gianluigi Donnarumma is ready to extend his contract with Milan, though the new deal could include a €60million release clause. The Italy international goalkeeper has previously been linked to the likes of Juventus, Madrid, PSG and United.

- Roma star Lorenzo Pellegrini is committed to staying at the capital club despite reported interest from Juve, United and PSG, claims Sky Sport Italia and Tuttomercatoweb.

Arsenal are close to agreeing a deal for Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey, according to Cadena COPE. Atletico are determined to renew Partey's contract but the LaLiga side are resigned to losing the Ghana international – who has also been linked to United.

Manchester United may be getting closer to finding a way to land Ajax star Donny van de Beek.

Van de Beek has been linked to numerous European giants after impressing with the Eredivisie outfit.

United are among them and the Premier League side could be ready to make a sacrifice to bring the Netherlands international to Old Trafford.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD FIND WAY TO LAND VAN DE BEEK

Manchester United will sell Andreas Pereira to bring in Van de Beek, according to the Mirror.

Van de Beek has been linked with the likes of Real Madrid, but United could beat the LaLiga giants to the midfielder.

The 23-year-old has managed double-digits in goals in three straight seasons, netting 10 times in 37 games in 2019-20.

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- Staying at Old Trafford and Manchester United may keep Alexis Sanchez. On loan at Inter this season, Sanchez is contracted at United until 2022 and the Mirror says the Chile international could stay at the club if he accepts a squad role over being first choice.

- Barcelona are said to be struggling to find a suitor for Philippe Coutinho. Marca reports no clubs have made a move for the playmaker so far.

- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is being linked with an Arsenal exit. However, The Sun says the Premier League club are willing to sell Ainsley Maitland-Niles to fund a new contract for Aubameyang, or find the forward's replacement. Aubameyang's deal at Arsenal expires next year.

- Several clubs are reportedly eyeing RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano. Tuttosport says Arsenal are favourites to land the 21-year-old ahead of Milan. Staying at Arsenal and La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Justin Kluivert could join the club from Roma, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan – on loan at the Serie A club this season – heading permanently in the opposite direction.

- Speculation continues around Achraf Hakimi. Marca reports Bayern Munich are keeping an eye on the defender's situation, with the 21-year-old on loan at Borussia Dortmund from Real Madrid this season.

- Juventus could be preparing to sell Aaron Ramsey. The Mirror reports Tottenham are one of several clubs to have been offered the chance to sign the midfielder.

Jose Mourinho believes it is "too risky" for Tottenham to play any more friendlies before they return to Premier League action.

Spurs enjoyed a training friendly with Norwich City on Friday - the action split into four 30-minute quarters - as players from both clubs try to quickly get back up to speed ahead of the restart.

Harry Kane, Moussa Sissoko, Son Heung-min and Steven Bergwijn - who were all injured prior to the coronavirus-enforced suspension to the 2019-20 season - were all involved.

Mourinho would ideally like to fit in another game before Friday's huge clash with his former club Manchester United, yet he is not prepared to gamble given Spurs' packed schedule upon the resumption.

"We are not going to have any more friendlies. We think it would be good, but it's too risky," Mourinho told the club's website.

"We are going to do a normal preparation week, starting on the Monday and going through to Friday. After that, we've two more days and then West Ham, so the next 10 days are going to be busy.

"We have to adapt to this new reality, which is what we've tried to do.

"We have to think that the points are there to fight for. With fans or without fans, the points are there on the pitch. Ourselves and United will have to fight for them."

Mourinho was pleased that his players were able to experience a match situation inside the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium without fans, as will be the case in the top flight due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"We needed minutes, we needed to know the feeling of playing here without our supporters and to have this training session with another Premier League team is the best thing," the Portuguese coach added.

Spurs face an uphill battle to qualify for next season's Champions League - they sit eighth in the table, seven points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with nine games remaining.

Hugo Lloris believes last season's Champions League final heartbreak and a lack of stability account for Tottenham's struggles in the 2019-20 campaign.

A little over a year ago, Spurs were finalists in Europe's premier competition but went down 2-0 to Liverpool in Madrid.

Since then a lot has happened. Mauricio Pochettino was sacked in November with Spurs sitting 14th in the Premier League and Jose Mourinho was brought in to turn the tide.

The results have been mixed, with Tottenham out of every competition and facing a battle to secure a top-four finish when the Premier League resumes after the coronavirus-enforced hiatus next week.

Asked to explain Spurs' fall, Lloris said in quotes reported by the Daily Mail: "Wow, it's difficult to explain.

"Last season, we went on an incredible run in the Champions League and we finished the season on our knees and you don't have time to recover from one season before you have to start a new one"

Spurs' rocky campaign has been beset by injury issues. Lloris himself missed three months with a dislocated elbow, while star striker Harry Kane and talismanic forward Son Heung-min would have missed the rest of 2019-20 had the global health crisis not afforded extra recovery time.

"There was the accumulation of things that provoked the situation, and then of course a lot of injured players," Lloris explained. 

