Sergino Dest has left Ajax's mid-season training camp in Qatar, the Eredivisie champions have confirmed.

The Dutch-born United States international full-back will continue working with Ajax's youth team back in Amsterdam.

Dest told Ajax he "didn't feel comfortable" at the training camp, something his employers understand.

"Sergino Dest has asked if he could leave Ajax's training camp in Qatar," a short statement on the club's website read.

"He didn't feel comfortable. Ajax understands his request and has responded to it. The right back matches Young Ajax in Amsterdam."

Last week, the United States Soccer Federation cancelled a planned training trip to Qatar for its men's national team amid escalating military tensions and activity in the Middle East following the US drone strike that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Suleimani.

Massimiliano Allegri is without a club since leaving Serie A champions Juventus at the end of 2018-19.

However, Allegri could be nearing a return to management sooner rather than later.

The Italian is believed to be interested in taking charge of Manchester United.

 

TOP STORY – ALLEGRI WANTS UNITED JOB

Massimiliano Allegri is interested in becoming Manchester United manager as pressure mounts on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to the Daily Mail.

Allegri has been rumoured to be of interest to Bayern Munich after leaving Serie A champions Juve at the end of last season, while the Italian was also linked to Arsenal prior to Mikel Arteta's appointment.

However, he is reportedly holding out for the United job should Solskjaer be sacked. Ex-Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is also believed to be monitoring the situation.

 

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- ElDesmarque claims MLS duo Inter Miami and LA Galaxy are ready to vie for the signature of Real Madrid's Gareth BaleChelsea, though, have also been linked with the former Tottenham star.

- The race is heating up for Milan striker Krzysztof Piatek. Struggling for goals and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic back at San Siro, the Poland international is wanted by Tottenham, reports The Guardian and Calciomercato. Spurs want to boost their attacking options following Harry Kane's injury. Aston Villa have also tabled a bid for Piatek, but Calciomercato claims he is holding out for a bigger club.

- While Piatek could prove a difficult signing, Villa are closing in on Milan goalkeeper Pepe Reina. Calciomercato, Gazzetta dello Sport and Tuttomercatoweb say former Liverpool keeper Reina has agreed a contract with the Premier League side until the end of the season.

- The Mirror reports United are in the market to sign a defender on loan after Harry Maguire's injury. Maguire – the world's most expensive defender – is facing a spell on the sidelines due to a muscle tear.

United are also weighing up a move for Ajax and Netherlands star Donny van de Beek, reports The Telegraph. With Scott McTominay and Paul Pogba injured, the Red Devils are in need of midfield reinforcements. Van de Beek has previously been linked to Real Madrid.

- AS claims Atletico Madrid are looking at Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik as an alternative to Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani. Out of contract at season's end, Cavani is reportedly poised to make the move to Atletico, however, United and Arsenal are also interested.

- Gianluca Di Marzio says Inter winger Matteo Politano has agreed to join city rivals Milan. Struggling for game time with the Nerazzurri, Politano's agent met with Milan's management on Wednesday as a shock switch nears.

Chelsea are preparing a £40million bid for West Ham defender Issa Diop, according to the Express. London rivals Tottenham are also reportedly interested.

Neymar is reportedly preparing a fresh strategy in his bid to return to Barcelona.

The Paris Saint-Germain star was linked heavily with a move back to Camp Nou during the close season but ended up staying with the Ligue 1 giants.

However, Neymar seemingly still has his eyes set on a return to LaLiga's reigning champions.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR PREPARES FRESH BARCELONA RETURN BID

Neymar is preparing a legal strategy to return to Barcelona, according to Sport.

The 27-year-old wants to make the move and let FIFA impose the compensation he will have to pay to PSG to be released, the report says.

Neymar has scored nine goals in 12 games this season, having struggled with injuries.

