A stunning move for Cristiano Ronaldo could be in the works.

The Portugal captain may end up back with a former club in a swap deal.

The price for Manchester United would be high.

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO SWAP DEAL RUMOURED

If Manchester United want to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford, they may have to surrender Paul Pogba.

La Gazzetta dello Sport reports Juventus would consider using the 36-year-old forward in a swap deal for Pogba, who has a year left on his contract.

The question is whether United would part with the 28-year-old France midfielder in return.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City could land Harry Kane via a cash-plus-swap deal that sends Gabriel Jesus to Tottenham, the Daily Star reports. 

- Arsenal are interested in Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde and Bayer Leverkusen's Edmond Tapsoba, according to The Athletic. 

- Barcelona have not given up in their attempts to sign Matthijs de Ligt from Juventus, Marca reports.

- Lazio have joined Roma as suitors for veteran centre-back Jerome Boateng with the Germany international set to leave Bayern Munich. 

- Granit Xhaka is a target for Jose Mourinho's Roma, and Arsenal have said they want £17million for the midfielder, La Gazzetta dello Sport reports. 

- Pedrinho will leave Benfica before next season, ESPN reports, with Shakhtar Donetsk the likely destination for the 23-year-old Brazilian. 

- Crystal Palace will speak to former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo about replacing Roy Hodgson, The Sun reports. 

Cristiano Ronaldo has shown his appreciation for ex-Juventus boss Andrea Pirlo, describing it as "an honour" to be coached by the former Italy international.

Pirlo's not-so-surprising departure from Juve was confirmed on Friday, just hours before the Serie A club announced the return of Massimiliano Allegri.

The rookie coach's solitary season in the job saw the Bianconeri fail to claim the league title for the first time since 2011, though they did win both the Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia trophies.

They again suffered disappointment in the Champions League, edged out on away goals by Porto at the last-16 stage.

Ronaldo, who scored 29 goals to finish as the leading scorer in Serie A for the 2020-21 campaign, thanked Pirlo via social media.

"Thank you Maestro, it was an honour to be coached by you," he posted on his Instagram stories to accompany a picture of the duo shaking hands.

Pirlo enjoyed a strong finish to the season, a 2-1 final win over Atalanta in the Coppa Italia coming while also securing a top-four finish in Serie A, though an impressive run-in was not enough to keep him in the job.

He departed having won 23 of his 38 league games for a points-per-game average of 2.05, below both the coach he replaced in Maurizio Sarri (2.18) and also Allegri, who managed 2.39 during his first spell in charge.

Still, the only coaches to record more victories than Pirlo in their first season in the competition since 1994-95 are Rudi Garcia (26) and Jose Mourinho (25), with Roma and Inter respectively.

There has been speculation surrounding Ronaldo's future in Turin too, despite another outstanding year on a personal level.

The forward - now preparing for Euro 2020 as part of a Portugal squad looking to retain the trophy - was an unused substitute in the final game under Pirlo, watching on from the bench as his team-mates triumphed 4-1 against Bologna.

Lyon sporting director Juninho slammed departing Barcelona-linked star Memphis Depay for wanting the Ligue 1 side to revolve around him like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

Depay will leave Lyon on a free transfer this off-season and LaLiga giants Barca – led by former Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman – have been tipped to sign the Dutch forward.

The 27-year-old Depay, who arrived from Manchester United in 2017, was involved in 32 goals in Ligue 1 this season (20 goals and 12 assists) – equalling his best tally in a single campaign with the French side (19 goals and 13 assists in 2017-18).

Only Paris Saint-Germain star Mbappe scored more Ligue 1 goals (27) than Depay in 2020-21, but Juninho had strong words for the outgoing Lyon captain.

"Memphis Depay just wanted a team for himself," Juninho told OLTV. "It's not a criticism, I had a good relationship with him.

"But on the other hand, the whole team had to revolve around him and that is very hard. Everyone should feel like they're working the same.

"There are only four players in the world where you have to do everything for them: Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar and Mbappe. If you have one of them, then the team can revolve around them.

"Sorry, I think that Depay is strong, but he's not at their level. And I think that he has to work harder without the ball."

Juninho also responded to departing head coach Rudi Garcia's stunning criticism.

