Chapecoense are back "among giants" in the Campeonato Brasileiro after securing promotion from Serie B on Tuesday. 

After just one win in their previous five matches, Chape took on Santa Catarina rivals Figueirense at the Arena Conda knowing a win would send them back into the top flight. 

They were relegated to the second tier in 2019, having incredibly managed to retain their top-flight status for two straight seasons after an aircraft carrying the squad, club officials and journalists to the 2016 Copa Sudamericana final in Medellin crashed, killing 71 people on board. 

Chape were also last December hit by the death of president Paulo Magro due to coronavirus. He began attempts to get the club out of a dire financial situation following the resignation of Plinio David de Nes Filho, who had taken charge following the tragedy in Colombia. 

Their funds will be boosted after Paulinho Moccelin and Derlan scored either side of half-time against Figueirense, with Chape holding on for a 2-1 victory after Diego Goncalves scored from the penalty spot, sending them back to Serie A with four games to spare. 

A club statement read: "It was not easy to get here. It was much tougher than we imagined, in fact. But with work, humility, dedication, unity and, above all, with the STRENGTH FROM ABOVE, Chapecoense kept its promise. Chapecoense – made for the people, by the people – returned to the place it should never have left. 

"It is Chape, of the impossible, of the surprising, of resilience and overcoming, again among giants. 

"You can celebrate, fan. You can celebrate, president! With 66 points and four games left we have stamped our passport. Our return ticket. The beginning of another great story."

Chape's poor run prior to the Figueirense clash saw them surrender top spot to America Mineiro, who hold a one-point advantage. 

Head coach Umberto Louzer urged the players not to celebrate promotion too hard because he hopes to see them return to the Brasileirao as champions. 

"We can look back and see it was worth it. Thank you to everyone who helped us return to the first division," he told SporTV. 

"We still have a few games, we will fight America for the title. We have to celebrate, but rest because we already have to think about the next opponent." 

Goalkeeper Joao Ricardo added: "Only those who were in the group last season know about the difficult moments. 

"Even with adverse situations, we always believed and showed affection for the club. We have to congratulate everybody. The club deserved to return to Serie A." 

Chape captain Alan Ruschel, the only survivor of the plane crash that continues to play professionally, last month had his contract extended until the end of the coronavirus-interrupted season but did not feature against Figueirense due to injury.

Fernandinho is close to making a decision on his Manchester City future with a number of clubs interested in signing the midfielder, according to agent Giovanni Branchini. 

The 35-year-old is into the final six months of his deal at the Etihad Stadium having signed a one-year extension with the Premier League club in January 2020. 

Pep Guardiola revealed earlier this week that the Brazil international, who is in his eighth season with City, may move on at the end of the campaign. 

A return to Brazilian side Athletico Paranaense, where he started his career before moving to Shakhtar Donetsk and then City, has been touted. 

Branchini has confirmed that approaches have been made for his client and he is now weighing up what to do next. 

"We've received several proposals, good projects from Brazilian and European clubs for Fernandinho," he told Globo Esporte.  

"He's a phenomenal player and person. I believe it won't be long before he knows what decision he'll make.

"Everyone knows that Fernandinho has a great affection for Athletico and the board. I, too, have an excellent relationship with president Mario Celso Petraglia. 

"Conversations have always happened, but I can't go ahead and say that we talk about values, for example. It hasn't happened yet. 

"I confess that it's difficult to think of Fernandinho returning to Brazil and not playing for Athletico. But we have to wait - it's a difficult decision, which he has to make with his family." 

Fernandinho has been a regular for City since joining from Shakhtar for a reported £30million in June 2013, featuring more than 300 times in all competitions. 

That includes 15 outings this season, eight of which have come in the Premier League, albeit just three starts. 

He has made 57 passes into the final third during his league outings at a rate of 15.18 per 90 minutes, placing him behind only Jordan Henderson (16.31) and Pablo Hernandez (16.57) among players to have played at least at least six times. 

Only six players have played more passes per 90 minutes than Fernandinho's average of 84.94 - a metric topped by Liverpool skipper Henderson (97.99).  

