It is 16 years since Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid were all beaten to the Spanish title. Valencia were the victors then.

The season before saw Real Sociedad push Madrid all the way in the title race; Sevilla entered the final day of the 2006-07 campaign with a chance of an unlikely success, while Villarreal finished second the following year.

In more ways than one, it feels like a bygone era. As the money in football grew exponentially, so did the margin for error for the biggest clubs.

Atletico managed to buck the trend, re-establishing themselves as a top club through smart recruitment, plenty of money and finding a coach in Diego Simeone who was not only able to get the best out of players, but improve them.

Although they haven't quite kicked on in the manner many might have expected, stagnating perhaps, Atletico have finished in the top three every season since 2011-12.

But ahead of 2020-21's kick-off on Saturday, there is a feeling there might finally be the possibility for other clubs to join the party again.

With Madrid, champions though they are, by no means spectacular and seemingly reluctant to spend, Barcelona tearing themselves apart from the inside and Atletico in stasis, now seems to be as good a time as any for a challenge to come from elsewhere.

Sevilla and Villarreal will hope it's their time.

"Why can't we dream?"

In the past 14 years, if any club has mastered knockout football, it's Sevilla. Six UEFA Cup/Europa League trophies now fill the museum at their atmospheric Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan home – no other team have won as many titles in UEFA competitions in that time.

So far they have failed to elevate themselves to the next level, though, with only one genuine title challenge in the same period – it's difficult to even consider them Champions League regulars either.

But their most recent Europa League success felt a bit different. Their route to the final was tricky, beating Roma, Wolves and Manchester United, before winning 3-2 against a resurgent – and expensively assembled – Inter in the showpiece.

It was a statement of intent, a declaration of ambition – it was the Europa League, but they beat Champions League-level opponents to win it.

The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly impacted upon the transfer market, and that has hampered the way Sevilla usually work. Sporting director Monchi makes no secret of the fact the club must sell every year in order to build a squad they otherwise would not be able to afford.

But the flipside to that is, for arguably the first time since Monchi first took up his role in 2000, Sevilla will begin the season with a settled squad. Sergio Reguilon and Ever Banega are the only major departures, while Oscar Rodriguez and Ivan Rakitic are fine acquisitions to replace the latter.

Coach Julen Lopetegui took a while to win over supporters, but by the end of the season he had Sevilla looking consistent and difficult to beat, setting a new club record of 21 matches unbeaten in all competitions.

That being said, Lucas Ocampos aside, the jury is out on their attack. Youssef En-Nesyri and Luuk de Jong failed to reach double figures for goals in LaLiga, and one gets the impression Sevilla will struggle to reach the next level without a deadlier finisher in the squad – their haul of 54 in 2019-20 was not especially remarkable.

But at the back Sevilla were frequently excellent, their 34 goals conceded being the third-fewest in the league and the lowest – by 13 – they have managed over the past five years.

The transformation in the team's style of play has been significant. They went from 35 fast breaks in 2018-19 to 19 last term, made almost 3,000 more passes and became increasingly direct, with headed attempts on goal up to 93 from 75.

But again, their main problem comes back to goals – they dropped 20 points from winning positions, and when you look at their 13 draws, seven were in matches where Sevilla netted first, and five of those finished 1-1. An extra goal in each of those five games would equate to 10 more points across the season.

Enough to win then the title? Not quite, but it highlights the fine margins - clubs like Sevilla don't have the room for error that Barca and Madrid do. They have to be more ruthless, and if they are, who's to say where they'll end up.

"Why can't we dream [about winning LaLiga]?" asked club president Jose Castro, quoted on the front cover of Marca recently. Challenging for the title is the next step and they look readier now than they have in 13 years.

Yellow Submarine ready to make a splash

The mess at nearby Valencia has proven particularly beneficial for Villarreal. Los Che are financially crippled, not in Europe this season and the whole club appears to be at odds with itself.

But few expected to see certain key players leave.

Captain Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin headed for the Ceramica, joining Villarreal for a combined figured of just €8m – the former was a free transfer.

Landing Spain international Parejo represents a remarkable coup for Villarreal. He had been a long-term servant at Valencia, spending nine years there and developing into one of LaLiga's most complete midfielders.

