Jordi Cruyff seems to be a key part of Victor Font's masterplan for Barcelona, yet the Dutch coach insists he is committed to Shenzhen FC.

Cruyff – son of Barca legend Johan – played for the Blaugrana in the 1990s.

The 46-year-old is currently in charge of Chinese Super League side Shenzhen, having been appointed in August.

However, Font, who is one of the leading candidates for the Barca presidency, which was vacated by Josep Maria Bartomeu in October, wants Cruyff to return to the club as part of a revamped leadership team.

A hypothetical organisation chart released by Font has Cruyff installed as sporting director.

Former Barca great Xavi, who currently coaches Qatar Stars League club Al Sadd, would operate above Cruyff in the hierarchy, as general manager. Ronald Koeman would remain as first-team coach.

However, Font's vision for Barca may have already taken a hit, with Cruyff declaring his commitment to Shenzhen, insisting he has no part in the presidency race.

"I want to clarify that I am focused on my commitment to Shenzhen FC and am not involved in the electoral process for the Barca presidency," Cruyff wrote in a post on his official Twitter account.

Font had previously suggested Xavi would be in charge of the first team if he won the election.

Xavi was approached to take over at Camp Nou when Ernesto Valverde was relieved of his duties last season, but turned down the offer, with Quique Setien installed instead.

Andre Villas-Boas says he and other Porto fans would be "very proud" if Hulk returns to the club.

The Brazilian forward has been tipped to return to Estadio do Dragao in 2021 after suggesting in a social media post that he will not be renewing his contract with Shanghai SIPG.

Hulk won 11 trophies with Porto, including four league titles and the 2010-11 Europa League, before moving to Zenit in 2012 for a reported fee of €60million.

He moved to the Chinese Super League four years later and has won the domestic league title and FA Super Cup.

Hulk played under Villas-Boas at Porto, Zenit and Shanghai SIPG, and the current Marseille head coach admits it would be something to celebrate if the 34-year-old returned to Portugal.

"I worked with him at three different clubs," he said. "I just want Hulk to choose freely.

"If he chooses Porto and Porto want it, it will probably be the last club of his career, and it will be something that makes us, Porto fans, very proud."

Villas-Boas' Marseille face Porto in the Champions League on Wednesday knowing a victory is required if they are to keep alive their chances of reaching the last 16.

The Ligue 1 side are bottom of Group C after losing their opening three games to Manchester City, Olympiacos and Porto, while they are the only team in this season's competition yet to score a goal.

They have managed just four shots on target in the 2020-21 group stage, the fewest of any team, while they have created only 12 chances, the lowest number alongside Shakhtar Donetsk.

Porto won the previous match 3-0 at home, but head coach Sergio Conceicao remains wary of underestimating their opponents.

"There are six competitive, very difficult games, and this one is no exception," he said.

"We have to look not only at the path [to qualify] but at the quality of them and their coach.

"I'm not lowering our expectations, which are to go there and win, but nothing is decided."

The son of former Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro has signed for Lazio.

Andrea Cannavaro, 16, has joined the Biancocelesti's Under-17 side, coached by Marco Alboni.

The youngster had been at Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao, where his father has been head coach since 2017.

Former Inter, Juventus and Real Madrid defender Fabio Cannavaro spent most of his career in Italy's top flight, although he never won the Serie A title.

He captained Italy to their World Cup triumph in 2006, his displays helping him to win the Ballon d'Or later that year.

He has enjoyed success as a coach in China, winning the League One title with Tianjin Quanjian in 2016 and the Super League with Guangzhou last year.

Cristiano Ronaldo is contracted at Juventus until 2022, but the superstar seemingly has no plans to retire then.

Ronaldo, 35, has made another fine start to the season with Juve, where he arrived from Real Madrid in 2018.

But with his contract expiring in 2022, the Portugal star's future is again set to be a talking point.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO WANTS TO STAY AT TOP LEVEL BEYOND 2022

Ronaldo wants to play at the top level beyond 2022 but there are no guarantees he will stay at Juventus, according to Tuttosport.

The report says Ronaldo, who has been linked to Paris Saint-Germain previously, would prefer not to head to a competition like MLS or the Chinese Super League.

Ronaldo has scored five goals in three Serie A appearances for Juve this season.

While early in the campaign, Ronaldo has a better shooting accuracy (66.7), shot conversion rate (31.3) and big chance conversion percentage (66.7) in 2020-21 than in his previous seasons in Serie A.

 

ROUND-UP

Sergio Ramos reached 100 goals for Real Madrid on Tuesday, but there has been talk about the club captain's future. ESPN says Ramos and Madrid have begun talks over a new contract, with the 34-year-old's current deal expiring at season's end.

