LaLiga president Javier Tebas has stated the breakaway European Super League is "dead", deeming the controversial concept "impossible" after nine of the 12 clubs involved pulled out.

The announcement of the planned competition led to a huge backlash, including from governing bodies, rival clubs, fans, players and media, leading to the majority of the teams that had signed up making a quick U-turn.

UEFA issued fines to Atletico Madrid, Inter, Milan, and the six Premier League clubs – Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham - but a court ruling meant disciplinary proceedings against Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus, the three founding members yet to cut ties with the Super League, had to be halted.

A preliminary injunction was granted by a judge in Spain, with the case heading to the European Court of Justice.

Barca president Joan Laporta recently said his own club will not apologise for "wanting to be the owners of our own destiny", while he also insisted the project remains very much alive.

However, speaking on a media call on Wednesday, Tebas made clear Barca are incorrect to make such an assessment, considering the mass exodus.

"I've spoken with Barca executives in recent days. They believe they should keep doing what they're doing and I think they're wrong," Tebas said. 

"The concept of the Super League is impossible. Nine of the twelve clubs have asked to dissolve the company they founded."

He added: "The model they're defending, without the English clubs... I think it's dead.

"Laporta says the courts have said they're in the right, but that's not true, it's one judge in Madrid and an injunction.

"I've tried to convince them that they're wrong and should work along other lines."

Tebas was also asked about Lionel Messi's future, making clear Barca will not be allowed any leeway in terms of LaLiga's salary cap to make sure the superstar remains at Camp Nou.

Barcelona have already been busy in the transfer market as they reshape their squad, adding forward duo Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay on free transfers, as well as centre-back Eric Garcia.

"LaLiga has its rules and Barca know that. They know that they have to lower their salary costs by a lot," said Tebas, who hopes to have stadiums 60 per cent full when the 2021-22 season begins, despite the continued impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Messi is the same as Sergio Aguero or anyone else that they are adding. We will not make any exception for Messi to stay here."

Joan Laporta insists Barcelona will not apologise for "wanting to be the owners of our own destiny" in am impassioned defence of the doomed European Super League.

The contentious project failed to get off the ground after nine of the 12 founding members pulled out amid a furious backlash to competition.

Last month, UEFA issued fines to Atletico Madrid, Inter, Milan, and the six Premier League teams involved but a court ruling meant disciplinary proceedings against Barca, Real Madrid and Juventus – the three teams yet to cut ties with the Super League – had to be halted.

Barca president Laporta remains adamant the Super League will still go ahead in some guise in the future as he issued a note of defiance when addressing the club's general assembly, where he explained a vote on participation in the competition was no longer necessary as the format no longer existed.

"We spoke with the clubs [involved] and said we liked [the proposals], but that we needed them to accept that our members would have to approve entry at the next assembly," Laporta said.

"It was logical to have that vote before June 30. But now, as the format doesn't exist, I won't ask you to vote. But the project is alive, I insist.

"We're still trying to enter into dialogue with UEFA. We won't apologise for trying to organise a competition. We won't say sorry to UEFA for wanting to be the owners of our own destiny. At least not while I am president."

Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham had all signed up as participants from the Premier League.

Laporta suggested the English teams may now be rueing their decision to withdraw.

"The English clubs were the competition's driving force and they got scared under pressure from UEFA," he added.

"I think they regret leaving the Super League now, seeing how UEFA have backtracked on their threats."

Laporta claimed the Super League would have been worth "€700m in addition to variables" for Barca, a sum that would have helped boost the coffers of a club reportedly over €1.2billion in debt.

On Sunday, a vote agreed to accept a loan from Goldman Sachs worth up to €525million, money that Laporta insists will not be used on transfers.

"We're talking about the viability of the club," Laporta said prior to members voting. 

"No one should think that this money will be for signings or other projects. We have to stop the bleeding."

Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland wants to stay out of his "comfort zone" as he plots his career path.

Haaland has quickly established himself among European football's elite, moving from Molde to Salzburg to Dortmund.

His form for BVB has prompted links to a host of the world's leading clubs, including Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea and Manchester United.

Haaland, who has scored 57 goals in 59 games in all competitions since moving to Germany, is widely expected to stay at Dortmund for another season, but he is always looking for his next challenge.

"I have been taking a couple of steps over the past few years and I think they have been good steps for me, personally, to get out of my comfort zone and to develop even more," he told the Telegraph.

"I want to challenge myself in everything that I do. It's something I think about.

