Saturday should have seen Barcelona host Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and pit Antoine Griezmann against his old club once more.

Griezmann left Atleti for Camp Nou in the second most expensive transfer of the previous close season, his €120million move eclipsed only by Joao Felix, the man bought to replace him.

Neither player has exactly enjoyed a resoundingly triumphant season, which is an affliction to hit many of the top 10 most expensive transfers of 2019.

We look at each of those players and whether their signings have, until now, been a hit or a miss...

 

JOAO FELIX: Benfica to Atletico Madrid (€126m)

Benfica and Portugal's golden boy scored in pre-season victories over Juventus and Real Madrid to give Atleti fans reason to believe the post-Griezmann future was bright.

However, just six goals in 28 competitive appearances later, doubts have been growing as to whether the 20-year-old forward will ever truly suit Diego Simeone's system.

VERDICT: MISS

ANTOINE GRIEZMANN: Atletico Madrid to Barcelona (€120m)

Griezmann vowed to stay at Atletico in 2018 only to change his mind a year later, and his performances for Barca are in keeping with a man not quite at ease in his surroundings.

Only Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez better his goal involvements for the Blaugrana in LaLiga this term (eight goals and four assists), while he is second only to Messi for chances created (26), but fans were entitled to expect more from the club's latest mega-money forward.

VERDICT: MISS

EDEN HAZARD: Chelsea to Real Madrid (€100m)

Chelsea fans feared the worst when their star man was lost during a transfer embargo, but things have hardly gone swimmingly for Hazard at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Injury problems have restricted him to just nine starts and a solitary goal and assist in LaLiga. He has also only created 14 chances, as many as James Rodriguez (who has started just four league games) and Lucas Vazquez (who has started six).

VERDICT: MISS

HARRY MAGUIRE: Leicester City to Manchester United (€87m)

The world's most expensive central defender might not be thought of as the world's best, but that should not detract from his impact on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side.

He leads the way for duels won, aerial duels won, blocks and interceptions among United defenders in the Premier League this season, helping them to eight clean sheets. Oh, and he's already been made club captain.

VERDICT: HIT

MATTHIJS DE LIGT: Ajax to Juventus (€85m)

The most coveted centre-back of the window after Ajax's remarkable Champions League run, De Ligt delivered a dreadful performance on his Juventus debut in a 4-3 win over Napoli.

He has won the most aerial duels and has the pass success rate of any Juve defender to feature more than five times in Serie A this term, but there are already doubts about his long-term suitability to Maurizio Sarri's side.

VERDICT: MISS

LUCAS HERNANDEZ: Atletico Madrid to Bayern Munich (€80m)

Bayern smashed their transfer record to sign defender Hernandez, but injuries have made it difficult to assess whether the money will prove to be well-spent.

A knee problem in September was followed by a serious ankle injury that kept him out for nearly four months, meaning he has started only nine games in all competitions for the Bundesliga champions.

VERDICT: MISS

NICOLAS PEPE: Lille to Arsenal (€80m)

Pepe was something of a symbol of Unai Emery's problematic final few weeks in charge as he struggled badly to find form for the Gunners.

He has certainly shown signs of improvement in 2020 – only Mesut Ozil (38) has created more chances in the league than Pepe (34) for Arsenal – but fans will have hoped for more from their record signing.

VERDICT: MISS

FRENKIE DE JONG: Ajax to Barcelona (€75m)

Another Ajax star who became coveted by clubs across Europe last year, De Jong opted for Barca and immediately became a regular in midfield.

He has not quite adapted to life in LaLiga - Ernesto Valverde's exit and Quique Setien's arrival as coach did not help - but, in turbulent times for the club, he looks to be a safe bet as the beating heart of Barca for years to come: he had created more chances (24) than any other Barca midfielder this term and only Sergio Busquets has more recoveries and interceptions.

VERDICT: HIT

RODRI: Atletico Madrid to Manchester City (€70m)

Manchester City's record signing has proved a smart bit of a business given midfield-anchor supreme Fernandinho has spent much of this season in defence.

Rodri has attempted more passes (1,996), recorded a better passing accuracy (92 per cent) and more recoveries (181) than any other City midfielder in 2019-20. He looks very much at home in Pep Guardiola's system.

VERDICT: HIT

ROMELU LUKAKU: Manchester United to Inter (€65m)

Lukaku's move to Inter seems to have been that rarity in modern-day transfers: a deal that has worked out well for everyone concerned.

