Arjen Robben returned to Bayern Munich on Thursday to accept a gift commemorating his hugely successful decade at the German club.

Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge greeted the retired winger with a giant canvas photo print depicting Robben and a selection of the trophies he won with the Bundesliga side.

The 35-year-old retired at the end of the 2018-19 season, calling time on a career which included eight Bundesliga titles and five DFB-Pokal triumphs.

However, Robben's most celebrated moment was his 89th-minute winner in the 2-1 Champions League final triumph over Borussia Dortmund at Wembley in 2013.

He made 309 competitive appearances for the club, scoring 144 goals.

Last month, the former Chelsea and Real Madrid player revealed he would not totally rule out a return to football.

"Maybe in one or two months I'll have a strange feeling that I miss the whole thing too much and will decide I have to go back," he told NPO Radio.

"But, of course, it doesn't get any easier the longer you're retired. I do not rate the chances [of returning] very highly."

RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann is targeting victory against Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich on Saturday and believes Timo Werner could be key.

Nagelsmann has led Leipzig to the top of the table after his first three matches in charge, with Werner on target five times already in the league.

The Germany striker has long been linked with a move to Bayern, but will this weekend face his mooted suitors, seemingly set for a decisive role in the biggest match of the season so far.

"Individual quality can always be crucial, so it can be key for us if we have a Timo Werner in top form," Nagelsmann told a news conference on Thursday.

"He was very good in training [on Wednesday] and he will be a very important factor. He is able to hurt Bayern very much."

 

Asked about Leipzig's aims for the weekend, the coach added: "We can talk about [a draw] in retrospect. I would like to win and go into the game with that approach."

But Nagelsmann was keen to remind the media the outcome of this match will not necessarily be decisive in the title race.

"Good results against Bayern can take you a long way, but you have to keep performing every week," he said. "If we win against Bayern and then lose every other game, it counts for nothing."

Leipzig have some injury concerns - Dayot Upamecano is "93 per cent" fit, but Patrik Schick is "a bit battered" and Kevin Kampl continues to deal with an ankle issue - but they are also waiting to see if Philippe Coutinho starts for Bayern.

Opposition coach Niko Kovac suggested Thomas Muller could be selected instead if Coutinho is not fully fit following a long journey from Brazil duty in Los Angeles.

"Of course, we are thinking about it, but it does not change the whole style of Bayern Munich," Nagelsmann said.

"We will not go into detail about whether Coutinho or Muller starts. They are different players, but there are also parallels. Both are hard to contain.

"I have in my head which player I think he plays. I'm preparing for something."

Borussia Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc has dismissed the notion there is unrest behind the scenes due to the board's aim to win the Bundesliga.

Dortmund led the table for much of last season but fell short in the final weeks of the campaign, while their 2019-20 hopes were dealt an early blow by a shock 3-1 defeat at Union Berlin before the international break.

It was subsequently reported there were issues between the board and coach Lucien Favre after he suggested defending champions Bayern Munich were favourites for the title again.

CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has been open about Dortmund's aim to win the league, while Favre has been less forthcoming in discussion of the club's targets.

But ahead of a key clash against fourth-placed Bayer Leverkusen, Zorc told a news conference on Thursday: "We wondered about this reporting. There is no dissent.

"We do not set a goal without first talking to the coach. That would be crazy. There is no point to talking about it every time. We should pay attention to what happens on the pitch."

Favre said: "I have already said that I agree [with the target]. As a coach, I always want the maximum. These are facts.

"Last season, we played for the championship until the end. That's what we want this season, too. I do not always have to talk about it; I have to take care of my job."

Favre was hopeful both Axel Witsel and Thorgan Hazard will be available to face Leverkusen, while Dortmund are waiting on the fitness of Nico Schulz and Manuel Akanji.

And the club are set to be boosted by a new contract for Raphael Guerreiro, according to Zorc.

"We have continued talks with him in recent weeks," Zorc said. "I am now ready to say that we have a general contract extension agreement until 2023. I'm very optimistic that we can do it."

Niko Kovac is not willing to take any risks with Philippe Coutinho and will assess the Bayern Munich star's condition when he returns from international duty ahead of facing RB Leipzig.

Coutinho, signed on loan from Barcelona in the recent transfer window, made his first Bayern start as he played over an hour against Mainz before heading off to meet up with Brazil.

But with a key match against early Bundesliga leaders Leipzig coming at the weekend, the midfielder is facing a race to be available, having started against Peru in Los Angeles on Tuesday as he builds fitness in the opening weeks of the season.