"It's also for everyone to always do this. People can sometimes be too comfortable staying in their 'zone' so I think it’s important to get out of that."

Haaland was asked if he was yet approaching his peak and replied: "I am still only 20 years old. So, I think that says it all."

He added: "My career has already been going very fast but also at a speed that I like.

"It's true that I am young, but I am setting myself goals all the time and I will do everything I can to achieve them."

 

His primary goal is Champions League glory, having already made a significant impact in Europe's premier club competition.

Haaland has 20 goals in 16 matches for Salzburg and Dortmund, netting one every 63 minutes – the best rate in Champions League history among players to score five or more.

Since the Norway international's debut in the competition, only Robert Lewandowski (also 20) can match his goals tally.

In the same period, Olivier Giroud (42.9) is the sole player with five or more goals to outperform an astonishing 42.6 per cent shot conversion rate.

"For as long as I can remember, even when I was a really young kid, I was watching the Champions League," Haaland said. "There were great teams with huge legends scoring goals.

"So, that became my dream. My dream was to play in the Champions League, to score in the Champions League. You know that is where the best players play and that's where the best players belong."

He added: "I am motivated for every game, of course I am, but I have been thinking about the Champions League my whole life, wanting to play there.

"So, maybe it gives me one per cent extra motivation when I go out on the pitch with the anthem.

"That is my big dream, to win the Champions League one day. Hopefully I can lift that trophy and that really would be amazing."

Sergio Ramos is leaving Real Madrid, the Spanish giants confirming on Wednesday that the 35-year-old defender will hold a farewell event on Thursday.

Ramos joined Madrid from Sevilla in 2005 and went on to cement his name as a legend at Santiago Bernabeu.

During his 16-year stint with Los Blancos, Ramos has won LaLiga five times and helped Madrid to four Champions League titles.

Diminishing returns last season, mainly due to injury, mean he does not quite go out on a high, but he will nevertheless be considered as one of the club greats.

BRILLIANT IN BOTH BOXES

It is not often that a defender is known for his goalscoring exploits, but Ramos certainly bucks the trend.

Indeed, he is the only defender to score 100 goals while playing in one of Europe's top five European leagues since the turn of the century.

His total of 101 goals is split between Sevilla and Madrid, though he only scored three times for the Andalusian club before his move to the Spanish capital.

In fact, his tally of 98 Madrid goals mean that, since the turn of the century, the only players to outscore Ramos – who also takes a mean penalty – for the club in all competitions are Cristiano Ronaldo (450), Karim Benzema (279), Raul (225), Gonzalo Higuain (119) and Gareth Bale (105).

Ramos first hit double figures for goals in the 2016-17 campaign, scoring 10 times. He improved on that in 2018-19, registering 11, before netting 13 times in his penultimate season with Madrid, albeit seven of those came from the penalty spot.

Defending, of course, still comes first. Ramos played in 206 games in which Madrid kept a clean sheet. It is a figure beaten for the club only by Iker Casillas (243) since the 1998-99 campaign.

A FULL-BLOODED WINNER

There are no half-measures when it comes to Ramos, who tallied up 214 yellow cards in 659 Madrid appearances, seeing red on 25 occasions. Remarkably, four of those dismissals came in his first season at Madrid.

Since making his Sevilla debut, Ramos has 452 wins under his belt, with 430 coming during his time with Los Blancos.

His trophy count speaks for itself, and his mastery of the dark arts – as Liverpool fans will cite from the 2018 Champions League final – is second to none.

A consistently reliable figure in Madrid's team, he played over 40 times in all but two of the last 16 seasons. His lowest total of appearances came last term, when he managed just 21 games, all of which were starts.

He leaves Madrid as the player with the fourth-most LaLiga appearances for the club, with 469, while only Paco Gento (23) has won more than Ramos' haul of 22 trophies.

SPAIN SNUB

Luis Enrique explained Ramos "has not been able to compete since January in the right condition, or even train with group", meaning he could not be included in Spain's squad for Euro 2020, despite the former Barcelona boss picking only 24 players, and that was before a coronavirus outbreak affected their preparation. 

Knee, calf and hamstring complaints limited the World Cup winner's involvement in 2021, but he had also already missed more matches than Madrid would have liked in the first half of the campaign.

Those 21 games and 1,790 minutes are by far the fewest Ramos has played across a season since joining Madrid in 2005, undercutting the previous low marks of 33 and 2,843 in 2015-16.

Had Ramos been able to get on the pitch more often, his performances would surely have seen him included by Luis Enrique, as he was second behind only Diego Llorente (of defenders called up) in terms of interceptions and recoveries in 2020-21.

