Leroy Sane insists he retains a solid relationship with Pep Guardiola despite leaving Manchester City for Bayern Munich.

Germany winger Sane moved to Bayern for an €49million (£44.5m) earlier this month, as opposed to remaining in Manchester for the conclusion of City's Premier League and Champions League campaigns.

He only featured once during "Project Restart", making an 11-minute substitute cameo in a 5-0 win over Burnley on June 22 - only his second appearance in an injury-plagued campaign.

Indeed, despite scoring pivotal goals in wins over Liverpool and Manchester United last season, Sane struggled to hold down a regular starting place during City's triumphant 2018-19 run-in, with Guardiola often challenging the player to improve.

Nevertheless, the 24-year-old maintains there are no hard feelings between himself and his former boss.

"Our relationship is good," he told Sport Bild. "There was never a point when one was tired of the other. 

"I am grateful for everything he taught me. Pep Guardiola helped me to a very high level. 

"He is very meticulous and wants to advance the players every day. He is persistent when it comes to his tactics - but that's positive, it helped me. 

"We even lived in the same building [in Manchester], so we saw each other often."

Sane concedes he could even run into similar problems at Bayern, with Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry excelling in the wide attacking roles under Hansi Flick.

Nevertheless, he views such stellar competition for places as a positive.

"Of course I want to play, but I don't demand a regular place in every game," he said.

"No player in the world can play every game and reach their highest level. I have my goals, but I'm zero point zero against rotation. 

"This helps the team to get a good freshness. Serge, King and I - that sounds very good to me."

Sane had been heavily linked with a move to Bayern before a cruciate knee ligament injury during City's Community Shield triumph over Liverpool last August put those plans on ice.

The former Schalke youngster expressed his gratitude to Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic for keeping the deal on track over those difficult months of recovery.

"He was behind the transfer from the first moment and was not put off by anything. I'm grateful for that," Sane added.

"He showed me how the club works, which team it has in mind, the way looks. 

"I immediately noticed: I know a lot of boys here, I fit in very well here. And I wanted to be part of the successful Bayern path."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is still waiting for Barcelona, while Manchester City could be set to sign an attacker.

Aubameyang's future at Arsenal is uncertain, with the star forward out of contract next year.

And the Gabon international seems to be biding his time.

 

TOP STORY – AUBAMEYANG WAITS FOR BARCELONA OFFER

Aubameyang is prepared to wait for an offer from Barcelona amid their apparent interest in Arsenal's top scorer, according to Sky Sport and Sport.

Meanwhile, Mundo Deportivo reports the 31-year-old is considered an alternative if Barca cannot land Inter star Lautaro Martinez.

Aubameyang has scored 25 goals in 42 games for Arsenal this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Valencia attacker Ferran Torres looks like he has decided on his next move. Sport Bild reports the 20-year-old has agreed to join Manchester City over Borussia Dortmund. The report says the Bundesliga club considered Torres as a potential replacement for Jadon Sancho, who is linked with a move away.

- Following some less-than-convincing performances from Kepa Arrizabalaga, Chelsea are apparently eyeing a goalkeeper this close season. The Manchester Evening News reports Chelsea are prepared to more than double Dean Henderson's Manchester United wages, with the shot-stopper having impressed on loan at Sheffield United this season. The Daily Mail says Henderson is set for talks with Manchester United next week.

- Atalanta star Duvan Zapata could be set for a move. CalcioMercato reports Juventus are interested in the striker, who it says was the subject of a €50million offer from a foreign club.

- Liverpool and Manchester City are reportedly interested in Sevilla defender Diego Carlos. Goal reports the LaLiga club have received two offers from England for the 27-year-old, although from which clubs remains unknown.

- Loris Karius seems set to make a permanent exit from Liverpool. Goal says the Premier League champions want €6.6m (£6m) for the goalkeeper amid interest from Marseille.

- Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is on track for a move from Southampton. The Telegraph reports Everton's bid of around £25m for the midfielder has been accepted, but Tottenham have also submitted an offer.

Pep Guardiola admits he is bewildered by Manchester City's inconsistency this season, making it hard for him to lavish praise on the club's top performers.

Within minutes of the 4-0 win at Watford on Tuesday, a grim-faced Guardiola made it clear he was still irked by the FA Cup semi-final loss to Arsenal.

He accused City of playing at walking pace for the first half of the Arsenal game, and over the course of a number of interviews his consistent message was that the display at Watford met the "minimum" standard he expected in terms of effort.