Given Bayern's other options in the form of Thomas Muller, Kingsley Coman and Corentin Tolisso, Bayern coach Kovac wants to ensure Coutinho is up to scratch before throwing him in again.

"Now we have to wait for [Coutinho] to come back, then we'll see how he feels," Kovac told a news conference on Thursday.

"It was important that he played two games [for Brazil] but, of course, such a long journey is exhausting and we have a very good alternative with Thomas.

"I cannot say what that will mean at the weekend. I have to wait and see the status of Philippe.

"Every player has to be at 100 per cent. We need physically fresh and motivated players. We will talk to the players and we will also have King [Coman] and Coco [Tolisso].

"If someone feels they are not [ready], it would be reckless not to say so."

Preparations this week are particularly key with Bayern eager to not fall too far behind Leipzig - two points clear at the top of the table - even at this early stage.

Kovac added: "[Julian Nagelsmann] is a very good, young coach. Leipzig were already very good. Now, Julian brings with him some other knowledge that will make the team even better.

"Leipzig are still top - after the match, we want to be.

"At the beginning of the season, there is one game week after week and we have started well, although I'm annoyed by the two points we lost against [Hertha] Berlin.

"We want to position ourselves at the top and that's what the game against Leipzig is all about.

"The past three games last season were all narrow results; 1-0, 0-0 and the DFB-Pokal final was only 1-0 up to 75 minutes [Bayern won 3-0]. These are tight matches. It'll be like that this weekend, too.

"We are facing good players, but we are the German champions and will play with the confidence that we want to win."

Meanwhile, Bayern midfielder Leon Goretzka underwent successful thigh surgery on Wednesday but Kovac was reluctant to place a timescale on his return.

"He's fine, the operation went well," the coach said. "We hope he'll come back as soon as possible, but we cannot name an exact day or week."

When it came to Paul Pogba during the transfer window, Real Madrid and Juventus were the teams on everyone's lips.

Manchester United star Pogba was reportedly keen to leave Old Trafford in search of a new challenge.

However, another team were apparently poised to lure Pogba from the Theatre of Dreams…

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR STOPPED PSG FROM SIGNING POGBA

Neymar prevented Manchester United midfielder Pogba from moving to Paris Saint-Germain, according to Calciomercato.it.

PSG and United reportedly had an agreement in place for the transfer of Pogba, however, the Ligue 1 champions and their inability to offload Barcelona target Neymar stopped the deal.

The report says PSG were ready to pay €150million (£134m) for Pogba, who joined United from Juventus in 2016 for a then-record fee of €105m (£89m).

 

ROUND-UP

Real Madrid have an agreement with Chelsea for midfielder N'Golo Kante. DefensaCentral claims Los Blancos have the first chance to buy the France star should he be made available at Stamford Bridge.

- In-demand Dinamo Zagreb star Dani Olmo wants to leave the Croatian club in January or at the end of the season, according to Fichajes.net. The 21-year-old was linked with Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and Valencia during the transfer window.

Juventus have not given up on signing Fiorentina and Italy forward Federico Chiesa, according to Calciomercato.it. The Serie A champions were keen to bring in Chiesa during the off-season but were unable to lure him from Florence.

- Sport says Paris Saint-Germain are beginning their remodelling job, with Thiago Silva and Edinson Cavani facing uncertain futures. Silva and Cavani – who has been linked to incoming MLS outfit Inter Miami – are out of contract at the end of the season and are no guarantees to renew their contracts. Eric Maxim Choupo-MotingThomas Meunier and Layvin Kurzawa are available at the right price in January.

- Juventus forward Mario Mandzukic has turned down a move to Qatari outfit Al-Gharafa, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Mandzukic was linked to Manchester United prior to the transfer window closing.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez admitted the LaLiga giants have chased Robert Lewandowski and Paul Pogba.

Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski has been linked to Madrid previously, while they have also targeted Manchester United star Pogba.

Speaking on Wednesday, Perez said Madrid had chased Lewandowski and were experiencing similar in their pursuit of Pogba.

"There are players who do not sell," he said, via Spanish media.

"For Lewandowski, we have gone for several years for him and nothing because he has no clause and they don't sell him.

"There is no way and that has happened to us with Pogba. When certain players are sold, we can go for them."

Another player Madrid have been linked to is 20-year-old Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe.

Perez was coy when asked about the France international, who is widely regarded as the best young talent in the world.

"Of course we like a Frenchman that they say out there and we'll go for him," he said. "But they don't sell him."

