Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz has been tipped to leave the Bundesliga outfit at the end of the season.

Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid are among the possible destinations.

Havertz's future could become a lot clearer following Leverkusen's 4-2 defeat to Bayern in the DFB-Pokal decider.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA BOOSTED BY HAVERTZ NEWS

Kai Havertz wants to meet with Bayer Leverkusen to discuss his future after the DFB-Pokal final loss to Bayern Munich, according to Bild journalist Christian Falk.

Havertz scored a consolation goal as Leverkusen went down 4-2 to Bayern in Berlin on Saturday.

Chelsea are interested in Havertz, Real Madrid are hesitant about signing the Germany international in 2020, while Bayern are not prepared to make a bid this year.

Liverpool, Barcelona and Manchester United have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- Falk also claims Bayern star Thiago Alcantara could join Liverpool or United. Bayern are braced for Thiago to leave at the end of the season and the Spanish midfielder has been tipped to move to Premier League champions Liverpool. However, United are also reportedly interested.

United, Arsenal, Napoli and Atletico Madrid are among the teams eyeing a cut-price deal for Madrid outcast James Rodriguez, says Marca. Everton and Wolves have also been mentioned as suitors.

- According to the Daily Mail, Arsenal are desperate to sign Atletico midfielder Thomas Partey, so much so they are prepared to sell either Matteo GuendouziAlexandre Lacazette or Lucas Torreira to fund the transfer.

- Gazzetta journalist Nicolo Schirra reports Sporting CP are in advanced negotiations to extend Joelson Fernandes' contract. The Portuguese side are looking to increase the 17-year-old's release clause from €45million to €100m amid interest from Barca, Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig.

Paris Saint-Germain are eyeing Monaco full-back Djibril Sidibe, Foot Mercato claims. The Ligue 1 champions are looking to sign a right-back after Thomas Meunier left for Dortmund.

- Madrid forward Luka Jovic remains Milan's first choice to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Calciomercato says. Milan are ready to meet Jovic's agent as they look to pair the Serbia international with former Eintracht Frankfurt team-mate Ante Rebic at San Siro. Patrik Schick – who spent the season on loan at Leipzig from Roma – is another option should Milan fail to land Jovic.

Inter prefer David Alaba over Chelsea full-back Emerson Palmieri and have already met the Bayern star twice, according to SportMediaset. Alaba has also been linked to Chelsea, PSG, Madrid and Manchester City.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp thinks Bayern Munich and Manchester City are the clear favourites to win this season's Champions League.

Both teams are in strong positions to progress to the quarter-finals, City having beaten Real Madrid 2-1 while Bayern eased to a 3-0 victory away to Chelsea in the last-16 first legs.

This season's competition is set to resume in August in a mini-tournament format in Lisbon, having been put on hold since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Liverpool's defence of the trophy was ended in a 4-2 aggregate defeat to Atletico Madrid, and Klopp expects one of City or Bayern to triumph.

"For me, the two big favourites are Bayern and Man City," he said ahead of Liverpool's Premier League meeting with Aston Villa. "That would be an interesting game.

"Bayern played obviously a very impressive season in Germany. After Hansi Flick took over, it was really impressive what they did. These are the two favourites. I don't know exactly how it could happen - we'll see in the semi-final or whatever.

"The competition will be really interesting because it's completely new. When you see Man City, when you see the squad... everybody needs luck: if you want to win the Champions League, you should have your best line-up ready for the final if that's possible.

"It's not that the other teams have no chance, but I really think these two are the favourites. Massive, massive chance. But, even in the game [Liverpool's 4-0 loss to City on Thursday], which City won deservedly, we should have scored three goals.

"We should have and we would have on a normal day. They have so much quality, but no team in the world is perfect. City are not, Bayern are not, we are not. But you need to be nearly perfect in these moments to win the Champions League, obviously.

"I will watch it, the little tournament, it will be really interesting, but unfortunately, we have nothing really to do with it this year."

Bayern Munich ran out 4-2 winners in the DFB-Pokal final to complete their domestic double and hand an unfitting potential farewell to Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz.

Leverkusen managing director Rudi Voller declared Havertz to be the finest player in his club's history during the build-up to the showpiece, while also noting there is an agreement with the 21-year-old that he can leave this coming close season if certain conditions are met.