City have won one, drawn one and lost one of the three league games Fernandinho has started this term for a win rate of 33.3 per cent, which rises to 58.3 per cent in the 12 games he has not been included in the XI.

Finally, 2020 is history - there won't be many people who aren't happy to see the back of a difficult year.

While the coronavirus pandemic shows no sign of making a swift exit, the turn of the year at least gives us the chance to look forward, and the same is true in the world of sport.

2020 saw many promising young players make the step up, some undoubtedly down to the absences caused by coronavirus or the packed schedule that the pandemic has led to.

We've picked out 21 under-21 players to keep an eye on in 2021 - and while you may already be familiar with some of them, there's good reason to give them your attention this year...

 

Illan Meslier, 20 - Leeds United

Few goalkeepers can come away from a 6-2 defeat having impressed, but Meslier did so against Manchester United recently. His eight saves prevented Leeds' crushing loss from getting even more embarrassing, while only three goalkeepers have produced more in a single Premier League match this term. His total of 63 is also the second most in the division – the France Under-21 talent, who joined on a permanent deal from Lorient last year, appears to have a big future ahead of him.

Kristoffer Klaesson, 20 - Valerenga

Goalkeepers tend to break through a little later than outfield players, but Norway youth international Klaesson has already been first-choice at Valerenga for the best part of 16 months – he only turned 20 in November. Coincidentally, he could have become a team-mate of Meslier's in 2020 as Leeds were reportedly interested, but he remains in Norway for the time being.

William Saliba, 19 - Arsenal

Saliba is certainly one of the most recognisable names on this list – after all, he has been owned by Arsenal for getting on for two years. Unfortunately, he has not been afforded much of a chance by Mikel Arteta this term, which makes him an interesting prospect to watch in 2021. Either he'll eventually get an opportunity at the Gunners, or a loan move will provide him with a crack at first-team football. After a tricky 2020, he'll want to get his career back on track.

Perr Schuurs, 21 - Ajax

Given his appearance, playing style and the fact he has come through Ajax's academy, comparisons between Schuurs and Matthijs de Ligt were to be expected. He may not reach the Juventus star's level, but he has certainly shown real promise that is reportedly interesting Liverpool. Schuurs is one of the five youngest players to have featured for at least 500 minutes in this season's Champions League, while his 47 ball recoveries was the sixth highest of any player in the group stage.

Ethan Laird, 19 - Manchester United

Aaron Wan-Bissaka was supposed to fix Man United's issues at right-back, but this season his defensive positioning has been concerning and he appears to have become even less effective in attack – his chances created and open-play crosses per 90 minutes have decreased significantly. Laird has long been considered a fine prospect at United and boasts the technical abilities to be a threat in attack. If he can stay fit, chances could be in the offing.

Tariq Lamptey, 20 - Brighton and Hove Albion

Having joined Brighton last January from Chelsea, Lamptey has quickly made a name for himself as an exciting wing-back. Last year saw the diminutive talent enjoy something of a breakthrough, but in 2021 he'll be looking to truly establish himself and potentially break into the England squad. There are few more exhilarating full-backs in the Premier League – his 3.8 dribbles per game is the third most among defenders to have featured more than twice.

Nuno Mendes, 18 - Sporting CP

Sporting have a wealth of talent coming through at the moment and left-back Mendes is arguably chief among them. Blessed with fine technical abilities, the 18-year-old is apparently a target for Man United, Liverpool and Real Madrid. Already a regular having started 10 of the Primeira Liga leaders' 11 games this term, Mendes' 10 completed dribbles is the fourth-highest among defenders in the division, while his 28 interceptions is second only to team-mate Luis Neto.

Gabriel Menino, 20 - Palmeiras

An intriguing player with a well-rounded skillset, Menino has already transitioned from centre-back to defensive midfield to right-back despite his young age. It is in the latter position where he impressed enough to earn a first Brazil call-up last year and only two players have provided more than his five assists in the 2020 Brazilian Serie A.

