Zlatan Ibrahimovic is open to returning to Ajax as a director, bullishly claiming he would do a better job than anyone holding such positions at the Eredivisie club.

Ibrahimovic spent three seasons at Ajax from 2001 to 2004, winning two Eredivisie titles and the KNVB Beker before leaving for Juventus.

A player set to take a similar route is Matthijs de Ligt, who is reportedly on the verge of securing a big-money switch to the Serie A champions, as Ajax undergo another squad overhaul following their spectacular run in the Champions League last term.

De Ligt's imminent departure comes on the back of Frenkie de Jong leaving for Barcelona, while Hakim Ziyech and David Neres are two other stars who have been linked with moves away from the club.

But Ibrahimovic thinks he could find his way back to Amsterdam to take up a role after he retires, suggesting he could take last term's Champions League semi-finalists to new heights.

"Normally I don't return to clubs where I have already played, but maybe after my career I can become a director at Ajax," he told De Telegraaf. "Then I would do a better job than anyone who is sitting there now.

"Ajax is still my club in the Netherlands and I am proud to have been part of it, especially when I see how they present themselves in Europe.

"They have done what nobody expected and produce players that they are used to producing. It's wonderful to see."

Ajax's director of football is Marc Overmars, while former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar is the club's chief executive officer.

Ibrahimovic is in his second season at MLS side LA Galaxy, having joined from United in 2018.

Neymar has been defended by his father after the Paris Saint-Germain star claimed Barcelona's 6-1 Champions League win over his current employers was a career highlight.

PSG forward Neymar caused controversy when he failed to report in the French capital for pre-season training, with the club stating they would take "appropriate action", although the player's camp insisted it had been agreed he would not return until July 15.

The club's sporting director Leonardo later confirmed Neymar wished to leave PSG, though he stressed a move would only be sanctioned if a suitable offer was made, with Barca seemingly favourites to land their former forward despite the €120million arrival of Antoine Griezmann.

And Neymar - who is due to return to PSG on Monday - risked causing further anger when he declared Barca's magnificent comeback victory at Camp Nou in 2016-17 as one of his best memories from a professional dressing room.

However, Neymar's father has come to his son's defence, insisting the 27-year-old has not disrespected PSG with remarks that are similar to some he made two years ago.

"My son has not been lacking respect to PSG or the athletes who played that game in 2017," Neymar Sr. wrote on his official Instagram account.

"Some of them [involved in that game] are currently his club mates in France. From the end of that game to today, he always remembers this match as one of the most important in his career.

"There are a few journalists and fans around the world who consider this as the most important game of the athlete at the club. So why the controversy this time?

"My son is an athlete of PSG, but he cannot just ignore his history, history that made him reach the French club."

After Antoine Griezmann's long-awaited move to Barcelona, another transfer saga appears close to completion.

Leicester City and England centre-back Harry Maguire is reportedly poised for Manchester.

The red half will be happy…

 

TOP STORY – UNITED AGREE £80M DEAL FOR MAGUIRE

Manchester United have agreed to pay a world-record fee for a defender to sign Maguire from Leicester City, according to The Sun.

United will reportedly fork out £60million with an additional £20m available in add-ons, to see the England centre-back surpass Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk as the most expensive defender.

Premier League champions Manchester City were also linked to Maguire, however, United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer looks set to get his man as he overhauls the Red Devils' defence following last season's sixth-place finish.

 

ROUND-UP

Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt will complete his transfer to Juventus by Monday, Gazzetta dello Sport says. Gianluca Di Marzio, meanwhile, reports that a medical should take place on Tuesday.

- Paris Saint-Germain are set to sign Borussia Dortmund defender Abdou Diallo, according to ESPN FC. The Ligue 1 champions will pay €32m for the France Under-21 international, who only joined Dortmund from Mainz in 2018.

- Tuttosport reports Torino have rejected a €60m offer from West Ham for star striker Andrea Belotti. The Hammers are desperate to sign a forward following Marko Arnautovic's move to China.

- Scottish champions Celtic have rejected Arsenal's latest bid – believed to be £25m – for left-back Kieran Tierney, according to Sky Sports.

Neymar's future with Paris Saint-Germain could be decided in talks in Paris this week, the Daily Mail says. The Brazil star has been linked with a stunning return to LaLiga holders Barcelona.