Chelsea and Real Madrid have been listed among a host of clubs purportedly interested in Havertz, who endured a mixed outing at the Olympiastadion.

Playing as the most advanced forward for Peter Bosz's side during the first half, he looked on as David Alaba and Serge Gnabry established a commanding Bayern lead.

Dropping into an attacking midfield role after the break, Havertz was far more influential and concluded the match by scoring a stoppage-time penalty.

However, Robert Lewandowski's brace meant more silverware for Bayern and the type of success Havertz might be chasing in different colours come September.

Here, we take a blow-by-blow look at his performance.

4th minute – Received the ball on the halfway line but an attempted pass to release Nadiem Amiri was cut out in midfield. Havertz completed 67.7 per cent of his passes on the night.

7th minute – Sized up Alaba on the right but was easily dispossessed. He would lose possession on 20 occasions – more than any other Leverkusen player.

15th minute – After an earlier tetchy altercation with Alaba, Havertz prevented fellow Germany international Joshua Kimmich from taking a quick free-kick. A shove and a talking to from referee Tobias Welz followed.

20th minute – A cute lay-off to Julian Baumgartlinger ended with Wendell in a promising position on the left but the full-back's cross was blocked.

21st minute – The latest instalment in Havertz's personal battle with Kimmich did not go well as the Bayern man muscled him away from the ball to launch an attack, where Thomas Muller almost made it 2-0.

24th minute – Charles Aranguiz's lofted pass looking for Leverkusen's star man ran through to Manuel Neuer. Within a minute, Gnabry thrashed beyond Lukas Hradecky to double Bayern's lead.

27th minute – Havertz's frustration was clear as he again tangled with Kimmich in futile fashion, giving away a free-kick with a slide tackle of the agricultural variety.

33rd minute – Got in front of Alaba for a lovely takedown on halfway but his turning left-footed throughball was intercepted.

42nd minute – The offside flag meant it would not have counted in any case, but Amiri delaying his cross, Havertz falling over and then regaining his footing before the ball failed to reach him summed up a half to forget. Amiri made way for Kevin Volland at the interval.

60th minute – Havertz fashioned a little room on the right-hand side of the area, only to be snuffed out by Alphonso Davies and Alaba. Volland's earlier air shot in the area and Hradecky's howling error for Lewandowski's first meant it mattered little.

63rd minute – Operating increasingly from the right with Volland leading the line, Havertz got the run on the quicksilver Davies and delivered a teasing low cross that Alaba was forced to clear behind with Leon Bailey poised. From the resulting corner, Bender powered home.

66th minute – Came deep to drive a move from midfield. A searching cross from the right by Moussa Diaby narrowly evaded Volland and Havertz.

68th minute – Bailey's raking pass found Havertz on the right and he almost picked out his team-mate with a return cross.

71st minute – Bayern were now struggling to contain Havertz, who collected the ball menacingly 30 yards from goal. Unfortunately for Leverkusen, Volland was not equal to the pass he slid through.

75th minute – Again showing his influence in from central midfield, Havertz set Bailey on another menacing dribble, with the winger's shot deflected behind. The cutting edge Lewandowski showed in completing the scoring was sorely lacking from Leverkusen's period of mid-half ascendancy.

94th minute – In perhaps his last act in a Leverkusen shirt, Havertz thundered a consolation penalty into the top-left corner after VAR spotted a handball by Davies.

Bayern Munich defeated Bayer Leverkusen 4-2 to retain their DFB-Pokal crown and wrap up a domestic double for a second successive season. 

Having missed out on Champions League qualification, Leverkusen were aiming to cause an upset and clinch their first trophy since 1993 in the process, but Kai Havertz and company failed to step up in Berlin. 

David Alaba and Serge Gnabry put Bayern in cruise control by the interval, with a 20th DFB-Pokal triumph all but wrapped up when Lukas Hradecky fumbled Robert Lewandowski's effort over the line moments after a glaring miss by Kevin Volland. 

Sven Bender headed in four minutes later to make things interesting, but Hansi Flick's side held firm before adding a fourth in an eventful finish, Lewandowski on target again before Leverkusen scored from the penalty spot.

