Antoine Griezmann's proposed move to Barcelona appears close to completion.

Griezmann has been tipped to join Barca after notifying Atletico Madrid of his desire to leave following five years in the Spanish capital.

And after months of speculation, a big-money transfer to LaLiga's champions is looming large.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA PAY FOR GRIEZMANN

According to L'Equipe, Barcelona have paid the €120million release clause to sign Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann.

Tensions between the two LaLiga clubs have been high after Atletico claimed Barca and Griezmann secretly negotiated a transfer in February.

Griezmann has been available for €120m since his release clause dropped from €200m on July 1.

While Barca and Atletico have reportedly denied the sum has been paid, the French World Cup winner seems destined for Camp Nou.

 

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- Roma will sign Atalanta defender Gianluca Mancini instead of Tottenham's Toby Alderweireld, according to Gianluca Di Marzio. After losing Kostas Manolas to Serie A rivals Napoli, Roma identified Alderweireld due to his £25m release clause, which lasts until August. However, his contract demands have reportedly proved excessive.

- According to L'Equipe, Paris Saint-Germain have relaunched their bid to sign Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye. PSG wanted to sign Gueye in January, but they were unsuccessful.

Inter will look to sign Eintracht Frankfurt forward Ante Rebic if they are unable to prise Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United, per Gianluca Di Marzio.

Manchester United have been quoted £50m to sign Newcastle United's Sean Longstaff, The Telegraph reports. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is determined to bolster his midfield, having lost Ander Herrera and amid doubts over futures of Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic. The Red Devils are also said to be confident a compromise can be reached with Leicester City over centre-back Harry Maguire, who is valued at £90m by the Foxes.

- After missing out on Maxi Gomez to Valencia and losing Marko Arnautovic to the Chinese Super League, The Sun says West Ham will turn to Colombia forward Duvan Zapata – who spent last season on loan at Atalanta from Sampdoria – in a £40m deal.

- According to Corriere dello Sport and Tuttosport, Fiorentina star Federico Chiesa wants to join Juventus.

Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio confirmed the Serie A club have made an "official approach" to Manchester United for Romelu Lukaku.

United striker Lukaku has emerged as a transfer target for Inter, who sent officials to England to try to reach a deal for the Belgium international.

Lukaku – contracted to the Red Devils until 2022 with the option of a further year – joined United from Everton for £75million in 2017 and the Premier League giants want to recoup that fee as Inter push for an initial loan deal.

Ausilio arrived back in Milan on Thursday and he told reporters: "We had a meeting with Manchester United for Lukaku.

"It was an official approach between two important clubs. We'll see what happens.

"All the players we're following are targets we've agreed with Antonio Conte. We want to satisfy his request within certain financial parameters."

Lukaku, who has acknowledged a desire to play in Italy and hinted his future could be away from Old Trafford with United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer preferring Marcus Rashford up front, scored 12 Premier League goals last season.

The 26-year-old – in Australia for the club's pre-season tour – scored 15 goals across all competitions as United finished sixth in the Premier League and lost to Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals.

 

Jurgen Klopp does not expect a busy transfer window for Liverpool.

Klopp spent big during 2018, with new recruits Virgil van Dijk, Alisson and Fabinho making key contributions to their 2018-19 Champions League triumph.

A 97-point haul as runners-up to Manchester City in the Premier League underlined Liverpool's remarkable consistency, while players returning from injury provide additional options that mean involvement in an increasingly inflated market does not feel like a necessity to the manager.

"We brought [new players] in already, only you don't realise it," he told reporters after Thursday's 6-0 friendly win at Tranmere Rovers.

"Rhian Brewster, [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain [who] didn't play last year, all the young boys. They are all new players for us, that's all good.

"The transfer market is open until August 8. The whole of Europe had the idea to close the transfer window early and the only country that did it was then England, so we close it now three weeks before all the others.

"We will see what we do but I don’t think it will be the biggest transfer window of all time."

Brewster scored twice at Prenton Park, where Nathaniel Clyne and Divock Origi were also on target as Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana accompanied James Milner in a starting midfield three.

Klopp enjoyed a confident performance from his players – something he acknowledged could be one of many enjoyable by-products from their triumphant outing in Madrid last month.

"We won it five weeks ago and I had a wonderful summer, the best summer I ever had because people didn't say when they wanted a picture with me, 'I'm so sorry for you', which they usually did in the last five years," he added.

"It was much better and for the players it was the same. But now we are here.