United's attack is taking the more fluid shape Solskjaer wants, Antonio Conte at last got the forward he tried to bring to Juventus and Chelsea, and Lukaku has looked in the form of his career, with 17 goals and two assists in Serie A as part of a fearsome partnership with Lautaro Martinez.

VERDICT: HIT

Hakim Ziyech slammed the decision not to crown Ajax as Eredivisie champions as "b*******" after the season was ended.

The Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) announced on Friday its intention not to continue with the campaign, with no champions, relegation or promotion.

Ajax were top of the table on goal difference ahead of AZ when the season was stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ziyech, who is moving to Chelsea next season, was unhappy with the decision not to award Ajax a 35th Eredivisie title.

"Come on, what nonsense I have heard. We are at the top anyway," he told AD.

"All those stories that AZ deserved more because they won twice against us. So the goal difference, as it always is, doesn't count now? B*******, of course. How did PSV become champion in 2007? Exactly, on one goal.

"That we are not official champions, well, of course I would also have preferred to have won that on the field, but if you have to choose one club as champion then that would be Ajax to me."

Ajax suffered five Eredivisie losses this season, with two of those coming against AZ.

Dusan Tadic, the captain of the Dutch giants, felt like he had been denied a trophy.

"It is what you agree on. The goal difference would count in a tie," he said.

"If you had agreed that the head-to-head result would count then AZ would have been the champion for me.

"I am a pro and want to win every trophy. That's what I do it for. Now I have lost a prize, that's how it feels."

The Eredivisie season is over due to the coronavirus pandemic, with no champions, relegation or promotion.

A premature conclusion of the 2019-20 campaign was effectively confirmed on Tuesday when the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) announced its intention "not to continue" with any action.

That came after Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte announced a government ban on public events, including professional sports, until September 1.

The season was officially brought to an end on Friday, with Ajax and AZ level on points at the top but unable to play their remaining nine games.

 

Another day, another Paul Pogba story.

Pogba's future continues to make headlines, with the Manchester United star reportedly unhappy at Old Trafford.

Long linked with a switch to Real Madrid, a Santiago Bernabeu transfer could be on the cards.

 

TOP STORY – ZIDANE EYES POGBA

Zinedine Zidane wants Real Madrid to sign Manchester United star Paul Pogba at the end of the season, according to L'Equipe.

Madrid have been heavily linked to Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga but Zidane is determine to bring Pogba to the Santiago Bernabeu.

It comes as Tuttosport and Sportmediaset claim Inter have joined Madrid, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain in the race for Pogba.

 

ROUND-UP

- Juve are interested in re-signing Pogba but the Serie A champions could be about to turn to another midfielder target. Calciomercato says Juve are eyeing Ajax's Donny van de Beek, who has been linked to Madrid and United.

- Sport says Liverpool are in talks with soon-to-be free agent and Chelsea attacker Willian. The Brazilian is out of contract at the end of the 2019-20 season.

PSG have prepared an offer for Milan full-back Theo Hernandez, according to Tuttosport. The Frenchman has been a revelation since arriving from Madrid.

- Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti is Napoli's first choice if Kalidou Koulibaly leaves, claims Sport. Koulibaly has been linked to PSG, United and Madrid.

- Marca reports Martin Odegaard's future at Madrid depends on Luka Modric. The Spanish newspaper says if Modric leaves the Santiago Bernabeu, Odegaard will return from his loan spell. Otherwise, the Norwegian will spend another season on loan at Real Sociedad.

- RAC-1 claims Juve and Barca are in talks over a swap deal, which could see Miralem Pjanic leave for the LaLiga champions and Arthur move to Turin.

Madrid have accepted they will not be able to sign PSG star Kylian Mbappe this year, says L'Equipe. The Spanish capital club are determined to bring the France international to Madrid.

Lautaro Martinez has been tipped to leave Inter at the end of the coronavirus-interrupted 2019-20 season.

His exploits in Italy have reportedly alerted Barcelona, who are determined to sign a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez.

And Martinez is apparently ready to swap the San Siro for Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – MARTINEZ WANTS BARCA MOVE

Inter star Lautaro Martinez has chosen to join Barcelona and will press for a move if necessary, according to Marca.

While Barcelona remain interested in re-signing Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar, Martinez is the club's primary transfer objective.

Real Madrid and Manchester City have also been linked to Martinez, but the former have turned their attention to Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, while the latter are reportedly happy with Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.