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- Christian Eriksen is wanted by several European heavyweights. Inter have expressed an interest in the Tottenham midfielder, according to the Daily Mail. Manchester United, PSG and Juventus have also been linked to the Denmark international, who is out of contract at season's end.

- Staying at Spurs, Napoli and Ajax are preparing to move for Jan Vertonghen, according to The Telegraph. Vertonghen is also out of contract at the end of the season.

- After missing out on Dejan Kulusevski to Juventus, Inter are setting up to land two major transfers ahead of 2020-21. La Gazzetta dello Sport believes the Nerazzurri  will try to sign Fiorentina star Federico Chiesa and Brescia midfielder Sandro Tonali.

- While they are eyeing Barcelona midfielder Arturo Vidal, Inter will try to make Stefano Sensi's move from Sassuolo a permanent one in January, reports CalcioMercato. Sensi arrived on loan in July last year with an option to buy at the end of the season.

- Daniel Sturridge could be set for a return to the Premier League. The Sun claims Aston Villa could be set to offer the former Liverpool forward, who is playing for Trabzonspor, a return to England.

Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana claims another club opted against signing him in 2017 because they felt their supporters would not accept a black goalkeeper.

Onana, 23, was born in Cameroon and has spent 12 years in Europe, first coming through Barcelona's academy before switching to Ajax in 2015.

There he has remained ever since, becoming a regular starter for the Amsterdam giants in the 2016-17 season, helping the club to the Europa League final.

It was after that match – a 2-0 defeat to Manchester United – when it looked as though Onana might move on.

But he now says an interested party passed on him because they felt their fans would not accept having a black player in goal.

Speaking to Dutch newspaper Het Parool, Onana said: "Racism is there, I have to deal with it in almost every away game, but I'm not talking about it.

"I'm proud to be black. If you find me a monkey, fine. I see no difference between white and black and I make no difference. If you do, that's your problem.

"I've been in Europe for 12 years. I live and work with people from all countries of the world, in every imaginable colour.

"Before each match, it sounds in the stadiums: 'No to racism', but racism is not only in football, it is everywhere.

"Racism was here long before I was born, and it will not suddenly disappear tomorrow. One day it will stop. It only needs time and you cannot force it.

"Along the way I noticed: it's not easy for a black keeper to reach a high level. In my first year at Ajax we reached the final of the Europa League.

"After that final, my manager spoke with an interested club, but that club nevertheless decided not to transfer, because a black goalkeeper would be difficult for their supporters.

"So, it wasn't because they didn't think I was good enough. I consider that as a compliment."

Erik ten Hag will not be allowed to leave Ajax next year regardless of what club comes calling, according to director of football Marc Overmars.

The 49-year-old has been linked with a number of high-profile jobs since leading Ajax to the Champions League semi-finals and a domestic double last season.

Among Ten Hag's rumoured suitors are German champions Bayern Munich, who have placed Hansi Flick in interim charge until the end of the campaign.

Bayern have been tipped to make an approach for the Dutchman ahead of next season, but Overmars is adamant his compatriot is going nowhere.

"Ten Hag can easily last another season after next summer," he told De Telegraaf. 

"I certainly won't let him go yet, although I know that he is on lists at major European clubs. That door will remain closed for the time being."

Ajax could also face a fight keeping hold of attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech, who has nine goals and 16 assists in the Champions League and Eredivisie this term.

Overmars is hopeful the Morocco international will stay put in Amsterdam and become a club legend, but is realistic about Ajax's chances of keeping him.

"With Hakim, I regularly think he has reached his ceiling but every season he takes another step," Overmars said. "I sometimes tell him he can become Mr. Ajax, so why leave?

"But if we're being honest, he is 27 years old and at his peak. If he can make the step he has in mind then of course it would be allowed of us."

Donny van de Beek is another player in demand and is soon to enter the final two years of his existing contract.

"Next summer I expect a lot more interest in our players," Overmars said. "It becomes harder to keep our squad intact. Ajax players are loved everywhere.