"Yes, we made the next step. It looked tonight like they were all really confident, I liked the game a lot.

"Maybe it has a little bit to do with winning the Champions League but during the season we have to go for winning something new and cannot always look back."

Liverpool began their pre-season preparations with 6-0 thrashing of over-matched Merseyside neighbours Tranmere Rovers.

Champions League final goalscorer Divock Origi was among those to find the net as England youth international Rhian Brewster hit a brace.

James Milner turned in an influential first-half performance in midfield alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Adam Lallana.

Brewster was the provider in the sixth minute, laying on Nathaniel Clyne to slam into the top corner on his first appearance in a Reds shirt since spending the second half of last season on loan at Bournemouth.

Harry Wilson turned Milner's cross back across goal for Brewster to open his account and the striker doubled his tally on the stroke of half-time when Tranmere goalkeeper Scott Davies could only parry Milner's shot.

Jones swept in Ben Woodburn's 53rd-minute cross at the back post before Origi's sublime first touch allowed him to beat Davies with ease.

Bobby Duncan's close-range finish completed the scoring at Prenton Park before proceedings bizarrely ended with a pitch invasion at full-time.

Tranmere's League One counterparts Accrington Stanley fared somewhat better in a friendly of their own against a European giant, beating Marseille 2-1.

France international Florian Thauvin pulled one back for Andre Villas-Boas' side, who went down to Sean McConville's header and Offrande Zanzala's penalty before half-time.

Frank Lampard will set the right example for the Chelsea squad following his return to Stamford Bridge as head coach, according to Cesar Azpilicueta.

Lampard's Chelsea tenure began with a 1-1 draw against Bohemians in the Blues' opening pre-season game in Ireland on Wednesday.

Chelsea's record goalscorer took over as boss on July 4, following an impressive debut season in coaching at the helm of Derby County.

And Azpilicueta has hailed the impact his former team-mate has had on Chelsea's squad, acknowledging that displays under former coach Maurizio Sarri were not always up to scratch.

"It is true that last season, for periods, we didn’t give the fans what they expected," Azpilicueta said. "Our performances were not good enough.

"We turned it around and won the Europa League but you can see that this season all of the fans are very happy we have the gaffer back at the Bridge.

"Now we have to give it back by working hard on the pitch, by winning games. We are very happy to have him with us. I can’t add anything to his career at Chelsea as a player.

"But, over his first week in training, I’ve seen the way he wants to play, the way he wants us to feel the shirt, the way he wants us to train every day, it is something special."

Azpilicueta expanded on his plaudits, adding that Lampard's commitment to Chelsea during his playing career sets the perfect example for the current players to follow.

"He was here for a very long and very successful period, and always set an example: how he wanted to break every record or improve himself in every session," Azpilicueta said.

"We have to be grateful and feel the passion for the shirt. We are very excited and the only way we can carry it on is by winning together, getting the feeling back of being all together as a club.

"We have to take responsibility and know that there are a lot of things [going on] around us, but we have to work hard to get better."

Lampard's first competitive game will be against Manchester United on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, before Chelsea face Champions League winners Liverpool in the UEFA Super Cup on August 14.

Aston Villa have further bolstered their defensive stocks with the signing of England Under-21 international Ezri Konsa from Championship side Brentford.

Villa reportedly triggered the centre-back's £12million release clause to make him their seventh signing since winning promotion to the Premier League.

The Charlton Athletic product briefly played under Dean Smith at Brentford, for whom he made 42 league appearances in 2018/19.

Konsa joins Tyrone Mings and Kortney Hause, both now committed to permanent deals, among Villa's defensive reinforcements and will fly out to the United States with his new team-mates on Thursday.

"Ezri fits the profile of the type of player we were searching for," manager Smith said.

"It helps that [assistant coach] Richard O'Kelly and I have worked with him before. He's a high-potential player who I believe can step up to the Premier League and I'm really looking forward to working with him again."

Konsa formed part of the England squad that stumbled to a premature exit at the recent European Under-21 Championship.

Villa have not confirmed the length of the contract.

Arsenal say they are "very disappointed" in Laurent Koscielny after confirming the defender has refused to travel on their pre-season tour of the United States.

The Gunners are due to ramp up preparations for the new campaign with a friendly against Colorado Rapids in Denver and three International Champions Cup encounters but will do so without their captain.

Koscielny's refusal to join his team-mates in making the trip comes amid intense speculation surrounding his future.

Ligue 1 sides Lyon and Bordeaux have been linked with the 33-year-old former France international, as have Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund.

