LaLiga has confirmed the season will restart with a Seville derby on June 11 and the campaign will wrap up on July 19, it was confirmed on Sunday.

Suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, LaLiga will get back underway with a clash between Sevilla and Real Betis.

The remaining 11 matchdays will be played in less than six weeks as Barcelona and Real Madrid battle for the title.

Barca were two points clear of their bitter rivals when the season was stopped due to COVID-19, which has killed more than 373,000 people worldwide.

Quique Setien's men return to action with a trip to Real Mallorca on June 13, a day before Madrid host Eibar.

Barcelona also host Atletico Madrid on July 1 before facing rivals Espanyol in a derby clash a week later.

Barcelona's remaining fixtures
June 13: Real Mallorca (A)
June 16: Leganes (H)
June 21: Sevilla (A)
June 24: Athletic Bilbao (H)
June 28: Celta Vigo (A)
July 1: Atletico Madrid (H)
July 5: Villarreal (A)
July 8: Espanyol (H)
July 12: Real Valladolid (A)
July 15: Osasuna (H)
July 19: Deportivo Alaves (A)

Real Madrid's remaining fixtures
June 14: Eibar (H)
June 18: Valencia (H)
June 21: Real Sociedad (A)
June 24: Real Mallorca (H)
June 28: Espanyol (A)
July 1: Getafe (H)
July 5: Athletic Bilbao (A)
July 8: Deportivo Alaves (H)
July 12: Granada (A)
July 15: Villarreal (H)
July 19: Leganes (A)

Celta Vigo midfielder Denis Suarez has revealed he only felt fully fit for the first week of his loan spell with Arsenal.

The 26-year-old made just six competitive appearances for Arsenal during his five-month stint at Emirates Stadium in 2018-19, each of those coming as a substitute.

Suarez returned to parent club Barcelona and was then sold to boyhood side Celta Vigo, where he has featured 20 times in LaLiga this season.

Opening up on his disappointing time in the English capital, Suarez explained he never fully recovered from an injury sustained early in his loan spell that left him unable to even pass the ball.

"Obviously it was a bad loan because I did not play," he told The Athletic. "But there were circumstances which I would like the fans to understand.

"I played in my first game against Manchester City and then 10 days later I got injured against BATE in the Europa League. I had too much pain in my groin. 

"I did tests and scans and nothing was in my groin, but there was a big edema around the pubic bone. I had sharp pain when I ran, when I shot, when I passed. It was so difficult. I was at something like 30 per cent of my fitness."

Asked if he felt 100 per cent at any point, Suarez replied: "The first week. Only that. I felt it getting worse. After the match against BATE, I had incredible pain. 

"Every movement, every change of direction, every shot. I tried to train through the pain. It became unsustainable. I was not in a state to play at my best. 

"Unai [Emery] could not play me as he knew I was not even near 50 per cent. People started asking, 'What's going on with Denis? He has arrived but he isn't playing. He is on the bench, he plays 15 minutes here or there.'

"But I was in big pain. At half-time of games, when the other substitutes went out to do the main drills on the pitch, I was in the dressing room doing a ton of different exercises so the injury would give me less pain instead of being with the rest of them."

Suarez rejected permanent offers elsewhere to join Arsenal on loan and was keen to pen a long-term deal with the Premier League side.

"I wanted Arsenal to sign me but the club were not able to at that time," he said. "Instead, they said, 'Come here, get the continuity, then when you have a year remaining on your contract, we can sign you.'

"So, okay, it sounded good. The truth is I rejected other teams: Real Betis, Sevilla, AC Milan all wanted me. I took the risk of going on a loan. I could have signed for those other clubs on a four- or five-year deal.

"That's how much I wanted it to work at Arsenal. So people don't know fully what happened."

The one-cap Spain international also feels regret that he was unable to repay the faith shown in him by Emery and head of football Raul Sanllehi.