- According to L'Equipe, Spanish trio Real Betis, Sevilla and Valencia are all interested in signing Lyon captain Nabil Fekir.

Flamengo are looking to sign Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa, according to ESPN Brazil. The former Chelsea star has also been linked to Premier League duo Everton and Wolves.

- According to Marca, Tottenham and AC Milan target Dani Ceballos could be set to stay at Real Madrid. The LaLiga giants feel they cannot find better players than Ceballos at a reasonable price.

England are getting used to needing more than just regulation to win World Cups.

An extraordinary victory over New Zealand at Lord's on Sunday saw England secure their maiden Cricket World Cup title.

But not even 50 overs each could separate the teams, and they were also level after the Super Over. Hitting more boundaries was what gave England their triumph.

They have now won a FIFA World Cup, a Rugby World Cup and a Cricket World Cup, and each one took a little extra.

1966 FIFA World Cup final – England 4 West Germany 2 (after extra time)

This remains England's only FIFA World Cup crown and it only came after late drama and what would have been heartbreak had the result gone the other way.

Helmut Haller put West Germany ahead at Wembley before Geoff Hurst's header brought England level in the 18th minute.

But just as Martin Peters' close-range finish looked set to be the winner, Wolfgang Weber scrambled in an equaliser.

Hurst's 101st-minute goal has remained controversial to this day – the effort appearing not to cross the line after bouncing down off the crossbar – and he later sealed England's win.

2003 Rugby World Cup final – Australia 17 England 20 (after extra time)

The boots of Jonny Wilkinson would settle England's first and thus far only Rugby World Cup title, but only after a huge battle in Sydney.

Lote Tuqiri scored the opening try after taking a high Stephen Larkham kick in the corner, but three penalties from the brilliant Wilkinson put England 9-5 ahead before Jason Robinson went over.

Elton Flatley's kicking brought Australia back into the game and his penalty with seconds remaining forced extra time.

A 45-metre penalty from Wilkinson put England ahead again, only for Flatley to respond for the hosts.

The final moment fittingly belonged to Wilkinson, who used his right foot to kick the match-winning drop-goal.

2019 Cricket World Cup final – New Zealand 241-8 & 15-1 England 241 & 15-0 (England win on boundary count)

Perhaps the most extraordinary of the three happened at Lord's on Sunday.

The Black Caps elected to bat and managed 241-8 from their 50 overs, thanks to decent contributions from Henry Nicholls (55) and Tom Latham (47).

Ben Stokes (84 not out) and Jos Buttler (59) led England's response. They needed 15 off the final over and Stokes hit a six before getting six more when he inadvertently deflected a ball to the boundary rope with his bat when diving to make a second run. More drama followed, however, with run outs on the final two balls leading to a tie.

England made 15 from their Super Over and New Zealand did likewise, Martin Guptill run out when coming back for a second – and match-winning – run off the final ball, sparking wild celebrations for the hosts.

Riyad Mahrez described Algeria reaching the Africa Cup of Nations final as "unbelievable" after setting up a showdown with Senegal thanks to his stunning last-gasp free-kick.

Mahrez was the hero in Cairo, where the Manchester City star curled a 95th-minute set-piece past Nigeria goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi to seal a dramatic 2-1 victory on Sunday.

Algeria had initially led through William Troost-Ekong's own goal before Nigeria equalised via an Odion Ighalo penalty with 18 minutes remaining following a VAR review.

Mahrez and Algeria will now contest their first AFCON final since winning the tournament on home soil in 1990 when they face Senegal on Friday.

After his man-of-the-match performance, Mahrez said: "It was a very tough game today against a strong team.

"We were one goal up and were in control before VAR's decision – they scored the penalty and in the last minute we converted our free-kick.

"We are very happy because to be in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations is something unbelievable.

"I think we have been very good in this tournament. We scored 12 goals and conceded two, that is the source of our confidence.

"We are looking forward to the final against Senegal. We played them in the group stage and we are expecting another tough game."

Algeria topped Group C ahead of Senegal, who lost 1-0 to the Desert Foxes on matchday two last month.

Daniel Royer guided New York Red Bulls to an MLS derby win on Sunday, while Seattle Sounders edged Atlanta United.

The Red Bulls came from behind to overcome New York City 2-1 in the Hudson River Derby.

City took a seventh-minute lead at Red Bull Arena, Heber getting on the end of Anton Tinnerholm's cross from the right to open the scoring.