The showing against Arsenal clearly did not, and Guardiola is flummoxed by why City have lost the dominant edge of their 2017-18 and 2018-19 championship-winning seasons.

Beating Watford gave City a fourth successive Premier League win, but that represents their best run in the competition this season, a far cry from the sequences they have been used to stringing together.

And although Raheem Sterling has scored 19 Premier League goals from the wing this term, Guardiola was cautious about lavishing the England star with great praise, given that collectively City have fallen so far short.

Pressed on Sterling's achievements, Guardiola told a news conference: "I don't have any complaints. I love when the players can achieve their desires and score goals and have this commitment to score goals.

"But Raheem has to know, like all of us have to know, that we are far away from Liverpool.

"I think it's the first time we've been able to win four games in a row in the Premier League.

"And we were able two seasons ago to make 18 [successive wins], last season make 14. This was the first time we were able to streak four games in a row winning.

"That means how poor was our consistency this season because we are the same people, we are the same guys.

"And it's happened because something was wrong and I have to discover what for next season."

Guardiola told BBC Sport that the player of the season awards should go to Liverpool players this term, rather than his own stars, such as Kevin De Bruyne.

Although the gap to Liverpool came down to 15 points after City's win, Guardiola's team were trounced in the title race and their Catalan manager knows it.

"It's the business of all of us, not just one player or 11 players. I never point at one player. I trust a lot with the courage, with the commitment for all the team," Guardiola said.

"It would be easy for the manager to say, 'Okay, we lost because of this player', I put it out, but this is not the situation, this is not the reality."

Pep Guardiola was relieved to see the hunger back in his Manchester City team as they won 4-0 at Watford in the Premier League. 

Losing on Saturday to Arsenal in their FA Cup semi-final came as a major blow to City, with Guardiola unhappy with the performance, particularly the first-half showing at Wembley. 

After that game, Guardiola said it was "the way we lost" that hurt him more than the result, questioning the appetite among his players for the battle. 

He was more satisfied with the display at Watford, though, as two goals from Raheem Sterling were followed by Phil Foden and Aymeric Laporte getting on the scoresheet. 

Guardiola told BBC Radio Five Live: "The minimum, we did it today." 

The City manager explained what he demands of his players, saying: "We can win and we can lose. In your career as a football player, you lose more games than you win, but also always you have to finish a game and go into a locker room and say, 'I did everything to win the game. I'm exhausted and I did everything to win the game'.

"And when this doesn't happen, we cannot be proud of ourselves."

Guardiola stressed even Sterling, after another outstanding season individually, would not be finishing the league campaign with a great sense of accomplishment. 

"He's quality. The personal achievements have always related to how we have done in the Premier League and we've finished second, far away from the champions," Guardiola said. "So that's why not even Raheem must be happy with the season we have done in the Premier League." 

Guardiola also said the Professional Footballers' Association's player of the year award must go to a Liverpool star this season, ruling out City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne as a serious contender for the honour. 

Foden, who stroked home City's third goal at Watford from close range, said: "We weren't like ourselves against Arsenal. I don't think the energy was there from minute one and we were disappointed and we wanted to be back on track today. 

"I think we did that well. You could see we were pressing from the front and back to our normal selves. 

"I feel good at the moment. I'm performing quite well. I just want to keep going and improving. 

"There's still a far way to go for me to be a regular starter. I'm going to try and take it into the rest of this year and keep going from there."

Raheem Sterling and Manchester City found the perfect hangover cure as they shook off their Wembley frustrations to beat Watford 4-0 and equal a Premier League record.

A double from Sterling and second-half goals from Phil Foden and Aymeric Laporte made it a Vicarage Road rout as City threw darts at Watford's goal, just as they did when winning 8-0 against the same opponents in September.

The outcome meant City matched a Premier League record for the most goals against a single opponent in the same season, equalling the 12 that Blackburn Rovers put past Nottingham Forest in 1995-96 and that Tottenham plundered against Wigan in the 2009-10 campaign.

And three days after losing to Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-finals, it was a reminder that City's season is far from over, with manager Pep Guardiola no doubt telling his players he expects performances from them leading into next month's Champions League resumption.

When these teams last met, City sped 5-0 ahead inside the first 20 minutes, giving newly reappointed Hornets boss Quique Sanchez Flores, in his second spell at the club, plenty to chew over.

Flores was sacked in December, his successor Nigel Pearson was dismissed on Sunday, and it was former West Ham and Crystal Palace midfielder Hayden Mullins picking the team for this reunion with City as an interim head coach.

