Gianfranco Zola believes midfielder Jorginho would be a deserving winner of the Ballon d'Or despite Lionel Messi's claims on the award.

Jorginho finished the 2020-21 campaign as Chelsea's leading Premier League scorer with seven goals, albeit each of those came from the penalty spot.

He carried that form into Euro 2020, playing every game for Italy in their successful campaign that ended with a penalty shoot-out win over England at Wembley.

Jorginho actually missed from the spot in the final, but he otherwise enjoyed an impeccable tournament for the Azzurri.

The Brazilian-born player led the way in terms of interceptions at Euro 2020 with 25, substantially more than Chelsea team-mate N'Golo Kante (14), who was next best.

Meanwhile, Jorginho's 484 successful passes were bettered only by Spain's Aymeric Laporte (644), leading to seven chances being created for his team-mates. Only Azzurri colleague Lorenzo Insigne (40) was involved in more shot-ending sequences than his 38.

 

Barcelona's Messi, a six-time Ballon d'Or winner, finished as LaLiga's top scorer last season with 38 goals and 12 assists across all competitions before inspiring Argentina to glory in the Copa America.

Despite Messi's pedigree former Chelsea forward Zola – who earned 35 caps for Italy and scored 10 goals between 1991 and 1997 – backed Jorginho as a worthy challenger. 

"The Ballon d'Or is usually awarded to a striker or an offensive player who can score a lot," Zola told Stats Perform. 

"Now we are talking about a fantastic player like [Lionel] Messi who did extraordinary things for the first time with his national team – and this won’t go unnoticed. 

"Should they give it to Jorginho, it would be deserved. He gives concrete balance and pace to his teams. I was lucky to have him at Chelsea and I know what he does on the pitch.

"It would be deserved because not only were his performances at a high level, but the teams he played for have been outstanding. This must be taken into account."

Manuel Locatelli is hot property after helping Italy win Euro 2020.

The Sassuolo midfielder is understood to have an ambition to play Champions League football in 2021-22.

Sassuolo are ready to cash in on their prized asset with interest coming in.

 

TOP STORY - JUVENTUS RAMP UP LOCATELLI INTEREST

Juventus are ready to usurp Arsenal in the hunt for Sassuolo's Italy international Locatelli, according to The Guardian.

Sassuolo want €40 million (£34.3 million) for the midfielder but Juventus offered €30m as a loan for the 2021-22 season with an option to buy, which Sassuolo declined, insisting they want an outright transfer.

Arsenal were previously understood to be in the box seat to sign Locatelli, given they are prepared to pay their asking price, but Juve's interest may have changed that situation.

ROUND-UP

- New Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti wants to sign Manchester United defender Diogo Dalot, claims Mundo Deportivo. Dalot spent last season on loan with Milan.

- Jose Mourinho's Roma have joined the race to sign Villarreal's 25-year-old winger Alfonso Pedraza, according to Calciomercato. ChelseaMilan and Barcelona are also keen on the Europa League winner, who can play at left-back.

- L'Equipe reports Chelsea have offered Bayern Munich a player swap deal with Callum Hudson-Odoi in exchange for Kingsley Coman.

- The Daily Express claims Brighton and Hove Albion will prepare a move for Celtic forward Odsonne Edouard once the reported £50m sale of Ben White to Arsenal goes through.

Arsenal are also reportedly keen on Norwich City full-back Max Aarons as they prepare for Hector Bellerin's exit, according to the Express.

Ronald Koeman believes Spain should have given Barcelona teenager Pedri a rest rather than call him up for the Olympic Games.

The midfielder was a key part of the Spain squad that reached the semi-finals of Euro 2020, becoming the first ever player to start six games in a single European Championship or World Cup aged 18 or below.

Instead of being given time off before the start of Barcelona's LaLiga campaign, Pedri is in Japan for the Olympic football tournament.

Spain play their first game in Group C against Egypt on July 22 before fixtures with Argentina and Australia.