In an interview with L'Equipe, Garcia said: "I was badly welcomed by certain people but I thought that after the cups and being top of the table at the half-way point, things would change.

"There are some fiery minorities but in the city the messages I received were truly nice. I also have the satisfaction of having the second team in France in terms of most playing time for young players. That was one of the objectives, to give chances to and favour those who have a market value but also to play the Brazilian recruits and after a while, there is the squaring of the circle…

"…he [Gerard Houllier, who died in December] was critical in the balance of the club. He knew how to grease up the wheels. It was he who could explain the role of Sporting Director to Juninho who lacked the experience. It is essential in a club that all the people are behind each other as we saw in Lille. Here there was too much dissonance in my relationship with Juni.

"Things went well initially. Things started to go wrong without me noticing. After two or three victories in November, the sporting director no longer came to congratulate me. I found that when the Brazilian recruits weren't playing, he wasn't happy. He would have preferred to win with his players.

"He invests himself a lot, and that is a quality, but I certainly think that he must have promised them that they would start. We spoke about it, he told me that if it had to be done again, he would not push on these things. But it slowed down the emergence of certain young players like [Maxence] Caqueret in particular. Juni's opinion was that Jean Lucas was better. The problem must have come from there initially. And things quickly deteriorated."

In reply as Lyon try to replace Garcia, Juninho said: "I was surprised. I knew he was going to do something like this because that's his character. He chose an experienced journalist and the statement looks like it was prepared a long time ago. It's a long interview, but I don't feel like I'm being betrayed. We are betrayed by friends, and we worked together as professionals.

"One of the problems I had with Rudi was the different ways he treated players in the locker room. He was strong with the weak, and weak with the strong. It was creating problems in the locker room and the players came to see me. Rudi Garcia wanted to loan out Jean Lucas because he didn't play him, we didn't necessarily agree on that. He was complaining that he wasn't progressing tactically, and I thought maybe it was his fault. He took some things personally but the player had nothing to do with it. Eventually he was loaned out, maybe I insisted too much but I have the right to ask questions.

"I think he has a lack of self-confidence. It also bothered him, my way of behaving with the players and the rest of the staff. During the transfer window, it's true I didn't let him choose the players. But that's my role, I made my choices. [Lucas] Paqueta, for example, I made the effort to bring him in. He wasn't necessarily used to this; he likes to impose his choices and that is understandable. But I have defended Rudi on several occasions, it was not necessarily easy but he was doing a good job."

Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid have made official what has long been rumoured – they are parting ways, again.

The Frenchman’s future at the Santiago Bernabeu was a hot topic for weeks, at times overshadowing Madrid's attempts to retain their league crown.

In the end, despite Los Blancos producing an 18-game unbeaten run in LaLiga as they surged towards the finishing line, Atletico Madrid did just enough to keep their noses in front in a title race that went down to the wire.

The focus for Madrid now turns to finding a replacement: What about club legend Raul? Or could the suddenly available Antonio Conte be tempted by a project in Spain?

And what next for Zidane? As so often is the case with sequels, the second episode was not quite able to live up to the standards of the original production. Still, as Opta data shows, he leaves with an impressive coaching resume across his spells in charge in the Spanish capital.

Better than Beenhakker, behind Benitez

First, the basic numbers: Zidane had 263 games in charge in all competitions across his two tenures in Madrid, winning 65.4 per cent of them.

He achieved a points-per-game ratio of 2.17, which seems impressive, right? Well, perhaps surprisingly, that average sits behind both Rafael Benitez (2.21) and Manuel Pellegrini (2.35), two coaches who did not last anywhere near as long in the job.

Indeed, Pellegrini's time in charge spanned just 48 games, despite winning him 36 of them. In his solitary LaLiga campaign, Los Blancos collected 96 points – good enough for only second place, behind Pep Guardiola's Barcelona. Despite such an impressive points record, the Chilean made way as Jose Mourinho arrived from Inter.

Zidane also finished runner-up in the 2020-21 campaign, unable to quite close the gap on Atleti down the stretch.

In comparison to the notable head coaches who reached a century of matches, both Mourinho (2.31) and Carlo Ancelotti (2.36) exceeded Zidane in terms of points per game. Leo Beenhakker – who won three successive titles in the late 1980s – however, managed 2.11 during his reign.