However, the hosts drew level on the stroke of half-time as Royer put a penalty into the top corner.

Royer also scored what proved to be the winner on the hour-mark, expertly guiding a header into the bottom corner from Cristian Casseres Jr.'s cross.

The Red Bulls jumped into third in the Eastern Conference, two points clear of sixth-placed New York City.

In Seattle, the Sounders recorded a 2-1 win over defending champions Atlanta at CenturyLink Field.

Raul Ruidiaz scored a sensational opener, taking down a pass from Cristian Roldan with his chest, chipping a defender and firing home.

Josef Martinez's powerful header brought Atlanta level in the 65th minute, but Harrison Shipp netted the winner for Seattle.

The result moved the Sounders into second in the Western Conference, while Atlanta are fourth in the east.

Stefan de Vrij insisted Inter are not thinking about ongoing speculation over Mauro Icardi's future with the Serie A club.

Icardi is set to leave after being told he can depart Inter, with the former captain not wanted by new head coach Antonio Conte.

The 26-year-old star endured a turbulent 2018-19 campaign after he was stripped of the captaincy amid conflicting views of an apparent knee injury and internal disagreements with the club's hierarchy.

Icardi continues to dominate headlines, with the Argentina international reportedly prepared to see out the final two years of his contract but Inter defender De Vrij told Sportitalia: "The Icardi issue doesn't concern us. We're only thinking about what we have to do."

De Vrij was speaking after Inter opened the Conte era with a 2-1 win over Lugano in their first pre-season fixture on Sunday.

Stefano Sensi and Marcelo Brozovic scored for the Nerazzurri, who took to the field for the first time since Conte replaced Luciano Spalletti.

"It was a good start," said De Vrij. "It's always great to be back out on the pitch. We've worked incredibly hard this week but it was necessary to start getting minutes in the legs.

"These matches are needed to help us understand what the coach wants, and how we want to play. It went well, it was important to get off to a start like this."

On Conte, De Vrij added: "I like his approach, he’s always positive and he explains well what he wants."

Sensi – who swapped Sassuolo for Inter on an initial loan deal with the option to buy – opened the scoring in the 25th minute before Brozovic doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time.

Speaking after his first outing, Sensi told Inter TV: "We're especially pleased because we tried to demonstrate the coach's methods out on the pitch.

"My goal? I'm happy with it, it's always important to start on the right foot and I believe that I've done so."

Jose Mourinho believes Inter must win the Scudetto under Antonio Conte as the former Manchester United manager revealed he is studying German.

Inter are among the favourites to dethrone Italian champions Juventus following the arrival of head coach Conte for the 2019-20 season.

The Nerazzurri have already signed Diego Godin, Nicolo Barella, Stefano Sensi and Valentino Lazaro, while Conte is determined to prise Romelu Lukaku from United.

Mourinho spent two years at Inter – winning back-to-back Serie A titles and the Champions League – and the club great told Gazzetta dello Sport: "The Nerazzurri have to win Serie A this season. I'm sure they will."

Inter finished fourth last season, 21 points adrift of Juve under former boss Luciano Spalletti.

Mourinho, meanwhile, hinted at a future move to the Bundesliga as the Portuguese remains out of work.

After two and a half years at Old Trafford, Mourinho was sacked by United in December amid a bad run of form and reports of dressing-room unrest.

Mourinho has been linked with numerous jobs since leaving United, with Benfica, Lyon and most recently Newcastle United said to have been interested.

Asked about his future, Mourinho said: "I really miss football. I miss the adrenaline, the field, my job. Football is football.

"Right now, I am studying German. Bundesliga? Now, I'm studying German because I miss the language. I speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian. But I do not exclude anything, not even Germany."

Riyad Mahrez scored a sensational free-kick in the 95th minute as Algeria beat Nigeria 2-1 to seal their place in the Africa Cup of Nations final.

Algeria led thanks to William Troost-Ekong's own goal but Nigeria hit back through Odion Ighalo's penalty, awarded following a VAR check.

Extra time was looming until Algeria, who have not been to the final since winning the tournament on home soil in 1990, won a free-kick on the edge of the box.

And Mahrez, star man for the Desert Foxes, bent the ball around the wall to beat Nigeria goalkeeper Daniel Akpeyi and seal his country a place against Senegal in Friday's final.