Koeman told a media conference: "Pedri has played a lot. We will have to give him a break, everyone needs it during the [European] summer. 

"As Pep Guardiola said, playing two important tournaments in the summer is too much, but we can't do anything. 

"Pedri's European Championship was phenomenal. At the age of 18 he has played almost all the complete matches, with an impressive maturity. 

"His football continues to improve and he is a very honest and calm boy. He lives for football. He is an example of how to be a young man at Barca.

"It is important for our grassroots football, that young people see that they are in a club that gives them opportunities."

 

Also in Spain's squad for the tournament is defender Eric Garcia, who re-joined Barca from Manchester City on a free transfer.

Koeman tipped the 20-year-old former Barca academy player to have a big impact on the first team when he is able to link up with the club following the Olympics.

"He has had a great European Championship," Koeman said. 

"He comes from here and, despite his youth, he already has a lot of experience. He plays in the same position I did. 

"With the ball he is very good and we can improve from behind with him. He also has projection and a great future ahead."

Meanwhile, Koeman hopes Ousmane Dembele can make a swift return from injury.

The France forward, whose contract at Camp Nou expires at the end of the 2021-22 season, is recovering from surgery on a knee injury sustained at Euro 2020 that is expected to keep him out for four months.

Dembele's career since his move to Barca from Borussia Dortmund for €105million four years ago has been blighted by injury setbacks.

The 24-year-old has managed just 54 LaLiga starts in four seasons at Camp Nou, while last season he completed 90 minutes in the league on just five occasions.

"I am very disappointed with his injury," Koeman added.

"Also, the situation with his contract is complicated. It is a pity for himself and for us. 

"He brought us a lot last year, different from what we have. I hope he can come back soon."

Ronald Koeman has warned Barcelona's rivals a rejuvenated and focused Lionel Messi will have a massive impact in the forthcoming season.

Messi is technically still a free agent after his contract with the Blaugrana expired at midnight on June 30, but it has been widely reported the 34-year-old is poised to sign a new five-year deal at Camp Nou.

Messi was again hugely influential for Barcelona last season, finishing as LaLiga's top scorer and managing 38 goals and 12 assists across all competitions.

He also created 117 chances for others and netted a goal every 110.32 minutes over the course of 2020-21. 

The Argentina international is expected to take a substantial pay cut to stay at Barca but Koeman does not expect his influence to diminish.

"Messi is very important, he is the captain of the team and an example," head coach Koeman told a media conference on Sunday.

"After a difficult start due to his own situation, his effectiveness was enormous [in 2020-21].

"He really wanted to win the Copa America and, as he is the best player in the world, he is used to winning things. For me, he is the big favourite to win the Ballon d'Or."

 

Koeman claimed the presence of Messi and other experienced players will bring balance to Barca in the new campaign.

"The veteran players have a place in the squad," Koeman explained.

"They already showed it last year and it is important that they be with us. In a club like Barca, the balance between the oldest and the youngest must exist."

Koeman has taken some of the attacking burden of Messi shoulders with the signings of Memphis Depay and Sergio Aguero on free transfers.

Depay enjoyed a fine final season in Ligue 1, scoring 20 times, trailing only Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe (27), while his 12 assists and 94 chances created were the most in France's top flight.

Aguero scored a club-record 260 goals in 389 appearances in all competitions during a glittering decade with Manchester City.

"I know Memphis very well and he knows how to work," Koeman added.

"He has a lot of character, physicality, speed, he can play in different positions in attack. He's the perfect age to show it.

"With Sergio, we had to improve our performance at the top and he is a very experienced and dangerous player in the penalty area. 

"The important thing is that he is physically well and our goal is to keep him in top form."

Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain was a "dream" scenario, according to Argentina team-mate Leandro Paredes.

Messi was heavily linked with the French giants, as well as Premier League side Manchester City, having handed in a transfer request at Camp Nou last year.