However, he could not prove his fitness, and his last appearance in a Madrid shirt will ultimately be the disappointing Champions League semi-final defeat to Chelsea last month.

Now, the onus will be on Carlo Ancelotti to restructure Madrid's defence without the presence of a club stalwart.

N'Golo Kante believes Ballon d'Or speculation is way ahead of schedule as he attempts to add Euro 2020 glory to his Champions League success.

After an outstanding performance against Manchester City helped Chelsea become European club champions, Kante wants to make it a double by guiding France to success over the coming month.

The dynamic midfielder was tipped for the highest individual honour in football after Chelsea's 1-0 win over City in Porto, and Les Bleus team-mate Paul Pogba has thrown his support behind the growing clamour.

But Kante said he doesn't "pay attention" to praise of his displays, saying on Sunday: "What I hear can be touching, but I try to do what I have always done: be natural and give my best on the pitch. If it can give people pleasure, so much the better."

Asked about the prospect of winning the Ballon d'Or, Kante said: "It's a bit too soon to speak about that now. We're just getting to halfway through the year, there are six months to go, lots of competitions to play and it doesn't help to say that I deserve it now.

"Some years ago, I was in the top 10, that was the first time and it made me happy. To win it, that would be another story."

It was December 2017 when Kante cracked the top 10, finishing eighth in the vote.

"It's a great personal reward," Kante said of the prize. "I see it like the reward for an accomplished season by a player, but it's not an objective I work towards. Those who have won it are the players who have achieved the great things during their career."

Kante's France and Chelsea team-mate Olivier Giroud has little doubt the 30-year-old would be a worthy winner, describing him as "clearly a contender".

Speaking in a France news conference on Sunday, Giroud said: "We'll start talking to him about the Ballon d'Or if we win the Euros.

"He is stressed and tense when we talk to him about it! But it flatters him of course, even if he doesn't like compliments too much and prefers to keep a low profile. He deserves what happens to him."

Should Kante go on to land the award, which is handed out annually by France Football magazine, he would be the first Frenchman to do so since Zinedine Zidane.

Zidane took the honour in 1998, having inspired hosts France to win the World Cup for the first time.

Paul Pogba believes his France team-mate N'Golo Kante would be a worthy winner of the Ballon d'Or after playing a key role in Chelsea's Champions League success.

It was not too long ago that speculation suggesting Chelsea were tempted to cash in on Kante was rife, with the midfielder struggling with a few injuries in 2019-20.

But he enjoyed a strong 2020-21, evidenced particularly by his performances towards the end of the season in the Champions League.

The 30-year-old stamped his presence all over the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid and was named man of the match for both legs in a 3-1 aggregate triumph.

During the second encounter in London, Kante made five interceptions – only bettered by six from Jorginho – but also made more passes in the opposition half (25) and created more chances (three) than any other Chelsea player.

Heading into the final, he was one of just six midfielders in the 2020-21 competition with a passing accuracy above 85 per cent (86.4), an accuracy into the final third of above 80 per cent (82.1), more than 40 ball recoveries (63), over 500 touches (511) and at least 25 possession wins in the middle third of the pitch (42).

Then, in the final itself, Kante won 11 of 15 duels, recovered the ball 10 times for his team, and, as the shortest man on the pitch, won four out of seven aerial duels – nobody on his team won more. Chelsea beat Manchester City 1-0, with Kante a vital component as Pep Guardiola's men lost the midfield battle.

While some in the past might have limited Kante's strengths to the more defensive aspects of the game, his form in the Champions League highlighted that to be unfair, with the World Cup winner actually a far greater all-round player than many give him credit for.

Indeed, international colleague Pogba thinks he is deserving of the most illustrious individual prize of all.

"What I would like to say to the whole world is that the 'NG' we have seen in recent months has always been the same," Pogba told Eurosport. "We talk a lot about his performances but he has always been as good as ever.

"There was no Cristiano [Ronaldo] and [Lionel] Messi in the semi-final, so it's good to see the performances of the midfielders or even the defenders.

"I said a long time ago that it would be appropriate, if Chelsea won, for him to win the Ballon d'Or. It would be deserved, too.

"He's always performed well. I'm not surprised by what he's doing, I'm just surprised that he's still doing it. He has always played matches like that."

Euro 2020 has been a long time coming. Delayed by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the European Championship is less than a week away from kick-off.

While the disappointment of seeing such a major tournament postponed and pushed back in 2020 was significant for many football fans, the delay has arguably helped the prospect of having more young players involved.

