Real Madrid have made a habit of European success down the years, winning the ultimate prize more times than any other club, and in 2017 they did what no one else could.

But June 3, 2016 will be remembered by many for contrasting reasons, as Muhammad Ali – one of the greatest athletes ever – died, leaving the sporting world in despair.

This day is also notable for South African cricket, and specifically an historic captaincy announcement.

We take a look at the major sporting events to have happened on this day through the years.

2017 – Los Blancos continue their European reign

When Real Madrid and Juventus went head-to-head in Cardiff for the 2017 Champions League final, the omens appeared to be in favour of the Old Lady – no team had ever defended their title in the competition.

But Madrid are no ordinary club and history was theirs in Wales, as they became the first club to retain the Champions League.

Although Mario Mandzukic cancelled out Cristiano Ronaldo's well-taken 20th-minute opener with an outrageous over-the-shoulder volley, Madrid romped to a 4-1 victory in the second half.

Casemiro's deflected long-range effort put them back in front, Ronaldo turned in from close range to increase the deficit and Marco Asensio finished Juve off after brilliant work from Marcelo – they would go on to win the competition for a third successive season the following year.

2016 – Sport loses an icon

Arguably the most iconic boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali, died exactly four years ago.

His achievements in the ring were plentiful, Ali's most famous victories came in the Thrilla in Manila (1975) against Joe Frazier, and the Rumble in the Jungle (1974), in which he stunningly defeated George Foreman. The latter attracted an estimated one billion TV viewers.

Ali was renowned for his charisma, showmanship and quick wit, while he also wrote poetry and enjoyed success as a musician.

However, his impact as an activist is what he is best remembered for by many. Ali was stripped of his heavyweight titles after refusing to be drafted to the Vietnam War in 1966 and spent over three years away from the ring as he fought his conviction for draft evasion, which was overturned in 1971. His stance saw him grow into an inspirational figure in the civil rights movement.

He succumbed to Parkinson's syndrome in 2016, 32 years after making his diagnosis public. He continues to be regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated athletes in history.

2014 – An historic appointment for South African cricket

With Graeme Smith recently retiring from international cricket, in June 2014 South Africa made an historic appointment for his replacement as Test captain.

Batsman Hashim Amla got the nod despite many suspecting AB de Villiers – Smith's deputy – to have been the leading candidate for the role.

Durban-born Amla, who is of Indian descent, became South Africa's first non-white permanent Test captain in the process.

Amla retired from all forms of international cricket in August last year following the Cricket World Cup.

1999 – Malone named NBA MVP again

After a stellar 1998-99 season, Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz claimed the Maurice Podoloff trophy as he was named NBA MVP.

It was the second time he claimed the prize, making him – at that point – only the ninth player in NBA history to win it more than once, having also been a standout star two years earlier.

In 1998-99, which had a shortened calendar due to a lockout, Malone averaged 23.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists as the Jazz went 37-13, but the San Antonio Spurs ended the season victorious.

Karim Benzema is convinced Real Madrid will hit the ground running when they resume their LaLiga campaign, highlighting Zinedine Zidane's emphasis on "enjoyment" following the coronavirus-enforced hiatus.

After a three-month suspension to the season due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Madrid will return to the pitch on June 14 when they host Eibar.

LaLiga has been allowed to recommence behind closed doors thanks to the threat of the virus decreasing, and Madrid look set to push Barcelona all the way in the title race.

Barca resume the season two points clear of their bitter rivals, but Benzema is certain Los Blancos are ready for the challenge and they have relished being back in full training, with Zidane putting focus on ensuring the players are enjoying their work.

Benzema told Real Madrid TV: "Zidane's message is enjoyment. Enjoy playing football. We have had more contact with the ball than last week.

"We did more fitness last week and now, as we are closer to the restart of LaLiga, we have been using the ball more.

"The adaptation has been very good, step by step. It is much better here with our team-mates and with the ball, because it is more difficult to do so at home. It is more about the gym and fitness.