His arrival at Villarreal could be a game-changer, while Coquelin has also proven himself dependable in LaLiga. Add to that pair the precocious talents of Takefusa Kubo, a loan arrival from Madrid, and there's plenty of cause for optimism.

The Yellow Submarine finished fifth last term, 10 points adrift of Sevilla in fourth, but until the latter stages they had pushed Lopetegui's men - and Atletico - hard.

Villarreal's end-of-season struggles led to the sacking of Javi Calleja as coach, but in Unai Emery they have a replacement with pedigree, who also has a point to prove.

No one is expecting Villarreal to challenge for the title, but given the positives of 2019-20 and their impressive business off the field, there's certainly reason for optimism regarding a top-four push. Whether that also puts them in touch with the leaders depends on the form of Barca, Madrid and Atletico.

Defensively they will need to improve – 49 goals conceded meant only two teams in the top 10 let in more. At the other end of the pitch, they netted 63, making them the third-highest scorers in the division.

With Paco Alcacer, Gerard Moreno and Samuel Chukwueze all still there, it seems unlikely they will suddenly have problems in attack this term.

Their mentality was also questioned at times and it's easy to understand why when you consider they gained just four points from losing positions, while they also spurned 52 big chances. Although a slight decrease from the season before (54), those totals of big chances gone begging in each of the last two years were a significant increase on the previous three campaigns.

One of the main differences between Villarreal and Sevilla last season was the latter's superior resilience, as they gained three times as many points (12) from losing positions, but the right coach can inspire changes in such areas – Emery had the very same effect on Los Nervionenses in their run of three successive Europa League wins from 2014 to 2016.

He may have been criticised back then for not doing better in LaLiga, but in Europe Emery's Sevilla never knew when they were beaten and always seemed to have immense belief.

Villarreal will do well to mount a title challenge, that much is clear, but they look set to be a force to be reckoned with. The Yellow Submarine can summon everything necessary to make a splash in 2020-21.

Jadon Sancho has been tipped to swap Borussia Dortmund for Manchester United.

But the England international remains in Germany and United are growing frustrated.

Could United move on from the Dortmund sensation?

 

TOP STORY – UNITED READY TO PULL PLUG ON SANCHO

Manchester United are ready to give up on signing Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, according to the Daily Star.

Sancho has emerged as United's top transfer target, but the Premier League giants have been unable to negotiate a deal with Dortmund.

With United and Dortmund apart in their valuation of Sancho, the Red Devils are frustrated and could turn to alternative targets.

Juventus attacker Douglas Costa, Atletico Madrid's Joao Felix and Real Madrid outcast Gareth Bale are possible options.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca claims Barcelona are contemplating a loan move for Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin, who left Camp Nou for the Gunners in 2011. Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked, while Barca will only target the Spaniard if they are able to part with Nelson Semedo.

- Staying at Camp Nou and Barca are targeting Sevilla's star centre-back Jules Kounde. The front page of Saturday's Mundo Deportivo says Barca could wait 12 months to secure a deal. Mundo Deportivo also reports Emerson could be included in a deal to prise Lyon captain Memphis Depay to the embattled LaLiga giants.

Tottenham have had an offer for Torino striker Andrea Belotti rejected, according to Gianluca Di Marzio. Spurs proposed a loan deal with an option to buy the Italy international for €50million (£46m). Di Marzio also claims Tottenham will not be signing Napoli forward Arkadiusz Milik, who has been linked to Roma and Juventus.

Chelsea are ready to loan out winger Calum Hudson-Odoi, says 90Min. The Englishman has previously been linked to Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

- Remaining at Stamford Bridge and Fabrizio Romano reports Chelsea will consider a move for West Ham's Declan Rice after having a bid accepted for Rennes goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.

Inter are ready to sell defender Milan Skriniar as they eye Hellas Verona's Marash Kumbulla, according to Calciomercato. It comes as Nerazzurri boss Antonio Conte tries to sign Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante and full-back Marcos Alonso.

Lionel Messi needed a professional on his side and not his father as he attempted to leave Barcelona, according to former Argentina team-mate Hernan Crespo.