Every international event has its star man, but they also have their breakthrough talents and youngsters on the scene for the first time.

Euro 2016 had the likes of Kingsley Coman, Joshua Kimmich, Young Player of the Tournament Renato Sanches and Marcus Rashford – the youngest individual to feature – enjoying their first experiences of such events.

Who will be their equivalents at Euro 2020?

Well, Stats Perform has identified 10 members of the 'next generation' either hoping to stake their claim for a regular spot in the team or announce themselves on the big stage.

Becir Omeragic, 19, centre-back – Switzerland

It's no mean feat to establish yourself as a regular at club level as a teenage centre-back, a position that often requires maturity and composure, but Omeragic has done just that with FC Zurich, playing 48 league games for them since the start of 2019-20.

A tidy player in possession, Omeragic generally operates as the right-sided defender in a back three, and that suits him down to the ground with the national team, whom he has represented four times already.

If he does appear for Switzerland in the Euros, he'll become their second-youngest player to feature for them at a major tournament in the past 10 years, with Breel Embolo the only one to do so at a younger age (19 years, 118 days at Euro 2016).

 

Kacper Kozlowski, 17, attacking midfielder – Poland  

The fact Kozlowski was even in contention for a place in the squad is a triumph in itself, given that he broke his pelvis and back in a car crash just last January. That he actually secured a place is truly remarkable.

Kozlowski is the next great hope of Polish football, having already made a name for himself back home at Pogon Szczecin, with whom he became the second-youngest player in Ekstraklasa history (15y, 215d). He then became the club's youngest league goalscorer (17y, 182d) in April with a diving header against Podbeskidzie.

That came a month after he made history with the national team, becoming their youngest ever player (17y, 163d).

Kozlowski is a technical gifted attacking midfielder, but don't let that lead to certain misconceptions – he's also an impressive physical specimen for his age and a feisty competitor.

 

Jonas Wind, 22, forward – Denmark

Scandinavian countries are producing some bright attacking talents at the moment, and Wind looks set to be Denmark's contribution to the trend.

Wind has been a regular in the Copenhagen squad since he was a teenager, but in 2020-21 he enjoyed something of a breakthrough as he started 28 of their 32 league games.

His haul of 15 goals and eight assists was bettered by only one Danish Superligaen player and also shows his well-rounded nature.

A real unit, Wind is effective in the air, good at holding up play and also technically efficient. This blend of abilities – particularly his aerial prowess – could be a real weapon in Group B, which looks as though it could be a tight one.

Adam Hlozek, 18, forward – Czech Republic

If there's one teenager who looks likely to spark a post-tournament bidding war among Europe's biggest clubs, it's arguably Hlozek, who appears to be a serious talent.

At Sparta Prague, he initially started out as a winger because of his direct style of play and dribbling abilities, but those skills have transferred particularly well to a more central berth this term, where he has also been able to make the most of his impressive build.

Despite missing a chunk of the season through injury, Hlozek's still managed to plunder 15 Liga goals in just 19 matches, and in April became the competition's youngest hat-trick scorer with his treble against Opava.

He then finished the season with an astonishing four-goal haul against Zbrojovka Brno to finish as the league's joint-top scorer, though he also had six assists to his name. The 18-year-old is a complete striker if there ever was one, and he could be a wonderful wildcard option for Czech Republic if he overcomes a pre-tournament injury.

 

Illya Zabarnyi, 18, centre-back – Ukraine

Hopes are high for Zabarnyi, not just with Ukraine, but at club level as well. Currently playing for Dynamo Kiev after coming through their academy and making his debut just last September, the highly regarded centre-back is already attracting interest from abroad, with Chelsea supposedly among those keen on him.

Zabarnyi was one of only two Dynamo players to play every minute in the group stage of the 2020-21 Champions League (540), along with Tomasz Kedziora, highlighting just how trusted he already is by the Ukrainian champions.

The nine clearances he made in December's 1-0 win over Ferencvaros was more than any other Dynamo player in a single game in the 2020-21 edition, while his 34 across the group stage was bettered by only seven defenders. While some might point out such metrics tend to favour those in so-called lesser teams, it's worth mentioning the likes of Marquinhos, Antonio Rudiger and Stefan Savic were among the few with more clearances than Zabarnyi.

His distribution can still be problematic when under pressure, but he does possess a cool head on the ball – Zabarnyi certainly has the potential to be a mainstay for Ukraine in the coming years, and hopefully he'll get an opportunity at Euro 2020.