"Two months without a ball makes things tougher when you are back, but we are fine now, and we will keep working together with the ball. For instance, we have played a game today [Tuesday] and it's been very good for everyone.

"We can't wait to restart the competition and it's very important to win games. The first game against Eibar at home will be very important. So, we will give our best until the end."

The absence of supporters will be more peculiar for Madrid – who are used to playing in front of up to 80,000 people in the capital – than most, particularly as they are set to play home games at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium, the 6,000-seat home of the Castilla side, to allow construction work to proceed on the Santiago Bernabeu.

Benzema, though, believes the team will still feel the love from those watching at home.

"It will be different, for sure," said the striker. "We always need our supporters.

"However, we will have our fans here and hopefully all of them will be in front of a TV supporting us, that's all.

"We know we have to win the games because they are very important for us and for the club and we will be at our best."

Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic is attracting plenty of interest in Europe.

Milinkovic-Savic has been linked to the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Manchester City.

Real Madrid, though, are reportedly fighting to bring the Serbia international to the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – ZIDANE REACHES OUT TO LAZIO STAR

Zinedine Zidane has approached Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic regarding a move to Real Madrid, according to Le10Sport.

Milinkovic-Savic is a player in demand, linked to Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United and Manchester City.

Zidane is interested in bringing Milinkovic-Savic to the Spanish capital, however, the Serbian midfielder reportedly wants to team up with Neymar and Kylian Mbappe at PSG.

 

ROUND-UP

- Mundo Deportivo says Barcelona are eyeing Ajax and United States sensation Sergino Dest. PSG are also reportedly interested in the 19-year-old full-back as a replacement for Thomas Meunier.

- Atletico Madrid defender Stefan Savic is being chased by Serie A champions Juventus and Ligue 1 outfit Monaco, reports Mundo Deportivo.

Luka Modric to Milan? The Madrid veteran was reportedly poised to swap the Santiago Bernabeu for San Siro at season's end. However, Calciomercato says the move is off after Zvonimir Boban's Milan exit.

- After Mauro Icardi completed a permanent transfer to PSG, Calciomercato reports Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik is at the top of Juve's list of targets.

- According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Chelsea and Juve are set to hold talks over a deal that would see Jorginho and Federico Bernardeschi swap clubs.

Madrid have been favourites to sign Rennes teenager Eduardo Camavinga, but Le10Sport says PSG are preparing a sensational move for the 17-year-old.

- Could Raheem Sterling swap City for Manchester neighbours United? The Independent reports the Red Devils have placed Sterling high up in priority amid uncertainty over City's Champions League ban. Sterling, though, appears more likely to go to Madrid. RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano and Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly remain on United's list as they continue to target Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.

Lucas Vazquez relished a return to full training at Real Madrid and hopes they can win all their remaining LaLiga games to overthrow Barcelona.

LaLiga clubs were on Monday able to train without restrictions on group size for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic led to the season being suspended in March.

The season will get back under way on June 11, with Madrid sitting two points adrift of leaders Barca with 11 games remaining.

Madrid's first game after the restart is against Eibar and Vazquez hopes it can be the start of a winning streak that enables Zinedine Zidane's men to claim a first league title since 2017.

"Eibar is the starting point for the 11 finals we have left and hopefully we can record wins in every game until the end and win the title," Vazquez told Real Madrid TV.

He added: "We like to train with all our team-mates together, enjoying the football.

"It's what we all like, training sessions in which we can all enjoy the football together. We're training to try and get into our stride for the start of the season.

"Football is made up of several factors, such as the physical side, which is very important, and the mental side. That combination of the two means that we can go into the league in good shape."

According to Marca, Madrid president Florentino Perez has informed club members they will play their remaining LaLiga games at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano at their Valdebebas training ground to enable renovation work to begin on the Santiago Bernabeu.

Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich… take your pick.

Kai Havertz is not short of options following his stunning form for Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga.

As clubs queue up to sign Havertz, a Premier League giant is reportedly leading the race.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD FAVOURITES FOR HAVERTZ

Manchester United are favourites to sign in-demand Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz, according to The Sun.