Bayern cut through Leverkusen's press with an exceptional move in the 10th minute but Kingsley Coman failed to beat Hradecky. Yet Bayern only had to wait another six minutes for their opener, Alaba sending an exquisite free-kick into the right-hand corner. 

Hradecky pulled off an outstanding stop to deny Thomas Muller, playing in his eighth DFB-Pokal final, though he was beaten again when Gnabry drilled home after being released by Joshua Kimmich. 

Volland was introduced as Leverkusen searched for a way back into the contest, though the substitute completely missed his attempted shot with just Manuel Neuer to beat. 

Leverkusen's misery was compounded before the hour as Hradecky let Lewandowski's long-range strike slip through his grasp.

Bender took advantage of slack marking to swiftly pull one back, though it never looked likely to be enough to spark a comeback. After missing from point-blank range in the 73rd minute, Lewandowski added his second of the contest in the closing stages, lifting a delicate finish over Hradecky.

There was time for more drama, though, with Havertz hammering home from the penalty spot after Alaba's handball was spotted by VAR.

 

What does it mean? Two down, one to go for Bayern...

Bayern's development under Flick has been outstanding and with a domestic double once again wrapped up, this feels like a team with the confidence and quality to go all the way when the Champions League resumes in August. 

Kimmich in control as Thiago exit nears 

If reports are to be believed, Thiago Alcantara will soon be swapping Bayern for Premier League champions Liverpool. Yet in Kimmich, the Bundesliga giants are in excellent hands. He was typically composed as he dictated proceedings, topping off his display with a fine assist for Gnabry. 

Havertz's blushes spared by Hradecky 

Havertz failed to impress in what could well be his final outing for Leverkusen, but it was a calamitous error from team-mate Hradecky which will take the glare off his subdued display. The in-demand youngster did at least make an impact with a superbly taken penalty.

What's next? 

Bayern's players now face a month-long break before they take on Chelsea in the Champions League, leading 3-0 from the first leg. Leverkusen, meanwhile, will hope to retain their key players ahead of next season. 

Hansi Flick and Manuel Neuer were delighted to welcome Leroy Sane to Bayern Munich on Friday but quickly turned their attention back to the DFB-Pokal final.

Bayern have confirmed the long-anticipated arrival of Sane from Manchester City on a five-year deal.

But the Bundesliga champions have little time to reflect on their successful pursuit of the winger as they prepare to take on Bayer Leverkusen in Berlin on Saturday in the second leg of their treble bid.

Flick said of his new signing: "We're happy, but it's not the time to talk about it."

Captain Neuer was slightly more forthcoming when asked about his Germany team-mate Sane, but his primary focus is on lifting another trophy.

"I hope [Sane] can win the Pokal with Bayern in the future," he said. "We Bayern players are happy that he will be with us next season."

Flick hopes to have Niklas Sule back involved, with his defence tasked with containing Leverkusen's Kai Havertz, another Germany international linked with Bayern.

Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz says his side cannot rely solely on 21-year-old Havertz.

"He is important but cannot win the game alone," Bosz said. "I don't think the game has anything to do with his future."

Flick agreed individual quality alone would not decide the day, adding: "Both teams have very good players, but you cannot be successful alone.

"You need a good team effort. We shouldn't think about who the top player is."

Leroy Sane will wear the number 10 shirt belonging to Philippe Coutinho when he plays for Bayern Munich next season.

Bayern completed the signing of Sane from Manchester City in a deal worth €60million on Friday, the Germany international putting pen to paper on a five-year contract.

When he is eligible to feature in 2020-21, Sane will occupy the number worn by Coutinho during his season-long loan from Barcelona.

However, while advertising replica 'Sane 10' shirts for sale in their official club store, Bayern said: "Out of respect for Philippe Coutinho, who is the current number 10 and could play in the upcoming DFB-Pokal final in Berlin and any games in the Champions League in August, Sane decided not to use the number in his photos on Thursday."

The decision appears to suggest Coutinho is unlikely to remain at Bayern for the long term.

The Brazil international has been linked with a host of clubs across Europe after the Bundesliga champions let their option to sign him permanently expire.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has not ruled out moving again for Coutinho entirely, saying: "We'll see if he still has a role to play with us or not."