After initially telling Barca he wished to leave after a trophyless campaign in 2019-20, and amid frustration with the Camp Nou board, Messi performed a U-turn and elected to stay with the embattled LaLiga giants.

Messi's contract expires next year, with Barca having been desperate to keep hold of their superstar captain as they look to overhaul the squad under new head coach Ronald Koeman, who replaced Quique Setien last month.

But Crespo believes the crisis could have been avoided, telling TyC Sports: "Here again, with this whole situation, the issue is that... with all due to respect to Jorge Messi, it seems to me that in these circumstances you need a professional by your side.

"It's not the same thing to talk an agent, that is, someone professional, as your father... the agent is not going to take into account the family issue and so on.

"You need to be a professional in these cases."

Last season's runners-up Barca kick off their league campaign against Villarreal on September 26, with friendlies against Gimnastic Tarragona and Girona taking place in the meantime.

Barca endured a miserable 2019-20 season, dethroned by bitter LaLiga rivals Real Madrid, while they were humiliated 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi scored 25 LaLiga goals and 31 across all competitions for Barca last term.

Antoine Griezmann has finally got the Barcelona number seven shirt he wanted from the first day of his Camp Nou career, describing it as "an honour".

The former Atletico Madrid forward was denied his regular number when he arrived at Barcelona in July 2019, as it was held by Philippe Coutinho, and he agreed to wear the 17 shirt instead.

But with Coutinho having since gone on loan to Bayern Munich for last season, and with question marks over whether the winger will stay at Barcelona for the new campaign, the Brazilian has ceded the number to Griezmann.

On Instagram, Griezmann wrote: "It is an honour to wear the 7 at Barca!"

He added: "I want to say thank you to @phil.coutinho, who as well as being a great player is a big friend."

The number switch was announced by Barcelona on their social media accounts, with a video featuring Brooklyn Nets NBA star Kevin Durant opening a box containing Barcelona number seven shirts bearing his name and that of Griezmann.

 

Griezmann scored 15 goals in 41 games for Barcelona last season but often faced criticism for his performances as he struggled to make the greater contribution that many expected of him.

He has previously worn the number seven with Real Sociedad, Atletico Madrid and France, donning the number during their run to World Cup glory two years ago in Russia.

Memphis Depay is a talented player who can offer a lot, but Louis van Gaal has warned Barcelona that the Lyon forward will not solve all of their problems.

The 27-year-old is a target for the LaLiga giants, where former Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman is in charge following Quique Setien's dismissal.

After a disappointing spell under Van Gaal at Manchester United, Dutchman Depay has revived his career at Lyon by scoring and assisting a combined 63 goals in three full seasons at the Groupama Stadium.

But Van Gaal, who also coached Depay for the Netherlands national side, said Barca would not be getting a world-class player of similar calibre to Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.

"There's always a question mark," he told Tuttomercatoweb. "Depay is an interesting player, especially when he's free to play.

"But we have to consider adapting to a new culture and a new team. And the first year is always the hardest. Look at [Matthijs] de Ligt or Frenkie de Jong.

"Depay has talent, but he's not Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo."

Depay picked up from where he left off by scoring a hat-trick against Dijon in Lyon's opening game of the Ligue 1 season last month, before playing a full part in both of the Netherlands' Nations League games over the past week.

Lionel Messi's decision to stay has given Barcelona a huge boost ahead of the new season, says new coach Ronald Koeman.

After initially telling Barca he wished to leave after a trophyless campaign, and amid frustration with the Camp Nou board, Messi performed a U-turn and elected to stay with the Catalan giants.

Messi's contract expires next year, with Barca having been desperate to keep hold of their superstar as they look to overhaul the squad under Koeman, who replaced Quique Setien last month.

Last season's runners-up kick off their LaLiga campaign against Villarreal on September 26, with friendlies against Gimnastic Tarragona and Girona taking place in the meantime, and Koeman is delighted to have Messi on board for his maiden season as Blaugrana boss.

"It's great because everybody knows [Messi] is the best player in the world and to have that in your team is exceptional," Koeman told Barca's club media.

Messi returned to training on Monday, and Koeman said: "Okay, for us it's now important to have Leo in the best conditions to play, because there is no question about his quality.