Watford, three points clear of the relegation zone going into the final week of the season, must have approached the City game with modest ambitions, given they also lost 6-0 to Guardiola's team in last year's FA Cup final.

Sterling made the breakthrough in the 31st minute, given far too much freedom in the Watford penalty area to smash high into the left corner beyond Ben Foster.

The England forward grabbed his second in the 40th minute, winning a penalty when Will Hughes lunged in and then tucking home the rebound after his spot-kick was skilfully parried by Foster.

Gabriel Jesus looked like stretching the lead inside 30 seconds of the second half but failed to beat Foster after running clear, before the goalkeeper, Watford's most impressive performer by far, kept out a thumping drive from Sterling.

City had won their last 12 games against Watford across all competitions by a 46-6 aggregate, and Foster needed to save well on the hour to deny Kevin De Bruyne when the Belgian's free-kick looked destined for the left corner.

But Foster continued to be left exposed and despite parrying well from Sterling when City came forward again, the ball bounced out for Foden to roll home.

Laporte headed in the fourth from De Bruyne's free-kick, before City took their foot off the gas, sparing their hosts further embarrassment and damage in the goal-difference column, which could be key in Watford's fight against relegation.

City thought they had a last-gasp fifth goal but Jesus was fractionally offside when he headed home, meaning there would be no outright Premier League record.

Manchester City are set to make a splash in the transfer market and defence is the area in the spotlight.

City struggled defensively in the absence of injured star Aymeric Laporte following Vincent Kompany's exit, while there are doubts over John Stones' future in Manchester.

Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly and Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake are reportedly high on Pep Guardiola's wish list as he attempts to strengthen his squad after watching Liverpool coast to the Premier League title.

 

TOP STORY – CITY NOTIFY NAPOLI OF KOULIBALY INTENT

Manchester City have informed Napoli they are ready to make an offer for star defender Kalidou Koulibaly, according to Sky Sport Italia.

Pep Guardiola has set his sights on Koulibaly, who has also been linked to the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.

City are willing to bid €65million (£58m) but Napoli are still holding out for €100m (£90m).

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying in Manchester and Sky Sports says City are in talks with Bournemouth over the signing of another defender – Nathan Ake. The Guardian claims City are poised to beat neighbours United and Chelsea to the Netherlands international.

- Sky Germany reports Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz has agreed terms with Chelsea as he moves closer to arriving at Stamford Bridge. Havertz has been linked to Madrid, United, Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Barcelona but he appears set to join Chelsea. Win Sports TV journalist Pipe Sierra, meanwhile, claims Chelsea and Leverkusen have agreed an €85m (£77m) fee plus €15m (£13.5m) in bonuses.

Juventus are eyeing former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino as a possible replacement for head coach Maurizio Sarri, according to La Stampa.

- The Daily Mail says Southampton are set to sign Real Valladolid defender Mohammed Salisu. The 21-year-old has reportedly attracted interest from United and Atletico Madrid.

Theo Hernandez has no plans to leave Milan amid interest from Ligue 1 champions PSG, reports Calciomercato. Hernandez is enjoying a fine season with a resurgent Rossoneri team under Stefano Pioli.

- Gianluca Di Marzio claims there is a €60m agreement between Napoli and Lille for Victor Osimhen but the Serie A outfit still has to resolve matters with the forward's new agent.

Pep Guardiola fired a barb at the Arsenal hierarchy as the Manchester City manager's irritation with other Premier League clubs showed little sign of abating.

In the aftermath of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) overturning City's two-season ban from UEFA competitions last week, Guardiola gave an impassioned address during which he accused other clubs in England's top-flight of "whispering" about his own.

He specifically took aim at eight Premier League clubs - Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Leicester, Wolves and Burnley – who are understood to have written to CAS urging a speedy decision so that City's appeal did not carry over into next season, given the knock-on implications it would have had for anyone aiming to seal European qualification.

City were beaten 2-0 on the field by Arsenal in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, a triumph masterminded by his former assistant Mikel Arteta that Guardiola was happy to pay due credit to at a news conference to preview Tuesday's trip to Watford.

However, amid a report by the Daily Mail claiming City believe Arsenal to be the ringleaders among that dissenting group, the former Barcelona boss hinted at a feud that could be set to rumble on behind the scenes.

"I said after Arsenal, we didn't play first half against Arsenal like the second," he said, with the Gunners having persuaded Arteta to leave City and succeed Unai Emery last December.

"That was the only regret. We wanted to play 90 minutes like the second half. But after we were beaten, we shake hands.