 

ROUND-UP

- Could another star leave Inter? Premier League leaders and Champions League holders Liverpool want to sign Marcelo Brozovic, claims Calciomercato. The Nerazzurri could be tempted by a €60million (£52m) offer.

- Calciomercarto reports Juventus and PSG are in discussions over Mauro Icardi. The Argentina forward is on loan at PSG from Inter, with the Ligue 1 champions having the option to sign Icardi permanently. Icardi has been tipped to return to Serie A and the story claims PSG could sign the Argentinian from Inter before selling him straight to Juve. A possible deal could involve the likes of Mattia De Sciglio, Miralem Pjanic, Douglas Costa and Alex Sandro.

- The Telegraph says Ajax have placed a €40m (£35m) price tag on goalkeeper Andre Onana, who has been linked to Chelsea, PSG and Barca.

Jadon Sancho will only move to Old Trafford if Manchester United secure Champions League football, says the Athletic. The Dortmund sensation has also been linked to Chelsea, Liverpool, former club City and Madrid.

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Inter have a list of potential replacements for Barca target Martinez. RB Leipzig's Timo Werner is the first name on the list, which also includes Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, United forward Anthony Martial, Madrid striker Luka Jovic and Victor Osimhen of Lille.

Donny van de Beek's agent insisted he was unworried about the Ajax midfielder's future, saying there was still plenty of interest in the Netherlands international.

Van de Beek has been linked with a move away from the Eredivisie giants, with Real Madrid and Manchester United reportedly interested.

The 22-year-old's agent, Guido Albers, said while the transfer market may be different after the coronavirus pandemic, Van de Beek's future is not a concern.

"It will all be different, but I also have to be realistic," he told Voetbal International on Tuesday.

"It also creates opportunities at clubs that perhaps thought they had no chance anymore and are now knocking on the door.

"I'm not worried about Donny."

Albers was unwilling to go into detail about which clubs wanted Van de Beek, but said the interest had been ongoing.

"The interest has been, and that is also known, for a long time and from several clubs," he said.

"We will see what will come out of that in the coming weeks. I dare not say anything about it at the moment.

"I can't say anything about it because a number of things are just confidential. The situation will have changed per club and we have to look closely at that."

Liverpool are reportedly looking at Kylian Mbappe in case they lose Sadio Mane to Real Madrid.

Mane has developed into one of the world's best players at Liverpool, leading to apparent interest from Madrid.

But the Premier League leaders are considering a huge signing if the Senegal international does head to the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL CONSIDER MBAPPE IF MANE JOINS REAL MADRID

Madrid are determined to sign Mane and Liverpool are targeting at Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappe as a replacement, according to The Sun.

The report says Mane is not pushing for a move away from Anfield and the Reds are keen to see off Madrid.

Mbappe, 21, has been linked with Los Blancos previously, but perhaps Liverpool could land the France international.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Madrid and the Daily Star reports Manchester United are facing a battle with Los Blancos for Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, who has been heavily rumoured to be destined for Old Trafford.

- It remains to be seen how Madrid can strengthen their attack this close season. Amid the Spanish club's links to Dortmund forward Erling Haaland, Bild claims the Norway international's opt-out clause at the Bundesliga club does not come into effect until 2022.

- Inter are already negotiating with Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal, according to Sport. It reports Barca are open to letting the Chile international leave and want to include him in a deal for Lautaro Martinez but Inter are refusing that as it stands.

- Staying at Camp Nou and Barcelona are ready to keep Ousmane Dembele, according to Marca. The attacker has been touted for a move away from LaLiga's champions but is seemingly attracting little interest due to his recent injury struggles.

- Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana is reportedly being eyed by PSG and Barcelona, but Premier League clubs are also considering him. The Mirror reports Chelsea and Tottenham are tracking the Cameroon international.

- Out of contract at the end of the season, Dries Mertens appears likely to leave Napoli. CalcioMercato says Inter are keen to sign the Belgium forward.

Ajax star Donny van de Beek insisted he was yet to start learning Spanish amid links with a move to Real Madrid.

Van de Beek, 22, is widely expected to eventually make a move away from Amsterdam after impressing at Ajax.

The midfielder said there were several aspects to making a decision about a potential switch, but insisted he was yet to take Spanish language classes.

"My feelings about a club have to be positive. I don't mean that it only important to feel wanted, I also need to fit in to the style of play," Van de Beek told Helden.

"And of course, I would need to know how much playing time I would be given."

He added: "It's always nice to play in the sun, but I haven't started taking Spanish classes yet."