Bayern Munich have completed the signing of winger Leroy Sane from Manchester City.

Sane, 24, has agreed a five-year contract with the Bundesliga champions, who confirmed the transfer on Friday.

The Germany international will initially cost Bayern €49million (£44.5m), rising to €60m (£54.5m), Stats Perform News understands.

Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said: "We're very happy to welcome Leroy Sane to FC Bayern. He is an outstanding player who has proven his qualities over the past few years, especially in the national team.

"Our goal is to gather the best German players at FC Bayern and the signing of Leroy emphasises this goal. I would like to congratulate Hasan Salihamidzic on successfully concluding the transfer."

New Bayern Munich winger Leroy Sane has made winning the Champions League his "top priority" in Bavaria.

Sane's long-awaited move from Manchester City to Bayern in his native Germany was confirmed on Friday.

The 24-year-old has signed a five-year contract following a transfer for which, Stats Perform News understands, Bayern have paid an initial €49million (£44.5m), potentially rising to €60m (£54.5m).

Sane was a Bayern target last year before injury ruled him out for much of the 2019-20 campaign, but he is delighted to have finalised the deal, quickly revealing some lofty ambitions.

"FC Bayern is a great club with big goals and these goals suit me as well," Sane said. "I'm looking forward to the new challenge and can't wait to train with the team.

"I know Hansi Flick from the under-21 national team, we had a very good relationship there.

"I want to win as many trophies as possible with FC Bayern, and the Champions League is the top priority."

Sane will not be available for Bayern in this season's Champions League, however, with the Bundesliga champions considered among the favourites ahead of August's eight-team finals.

Meanwhile, Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic thanked City for "trusting and constructive negotiations", and the Premier League club wished Sane well.

Manager Pep Guardiola, formerly of Bayern, said: "We wish Leroy all the best in this new chapter of his career.

"Leroy has been part of one of the most special periods in this club's history and he leaves with the best wishes of everyone here at Manchester City."

City director of football Txiki Begiristain added: "From arriving as a fledgling young talent four years ago, we are proud of the contribution Leroy has made since joining Manchester City.

"He leaves with many friends and fond memories of his time at the Etihad."

Sane scored 39 goals in 135 appearances for City in all competitions, helping Guardiola's side to win the Premier League and EFL Cup in 2017-18 followed by a domestic treble the following season.

He addressed the City fans on his Twitter page, writing: "Thanks so much for the great time and all the support over the past four years.

"It has been a really intense and successful time which I surely won't forget."

Bayern Munich have completed the signing of winger Leroy Sane from Manchester City.

Sane, 24, has agreed a five-year contract with the Bundesliga champions, who confirmed the transfer on Friday.

The Germany international will initially cost Bayern €49million (£44.5m), rising to €60m (£54.5m), Stats Perform News understands.

Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said: "We're very happy to welcome Leroy Sane to FC Bayern. He is an outstanding player who has proven his qualities over the past few years, especially in the national team.

"Our goal is to gather the best German players at FC Bayern and the signing of Leroy emphasises this goal. I would like to congratulate Hasan Salihamidzic on successfully concluding the transfer."

Speaking ahead of the move on Wednesday, Pep Guardiola wished the player all the best at the City boss' "fantastic" former club Bayern.

Sane joining Bayern is a switch that has been mooted since last year, however the German side were said to be unwilling to match City's previous asking price.

He then suffered a serious knee injury in the Community Shield last August and only returned to the pitch last month.

Sane joined City from Schalke in 2016 in a deal reportedly worth an initial £37m (€40m) and went on to show flashes of immense ability during his first campaign.

He elevated his game to the next level in 2017-18 and won the Professional Footballers' Association's (PFA) Young Player of the Year award as Guardiola's side clinched the Premier League title.

Sane helped City to another top-flight crown the following year and scored 16 goals across all competitions, though links with Bayern became commonplace towards the end of 2018-19.

Much of Sane's time on the sidelines through injury coincided with strengthening reports of him desiring a move to Bayern, and on June 19 Guardiola confirmed the club had been informed he would not be signing a contract extension.

As such, Guardiola accepted Sane was either to be sold this year or leave on a free transfer in June 2021.