"The opponents always deserve my respect and credit. And Arsenal I have all the respect for what they are on the pitch - not much off the pitch, but on the pitch a lot. Congratulations to them and good luck in the final."

City being cleared to compete in the Champions League next season has only accelerated the rumour mill around an expected close-season rebuild, with a substantial gap to Premier League winners Liverpool needing to be bridged.

Napoli centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, Bournemouth defender Nathan Ake and Valencia winger Ferran Torres head the list of those linked with moves to the Etihad Stadium, while Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and Oleksandr Zinchenko could be among those dispatched to pastures new.

Nevertheless, Guardiola expects the vast majority of his squad to be in situ for next season.

"It depends on the players we'll have next season, it depends on the way we adapt, the way we attack and defend," he said when pondering his capacity to refresh when taking charge of a fifth season at the same club for the first time.

"All of us have to freshen up our minds and bodies to continue to be competitive in all the competitions. If you bring in eight or nine players, which is impossible, you change a lot, the mentality, the way you want to play.

"I think 80 or 85 or 90 per cent of the team will be the same, but it depends on the people who are here."

Those whose futures are in the balance might have matters decided one way or another by City's Champions League campaign, which resumes on August 7 when Real Madrid visit Manchester aiming to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit and reach the quarter-finals in Lisbon.

Following their concluding Premier League game against Norwich City next Sunday, Guardiola will oversee a period of intensive preparation for a season-defining assignment – where a suspension for Los Blancos' talismanic skipper Sergio Ramos could yet prove key

"We are to going to train in a specific way to play against Real Madrid, we are going to try to maintain our rhythm in our training sessions," he said.

"We are going to remember what Madrid is, see the games they've played after the lockdown. They are going to play without Sergio Ramos, so we are going look at how Eder Militao and [Raphael] Varane joined up in the games they were together.

"Are they going to play [Eden] Hazard or Vinicius, or play [Luka] Modric? Play [Marco] Asensio, or [Federico] Valverde on the right side? We are going to see the way they play and prepare the game, with the advantage we have the time to prepare specific things about them."

Pep Guardiola paid a glowing tribute to Marcelo Bielsa after Leeds United secured promotion to the Premier League as Championship winners – hailing the Argentine tactician as "unique" in world football.

Former Chile, Athletic Bilbao and Marseille boss Bielsa has secured hero status in the west Yorkshire city after ending Leeds' 16-year exile from English football's top flight, a season on from suffering play-off heartache against Derby County.

Guardiola has long been a huge admirer of Bielsa's work and sought his counsel before taking the plunge into top-level coaching.

The Manchester City manager is delighted his old friend will join him in the Premier League for the 2020-21 campaign.

"He has done an exceptional job," he told a news conference ahead of City's trip to Watford

"They were exceptional last season and then didn't get promoted. They showed a lot of character to get promoted a year later.

"We know how difficult it is to win the Championship and get to the Premier League, so congratulations."

Although Bielsa's CV is light in terms of major honours – the last of three Primera Division titles won in his homeland came with Velez Sarsfield in 1998 – Guardiola believes the 64-year-old's enduring influence upon a generation of players and coaches counts for much more.

"I was not his player, so it is difficult to talk about him. But I know the reference from a hundred million players who were with him," he said.

"I was lucky enough to have the chance to talk to him. He is unique in world football because of the special way he plays. He is an authentic manager. No other manager in the world plays the way he plays.

"He is an incredible person. He is so special. It is my personal opinion but it will be incredible for English football to have him in the Premier League next season."

Guardiola's spells with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City means he has ample experience when it comes to winning titles.

However, he feels even these considerable heights are dwarfed by what Bielsa has created during his career.

"Winning titles helps to have a job next season but at the end of your life, what you remember is not the titles you have won, what you remember is the memories you have and whether the manager taught you a lot," he said.

"I had a bad night after the Arsenal game but the day after, it is forgotten. If you win a title it is the same. You have the night but the day after, it is forgotten.

"What we remember are the experiences and the memories, the players you have had, the managers you have had. Marcelo is at the top of the list. Absolutely at the top of the list."

One manager unable to keep hold of his job was Nigel Pearson, who will not lead Watford against City after being relieved of his duties on Sunday.

"Before the lockdown, what Nigel had done was incredible," Guardiola added. "The amount of points and the results they got when they were at the bottom. After that, I don't know what happened.

"I respect the decisions of the club, of course. I wish Nigel all the best, he's an experienced manager in England and has done incredibly well in the past and this period at Watford."