"It's fantastic that he will be part of the season for Barcelona because everybody is really happy about that."

Ivan Rakitic is a big name to have already left Barca in this window, with the midfielder returning to Sevilla, while Luis Suarez has been heavily linked with a move to Juventus.

Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba are reportedly up for sale, though Koeman is happy with how his squad have been working in pre-season.

"I'm really happy about the performances of the players. They've worked really hard together," Koeman, who is looking to implement a more intense style of play, added.

"We know that it's a pre-season that is a little more complicated because some players have already been playing and some players have had more holidays.

"This pre-season is more difficult to have everybody in the best condition, but we need to play the first game in LaLiga against Villarreal. For that we have some friendlies and more training sessions and we need that because it’s a short period of the pre-season."

The first friendly comes against Gimnastic on Saturday.

Koeman said: "All the players will have 45 minutes – in 45 minutes they need to give intensity, what we like to see in a friendly. To score is not the most important, but yes in a tactical way we've spoken about different things – when we have the ball what we need to do.

"When our rival has the ball, what we need to do to press them and these are all tactical details that we would like to see."

Barcelona forward Ansu Fati has sustained a hip injury during training as the start of the club's LaLiga campaign moves closer.

Fati suffered a contusion to his right hip as he took part in a session on Friday.

"He is out and his recovery will determine his availability," confirmed Barca in a statement.

The problem is expected to rule Fati out of Saturday's friendly against Gimnastic.

Barca are due to begin their league campaign on the weekend of September 26/27 at home to Villarreal, with Fati likely to receive a bigger role under new head coach Ronald Koeman this season.

The 17-year-old scored seven times in 24 league outings in 2019-20, just 11 of which were starts.

Fati made a magnificent start to his Spain career during the international break, becoming the country's youngest goalscorer in a Nations League match against Ukraine three days after making his debut against Germany.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid comprised LaLiga's top three for an eighth consecutive season in 2019-20.

The big three of this era in Spain's top fight have not been apart since Valencia came in third in 2011-12 - 30 points shy of second-place Barca.

The order has shuffled into various configurations since, most sensationally when Atleti pipped the Blaugrana to finish top of the pile in 2013-14.

Madrid and Barcelona have cashed in on the superclub era, aided by arguably the two finest footballers of all-time, while Atletico gradually gained the weight they once punched above to become their country's third heavy hitter.

Nevertheless, each club heads into the new campaign with cracks appearing. If the end of an empire isn't quite upon us, it might be closing in.

MESSI, KOEMAN AND CATASTROPHE. WHAT IS GOING ON AT BARCELONA?

"There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."

It is impossible to know whether Ronald Koeman has dwelt upon the wisdom of Oscar Wilde as he arrives at the apparent end of Barcelona's age of decadence, but there is something devastating about the timing of the Dutchman getting the job he has always coveted.

Indeed, it speaks volumes over how much Koeman wanted to come 'home' to Camp Nou that he would do so under an entirely discredited president to preside over an aging squad left somewhere close to mutiny by a humiliation of historic proportions.

Koeman did say he views Lionel Messi as key part of his project at Barca. And he has him, although there is the monumental catch of context.

In an explosive interview where he focused on everyone's fault but his own - a Leo culpa, if you will - Messi insisted he was only sticking around because Bartomeu had gone back on his word to him and made a departure financially "impossible".

"The truth is that there has been no project or anything for a long time, they juggle and cover holes as things go by," Messi told Goal Spain, in a remarkably damning inditement of those who remain his employers and team-mates.

Ivan Rakitic has gone, Luis Suarez is going and Koeman apparently wants to sign a selection of the Netherlands international players he left behind to take on the poisoned chalice of a lifetime.

As Messi allude to, decline has been eating away at Barcelona for some time. By the time they surrendered LaLiga to Real Madrid after the coronavirus hiatus - performances that effectively condemned Quique Setien's doomed reign even before the 8-2 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich - they had scored fewer goals (86), conceded more (38), had fewer shots (494), won fewer games (25) and lost more (six) than in any of their past five LaLiga seasons.