"I was the signing of Raul and Unai and I wanted to prove myself and repay them," he added. "Nobody wanted to play more than me, but the situation was unsustainable. 

"I wanted to live up to their expectations. I am sorry because I do not think Arsenal supporters truly understand the situation I was experiencing. They didn't see me play, so it is hard to evaluate the loan."

The pause in the football calendar (except in Belarus, of course) gives players across Europe plenty of time to reflect on their efforts so far this season.

While some have a few things to work on when matches return, there are others for whom 2019-20 has been a showcase of the very best they have to offer.

In the latest piece in our series, we look at the best-performing forwards in the Bundesliga, LaLiga, Ligue 1, Premier League and Serie A.

Goals might be the most obvious (and fundamentally important) of metrics for these players, but the number of times the ball crosses that white line is not the only measure of their quality.

To that end, we have also examined seven other parameters: minutes-per-goal rate, shots on target, shooting accuracy, shot conversion rate, big chance conversion rate, dribbles completed and dribble success rate. And these are for those players to make at least 10 league appearances this season, to avoid any unfair imbalance in the results (we're looking at you, Florin Andone).

Without further ado, we present the most ruthless forwards elite-level football in Europe has to offer...

THE MOST RUTHLESS FORWARDS IN EUROPE'S TOP-FIVE LEAGUES 2019-20:

 

BUNDESLIGA:

Most goals scored: Robert Lewandowski (25)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Robert Lewandowski (81.7)
Most shots on target: Robert Lewandowski (55)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Marcus Thuram (76.3 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Paco Alcacer (35.7 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Rouwen Hennings (71.4 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Marcus Thuram (57)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Lucas Alario (83.3 per cent)

LALIGA:

Most goals scored: Lionel Messi (19)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Lionel Messi (99.5)
Most shots on target: Lionel Messi (55)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Lionel Messi (68.9 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Lucas Perez (40.7 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Charles (83.3 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Lionel Messi (118)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Pione Sisto (76.9 per cent)

LIGUE 1:

Most goals scored: Kylian Mbappe and Wissam Ben Yedder (18)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Kylian Mbappe (84.1)
Most shots on target: Kylian Mbappe (49)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Kasper Dolberg (78.1 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Mauro Icardi (37.5 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Moussa Dembele (72.2 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Neymar (90)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Zaydou Youssouf (85.7 per cent)

PREMIER LEAGUE:

Most goals scored: Jamie Vardy (19)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Sergio Aguero (87.6)
Most shots on target: Mohamed Salah (43)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Anthony Martial (68.2 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (36.2 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Harry Kane (70 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Adama Traore (144)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Billy Sharp (86.7 per cent)

SERIE A:

Most goals scored: Ciro Immobile (27)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Luis Muriel (70.2)
Most shots on target: Cristiano Ronaldo (53)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Romelu Lukaku (65.5 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Ante Rebic (42.9 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Felipe Caicedo (85.7 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Jeremie Boga (106)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Sergio Floccari (72.2 per cent)

AND THE TOP EIGHT:

Most goals scored: Ciro Immobile (27)
Best minutes-per-goal rate (Min. five goals scored): Luis Muriel (70.2)
Most shots on target: Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski (55)
Best shooting accuracy (Min. 30 shots): Kasper Dolberg (78.1 per cent)
Best shot conversion rate (Min. five goals scored): Ante Rebic (42.9 per cent)
Best big chance conversion rate (Min. five big chances): Felipe Caicedo (85.7 per cent)
Most dribbles completed: Adama Traore (144)
Best dribbles success rate (Min. 10 completed): Billy Sharp (86.7 per cent)

Radomir Antic, famed for coaching Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, has died aged 71.

The Serbian, whose managerial career spanned 27 years, died on Monday and his passing has drawn an outpouring of emotion across Spanish football, where his influence was greatest.