Philippe Coutinho will make the difference for Bayern Munich once he is fully up to speed, according to team-mate Benjamin Pavard.

Brazil international Coutinho joined Bayern from Barcelona on an initial season-long loan last month and featured twice in the Bundesliga before heading away on international duty.

Pavard, a fellow new signing, acknowledges the former Liverpool man may need some time to rediscover his best form but believes he will then have a huge impact.

Asked to describe Coutinho, Pavard told Sky Sport: "A little wizard! He is very discreet and really personable. First of all, a really fine guy. And of course a very good footballer.

"It's very hard to get him off the ball. He's not 100 per cent yet - he probably needs some more games because he joined the team very late.

"But I'm sure, in a few weeks, we will see the world-class footballer Coutinho.

"Of course [he can make the difference]. I now know him from a few training sessions and I have no doubt about that. He has incredible quality and will show it to everyone."

Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka is set for a spell on the sidelines following an operation on his left thigh.

The former Schalke man underwent surgery on Wednesday to treat a bad bruise after initially sustaining damage last month.

Goretzka aggravated the issue on Germany duty and was forced to skip his country's Euro 2020 qualifiers against Netherlands and Northern Ireland.

"Bayern are set to be without midfielder Leon Goretzka for a period of time," read a club statement.

"The 24-year-old suffered another injury on his left thigh during Germany's preparations for their match against Netherlands last week.

"He was subsequently forced to undergo an operation on Wednesday to remove a haematoma. The surgery was successful."

Goretzka missed Bayern's opening two Bundesliga games of 2019-20 but returned to the bench for the 6-1 victory over Mainz at the end of August.

He made 30 league appearances for Niko Kovac's side last season, scoring eight goals.

Robert Lewandowski hopes to have won the same level of respect as Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery when his time comes to leave Bayern Munich.

Veteran wingers Robben and Ribery moved on from Bayern at the end of last term, the pair given emotional send-offs after 10 and 12 seasons at the club respectively.

Their final Allianz Arena appearances proved a fitting occasion as both players scored in a 5-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt that sealed the Bundesliga title.

Star striker Lewandowski, now in his sixth season with the club, could rival their longevity after signing a new contract through to 2023.

By then, the prolific 31-year-old might be ready to make his own grand departure.

"To have that goodbye is definitely a dream of mine," Lewandowski told Sport1.

"I'm not yet thinking of leaving, but to be honest I almost had tears in my eyes when saying goodbye to them.

"The experience was not only a nice moment for Ribery and Robben, but also for us team-mates. To have such a nice farewell is something special."

Lewandowski seemed less enthused about Bayern during the close season, when he expressed frustration over the club's lack of transfer activity.

Ivan Perisic, Philippe Coutinho and Mickael Cuisance all arrived late in the window, placating the Poland international.

"Those responsible have done a good job in the transfer market," he said.

"We can be glad that we now have such strong new additions to our team."

He added: "We prepared really well in pre-season.

"The results can already be seen in how we play football. How we build our game and the movements we have in attack already look very good. I benefit from that as well."

Bayern drew 2-2 against Hertha Berlin in their season opener but cruised past Schalke and Mainz before the international break to sit second on the table, two points behind Saturday's opponents RB Leipzig.

Christian Eriksen – the name that will not go away, even with the transfer window closed.

Eriksen wanted to leave Tottenham for a new challenge as Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Inter reportedly circled.

A move did not materialise, much to his disappointment, but a transfer could be on the horizon.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID LOOK TO ERIKSEN AMID POGBA DOUBTS

Sky Sports News claims Real Madrid will make a move for Tottenham star Christian Eriksen at the end of the season if Paul Pogba extends his Manchester United deal.

Zinedine Zidane has made no secret of his desire to reinforce his midfield, with Tottenham's Eriksen, Pogba and Ajax sensation Donny van de Beek linked to the Santiago Bernabeu.

While Los Blancos remain keen on Pogba, they are eyeing a move for Eriksen – whose contract expires at the end of the campaign.

 

ROUND-UP:

- According to Tuttosport, Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham are set to go head-to-head for Juventus attacker Paulo Dybala in January. Both clubs were reportedly interested in signing Dybala prior to the transfer deadline, and with Dybala set to struggle for regular game time PSG and Spurs are poised to fight it out.

- Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea is close to finally signing a new £290,000-a-week contract at Old Trafford, claims The Guardian.