Chelsea were reportedly chasing West Ham midfielder Declan Rice in the close season, although they proved unsuccessful. However, Fabrizio Romano reports Chelsea will try to land the England international again in January.

- As Tanguy Ndombele begins to impress at Tottenham, Barcelona are considering a move for the midfielder, according to Fabrizio Romano.

- Amid uncertainty over his Real Madrid future, Luka Jovic is again linked with a move away. CalcioMercato reports Milan and Napoli could return to move for the forward in January. The Serbian is without a goal in four games for Madrid this season.

Former Italy, Juventus and World Cup-winning boss Marcello Lippi said he is "definitely done" with coaching.

Lippi has been without a job since resigning as China head coach in November last year following a 2022 World Cup qualifying defeat to Syria – his second stint in charge of the Asian nation lasting just six months.

The 72-year-old tasted silverware with Italy, Serie A giants Juventus and Chinese powerhouse Guangzhou Evergrande but the Italian great will not be returning to the dugout.

"I'm definitely done with the coaching job," Lippi told Radio Sportiva. "That's right, it's enough.

"Maybe I could be useful in other roles, let's see. But nothing until spring."

After spells with Atalanta and Napoli, Lippi took charge of Juventus in 1994 – guiding the Bianconeri to three Serie A titles and the club's last Champions League trophy in 1995-96.

Across two stints as Juve coach, sandwiched in between a one-year tenure with rivals Inter, Lippi won five Serie A trophies, four Supercoppa Italiana crowns, the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup and Coppa Italia.

After leaving Juventus in 2004, Lippi helped Italy to World Cup glory in 2006 and he was re-appointed by the Azzurri in 2008 following two years away from the national team.

In China, Lippi joined Guangzhou Evergrande in 2012 and claimed three Chinese Super League titles and the AFC Champions League trophy to go with Chinese FA Cup and Chinese FA Super Cup success.

 

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.

Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Aaron Mooy has agreed to join Chinese Super League Shanghai SIPG for an undisclosed fee, subject to international clearance.

The Australia international only signed a permanent deal with Brighton in January after making an initial loan move from Championship side Huddersfield Town.

Brighton on Friday announced that the 29-year-old is on the move again, ending a short spell with the Premier League club.

Seagulls head coach Graham Potter said: "Aaron has been an excellent professional during his time with us. From day one with us he fitted in really well.

"It's a good move for all parties. We have a number of really good players in that position and therefore Aaron goes with our blessing.

"I have really enjoyed working with him, and on behalf of everyone at the club I would like to thank him for his contribution and wish him well for the future."

Mooy made 32 appearances for Brighton last season, scoring twice and providing two assists.

Atletico Madrid deserve to win this season's Champions League after twice suffering heartbreak in the final, according to on-loan winger Yannick Carrasco.

Diego Simeone's side lost in extra-time in the 2013-14 showpiece and on penalties two years later, both times against city rivals Real Madrid.

Atleti knocked out holders Liverpool 4-2 on aggregate in March and now take on RB Leipzig in a one-legged quarter-final in Lisbon on Thursday.

And Carrasco, who scored against Madrid in the most recent of Atletico's final appearances, is hoping it can be third time lucky for his side in the condensed competition. Atleti also came second in the 1973-74 European Cup.

"It's true that Atletico deserve a Champions League after losing two finals in such difficult circumstances," he told Marca.

"After being ahead and conceding in the last minute in the first and then losing on penalties in the second, I think Atletico deserve to win this trophy.

"We respect RB Leipzig - they're a good, competitive team. They finished third in Germany, which means they're a good side. 

"It'll be a difficult match and we'll need to know how to hurt them to win the match."

Carrasco rejoined Atletico on loan in January, two years after leaving the club for Chinese side Dalian Pro, and has made 15 appearances in the second half of the season.

The Belgium international is due to return to Dalian later this month but has not ruled out staying at the Wanda Metropolitano beyond then.

"I'm here until the Champions League final," he said. "I don't know [if I'll stay longer] - it's not me you have to talk to about that.

"They're not questions for me, they're for Miguel Angel [Gil Marin, Atleti's CEO] or the Dalian owner. 

"I'm really happy here and it would be great to be able to stay for longer at Atletico, but you know that in negotiations I don't have the final say."

Shanghai SIPG midfielder Oscar would be interested in playing for China if FIFA allowed him to switch international allegiances.

The former Chelsea man has won 47 senior caps for Brazil and won the 2013 Confederations Cup with his home country, but his last appearance was in a World Cup qualifying win over Peru in November 2015.

Oscar moved to the Chinese Super League in December 2016 and would meet requirements to become a naturalised Chinese citizen next year.

