Rumour Has It: Real Madrid eye Koulibaly, Man Utd target Sancho for £50m

By Sports Desk February 13, 2021

Real Madrid are considering a move for Kalidou Koulibaly, while Manchester United are targeting Jadon Sancho in a cut-price deal.

Amid uncertainty over Sergio Ramos' future at Madrid, the LaLiga giants continue to be linked with centre-backs.

They seemingly have plenty of options – and Napoli star Koulibaly is among them.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID LIKE KOULIBALY

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane likes Napoli defender Koulibaly, according to AS.

The report says Bayern Munich star David Alaba, who is out of contract at the end of the season, is still Madrid's first option.

With Ramos potentially leaving when his contract expires at campaign's end, AS also says Villarreal defender Pau Torres and Sevilla's Jules Kounde will be expensive.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United opted not to sign Borussia Dortmund star Sancho ahead of 2020-21, and it could pay off. Eurosport reports United could land Sancho for just £50million (€57.1m) in the next transfer window. The Bundesliga club were demanding about £100m (€120m) for Sancho last year.

- Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Florian Neuhaus is seemingly attracting plenty of interest. Kicker reports Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, Manchester City and Juventus are interested in the three-time Germany international.

- Arsenal look set to strengthen ahead of next season. The Sun reports they are close to finalising a deal for 18-year-old Sporting CP forward Tiago Tomas for £20m (€22.8m).

- On loan at Real Betis from Barcelona, Emerson may not return to Camp Nou. CalcioMercato reports Milan are considering a move for the right-back.

- Former Milan and Chelsea forward Alexandre Pato will join Orlando City on a one-year deal, according to Fabrizio Romano and The Mane Land. Pato has been without a club since leaving Sao Paulo in August last year.

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  • Uruguay end drought but can't burst Chile's bubble Uruguay end drought but can't burst Chile's bubble

    For a period in the build-up to the 1-1 draw between Uruguay and Chile, it was anyone's guess as to whether the game would go ahead or not, with the Chilean ranks appearing to be in chaos.

    While the Football Federation of Chile (FFC) accepted a group of unnamed players had broken its COVID-secure bubble by bringing a barber into the team hotel, further allegations refused to go away.

    Media reports claimed there was a second breach that revolved around several women being brought into accommodation, and head coach Martin Lasarte was apparently considering resigning over the matter.

    It didn't stop there. The Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) is said to have asked CONMEBOL to check security footage from the hotel to see if there was only the one breach, seemingly in the hope of being awarded the three points in the event of major sanctions.

    As it was, three of the Chile players allegedly involved were named in the starting XI in Cuiaba, and perhaps it was predictable – in more than one sense – that one of them put La Roja in front.

    Eduardo Vargas latched on to Ben Brereton's clever first-touch offload and burst into the right side of the penalty area. Having noticed he had no one else in support, the Atletico Mineiro forward lashed a right-footed striker beyond Fernando Muslera and into the top-left corner.

    Vargas wheeled away and, just before sharing a strong embrace with Chile's unlikely new hero Brereton, the goalscorer made a 'talking' gesture with his hand, presumably showing his disapproval of the chatter surrounding he and his team-mates in the last few days.

    In converting, Vargas moved above the likes of Gabriel Batistuta in the Copa America's all-time leading scorers rankings, going joint-fifth with Paolo Guerrero on 14 – the record, shared by Norberto Mendez and Zizinho with 17, is certainly within his reach.

    Vargas' need to be withdrawn could play a role in that regard, however, as the 31-year-old went off just before the hour clutching the back of his thigh.

    Nevertheless, his job was done to a certain extent, Vargas' goal a devastating show of clinical finishing that Uruguay just haven't seen in recent times – and not just in the Copa America.

    La Celeste went into the game without scoring in their previous four games, a run that stretched back to November when Darwin Nunez netted the last in a 3-0 win over Colombia.

    They were especially toothless in attack – despite the presence of talismanic duo Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani – in their first match against Argentina, their 0.1 xG (expected goals) a tournament-low figure only previously achieved by Venezuela (against Brazil and Colombia) in this year's competition.

    In fact, at the halfway point on Monday, Suarez and Cavani had only managed one shot on target between them in 135 minutes of Copa football – that solitary accurate attempt coming in the first half in Cuiaba as Claudio Bravo made a necessary, albeit expected, block to deny the Atletico Madrid man.

    Of course, a key nuance to the struggles of Uruguay's front two would be that the service to them had been underwhelming – so much so that Suarez appeared determined to try and take matters into his own hands as a cross forced the Chile defence into action just before the break, while he also played a match-high three key passes over the course of the 90 minutes.

    It arguably wasn't until the inexperienced Facundo Torres – making just his fourth appearance for Uruguay – came on in the 60th minute that La Celeste started to look genuinely lively in attack, though.

    The 21-year-old quickly saw a rasping volley tipped wide by Bravo, and his lovely delivery from the resulting corner was flicked on by Matias Vecino, and the ball subsequently found its way in via a combination of Suarez and Vidal, who was ultimately credited with the own goal.