An Arsenal statement read: "Laurent Koscielny has refused to travel to the US for our pre-season tour.

"We are very disappointed by Laurent's actions, which are against our clear instructions. 

"We hope to resolve this matter and will not be providing any further comment at this time."

Koscielny made 17 appearances in the Premier League last season after returning from a long-term Achilles injury in December.

His compatriot, teenage centre-back William Saliba, is on the cusp of completing a transfer to Emirates Stadium, but is expected to then return to Saint-Etienne on loan.

Marcus Rashford believes Manchester United must "settle" under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in order to reassert a fading sense of identity.

Solskjaer is overseeing his first pre-season after signing a three-year contract in March to become United's full-time manager.

His predecessor, Jose Mourinho, is the only man since Alex Ferguson to have held the post for longer than two seasons.

Though a fan favourite in his playing days, there will be pressure on former striker Solskjaer to achieve early results after failing to secure Champions League qualification last term.

Successfully implementing a vision before the new campaign could prove critical and star forward Rashford thinks the ingredients are right for a period of stability.

"I feel like we can start to settle and I think that is what we needed most," Rashford told United's official website.

"It has been a lot of chopping and changing, different tactics and different systems, and now I think we can settle in to what we are trying to do and really get that identity back."

United's planning has already been hit by an admission from agent Mino Raiola that his client, Paul Pogba, wants out of Old Trafford.

Rashford, 21, is at least certain to stay after signing a new four-year contract earlier this month.

And the England international has observed positives ahead of Saturday's friendly against Perth Glory, despite the uncertainty surrounding World Cup winner Pogba.

"The thing that has gone up for me is the intensity and just the level of training," he said.

"I think we are starting to understand it all a bit better. We can use this. This is Ole's first pre-season and he can really stamp down what he wants to do.

"We have got to use the remainder of the time here and then in Singapore and China to keep progressing and improving."

Sam Allardyce claims he rejected the chance to speak to Newcastle United about returning to the club as Rafael Benitez's replacement.

Newcastle are searching for a new manager after Benitez left for China following the expiry of his contract at the end of June.

Steve Bruce has reportedly emerged as the favourite, but another former Sunderland boss in Allardyce claims to have been contacted about the role, much to his own surprise.

The former Bolton Wanderers, West Ham and England manager spent eight unhappy months in charge of Newcastle before a parting of ways in January 2008.

"I was certainly extremely surprised," Allardyce told talkSPORT about the approach.

"It never really got to the sort of talks people are suggesting. I had to chat to my agent and, as much as I respect Newcastle, Newcastle fans and Mike [Ashley, Newcastle owner], it wasn't for me. I politely said no and moved on.

"It's that thing [in your mind]... don't go back.

"Maybe if it was the first time around I'd have jumped at it, but not now. I appreciate the offer. I was very flattered that I was being considered.

"I had a think about it, but it wasn't something I thought about too long. It was better that I made a quick decision for everybody because they're in pre-season now.

"I never got to talk to Mike, it was just my agent contacted me and I had a quick think about it and a look at the situation. [It was] not for me."

Allardyce, 64, has not held a full-time coaching role since leaving Everton in May 2018.

Barcelona are in no rush in their pursuit of Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar.

Neymar, 27, is set to be fined by the Ligue 1 champions after failing to turn up for the first day of pre-season training.

With sporting director Leonardo confirming the Brazil forward can leave for the right price, Barca think they are in a strong position, and the Catalan giants are ready to play a waiting game.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA IN NO RUSH OVER NEYMAR

Barcelona are prepared to wait and see if PSG blink first over Neymar, according to a report from AS.

Neymar left Camp Nou for PSG in a world-record €222million move two years ago and it has now become clear he wants an exit from Parc des Princes.

In a strong position, Barca are remaining patient in their pursuit of the Brazil star, who has also been linked with their rivals Real Madrid.

Marca also report Barcelona are willing to wait, with PSG's asking price sure to continue dropping as the skilful forward continues to show his desire to leave.

ROUND-UP

- Juventus are ready to give in to Ajax's demands over Matthijs de Ligt. Sport report the Serie A champions are planning to present the star defender on Saturday, having apparently agreed to pay the Eredivisie club €75m for the centre-back.

- Manchester United are increasingly confident about signing Leicester City defender Harry Maguire. The Daily Mail claim the Red Devils are hoping to land the centre-back for £75m, which is short of Leicester's reported £85m valuation.