Messi ended up staying to see out the final year of his deal and recently became a free agent, though there has been little talk of a move away from Barcelona amid reports he is on the verge of signing a five-year extension.

Paredes talked up the chances of his compatriot making the switch to PSG earlier this year, but he accepts the superstar forward is now set to stay in Spain.

"Yes, there was a lot of talk at the club when it emerged that Leo could come to Paris," he told ESPN. "It was a dream to imagine he could be with us next season.

"But hey, that didn't happen. I hope he likes where he plays."

 

Messi has spent his entire senior career with Barcelona, making 778 appearances and scoring a club-record 672 goals.

He was again hugely influential for Barca last season, finishing as LaLiga's top scorer as he managed 38 goals and 12 assists across all competitions.

Taking all competitions into account, he created 117 chances for others and netted a goal every 110.32 minutes. Full-back Jordi Alba was next on the list of the most chances created for Barca in 2020-21, teeing up 85 opportunities.

Despite the speculation surrounding his club future, Messi carried his club form onto the international stage, inspiring Argentina to their first Copa America crown since 1993.

He scored four goals and provided five assists to win his maiden piece of silverware while representing his country.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta is optimistic Lionel Messi will sign a contract extension with the club but knows they must stay patient.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner is now a free agent after his deal at Camp Nou expired on June 30.

According to reports, Messi has agreed a new five-year deal with the Blaugrana while accepting a substantial pay cut – although there has yet to be official confirmation.

Barca's significant financial difficulties are likely to mean other players must leave before Messi – or any of the club's new signings, including Sergio Aguero – can be registered.

Nevertheless, club president Laporta says negotiations are progressing well and is confident there will be a positive update in the near future.

"The professionals are doing their job well," he said. "We are very satisfied with how everything is progressing.

"But you know that it is a special market that requires patience, skill and sometimes some juggling.

"But I think, as the summer progresses, we will be able to give good news."

Messi has spent his entire playing career with the Catalan giants, for whom he is the all-time leading scorer with 672 goals in 778 appearances.

The 34-year-old has also won 10 LaLiga titles with Barca since making his senior debut in 2004, as well as the Copa del Rey seven times and the Champions League on four occasions.

And he recently captured his first major international honour; captaining Argentina to Copa America glory following a 1-0 victory over Brazil in the final.

Reports in Spain suggest Atletico Madrid and Antoine Griezmann could be set for a reunion, just two years after Barcelona broke their transfer record to sign the France star.

Griezmann spent five seasons at Atleti, joining Diego Simeone's team from Real Sociedad.

He went on to score 94 LaLiga goals for the club, before a long-mooted switch to Barca went through in 2019.

Yet Griezmann, who turned 30 in March, has never quite managed to scale the same heights at the Camp Nou as he did in Madrid.

A disappointing first campaign marred by injuries and inconsistency left Griezmann playing catch up last term, though he did net 20 times across all competitions to finish as Barca's second-highest goalscorer, behind the imperious Lionel Messi.

With the uncertainty over Messi's future seemingly set to be resolved by a new five-year deal, reportedly worth half of the 34-year-old's previous contract, Barca have to clear their wage bill if they are to comply with LaLiga's salary cap.

The Blaugrana have added Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Emerson Royal in the close-season, though are unable to register those new signings until players are moved out.

Griezmann, who is one of the club's highest earners, looks set to be one of the names to make way in a swap deal involving Saul Niguez – though Renan Lodi and Mario Hermoso have also been touted as potential options for Barca. Ahead of his potential return, Stats Perform assesses how Griezmann's efforts last season match up to his best campaign from his first Atleti stint.

 

GRIEZMANN AT HIS PEAK

Griezmann was the perfect example of consistency throughout his time at Atleti, as he became the perfect, versatile forward for Simeone's disciplined side.