 

Maksim Mukhin, 19, defensive midfielder – Russia

With Belgium the big favourites to advance from Group B, there's going to be a three-way tussle for second (and third) between Denmark, Finland and Russia. Those three could be quite well-matched, with their contests looking difficult to call either way.

Mukhin's destructive tendencies could be key towards the end of games if Russia are under pressure but still in with a chance of victory, with the 19-year-old recording the best minutes-per-tackle rate (one every 19.8 minutes) among all players to feature at least 10 games in the Russian Premier League in 2020-21.

Young he may be, but Mukhin won't be overawed by the occasion having made his Champions League debut with Lokomotiv Moscow this season, catching the eye in his solitary appearance – a 3-1 defeat by Salzburg in which he made four tackles (bettered by only one player on the pitch) and three interceptions after coming off the bench at half-time, evidence of his defensive capabilities.

An energetic and competitive midfielder, Mukhin – who has agreed to join CSKA Moscow for next season – could be a real asset for Russia, if not now then almost certainly in the future.

 

Jules Kounde, 22, centre-back – France

Granted, Kounde is perhaps a level above the rest here in terms of how established he already is at club level with Sevilla, but it's worth noting he only got his first senior cap since the domestic season ended.

His form with Sevilla has helped him jump up the queue somewhat, with the Bordeaux youth product getting into France's squad ahead of Bayern Munich-bound Dayot Upamecano.

Kounde won't go into the tournament as first choice, but he is an interesting option at centre-back should France need – or want – a change.

A progressive and positive defender, Kounde's 624 carries (defined as movements of at least five metres with the ball) was bettered by only Pau Torres, while he carried possession forward to the tune of 3,908.8 metres across the campaign, a figure only two defenders could improve on in LaLiga this term.

He's also a keen distributor with 3,172 attempted passes – Edmond Tapsoba is the only player younger than him to try more (3,509) across the top five leagues. Potentially set for a big move away from Sevilla this year, making the most of any opportunities at the Euros won't hurt his chances.

 

Jeremy Doku, 19, winger – Belgium

It seems as though most young talents these days have a backstory that includes almost joining one of Europe's biggest clubs – Doku is no different, having opted against signing for Liverpool back in 2018.

A player who dreams of joining Barcelona, Doku definitely looks primed to have an impact for Belgium at the Euros. An explosive winger to his very core, the teenager has just enjoyed a fine debut campaign at Rennes in Ligue 1.

While his goal involvements return of five (two goals, three assists) is modest, his ability on the ball makes him a nightmare to defend against. In fact, of the players to attempt 200 or more dribbles in the top five European leagues this term, he's one of just three to boast at least a 60 per cent success rate – the other two are Lionel Messi and Adama Traore.

Raw, for sure, but if you want a livewire to inject a little unpredictability to you team, you can count on Doku.

Giacomo Raspadori, 21, forward – Italy

Italy are back in the big time after missing out on the 2018 World Cup, and much of the scoring burden will fall on Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti. But if they aren't doing the business, Sassuolo's Raspadori offers a considerably different alternative.

A nimble and technically gifted forward, Raspadori does not have great physicality on his side, so Italy might need to adapt their game slightly if he's in the attack as opposed to Immobile or Belotti, but he is more likely to dribble past his man.

That's certainly not all he's good at, though. While his return of six Serie A goals is by no means remarkable, four of those were scored in his final six games of the season and among Italians to net five non-penalty goals or more this term across all competitions, Raspadori's conversion rate of 37.5 is the best.

Nuno Mendes, 18, left-back – Portugal

A key player in the Sporting CP side that won the club's first league title since 2001-02, Mendes looks set for a big future.

The teenage left-back has already been strongly linked with the likes of Real Madrid and could be the ideal long-term replacement for Marcelo, such is Mendes' skillset.

He was the only teenage defender to create 30 or more chances (31) across the Portuguese Primeira Liga or any of Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21, proof of just how effective he can be and his forward-thinking nature. He also offers good deliveries from set-pieces.

He'll likely be back-up to Raphael Guerreiro at the Euros, but he's certainly not there just for the ride – he can have an impact if given the chance.

Chelsea have exercised the option to extend Thiago Silva's contract, meaning the defender will remain with the Premier League club for a further year.

The Brazil international was signed on a free transfer ahead of the 2020-21 campaign after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, making 34 appearances in all competitions for the Blues.

Silva started in the Champions League final against Manchester City but was forced off late in the first half through injury, leaving him to watch from the sidelines as his team-mates clinched a 1-0 triumph in Porto to secure the trophy for a second time.