United States forward Megan Rapinoe has echoed Serena Williams' comments on equal pay amid the Women's World Cup winners' ongoing fight for parity with the men's team.

Rapinoe scored the opening goal as USA beat Netherlands 2-0 in the World Cup final to retain their title during a tournament where the 34-year-old became a global icon.

The attacker also had a war of words with US president Donald Trump during the tournament in France after saying she was "not going to the f****** White House".

American players have been embroiled in an argument over equal pay with governing body U.S. Soccer for many years.

After losing the Wimbledon final to Simona Halep on Saturday, tennis great Williams bristled at a suggestion she should scale back her efforts to fight equal pay in order to concentrate on matching Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam singles titles.

And Rapinoe, speaking in an interview on NBC on Sunday, backed her fellow American and insisted she will also not be changing her outspoken approach.

"You know what? I'm gonna fight for equal pay every day, for myself, for my team, and for every single person out there," said Rapinoe.

"Man, woman, immigrant, US citizen, person of colour, whatever it may be. 'Equal pay,' as the great Serena Williams said, 'til I'm in my grave'."

Rapinoe, whose partner is basketball player Sue Bird, also defended her previous comments on Trump when asked what she would say to her fans who support the president and believe she should go to the White House.

She added: "I would try to share our message. Do you believe that all people are created equal? Do you believe that equal pay should be mandated?

"Do you believe that everyone should have health care? Do you believe that we should treat everyone with respect? Those are the basics of what we're talking about.

"I understand people feel upset or uncomfortable. There's feelings of disrespect about the anthem protest or things that I've said in the past. Ultimately, I am here, open and honest.

"I've admitted mistakes. I will continue to do that. I'll continue to be vulnerable and be honest and open and have that conversation."

Andriy Shevchenko has backed fellow legends Paolo Maldini and Zvonimir Boban to put AC Milan "back where it used to be" after they were given key roles at the club.

Former Rossoneri captain Maldini was appointed technical director in June while Boban, who won four Serie A titles and the Champions League during his spell at Milan, is now their chief football officer.

Shevchenko, who played alongside Maldini and Boban at San Siro, is confident the pair can help turn Milan's fortunes around after a disappointing 2018-19 season in which the club finished fifth in Serie A, missing out on a place in the Champions League.

"Maldini and Boban will guarantee that the club mentality does not change," Shevchenko told Gazzetta dello Sport.

"They will do well. Paolo is growing as a manager.

"The expectations are high, but I believe that Paolo and 'Zvone' will bring Milan back where they used to be."

Marco Giampaolo was appointed head coach in June and Shevchenko has been impressed by the former Sampdoria and Empoli boss.

"He seems like a guy with strong ideas, like these managers [Maldini and Boban]," said Shevchenko.

"Giampaolo is a coach who can achieve great results through play. He gives the impression he is prepared: I believe it was a good choice."

Shevchenko also has high hopes for striker Krzysztof Piatek, who scored nine goals in 18 Serie A appearances for the club in the second half of last season.

Piatek is set to wear the iconic number nine shirt, following on from such names as Filippo Inzaghi, Marco van Basten and George Weah, and Shevchenko said the Poland international is a worthy successor.

"The way he entered Milan, the naturalness, the important goals he scored, it was a great impact and now it is right that Kris also takes responsibility for such an important shirt," said Shevchenko.

"It's not just about wearing certain shirts. Milan's story itself is both beautiful and difficult to wear on the skin.

"This is demonstrated by the attachment of the fans: in recent times the results have not been the same, yet I have seen that at Milanello for the first day of training there were thousands of people."

Valencia have won the race to sign Celta Vigo forward Maxi Gomez.

The Uruguay international, who had also been strongly linked with West Ham, moves to Mestalla on a five-year contract that includes a €140million release clause.

Valencia have reportedly paid a fee in the region of €14.5m for the 22-year-old, while Celta have confirmed the return of Santi Mina as part of the transfer.

Jorge Saenz is also expected to head to Balaidos on a two-year loan. 

Mina made more than 100 league appearances for Valencia and scored 29 goals, but he is now back at Celta after four seasons away.

Marcelino's side saw off competition for the signing of Gomez, whose release clause has been set at €140m, with Barcelona also rumoured to have showed an interest this year.

He scored 30 goals in 71 league games for Celta after joining from Defensor Sporting two years ago.