He partnered Mario Mandzukic, Fernando Torres and Diego Costa among others during his time at the club, transforming himself from a nippy winger to a central striker with predatory instincts in the area, as well as harbouring plenty of creative talents.

Though he played more games (54) and scored more goals (32) during the 2015-16 season, Griezmann's finest campaign at Atleti arguably came in 2017-18.

His tally of 19 LaLiga strikes was 11 more than any other Atleti player, as he finished sixth in the scoring charts overall.

Griezmann added another 10 goals across the cup competitions, however, including a brace in the Europa League final, which Atleti won 3-0 against Marseille in Lyon.

Only Griezmann got into double figures for Atleti in terms of assists (13), while only Koke (81) created more chances than his 65.

Griezmann was clinical when opportunities came his way, too, converting 52.38 per cent of the 42 "big chances" that were crafted for him, and he ranked top for attempts (124) as he averaged a goal every 133 minutes.

To cap off an exceptional domestic campaign, Greizmann put in a man of the match display as France beat Croatia 4-2 in the 2018 World Cup final.

 

PAST HIS BEST?

After making much of his call to stay put at Atleti – Griezmann having taken part in a mini-documentary to confirm his decision before the World Cup – the 28-year-old completed a €120million switch to Barca a year later.

It came with controversy; Atleti insisting Barca had fallen some €80m short of the obligated fee, but the transfer was nevertheless upheld.

His first season at Camp Nou was one to forget. The coronavirus pandemic merely prolonging a dismal campaign by Griezmann's lofty standards – the nadir for all involved at Barca coming in the humbling 8-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.

Yet Griezmann came into his second season with a renewed sense of purpose and finally seemed to click under new boss Ronald Koeman.

While still having to fit in around key man Messi, Griezmann played 51 times in all competitions, making 45 starts, clocking up 3,904 minutes in total (the second most he has managed in a campaign since his move to Atleti).

A total of 20 goals sees him fall some way short of the 29 he managed in 2017-18, though his 12 assists come close to matching his Atleti peak.

 

His expected assists (xA) total of 8.99 does, however, suggest the quality of opportunities he created was perhaps not wholly responsible for his 12 goal provisions. Given he was linking up with Messi, that is perhaps no surprise. This was, though, also the case in 2017-18, with Griezmann tallying an expected assists figure of 6.3, suggesting his Atleti team-mates were finishing chances they may not have been expected to.

Griezmann created more chances (67) last term than in his 2017-18 season, though his conversion rate of gilt-edged opportunities dropped to 39.39 per cent from 33 such openings.

Only in 2018-19 (15.11) did Griezmann have a lower shot conversion rate than last term (18.02) while there was no international glory for him this time around either – he scored once as France dropped out of Euro 2020 in the last 16.

Arjen Robben's playing days are officially over (again), with the Bayern Munich and Netherlands great confirming on Thursday that he is hanging up his boots.

Of course, this is not the first time Robben has made such a decision – he initially retired in 2019 after a decade with Bayern before returning to his first club Groningen.

Although the fairy-tale conclusion he may have hoped for never quite materialised, ending his career where it all began has seen his playing days come full circle.

In honour of Robben's retirement, Stats Perform takes a look at greats who have gone back to their spiritual home in the twilight stages, starting with an overview of the king of inverted wingers…

Arjen Robben - Groningen

Robben's first retirement lasted just a single season, having announced last year he would be returning to his boyhood club Groningen for the 2020-21 campaign. Robben, now 37, initially brought an illustrious playing career to an end in July 2019 shortly after his 10-year spell with Bayern finished. Although at the time he was linked with a potential return to the team that gave him his professional debut, Robben – who suffered with numerous injury problems throughout his career – opted to retire. He then caused something of a shock as he finally went back to the place where it all began, but once again injuries blighted his availability, restricting him to just seven Eredivisie appearances. Club director Mark-Jan Fledderus wanted him to stay on for another year, but when Robben said at the end of the season that he was going to have a long think about his future, the writing was seemingly on the wall. Another U-turn appears unlikely.