The reunion and a second LaLiga title

Zidane's second spell lowered his overall points-per-game average, as he won 68 out of 114 matches upon his return. That is a notable drop-off when compared to his time between January 2016 and the end of the 2017-18 season, when he rattled along at 2.29 points per outing.

His win percentage in LaLiga in his initial spell was a mighty impressive 70.8, yet Madrid still only finished top of the table once in that time, crowned champions at the end of the 2016-17 season when collecting 93 points, enough to be above a Barca squad coached by Luis Enrique in the final table.

However, since Zidane sensationally agreed to replace Santiago Solari in March 2019, Madrid have the best record in LaLiga.

That 87-game span produced 188 points, three more than rivals Barcelona managed - though both won the same number of games (56) - and it puts Madrid 12 points ahead of newly crowned champions Atleti.

Having set a ridiculously high bar in his initial stint, Zidane has not been able to match his previous successes in the Champions League either.

Madrid were already out of the 2018-19 competition when he came back to the job, stunningly beaten 4-1 at home by Ajax in the second leg of a last-16 tie. They fell in the same round a year later to Manchester City and, while able to get past Atalanta and Liverpool in the knockout stages in 2021, a 3-1 aggregate semi-final loss to Chelsea ended hopes of further European glory.


Life with and without Ronaldo

It helped Zidane first time around that he had a star-studded squad at his disposal, most of whom were in their prime. Plenty were still around for a reunion when he took over again, though one notable departure had left a sizeable gap in the squad.

Just like his head coach, Cristiano Ronaldo decided the time was right to leave Madrid after they had been crowned Champions League winners for a third successive year in 2018. A move to Juventus broke up the formidable 'BBC' triumvirate, the forward having prospered when playing alongside Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema.

The Portuguese superstar departed as the club's all-time leading scorer, with 112 of his Madrid goals coming while working under Zidane. That is the same number as he managed when Ancelotti was at the helm, while four behind his career tally with Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

However, Ronaldo's most successful player-coach alliance in terms of scoring output was with Mourinho, when he managed 168 working alongside his compatriot. 

Perhaps surprisingly, Zidane's Madrid were actually better without the five-time Ballon d'Or winner during his initial reign, at least in terms of average goals for and win percentage.

When Ronaldo was involved, the head coach won 68.4 per cent of matches, his team scoring at a rate of 2.6 goals per game. However, without him, those figures actually climbed to 74.3 per cent and 2.8 goals for. Addition by subtraction perhaps, but Madrid's loss was certainly a gain for Juve when the superstar decided he wanted a new challenge in Turin.

Zidane, too, will now contemplate what is next in his coaching career. Considering his ties to Madrid, the possibility of a third stint should not be ruled out.

Is the Gianluigi Donnarumma-Milan relationship coming to an end?

Donnarumma made his debut as a 16-year-old for Milan in 2015, however, the Italy international is reportedly close to making the move to Serie A rivals Juventus.

Step forward Mike Maignan…

 

TOP STORY – DONNARUMMA OUT, MAIGNAN IN?

Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan is poised to undergo a medical with Milan as Gianluigi Donnarumma edges closer to a blockbuster Juventus switch, according to widespread reports.

Donnarumma is set to become a free agent and the Milan star is yet to re-sign with the Rossoneri, who qualified for the Champions League.

Gianluca Di Marzio reports Milan are no longer waiting on Donnarumma as they step up their pursuit of Maignan, who will arrive in Italy on Tuesday after helping Lille to Ligue 1 glory.

 

ROUND-UP

- Fabrizio Romano says Massimiliano Allegri's priority is to take charge of Real Madrid, despite interest from former club Juve and Napoli in Serie A. Allegri is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane should he leave the Spanish capital. Despite securing a top-four finish, Andrea Pirlo is being tipped to leave Juve.

- There is set to be a coaching merry-go-round in Serie A this off-season. The front page of Tuesday's Corriere dello Sport says Porto boss Sergio Conceicao is favourite to succeed Gennaro Gattuso at Napoli, with the latter tipped to replace Simone Inzaghi at Lazio. Ex-Roma head coach Paulo Fonseca is the new first choice to join Fiorentina.