Havertz has been linked to the likes of Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid after his exploits for Bundesliga outfit Leverkusen.

United are ready to swoop for Havertz, as well as Borussia Dortmund sensation Jadon Sancho.

 

ROUND-UP

- Le10Sport says Paul Pogba is open to swapping United for Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain. Linked to former club Juventus and LaLiga giants Madrid, PSG have emerged as a possible destination for the disgruntled Frenchman.

Manchester City are determined to sign Juve centre-back Leonardo Bonucci, but Calciomercato claims the Serie A holders are unwilling to sell the key defender.

- Mundo Deportivo reports Barcelona are positive about signing Lautaro Martinez from Inter following Mauro Icardi's move to PSG. Inter recouped at least €50million after Icardi's loan deal at PSG became permanent. While Barca are aware it will be difficult to prise Martinez to Camp Nou, the LaLiga champions view Icardi's transfer positively.

Chelsea are leading the race to sign Barca outcast Philippe Coutinho, according to the Daily Express. Coutinho has spent the 2019-20 season on loan at Bayern but the German giants opted not to exercise their transfer option. Now, Chelsea are prepared to bring the former Liverpool star back to the Premier League on loan. Tottenham have also been linked.

- Juve's Douglas Costa is wanted by Atletico Madrid. That is according to Calciomercato, which claims Atletico want to bring in the Brazilian attacker in exchange for either Thomas Partey or Stefan Savic. Douglas Costa has been linked to United, while Arsenal are eyeing Partey.

Milan will meet with potential new head coach Ralf Rangnick, claims Gianluca Di Marzio. The Rossoneri continue to be linked to Rangnick while Stefano Pioli remains in charge.

- La Repubblica claims Juve have entered the race for Hellas Verona defender Marash Kumbulla. The 20-year-old has been linked to the likes of Napoli, Lazio, Fiorentina, United, Tottenham, Chelsea, PSG and RB Leipzig.

LaLiga has confirmed the season will restart with a Seville derby on June 11 and the campaign will wrap up on July 19, it was confirmed on Sunday.

Suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, LaLiga will get back underway with a clash between Sevilla and Real Betis.

The remaining 11 matchdays will be played in less than six weeks as Barcelona and Real Madrid battle for the title.

Barca were two points clear of their bitter rivals when the season was stopped due to COVID-19, which has killed more than 373,000 people worldwide.

Quique Setien's men return to action with a trip to Real Mallorca on June 13, a day before Madrid host Eibar.

Barcelona also host Atletico Madrid on July 1 before facing rivals Espanyol in a derby clash a week later.

Barcelona's remaining fixtures
June 13: Real Mallorca (A)
June 16: Leganes (H)
June 21: Sevilla (A)
June 24: Athletic Bilbao (H)
June 28: Celta Vigo (A)
July 1: Atletico Madrid (H)
July 5: Villarreal (A)
July 8: Espanyol (H)
July 12: Real Valladolid (A)
July 15: Osasuna (H)
July 19: Deportivo Alaves (A)

Real Madrid's remaining fixtures
June 14: Eibar (H)
June 18: Valencia (H)
June 21: Real Sociedad (A)
June 24: Real Mallorca (H)
June 28: Espanyol (A)
July 1: Getafe (H)
July 5: Athletic Bilbao (A)
July 8: Deportivo Alaves (H)
July 12: Granada (A)
July 15: Villarreal (H)
July 19: Leganes (A)

Barcelona are continuing their push for Lautaro Martinez, while Liverpool have renewed their interest in Ousmane Dembele.

Martinez, 22, has been linked with a move to Barcelona, although just whether the LaLiga giants can get a deal done has been questioned.

Inter have insisted the only way Martinez will leave is by his €111million release clause being paid. That has seemingly not put Barca off.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA PUSH AHEAD IN LAUTARO PURSUIT

Barcelona are continuing to chase Inter star Martinez, according to Marca.

The report says the LaLiga side remain firm in their intention to sign Martinez despite Inter wanting his release clause paid.