Juan Roman Riquelme - Argentinos Juniors

Perhaps more synonymous with Boca Juniors, where he made his professional debut and also spent most of his final years, Riquelme also had a strong affinity with Argentinos Juniors. He came through the club's academy in the early-to-mid 1990s, before then finishing his immense career at Estadio Diego Maradona in 2014, having also played for Barcelona, Villarreal and Argentina. Although the iconic attacking midfielder appeared close to joining Paraguay's Cerro Porteno the following year, the move never materialised.

Dirk Kuyt - Quick Boys

Kuyt briefly came out of retirement three years ago to help Quick Boys, with whom he spent 13 years as a youth. Playing in the Derde Divisie Saturday league, Kuyt was already working as assistant at the time, but made himself available for selection during a striker shortage and he made three appearances. The former Netherlands and Liverpool forward had retired the year before following a second spell with Feyenoord, where he had made his initial breakthrough in the mid-2000s, his form at the time earning a move to Anfield.

Rafael Marquez - Atlas

One of Mexico's greatest players, Marquez's longevity at such a high level was nothing short of incredible, as he accumulated 147 international caps. After breaking into the Atlas team as a teenager having come through their academy, the elegant centre-back enjoyed a sparkling career in Europe, winning 14 titles across spells with Monaco and Barcelona. Time with New York Red Bulls, Leon and Hellas Verona followed, before a final two-year stint back at the Jalisco ended in 2018. Although plagued by off-field allegations towards the end of his career, Marquez went on to become the club's sporting president, before standing down last in 2019 to focus on other areas of the sport. He is expected to be taking up a youth coaching role at Barca next season.

Juan Pablo Angel - Atletico Nacional

Angel perhaps never quite lived up to the expectations he set during his early days as part of River Plate's so-called 'Fantastic Four' with Javier Saviola, Ariel Ortega and Pablo Aimar, having joined from Colombia's Nacional. Nevertheless, he became a fan favourite at Aston Villa in the Premier League, before spending six years in MLS with New York Red Bulls, Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA. In 2013 he returned to Nacional for two seasons, having left them in 1997. He called it quits in late 2014, just a few days after losing to his former club River in the final of the Copa Sudamericana. "I am ending my career with a final between the two clubs I love the most," he said.

Henrik Larsson - Hogaborgs

While the Swedish club most may associate with Larsson is Helsingborgs, he actually made the breakthrough at a smaller side – Hogaborgs. It was here where he trained from the age of six, before eventually becoming a regular in the senior side and earning a move to Helsingborgs. A trophy-laden career followed, taking him to Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United. Although he retired in 2009, he returned to the pitch for Raa in the Swedish third tier three years later, before then finding himself back in the team at Hogaborgs in 2013, helping out due to an injury crisis despite him only previously being registered to a casual team for 'seniors'. This gave him the chance to play alongside his son, Jordan.

Carlos Tevez - Boca Juniors

The Tevez-Boca love affair has dominated most of the striker's successful and complex career. After coming through their youth ranks, the feisty forward was seen as the heir to Maradona. A brief stint in Brazil with Corinthians followed, but Europe had long since beckoned, even if West Ham was by no means the expected destination. He went on to play for Manchester United and Manchester City, increasing tension between the clubs, before then going to Juventus, but throughout this time Tevez seemed to long for a return to Boca. He went back to La Bombonera in 2015, his homecoming interrupted by a brief spell with Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 in the Chinese Super League, though even Tevez acknowledged he saw his time in China as a "holiday". "He filled Santa's sack with dollars and now he has returned to Boca" was Maradona's assessment upon 'El Apache's' return from the CSL. His third spell with Boca ended in June 2021, though it remains to be seen if he ever plays for another club.