The potential saving grace - at the same time a damning indictment of the elite European game in the 21st century - is it seems there is only so far that a club on course for a $1billion record turnover before COVID-19 took hold should realistically be able to fall.

Even if the sum of Koeman's transfer incomings are some Oranje foot soldiers and Manchester City youngster Eric Garcia, a functional defensive set-up in front of the excellent Marc-Andre ter Stegen, a smooth midfield alliance between Frenkie de Jong and Miralem Pjanic and a delightful forward line featuring Messi, Antoine Griezmann, the prodigious Ansu Fati and the returning Philippe Coutinho is an assortment it is not too difficult to imagine as a championship-winning one.

MAGIC OF CHOLISMO STARTING TO FADE

Atletico do not have the luxury of mismanagement on the scale of which Josep Maria Bartomeu has shambolically overseen at Barcelona. At best they'd be Valencia; at worst they'd be playing Segunda Division football.

March's rousing Champions League triumph that unseated European champions Liverpool at Anfield showed Los Colchoneros retain an unmatched thirst for making an unholy nuisance of themselves against Europe's aristocrats.

Unfortunately, the start-up beverage spin-off that is RB Leipzig denied them another such showdown in the latter stages of the competition in Lisbon last month - a performance and result that spoke of problems that have quietly mounted to the point Simeone will struggle to shift them as he approaches nine years at the helm.

With their backs against the wall and the bit between their teeth, few teams want to face Atletico. But in games where they are expected to win and take the game to the opposition, they increasingly appear woefully short of the right moves - the transition from reactive to pro-active football beyond them.

They were favourites to beat Leipzig but played a low percentage game and paid the price, as they did over the course of 16 LaLiga draws last season. Their 14 points dropped from winning positions marked their worst return in the past five years.

That Joao Felix came off the bench against Leipzig to win a penalty, convert it and briefly turn the game in Atleti's favour also spoke ill of Simeone's failure to get the best out of the majestically skilled Portugal forward.

Indeed, there is a mounting list of talented attackers who have failed to hit the heights under Simeone, with Griezmann something of an outlier in the aftermath of their 2013-14 success.

Back then, Atletico beat Madrid and Barca when it did not look possible. Now the Classico rivals look deeply fallible, Simeone is unable to rustle up enough of the old magic.

ZZ STAYING ON TOP?

It is not a story to live up to the self-aggrandising history of Madrid, but Zinedine Zidane's steadying hand last year saw them win the title through not messing up as much as their rivals.

Where Barca and Atleti dropped 13 and 14 points from winning positions, Madrid shelled six.

That is not to do down Zidane's achievements as a serial trophy collector. He now has two domestic titles to go with three Champions Leagues across two spells in charge.

The France great is perfectly in tune with a squad he knows well and coaxed a magnificent, career-best season out of Karim Benzema last time around.

From the resumption after lockdown until LaLiga was secured, Madrid won 10 straight matches to comprehensively overhaul Barca.

Their subsequent Champions League loss to Manchester City, where 2-1 defeats in each leg ultimately flattered the 13-time European champions, put their dominant domestic form in context.

Having led the way for much of the past decade, LaLiga's big three presently feel like they're a rung below Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and the Premier League's top two of City and Liverpool. While it is easy to see Madrid retaining Spain's top-flight for the first time since 2007-08, it is hard the see the wider continental gap closing.

Eden Hazard must improve upon a stop-start first season at the Santiago Bernabeu, while Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Federico Valverde have futures of giddying excitement ahead of them. However, the old guard of Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Benzema remain the core and are the wrong side of 30. Galactico-hunters no more, Los Blancos have once again been fairly quiet in the transfer market.

Zidane's skill at Madrid has been to delay a wholesale transition, even when he returned in the aftermath of Cristiano Ronaldo's 2018 departure. But the clock is ticking on the time for change and, as Madrid's biggest rivals have shown, a painful process awaits.

Eduardo Camavinga is highly coveted following his exploits for Ligue 1 outfit Rennes.

The 17-year-old's stock has also risen after making his first France appearance.

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly vying for his signature.

 

TOP STORY – GIANTS GO HEAD-TO-HEAD FOR CAMAVINGA

Real Madrid face competition from Paris Saint-Germain to sign Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, according to Marca.