Moises Caicedo, 19 - Independiente del Valle

The past month or so has seen Caicedo brought to the attention of a wider audience – or, more specifically, Manchester United fans. The all-action midfielder was the teenager with the most goals (four), shots attempted (24), chances created (19), successful passes (748) and dribbles completed (23) in Ecuador's top flight in 2020, while his passing accuracy of 90.1 per cent was the highest among players to attempt 500 or more.

Billy Gilmour, 19 - Chelsea

Scottish talent Gilmour had shown real promise during his 11 Chelsea appearances last season before a knee injury in July laid him low. He returned to action last month with a few cameos off the bench, and there will be plenty hoping he can return to his previous level quickly. A loan move might be on the cards, but Frank Lampard has high hopes for the crafty midfielder.

Yunus Musah, 18 - Valencia

Valencia are going through another difficult spell, with off-field matters often overshadowing on-pitch performances. Nevertheless, in United States international Musah, they appear to have a reason for optimism. Another tricky winger, Musah's 38 dribbles is the second most among Los Che players this term and he became their youngest LaLiga goalscorer (17 years, 338 days) this century when netting back in November. He's one that got away from Arsenal.

Ander Barrenetxea, 18 - Real Sociedad

A nimble right-footed left-winger, Barrenetxea broke into La Real's senior side last season with 17 appearances in LaLiga. His eight starts this term is already an increase of five on the entirety of 2019-20 and he has been using that extra time on the pitch to excite. He has attempted 41 dribbles in LaLiga, and his 56 per cent completion rate is bettered by only seven players – all of whom are much older – among those to have tried at least 40.

Bryan Gil, 19 - Eibar (on loan from Sevilla)

If Barrenetxea embodies the modern 'inverted winger' style, then Bryan is very much a wide midfielder of the classic variety. A direct touchline-hugger, the left-winger's aim is almost always to beat his man and get a cross into the box, and he is catching the eye on loan at Eibar this term. Only five wingers in LaLiga can better Bryan's 49 open-play deliveries, though his 22.5 per cent accuracy is better than all but one of those with more cross attempts. He's also tried 44 dribbles, his 52.3 per cent completion putting him close to Barrenetxea.

Jaminton Campaz, 20 - Deportes Tolima

Campaz may not be a household name yet, but a move to Europe or one of South America's leading leagues is surely not far away. The attacker, who can play wide or through the middle, is an explosive player but also productive. No younger player had more goal involvements (five goals and four assists) and chances created (32) in Colombia's top division than Campaz.

Amad Diallo, 18 - Manchester United

Although United splashed a reported £19million on Diallo, the young Ivorian remains something of an unknown quantity. A left-footed right-winger, he has only been given a handful of opportunities in Atalanta's senior side – though he has often caught the eye with his ability on the ball. Given United's lack of options on the right flank, he might just establish himself sooner than some expect – either way, he will be one to monitor.

Pedri, 18 - Barcelona

As each week passes, more and more Pedri looks to be settling into the role as Lionel Messi's heir at Barcelona, but whether he's ready to take up such a mantle as early as this year is another matter. Messi's contract ends in June and so he could well depart – taking on his creative burden would be an unenviable task for a teenager, though Pedri is proving effective. He is creating a chance every 45 minutes on average in the league this term, the third most frequent in the squad among those to have played at least five times.

Talles Magno, 18 - Vasco da Gama

Are you really a Brazilian 'wonderkid' if you've not been linked with every major European club? Talles Magno fits the bill there and it's easy to see why there's interest. His end product still needs work, but his ability to excite is considerable – the 18-year-old has completed more than twice as many dribbles (106) as any other teenager in Brazil's Serie A between 2019 and 2020.

Karim Adeyemi, 18 - Salzburg

There has been a buzz around Adeyemi for a few years now as has previously impressed scouts with Germany's youth sides and during a fruitful loan spell at Liefering. Now back at Salzburg, he looks destined to be another serious talent off the club's impressive conveyor belt. Adeyemi is the only player to have been involved in four goals in a single Austrian Bundesliga this term, scoring and getting a hat-trick of assists in the 8-2 victory over St. Polten, while he set up a goal on his league debut for the club in June. A thrilling talent with great vision and dribbling abilities, Adeyemi may get even greater responsibility in 2021 following the departure of Dominik Szoboszlai.