It was at Atletico Madrid where Antic enjoyed his finest achievements, including an historic LaLiga and Copa del Rey double in the 1995-96 campaign.

Atletico CEO Miguel Angel Gil, who worked closely with Antic across his three spells in charge, said: "With the loss of Radomir, we lost a bit of the club's heart.

"With him I personally learned to win, with him I learned to live with passion - the things that they make you better as a man and as a professional.

"I give very strong embrace to his wife Vera, Dusan and Ana and tell them that they should be proud of the husband and father they had because, in addition to being a great professional and a wonderful person, he is in the history of Atletico Madrid on its own merits."

President Enrique Cerezo added: "Today is a sad day for all athletes and for the world of football since Radomir Antic has left us. A great person and one of the architects of the magnificent golden age that Atletico Madrid lived has left.

"The league and Copa del Rey titles that we won under his orders will remain forever in our memory. I am very proud to have met him and it has been a privilege to have shared every moment of football with him. All my love for his family."

While Antic's impact in Spanish football may have been greatest at Atletico, he had previously played and coached at Real Zaragoza, before also managing Real Madrid and Real Oviedo.

He spent a trio of spells with Atletico between 1995 and 2000, including a three-year stint until 1998, enjoying the great highs and significant lows, as they suffered relegation in the 1999-00 campaign.

Antic returned to Oviedo next, getting relegated again, but landed on his feet after a period away from management – joining Barcelona in 2003 to replace Louis van Gaal.

Although it was a relatively successful period at Camp Nou, he was replaced amid a presidential change at the club.

He went on to coach Celta Vigo, his native Serbia, Shandong Luneng and, most recently, Hebei China Fortune in 2015.

Eden Hazard vowed Real Madrid will fight to the end in their pursuit of honours this season and was delighted to be back out on the pitch in the frustrating 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo.

The Belgium forward managed 70 minutes on his first outing since November due to an ankle injury.

Madrid appeared to be headed for three points after Fedor Smolov's opener was cancelled out by Toni Kroos and Sergio Ramos.

But Santi Mina earned Celta a share of the spoils in the closing stages to leave Madrid just one point clear of Barcelona at the top of LaLiga.

For Hazard, it was a great feeling to be back playing even if the result was disappointing.

"I felt good," Hazard said in quotes reported by Marca. "The first 10 minutes I was tired, but as the minutes went by I felt fine. I'm happy with my performance, but not with the result.

"I hope we'll improve in the next few games. When a team is winning 2-1 you try to see out [the match], but it wasn't to be.

"There's still a lot of games left and we're going to fight it out until the end."

Madrid's goal return of 46 this season is 11 fewer than title rivals Barca, who Los Blancos meet in El Clasico on March 1.

Hazard does not believe Madrid have an issue in front of goal, though.

"I don't think [we're lacking goals]; we had chances and deserved to score more goals," he added.

"We're working well and we're going to win a lot of games together; it's going to be good for us."

Zinedine Zidane moved to defend Marcelo and Gareth Bale after Real Madrid's "painful" 2-2 draw at home to Celta Vigo.

Marcelo was a surprise starter ahead of Ferland Mendy for Sunday's contest at Santiago Bernabeu where Santi Mina earned the visitors an 85th-minute equaliser after Toni Kroos' strike and a Sergio Ramos penalty had cancelled out Fedor Smolov's opener.

The Brazil full-back, a mainstay of Madrid's line-up for over a decade, has faced criticism at times this season, particularly over his performances defensively, but head coach Zidane had no issues with Marcelo's showing.

"I don't think he makes us weaker defensively, because he was good at the back, but you always bring out stats," Zidane said.

"I'm happy with everyone for how they play and when they play."

Bale was mainly ineffective having been selected to start in a front three alongside Karim Benzema and the returning Eden Hazard.

Zidane, though, said the focus is on how the team as a collective can improve after they missed the chance to win a sixth straight LaLiga match.