Martinez had scored 16 goals in 31 games this season when the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

ROUND-UP

- Linked with a move for Dembele previously, Liverpool could target the Barcelona attacker again. Mundo Deportivo reports the Premier League leaders will consider a move for Dembele if they fail to land RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner.

- Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos is out of contract at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2021. However, Sport reports the defender is set to renew with Madrid.

- Kai Havertz continues to attract plenty of interest. But Marca says the Bayer Leverkusen star will have to wait for Real Madrid, who it reports have been in advanced negotiations for the attacker. Havertz is also said to be wanted by Bayern Munich.

- Will Miralem Pjanic get to Barcelona? With the Juventus midfielder linked with a switch to Camp Nou, Sport and Tuttosport report the Serie A giants have asked for 17-year-old forward Ansu Fati to be included in a deal. Arthur has also been linked to Juventus.

- A possible return to Juventus for Paul Pogba appears to be difficult. However, CalcioMercato reports the Italian champions have offered Adrien Rabiot to Manchester United in a deal for the midfielder.

- David Luiz could be set for an Arsenal exit. The Mirror reports the defender will have to take a huge pay cut to secure a return to Benfica if Arsenal opt against triggering a one-year extension to his deal.

Rennes president Nicolas Holveck ruled out an exit for Eduardo Camavinga this close season with the midfielder linked to Real Madrid.

Madrid are reportedly interested in the 17-year-old midfielder as the LaLiga giants look for a back-up for Casemiro.

However, Holveck said Camavinga, who is contracted until 2022, would be staying at Rennes for at least another season.

"For Eduardo Camavinga, the project is to continue to progress at Stade Rennais," he told RTL on Saturday.

"The next season should be that of the consecration in Rennes for him."

Holveck added: "Very sincerely, yes, the project next season will be with Eduardo."

Camavinga made 36 appearances in all competitions for Rennes this season, scoring once.

'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.

 

Although he didn't know it at the time, March 2017 was a momentous month in the career of Mohammed Salisu, the Ghanaian centre-back who is now interesting many of the world's biggest clubs.

In the town of Nsawam, south Ghana, the African Talent Football Academy (ATFA) first began operating, coaching hopeful young footballers who dreamed of a career in Europe.

With a brand new facility – comprising of pitches and a club house that included a common area, dining space and accommodation – and connections to European clubs, the ATFA began to mark itself as potential gateway for Ghanaian youngsters chasing a better future.

Just six months after opening, the ATFA had its trailblazer, their first 'graduate'. Director Fran Castano travelled with one teenager to Spain.

Salisu was signed then and there – his journey to the top had begun.

Destined for the top

Life at the ATFA didn't start particularly well for Salisu.

"I remember my first time meeting him – he came without his boots and was late. I was very, very angry and I was close to telling him to go home," Castano, speaking to Stats Perform News, recalled. It proved a wise decision to hold that thought, however.

"He took some boots from the goalkeeper and after 10 minutes playing we saw something different. I talked to him and told him that if he can be serious and work, I promised him in half year I could send him to Spain."

Sure enough, in October 2017 Salisu was signed by Real Valladolid, with the ATFA earning a small fee and a percentage of any future sale. That could be cashed in sooner rather than later as well, with reports in Spain suggesting Rennes are very close to completing a deal in the region of his €12million release clause.

That would be considered a significant coup for the French side, as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Atletico Madrid are all said to have considered a move for Salisu in the past six months.

It's even claimed the latter were willing to pay €11m, but curiously wouldn't stretch to the full release clause. It's an oversight they could come to regret.

"I told him he would make it [to the top]," says Castano, who previously held many roles in youth coaching and analytics for the Niger and Mauritania national teams, Real Jaen, Leganes and Hearts of Oak, Ghana's biggest club, before setting up the ATFA.

"You always have doubt because it's not only about talent. To come and live in Europe was a big change for him, but I knew he would make it [on the talent side] because I saw his level compared with others in Spain at the same age and the way he can develop. You could see from the beginning he was different. The body, the technique, the winning mentality, the confidence and how he developed faster than anybody. If you increased the challenge, he increased his level."