"The change of manager. It's difficult to stay stable and to be always looking at the top. There is sometimes one season when everything goes against you."

Spurs are seven points adrift of the Champions League places with just nine games to play and start the resumption of their campaign with a crucial home fixture against fifth-place Manchester United.

Lloris is relishing the chance of a fresh start and welcomed the prospect of having Kane back in the fold to boost their flagging European ambitions.

"It's like a new season that is going to start," Lloris said. "It's true to say we were not at our best. But it belongs to the past. 

"The team will look different to a few months ago. We are more or less all fit, this is a big difference.

"He [Kane] is ready. In his mind he is ready and that's the most important thing. He recovered very well from his bad injury and he is the one really looking forward to getting back into the competition.

"Everyone knows his targets, his ambition and his willingness to win. We all need the repetition of games to reach our best level, but that is going to be the case even for the opponents we are going to play.

"Harry is in a good place and just waiting to start the season again, like all of us."

Jadon Sancho's future could be resolved sooner rather than later.

The England international is tipped to return to his homeland after leaving Manchester City for Borussia Dortmund in 2017.

Premier League leaders Liverpool are reportedly at the front of the queue for the 20-year-old attacker.

 

TOP STORY – REDS IN POLE POSITION FOR SANCHO

Liverpool are leading the race to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, according to Le10 Sport.

Sancho is a player in demand, the former Manchester City youngster linked with a return to England via Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.

Real Madrid are also reportedly interested, but Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool appear to be favourites to land the England international if Sadio Mane leaves Anfield.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims United are considering a move for Lazio striker Ciro Immobile. The Italy international has scored a Serie A-high 27 goals this season amid links to Liverpool and Napoli.

Chelsea are not close to reaching an agreement over Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz, says The Athletic. Chelsea have emerged as favourites to sign Havertz, who is also reportedly wanted by United, Liverpool, Madrid and Barcelona. But Chelsea – who are set to bring RB Leipzig's Timo Werner to Stamford Bridge – are apparently nowhere near matching Leverkusen's asking price.

- The Independent reports Dortmund are set to beat United to Birmingham City teenager Jude Bellingham. The 16-year-old is coveted by Dortmund and United, however, the Bundesliga side are viewed as the more attractive option to give the wonderkid game time.

- Could Dries Mertens leave Napoli for Barcelona? Mertens' contract is set to expire, though the Belgium forward has been tipped to sign an extension. Het Nieuwsblad says Barca could turn to the Napoli star if they are unable to prise Lautaro Martinez from Inter.

Chelsea believe Champions League football will convince Leicester City's Ben Chilwell to snub Manchester City for the London club, according to the Daily Mail. Chelsea have been linked to another full-back – France Football claims the Blues are eyeing Paris Saint-Germain's Layvin Kurzawa, who is available on a free transfer and wanted by the likes of Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Inter.

- Tuttosport says Inter are targeting Nice centre-back Malang Sarr. The 21-year-old has also been linked to Pep Guardiola's City.

- According to The Telegraph, Barca are prepared to pay a portion of Philippe Coutinho's wage to help the Brazilian leave Camp Nou. Tottenham and Newcastle United are possible destinations.

Liverpool are eyeing a double transfer raid on Wolves for stars Ruben Neves and Adama Traore, says The Sun.

Virgil van Dijk is set to extend his deal at Liverpool, while Lautaro Martinez could reportedly push for his move to Barcelona.

Van Dijk, 28, is widely regarded as one of the world's best defenders and he seems primed to stay put after starring at Anfield.

Meanwhile, Barca's pursuit of Martinez continues.

 

TOP STORY – VAN DIJK TO SIGN FIVE-YEAR LIVERPOOL CONTRACT

Van Dijk will sign a five-year deal worth £57million at Liverpool, according to The Sun.

The report says the Netherlands international will become the highest-paid player in the club's history.

Van Dijk finished second to Barcelona star Lionel Messi in the 2019 Ballon d'Or and is on track to help Liverpool win their first league title in 30 years.

ROUND-UP

- Talk around Martinez's future continues. Sport reports Barcelona will press Inter and the forward will also push for a move to Camp Nou.

- Inter could be looking for a replacement if Martinez decides to leave. CalcioMercato reports they are considering Fiorentina star Federico Chiesa as the Argentina international's replacement.

- Another forward Inter have been linked to is Edinson Cavani, who is coming out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain. But La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Cavani wants €12m per year, which it says it €3m more than Inter are willing to pay.

- There is also uncertainty over Arturo Vidal's future at Barcelona. The midfielder has been linked with an exit as his contract expires next year, but Mundo Deportivo reports the Chile international has no interest in discussing his future until August.

- Hector Bellerin has a deal at Arsenal until 2023, but there is some talk about his future. The Mirror reports the 25-year-old is a target for Inter this close season.

- Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma is apparently attracting some interest. According to the Daily Express, Everton want to sign the 25-year-old, who has also been linked to Tottenham.

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