Rumour Has It: Haaland chooses Manchester United

By Sports Desk December 15, 2019

Manchester United could be set to land the most sought-after striker in Europe.

According to a new report, Erling Haaland has identified the Red Devils as his preferred choice from a long list of suitors containing Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig.

The teenager met with the two Bundesliga clubs in midweek, but United appear to have moved to the front of the queue.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND SENDS MESSAGE TO SOLSKJAER

Salzburg star Haaland has told compatriot Ole Gunnar Solskjaer he wants to move to Old Trafford, according to the Mirror.

United have been linked with the 19-year-old for several months and the Norwegian connection could lead him to the Premier League.

However, Haaland's high-profile agent Mino Raiola reportedly wants to keep all options on the table as the January transfer window moves nearer.

The striker's father, Alf-Inge, was said to have visited United's training ground in November, while Haaland held talks with Bundesliga teams Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig this week.

 

ROUND-UP

- Inter's firm interest in Fiorentina winger Federico Chiesa could lead to a transfer tug-of-war with Serie A title rivals Juventus, according to CalcioMercato.

- The Nerazzurri have been linked Alessandro Florenzi, but Atalanta are now in pole position to sign the Italy international if he leaves Roma in January, says Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Rest time might be at a minimum for Kylian Mbappe when the club season winds down. According to Le Parisien, French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet will give the Paris Saint-Germain star the chance to compete at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, which begin less than two weeks after the Euro 2020 final.

- Chelsea are considering launching a January bid for Leeds United loanee Ben White, claims the Daily Mail. Brighton and Hove Albion, White's parent club, are reportedly willing to accept offers of £25million.

- Mundo Deportivo suggests LaLiga heavyweights Barcelona are monitoring Thiago Alcantara's situation amid rumours the midfielder has become unhappy at Bayern Munich. Thiago swapped Barca for Bayern in 2013.

- West Ham's victory over Southampton will not be enough to save Manuel Pellegrini from the sack, says the Daily Star. Carlo Ancelotti and David Moyes are among the possible replacements.

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    Pep Guardiola is optimistic Manchester City can "seduce" Eric Garcia into extending his contract at the Etihad Stadium despite previously telling the club he wants to leave.

    Spanish defender Garcia made City aware back in August that he would not sign a new deal, with the 19-year-old's present contract expiring at the end of June 2021.

    A return to Barcelona, whose academy Garcia was at before joining City in 2017, has been suggested as the most likely destination and Los Cules were linked with a move in the previous transfer window.

    But Garcia was selected to start City's 3-1 Champions League win over Porto alongside Ruben Dias in the absence of Aymeric Laporte and Nathan Ake on Wednesday, with John Stones on the bench.

    Guardiola explained his reasoning for starting Garcia and also expressed hope he may yet be convinced to stay in Manchester long term.

    "I'm so happy. I know he wanted to leave but he's going to stay and maybe we can seduce him in this year to extend the contract with us," said Guardiola. 

    "He's a guy who is so stable in many, many things and we are so happy."

    Garcia made five clearances, one interception and gained possession four times for City in their Group C triumph over Porto.

    Only Dias (110) had more than his total of 108 passes, 101 of which were completed for a pass success rate of 93.5 per cent. 

    He had 116 touches of the ball in total, as well as contesting three duels and two aerial duels.

  • Talking Point: How does crazy Premier League start compare to other 'big five' divisions? Talking Point: How does crazy Premier League start compare to other 'big five' divisions?

    A pause for October's international break did nothing to check the riotous start to the Premier League season.

    From the action-packed and controversy-laden 2-2 draw between table-topping Everton and champions Liverpool at Goodison Park to West Ham's late comeback from 3-0 down to draw 3-3 at Tottenham, last weekend was another to baffle and excite.

    England's top flight has long trumpeted a reputation for being the most exciting league in the world.

    Right now, it seems difficult to argue against that viewpoint, but how does the Premier League compare to its other major counterparts in Europe at this unusual time for elite football?

    Goals, goals, goals

    As you might expect from a season that has already seen the champions beaten 7-2 by a team that only escaped relegation on the final day last term and their expected main challengers lose 5-2 at home, the Premier League stands above the other "big five" leagues in terms of goals per game.