"Think of Van de Beek and Ziyech. They have been here a long time and have brought Ajax so much beauty."

Netherlands international Daley Blind has been diagnosed with inflammation of the heart muscle, Ajax have announced.

The former Manchester United defender suffered from dizziness in Ajax's Champions League defeat against Valencia on December 10.

Although Blind completed that game, he has not played since and was last week ruled out of his club's remaining matches in 2019.

Ajax have now confirmed Blind will remain in Amsterdam to continue his recovery when the team travels to Qatar for a mid-season training camp.

"Daley Blind has been diagnosed with heart muscle inflammation," read a statement from the Dutch champions. "The central defender has undergone extensive medical examination in recent days, following the dizziness that briefly bothered him during the Ajax – Valencia match.

"It was then decided to place a subcutaneous ICD on Blind, a device that is applied under the skin. As a result of this operation, which took place yesterday [Friday], the 29-year-old international will not start the training camp at the beginning of January but will continue to work on his recovery in Amsterdam."

The severity of Blind's condition has not been revealed, but the player said he was "feeling good" in a video posted on Twitter shortly after Ajax's announcement.

"First of all, I want to thank you guys for all the messages you sent me. I really appreciate it and it helped me, so [it was] very kind and thank you for that," said Blind.

"Second, Ajax just posted an update online about my condition. The most important thing is that I'm feeling good at the moment and I'm trying to come back as soon as possible.

"Again, thank you for everything and I'll see you guys soon."

Mikel Arteta is the latest man to be charged with restoring success to a failing Arsenal, and Gunners fans will hope his previous working relationship with Pep Guardiola gives the Basque coach a head start.

Arsenal ditched another Basque tactician in Unai Emery last month and the process to appoint a replacement has been anything but swift.

Freddie Ljungberg took charge in an interim capacity but managed just a single win in five matches, highlighting the sorry state of the situation inherited by Arteta, whose appointment as head coach was confirmed on Friday.

It is former Arsenal captain Arteta's first job in management, having spent the three years since he retired from playing working as an assistant to Guardiola at Manchester City.

Guardiola has credited Arteta with improving him as a manager and believes the San Sebastian native is "absolutely ready" to strike out on his own after a "magnificent" time together at City.

Given his success in management, Guardiola has unsurprisingly been mentioned as a major inspiration for many coaches.

Here, we examine four others to have worked closely with Guardiola and enjoyed success.

Tito Vilanova

Guardiola and Vilanova came through Barcelona's youth academy together as youngsters, though the latter went on to spend much of his playing career in the lower divisions. They reunited as coaches in 2007, with Vilanova assuming the role of assistant with the Barcelona B side, before taking up a similar position when Guardiola was promoted to the senior team the following year.

They worked together until Guardiola departed in 2012, with Vilanova subsequently appointed his successor. He led Barca to LaLiga success despite requiring a leave of absence for cancer treatment, but he officially stepped down in July 2013 due to a relapse. Vilanova died in April 2014 due to complications from cancer.

Luis Enrique

Although Luis Enrique never worked specifically in tandem with Guardiola, he did succeed his friend and former team-mate when taking charge of Barca B in 2008. That meant Luis Enrique's team fed directly into Guardiola's senior side for three seasons.

"You could see from the start he was special," the City boss once said of the former attacking midfielder, who like Guardiola also won a treble in his debut season in charge of the Barcelona first team after spells at Roma and Celta Vigo. Luis Enrique has since gone on to become Spain coach.

Erik ten Hag

Ten Hag had already coached a senior team when he was put in charge of Bayern Munich's second string in June 2013, having led Go Ahead Eagles to a sixth-placed finish in the Eerste Divisie. Despite managing separate teams at the club, Ten Hag and first-team boss Guardiola worked closely. Guardiola said last season: "I was lucky to meet him at Bayern and he was an assistant from the second team. We had a lot of chats."