Marcos Leonardo, 17 - Santos

It's still early days for Marcos Leonardo, though Santos clearly rate him highly – the striker's release clause is €100m. He's already the underage player with the most minutes played (296) and goals (one) in Brazil's top division this season, while he became the sixth youngest player to net in the Copa Libertadores (17y, 173d) when scoring a winner against Defensa y Justicia.

Youssoufa Moukoko, 16 - Borussia Dortmund

There's not much that hasn't already been said about Moukoko. He became the Bundesliga's youngest ever player in November when making his debut a day after his 16th birthday, before then also setting a new record for the league's youngest goalscorer in December. New coach Edin Terzic has already given him two starts – his next target will be to break records on the international stage with Germany. He couldn't get into their Euros squad, could he?

Matias Arezo, 18 - River Plate (URU)

Stocky, technically gifted and already proving decisive in front of goal with seven goal involvements (five goals, two assists) in 15 league matches, Arezo has a lot going in his favour. Whether he has the mentality or focus to not let the 'new Luis Suarez' labels distract him remains to be seen, but he's already the youngest Uruguayan (17y, 349d) to ever score a brace in the Copa Sudamericana having done so against Atletico Nacional in November.

Diego Costa is poised to become a prize catch for one club in the days ahead, but what does the former Atletico Madrid striker have in mind?

He was released from his contract with LaLiga's leaders on Tuesday but looks set to make a swift return to football.

Atleti head coach Diego Simeone said he expects Costa to make a success of his next move, with the likes of Benfica, Arsenal and Wolves already linked with the fiery frontman.

Perhaps Costa will favour a move home to play in his native Brazil, or could MLS beckon?

Could Costa light up the Primeira Liga?

Benfica were linked with Costa in the previous close season, but nothing came of their reported interest. However, the Portuguese giants may still fancy a shot at bringing him to the Estadio da Luz.

They sit five points behind leaders Sporting CP this season, with Switzerland international Haris Seferovic their leading scorer with six goals in just three starts and six substitute appearances.

Would Costa fancy the Portuguese league, which he left behind 13 years ago when departing Braga to head to Spain? A Europa League campaign might bolster the appeal, with Benfica drawn to face Arsenal in the first knockout round.

Is he going to be a Gunner?

Given he was a hate figure for many Arsenal fans during his time at Chelsea, when he was a two-time Premier League winner, it would seem inconceivable for Costa to move to Emirates Stadium.

But needs must, and Arsenal might benefit from some of his attitude and knowhow up front as they battle to climb the Premier League table from a lowly standing.

Reports in Spain have suggested Arsenal's interest is genuine, with the club willing to let bygones be bygones and embrace a former fierce rival.

Whatever would they make of it at Chelsea?

Wolves at the door

There is plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest a switch to Wolves could be a goer.

Costa's agent is Jorge Mendes, whose influence has helped the Premier League club build a squad with the talent to challenge for a top-six place.

And with Raul Jimenez sidelined after the serious head injury he sustained at Arsenal in November, Wolves could certainly do with an experienced addition to their forward ranks.

Costa might fancy joining a pack of underdogs, and his prospects of regular top-flight football would appear to be good.

Homeward bound

Perhaps the player who left Brazil as a teenager to seek footballing fame and fortune in Europe could be about to announce a return home.

Costa never played professional club football in Brazil and it may hold some appeal before he hangs up his boots.

There might be some making up to do before that happens, however, given he controversially turned his back on Brazil in 2013, in favour of playing international football for Spain.

The MLS route

A player of Costa's stature could be a big draw in MLS, given his achievements in Europe, his background, and his eye-catching style of play.

Goals have been hard to come by in  LaLiga for Costa during his second spell with Atletico, and there may be some appeal in moving to a league where not only would he be assured regular football, but the goals may come more easily.

If Lionel Messi is considering a future move to the United States, then clearly it is below no one, and Costa may relish seeing out his career in the growing league.

It may reach a point where Lionel Messi is going to need an encyclopedia to record his ever-growing list of achievements.