Camavinga, who made his international debut for France on Tuesday, has been heavily linked with a move to LaLiga champions Madrid.

However, Ligue 1 holders PSG are reportedly determined to keep the 17-year-old in France.

The front page of Friday's AS Diario adds Camavinga, PSG star Kylian Mbappe and RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano are being targeted by Madrid in 2021.

 

ROUND-UP

- TyC Sports claims Barcelona have made a new offer for Inter forward Lautaro Martinez. Repeatedly tipped to swap Inter for Barca, Martinez's agents are believed to be in Spain to discuss another bid.

Ronald Koeman has handed Barca a four-player shortlist, including Lyon's Memphis Depay, Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, Inter defender Stefan de Vrij and Manchester City defender Eric Garcia, claims Marca.

- FootMercato reports Madrid are considering a move for City attacker Riyad Mahrez.

- Sky Sport says Inter are convinced they will sign Arturo Vidal from Barca. It comes as Cagliari and Rennes try to sign veteran Nerazzurri defender Diego Godin, while Inter reportedly close in on Parma full-back Matteo Darmian.

- Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud has agreed a provisional contract to join Juventus as the Serie A champions wait on Barca veteran Luis Suarez, claims Sky Sports Italia. Juve have also been linked with Roma's Edin Dzeko, Napoli forward Arkadiusz Milik and Alvaro Morata of Atletico Madrid. Andrea Pirlo's Juve have also eyed former forward Moise Kean but Everton are unwilling to do a loan deal, reports Gianluca Di Marzio.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Juve striker Gonzalo Higuain, meanwhile, is set to complete his move to David Beckham's Inter Miami in MLS.

Leicester City want to sign Saint-Etienne defender Wesley Fofana but former Foxes boss Claude Puel is reluctant to part with the centre-back, according to Le10 Sport.

Barcelona will hold presidential elections on March 20 and 21 next year.

Incumbent Josep Maria Bartomeu, who cannot stand for re-election after spending two consecutive terms in office, had previously confirmed they would hold elections between January and the end of March after rejecting calls for them to be this year.

The LaLiga club announced on Thursday that the elections will be held "at various sites around the territory, and that postal votes shall be permitted" due to the risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Although he is due to remain in office until next year, Bartomeu and the board are facing the possible threat of a motion of no confidence.

The movement, 'Mes que una Mocio', has the backing of presidential candidates including Victor Font, Jordi Farre and Lluis Fernandez-Ala.

According to Marca, the motion had accumulated 7,500 signatures as of September 8. It requires 15 per cent of registered voting members of the club, or a little over 16,500, to add their signatures by September 17 to force the motion through to the next stage.

Bartomeu and Barca's board have come in for significant criticism due to a decline in the team's fortunes on the pitch, which culminated in a trophyless 2019-20 season that ended with a humiliating 8-2 Champions League quarter-final defeat to Bayern Munich.

There followed a public tussle with captain Lionel Messi, who attempted to engineer a move away from the club but ultimately accepted he will spend at least the final year of his contract at Camp Nou, as fans gathered outside the stadium to protest against the president.

In an interview with Goal Spain, Messi accused Bartomeu of going back on his word about allowing him to leave.

Lionel Messi's attitude cannot be questioned despite him trying to force a move away from Barcelona, according to former team-mate Victor Valdes.

The Argentina international confirmed last Friday he will be staying at Camp Nou against his wishes to avoid a legal battle with the club he joined as a 13-year-old.

Messi had hoped to exercise a clause in his contract and depart for free, but Barca and LaLiga disputed his right to do that and the forward will now stay put.

He returned to training earlier this week and Valdes, who spent nearly two decades with the Catalan giants, has backed his close friend to quickly put the saga behind him.

Real Madrid are prepared to pay to see Gareth Bale exit, while Manchester United have reportedly made progress in their pursuit of Jadon Sancho.

Bale has found himself on the outer in Madrid and has constantly been linked with a move despite being contracted until 2022.

The Welshman's huge salary is reportedly making it hard for the LaLiga champions to move him on, but they may be prepared to pay to see Bale exit.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID WILLING TO PAY HALF OF BALE'S WAGES

Real Madrid would pay half of Bale's salary to see him make a move, according to The Telegraph.