Ten Hag left Bayern the year before Guardiola and led Utrecht to fifth and fourth in the Eredivisie, earning him a shot at the big time with Ajax. Since his December 2017 appointment, the Dutchman has won a league title and taken Ajax to the Champions League semis last term. A return to Bayern – but this time with the senior side – appears likely.

Domenec Torrent

It is unlikely there is anyone in world football more familiar with Guardiola's work than Torrent. After first teaming up with Barcelona B, the pair worked side by side for 11 years until 2018. "When we started in La Tercera [fourth tier in Spain], I never thought I would be with him so much, but then we won every possible title," Torrent told El Diario earlier this year when he was in charge of New York City FC.

He presided over the MLS side as they won the Eastern Conference this year, before stepping down in November. Although keen to continue his management career, don't rule out a return to Guardiola's side. "If Pep calls me, I will go [to him]," Torrent said in May. "I am grateful and I know that I owe it all to him. If I had not been his assistant, I would not be here. I like being a head coach and I will only stop being one if Pep thinks I can be useful [to him]."

The full draw for the Europa League's round of 32 is: 

Wolves v Espanyol

Sporting CP v Istanbul Basaksehir

Getafe v Ajax

Bayer Leverkusen v Porto

Copenhagen v Celtic

APOEL v Basel

Cluj v Sevilla

Olympiacos v Arsenal

AZ v LASK Linz

Club Brugge v Manchester United

Ludogorets v Inter

Eintracht Frankfurt v Salzburg

Shakhtar Donetsk v Benfica

Wolfsburg v Malmo

Roma v Gent

Rangers v Braga

The first legs will take place on Thursday 20 February, with the return fixtures scheduled for a week later.

Club chiefs will return to Nyon for the last-16 draw on February 28.

Manchester United and Arsenal were handed tricky Europa League last-32 ties against Club Brugge and Olympiacos respectively, while Inter take on Ludogorets.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United side face Belgian outfit Brugge, who finished third in a Champions League group including Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.

The Red Devils, winners of the competition in 2016-17, topped their Europa League pool, losing just once with a youthful side at Astana.

Struggling Arsenal will have been eyeing a more favourable draw than Olympiacos, who are familiar with north London having faced Tottenham in the Champions League.

Inter were unfortunate not to make the last 16 of the Champions League, losing out to Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund, but Antonio Conte's side will fancy their chances against Bulgarian side Ludogorets.

Sevilla, who are the competition's most successful club, with five wins across the UEFA Cup and Europa League, will have to overcome Cluj to make the last 16.

Old Firm duo Celtic and Rangers take on Copenhagen and Braga, while Premier League side Wolves lock horns with LaLiga strugglers Espanyol.

Ajax, Champions League semi-finalists last season, also face Spanish opposition in the form of Getafe, and Roma – who reached the last four of Europe's premier competition in 2017-18 – go up against Gent.

Bayer Leverkusen take on two-time winners Porto in one of the round's stand-out ties, as Shakhtar Donetsk and Benfica – two demoted Champions League outfits – face off.

Having impressed against Liverpool and Napoli, Salzburg play Eintracht Frankfurt.

First-leg games take place on February 20, with the return fixtures a week later.

Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt and now Donny van de Beek?

Ajax lost stars De Jong and De Ligt in the off-season and Van de Beek is now reportedly nearing an Amsterdam exit.

It may be the case that the midfielder can choose between the two Spanish powerhouse clubs.

 

TOP STORY –  BARCA & MADRID WANT VAN DE BEEK

LaLiga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid are battling to sign Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek, according to reports.

Van de Beek was heavily linked to Madrid as an alternative to Manchester United star Paul Pogba during the previous transfer window.

Now, Sport claims Van de Beek could be available for between €50-60million.