The Barcelona great's latest benchmark came as a result of his goal in Tuesday's 3-0 win over Real Valladolid in LaLiga.

That strike was Messi's 644th in all competitions for Barcelona, the most scored by any player for a single team.

He surpassed the previous record held by Brazil legend Pele, who netted 643 for Santos and enjoyed his most prolific year in 1958 when he scored an astonishing 66 goals.

To commemorate such an impressive achievement, we took a look at some of Messi's most impressive numbers with the help of Opta data.


A CLASS OF HIS OWN

In a little over 16 years in Barca's first team, Messi has raced streets ahead of the competition to become the club's all-time leading goalscorer with a whopping 644 in total. Second on that list is Cesar Rodriguez with 232 goals.

Of Messi's haul, 451 goals have come in LaLiga, which means he also has the most in the history of Spain's top flight. Messi has 118 in the Champions League, 53 in the Copa del Rey, 14 in the Supercopa, three in the UEFA Super Cup and five in the Club World Cup.

His first Barcelona goal came against Albacete on May 1, 2005, with fellow superstar Ronaldinho setting him up.

The Argentina great enjoyed his most prolific campaign in the 2011-12 campaign, when he scored 73 goals across all competitions for Barcelona. There were an eye-watering 79 across the calendar year in 2012.

LOVE FOR PEP, TITO AND SEVILLA

It should come as little surprise that some of Messi's best returns in a Barca jersey came when playing in the golden era of Pep Guardiola.

In total, Messi had 211 goals and 79 assists in 219 games played under the now-Manchester City manager – an average of 0.96 goals per game.

He also excelled under Luis Enrique, winning the second of his career trebles. There were 153 goals, 66 assists and a goals-per-game ratio of 0.97 in that period.

But it was actually Tito Vilanova for whom Messi returned the best goals per game, a mind-boggling 1.2, having scored 60 in 50 appearances.

Many teams have conceded to Messi but none have picked the ball out of the net on more occasions against the Argentina great than Sevilla, who have done so 37 times.

Atletico Madrid are not far behind on 32, while Valencia have conceded 29 times to Messi and fierce rivals Real Madrid have done so on 26 occasions – making him the highest scorer in Clasico history.


LUCKLESS ALVES, SUAREZ AFFINITY AND GLORY AT THE BERNABEU

Not many goalkeepers can say they have got the better of Messi, and Diego Alves in particular has not enjoyed encounters against the mercurial forward.

Messi scored past the former Valencia stopper on 21 occasions, with Gorka Iraizoz next on the list - having shipped 18 to the Argentina captain. Iker Casillas and Andres Fernandez have been beaten 17 times.

At Barca, Messi has played alongside some of the best players of his, or indeed any, generation.

But no player has assisted Messi more than Luis Suarez, who has now left Barca for Atleti, with the Uruguay star setting up his former team-mate to score on 47 occasions.

Dani Alves ranks second on 42 assists for Messi, with Andres Iniesta and Xavi laying on 37 and 31 goals respectively.

Camp Nou is of course the venue where Messi has scored the majority of his goals, but the Santiago Bernabeu is next highest, with the 33-year-old having celebrated 15 strikes there.

The Riazor is where Messi has his best goals-per-game ratio at 1.625, scoring 13 times in eight games played at the home of Deportivo La Coruna.

Lionel Messi reminisced on breaking Pele's record as the Barcelona superstar insisted his latest achievement exceeded his wildest dreams.

Messi set a new one-club goals record after netting for the 644th time – the Barca captain surpassing Pele's haul in Tuesday's 3-0 LaLiga victory at Real Valladolid.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi, who matched Pele against Valencia on Saturday, scored his 451st LaLiga goal as Barca eased past Valladolid.

Messi used social media to react to the historic feat after Pele had tallied 643 goals in an 18-year career at Brazilian club Santos.

"When I started playing football, I never thought I would break any records," Messi wrote on Instagram. "And even less the one that I achieved today that @pele had...

"I can only thank everyone who helped me over the years, my team-mates, my family, my friends and everyone who supports me every day. Hug!!"

Messi's 644 goals have come across 17 seasons and 749 games for Barca, where the 33-year-old debuted in 2004.