"I think Bale played a good game and we have to keep thinking that there's a long way to go and we have to think about what we all do on the pitch to improve it," Zidane added.

On how he felt after conceding the late equaliser, the Frenchman said: "Painful to be brutally honest. I thought the team gave a very big effort to try to win the game. 

"After taking the lead and five minutes towards the end conceding the draw, it's not very good. 

"But I'm very pleased with my team, it wasn't easy for us. A first half where we conceded a goal after six minutes and then they closed themselves at the back, very defensively solid.

"The gap in the first half, we were trying to cross the ball too much, but in the second half we did it much better."

One positive for Madrid was the return of Belgium forward Hazard, who has been absent since November with an ankle injury.

Zidane was encouraged by what he saw from the former Chelsea star.

"I'm very happy to have him back and with the 70 minutes he played," Zidane said. 

"I think we know the player he is, and after three months out it wouldn't be easy for him to come back in and play a great game, but I'm very happy with his game and to have him back."

Eden Hazard made his return from a three-month injury lay-off in Real Madrid's 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo, with Thibaut Courtois confident the forward will be key for Zinedine Zidane's side.

An ankle injury sidelined Hazard in late November, but he made his comeback on Sunday, winning a penalty that Sergio Ramos converted to put Madrid 2-1 up in the second half.

Madrid's run of five straight LaLiga wins was ended by Santi Mina's 85th-minute leveller, though, to ensure they only moved one point clear of Clasico rivals Barcelona at the top of the table.

However, the return of Hazard, who has scored just once in nine league games since joining from Chelsea ahead of this season, was seen as an encouraging development for his compatriot Courtois.

"Little by little he will catch up again after three months," Courtois, who also played alongside Hazard at Stamford Bridge, told Movistar.

"He is a player that is worth a lot to us."

Madrid surprisingly fell behind against Celta after Fedor Smolov scored his first goal for the club in the seventh minute.

The home side failed to muster a shot on target across the opening 45 minutes, but Toni Kroos' sixth goal against Celta – he only has 14 overall in LaLiga - levelled matters and Hazard then won a penalty that Ramos scored.

Yet more poor defending allowed substitute Denis Suarez to find fellow replacement Mina as Celta dramatically claimed a share of the spoils.

Asked about his emotions, Courtois replied: "Angry because we conceded a [second] goal.

"It was a difficult game because they started by scoring a goal early on. They defended well with 11 men and then I made a good save to keep the score at 0-1.

"Then in the second half, we scored two fast goals but in the end we've lost two points that are worth a lot at home.

"We defended well but Denis made a good turn and made space for Santi Mina, who put the ball away well.

"It's two points lost and that leaves a bad taste in the mouth."

Real Madrid's most memorable attacking moment during the first half of their title-race twisting 2-2 draw against Celta Vigo was Sergio Ramos launching into one of his driving runs in search of a goal, only to volley the ball into his own face when it arrived.

This botched attack had a claim beyond slapstick, given Zinedine Zidane's LaLiga leaders failed to muster a single shot on target before the break.

Indeed, there was nothing remotely as incisive from an forward line featuring Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale as the move Celta produced for their seventh-minute opener – Iago Aspas shifting smoothly into a pocket of space in front of a ramshackle Madrid defence and threading a perfect pass for Fedor Smolov to coolly slot home.

Hazard was making his first appearance since suffering a fractured ankle in November and, shortly after Ramos' party piece, showed signs of starting to shift through the gears.

In the 40th minute, Karim Benzema pulled out to the left channel and Hazard scampered around the outside, pulling the ball back from the byline for the on-rushing Bale to fire narrowly over.

It was link-up play to cheer Zidane as he tries to get his returning attackers up to speed ahead of the Champions League showdown against Manchester City later this month.

On this evidence, however, Hazard and Bale are playing for one spot. The ever-dependable Benzema is a guaranteed starter, fitness permitting, and Los Blancos missed the benched Vinicius Jr's dynamism for much of Sunday's contest.