 

ROUND-UP

Bayer Leverkusen are poised to sign River Plate's Exequiel Palacios, says Kicker. Palacios – previously tipped to join Madrid – is set to move to Bundesliga outfit Leverkusen in January in a €22m deal.

- Mundo Deportivo and Calciomercarto claim Barca and Milan have met to discuss the future of defender Jean-Clair Todibo. LaLiga champions Barca are reportedly happy to part with the 19-year-old.

- According to 90min, Liverpool are set to beat Manchester City and Chelsea to Coventry City left-back Sam McCallum.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has walked away from negotiations with Milan, reports Calciomercato. A free agent after leaving LA Galaxy, Ibrahimovic has been linked with a return to Milan, as well as Napoli. But the 38-year-old is reportedly not moving back to San Siro after failing to reach an agreement.

- Valencia teenager Ferran Torres is high on the agenda of Madrid, according to AS. The 19-year-old is attracting interest from across Europe, including Liverpool and Juventus.

- Keen to provide competition for Tammy Abraham, 90min says Chelsea are considering a January bid for Bordeaux forward Josh Maja.

Liverpool lead the way with 10 nominations for the EA Sports FIFA Team of the Year.

Everton are set to make the first move for Carlo Ancelotti.

The Toffees will reportedly begin talks with the Italian following his departure from Napoli on Tuesday.

Ancelotti was sacked three hours after a 4-0 win over Genk, which confirmed the Serie A club's place in the Champions League knockout rounds.

 

TOP STORY – EVERTON TO RIVAL ARSENAL FOR ANCELOTTI

Everton will waste no time in opening contract talks with free agent Ancelotti in the wake of his Napoli exit, according to Sky Sports.

Managerless Arsenal are also said to be considering the 60-year-old former Chelsea, Milan and Real Madrid boss as a possible replacement for Unai Emery.

But the Toffees could get the jump on their Premier League rivals after Shanghai SIPG's Vitor Pereira pulled out of the race to succeed Marco Silva, although David Moyes reportedly remains an option to take charge on an interim basis.

Ancelotti has won the Champions League three times as a coach and secured league titles in England, France, Germany and Italy.

ROUND-UP

- Napoli could announce the appointment of Gennaro Gattuso on a short-term contract as soon as Wednesday, according to CalcioMercato.

- Ex-Everton manager Moyes and former Brighton and Hove Albion boss Chris Hughton are in line to replace Manuel Pellegrini at West Ham if the Hammers lose to Southampton on Saturday, says The Mirror.

- Manchester United are considering Ajax's Donny van de Beek and Saul Niguez of Atletico Madrid as they prepare for Paul Pogba's end-of-season exit, reports the Daily Mail.

- The Daily Mail also claims Leicester City have opened contract talks with rumoured Manchester City target Caglar Soyuncu, who has been in good form this season.

- Barcelona have cooled their interest in Lautaro Martinez due to Inter's demand for €100million, according to ESPN.

Erik ten Hag blamed bad luck for the 1-0 loss to Valencia that ended Ajax's Champions League campaign on Tuesday.

Rodrigo Moreno's 24th-minute goal and Chelsea's 2-1 win over Lille in London condemned last season's semi-finalists to third place in Group H.

Hakim Ziyech squandered a good chance to equalise and Valencia goalkeeper Jaume Domenech made two saves at the death, leaving Ten Hag convinced a "miracle" had taken place in the Spanish side's favour.

Ajax finished with 10 points from six games and are now destined for the Europa League.

"In football you don't always get what you deserve. That's how I summarise this match," Ten Hag said.

"The Spanish press called it a 'miracle' that Valencia qualified, I think they're right. Luck wasn't on our side this Champions League group stage and luck wasn't on our side tonight either.

"Nevertheless, we got 10 points and played some good football. We did that tonight too. But on this big stage we made one mistake that led to the goal.

"After that we did create some chances, but we weren't efficient enough to finish them. Now we're left empty-handed. We did reach our personal goal, to play European football in 2020 too, but we wanted and we should have done that in the Champions League.