Inter are keeping tabs on Borussia Dortmund attacker Mario Gotze, says Welt. Gotze is out of contract at the end of the season and negotiations over a new deal are reportedly not progressing.

- The Serie A side, meanwhile, will not sell star defender Milan Skriniar in January. That is according to Tuttosport amid growing speculation Manchester City are targeting the Inter centre-back.

- According to Sky Sports News, Wolves are still interested in signing AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie. Wolves tried to prise Kessie from Milan before the transfer window shut, but the 22-year-old knocked back the move.

Arsenal could make another attempt to sign Belgium international Yannick Carrasco from Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang, reports The Sun. The Gunners have long been linked with Carrasco and Dalian's supposed interest in Napoli star Dries Mertens could make a deal possible.

Manuel Neuer will call time on his career as soon as he feels Germany and Bayern Munich no longer need him.

Neuer, 33, has been first-choice Germany goalkeeper for the best part of a decade, while he has been of similar importance to Bayern since joining them in 2011.

But the Schalke academy product has endured injury problems more frequently in the past three seasons, missing almost the entirety of 2017-18 with a broken foot.

Neuer was also absent for a chunk of last term with thumb and calf issues, though he remains the go-to man between the posts for club and country, starting all but one of Germany's 11 post-World Cup matches and Bayern's three games of the new Bundesliga campaign.

Once that regularity disappears, however, Neuer expects to retire because he will find it a challenge to remain motivated.

"When you are no longer needed and you feel it, it is difficult to get up and motivate [yourself] each day," Neuer told Welt am Sonntag. "When your experience is needed and your players need you, that drives you on.

"I have the feeling that I am very much needed here in the national team and that everyone is happy that I'm here. It's clear that I have to show it in my performance.

"[My durability] is a result of my love for this sport. It excites me a lot when I'm on the pitch training or playing. It's a great fulfilment for me. I'm 33 years old, but when I'm on the pitch I always feel that I can improve on my goalkeeping.

"I'm still as annoyed with things that don't work out as they did nine or 10 years ago and I'm still happy about things that work out.

"These are signs that mean something to me. Namely, how ambitious I am still. [I want to] play as long as my body can do it, I'm having fun and I'm needed.

"At a young age you don't have to do so much to keep fit. It's changing. I've already noticed that, so I pay close attention to what I do and how I approach things."

With Aymeric Laporte on the sidelines, Manchester City are looking for reinforcements.

Laporte's knee injury has left City with John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi as their only recognised centre-backs.

Could a star defender from Serie A be the answer in January?

 

TOP STORY – CITY LOOK TO SKRINIAR

Pep Guardiola wants defensive reinforcements in January and Manchester City are set to target Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar, according to CalcioMercato.

Aymeric Laporte is set for a spell on the sidelines with a knee injury, depleting City's options as they eye a third consecutive Premier League title.

Inter star Skriniar has emerged as an option for City, though the Italian side are not keen on losing the 24-year-old – who was linked to Manchester United in the off-season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport reports Real Madrid will try to sign Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe at the end of the season. Madrid were linked with Neymar prior to the transfer deadline but now appear set to target his PSG team-mate.

- According to Aksam, Liverpool will monitor the form of Trabzonspor goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir throughout the season.

- Tuttomercatoweb says Napoli are ready to re-sign Arkadiusz Milik, Piotr Zielinski and Nikola Maksimovic, while a contract extension for Gianluigi Donnarumma is AC Milan's priority.

- Former AC Milan forward Jeremy Menez wants to return to Serie A via Sampdoria, according to CalcioMercato. The 32-year-old former France international is a free agent after leaving Mexican side Club America.

- Serie A champions Juventus are eyeing a double swoop for Tottenham stars Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld, says the Daily Mail. Eriksen and Alderweireld are set to become free agents at the end of the season and Inter are also reportedly monitoring the situation.

- Valencia are determined to tie down Carlos Soler and Ferran Torres to new deals, reports SuperDeportes.

Gareth Southgate believes more English players will follow the example of Jadon Sancho and Kieran Trippier in moving abroad to European leagues.

Sancho left Manchester City to join Borussia Dortmund in 2017, and has since become a star in the Bundesliga.

Trippier, meanwhile, joined LaLiga heavyweights Atletico Madrid in the close season, after he was deemed surplus to requirements at Tottenham.

There has been an uptick in the amount of English players moving abroad to further their development in recent seasons, and Southgate has no doubt the success Sancho in particular has achieved in Germany will continue to inspire England hopefuls in testing themselves across the continent.