Inter must sell one star – Lautaro Martinez or Alessandro Bastoni – due to their financial situation, according to Corriere dello Sport. Martinez has been linked with Barcelona and Real Madrid, while Bastoni has attracted interest from Liverpool and Manchester City. There is also speculation regarding the future of coach Antonio Conte and star Romelu Lukaku, who is reportedly wanted by Chelsea, Barca and Madrid.

- The Telegraph claims Manchester United are prioritising the signing of Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, who has long been tipped to join the Red Devils. Dortmund team-mate Erling Haaland is also wanted at Old Trafford, while Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has been linked with a sensational return.

Tottenham are interested in re-hiring Mauricio Pochettino, reports the Independent. Pochettino is in charge of Paris Saint-Germain after replacing Thomas Tuchel in January but he was unable to oversee a successful title defence this season.

Bayern Munich and Barcelona are targeting Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum on a free transfer, says Sky Sports.

Cristiano Ronaldo said he reached his goals with Serie A powerhouse Juventus amid growing doubts over his future.

Ronaldo has been linked with former clubs Manchester United and Real Madrid, as well as Paris Saint-Germain, after Juventus narrowly finished in Serie A's top four to secure Champions League qualification.

The 36-year-old – contracted to the Bianconeri until 2022 – made history after finishing the season as the league's top goalscorer (29), five goals ahead of Inter forward Romelu Lukaku.

Ronaldo, who has won two Scudetti, two Supercoppa Italiana titles and a Coppa Italia trophy since moving to Turin in 2018 but missed out on Champions League silverware, became the first player to finish as the top scorer for a season in Serie A, LaLiga and the Premier League.

The Portugal captain and five-time Ballon d'Or winner heightened speculation over his future in a social media post on Monday.

"The life and career of any top player are made of ups and downs," Cristiano wrote on Instagram. "Year after year, we face fantastic teams, with extraordinary players and ambitious goals, so we always have to give our best to keep ourselves at excellence levels.

"This year we couldn't win Serie A, congratulations to Inter for the well deserved title. However, I have to value everything that we achieved this season at Juventus, both in collective and individual terms. The Italian Super Cup, the Italian Cup and the Serie A Top Scorer trophy fill me with happiness, mainly due to the difficulty they carry with them, in a country where nothing is easy to win.

"With these achievements, I reached a goal that I had set myself since the first day I arrived in Italy: to win the Championship, the Cup and the Super Cup, and also to be Best Player and Top Scorer in this great football country filled with tremendous players, giant clubs and a very own football culture.

"I've already said that I don't chase records, records chase me. For those who don't understand what I mean by this, it's very simple: football is a collective game, but it is through individual overcoming that we help our teams achieve their goals. It is always looking for more and more on the field, working more and more off the field, that records eventually emerge and collective titles become inevitable, some being the natural consequence of the other.

"So, I'm very proud with this fact that has been widely replicated in recent days: Champion in England, Spain and Italy; Cup winner in England, Spain and Italy; Super Cup winner in England, Spain and Italy; Best Player in England, Spain and Italy; Best Scorer in England, Spain and Italy; Over 100 goals for a club in England, Spain and Italy. Nothing compares to the feeling of knowing that I've left my mark in the countries where I've played, and that I gave joy to the fans of the clubs I represented. This is what I work for, this is what moves me and this is what I'll always keep chasing for until the last day.

"Thanks to everyone who took part in this journey! We stand together!"

The domestic football season concluded at the weekend in typically dramatic fashion.

The title went down to the wire in France and Spain, while Champions League qualification was up for grabs for some big names in England and Italy.

Much of the focus during the closing rounds in Germany was on Robert Lewandowski's record bid, but there was no shortage of intrigue whichever way you looked.

It was in keeping with the rest of an unpredictable campaign, one that Stats Perform breaks down with the use of Opta data.
 

LILLE, LALIGA AND LUKAKU SHAKE THINGS UP

Lille, Atletico Madrid and Inter all have relatively recent history of league glory, but a pre-season wager would have fetched long odds.

In Ligue 1, Paris Saint-Germain had won seven of the previous eight titles and would have expected to do so again, having claimed a domestic treble and reached the Champions League final in 2020.