The 36-year-old will now be staying at Stamford Bridge for the 2021-22 season to continue working under Thomas Tuchel, who has himself committed his future to Chelsea by signing a new deal that runs through to 2024.

"When we brought Thiago Silva in last summer, we knew we were adding a world-class player to the squad," Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said.

"Thiago has duly shown everyone at Chelsea his immense quality throughout this season, and he has had a huge influence on and off the pitch for us.

"We said when he signed that we hoped Thiago would add new trophies to his impressive list of honours, and he has done just that with our success in the Champions League this weekend. We now hope that he carries on in exactly the same fashion in the coming year."

Thomas Tuchel has signed a two-year contract extension with Chelsea after guiding the club to Champions League glory.

The German replaced Frank Lampard in the Stamford Bridge dugout in January, also leading Chelsea to the FA Cup final and into the top four of the Premier League in his first four months in charge.

Tuchel signed an 18-month deal with the Blues at the time, but he has been rewarded for his successful start to life in west London with a contract that runs through to the end of 2023-24.

"I cannot imagine a better occasion for a contract renewal. I am grateful for the experience and very happy to stay part of the Chelsea family," Tuchel told Chelsea's official website on Friday.

"There is far more to come and we are looking forward to our next steps with ambition and much anticipation."

Tuchel has won 19, drawn six and lost five of his first 30 matches in charge of Chelsea in all competitions, conceding only 16 goals across that period.

Since his first game at the helm on January 27, no Premier League have lost fewer games, conceded fewer goals or kept more clean sheets (19) across all competitions than Chelsea.

The Blues lost 1-0 to Leicester City in the FA Cup final on May 15, but they pipped the Foxes to fourth spot in the Premier League – having been ninth when Tuchel took charge – and beat Manchester City 1-0 in the Champions League final.

Speaking after that triumph in Porto, secured through a Kai Havertz strike, Tuchel suggested his agent had already agreed a new contract for him in the event of Chelsea being crowned champions of Europe.

Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said: "When Thomas joined us in January there was still so much to play for domestically and in Europe. He slotted in seamlessly and immediately became an integral part of the Chelsea family.

"Returning us to the top four in the Premier League was crucial, and we could not be happier with our success in the Champions League, which crowned a remarkable season at Chelsea.

"We are obviously extremely pleased therefore to retain Thomas for a further two years, and look forward to more achievements in the coming seasons."

Thomas Tuchel has signed a two-year contract extension with Chelsea after guiding the club to Champions League glory.

The German replaced Frank Lampard in the Stamford Bridge dugout in January, also leading Chelsea to the FA Cup final and into the top four of the Premier League in his first four months in charge.

Tuchel signed an 18-month deal with the Blues at the time, but he has been rewarded for his successful start to life in west London with a contract that runs through to the end of 2023-24.

Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak admitted he absolutely regrets the club's involvement in the proposed European Super League, though he vowed to continue to "disrupt" the world's elite.

Nine of the 12 rebel clubs who signed up to the breakaway competition announced in April, have withdrawn from the proposals amid a huge external backlash.

Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona alone continue to pursue the idea, insisting football is facing an "inevitable downfall" without reform, while UEFA has launched disciplinary proceedings against those three clubs.

Al Mubarak issued an apology following Premier League champions City's run to the Champions League final, upstaged by English rivals Chelsea in Lisbon last week.

"I want to start with apologising to the fans," Al Mubarak told CityTV. "I owe it.

"It was a mistake. I think in hindsight, the decision should have been from the beginning: a decision not to participate in this league.  

"I absolutely regret it. The benefit of hindsight is easy right now. I regret it and you can see it: our reluctance.

"It was very difficult. It was not an easy decision to say 'yes, no' and 'we're in' or 'we're out'.

"I think you can see in terms of the timing of when we actually did commit, it tells you a lot in terms of how challenging a decision it was and how much we struggled with that decision.

"But you can also see that once we recognise there was a mistake, that's it. We needed to go out immediately. 

"I'm not going to sit here and defend the reason why we did it. What I will do is: I will own it. I took a decision ultimately on this and I take full responsibility, and it was a mistake."

After taking over City in 2008, Al Mubarak added: "We will continue to push the envelope in everything we do. We want to be the best club in the world and to do so, we have to disrupt and we will disrupt.

"In being disruptive, sometimes you make mistakes. We have made mistakes in the past, we will make mistakes in the future, but we will do more right than wrong.