His effort against Valencia made Messi the first player to reach the 450 milestone for a single club in any of Europe's top five leagues.

Lionel Messi has set a new one-club goals record after netting for the 644th time as a Barcelona player, surpassing Pele's haul.

Messi matched the total of 643 goals that Brazil legend Pele – one of the greatest players to grace the game – racked up in an 18-year career at Santos.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner headed in his record-equalling goal against Valencia on Saturday and surpassed Pele's tally on Tuesday.

Having created the opener with a cross for Clement Lenglet and played a crucial role in Barca's second against Real Valladolid, Messi swept home after latching onto Pedri's clever flick in the 65th minute to make it 3-0.

As well as taking him past Pele, it was also Messi's 451st goal in LaLiga.

His effort against Valencia made the 33-year-old the first player to reach the 450 milestone for a single club in any of Europe's top five leagues.

Pele congratulated Lionel Messi on equalling his one-club goals haul and said he admired the Barcelona star.

Messi scored his 643rd goal for Barca during Saturday's 2-2 draw at home to Valencia in LaLiga.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner matched Pele's haul of 643 goals in just 656 matches for Santos between 1956 and 1974.

Pele, regarded by many as the best to ever play the game, posted a tribute to Messi on Instagram.

"When your heart overflows with love, it is difficult to change your path," the Brazil great wrote.

"Like you, I know what it's like to love wearing the same shirt every day. Like you, I know that there is nothing better than the place we feel at home.

"Congratulations on your historic record, Lionel. But above all, congratulations on your beautiful career at Barcelona. Stories like ours, of loving the same club for so long, unfortunately will be increasingly rare in football.

"I admire you very much, @leomessi."

Having initially seen a penalty saved by Jaume Domenech, Messi got his milestone goal when he met a cross from the left and nodded home from point-blank range.

Messi's headed goal was his first for Barcelona in all competitions since March 2017, while he missed a spot-kick for the club for the first time since February last year.

Remarkably, his latest goal was also his 450th in LaLiga, making him the first player to reach that figure for a single club in any of Europe's top five leagues.

Ederson will start Brazil's World Cup qualifier against Venezuela, while Gabriel Menino has been cut from the squad after testing positive for COVID-19.

Tite picked Weverton as his goalkeeper for the opening two qualifiers against Bolivia and Peru, with Ederson an unused substitute as Alisson missed out due to a shoulder injury.

Alisson returned to the squad for Friday's meeting with Venezuela and Tuesday's clash with Uruguay, but it is the Manchester City keeper who has got the nod from Tite.

"We have three great goalkeepers. Weverton played last time and comes in after a good sequence at Palmeiras. He played two very good games," said Tite.

"I spoke with the three of them personally, together with [goalkeeper coach Claudio] Taffarel. Alisson is an excellent goalkeeper. We have Ederson, who is experiencing a great technical and physical moment."

Tite also confirmed there will be starts for Allan, Everton Ribeiro and Gabriel Jesus, with Casemiro and Philippe Coutinho not in the squad due to coronavirus and injury respectively. Neymar, meanwhile, is being rested in the hope he can recover from a left leg issue to feature in Uruguay.

The Brazil boss is set to have one fewer option at right-back, however, after Menino was found to have contracted COVID-19, despite testing negative upon his arrival at the Granja Comary base on Monday.

"In the tests carried out yesterday, Gabriel Menino tested positive for COVID-19. All other players in the group tested negative," Brazil doctor Rodrigo Lasmar explained.

"It is important to note that, on Monday, when the players arrived, all members of the delegation were tested and the results were negative.

"We have already informed the medical department of Palmeiras. The player is asymptomatic, is already isolated and has been cut from the squad.

"All protective measures are being taken. We will perform a new round of tests before our trip to Uruguay, after the game [against Venezuela]."

Menino has played the bulk of the 2020 Campeonato Brasileiro season as a central midfielder and leads Palmeiras in terms of assists (three), duels won (91) and touches (920).

The 20-year-old has made 286 successful passes in the opposition half – the second most among his team-mates – and ranks third at Palmeiras in terms of dribbles completed (22) and tackles (34) this term.