City have at least avoided the latter scenario, though the fee of up to €60m is significantly less than the £137m (€150m) asking price they are alleged to have set in 2019.

For Bayern, the addition of Sane comes two days after they signed highly rated defender Tanguy Kouassi from Paris Saint-Germain, his contract with the French champions having expired.

The unique competition between the Champions League last eight in August is likely to produce a surprise winner, according to Abel Xavier.

Former Portugal international Xavier is thrilled the country's capital city of Lisbon will host one-off matches from the quarter-final stage onwards as the competition ends with a mini-tournament.

Atalanta and RB Leipzig are among the teams already to have secured their place in the last eight, along with Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid.

Lyon and Napoli are hoping to upset Juventus and Barcelona respectively when the last-16 stage is concluded, while Bayern Munich and Manchester City – who lead their own ties – are rated as favourites to win the competition.

But Xavier feels the unique format and environment could benefit the sides who are not used to playing in the final stages.

"Yes, I think from my analysis of what I've seen with surprising results that have been happening in the [domestic] leagues, there is an extra buzz with the top teams because of the fans," Xavier said to Stats Perform News.

"There is a moment where fans give a buzz to the top teams. I think there is going to be a surprise in this last stage. 

"There are teams who are in the group and they can surprise because the teams are more exposed. 

"The teams who aren't used to being in this stage, they are more strong mentally because they play more freely, they play more open and the gap [in quality] will reduce, making games more competitive.

"For that reason, I honestly believe that it is going to be difficult and there will be a surprise in the end."

Xavier hopes the Champions League conclusion will be a fitting reward for those who have worked hardest during the coronavirus pandemic.

The former Liverpool defender added: "It's a completely different environment because of the pandemic situation and everybody readjusts. There is sporting reasons and also economic reasons.

"When you're looking at the leagues and what options they have to play and finish the leagues, there are a few countries that have decided to not continue playing, repeating the health issues.

"They for me are the priority - before football comes health. Of course, everyone must be protected and safe. 

"Portugal is one of the countries that has managed the [COVID-19] crisis very well. I think when you look at the impact, now things are becoming better, I think it's a safe place [to play football]. 

"For that reason, I believe that the opportunity to receive the eight best teams and play this kind of format in Lisbon is also a way to appreciate and say thanks for all those who made these events possible. 

"We are talking about people who work in health, hospitals because we are talking about health matters. If you are not safe you cannot have football either. 

"For that reason, I think Portugal, if things keep going the same way [with COVID-19], the teams will come here and it's going to be a great competition in a positive way.

"It's also going to attract a very positive image in Portugal because when you look back, Portugal was able to organise the big events in the best way possible. 

"For that reason, I think the final stages will be possible and I hope we can have a percentage of the public in the stadium, that would also be an upgrade if things [with COVID-19] stay like this with safety."

Premier League champions Liverpool will emerge at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday to a guard of honour from previous title-holders Manchester City.

It will be the latest episode in the captivating rivalry between Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp.

We run the rule over two men whose tactical approaches and high levels of achievement have – and it does not feel too grandiose to suggest this – changed football in the 21st century, as well as one another.

THE BUNDESLIGA YEARS

Guardiola's arrival to take the reins of a treble-winning Bayern for 2013-14 came shortly after their rivalry with Klopp's Dortmund reached its peak.

Arjen Robben's 89th-minute winner saw Bayern down BVB 2-1 in the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley – a game played out against a backdrop of Dortmund's star playmaker Mario Gotze agreeing terms to move to Bavaria.

In hindsight, Klopp's gegenpressing machine – winners of back-to-back Bundesliga crowns in 2010-11 and 2011-12 – were coming off the top of their curve, having finished 25 points behind a relentless Bayern domestically that season.

The decline continued over the next two seasons. Dortmund were remarkably in relegation trouble halfway through 2014-15, before a post-Christmas recovery preceded Klopp's emotional farewell.

Nevertheless, there was still time for telling blows to be landed. Guardiola's first competitive game in charge saw Bayern beaten 4-2 in the 2013 DFL-Supercup at a delirious Signal Iduna Park.

Stung by that loss, Guardiola sprung a notable surprise in the first league encounter between the sides that November, where he broke Dortmund's rabid press by playing Javi Martinez as an attacking midfielder and repeatedly targeting the rangy Spain international with long balls.