    While further chances came and went at either end, a stalemate felt a fitting end to a match largely lacking in real quality.

    But such situations are surely a by-product of the tournament's jeopardy-sapping format, with all but two of the 10 teams involved across the two groups set to reach the quarter-finals.

     

    For those in Group A, it's a case of 'do better than Bolivia and you're through' – over the course of their four games, it would be a major shock if either Uruguay were to fail in that regard, while the point here sealed Chile's route through to the next round.

    The main thing here for Uruguay was to finally get a goal on the board, even if it was given to Vidal, as it should provide something of a boost to their mentality, especially after significant criticism in the wake of that defeat to Argentina.

    As such, it was all hugs and smiles between the two teams at full-time, with Chile and Uruguay well aware that dropping points here won't permanently burst their Copa bubble.

  • Uruguay 1-1 Chile: La Roja reach Copa America knockouts despite letting advantage slip Uruguay 1-1 Chile: La Roja reach Copa America knockouts despite letting advantage slip

    Chile claimed a place in the knockout stages of the Copa America despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Uruguay.

    Eduardo Vargas opened the scoring in Cuiaba, but an Arturo Vidal own goal ensured it ended honours even, a result that means Chile can no longer finish bottom of Group A.

    It also helped Uruguay get off the mark after defeat to Argentina in their opener, though Oscar Tabarez's side still have work to do reach the quarter-finals of the competition.

    A lively start to proceedings saw Edinson Cavani force an outstanding save from Claudio Bravo with a close-range header, only for the Chilean goalkeeper to be denied the glory by a late offside flag.

    The officials also waved away Chile claims for a penalty moments later for the same reason, though Martin Lasarte's side would not be denied for long.

    Vargas looked to still have plenty to do after a slick one-two with Ben Brereton had taken him into the box, but he produced a brilliant finish from a tight angle to put his team ahead.

    And, though Chile subsequently lost defender Guillermo Maripan to injury, Uruguay struggled to create anything of note before the half-time break.

    The second period started in a similar fashion, but Chile's hopes were dealt a further blow when Vargas limped off with an apparent hamstring issue.

    Aided by a flurry of substitutes, Uruguay began to build pressure, and that told with just over 20 minutes remaining, Vidal adjudged to have got the final touch under pressure as Luis Suarez looked to turn in a Matias Vecino flick-on from a corner.

    Boosted by their equaliser, Tabarez's men dominated much of the closing stages, though they were denied a first win of the tournament as an obstinate Chile defence stood firm.

    What does it mean? Chile a contender

    They may have been pegged back here, but Chile's unbeaten start to this tournament has been an impressive one and no team will look forward to facing them in the last eight.

    As for Uruguay, they showed the combination of graft and craft that will surely see them come alive should they secure passage into the business end of the Copa America.

    Brereton stands out again

    This is proving to be a breakout tournament for England-born Brereton, who followed up a goal against Bolivia last time out with an assist in this one. Chile are clearly benefiting from his presence as a focal point.

    Cavani fails to fire

    Uruguay would have turned one point into three had Cavani followed his partner in crime Suarez onto the scoresheet, but the Manchester United striker failed to even find the target with his all three of his shots across the 90 minutes.

    What's next?

    Chile finish off their fixtures in the group stage against Paraguay in Brasilia on Thursday, while Uruguay contest their penultimate game against Bolivia in Cuiaba on the same day.

  • Hazard needs to take the next step – Martinez Hazard needs to take the next step – Martinez

    Eden Hazard is feeling strong and happy according to Belgium head coach Roberto Martinez, who urged the Real Madrid attacker to build on his performance in a 2-0 win over Finland.

    After coming on as a substitute in Belgium's two opening matches at Euro 2020, Hazard started against Finland and posed Markku Kanerva's side problems alongside Romelu Lukaku and Jeremy Doku.

    Hazard, who battled through an injury-plagued 2020-21 season in which he made just 14 LaLiga appearances, played all 90 minutes against Finland and impressed his coach.

    Martinez told reporters: "He [Hazard] pushed himself and got into good positions.

    "He looks free, twisting right and left. He feels strong, happy, his body is reacting well.

    "The next step is now to see Eden with that final pass, that shot that finishes in the back of the net.

    "I was delighted with his performance."

    Since losing 1-0 to France in the semi-final of the 2018 World Cup, Belgium have scored in 33 consecutive matches in all competitions.

    Victory over Finland ensured Belgium have won all three group games at back-to-back major tournaments (2018 World Cup and Euro 2020), and booked them a round of 16 match against the third-placed side from Group A, D, E or F in Seville on Sunday.

    Belgium's most recent match in Spain ended in a 5-0 loss to the home side in a 2010 World Cup qualifier featuring Hazard alongside Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen.

    Martinez underlined the importance of his side hitting top gear, saying: "This team has been very consistent over the last five years. It's now about getting every individual at their very best.

    "We're going to play in Seville and we'll need to adapt and have every player ready and prepared to make the team better."

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