FIFA regulations prohibit a player changing national teams if they have made a competitive senior international appearance, but Oscar would consider representing China if the rules are changed.

"As far as I can, I can think about," the 28-year-old told CGTN, the English-language arm of state television CCTV.

"It's difficult to go to Brazil national team now because I'm here, but in China everyone sees how good I play.

"If in the end, if the China national team need one good midfielder, so I can help if they change. I like China but I think the players now, if they go to change the nationality to go to China, they can do better also."

There has been an influx of foreign players joining the CSL in recent years as huge investment in the competition made it possible for clubs to offer significant wages, although the introduction of a salary cap has controlled spiralling spending costs.

Oscar, who moved from Chelsea for a reported €61million, has already seen Brazilian-born Elkeson play for China after gaining citizenship, although the Guangzhou Evergrande Taobao forward had never played for his country of birth.

Marouane Fellaini scored a hat-trick in his first Chinese Super League match since recovering from coronavirus.

The former Manchester United midfielder scored three times in seven minutes in the second half to secure a 3-2 win for Shandong Luneng over Rafael Benitez's Dalian Pro.

It was the Belgium international's first competitive game since he contracted COVID-19 in March.

The 32-year-old was treated in hospital for the virus and was discharged on April 14.

The CSL season began on Saturday five months after it was initially due to start, with the competition having been put on hold due to the pandemic.

Fellaini joined Shandong for a reported €12million in January last year after spending five and a half years with United.

Former Manchester City and Barcelona star Yaya Toure trained with League Two side Leyton Orient on Friday.

Photos of Toure wearing Orient training gear were posted on the London club's official social media account.

The Ivory Coast great, who won the Premier League three times with City and two LaLiga titles and the Champions League at Barcelona, is reportedly training with the team to get fit ahead of the new season.

After a stint at Olympiacos, Toure joined Chinese League One side Qingdao Huanghai last year and helped them earn promotion to the Super League.

Toure has been heavily linked with a move to Brazilian side Vasco da Gama and appeared in a campaign video alongside presidential candidate Luiz Roberto Leven Siano.

Leven Siano has claimed the 35-year-old signed a contract that will run from January 2021 until December 2022.

The delayed Chinese Super League (CSL) season will begin on July 25, five months after it was originally scheduled to start.

The CSL was due to get under way on February 22, with Guangzhou Evergrande looking to defend their title, but was postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Suzhou and Dalian have been chosen by the Chinese Football Association (CFA) as the two cities to host games, though the governing body is yet to confirm the schedule.

"In order to satisfy the broad masses of people's eager anticipation of the restoration of the Chinese Football Association Super League, the CFA decided after a study that the 2020 Super League will be held on July 25 in Suzhou and Dalian respectively," a statement read.

"The CFA will do its utmost to ensure the service guarantee of the tournament, strictly abide by the requirements of the national epidemic prevention work, and conscientiously do a good job in the organisation and management of the tournament to ensure the safe and orderly progress of the CSL."

Champions Guangzhou, who are managed by former Italy international Fabio Cannavaro, finished two points clear of Beijing Guoan last season.

Qingdao Huanghai and Shijiazhuang Ever Bright were promoted to the top tier for 2020 but Tianjin Tianhai have disbanded since the previous campaign, declaring bankruptcy in May.

Spanish coach Juanma Lillo has left Chinese club Qingdao Huanghai amid reports he could join Pep Guardiola's staff at Manchester City.

Lillo's departure was announced on Friday, with the impact of the coronavirus cited as the principal factor behind the decision.

He led Qingdao to promotion into the Chinese Super League last year, but the 2020 top-flight championship has yet to begin due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Former City midfielder Yaya Toure featured in Lillo's team, but now Spanish sport daily Marca claims Lillo is poised to link up with Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium.

Qingdao confirmed 54-year-old Lillo's exit on their website, with the club praising his ""excellent business skills and coaching skills" and his successful transition to Chinese football.

A statement said Lillo's mother had been ill in Spain at the same time as the coronavirus taking hold across the world and "needed urgent care".

The Chinese club said that with uncertainty over when the league would begin, Lillo "feels that he cannot help and support the team's daily training and regular games", and added that an agreement had been reached to part ways.

"From now on, Mr Juanma Lillo will no longer serve as the head coach of Qingdao Huanghai Football Club," the club said. "We thank him for his outstanding contribution to Qingdao football in the past period of time, wish him all the best in his future work and life, and sincerely wish his mother a speedy recovery.

"Regarding the future, Mr Juanma Lillo said he will continue to coach in Europe."