The high priest of tiki-taka (a label Guardiola famously loathes) had presided over "more long balls than in the last three years combined" from a Bayern team, according to Klopp, who bristled after Arjen Robben and Thomas Muller added to Gotze's inevitable second-half opener in a 3-0 win.

A depleted Munich were similarly reactive when they won the DFB-Pokal final 2-0 in extra-time, even if flooding midfield numbers was a more recognisably Guardiola tactic.

Diverting from his dizzying 4-3-3 of swirling triangles has remained something the Catalan tactician has frequently done across his meetings with Klopp, and not always with the success he enjoyed in Germany.

HOLLOW VICTORIES AND THE PHONEY WAR

Klopp ended his homeland head-to-head against Guardiola with three victories, making it back-to-back Supercup triumphs in 2014, having claimed a 3-0 Bundesliga result at Allianz Arena earlier that year – the authority of which was dimmed by the fact Bayern had already cantered to the title.

Guardiola had four victories to his name, with one draw ultimately falling in Dortmund's favour as Bayern failed with all four of their penalty attempts in a 2015 DFB-Pokal semi-final shoot-out.

However, Klopp was denied a glorious farewell as his team lost in the final to Wolfsburg and the fact Robert Lewandowski had followed Gotze to Munich by this point underlined a deck stacked against him.

Liverpool came calling for Klopp in October 2015 and he helmed helter-skelter runs to the EFL Cup and Europa League finals. Manchester City and Sevilla prevailed respectively.

That was Manuel Pellegrini's final honour as City boss as he made way for Guardiola, who collected a third successive Bundesliga title in 2015-16. Thomas Tuchel's Dortmund finished closer in terms of position and points (second, 10 behind) than Klopp's version had managed when in direct competition.

With the stage presumably set for renewed hostilities between Guardiola and incoming Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho, the similarly newly installed Antonio Conte did not read the script as Chelsea romped to 2016-17 Premier League glory.

Klopp got the better of his head-to-heads with City as a Georginio Wijnaldum goal sealed a 1-0 New Year's Eve win at Anfield before Sergio Aguero rescued a point for the hosts in the return game.

Guardiola laid it on thick after that 1-1 draw, declaring it to be "one of the most special days of my life".

"He is Spanish. They are a little bit more emotional than the Germans," Klopp chuckled in response.

TON-UP BUT NOT INVINCIBLE AND THE ROAD TO KIEV

Liverpool beat City three times in 2017-18, when most other teams could barely lay a glove on Guardiola's record-breaking side.

But the game where City prevailed, an unusual 5-0 thrashing at the Etihad Stadium where Liverpool subsided meekly after Sadio Mane's red card for clattering Ederson with a high boot, arguably had the biggest influence on the campaign.

When that game was 11 v 11, Guardiola's back three was horribly exposed. Aguero's opener arrived against the run of play, with an unusually wasteful Mohamed Salah having tormented Nicolas Otamendi.

City never used 3-5-2 in the league again that season, reverting to a swashbuckling 4-3-3 that churned out 19 consecutive wins and made the second half of the schedule a virtual procession.

Liverpool halted their designs on invincibility however, claiming a raucous 4-3 Anfield win in January. Klopp hailed "pressing from another planet" by his front three as Roberto Firmino, Mane and Salah were all on target in a euphoric nine-minute spell after half-time.

Guardiola had again seen a swift avalanche of goals bring the roof in during a big match and his tweak to a 4-4-2 diamond, eyeing avenues around those Liverpool pressing lanes, backfired in that season's Champions League quarter-final.

A 3-0 first-leg loss at Anfield, with all the goals arriving during the first half, left City with a mountain to climb and a death-or-glory approach in the return fixture – deploying a formation probably best described as 3-CHARGE!!! – eventually ran out of steam in a 2-1 loss.

But it was Liverpool who came up short in the Kiev final on Loris Karius' nightmare outing against Real Madrid, while City sauntered to a 100-point haul as dominant Premier League champions. Sitting 25 points back in fourth, the Reds had a considerable gap to bridge.

CHASING PERFECTION

Despite that deficit, their efforts in going blow-for-blow with City over 90-minute periods left the impression Liverpool were the best placed of the pretenders to overthrow the champions.