- West Ham have begun searching for someone to replace Marko Arnautovic, who left for China. The Sun say the Premier League club have been offered the chance to sign free agent Mario Balotelli, while Gianluca Di Marzio reports the Hammers have also shown an interest in Juve forward Gonzalo Higuain.

- Mario Mandzukic could be set for a surprise return to Bayern Munich. Bild report the Juve striker has been discussed as a possible back-up for Robert Lewandowski and another wide option for head coach Niko Kovac.

- Everton continue to be linked with forwards and the Telegraph say the Premier League club expressed an interest in Lille's Nicolas Pepe, who is said to have been a target of rivals Liverpool. Meanwhile, the Sun claim Atletico Madrid striker Diego Costa is prepared to talk to the Toffees.

- Newcastle United seem close to finding their replacement for Rafael Benitez. According to the Daily Mail, Sam Allardyce has rejected a return to the club, with Sheffield Wednesday manager Steve Bruce now the favourite.

Frank Lampard's Chelsea were held to a draw in the Blues great's first game as head coach after Bohemians scored a late equaliser in an entertaining pre-season friendly.

The Blues boss took the opportunity to give 22 different players a run out at Dalymount Park, with Willy Caballero, Cesar Azpilicueta, Danny Drinkwater and Pedro all featuring in a strong Chelsea starting line-up.

It took Michy Batshuayi just eight minutes to score the first goal of the Lampard era, firing home instinctively from six yards after he collected the rebound from Kenedy's deflected shot.

Pedro skied a free-kick over the crossbar as Chelsea dominated the first half, although Caballero was forced into a first save when former Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Danny Mandroiu forced the Argentine goalkeeper to punch a dipping shot away.

Lampard sent on 11 different players after half-time, with returning loanees Kurt Zouma, Izzy Brown and Tiemoue Bakayoko given the chance to impress.

Teenage midfielder Billy Gilmour and Bakayoko both squandered second-half chances as Chelsea failed to extend their lead, and the hosts passed up a number of opportunities to test Chelsea's second-half goalkeeper Jamie Cumming.

But Bohemians midfielder and trialist Eric Molloy made no mistake when he burst into the box with just over a minute left on the clock, lashing the ball high into the net beyond Cumming to deny Lampard a first win.

Harry Kane says Tottenham are motivated to become an even stronger team following last season's Champions League final heartbreak.

A 2-0 loss to Premier League rivals Liverpool in June's showpiece denied Spurs what would have been a first major trophy since 2008.

Goals from Mohamed Salah and Divock Origi gave Liverpool victory in Madrid, where Kane returned from injury but struggled to make an impact.

But Kane is hopeful the European run will not be a one-off for his side, who have moved to strengthen by bringing in Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon for a club-record fee.

"I think it just motivates you to get better," Kane told Sky Sports. "With the Champions League final, you want to play in those games all the time.

"We know it's going to be tough to get back there this year and it's down to us to perform."

Spurs finished the 2018-19 campaign fourth in the Premier League to guarantee themselves a place in the Champions League group stage.

New signings Daniel James and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are eager to prove themselves and have a big part to play at Manchester United, according to midfielder Juan Mata.

Following the disappointment of finishing sixth in the Premier League last season, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has focused on bringing in young, British talent in the transfer market.

James arrived in a reported £15million deal from Swansea City in June and Wan-Bissaka followed close behind from Crystal Palace for around £50m.

The duo, both aged 21, have been training with their new team-mates over the past week and Mata said they are settling in well.

"You can see it from the first moment - they both have their qualities," he said in an interview on United's official app. "Wan-Bissaka has played in the Premier League before and James has been doing great things at Swansea. 

"Hopefully they can give us a lot. They are very important because they are very young and very hungry to give their best for the club."

Academy products Tahith Chong, James Garner, Mason Greenwood and Angel Gomes are also part of United's squad for their pre-season tour of Australia and Asia.

Mata, who signed a new two-year deal with the Red Devils in June to take him through until the age of 33, is happy to take the younger members in the group under his wing.

"I have to say that first of all they are very nice guys," he said. "Sometimes when you are their age you can lose your head a little bit and think you are a better player, or bigger players, than you actually are. 

"But they are very calm and very humble, the four of them. They are trying their best. I really like them as personalities and as players. That is why they are here.

"[Solskjaer] knows that in a squad you need balance, you need a mix of young players and more experienced players." 