Persistence and a friend's trust lead to vindication

Castano estimates Salisu played just 10 youth matches for Pucela before being promoted to their B team in the third tier, and then at the start of this season he became an undisputed starter for the senior side – indeed, he's one of just four defenders to play all 27 LaLiga matches in 2019-20.

A former student of sport performance analysis at the University of Granada, Castano's pride in Salisu is obvious – joining Valladolid wasn't just a big deal for the defender, but also vindication for Castano.

"I offered Salisu to a lot of teams, nobody gave us a chance. Nobody knew Salisu or me. I was just starting and it wasn't easy," he said. "I was lucky. My friend Victor Fernandez, who was a great striker in LaLiga for Valladolid and Villarreal, was coaching Valladolid's Under-19s. I called him and told him about Salisu. He told me he trusted what I say and my eye for scouting players.

"After one training exercise, just a few minutes, he [Victor] told me: 'Fran, are sure you know the kind of player you have?' He said he [Salisu] could be a very important defender in professional football. I had thought so, but I wasn't that sure of it until he told me."

Salisu's adaptation to LaLiga was impressive. In October, less than two months after his top-flight debut, he was being championed as a "star" on the league's official Twitter account after impressing in a 0-0 draw with Atletico.

Jordi Masip has been a fixture behind Salisu in goal. The experienced goalkeeper applauded the youngster's capacity to learn and is convinced a big future lies in wait.

"He's a player with an enviable physicality, he gets very fast when it comes to interceptions," Masip told Stats Perform News. "He's very young and he can grow a lot. He's a person that wants to improve and listen to us.

"He has always had a little difficulty with the language, but he is adapting very well, he understands everything, he asks questions and his adaptation is going well. To be so young, his characteristics are very good, he still can give far more than he is already giving."

A dominant defender

It's easy to argue that Pucela would be in even worse shape this season if they didn't have Salisu. After all, when LaLiga resumes they will start in 15th place, just four points above the bottom three.

But being in a team that has to spend longer stretches of time defending, Salisu's quality really shines through and it's clear he's making a difference, with only seven teams – all of whom are in the top half of the table – conceding fewer than Valladolid this term.

When watching Salisu, you really get the impression he loves defending. A real unit with long, gangly legs, he has a habit of pulling off blocks or last-ditch tackles that one wouldn't expect.

His 67 aerials won is bettered by just eight defenders, while Sevilla's Diego Carlos – widely regarded as one of the standout centre-backs in LaLiga this term – is the only player to make more headed clearances (71) than Salisu (67).

Diego Carlos – and every other defender, for that matter – trails in Salisu's wake with respect to total clearances, however. The 21-year-old has completed 136, with the experienced Raul Albiol (131) boasting the next most.

Salisu also ranks very high in terms of blocks with 22. Gabriel (26) is the solitary defender to have halted more shots. His 31 interceptions is also a decent figure, though the league-high among defenders of 48 is a fair way ahead of him.

What's clear is Salisu's enjoying a wonderful season. Despite his age and lack of experience, he is marking himself out as a consistent and committed performer.

While his technical attributes may not yet be at the required level for, say, Barcelona, he models himself on Blaugrana centre-back Samuel Umtiti and has already shown himself to be a quick learner on the pitch.

Either way, one can certainly see why Diego Simeone and Atletico are said to be keen, but time appears to be running out for El Cholo. With Rennes seemingly circling, a defensive jewel could be about to slip through the fingertips of LaLiga's elite.

Real Madrid star Marcelo said he cannot wait for the LaLiga season to resume following the coronavirus pandemic.

LaLiga was suspended in March due to the COVID-19 crisis but the league will return with the derby between Sevilla and Real Betis on June 11.

On Friday, Spain's Higher Council of Sport (CSD) said it had agreed the resumption plans with the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and LaLiga.

The CSD issued a statement that confirmed plans for the season to end on July 18-19.

Madrid were two points behind defending champions and leaders Barcelona with 11 rounds remaining.

"We'd never gone so long without being able to train out on the pitch and our desire to play football has been growing ever since we stopped," Brazilian full-back Marcelo told Real Madrid TV. "Now we're close to getting going again and we can't wait.