Having set themselves a low bar in the first-half, Madrid improved considerably during the second period and hit the front thanks to a couple of sure things.

Toni Kroos' midfield scheming is not annotated with goals too frequently, but he dispatched Marcelo's pass to score for the sixth time against Celta. He has 14 LaLiga goals overall since joining Madrid from Bayern Munich in 2014.

Ramos is, by comparison, somewhat more prolific from centre-back. A smart finish from an offside position showed his radar to be back in order following the earlier mishap and there was little doubt about the outcome when he stepped up for a 65th-minute penalty.

Ruben Blanco erred badly when Benzema and Hazard repeated their first-half link, with the Celta goalkeeper darting from his ground to needlessly bring the Belgium star down.

Blanco guessed correctly but Ramos' sprung from his staggered run-up to dispatch an unerring strike.

Hazard made way for Vinicius in the 73rd minute and enjoyed a warm ovation from the Bernabeu faithful – the sort of reception that sadly only seems to exist in the past tense for Bale nowadays.

As for the other grizzled survivors of Zidane's three consecutive Champions League final triumphs from 2016 through to 2018, they remain his dependables.

They will be asked to go to the well once more the next time Madrid emerge at their famous home ground, faced with a formidable but flawed City in a competition they know like the back of their hand.

It would be a brave person who backs against them but the sight of Celta producing a sting in the tail suggested the years could be taking a toll.

Substitutes Denis Suarez and Santi Mina combined as Aspas and Smolov had before for the latter to score – the lines of communication between Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane in the backline again appearing unhelpfully clogged.

The lead at the top of LaLiga from Barcelona was only a point at full-time, a situation roughly as comfortable as booting a football into your own face.

Of course, Ramos tumbled theatrically in stoppage time to try and win another penalty and Madrid will strain and scrap for everything until the end of the season. With 46 goals from 24 LaLiga games, don't expect them to blow too many teams away either. The Galactico grind is on.

Substitute Santi Mina's 85th-minute equaliser denied leaders Real Madrid a sixth successive LaLiga victory as Celta Vigo left the Santiago Bernabeu with a 2-2 draw.

Los Blancos were stunned by Fedor Smolov's first goal for Celta in the seventh minute and the home side failed to register a single shot on target in the opening half.

However, they turned the game on its head within 13 minutes, Toni Kroos scoring again against Celta before Sergio Ramos slotted home a penalty after the returning Eden Hazard had been fouled.

Mina's late leveller meant Zinedine Zidane's men only moved one point clear of Clasico rivals Barcelona, though, as their winning run came to an end.

 

 

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane recalled Eden Hazard to his starting line-up to face Celta Vigo on Sunday after the Belgium international recovered from an ankle fracture.

Hazard's last appearance for Los Blancos came in a 2-2 Champions League draw against Paris Saint-Germain in November, the injury limiting him to just eight LaLiga appearances and one goal since his €100million transfer from Chelsea.

The 29-year-old joined Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema in Los Blancos' front three against Celta, with Isco dropping to the bench despite scoring in Madrid's 4-1 win at Osasuna.

Hazard's return to fitness is well-timed given Madrid's tough run of forthcoming fixtures.

Zidane will take his side to Levante in LaLiga before a Champions League clash at home against Manchester City and then the Clasico versus Barcelona on March 1.

Eden Hazard is 100 per cent fit and ready to return when Real Madrid take on Celta Vigo in LaLiga on Sunday, says Zinedine Zidane.

Belgium international Hazard has been out of action since November after fracturing his ankle in a 2-2 Champions League draw against Paris Saint-Germain.

He has scored one goal and made 13 appearances since arriving from Chelsea for a reported initial fee of €100million, his debut having been delayed until September due to a hamstring problem.