Gianluigi Buffon - Parma

Okay, he is not technically retired yet, so perhaps Buffon does not strictly qualify here. However, after departing Juventus for the second time at the end of 2020-21, the Italy great suggested he had not finished playing just yet. Parma quickly emerged as a potential destination despite their recent relegation to Serie B, and after a few weeks of contemplation, it was confirmed that Buffon was heading back to the club. Now 43, the iconic goalkeeper will wear the Gialloblu for the first time in 20 years, and he is set to remain with them until he turns 45, given he signed a two-year contract. What happens after that is anyone's guess but calling it a day with his first club could be a satisfyingly romantic conclusion.

He is back where he belongs.
He is back home. #SupermanReturns @gianluigibuffon @Kyle_J_Krause @ParmaCalcio_en pic.twitter.com/bh2FO6P8YX

— Parma Calcio 1913 (@1913parmacalcio) June 17, 2021

Manchester City's pursuit of a new striker is well known.

Sergio Aguero's exit has left a void for the Premier League champions.

City have been linked with a host of big names including Erling Haaland and Harry Kane.

 

TOP STORY - MAN CITY MONITORING LEWANDOWSKI

Manchester City are monitoring the status of Bundesliga top scorer Robert Lewandowski, according to the Daily Mail.

Lewandowski has two years remaining on his Bayern Munich deal but has previously indicated he may be open to a move elsewhere.

The report claims City are worried they may not succeed in their pursuit of Kane and see 32-year-old Lewandowski as an option given his quality and potentially lower asking price.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool is readying a £60million (€70m) bid for Inter and Italy midfielder Nicolo Barella according to La Repubblica. However, Fabrizio Romano claims Inter will not sell him.

- Everton have submitted a £30m (€35m) bid for Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly, but the Italian club have told the Toffees to double the offer, claims Calciomercato.

- The Telegraph reports that England full-back Kieran Trippier is desperate to return to the Premier League as he waits on a move from Atletico Madrid to Manchester United.

- The Telegraph also claims that Joe Willock will spend time on loan again at Newcastle from Arsenal. He will join the Magpies on a season-long deal.

- SPORT claims that Chelsea are tracking Sevilla's Jules Kounde after he recently rejected interest from Tottenham.

- Chelsea are looking to utilise Tammy Abraham as a sweetener in any deal to land Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, reports The Mirror.

- West Bromwich have turned down West Ham's offer for goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, claims The Athletic.

Lionel Messi has agreed a five-year contract extension with Barcelona after accepting a substantial pay cut, according to reports.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner became a free agent when his contract at Camp Nou, where he has spent his entire senior career, expired at midnight on June 30.

However, following months of speculation regarding Messi's future, Catalan dailies L'Esportiu and Sport reported on Wednesday that the 34-year-old has agreed to stay on.

An announcement could be made as early as Thursday, it is claimed, once LaLiga officials have signed off on the contract.

Barcelona are facing high-profile financial problems and need to reduce their wage bill if they are to comply with LaLiga's financial fair play rules.

Speaking on Monday, however, Barca president Joan Laporta revealed talks between the Catalan giants and Messi were "progressing adequately".

The same reports suggest Messi has agreed to a far lower salary, potentially as much as 50 per cent on his previous deal that was signed in 2017.

The five-year contract will take the superstar forward through to the age of 39, though Barca may allow Messi to see out the final part of his career in Major League Soccer.

Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City were the main frontrunners for Messi last year, though neither club made an immediate move for the free agent.

 

Messi was again hugely influential for Barcelona last season, finishing as LaLiga's top scorer and managing 38 goals and 12 assists across all competitions.

Taking all competitions into account, he created 117 chances for others and netted a goal every 110.32 minutes. 

Full-back Jordi Alba was next on the list of the most chances created for Barca in 2020-21, teeing up 85 goalscoring opportunities.

Despite the speculation surrounding his club future, Messi carried his club form onto the international stage by inspiring Argentina to their first Copa America crown since 1993.

He scored four goals and chipped in with five assists to win his first piece of silverware for his country.