    There have been 172 goals in 48 Premier League matches so far, an average of 3.6 every 90 minutes.

    That outstrips the returns so far from LaLiga (2.2), the Bundesliga (3.1) and Ligue 1 (2.8) fairly comfortably, although Serie A runs its English counterpart close with 136 goals in 39 matches for 3.5 per game. We'll take a closer look at Italy's great entertainers later.

    The Premier League is averaging almost a goal more per game than over the entirety of last season, when 1,034 in 380 matches amounted to 2.7 per ninety minutes.

    That edged slightly ahead of Ligue 1 and LaLiga (both 2.5), with Serie A (3.0) and the Bundesliga (3.2) weighing in with more goals, pound for pound.

    Paying the penalty

    One notable feature over the opening weeks of the season has been VAR-emboldened referees pointing at the penalty spot as if it's going out of fashion. Leicester City won and converted three in their 5-2 rout of Manchester City.

    The 29 spot-kicks awarded amounts to 0.6 per game and leads the way among the big five leagues, as does the average of 0.5 penalty goals after 25 found the back of the net.

    Last season, there were only 92 awarded and 72 scored in the Premier League – each an average 0.2 per game.

    Should the current trend continue, the division will far outstrip those numbers and might end up somewhere close to Serie A in 2019-20, where 187 awards and 152 goals amounted to 0.5 and 0.4 per game respectively.

    Errors are fun!

    Of course, the Gunfight at the O.K Corral nature of some Premier League games this season has left a handful of purists bemoaning a lack of quality sometimes underpinning the soaring entertainment.

    There have been more errors leading to shots per game (0.8) in the Premier League than any of the other major divisions this season. However, it's not just defenders getting things wrong. Those mistakes have only yielded 0.3 goals from errors per match – the same as Ligue 1.

    But hang on, before you start to dismiss the Premier League's finest as uncultured, gaffe-prone oafs, consider Opta's numbers on build-up attacks.

    Build-up attacks are open play sequences that contain 10 or more passes and either end in a shot or a touch in the opposition box.

    There have been 208 of these in the Premier League so far this season, averaging 4.3 every 90 minutes. All the other divisions are below four.

    This adeptness when it comes to crafting patiently built attacks also comes with a risk. Teams doing so will generally play out from the back, where any errors have more chance of hitting those shots and goals against numbers.

    Serie A? The defensive masters? Not really

    That's right, the land of Catenaccio is completely giddy on Golazos. Atalanta scored four, four and five in their opening three wins, before shipping four at Napoli. They've netted 14 times overall and sit third.

    Second-placed Sassuolo are only one goal behind Gian Piero Gasperini's freewheelers with 13 goals.

    In terms of shots (25.7), shots on target (9.2), big chances (4.6), big chances scored (2.1) and errors leading to goals (0.4) per game, Serie A comes out on top of the pile in the early days of this raucous, surreal season.

  • Rumour Has It: Griezmann set for new contract at Barcelona Rumour Has It: Griezmann set for new contract at Barcelona

    Antoine Griezmann could be set to renew his contract at Barcelona.

    The France international has faced criticism for failing to live up to expectations since joining Barca from Atletico Madrid last year.

    However, Griezmann may join the list of players renewing with the LaLiga giants.

     

    TOP STORY – GRIEZMANN SET FOR BARCELONA RENEWAL

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    It claims Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto may also re-sign, amid reports players are reducing their wages at the club.

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    Griezmann scored 15 goals in 48 games for Barca last season, while he is yet to net in four appearances in 2020-21.

     

    ROUND-UP

    - A former Barcelona head coach could be set for a new job. Marca reports Palmeiras have made a move for Quique Setien after the departure of Vanderlei Luxemburgo.

    - Despite signing Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias in the close season, Manchester City are reportedly look for another defender. Fabrizio Romano suggested the Premier League giants are monitoring Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres.

    - Christian Eriksen's Inter future remains uncertain. CalcioMercato reports Inter turned down a loan bid from Borussia Dortmund in the close season, but the Serie A club could be open to the midfielder leaving in January.

    - After Virgil van Dijk suffered a serious knee injury, Liverpool are linked with defenders. The Sun says Brighton and Hove Albion would demand at least £50million for Ben White if the Premier League champions make a move for the centre-back in January.

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