However, Hazard has been in full training with Madrid this week and Madrid coach Zidane confirmed he could feature at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"We all know how important Hazard is and that's why we signed him. He's a great player. We're very happy he's back with the group," Zidane said at a pre-match news conference on Saturday.

"He hasn't played for three months and it's not easy. It will also depend on the game and the rhythm but physically he's absolutely fit and available to be with us.

"We know how much he can help us. It was tough not having him for almost three months due to injury. He's also very happy to be back.

"It's true we have to take it easy, we should give him time, and that's what we did to make sure he's 100 per cent fit when he is back. He is ready to play tomorrow."

Madrid went into the weekend three points clear at the top of LaLiga and face a huge Clasico against Barcelona in between Champions League last-16 matches against Manchester City.

In previous campaigns Zidane has rotated his side heavily for domestic and European matches, but he was guarded when asked about how he will approach the next month.

"The most important game is the one the one that we're playing tomorrow and after that we'll just plan the following week," said Zidane.

"In the next month we'll have very important games and in each game we'll have to give it our all because they are all crucial.

"We've done well up to now but we have to continue like that if we want to win something important at the end of the season. We know the situation and every game will be a tough one, but we're ready for that challenge."

City have been handed a two-season European ban by UEFA for breaching Financial Fair Play regulations, though the English club will appeal the sanction at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Asked for his thoughts on what has happened to their Champions League opponents, Zidane said: "I don't really know what's going to change or what's going to happen. I can only talk to you about football and about games we're going to play.

"They are a very strong team, very competitive team and this is something that is not going to change. But right now I'm focused on our game tomorrow.

"They are a great team regardless of the situation they are going through. The games against them in the Champions League will be tough.

"As far as the ban goes, I cannot talk about that, it's not my job. What I want to stress is Manchester City are a great team, a very tough opponent."

Barcelona signed Brazilian midfielder Matheus Fernandes and Portuguese forward Francisco Trincao on transfer deadline day, but both players must wait for their chance to shine at Camp Nou.

Fernandes will join Quique Setien's squad from Palmeiras in July after a €10million package was agreed for the 21-year-old, who has played for the Brazil Under-20 team.

Braga accepted a €31m offer from Barca for 20-year-old forward Trincao, and he will also formally join the Catalan club's ranks at the end of the season.

Both players have agreed five-year contracts, the Blaugrana announced, with Fernandes' contract including a €300m buy-out clause and Trincao's deal showing a €500m clause.

Braga will take Barca's 18-year-old striker Abel Ruiz on loan until the end of the season and then make the deal permanent for €8m, with the LaLiga club having a buy-back option.

Barca were not the only Spanish club busy in the market though, with Celta Vigo signing striker Fyodor Smolov on loan from Lokomotiv Moscow until the end of the season.

Atletico Madrid re-signed Belgian winger Yannick Carrasco, almost two years after he left to join Chinese side Dalian Yifang. The 26-year-old joined until the end of the season on loan.
 

STAYING PUT

Deadline day was as notable for the deals that looked to have fallen through as those that were completed.

Paris Saint-Germain ruled out allowing Edinson Cavani to leave, as a host of clubs fancied taking the Uruguayan off their hands, while Chelsea refused to let France striker Olivier Giroud depart Stamford Bridge.

Tottenham were among the clubs keen on Giroud, but Jose Mourinho looked like missing out on the striker he wanted to strengthen a front-line depleted by the loss of injured England captain Harry Kane.

Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane said Gareth Bale would not be leaving the Santiago Bernabeu.

Manchester United remained linked with Bournemouth forward Joshua King, but time was running out for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to add new faces to his Old Trafford squad.

United made one signing, but it was a low-profile deal as England Under-20 goalkeeper Nathan Bishop arrived from third-tier Southend United.

Arsenal brought in defender Cedric Soares on loan from Southampton.