Pep Guardiola will not give Manchester City any time off between the end of the Premier League season and their crunch Champions League clash with Real Madrid.

Europe's top competition represents City's remaining chance to add to their retained EFL Cup this season, following a lacklustre 2-0 loss to Arsenal in Saturday's FA Cup semi-final.

Guardiola was critical of his players' performance over the opening 45 minutes of that match and they are set for a period of intensive work on the Etihad Campus training pitches in the 12 days in between the concluding Premier League encounter against Norwich City on July 26 and Madrid's visit to Manchester on August 7.

City hold a 2-1 advantage from the first leg at the Santiago Bernabeu back in February and, ahead of Tuesday's Premier League game at Watford, Guardiola rejected the suggestion he might allow a break at the end of the domestic season.

It is a stance at odds with Los Blancos boss Zinedine Zidane, who said he would allow the newly crowned LaLiga champions to "disconnect a little bit from football" after finishing their domestic campaign with a 2-2 draw against Leganes on Sunday.

"No, no, no – we'll have two days after the game against Watford but after we will make two weeks of training sessions," Guardiola said, with his team guaranteed a second-place finish behind Liverpool.

"These two games – we are going to make some changes, some that played the semi-final are not going to play.

"We are going to play the next two games. I will try to let them all of them play. We will see what happens."

Guardiola's criticism of City's mentality against Arsenal marked a departure from his usual reactions to defeats, where he tends to be carefully protective of the players.

The 49-year-old is set to break new ground next season, having never led a club for five consecutive campaigns.

Despite the dispiriting nature of the weekend loss and the surrender of the Premier League title to Liverpool, Guardiola insists his motivation remains undimmed.

"As a manager with one team, you have an advantage with positive things but at the same time, after you win a lot, you have difficulties to handle the situations," he said.

"But I'm so excited for these two weeks we have ahead, preparing for the Madrid game and excited for next season.

"The moment I lose this excitement, the fire I still have inside me to go after victories and defeats, it will be a problem."

Guardiola added: "It's a challenge for me, I've never been five years at one club and also it is a challenge to prove myself next season. Am I able to maintain the level that we had in the previous seasons? 

"In a world where everyone sacks everyone, to stay in a job for a long time is so difficult. Just take a look. England was an exception but now it is not anymore.

"It depends on the results and I'm so proud of the staff and backroom and players for helping me to be here for a fifth season."

Barcelona players reportedly want Patrick Kluivert to take charge of the LaLiga giants.

Quique Setien is under growing pressure at the helm of Barcelona after giving up the league title to rivals Real Madrid.

Amid uncertainty over Setien, it seems Kluivert would be a popular appointment.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA PLAYERS WANT KLUIVERT AS COACH

Barcelona's dressing room want Kluivert as head coach, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The club's former striker returned to Barcelona last year, becoming the academy director.

The report says Kluivert is seen by players as Barcelona's answer to Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane, who starred at the Santiago Bernabeu during his playing career.

Kluivert, 44, has limited experience as a head coach, having previously been in charge of Jong FC Twente and Curacao.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City could be busy during the next close season. Tuttosport reports City are targeting Juventus forward Douglas Costa, who has also been linked to Paris Saint-Germain. The report says City could pay around £36.5million (€40m) to £45.6m (€50m) for Costa.

- While Gianluigi Donnarumma is coming out of contract at Milan next year, the goalkeeper is expected to re-sign. However, CalcioMercato says the shot-stopper is in no rush to get a deal done.

- Victor Osimhen is close to sealing a move to Napoli. L'Equipe claims the Lille forward, who scored 18 goals in 2019-20, will sign a six-year deal with Napoli. The Serie A club will pay €81m for the 21-year-old.

- After two impressive seasons with Atalanta, Duvan Zapata is catching the eye. CalcioMercato says Juventus are interested in the Colombia international forward.

- Mario Gotze has plenty of interest. After leaving Borussia Dortmund, the 28-year-old is a target for Fiorentina, according to Corriere dello Sport. Meanwhile, Sport Bild reports Gotze is also on the wish list of Monaco, where Niko Kovac has been named coach.

- On loan at Sheffield United from Manchester United, Dean Henderson has impressed. The Daily Express reports Chelsea are yet to decide whether they will make a move for the goalkeeper, amid constant speculation over their own shot-stopper, Kepa Arrizabalaga.

- As he departs Liverpool, Adam Lallana looks set to stay in the Premier League. The Sun reports Leicester City, Everton, Burnley and Brighton and Hove Albion are all targeting the midfielder.