"It's been different to what we're used to. We have to take the positives from it and now we're used to the routine; it's not like it used to be but everything's good. 

"We're all healthy, the training sessions have been fantastic in recovering our rhythm. Having not touched a ball for so long, when you go back out on the pitch you've lost your touch a bit, but now we just can't wait to start playing games."

 

Achraf Hakimi is aiming to play for Real Madrid, the Borussia Dortmund loanee's agent Alejandro Camano said.

Achraf has attracted interest from across Europe following his exploits during a two-season loan spell at Dortmund, which is set to come to an end.

The 21-year-old full-back, who emerged from Madrid's youth team in 2017, has been linked to the likes of Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Chelsea.

Inter have reportedly emerged as serious admirers of Achraf, however, Camano previously poured cold water over reports the Serie A side had made an offer.

Amid the speculation, Achraf sees his long-term future at the Santiago Bernabeu with LaLiga giants Madrid.

"He will link back up with Real Madrid when the season finishes," Camano told Onda Madrid. "We'll see what happens after that.

"He wants to play games, like this season, where he has started every match. There's no rush. His only aspiration is to play games to help his development.

"There's a magnificent dialogue with Real Madrid and they always expect to have him on their radar and what we don't want is to distance ourselves from them too much.

"So, we'll reach an agreement of some sort over whether he stays or goes, but without forgetting that the aim is to play for Real Madrid one day because, for him, it's the best club in the world."

"It could be a short wait if Real Madrid offer him to stay now or a long wait if he doesn't stay, but the aim is always the same - end up [playing for] the best club in the world."

Former Barcelona president Joan Gaspart claimed LaLiga would have been cancelled if Real Madrid were top of the table when the season was suspended.

The LaLiga campaign is set to get back underway next month, with Barcelona holding a two-point lead over Madrid with 11 games left to play.

But Gaspart, who was Barca president from 2000 to 2003, said it would have been different if Madrid were leading the league when it was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"If Madrid had finished as leader before the confinement, LaLiga would have ended," he told Tertulia del 10 del Barca, via AS, on Wednesday.

While Barcelona will aim to clinch the LaLiga title, they continue to be linked with former star Neymar, who could return to the club from Paris Saint-Germain.

Gaspart hopes the Brazil international ends up back at Camp Nou, where he left in 2017 for a world-record €222million.

"I would love to see Neymar at Barca. I understand that he can still contribute," he said.

"What I don't know is the fine print. I forgive what it takes to get him back. I would like him to play for Barca."

Marco Asensio feels "very good" after recovering from a knee injury as he prepares to play his part for Real Madrid in LaLiga's title run-in.

Spain international Asensio is yet to feature this term after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus in his left knee in pre-season.

The 24-year-old underwent successful surgery in August but has only now returned to training with the campaign paused amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Asensio, who played 44 times in 2018-19, is delighted to be back.

"I feel very good," he told Realmadrid TV. "The first week was different when I returned to training, being with my team-mates.

"My adaptation has been good. The knee is responding well and the truth is that I am physically very well.

"The wait has been very long. I have worked a lot and, above all, I have had a lot of patience, because seeing your colleagues train every day while being in the physiotherapy room was something that hurt me a lot.

"I am already with my colleagues in the field and that is the important thing. The wait was worth it."

Asensio's attentions can now turn to matters on the field, with Madrid two points behind rivals Barcelona in the table with 11 matches to play.

Los Blancos must also overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit against Manchester City in the last 16 of the Champions League.

"We really want LaLiga to start and to face those games that decide a title," Asensio said. "We know that they are life-or-death matches.

"Every game we have to face it to the fullest, and we are going to try to win everything we have left."

Manchester United star Paul Pogba returning to Juventus is apparently shaping as impossible.

Pogba, 27, has been linked with a move away from Old Trafford, with Juventus and Real Madrid reportedly interested in landing the midfielder.

But it seems the Serie A giants will find such a deal impossible.