Van de Beek had scored 10 goals in 37 games for Ajax this season before the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With precious few sporting events taking place due to the coronavirus, we looked back through sporting history to identify key and major events to take place on this day.

March 18 has proven a busy day down the years, but we have highlighted five particularly memorable or notable occasions.

From the formation of a world-renowned football club, to the suspicious death of a former cricketer, below we have everything you need for a little education, or a trip down memory lane.

 

1900 – Ajax are formed

March 18 is a momentous day not only for Dutch football, but for the entire sport globally. On this day in 1900, Ajax were formed by Floris Stempel (their first chairman), Hen Dade (sports director) and Carel Reeser. Named after the mythological Greek war hero Ajax, most known for fighting against Troy in the Trojan War, the club has since gone on to dominate much of Dutch football history and influenced many of the most famous ideologies and philosophies in the world game.

1942 – Two black players try out for Chicago White Sox

Jackie Robinson is remembered as an iconic baseball player, in more ways than one. Regarded a great for his exploits with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he was also the first black player to break the colour barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947. However, he could have made the move from the 'Negro Leagues' five years earlier, as on March 18, 1942, Robinson and Nate Moreland – who was also black – had a trial with the Chicago White Sox. Manager Jimmy Dykes acknowledged their abilities, but he did not sign either, doubtful the White Sox would allow black players to join.

2000 – England win inaugural Six Nations

The Six Nations has had many forms through the years, initially starting off as a tournament between the British 'Home Nations' and then becoming the Five Nations. It was further expanded to its current guise in 2000 as Italy joined the fold. England won the inaugural Six Nations, thrashing the newcomers 57-12 in Rome – Jonny Wilkinson's kicking and Austin Healey's hat-trick of tries doing the damage.

2007 – Former cricketer and coach Bob Woolmer found dead

On March 18, 2007, one day after his Pakistan team were knocked out of the Cricket World Cup, coach Bob Woolmer was found dead in his hotel room. Initially he was thought to have had a heart attack, only for another pathologist's report to suggest he had been murdered. Further reports proposed health problems contributed to his passing, but a jury later returned an open verdict, unable to rule out the theory Woolmer was strangled. Other prominent former cricketers have since claimed Woolmer did not die of natural causes.

2012 – Panathinaikos v Olympiacos leads to chaos

Those familiar with Greek football – and specifically the rivalries involved – will not be unaware of the problems often seen when Olympiacos and Panathinaikos face each other. In March 2012, the disturbances were particularly serious, as Panathinaikos were losing 1-0 at home to their bitter rivals. The second half was initially delayed by 45 minutes due to fans throwing flares and Molotov cocktails at police, and the contest was eventually abandoned. Twenty police officers were hurt, 50 fans were arrested, three fire engines were required to tackle blazes, and Pana were docked five points on top of having to play four games behind closed doors.

For so long, Donny van de Beek has been tipped to join Real Madrid.

Madrid previously contacted Eredivisie champions Ajax over a possible deal for the midfielder at the start of the season.

The LaLiga giants reportedly have an agreement in place for Van de Beek, however, Manchester United are still fighting for the Dutchman.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED OUT TO HIJACK MADRID'S DONNY PURSUIT

Manchester United are looking to beat Real Madrid to the signing of Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek, according to Marca.

Madrid reportedly have a pre-agreement with Van de Beek, who was close to swapping Amsterdam for the Spanish capital at the start of 2019-20.

Now, United are trying to pip Madrid to Van de Beek amid doubts over star midfielder Paul Pogba, who has been linked with a move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato claims Juventus remain the preferred option for Pogba, despite United insisting the Frenchman will be at Old Trafford in 2020-21.

- Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland team-mates at Madrid? The LaLiga giants are interested in the pair, however, Marca has described it as an "impossible dream". That is because Mbappe and Haaland reportedly do not get along following the Champions League last-16 tie, which saw PSG mock the Dortmund forward.

- Calciomercato says Napoli and Inter are set to go head-to-head for Sassuolo midfielder Jeremie Boga.

- PSG full-back Thomas Meunier will join Borussia Dortmund on a free transfer at the end of the season, reports RMC. Meunier's contract is due to expire in June.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's future at Milan is uncertain. Gazzetta dello Sport says Ibrahimovic will only extend his contract if the Rossoneri build a strong winning team in Serie A.

Manchester United's improved form is said to be leading to increased confidence of landing Jadon Sancho.

Sancho, 19, has been linked with a move to the Premier League after starring at Borussia Dortmund since joining the German club from Manchester City.