"That we're now knocked out is a very big disappointment."

Ten Hag described the setback as a different feeling to the heartbreak of last season, when their thrilling run came to a dramatic end at the hands of Tottenham.

"I do see comparisons with last year, but the feeling is different," he said.

"Last year, being knocked out was much more intense, because we were so close to the final. The league game after that, we could crown ourselves champions. So that explains the difference in emotion.

"But it's very clear that it's a big blow for everybody in the dressing room. Everyone's very disappointed. But we also know that we have a huge league game coming up on Sunday [against AZ]."

Rodrigo Moreno labelled Valencia's win over Ajax and progression to the last 16 of the Champions League a "miracle".

The Spain forward scored the only goal in a 1-0 victory in Amsterdam on Tuesday, sending Valencia through from Group H and eliminating last season's semi-finalists.

Rodrigo, whose team held on despite Gabriel's late red card, lauded Valencia's effort.

"We put in such an effort against Chelsea and didn't get the job done, but this side doesn't get tired of working miracles and we've done another tonight," he said, via UEFA.com.

Rodrigo's 24th-minute goal sent Valencia into the Champions League knockout stage for the first time since 2012-13.

The 28-year-old was thrilled for Valencia, who are two-time runners-up in Europe's premier club competition.

"I'm delighted because this side is a big family. I don't have the words to describe my team-mates," Rodrigo said.

"These last three years we've created something special and we're so together.

"We've taken a great club back to where it's not been for a long time."

Valencia progressed to the last 16 of the Champions League with a 1-0 win at Ajax, who will play in the Europa League in 2020 after finishing third in Group H.

Rodrigo Moreno scored the only goal in the first half as Albert Celades' men secured a surprise victory that means they finish top of the group, ahead of Chelsea in second spot, despite Gabriel's late red card.

Ajax reached the semi-finals last season, knocking out Real Madrid and Juventus during a thrilling run, but they were edged out by the LaLiga side at the Johan Cruijff Arena on Wednesday.

Rodrigo headed wide in the second minute but scored the decisive goal midway through the first half, taking advantage of Joel Veltman playing him onside.

Ferran Torres shaped to shoot from outside the box but instead played a clever disguised pass into the feet of Rodrigo, who fired into the roof of the net.

Jaume Domenech reacted well to keep out a cross-shot from Hakim Ziyech that looked to be curling inside the far post, then Andre Onana denied Rodrigo at the other end.

Rodrigo continued to offer Valencia's main threat and went close again in the 55th minute, and Ziyech wasted a clear chance from six yards as Ajax grew increasingly nervous.

Noa Lang's acrobatic effort flew wide before Erik ten Hag sent on Klaas Jan Huntelaar, and Domenech had to save from Lisandro Martinez and Ziyech at the death.

Gabriel then saw red for appearing to headbutt Ajax captain Dusan Tadic in added time, but the 10 men held on to qualify.


What does it mean? Europa League beckons for Ajax

Ajax started the campaign with successive 3-0 wins, putting themselves in a dominant position, but they will play in the Europa League next year despite collecting 10 points.

The sales of Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt to Barcelona and Juventus respectively sapped the Eredivisie giants of their star power, with Valencia recovering from their 3-0 home loss in the reverse fixture to squeeze through.


Rodrigo stars in shock win

Spain striker Rodrigo hit the only goal in a 1-0 win away to Chelsea at the start of the group stage, and his strike on Tuesday again made the difference for Valencia.


Ziyech sitter costs Ajax

Few clear chances were created by the hosts, with the best of them falling to Ziyech midway through the second half. Set up by Donny van de Beek, Ziyech did not even hit the target from eight yards out, slicing his first-time shot wide of the post.


What's next?

Real Madrid visit Valencia in LaLiga on Sunday, the same day Eredivisie leaders Ajax go to AZ.

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