 

TOP STORY – POGBA RETURNING TO JUVENTUS IS IMPOSSIBLE

Pogba leaving Manchester United to return to Juventus is looking impossible, according to Sport and Corriere dello Sport.

Sport says the Bianconeri cannot afford the €100million (£89m) United would want for the France international.

Pogba left Juve to join United for £89m (€105m) in 2016.

ROUND-UP

- James Rodriguez is pushing for a stay in the Spanish capital. Mundo Deportivo reports the Real Madrid playmaker is determined to sign for Atletico Madrid.

- Real Madrid may be looking for a back-up in his position, but Casemiro is seemingly going nowhere. Marca claims the midfielder recently extended his contract until 2023.

- Odion Ighalo is set for a return to China. The Mirror reports the striker is expecting to go back to Shanghai Shenhua from his loan spell at Manchester United after just eight appearances for the Premier League club, with the Chinese Super League side demanding he returns. Goal says United will focus on RB Leipzig forward Timo Werner and Lyon's Moussa Dembele with Ighalo leaving.

- Forget trying to land Ansu Fati this close season. According to Sport, Barcelona will keep the 17-year-old, who is reportedly wanted by Borussia Dortmund and Premier League clubs.

- Newcastle United are looking at signing Liverpool midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri if they are taken over, according to the Daily Mail.

- It seems Adam Lallana is set to leave Liverpool when his contract expires at the end of the season. The Mirror reports Burnley have joined the fight for the midfielder, who is also said to be a target for Leicester City, Arsenal, Tottenham and West Ham.

Steffen Freund believes Jadon Sancho is good enough to play for Liverpool or Manchester United but warned the winger he risks becoming the next Luka Jovic if he leaves Borussia Dortmund too soon.

Manchester City academy product Sancho, 20, has been linked with a move back to the Premier League after scoring and assisting a combined 30 goals for Dortmund in the Bundesliga this season.

However, former BVB midfielder Freund cited the example of Real Madrid flop Jovic as to how a big-money move to a new club at such a young age can hamper a player's development.

Jovic starred in the German top flight with Eintracht Frankfurt last season with 17 goals, but the 22-year-old has scored only twice in an underwhelming debut campaign in Madrid and has been linked with a move away.

Freund, who spent five years with Dortmund from 1993, is worried Sancho's career could go the same way if he makes the wrong choice when the transfer window opens for business.

"Jadon is ready to play for Liverpool or Man United, no question, because his stats are unbelievable. That shows that he can take the next step," he told talkSPORT.

"In the Borussia Dortmund side with [Erling] Haaland, [Julian] Brandt improving, with Emre Can signing, with changing to a back three – that suits Sancho.

"It would be good for him to play for Borussia Dortmund now and next year so that he will have more match time.

"He's only 20, so why not play for Borussia Dortmund? We're not talking about Freiburg or Paderborn; we're talking about Borussia Dortmund, one of the top 20 clubs in Europe.

"Remember Jovic, who moved to Real Madrid from Eintracht Frankfurt – he's not playing. If you have an offer from Real Madrid you think, 'I have to go'.

"No, you don't have to go because the salaries in the Bundesliga are on a good level, too – not as much as Real Madrid or the Premier League, though.

"But you can earn good money and improve and not make too much of a big step at once.

"So, for Jadon to move to Man United with that pressure, they are struggling to qualify for the Champions League, so maybe it's better to stay another year in Dortmund."

Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc revealed last month he does not believe any teams will risk spending big for Sancho amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to clubs across the world facing a significant loss of earnings.

Freund has suggested it may be best for any interested parties to hold off from tabling an offer for the English youngster, who is reportedly valued well in excess of €100million, until BVB feel forced to cash in.

"If the offer comes in and the people from Borussia Dortmund think it's right then they will sell him," he said.

"With the coronavirus, if something goes wrong in the Bundesliga and we can't see football until the end of the year, then it's not the right moment to talk about players, they cost so much money.

"I think the price will drop anyway. All the clubs in Germany are losing a lot of money.

"It's not the same without money from tickets and sponsors and so it'll be difficult to keep your best players."

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