"I think it is brilliant for the perspective of playing out of the country, it is a brilliant life experience for Jadon and Kieran," Southgate told a news conference ahead of England's Euro 2020 qualifier with Bulgaria.

"I don't see a negative, it clearly is not harming their chances with us and we monitor players very closely.

"There are players who have played in France, Germany, the Netherlands such as Mason Mount, so it would become more apparent young people from England are more prepared to travel, whatever happens politically.

"They are different styles, Kieran is playing for one of the most successful teams and coaches in European football and Jadon is playing in front of 80,000 people at Dortmund.

"It is definitely a positive and I am certain more players will follow their path."

Sancho scored 12 Bundesliga goals last season and made his England debut in October, and striker Marcus Rashford has been thrilled to see the 19-year-old – along with other youngsters such as Mount and James Maddison – adapt swiftly to the squad.

"It has been brilliant, the [new faces] seem to fit right in," Rashford, who at 21 has 32 caps to his name, told the news conference.

"Since Gareth has come in, the younger players have trained the same as the main squad and they fit in seamlessly. The more we get coming in the better."

Lionel Messi will get to decide his Barcelona future, regardless of when the star is contracted until.

Messi, 32, re-signed with the LaLiga champions two years ago, extending his contract until 2021.

But such extensions may not matter when it comes to arguably the world's best player.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI CAN LEAVE BARCELONA AT THE END OF ANY SEASON

Messi can choose to leave Barcelona at the conclusion of any campaign regardless of his contract, according to El Pais.

The Argentina superstar made his debut for the club in late 2004, and his future is seemingly in his own hands.

It remains to be seen when, or if, Messi decides to depart Camp Nou.

ROUND-UP

- Philippe Coutinho eventually left Barcelona for Bayern Munich on loan, but it could have been different for the playmaker. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola rejected the chance to sign the 27-year-old, according to Marca.

- Left out of Juventus' Champions League squad, Mario Mandzukic is eyeing a January exit, according to Calciomercato.com. The striker was heavily linked with a move to Manchester United during the transfer window.

- Staying in Turin, Juventus could have signed Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng in the close season. Calciomercato.com reports Maurizio Sarri rejected a move for the centre-back.

- Ousmane Dembele was reportedly wanted by Paris Saint-Germain while they were in talks with Barcelona over a move for Neymar. But the attacker refused to leave because he is at his dream club at Barcelona, according to L'Equipe.

- Former Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio is reportedly in talks with Monaco, but the 55-time Italy international turned down a move to Scottish giants Rangers, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Left out of the England squad, Manchester City defender Kyle Walker is worried he has no international future under Gareth Southgate, the Daily Star reports.

Marco Reus will "try everything" to get Kai Havertz to join Borussia Dortmund.

Following Julian Brandt's switch from Bayer Leverkusen to Signal Iduna Park in the close season, BVB captain Reus has his eye on another of their Bundesliga counterparts' prized assets.

Havertz, training this week alongside Reus in preparation for Germany's European Championship qualifier against Netherlands on Friday, enjoyed a breakout campaign last season with 17 goals in 34 Bundesliga appearances.

Asked if he saw Havertz playing for rivals Bayern Munich in the future, Reus told Sport1: "I will try everything to guide him to Dortmund.

"I don't know how much further the fees will increase and if it could maybe be too much for Dortmund.

"But I will try my best just as I did with Julian Brandt. And now, with Julian, I have an ally who knows him [Havertz] very well. So, let's see what happens."

Havertz said to Sky Deutschland he was not concerned by being linked to Bayern and a host of Premier League heavyweights during the recent transfer window, only for no move to materialise.

"They haven't scared me off," he said.

"I don't know exactly what it was like with Timo [Werner, the RB Leipzig and Germany forward], but it just didn't happen for me this year. I think there were a number of reasons why.

"But I'm happy to be here and stay in Leverkusen for another year. We'll see what will happen next summer." 

The matter immediately at hand for Reus, Havertz and their Germany team-mates is the latest instalment of one of international football's most intense rivalries.

Netherlands beat Germany on their way to the Nations League Finals last season, although Joachim Low's side gained a measure of revenge with a thrilling 3-2 Euro 2020 qualification win in Amsterdam in March.

"I can still remember when we won at home in Hamburg in 2011 [a 3-0 friendly victory]," Reus told a news conference.

"They're just great games and classics where you're on the pitch thinking, 'Great to be here!'.

"You try to give your best for your country. That's why there's nothing nicer when you leave the field after 90 minutes as the winner… hopefully."

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