In Scotland, champions Celtic shipped out Scotland international Lewis Morgan to Major League Soccer side Inter Miami, who are part-owned by David Beckham.

Belgian side Genk allowed attacking midfielder Ianis Hagi, son of Romanian great Gheorghe Hagi, to join Scottish giants Rangers on loan.
 

KOUAME, DUNCAN IN

Serie A transfer activity was dominated by Fiorentina, who signed Ivorian forward Christian Kouame from Genoa, initially on loan. The deal will be made permanent at the end of the season.

They also brought in Ghanaian midfielder Alfred Duncan from Sassuolo in a similar deal, a loan with an obligation to buy.

Reports in Italy said Kevin-Prince Boateng was set to leave Fiorentina among the incomings, with Besiktas his destination. Turkish giants Besiktas also snapped up 18-year-old Croatian midfielder Ajdin Hasic from Dinamo Zagreb on permanent terms.

Atalanta agreed a loan deal with Nice, acquiring defender Adrien Tameze from the Ligue 1 outfit with a purchase option.

World Cup winner Steven Nzonzi cut short a season-long loan from Roma to Galatasaray, returning to his French homeland with Rennes on a six-month loan with an option for a further year.
 

HERTHA BUSY

In the Bundesliga, Emre Can left Juventus for Borussia Dortmund on Friday evening, initially on loan until the end of the campaign but with a €25m fee agreed for a potential permanent transfer.

Elsewhere, Hertha Berlin followed up Thursday's signing of Krzysztof Piatek by prising 20-year-old Brazilian winger Matheus Cunha from table-toppers RB Leipzig, for whom he scored nine goals in 52 games.

Hertha managing director Michael Preetz said on the club's website: "We wanted to increase the quantity and improve the quality up front, which we have been able to do with the Piatek and Cunha transfers."

Leipzig also offloaded Austrian midfielder Stefan Ilsanker to Eintracht Frankfurt. He spent four-and-a-half years at Leipzig, joining them in the second tier.

Werder Bremen signed striker Davie Selke on an 18-month loan from Hertha, the 25-year-old returning to the club where he began his professional career.

Napoli have bolstered their midfield options with the reported €24million signing of Stanislav Lobotka from Celta Vigo.

The length of the 25-year-old's contract is yet to be confirmed by the club, but he is said to have signed until 2024 and becomes Napoli's second signing of the month following Diego Demme's switch from RB Leipzig.

Napoli are reported to have paid an initial €20m, with another €4m in variables and clauses.

Lobotka joined Celta in 2017 from Danish side Nordsjaelland and the Slovakia international quickly established himself in Juan Carlos Unzue's team, playing every match in the 2017-18 campaign and starting 34 of them.

He remained a key player until his departure, often earning rave reviews with his enterprising blend of technical quality and combativeness.

The last Slovakian player to represent Napoli was Marek Hamsik, who went on to become a club icon after spending almost 12 years in Naples until last February.

Lobotka leaves a significant hole to fill for Celta, who are languishing just above the relegation zone in LaLiga, with goal difference the only metric keeping them out of the bottom three.

Some of Europe's top clubs are already making signings ahead of the January transfer window, but Real Madrid's focus, at least for now, looks to be on securing the services of a current player.

Karim Benzema remains one of Madrid's key men, with 12 goals in 17 LaLiga matches this term.

Los Blancos will reportedly reward the striker's fine form with a contract renewal in the coming months, keeping him at the Santiago Bernabeu for another two seasons.

 

TOP STORY – BENZEMA TO STAY UNTIL 2022

Karim Benzema has agreed to sign a new contract with LaLiga giants Real Madrid, according to Marca.

Benzema's current deal had been set to expire in 2021, but an extension is imminent. The newspaper reports the Frenchman will be rewarded improved terms on a new contract to run until 2022 due to his outstanding form.

With Madrid enjoying a midseason break, they are said to have agreed a deal with Benzema that will be made formal at the end of the campaign.