Both teams reconvened on Merseyside undefeated in October 2018 and remained that way as the free-flowing nature of recent meetings gave way to a cagey 0-0 draw.

Reprising the theme of those early Klassiker meetings, Guardiola took his foot off the throttle as City played at a controlled tempo – an approach that would have ended the club's Anfield hoodoo but for Riyad Mahrez's ballooned late penalty.

Fire and brimstone returned the following January, though, with a wobbling City recovering their poise and avoiding a 10-point deficit at the top. Aguero and Leroy Sane were on target either side of Firmino in a bravura display, where Aymeric Laporte took on the unfamiliar role of left-back to stifle Salah.

That was Liverpool's only loss of the season as they finished on 97 points, agonisingly one shy of City. However, their subsequent Champions League final win over Tottenham improbably propelled them further along.

Just as Guardiola has tempered some of his more cavalier tendencies when faced with Klopp, the challenge of an unrelenting City also forced the Liverpool boss into subtle and decisive tweaks.

In bringing in Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, he spent big for what many see as the finest goalkeeper and centre-back on the planet. Their very presence means risk can be reduced.

Heavy metal football has given way to a steady pulsing beat that never wavers. In the city of Merseybeat, Klopp has gone electro.

Amid their steamrollering of the opposition this season, Liverpool have 19 wins by a solitary goal in all competitions. They are frighteningly and ruthlessly clinical. A profligate City trail in their wake, although Guardiola has used this relative freedom from pressure to thumb intriguingly through his tactical playbook in 2020.

Both men have inspired the other to reach beyond their comfort zones and the result is the two best teams in world football. With Klopp contracted to Liverpool until 2024 and Guardiola talking up an extended stay, the thought occurs that they are each other's motivation for sticking around. There is nowhere better to measure their greatness than against one another.

Pep Guardiola is not looking to bring Jadon Sancho back to Manchester City as Leroy Sane's replacement as the manager plans for a rebuild he insists is "a normal situation".

Stats Perform News understands Sane is set to sign for Bayern Munich after an initial €49million (£44.5m) deal - potentially rising to €60m (£54.5m) - was agreed between the clubs.

Sane has missed much of the season due to injury but had previously been linked to Bayern and has now played his last match for City.

Yet if City are to recruit a winger in the Germany international's place, Sancho – who has been linked with a Borussia Dortmund exit – does not appear a viable candidate.

Sancho left City for Dortmund in 2017 in pursuit of first-team football, soon establishing himself in the Bundesliga.

The England star has been linked with Manchester United, among a host of other elite clubs, but Guardiola does not foresee a return to City.

"No, he decided to leave," Guardiola said of Sancho. "Why should he decide to come back?

"We wanted him to stay - like Eric [Garcia] and Phil [Foden], like Leroy now. So when he decided to move to Dortmund, it's not because he's going to decide to come back a year later.

"He didn't want to be here, so I don't think he wants to come back here."

He added: "Players are being considered important by the club but they decide to leave.

"They don't want to be here, which is the case of Jadon Sancho and especially Leroy - Sancho was in the academy, but especially Leroy.

"I said many times: if a player doesn't want to stay, they have to leave, because we are not getting the best out of a player in his mind if they are not happy here."

Guardiola acknowledges City have work to do in the transfer market, though, saying: "It's part of another process.

"We would like to stay with the players who give this club what they gave us for the last decade. We grow and sometimes we have to replace them, and we are going to do it and replace with new players.

"In some [positions, City need to rebuild] - not for a lack of quality, but for the absences of Vinny [Vincent Kompany] and now David [Silva, out of contract at the end of the season].

"With Fernandinho and [Sergio] Aguero, next season's the last year of their contracts and we don't know if they're going to extend or not, so partly yes, some players we have to rebuild a little.

"But it's not like a disaster or a bad thing, it's part of the age, it's a normal situation and circumstances. It happens in all the clubs."

Pep Guardiola wished Leroy Sane all the best at "fantastic" Bayern Munich as he confirmed the Germany winger's return to the Bundesliga is almost done.