I use my Sundays to look back at what has been happening in the world of sport. On many a Sunday, I realise that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT

 

Sorry is just not enough Jofra!

England fast bowler Jofra Archer has been fined, and given a written warning, after breaching bio-secure protocols ahead of the second #raisethebat Test against the West Indies. Despite numerous efforts to educate players on the dangers of the coronavirus and ensure their safety, Archer made an unauthorized trip to his home, in Hove, after the first Test at Southampton's Ageas Bowl.

 As a result, the bowler was excluded from the England squad for the second Test, at Emirates, Old Trafford, and is in isolation.  The 25-year-old has apologised for his conduct; "I am extremely sorry for what I have done. I have put, not only myself, but the whole team and management in danger. I fully accept the consequences of my actions, and I want to sincerely apologise to everyone in the bio-secure bubble.

 "It deeply pains me to be missing the Test match, especially with the series poised. I feel like I have let both teams down, and again I am sorry."

Saying sorry is not enough. Changed behavior is what is required moving forward. There are those arguing that he is young. However, twenty-five years is old enough to understand the severity of the coronavirus.  Archer’s action was selfish in many ways. Despite being briefed on the protocols and being aware of the dangers of the coronavirus, he put the health and safety of the team in jeopardy. Apart from health and safety concerns, which is enough to call off the series and put the organisers time and effort to waste, he let down his team and fans who waited months to see live sport again.

Archer, who took three wickets in the Southampton Test, which England lost by four wickets, was omitted from the squad to face West Indies in the crucial Manchester Test. Again, his selfishness put his team’s game plan into disarray, while costing him a place in the squad; a test match that they must win in order to stay in the series.

Following Archer’s selfish actions, England are now considering releasing players from the bio secure bubble before the series against Pakistan. This will be done in order to avoid the temptation to breach guidelines like Archer did when he took a 130-mile detour to go home on Monday.

 

 Is it time to revisit the financial fair play regulations (FFP)?

Manchester City’s two-year ban from UEFA competitions was lifted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and is proof that the governing body's Financial Fair Play project needs reexamination. It was created to ensure balance between rich and poor clubs. Has it done that? The answer is no.

After CAS announced their verdict on Monday, under which City must still pay a €10million fine – reduced from €30m – for failing to co-operate with the investigation, UEFA issued a statement saying they are “committed to the principles" of FFP. How much of FFP is worth saving? How effective has it been?

Not much has been done in redressing the competitive balance. Those who earn more spend more, and in doing so, dominate on the field in most competitions. Bayern Munich won their eighth consecutive Bundesliga title this season, Juventus are on course for a ninth-straight Scudetto, while in Ligue 1, PSG were crowned champions for the seventh time in eight years. It is evident that clubs with money continue to hold a lot of power.

The CAS ruling is a chance for UEFA to re-visit the FFP rules, especially the time factor issue. The Swiss-based court said a number of the allegations against City were time-barred under UEFA's own rules, which means cases more than five years old cannot be punished. The ruling clearly points to the immediate future of FFP if it is not rectified or improved.

A softening of regulations was announced last month to help ease the financial pressure on clubs due to the coronavirus pandemic.  However, UEFA needs to remember the main reason these regulations were created; to ensure balance with rich and poor clubs, that balance has been lost or should I say it was never achieved.

    The regulations are not specific or clear, especially around sponsorship deals, stadium infrastructure, and youth development and needs revisiting if it is to achieve its true purpose. Despite calls to eradicate FFP completely, UEFA needs some form of financial control within the game but that doesn’t appear to be FFP in its current format.

 

  Is LeBron upset that he was not consulted in selecting social justice messages?

Los Angeles Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis have stated they will not be wearing social justice messages on the back of their playing shirts, when the NBA restarts on July 30, in Orlando, after the break due to COVID-19.

LeBron revealed in a Zoom call with the media that he prefers wearing his own name on the back of his jersey, rather than one of the NBA-approved social justice slogans. He explained that it does not resonate with his mission and he would have loved to contribute to what went on the back of his jersey but he was not included in the consultation process.

The NBA's approved social justice messages are: Black Lives Matter, Say Their Names, Vote, I Can't Breathe, Justice, Peace, Equality, Freedom, Enough, Power to the People, Justice Now, Say Her Name, Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can), Liberation, See Us, Hear Us, Respect Us, Love Us, Listen, Listen to Us, Stand Up, Ally, Anti-Racist, I Am A Man, Speak Up, How Many More, Group.