Lillo issued a farewell statement in which he did not mention his future plans but thanked Qingdao for taking him on, expressing the hope China would qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

He said his departure was "due to the impact of the worldwide coronavirus outbreak".

If Lillo does join City, he would take up a role on a coaching staff that lost a significant figure last December when Mikel Arteta left City to become manager of Arsenal.

Lillo and Guardiola are long-time friends, according to Marca. Lillo's list of former clubs includes Real Sociedad, Real Zaragoza, Salamanca, Tenerife, Almeria and Vissel Kobe.

A "buzzing" Odion Ighalo has thanked Shanghai Shenhua for allowing his loan move to Manchester United to be extended until January 2021.

Ighalo initially joined United in a temporary deal at the end of the January transfer window as the club sought cover in attack for the rest of the season, with Marcus Rashford suffering a long-term injury.

The signing of Ighalo raised eyebrows, but the former Watford man scored four goals in eight matches in all competitions - starting just three of those games.

The season's suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic in March led to concerns United would lose the services of Ighalo before the conclusion of the 2019-20 campaign.

But United confirmed they had reached an agreement with Shanghai on Monday, leaving the 30-year-old overjoyed.

"I'm really happy," he told United's official website. "It's a dream for me to be here. I'm buzzing and ready to go.

"I feel okay. The last few days have been difficult as there have been different talks about it but now I'm really happy, so I need to concentrate fully. I'm here until the end of January, so it's good for me.

"I decided I want to stay and I'm happy. Since the first day I arrived, I made it clear that I wanted whatever it takes to continue that work. It was very difficult, there were some talks, but I'm happy they finally agreed and got everything done. Everything is official now.

"I'm sending thanks to the Shanghai president and director for the support because they know this is what I want. So, I'm thanking them and I'm happy that this has happened. They wish me all the best too.

"Like I've said, since I was young, I've been supporting this club and playing for it is a dream. Now I've extended my loan, it makes it more even clear and I'm committed as I know, in my head, I'm here until the end of January

"I just want to work hard and enjoy it, support the team and do whatever I can to make us go higher and higher."

Pending final government approval, the Premier League will resume later this month.

United head into the final nine league games three points adrift of fourth-place Chelsea, while they are also in the FA Cup quarter-finals and have one foot in the last eight of the Europa League having thrashed LASK 5-0 in their final match before the season halted.

Manchester United have agreed a loan extension with Shanghai Shenhua that ensures they will have the services of forward Odion Ighalo until January 2021.

Former Watford striker Ighalo was a surprise addition at Old Trafford at the end of the mid-season transfer window.

Negotiations to extend his stay were required just to allow him to finish this campaign, with his original spell at United due to finish at the end of May.

But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's men have now opted to retain the Nigeria international for the first half of next season too, which is testament to his impressive start.

Stats Perform News have used Opta data to look at how Ighalo has done in the very early stages of his United career.
 

IGHALO MAKES MOST OF LIMITED TIME

Ighalo has had limited time to make an impact, as he did not make his debut until February 17, with the coronavirus pandemic halting the season under a month later.

The 30-year-old made a total of 8 appearances for United across all competitions, 3 of which were starts, accumulating 319 minutes on the pitch.

He has scored 4 goals, right in line with his expected goals total of 4.03, and fired in 17 shots on goal, 11 of which were on target.

Ighalo had a shot conversion rate of 23.5 per cent and he also created 8 chances for his team-mates, which includes his 1 assist.

STATS FAVOURABLE COMPARED TO BIG SIX RIVALS

When compared to the main strikers at the other members of the Premier League's big six – Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal – Ighalo's stats are favourable.

No player has scored more than his 4 goals across all competitions since February 17, and the only forward who matches him in that tally is in fact team-mate Anthony Martial. 

Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has scored 3, comes the closest.

Liverpool star Mohamed Salah (19) is the only player to fire in more shots, while Ighalo is the top performer when it comes to attempts on target, with Martial second as he sits three behind.

Martial and Mason Greenwood both have better shot conversion rates of 28.57 per cent, with Aubameyang (42.86 per cent) coming out on top in that category.

But Ighalo's mark is still better than that of Liverpool’s front three - Salah (10.53 per cent), Sadio Mane (13.33 per cent) and Roberto Firmino (7.4 per cent) - as well as City duo Gabriel Jesus (15.38 per cent) and Sergio Aguero (13.33 per cent).

Jesus (10) and Salah (9) created marginally more chances than Ighalo, but no other top striker registered more than half of his tally of 8, with Aguero, Mane, Firmino and Greenwood all on 4 as others fared worse.

He and Mane were the only forwards able to register 1 assist over that time too, with his creative play proving an added bonus for United over his early appearances.

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