Benzema's future is apparently a priority for Madrid, with the report suggesting the deal was only capped at an additional year as the player is determined not to outstay his welcome, leaving before his outstanding career wanes.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester United reportedly have an interest in Benfica star Gedson Fernandes. Sky Sports say the 20-year-old midfielder, who has fallen out of favour with his club, could be available for £34million (€39.8m) following a loan, rather than for a loftier release clause of £102m. United are desperate to bolster their midfield, with Nemanja Matic tipped to join Inter, Milan or Atletico Madrid.

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Suns says United are eyeing £50m-rated Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin after Erling Haaland signed for Bundesliga outfit Borussia Dortmund.

- The Mirror claims Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will leave Emirates Stadium at the end of the season in pursuit of silverware. Aubameyang has 18 months remaining on his contract.

Chelsea have made enquiries about the release clause in RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner's contract, says The Telegraph. Werner has been linked to Liverpool, United and Bayern Munich.

- El Desmarque says Everton are leading the race to sign James Rodriguez from Real Madrid. Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti worked with James during his time at the Santiago Bernabeu.

- Serie A champions Juventus lead the race to sign Dejan Kulusevski, according to Sky Sport Italia and La Gazzetta dello Sport. The 19-year-old, on loan at Parma from Atalanta, has been linked to United, Arsenal, Napoli, Inter and Liverpool. But Juve are reportedly poised to pay Atalanta €40-50m, while allowing Kulusevski to remain on loan at Parma until the end of the season.

- Calciomercato.com reports Jean-Clair Todibo has an offer from Milan. A deal is said to be done for the Barcelona defender - an initial loan, followed by a €20m fee with no buyback option - but he has not yet agreed to the transfer.

- Having already signed Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Milan must move on others in the next month. However, La Gazzetta dello Sport reports the Rossoneri are only interested in selling Ricardo Rodriguez and Suso, rather than accommodating loan deals that would suit Watford and Sevilla, respectively.

Napoli are set to announce the signing of Stanislav Lobotka for an initial €16m, according to Calciomercato.com. The midfielder will leave Celta Vigo and sign a contract with the Partenopei until 2024.

Lionel Messi proves he is the best player in the world day after day at Barcelona and "everyone knows" it to be true, says Luis Suarez.

Uruguayan striker Suarez last month celebrated the fifth anniversary of his debut for the Camp Nou giants, and since his switch from Liverpool to LaLiga he has forged a devastating partnership with Messi.

This season is proving no different, with the duo contributing 14 LaLiga goals between them despite Messi having missed early games of the season with injury.

The debate as to who is the greatest player in the world between Messi and former Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo, now at Juventus, has rumbled on for over a decade.

But for Suarez, there is simply nobody better than Argentinian Messi.

"Messi has helped me a lot in my personal growth. We had an affinity from the beginning. From coexistence came friendship, and the moments I spent with him also helped on the pitch," Suarez told Barcelona's official website.

"Everyone knows that he is the best in the world. He has proven it and continues to prove it day after day.

"He has shown me his companionship a thousand times. He helped me when I was fighting for the Golden Boot. The other day, at Eibar, he gave me a goal."

Despite heading into the international break at the top of LaLiga, Barca coach Ernesto Valverde has found himself under pressure having seen his side drop 11 points from 12 matches this term.

Barca have a tricky period over the coming month, with Champions League fixtures against Borussia Dortmund and Inter, a trip to Atletico Madrid and the rescheduled Clasico with Madrid on December 18.

Suarez, though, is relishing what is to come.

He said: "A very nice month is ahead. We like those, both as footballers and also people. There will be a Clasico too.

"You have to be mentally and physically prepared. Maybe we won't win every game or have it easy, but we hope to do our best with the support of the fans.

"We have not had a simple league start. We gave away points that in other years we hadn't lost, but we know that other teams are also competing well."

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