"We will be better, stronger and more successful. What I tell the fans on this is, to get to where we are today we have done a lot of things right and we have made a lot of mistakes. It's part of growing and improving.

"You need to have the courage to make mistakes and to own up to these mistakes to go forward.

"If you go back 12 years ago where we started, to where we are today, we couldn't have done the leaps we have made over the years without taking risks and without making mistakes, learning and coming back and constantly improving."

Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski has hit out at the demands placed on footballers in the modern era, insisting the schedule players face in the coming years poses a "big problem".

The Pole has made 46 appearances for club and country over the course of a 2020-21 campaign condensed by the coronavirus pandemic, and is set to add to that at Euro 2020.

The coming years are unlikely to be any easier, with a mid-season World Cup in Qatar coming up in 2022 and Champions League reforms set to add an extra four group games from 2024.

And Lewandowski is concerned that players are at risk of burnout as the demands on their bodies continue to build.

"So many people forget we're humans, we're not machines, we cannot play every day at the highest level of performance," he told The Times.

"For football and for young players, that will be the big problem, to stay at the top for many years, because now and maybe the next two years, that will be extreme: so many big games."

Lewandowski top scored with 15 goals as Bayern won the Champions League for the first time in seven years in 2019-20.

But he thinks the addition of extra fixtures to Europe's premier cup competition could ultimately ruin the spectacle for supporters.

"Even for the fans, I think so many games will be more boring because if you wait for the games longer, there's more expectation, that feeling that you've been waiting for this," he added.

"The quality of games will go down. It's not possible to stay with this quality on the top with so many games."

Lewandowski's own form showed no sign of fading amid the 2020-21 schedule as he broke Gerd Muller's long-standing Bundesliga record for goals scored in a single season with his 41st top-flight strike of the campaign in Bayern's win over Augsburg.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin says Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona have "paralysed themselves" with their commitment to European Super League plans.

Nine of the 12 rebel clubs who signed up to the breakaway competition, announced in April, have withdrawn from the proposals amid a huge external backlash.

Juve, Madrid and Barca alone continue to pursue the idea, insisting football is facing an "inevitable downfall" without reform.

UEFA launched disciplinary proceedings against those three clubs last week after previously agreeing "reintegration measures" with the other nine, who apologised for their part in the plot.

Refuting the suggestion that the ongoing power struggle could cripple the European game, Ceferin told Sky Sport Italia: "They [the three rebel clubs] paralysed themselves with the approach they took.

"It's strange to read press releases that the three clubs out of thousands of clubs think their idea will save football and nobody else likes it."

Ceferin, who could offer no update on the disciplinary case as the committee involved is an independent body, also questioned why Juve, Madrid and Barca would commit to next season's Champions League even while persisting with plans for an alternative competition.

"For me what is strange is that you publish you are still part of the Super League and then you send a letter applying to play in the Champions League. So you are in Super League but play Champions League. It's quite hard to understand what they mean," he said.

"They should call us, send us a letter, ask for a meeting. They just sent some press releases saying they want to have a dialogue. It's quite a strange approach.

"It's really hard to understand what they want. If they say Super League exists – and nobody prevents them from playing Super League, the three of you can play your Super League. But they say they want to play Champions League as well at the same time.

"We are not afraid of those things. If the courts decide one way or another we have to be honest and work for football, which those clubs are not."

Thomas Tuchel's transformation of Chelsea's defence was the key to their stunning turnaround in fortunes following Frank Lampard's dismissal, according to former Blues midfielder and assistant head coach Eddie Newton.

Lampard was sacked on January 25 after a run of just two wins in eight Premier League games left Chelsea ninth, 11 points off the summit. 

Former Paris Saint-Germain boss Tuchel was swiftly appointed and oversaw an impressive second half of the season, culminating in a stunning 1-0 win over Manchester City in the Champions League final on Saturday, Kai Havertz scoring the decisive goal shortly before half-time. 

Tuchel also sealed a top-four finish for Chelsea and guided them to the FA Cup final, although they ultimately lost that to Leicester City. 

Lampard and Tuchel were both in charge for 30 games across all competitions in the 2020-21 campaign, with the Blues conceding just 16 under the German compared to 31 in their former manager's games. 

And Newton, who played for Chelsea between 1990 and 1999 and had spells as assistant head coach in 2012 and 2015-16, is in no doubt the success is down to Tuchel's work on remodelling the backline. 

"Frank wanted to be on the front foot and the team was fundamentally in his personality," Newton told Stats Perform.