Head coach Tite insisted there is no barrier to Brazil taking the field to face Venezuela and he is unsure whether a replacement for Menino will be drafted in.

Tite said: "The doctor will speed up the other tests. In the meantime there is no problem for us to play. Roughly speaking, the information given to us – for all players and coaching staff – was that.

"These are challenges that all national teams have faced. The selection had a greater number than are actually here, either due to injury to the COVID-19 problem.

"But opportunities arise. Pedro was called up … but there are also other opportunities for high-level players to come and show themselves.

"The first reaction was to say: 'Man, what a pity for Gabriel Menino, and we are all at risk.' The pandemic is not over. That is not an opinion, it is fact. We have to be very careful."

Celta Vigo have confirmed Eduardo Coudet will be their new head coach following the sacking of Oscar Garcia.

The Galician club have endured a tough start to the 2020-21 season, winning just one of their opening nine LaLiga games, form that has left them just outside the bottom three and cost Garcia his job.

Coudet arrives with a burgeoning reputation, having led Racing Club to the Argentinian title in 2019 before joining Internacional, whom he had taken to the summit of the Brasileiro before quitting on Tuesday.

The 46-year-old, a native of Argentina, spent his entire playing career in the Americas bar a short spell with Celta in 2002. He has signed on until 2022.

Flamengo appointed former Brazil goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni as their new head coach, the Brazilian champions announced on Tuesday.

Ceni – who holds the record for most goals scored by a goalkeeper with 131 – replaces Domenec Torrent at the Campeonato Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores champions, after leaving Fortaleza.

Flamengo turned to Ceni after Torrent was sacked following just three months in charge following a 4-0 rout at the hands of title rivals Atletico Mineiro, having also lost 4-1 to Sao Paulo a week earlier.

The 47-year-old joins a Flamengo side third in the table and only a point adrift of leaders Internacional.

"Thank you all," Ceni, who spent his entire senior playing career with Sao Paulo up until 2015, said. "It is a very special day for me. I have 30 years of football. I already faced the crowded Maracana. 

"I saw Zico play, I even called him and asked for his permission to join the club. He's a unique guy, who I admire a lot for the free-kicks."

"I am very grateful to Fortaleza," he said. "The fans are sad, but I think they can understand the size of this challenge that I accepted. It is very difficult to refuse Flamengo because of the greatness, structure and the players who are here."

Ceni – a World Cup winner with Brazil in 2002 who had brief and unsuccessfully spells in charge of Sao Paulo and Cruzeiro – guided Fortaleza to promotion to Brazil's first division in 2018.

"Everyone wants to win everything in football," Ceni, who won three Brasileiro titles, two Copa Libertadores trophies and the 2005 Club World Cup with Sao Paulo, added. 

"We have to see how much each one is willing to give up to reach the goal. It is a very winning group. Who said it is not possible [to win everything]? Even more so with a group of players as qualified and a crowd as passionate as Flamengo's."

Domenec Torrent has been sacked by Flamengo after just three months in charge following a 4-0 defeat by title rivals Atletico Mineiro.

Torrent, who worked as an assistant to Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City, joined the defending Brasileiro and Copa Libertadores champions from New York City FC at the end of July after Jorge Jesus returned to Benfica, but Sunday's result was seemingly the final straw.

It was the second successive league match in which Flamengo conceded four goals, having also lost 4-1 at home to Sao Paulo a week earlier.

However, Torrent will justifiably feel aggrieved at his departure given Flamengo were third in the Brasileiro table and just a point adrift of leaders Internacional.

Similarly, Flamengo had gone 12 matches unbeaten across all competitions prior to the defeat by Sao Paulo and they topped their Libertadores group with five wins from six matches – their solitary defeat coming in a 5-0 thrashing by Independiente de Valle in their third fixture.

Mauricio Souza, the team's Under-20s coach, will step in until a replacement is appointed, as he did prior to Torrent's arrival.

Vinicius Junior insists being criticised is to be expected when playing for Real Madrid, who he describes as the biggest club in the world.