Javier Tebas will not turn a blind eye to LaLiga's financial fair play rules to allow Barcelona to keep Lionel Messi.

Barca president Joan Laporta said this week that talks with Messi, who became a free agent for the first time in his career this month, were "progressing adequately".

And reports on Wednesday claimed Messi had agreed a new five-year contract with Barca that will pay him half his original salary.

Speaking prior to the emergence those reports, LaLiga president Tebas rejected the notion he could ignore salary cap rules to allow Barca to retain the services of the Argentina superstar.

In doing so, he hinted Barca could come under scrutiny from the league if they release players or staff to enable them to keep Messi.

"No, I won't [turn a blind eye] for Messi, it's impossible. There are many workers [at LaLiga] and in the economic control [department] as well," Tebas told Radio Marca.

 

"We often have to explain [the economic controls] to agents and players because they don't know about it or think clubs are deceiving them, and we've had to explain it in recent years.

"We'll have to analyse everything properly, because if there are dismissals for economic reasons but then they bring in Messi and others... we'd have to look into that.

"Right now, I can only give my opinion, and that is that it is odd that there has been no offer [for Messi] from Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain.

"And I firmly believe there isn't and that the player wants to stay."

 

Messi is coming off a 2020-21 season in which he scored 38 goals in all competitions, the fourth-most across Europe's top five leagues behind Robert Lewandowski (48), Kylian Mbappe (42) and Erling Haaland (41).

The sole reward for his efforts was the Copa del Rey, as Barca missed out on LaLiga and lost in the last 16 of the Champions League to Mbappe and PSG.

However, he crowned the campaign with his first senior international trophy, helping Argentina to triumph in the Copa America on Saturday as they defeated Brazil 1-0 in the final.

Chelsea may have been European champions in 2021, but they have not won the Premier League since 2017.

Blues owner Roman Abramovich is reportedly ready to loosen the purse strings to end their league title wait.

Chelsea have been linked with several big-name signings this off-season.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA RELEASE FUNDS TO LAND HAALAND

Chelsea are ready to ramp up their bid to sign Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland now Euro 2020 is over.

Bild reports Abramovich has released the funds required to lure Haaland to London following an impressive 18 months in Germany.

Dortmund have reportedly told Chelsea it will take £150m (€176m) to sign the Norwegian, and Chelsea may sell Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech and Tammy Abraham to fund the move.

 

ROUND-UP

Tottenham have set their sights on Southampton forward Danny Ings, making him a priority, claims The Telegraph. Manchester City are also apparently interested.

- Daily Express reports Chelsea are making plans to sign Antoine Griezmann on loan from Barcelona, with the Blaugrana attempting to reduce their wage bill in line with LaLiga salary cap rules.

- Another Barcelona player potentially on the move is Clement Lenglet. According to Sport, new Everton manager Rafa Benitez wants to build his defence around the France international.

- Monaco left-back Fode Ballo-Toure is close to signing with Milan, having already agree personal terms, according to Fabrizio Romano.

- Fabrizio Romano also claims Roma are interested in signing Alex Telles on loan from Manchester United to replace the injured Leonardo Spinazzola.

Talks between Lionel Messi and Barcelona over a new contract are "progressing adequately", according to Joan Laporta.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi, who has spent his entire senior career at Camp Nou, is now officially a free agent after his Barcelona deal expired at the end of June.

He has been linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain in the past, but the 34-year-old is widely expected to remain with the Blaugrana despite their financial problems.

However, Barca must first reduce their wage bill if they are to comply with LaLiga's financial fair play rules and offer Messi the deal he is holding out for.

Messi's club future is now back in focus after helping Argentina to Copa America success last week and Barca president Laporta remains hopeful terms can be agreed.

"[Messi's renewal] is progressing adequately," he told reporters during the presentation of Mago Pop's show 'Nothing is Impossible'.