He added: "It is true that time flies and it feels like yesterday when I was 22, 23, but I have been playing football now for a long time - 12, 13 years as a professional. 

"I enjoy that part of the game, speaking to young players now and trying to tell them how I understand football, how I think professional football players should be, but obviously my focus is still on giving my best on the pitch.

"I want to play as much as I can, I want to score and to assist. That is my main focus. But I enjoy speaking with Marcus [Rashford], with Mason, with Jimmy, with Gomes and Chongy. They are great guys and they have a great future ahead."

Divock Origi has signed a new long-term contract at Liverpool, the club announced on Wednesday.

The striker's previous deal was due to expire at the end of the 2019-20 season, but the club have moved to retain him in the wake of his heroics in Liverpool's triumphant Champions League campaign.

Origi scored twice as the Reds stunned Barcelona with a 4-0 triumph in the second leg of the semi-finals and then wrote his name into Anfield folklore with a goal in the 2-0 victory over Tottenham in the final as Liverpool clinched Europe's top prize for the sixth time.

The 24-year-old told the club's official website: "I'm very happy to be able to sign this contract and it gives you a boost at the beginning of the season, as well as the end of the season last year. So I'm very happy.

"I always felt comfortable here. I made steps during my career, I say that I became a man here at this club, I signed when I was 19.

"When we had to make the decision I just wanted to speak with the club first and my entourage, but the feeling was always that I wanted to stay and extend my contract."

Liverpool paid Lille a reported £10million for Origi in July 2014 but he has struggled to establish himself as a first-team regular.

After being loaned straight back to Lille for a season he made seven Premier League starts in 2015-16 and scored five goals.

A loan spell at Wolfsburg followed in 2017-18, but Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp kept Origi in the squad last term and he scored some crucial goals for the Premier League runners-up.

"It's an amazing club, we have a good group, the staff are amazing. Even coming into Melwood, the people that work here and everything, you feel there is something special going on here," said Origi.

"We're still young so there's a lot of potential in the group. I'm just having fun in training and on the pitch. Those are all important factors as a player.

"[I want] to keep progressing and trying to maximise the potential and talent I have each and every day. At the end of my career I want to sit back and be proud that I used all of my gifts and talents.

"I think the next years are going to be very special – prime years, maybe – and I'm going to try to use them to the fullest."

Standards must be raised at Manchester United following last season's disappointment, according to Juan Mata.

Former Spain international Mata previously described United's end-of-season slump, which saw them win just two of their last 12 matches in all competitions and miss out on Champions League qualification, as "very painful".

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer led the club to eight consecutive victories after taking over from Jose Mourinho last December but soon found himself under pressure as the club failed to win any of their last six matches in 2018-19.

Mata started 16 Premier League games last season – the fewest across the course of a full season since he joined the club in January 2014.

In an interview with United's official app, the former Chelsea and Valencia playmaker issued a rallying cry as the team look to return to the club to its former glories.

"Last season was not easy for any of us and for them [the fans] also," he said.

"I have to say thank you because they helped us in the difficult moments. All I can say is that we will try our best to make them proud. We know that we have to improve.

"We have to set ourselves higher standards and demand more from each other if we want to improve. We know that from the first day of pre-season and we are determined to improve, to have a better season and to make them proud.

"We had a meeting on the first day in which the manager and the staff spoke about what they expect from us, what they expect from Manchester United players and I think that is the right thing to do.

"I think we all have to know what we represent, we have to know the level that people expect from us and I think it is good to do it the first day. Since then, they are trying to help the players, trying to improve in the way they want us to play and it is all fine so far."

Mata, who turned 31 in April, surprised some of the club's supporters by signing a new two-year United contract in June, with the option for a further season.

"We know that in football there are three or four big clubs in the world, or in Europe, and United is one of them," said Mata, who has won the FA Cup, the EFL Cup and the Europa League during his time at Old Trafford.

"Despite the fact we haven't been living the best moment in our history, even if we were winning trophies, that feeling of waking up every day and feeling like a Red Devil is unbelievable. I wanted to keep feeling that, I wanted to stay and I wanted to give my best to bring United to where it belongs.

"I have been here a bit more than five years and I have realised how amazing the supporters are and especially in the tough moments. I cannot imagine how it would be if we win a big trophy, how the town would turn red and I imagine myself in that situation.

"That is another reason why I wanted to stay. I have lived difficult moments but I am really looking forward to living great moments in this club. I wanted to stay, I wanted to commit to the club, to keep enjoying wearing the shirt and keep trying my best."

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