As it was, under new coach Mauricio Pochettino, they had to settle for pushing Lille all the way.

Les Dogues claimed the title but had already set a club points record when they reached 79 with two games to spare. PSG finished on 82, though, meaning Lille desperately needed the final two results to boost their tally.

Despite the presence of Real Madrid and Barcelona in LaLiga, Atletico's triumph was perhaps more likely, even if the impressive nature of it may have come as a surprise.

Although they stuttered on the home stretch and had to come from behind on the last day to edge out Madrid, Atleti spent 30 matchdays at the top of the table – a mark only bettered once in their 10 other title-winning campaigns (36 matchdays in 1995-96).

Indeed, Atleti are used to having to wait to celebrate, with 10 of their 11 championships seeing the destination of the trophy decided on the final day (all except 1976-77).

Inter are another big name but had been waiting even longer than Lille for their most recent title, with one Milan victory and then nine in a row for Juventus since the 2009-10 Nerazzurri treble.

Antonio Conte's men completed the job in style, though, confirmed as champions with four games to play before finishing with 91 points (behind only their 2006-07 haul of 97) and 89 goals (third-most behind the classes of 1949-50 and 1950-51 – 99 and 107 respectively).

Talisman Romelu Lukaku was involved in 35 of them, becoming the first Serie A player to have at least 20 goals and 10 assists in the same season since at least 2004-05.


BAYERN BACK ON TOP, CITY SCALING NEW HEIGHTS

In Germany, the title race was a little less exciting. Winners of everything in 2020, Bayern Munich took home the Bundesliga crown for a ninth successive season.

Prior to this run, no team had won more than three on the bounce, yet there appears no end to Bayern's dominance in sight. They have now won 52 per cent of the championships since the formation of the competition in 1963.

Julian Nagelsmann, arriving from RB Leipzig, will be the coach tasked with achieving 10 in a row and Hansi Flick has set the bar high. His 86 games brought seven trophies.

Manchester City could soon be reflecting on a similarly dominant dynasty having now claimed three titles in four seasons.

Pep Guardiola played a big part in Bayern's run and now has nine league wins in 12 top-flight seasons as a coach, although this was an unprecedented achievement, with City eighth on Christmas Day – the lowest position at that stage for an eventual Premier League champion.

A record English league run of 12 away victories played a pivotal role in City's season, while defending champions Liverpool saw a club-record 68-game unbeaten home run in the Premier League ended as they subsequently lost six consecutive league matches at Anfield for the first time in their history.

City could yet win the Champions League too, where Sergio Aguero is in line for his final appearance before his contract expires. He will hope it is as successful as his last league outing, during which he scored twice against Everton on Sunday to set a new record for the most Premier League goals by a player for one club (184).
 

RECORD-BREAKING LEWY DELAYS NEXT GENERATION

Aguero might have had his say on the final day, once the title was secure, but he largely took a backseat – unlike Lewandowski at Bayern.

His 41 Bundesliga goals broke Gerd Muller's long-standing record of 40 in a single season. The next-best tally in Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21 saw Lionel Messi trailing well behind on 30.

Lewandowski unsurprisingly also led Europe in expected goals, with his chances worth 32.2 xG, and expected goals on target, producing shots with a value of 35.8 xGOT.

As Lewandowski took the Kicker-Torjagerkanone and Messi went away with the Pichichi, Cristiano Ronaldo (29 goals) won the Capocannoniere, having also previously topped the charts in England and Spain.

Kylian Mbappe (27) was the leading marksman in France, while Harry Kane (23) earned the Premier League Golden Boot for a third time.

Kane is set to be the subject of intense transfer speculation throughout the close-season – replacing Aguero at City might be one option if he gets his wish to leave Spurs – and he will join Mbappe and Erling Haaland in that regard.

Haaland also scored 27 league goals and only just trailed Mbappe's seven assists with his six.

The expectation is both players will establish themselves as the world's best in the coming seasons, but it is now Lewandowski, rather than Messi and Ronaldo, they must surpass.

Andrea Pirlo expects to stay on as Juventus coach next season after guiding them to a top-four finish.

Juve beat Bologna 4-1 on Sunday, a victory that confirmed they will finish fourth in Serie A, a point ahead of Napoli after they could only draw 1-1 at home to Hellas Verona.