"He's a very offensive-thinking person, which leaves gaps at the back and towards the end they were getting punished on a regular basis. What Tuchel has done is put right the defensive side.

"He's also brought back senior players into the fold that were not in favour under Frank. Seniority brings stability and more nous about how to get through games when you're struggling. He brought that in.

"He changed the formation by playing three defenders at the back. It became multi-faceted.

"It's been fantastic stuff since he's come in. He's grabbed the bull by its horns and put down the foundations of what he wants to do.

"He's giving clear, concise information to everyone. Getting the results that he has, the players have bought into him. You can see the fight and that comes from the belief the coach has instilled into that team."

Tuchel once again chose Timo Werner to lead the line against City despite the Germany international's struggles in front of goal this season. 

He arrived from RB Leipzig last June for a fee in the region of £45million (€50m) with a reputation of being one of the most prolific attackers in Europe.

Werner scored 34 goals and supplied 12 assists in 45 appearances in all competitions for Leipzig in 2019-20, departing as the club's all-time leading scorer with 95 goals in total.

He has not been able to scale the same heights in his maiden campaign in English football, though, the 25-year-old scoring 12 times in 52 appearances across all competitions. He finished the Premier League season with a shot conversion rate of just 7.59 per cent.

While Newton is impressed with Werner's work ethic, he believes Tuchel will need to sign an established central striker for the 2021-22 campaign, with Chelsea having been linked to Harry Kane and Erling Haaland.

"He hasn't played with a number nine," Newton said. "Werner's work rate, even though he's not been clinical in front of goal, is what he admires and I'm sure his team-mates do as well. 

"He's willing to commit for the team. He's selfless, unlike other strikers, and works immensely hard for the team and that's where their defending starts from. It makes it easier for the team to defend.

"It's going to be interesting to see what he does next season. They can't continue without a number nine. Havertz is not a nine and won't be happy playing there. Werner is not a natural number nine; he likes to come in off the left and right. 

"It's going to be interesting to see how Tuchel addresses that situation. If they bring in a number nine, where do you put Havertz and Werner?"

Champions League man of the match N'Golo Kante covers so much ground he is like "two players", according to former Chelsea midfielder and assistant head coach Eddie Newton.

Kante was in imperious form on Saturday as Chelsea edged past Manchester City 1-0 to secure their first Champions League triumph since 2012, Kai Havertz scoring the decisive goal shortly before half-time.

The France international won 11 of 15 duels, recovered the ball 10 times for his team, and the shortest man on the pitch won four out of seven aerial duels – nobody on his team tallied more.

Former Chelsea playmaker Joe Cole hailed Kante's display, telling BT Sport: "I don't think there's a more important player for his team in world football than Kante."

And Newton, who played for Chelsea between 1990 and 1999 and had spells as assistant head coach in 2012 and 2015-16, was in agreement, describing Kante as the Blues' "engine".

"He's an integral part of any team," Newton exclusively told Stats Perform. "He is the engine. He doesn't care about the razzmatazz, he's a very humble human being. 

"He raises his game every single time. He trains the way he plays. His levels are always the same. 

"His mindset is very strong. Physically he's a joke and able to cover so much ground; he's like two players. 

"He inspires players around him. It motivates you to do more. If you're going to war together, you're going to raise your game, that natural human spirit will rise to the occasion. 

"That's what he does; motivates and inspires others to raise their game."

Newton was also fulsome in his praise of Mason Mount and Reece James, who are both expected to be named in Gareth Southgate's final England squad for Euro 2020. 

Mount laid on Havertz's goal with one of three key passes – the most of any player on the pitch – while he finished with a joint game-high pass completion rate of 96 per cent. 

James, meanwhile, superbly shackled City forward Raheem Sterling, making more tackles (seven) and clearances (five) than any player on the pitch. 

Right-back James is a year younger than 22-year-old Mount and Newton believes the pair can be integral figures for Chelsea over the next decade. 

"Everyone at Chelsea is proud of what Mason's done," he said. "It doesn't matter how many people are around you, this young man's mental attributes set him apart. 

"Reece was outstanding and was very close to being man of the match. He took Sterling out of the game, nullified him, forcing Sterling to defend. Maybe he won't get the plaudits, but he was outstanding. 

"He's done himself so many favours with his performances and his attitude. His work rate, concentration and adaptability is very strong. 

"Another one for the future. You're looking at so many players. It's a fantastic squad that is quite young. 

"This is the beginning of a cycle. It could be the next 10 years for Chelsea. For the rest of the league, they'll be looking at Chelsea and it's ominous for them."

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