And, with United in fine form and eyeing a Champions League spot next season, Old Trafford could be shaping as his most likely destination.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UTD CONFIDENT OF SIGNING SANCHO IF THEY QUALIFY FOR CHAMPIONS LEAGUE

Manchester United believe they are in pole position to sign Sancho, according to the Mirror.

The report says Paris Saint-Germain are their biggest competitors for the England international's signature.

United are unbeaten in 11 games in all competitions and sit three points behind fourth-placed Chelsea.

ROUND-UP

- Thomas Partey starred for Atletico Madrid against Liverpool in the Champions League and the midfielder is attracting interest. The Telegraph reports Arsenal will consider making a move for the Ghana international ahead of next season.

- Juventus are continuing to work on a new contract for Paulo Dybala. CalcioMercato reports one aspect of a possible deal relates to the Serie A champions showing how much they value Dybala by offering him a salary second only to Cristiano Ronaldo at the club.

- Out of contract at the season's end, Willian's future at Chelsea remains uncertain. The Sun reports manager Frank Lampard is keen to offer the Brazil international, who has been linked to Arsenal, a new deal, while club director Marina Granovskaia is reportedly focusing on off-season transfer targets.

- With England's women's side out of form, could Phil Neville be set for an exit as coach? The Daily Mail reports Neville is considering his future with England having won just three of nine games since finishing fourth at last year's Women's World Cup.

- Hakim Ziyech is joining Chelsea from Ajax ahead of 2020-21, and he wants a team-mate to come with him. The Daily Mail says the attacker is hoping to persuade Chelsea to sign Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana.

- Juventus are considering a move for 22-year-old Lille and former Brazil youth international defender Gabriel, according to SportMediaset.

Getafe continued their sensational season by dumping Ajax out of the Europa League on Thursday, the LaLiga high-flyers progressing 3-2 on aggregate despite a 2-1 away defeat.

Jose Bordalas' side won a bad-tempered first leg 2-0 against last season's Champions League semi-finalists and they extended their advantage in the fifth minute of the reverse fixture when Jaime Mata struck.

That left Ajax needing four goals to progress but Danilo, making his first start for the club, tapped in Donny van de Beek's low cross five minutes later to equalise on the night.

Carel Eiting whipped a deflected free-kick past David Soria in the 63rd minute to give Ajax some hope, though Getafe progressed despite being denied by the woodwork on three occasions.

Elsewhere in the round of 32, Istanbul Basaksehir produced a stunning comeback to knock out Sporting CP 5-4 on aggregate, Edin Visca scoring the winner in extra time, while Shakhtar Donetsk beat Benfica 5-4 on aggregate after a thrilling 3-3 draw in the second leg in Lisbon.

Sevilla, who won the Europa League three times in a row under Unai Emery between 2014 and 2016, edged through their tie with Cluj on away goals after a 1-1 aggregate draw.

The Romanian champions were denied a famous victory when Alexandru Paun's late strike was ruled out following a VAR check that ruled Lacina Traore handled the ball.

Last year's finalists Arsenal crashed out in extraordinary circumstances with captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's overhead kick having seemingly secured their progress only for Youssef El-Arabi to strike in the last minute of extra time to send Olympiacos through on away goals.

Manchester United, Inter, Roma, Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen were among the major sides to progress, with the draw for the last 16 set to be made in Nyon on Friday.

Ajax will be without Hakim Ziyech for the second leg of their Europa League last-32 tie with Getafe, Erik ten Hag has confirmed.

Ziyech will join Chelsea at the end of the season, with the player having agreed a five-year contract to move to Stamford Bridge.

The Morocco international was a star of Ajax's charge to the Champions League semi-finals last season and has scored nine goals across all competitions in 2019-20.

However, a calf problem ruled him out for the opening leg against Getafe, which Ajax lost 2-0 in Spain.

Ziyech missed a 1-0 defeat to Heracles on Sunday with a recurrence of the issue and Ten Hag has now revealed the 26-year-old will be absent again on Thursday.

"Still for the same reason, he hasn't recovered enough," Ten Hag said in a news conference when asked about Ziyech.

"Given the injury, we cannot take a big risk with that. We cannot risk putting everything at stake for one match."

Sunday's defeat left Ajax just three points clear of AZ at the top of the Eredivisie, though Ten Hag has been boosted by the return of Quincy Promes. Noussair Mazraoui and David Neres, however, are both still out.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.