"All the Catalans, Barcelona, Catalunya and the entire football world are happy because Leo won the Copa America.

"It is very exciting to see the best player in football history get excited about winning a title like this and he made all of us cry with joy.

"He is very happy, we are all happy. I am happy for Leo who has managed [to win the Copa America], together with his team-mates, and that Argentina are once again in the elite. 

"I am happy for Messi's family, for Argentina, for Barcelona who are recognised, admired and loved for having this bond with Leo."

 

Messi was again hugely influential for Barcelona last season, finishing as LaLiga's top scorer and managing 38 goals and 12 assists across all competitions.

Taking all competitions into account, he created 117 chances for others and netted a goal every 110.32 minutes. 

Full-back Jordi Alba was next on the list of the most chances created for Barca in 2020-21, teeing up 85 goalscoring opportunities.

Despite the speculation surrounding his club future, Messi carried his club form onto the international stage by inspiring Argentina to their first Copa America crown since 1993.

He scored four goals and chipped in with five assists to win his first piece of silverware for his country.

Manchester City's search to replace Sergio Aguero is well known.

Spanish reports have linked Pep Guardiola’s side with Barcelona's Antoine Griezmann.

So, could City - who won the Premier League but lost the Champions League final to Chelsea – be set to bring in the France international? Possibly not...

 

TOP STORY – GRIEZMANN NOT ON CITY RADAR

Manchester City are ready to ramp up their move for a new striker during the transfer window but will not pursue Barcelona forward Griezmann, claims The Sun.

Pep Guardiola's side will instead set their sights on Tottenham's Harry Kane, while Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland is another possibility.

The Sun's report denies Spanish links between City and Frenchman Griezmann, with Barcelona understood to be keen to reduce their wage bill to free up funds to re-sign Lionel Messi.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail reports that Atletico Madrid's signing of midfielder Rodrigo De Paul from Udinese will pave the way for Liverpool's proposed move to sign Saul Niguez. De Paul's arrival means Atleti are free to sell him off, with the Reds and Barcelona reportedly interested.

- Juventus are homing in on a transfer for Manchester City's Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus, while they are also keen on bringing back Moise Kean to Turin, according to Tuttosport.

- Manchester United are edging closer to agreeing terms with French defender and long-term target Raphael Varane for a move from Real Madrid, reports the Mail.

- Jadon Sancho's move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United will be confirmed this week with a medical before his post-Euro 2020 holiday, claims The Sun.

- Fabrizio Romano claims that Wolves goalkeeper Rui Patricio will become Jose Mourinho's first signing at Roma imminently.

Lionel Messi seems certain to stay at Barcelona, and he could reportedly be joined by Renato Sanches.

While Messi came out of contract at the end of June, he seems set to stay at Barca, who remain central to plenty of transfer talk.

They are apparently interested in Sanches, who helped Lille win Ligue 1 last season.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA EYE SANCHES

Barcelona want Lille midfielder Sanches, according to Le 10 Sport.

The report says Tottenham are also targeting the Portugal international, who has previously played for the likes of Benfica and Bayern Munich.

Barca have already signed Sergio Aguero, Eric Garcia and Memphis Depay ahead of the 2021-22 season, though missed out on midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.

 

ROUND-UP

- One player whose future at Barcelona is uncertain is Antoine Griezmann. La Vanguardia reports the forward wants to remain at Barca, where he is contracted until 2024, but could leave given the financial uncertainty at the club.

- Could Kalidou Koulibaly finally be set to leave Napoli for the Premier League? 90min reports Everton manager Rafael Benitez has recommended the defender as a transfer target for the club.

- Also in Serie A and Sky Sport reports Andrea Belotti is set to decide in the coming days whether to renew his contract with Torino beyond 2022. The report says Jose Mourinho's Roma are interested in the striker.

- Barcelona are looking to offload goalkeeper Neto, but finding a suitor for the shot-stopper is complicated, according to Mundo Deportivo.

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