Valencia have been busy during the close season having also added the likes of Jasper Cillessen, Manu Vallejo and Jason to their squad, while Denis Cheryshev has signed a permanent deal.

Victor Mollejo has set himself the target of becoming a regular for Atletico Madrid after breaking into the first team last season.

The 18-year-old winger featured four times for Atletico in the second half of 2018-19, although each of those appearances came from the substitutes' bench.

Big things are expected of the academy product, who became the first player born in the 21st century to play for the Spanish side when used by Diego Simeone in a friendly win over Leganes in August 2017 at the age of 16.

And Mollejo, part of Spain's European Under-19 Championship squad, expects more first-team chances to come his way this coming season in what is shaping up to be a new era for Atletico.

"I think in the end the opportunities will come," he told Marca. "In some clubs it is more complicated but I think the opportunity will end up coming. 

"My dream is to be at Atletico all my life. It's true that I have already made my debut but I want to be part of the first team so I have to work and take advantage of those opportunities that I have. The dream of most of us here is to play in Spain and succeed here.

"I have not talked to [Simeone] yet. The club has wished me good luck for the European Championship and we'll talk about it later, I suppose."

Atletico will have a different look to them in 2019-20 following star forward Antoine Griezmann's move to Barcelona, while Lucas Hernandez, Rodri and Diego Godin have also departed the Wanda Metropolitano.

But Mollejo believes last season's runners-up in LaLiga will be even stronger this time around after adding Marcos Llorente, Felipe, Hector Herrera, Renan Lodi and Ivan Saponjic to their squad, alongside €126million teenager Joao Felix.

"The club is growing. You are seeing that with the signings," he added.

"It is a source of pride for all the fans. Atletico are making great signings and they will contribute a lot to the club."

Antoine Griezmann began the formalities of fitness and medical tests on his first day of pre-season as a Barcelona player on Sunday.

The World Cup winner visited his new club's training ground for routine examinations a day after arriving in Catalonia.

Griezmann, 28, joined Barca on a five-year deal after the LaLiga champions triggered his €120million release clause at Atletico Madrid.

His next official duty will be to meet the media for a photo session and news conference before training begins on Monday.

Ernesto Valverde is expected to run the rule over more than a dozen first-team players, including €75m acquisition Frenkie de Jong, with one eye on the upcoming trip to Japan.

Barca face Chelsea and local club Vissel Kobe, now home to Andreas Iniesta, on July 23 and 27 respectively.

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and the Blaugrana's other Copa America representatives will not be present for the start of pre-season training, having been afforded additional time to recuperate.

Coutinho's future remains uncertain amid claims from his agent that Barca are attempting to offload the Brazil international to Paris Saint-Germain in exchange for Neymar.

Valverde's men finished 11 points clear atop LaLiga last term but failed in their quest for a Champions League triumph, losing out to eventual winners Liverpool in the semi-finals.

Hector Herrera is relishing the chance to call Joao Felix a team-mate at Atletico Madrid after the prodigiously talented teenager helped snatch silverware from his grasp last season.

Mexico midfielder Herrera signed a three-year deal at the Wanda Metropolitano earlier this month after six seasons with Porto in Portugal.

The 29-year-old was announced as a new addition on the same day as Joao Felix's arrival from Benfica for €126million.

The pair last crossed paths in March, when one of Joao Felix's 15 Primeira Liga goals helped Benfica to a crucial 2-1 victory at Estadio do Dragao.

Defeat proved costly for Porto as they finished two points adrift of the eventual champions, and the 19-year-old on the other team left a big impression on Herrera. 

"I really like how he plays," Herrera told AS when asked about Joao Felix, who netted 20 times in all competitions last term.

"What I noticed when I played against him was that he was extremely intelligent with his movement for someone so young. That's what I like about him. He's not the typical striker.

"And he has scored a lot of goals. He's a great player. I didn't want to wish him luck then, but I do now."

Atletico have been prolific in the transfer market in preparation for Antoine Griezmann's departure for Barcelona, which was confirmed on Friday.

Centre-back Felipe, also from Porto, and left-back Renan Lodi have been brought in as defensive reinforcements, while Diego Simeone lured midfielder Marcos Llorente away from city rivals Real Madrid.

Atleti returned to raid Benfica for young striker Ivan Saponjic on Thursday and have been linked to Colombia playmaker James Rodriguez.

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