Stats Perform News understands a fee was agreed between the clubs on Tuesday, with the Germany international to cost an initial €49million (£44.5m), rising to €60m (£54.5m) and he is expected in Munich on Wednesday.

It brings a four-year stay in the Premier League to an end and will leave a overriding sense of what might have been – the 24-year-old missed virtually all of 2019-20 due to a serious knee injury.

Prior to that he had shown immense abilities in back-to-back Premier League title triumphs for City, winning the Professional Footballers' Association's (PFA) Young Player of the Year award in 2017-18.

But Bayern had emerged as suitors last year before his knee injury and, with his City contract set to expire next year, the Bundesliga champions have managed to secured a cut-price deal.

While the move is not yet complete, Guardiola confirmed it is close and he wished the former Schalke talent well.

"It looks like it," Guardiola said of Sane joining Bayern in Wednesday's news conference ahead of facing Liverpool on Thursday.

"It's not already done, there are still some little issues, but it looks like he'll go to Munich. I wish him all the best.

"I give him big thanks for these years together and I wish him all the best in a fantastic club.

"He wants to leave - everyone has their own life. I would have loved him to stay here, but he decided to leave, he thinks he'll be better and happier, so I've nothing to say."

Sane's absence has been seen viewed as a reason for City's inability to challenge Liverpool for the Premier League title this season, with the Reds wrapping it up with a 23-point cushion last week.

Guardiola admits Liverpool have simply been the better team, but he vowed to ensure the Reds "feel" 2020-21, as he plots to overthrow Jurgen Klopp's men.

"First of all, there was a team that was better, they played at an outstanding level in every game and you have to do more," he said.

"The supporters help you understand, it's an incredible part of our education to accept another is better, then you have to try to reduce this gap. From the last game to the future seven eight, nine games left through to next season, we must work harder and do better.

"We are going to make Liverpool feel next season, and other opponents will try to fight for the next chapters in the Premier League as well."

Bayern Munich have completed the signing of defender Tanguy Kouassi from Paris Saint-Germain. 

The 18-year-old has signed a four-year contract with the Bundesliga champions, who confirmed the move on Wednesday. 

Kouassi made his first-team debut for PSG in December 2019 and went on to make 13 appearances across all competitions, scoring three times. 

However, he rejected a new contract with the Ligue 1 side and his deal expired on June 30. 

"I'm very happy to be able to play for FC Bayern," Kouassi said to his new team's website. 

"It's a big club, rich in tradition. I really hope I'll be able to establish myself here and play a lot of matches. For that I'll work hard." 

Ahead of Kouassi's presentation to the media, sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic expressed his view that the versatile defender is one of the continent's brightest prospects. 

"We're very happy that we've been able to bring Tanguy Nianzou Kouassi to FC Bayern," he said. 

"In our opinion he's one of the biggest talents in Europe. His best position is central defender, but he can fill several positions.  

"We're sure he'll have a great career in Munich and will strengthen our team." 

Leroy Sane's long-mooted switch from Manchester City to Bayern Munich has been agreed.

The Germany international will initially cost Bayern €49million (£44.5m), rising to €60m (£54.5m) and is expected in Munich on Wednesday, Stats Perform News understands.

Sane joined City from Schalke in 2016 in a deal reportedly worth an initial £37m (€40m) and he went on to show flashes of immense ability during his first campaign.

He elevated his game to the next level in 2017-18 and won the Professional Footballers' Association's (PFA) Young Player of the Year award as Pep Guardiola's side clinched the Premier League title.

Sane helped City to another top-flight crown the following year and scored 16 goals across all competitions, though links with Bayern became commonplace towards the end of 2018-19.

Bayern were rumoured to have been interested in bringing the winger back to the Bundesliga last year, however they were said to be unwilling to match City's asking price.

Sane then suffered a serious knee injury in the Community Shield last August and only returned to the pitch in June.

Much of his time on the sidelines coincided with strengthening reports of Sane desiring a move to Munich, and on June 19 Guardiola confirmed the 24-year-old had informed the club he would not be signing an extension to his contract.

As such, Guardiola accepted Sane was either to be sold this year or leave on a free transfer in June 2021.

City have at least avoided the latter scenario, though the reported fee of up to €60m is significantly less than the £137m (€150m) asking price they are alleged to have set in 2019.

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