The Brazil international has struggled to cement himself as a first-team regular at the Santiago Bernabeu since arriving from Flamengo in 2018.

He has made 53 LaLiga appearances since the start of 2018-19 - 25 of those being starts - and has scored just seven goals and set up one more.

That sees the 20-year-old rank below the likes of Marco Asensio (nine), Lucas Vazquez and Isco (both eight) for goal involvements in an almost identical number of games.

Vinicius has his fair share of critics but says he blocks out the out the opinions of those who do not matter to him.

"I always think about those who want the best for me - family, people at the club, colleagues like Marcelo and Casemiro, the type who put me on the right path," he told YouTube channel Desimpedidos.

"It is all part of being a member of the biggest club in the world. When we lose they talk about us, and when we win it is something else."

Vinicius recently made headlines after Karim Benzema was caught on camera appearing to tell Ferland Mendy not to pass to the young attacker.

Amid suggestions of unrest in the dressing room, though, Vinicius has revealed Benzema is one of his closest friends at Madrid.

"I have a good relationship with Benzema," he said. "Also Lucas Vazquez. I talk a lot with them off the field. There's also [Luka] Modric, who I sit with at lunchtime."

Vinicius made 69 appearances for Flamengo before officially arriving at Madrid and intends to return to his boyhood side one day.

"I am sure that in the very distant future I will head back to Flamengo to give back to the club everything it deserves," he said.

Antoine Griezmann could be set to renew his contract at Barcelona.

The France international has faced criticism for failing to live up to expectations since joining Barca from Atletico Madrid last year.

However, Griezmann may join the list of players renewing with the LaLiga giants.

 

TOP STORY – GRIEZMANN SET FOR BARCELONA RENEWAL

Griezmann could be among the next group of players to renew at Barcelona, according to EFE.

It claims Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto may also re-sign, amid reports players are reducing their wages at the club.

It comes after Barcelona announced the re-signings of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Gerard Pique, Frenkie de Jong and Clement Lenglet on Tuesday.

Griezmann scored 15 goals in 48 games for Barca last season, while he is yet to net in four appearances in 2020-21.

 

ROUND-UP

- A former Barcelona head coach could be set for a new job. Marca reports Palmeiras have made a move for Quique Setien after the departure of Vanderlei Luxemburgo.

- Despite signing Nathan Ake and Ruben Dias in the close season, Manchester City are reportedly look for another defender. Fabrizio Romano suggested the Premier League giants are monitoring Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres.

- Christian Eriksen's Inter future remains uncertain. CalcioMercato reports Inter turned down a loan bid from Borussia Dortmund in the close season, but the Serie A club could be open to the midfielder leaving in January.

- After Virgil van Dijk suffered a serious knee injury, Liverpool are linked with defenders. The Sun says Brighton and Hove Albion would demand at least £50million for Ben White if the Premier League champions make a move for the centre-back in January.

Santos have suspended their contract with Robinho following a backlash in the wake of his signing. 

Robinho returned to Santos for a third stint this week but the club came under fire due to the player's past sexual assault conviction.

The former Milan forward was in 2017 sentenced by an Italian court to nine years in prison for his alleged involvement in the rape of a 22-year-old woman at a nightclub in 2013. He has lodged an appeal against the ruling after firmly denying any wrongdoing, and the legal process is continuing.

Brazilian orthodontics franchise Orthopride announced it had pulled its financial backing of Santos "out of respect for women", while other companies were said to have demanded action from the club.

A club statement read: "Santos and Robinho report that, by mutual agreement, they decided to suspend the validity of the contract signed on October 10 so that the player can focus exclusively on his defence in the process that runs in Italy."

In a video posted on his official Instagram account, Robinho said: "With a lot of sadness in my heart, I am telling you that I made the decision with the president to suspend my contract at this difficult time in my life.

"My goal has always been to help Santos. If in any way I'm getting in the way, I had better leave and focus on my personal stuff. For the fans [of Santos] and those who like me, I will prove my innocence."

The announcement came after Brazilian media outlet Globo Esporte published what it said were excerpts of court documents from Robinho's case and transcriptions of some of the recordings that were used as evidence.

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