Le Bron’s refusal to wear a social justice message was surprising as he is often outspoken on causes that are dear to him. What else is surprising is the NBA not consulting him on possible messages.  Social justice messages or not, the Black Lives Matter movement has gathered momentum and will continue to have an impact. The key however is education and awareness.

Pep Guardiola insists he is not concerned by Manchester City's defence ahead of their Champions League showdown with Real Madrid.

A shot at Europe's top competition is all City have left to play for this season after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang breached their backline in each half to secure a 2-0 FA Cup semi-final win for Arsenal on Saturday.

Ederson also made a fine save to thwart the Gabon striker when the game was still goalless, adding to a sense that the defensive shakiness which undermined City's bid for a third consecutive Premier League title remains a problem.

Influential centre-back Aymeric Laporte is back to full fitness following a cruciate knee ligament injury sustained last August, but he and teenager Eric Garcia were unable to shackle the Gunners' attack at Wembley.

Laporte and Garcia now appear to be Guardiola's preferred pairing in the heart of defence, with Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones seemingly out of favour – each having struggled for their best form alongside makeshift option Fernandinho for the bulk of the season.

The City manager said it did "not take a genius to realise we need to raise our level against Real Madrid", with his side holding a 2-1 aggregate advantage over the freshly crowned LaLiga champions ahead of the second leg of their last-16 encounter at the Etihad Stadium on August 7.

Nevertheless, he was reluctant to target his back four, which was completed by full-backs Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy in the Arsenal loss.

"That [the defence] was not the problem. There were many counter-attacks. In one we made a mistake in the short space, but it was not the problem," said Guardiola.

"They used maybe one or two counter-attacks, no more than this. It was not about, I think, the tactics."

City's defensive efforts certainly appear to be on the decline according to Opta numbers spanning Guardiola's time in charge.

Their 35 goals conceded this season is the most in a Premier League campaign since Guardiola's first at the helm, a trophy-less 2016-17. When the now departed Vincent Kompany lifted the title in the subsequent two seasons, they conceded 27 and 23 respectively.

With two games remaining, City have faced 273 shots, compared to 238 in 2018-19 and 236 in 2017-18.

They have faced more shots on target (111), and committed more errors leading to shots (21) and goals (seven) than in any season under Guardiola.

City's tackle success rate has never been lower during the former Barcelona boss' tenure than 59 per cent this time around, although that figure has dropped steadily since the 70.7 per cent of 2016-17.

Arsenal's carefully constructed opener on Saturday also spoke ill of City's pressing from the front, very much a fundamental for Guardiola sides.

However, they have won the ball back in the opposition third 215 times this season and are likely to overtake their best mark of 218 in 2017-18.

That statistic might help to explain why Guardiola is reluctant to question the motivation and commitment of a team who collected a third consecutive EFL Cup in March.

"They have to [motivate themselves]. The manager is not here to motivate them or tell them what they have to do," he said. "They have to.

"The responsibility [taken by] these players, what they have done, is incredible.

"We were in the FA Cup semi-finals and all I have are these facts – we have to play 90 minutes and we played just 45 [against Arsenal].

"In the first half, everything was sloppy and not in the right rhythm to play these kinds of games."

Guardiola will hope to see improvements away to relegation-threatened Watford on Tuesday. Norwich City, already condemned to Championship football next season, will then provide City's final dress rehearsal for Zinedine Zidane's 13-time European champions.

Arsenal may get an opportunity to sign Philippe Coutinho, while Mason Greenwood is set to be rewarded by Manchester United.

Coutinho is expected to leave Barcelona permanently this close season after a loan spell at Bayern Munich.

A stunning swap deal could see the playmaker end up at Emirates Stadium.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA OFFER ARSENAL COUTINHO FOR GUENDOUZI

Barcelona are in talks to send Coutinho to Arsenal in exchange for Matteo Guendouzi, according to Foot Mercato.

Coutinho has struggled to have an impact at Barca, while Guendouzi seems set for an Arsenal exit.

Former Liverpool star Coutinho has been heavily linked with a return to the Premier League.

ROUND-UP

- Greenwood is set to be rewarded for his breakthrough season at Old Trafford. The Mirror reports the forward, who has scored 16 goals this campaign, is set to be offered a new deal to double his wages at Manchester United.

- Ajax defender Nicolas Tagliafico has been linked with a move away. Goal reports Atletico Madrid have joined the race for the Argentina international, who is also said to be a target for Chelsea.