Bale has been linked with a return to the Premier League, with former club Tottenham reportedly interested.

The latest news could pave the way for Bale to finally leave Madrid after seven years at the club.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United look to have made some progress in their Sancho chase. ESPN reports the Premier League giants have made progress around wages and agent fees, but still need to find a deal with Borussia Dortmund.

- Houssem Aouar is linked with a move from Lyon, with a switch to the Premier League mooted. The Mirror says Arsenal are keen on the midfielder, who is believed to be a target for Manchester City.

- Barcelona are reportedly facing a dilemma. Mundo Deportivo reports the LaLiga giants are weighing up whether to rely on 17-year-old Ansu Fati or sign Lyon star Memphis Depay ahead of 2020-21.

- There seems to be uncertainty over Alexandre Lacazette's future at Arsenal. ESPN claims the forward is seeking clarification over his role at the Premier League club.

- Stephan El Shaarawy could be set for a return to Europe. Telefoot says Paris Saint-Germain are in contact with the Shanghai Shenhua forward's agents and Juventus, former club Roma and Atletico Madrid are also interested.

- While Watford were relegated from the Premier League, Troy Deeney could yet remain in the top flight. The Daily Mail says the forward is set to leave the club to join a Premier League side.

Lautaro Martinez will not leave Inter amid reported interest from Barcelona, according to vice-president Javier Zanetti.

Martinez has been strongly linked with a move to embattled LaLiga giants Barca and while the coronavirus pandemic has impacted clubs, rumours have continued.

The Argentina international forward scored 21 goals in all competitions as Inter finished second in Serie A and reached the Europa League final last season.

And countryman Zanetti ruled out a Martinez exit ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

"Lautaro isn't leaving Inter," Zanetti told Fox Sports. "It's not just Barcelona who are interested in him, but Lautaro knows that he's at a great club already.

"He looks happy with life in Italy, which isn't easy. I think he's going down the right path.

"For now, he's not leaving. He's our present and future. There's respect on the clubs' part.

"There are players that have release clauses and there's little you can do when a club comes in and pays it.

"But in Lautaro's case, he's just fine at Inter and I can tell when he's happy."

Antonio Conte's Inter open their Serie A season at home to Fiorentina on September 26.

Luis Suarez referenced "fake news" on Wednesday as his future remains undecided amid talk of a transfer to Juventus.

New Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has reportedly told Suarez he can leave the club, a move that did not aid close friend Lionel Messi's strained relationship with the Blaugrana.

Suarez has been linked with a host of potential suitors - including Ajax and Inter Miami - but is said to be nearing a switch to the Serie A champions.

But the Uruguay international posted a cryptic message on his Instagram story as he continued to train with Barca.

Captioning a picture of him laughing, alongside a grinning emoji, Suarez wrote: "When fake news comes out..."

Suarez is third on the list of Barca's all-time top goalscorers, trailing only Messi and second-placed Cesar.

The former Liverpool man has won four LaLigas, four Copas del Rey and a Champions League since moving to Catalonia in 2014.

Antoine Griezmann has questioned why he continues to be linked with a move away from Barcelona as he reiterated his desire to remain at the club.

The France international endured an underwhelming debut campaign with Barca after arriving from Atletico Madrid in a €120million transfer last year.

He registered 15 goals in all competitions but was often played out of position and struggled to earn a regular place in the side in the closing stages of the season.

Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and former club Atletico have all been tipped to move for Griezmann, but the forward has no desire to leave Barcelona.

"Is my future is at Barca? Yes. I don't know why people invent destinations to see if one day they will be right," he told French outlet M6. 

"I am very well there. I know I have the confidence of the club and the coach so I am well. It has been a very complicated season for all of us but now we start again."

Griezmann, under contract with Barca until the end of the 2023-24 campaign, scored for France on Tuesday to draw level with Zinedine Zidane as the nation's fifth all-time top scorer.

The 29-year-old has 31 goals for the world champions, putting him behind only David Trezeguet, Olivier Giroud, Michel Platini and Thierry Henry, who struck 51 times for Les Blues.

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