A win for Napoli would have left Juve out of the top four regardless of the Bianconeri's result, though Gennaro Gattuso's men were only ahead for a short while.

It was plain sailing throughout for Juve at Bologna, with Federico Chiesa opening the scoring early on to ensure he finished the season as the second youngest player after Marcus Rashford to record at least nine goals and assists across the top five European leagues this term.

Adrien Rabiot and Alvaro Morata, who got a brace, did the rest of the damage, with the Spaniard reaching the 20-goals mark across all competitions for the first time since 2016-17 as he deputised effectively for Cristiano Ronaldo.

It was Juve's 342nd and final game as reigning Serie A champions, a record, and although Pirlo was unable to continue their domination of Italy's top flight, he expects to be in charge again next term.

"I've always put in the maximum commitment, and this is the end result. Those who must decide [about my future] will do so," he told DAZN.

"I see myself in the Juve dugout next season. I would confirm it myself, but now we have to just enjoy what we have achieved.

"For me, it was important to finish the job: winning the Coppa Italia and qualifying for the Champions League. It was a very important goal."

There were conflicting rumours about the reasoning behind Ronaldo's absence, which was seen as curious given the importance of the game for Juve.

While some reports suggested Ronaldo made himself unavailable due to fatigue following the Coppa Italia final, others said it was Pirlo's decision, but the coach insisted they had agreed he would start on the bench.

"It was a joint decision," Pirlo said. "Ronaldo was tired after the match on Wednesday, so I opted to start Morata, who is another great player.

"Ronaldo was available. I've got a strong squad and I can pick many different players."

Nevertheless, Ronaldo finished the season as Serie A's most-prolific player with 29 goals, becoming the first player to achieve that feat in Italy's top flight, LaLiga and the Premier League.

Cristiano Ronaldo made history on Sunday as the Juventus star finished the season as the leading goalscorer in Serie A.

The 36-year-old was an unused substitute as Juve beat Bologna 4-1 away to snatch a Champions League spot from Napoli, who were held by Hellas Verona.

Despite missing a league game for just the fifth time in 2020-21, Ronaldo finished on 29 goals, five more than his nearest rival, Inter striker Romelu Lukaku.

Ronaldo has become the first player to finish as the top scorer for a season in Serie A, LaLiga and the Premier League.

The Portugal star won three Pichichi trophies while at Real Madrid – in 2010-11, 2013-14 and 2014-15 – and won the Premier League golden boot with Manchester United in 2007-08.

Only Lionel Messi (30) and Robert Lewandowski (41) have scored more top-flight goals this season than Ronaldo among Europe's top-five leagues.

Ronaldo has scored 81 Serie A goals in 97 appearances since joining Juve from Madrid in 2018, at least 10 more than any other player in that time.

Andrea Pirlo still hopes to stay on as Juventus coach and keep Cristiano Ronaldo at the club as he prepares for Sunday's decisive Serie A clash with Bologna.

Juve sit fifth in the table after 37 matches, a point behind Napoli in fourth and Milan in third, and they know they must win to have any chance of finishing in a Champions League spot.

Pirlo's first season in charge has been difficult. The Bianconeri lost their title to Inter and crashed out of the Champions League to Porto at the last-16 stage.

However, they have still claimed two trophies in 2021, winning the Supercoppa Italiana match against Napoli in January before lifting the Coppa Italia this week after defeating Atalanta 2-1 in the final.

Speculation persists that Juve will look to replace Pirlo before next season, while it has also been rumoured they could sanction the sale of Ronaldo, who has scored 36 goals in all competitions this term.

Pirlo, however, appears eager to keep working with Ronaldo at the Allianz Stadium and improve on his first campaign in the dugout.

"We do this job for the adrenaline that it brings," he said on Saturday. "I want to continue working with this team and this club, but I think that's normal.

"The greatest satisfaction of this season has been the relationship with the boys, who have given me a lot, whilst I haven't liked the results and we didn't reach the set goals.

"I was a winner as a player, I want to be a manager, so I think of this year as an opportunity to improve. I don't think that the club will decide my future on the basis of tomorrow. We'll see what happens.  