- Manchester City could be set to sign a Brazilian teenager. According to the Daily Mail, City are in talks with Gremio over a £4.5million (€5m) deal for midfielder Diego Rosa.

- Compared to Cristiano Ronaldo, Joelson Fernandes is linked with several European heavyweights. A Bola reports Arsenal are leading the race for the Sporting CP forward, with Barcelona and Juventus also said to be interested.

- West Ham are preparing to make changes. The Sun reports they are open to offers for Manuel Lanzini and Fabian Balbuena ahead of next season.

- Amid apparent interest from the Bundesliga, Timothy Fosu-Mensah is set to be given a chance to earn a new contract at Manchester United, according to The Sun.

Pep Guardiola knows "it does not take a genius" to know Manchester City must improve if they are to knock Real Madrid out of the Champions League.

City began this week with a significant victory off the field as the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned their two-year ban from UEFA competitions, finding allegations of Financial Fair Play violations to be either "not established" or "time-barred" under regulations set out by European football's governing body.

On the field, it has been a different story, with Guardiola critical of his players' performance in Saturday's 2-0 FA Cup semi-final defeat to Arsenal.

Despite winning the EFL Cup in March, City's meek Premier League title defence in 2019-20 means their campaign will ultimately be judged on how the reformatted Champions League plays out.

They hold a 2-1 advantage over Madrid before the second leg of the last-16 tie at the Etihad Stadium on August 7.

The winner will progress to an eight-team straight knockout tournament in Lisbon the following week, taking on whoever prevails from the match-up between Juventus and Lyon – the Ligue 1 side 1-0 to the good at halfway.

Madrid have won 10 out of 10 since returning from lockdown to wrap up LaLiga glory, while losses to Chelsea and Southampton have taken City's overall tally of Premier League defeats to nine this term.

"I don’t have to tell them. They know it, they feel it," said Guardiola, who also felt his players deserved to lose their 2-1 midweek win over relegation-threatened Bournemouth.

"We know the standards that we have to be on these kinds of stages, in these kind of competitions. Maybe we are learning, maybe not. We will see.

"The last game against Bournemouth was not good and today the first half was not good. We struggled to play at our level.

"It does not take a genius to realise we have to increase our standard against Madrid if we want to have any chance to go through."

Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez all went close to a second-half equaliser before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang completed his brace in the 71st minute.

Mahrez's effort, sharply stopped by Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez at his near post, was City's only attempt on target, but Guardiola felt the game was lost during a lacklustre first period.

"We didn't make a good performance," he said, after City failed to prevail in a domestic cup tie for the first time since February 2018.

"We can lose the game. My regret is we didn't play the first half like we played the second one.

"Sometimes it happens. It's an incredible run but sometimes you can lose.

"But the way we lost, particularly in the first half, we're sad about this."

David Luiz deserved all the praise that came his way after Arsenal's stunning FA Cup semi-final win over Manchester City, according to head coach Mikel Arteta.

The Brazilian's defensive qualities have been often questioned after a series of high-profile and costly mistakes, but he was masterful at Wembley as Arsenal earned a shock 2-0 victory.

He made 11 clearances, four interceptions and a crucial block to deny Raheem Sterling in the second half, with Opta statistics showing he also won all four of his aerial duels and touched the ball more times than any team-mate.

David Luiz was hailed after the game for his "fantastic" display by former England captain Rio Ferdinand, having formed a solid back-three alliance with Shkodran Mustafi and Kieran Tierney.

It was apt that the Brazilian should produce his very best against City, having been widely pilloried for his display when Arsenal took on the same opposition and lost 3-0 in the Premier League last month.

On that occasion, David Luiz came off the bench as an early substitute, blundered for City's first goal and was then sent off when giving away a second-half penalty.

"This is part of football. I didn't have any doubts about David Luiz's reaction. He put his hand up after that game [against City], but he didn't have to do that," Arteta said.

"We all make mistakes. The way he has been training, helping each other and performing, it's been phenomenal. I am delighted that people can see this side of him now as well, and praise him because he deserves that."

Arsenal surprised many in the game by handing David Luiz a new one-year contract just days after the 33-year-old's calamity of a performance at the Etihad Stadium.

"What he needs is that we trust him, that we have no doubts in what he can do. The best way to do that is to make him play," Arteta said.

"He's had some difficult moments but he's also had some incredible moments. Big athletes go through those moments – I'm happy he's playing at the level he is now.

"I want him to perform on the pitch. He's doing that again now in a really good way, I'm really happy for him today."

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