"After the Milan game [a 3-0 defeat on May 9], we were 'dead'; now, we are still alive. Let's think about ourselves first, and then see what happens elsewhere. We mustn't have any regrets. There is always pressure, but we are calm and there is enthusiasm."

He added on Ronaldo: "I see Cristiano at Juventus and extremely focused, just as I saw him in the Coppa Italia final on Wednesday."

One figure who is set to leave Juve after this season is Gianluigi Buffon, with the 43-year-old having announced he will not commit to the club for 2021-22.

Pirlo said of his old team-mate: "With Buffon, Juve is losing a monument of football, both on and off the pitch. It's a sad feeling as we have come a long way together. I admire him very much."

Bruno Fernandes is targeting more individual honours after being named Manchester United's Player of the Year for a second straight season but wants to supplement such accolades with team trophies.

Fernandes followed in the footsteps of United greats Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy after the Portugal international became only the fifth player in United history to win the club's annual award in consecutive campaigns.

Roy Keane and David de Gea have also received the distinction in back-to-back years.

Fernandes claimed the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year gong on Tuesday after receiving an overwhelming 63 per cent of the votes cast by supporters; Luke Shaw came in second place on 21 per cent.

He edged out Anthony Martial to last year's award despite only signing for United in January 2020, having made a huge immediate impact.

Fernandes came out on top in another category, Goal of the Season, for his sublime chip against Everton in February, but it was the main prize that was the focus of an interview with the club's in-house TV station in the wake Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Fulham.

Asked when it meant to win the Player of the Year, he said: "A lot. I always said that individual trophies are really good for players. It lifts you up, I would never say I don't want individual trophies, but it's not more important than a team trophy for me. But it's always important.

"[It means] you're doing something well, you're doing something good, doing the right things means you can do a little bit more, improve a little bit more.

"But, at the same time it means that the people are liking you, like the way you play, the way you trying to help the team, the way you do things, so that's very important for me.

"But more important than that is winning a trophy at the end of the season and this is what it's about because football is a team sport and for me it's about winning trophies."

His double award win this season, added to his prize from 2019-20, mean Fernandes is creating a reasonable collection, not that he is concerned about running out of space.

"Don't worry, I'll get a bigger [trophy cabinet] if needed," he joked.

After all, Fernandes could yet add further honours as the season approaches its conclusion, though his compatriot Ruben Dias of Manchester City appears to be the favourite for many of the Premier League's end-of-campaign individual prizes.

Nevertheless, it has been a wonderful season for Fernandes, the aforementioned strike against Everton being one of 28 goals he has scored in all competitions this term, while he has also added 18 assists in a fine individual campaign.

Eighteen of his goals and 12 of the assists have come in 37 Premier League appearances, having featured in every top-flight game for United – though the assist credited to him against Fulham was questionable with replays unable to conclusively show that he did actually flick the ball on for Edinson Cavani's remarkable effort.

Fernandes' influence runs deeper than often being on hand to tuck home or play the final pass: he is a key cog in United's overall build-up play, as highlighted by sequence data.

He has been involved in more open-play passing sequences that end in a shot (239) than any other Premier League player in 2020-21, while only Harry Kane (34) has had a hand in more moves that have ended in a goal (33 for Fernandes).

But the metrics that best underline Fernandes' importance are 'multi involvements', which relate to a player featuring in the build-up to a shot-ending sequence as well as either creating the chance at the end of the move or taking the eventual shot.

On 21 occasions he has been the one taking the shot having previously played a part in the move, while his chances created at the end of such sequences stand at 25 – both are highs for the Premier League this season.

It means Fernandes holds incredible influence over how United attack, but also how they craft opportunities.

While they will finish second in the Premier League this term, fans will dread to think where they would be without him.

Bruno Fernandes has followed in the footsteps of Manchester United greats Cristiano Ronaldo and Ruud van Nistelrooy after being voted Player of the Year for a second straight season.

The Portugal international became only the fifth player in United history to win the club's annual award in consecutive campaigns.

Fernandes claimed the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year after receiving an overwhelming 63 per cent of the votes cast by supporters.

Luke Shaw came in second place on 21 per cent with Edinson Cavani third on six per cent.

Fernandes edged out Anthony Martial to last year's award despite only signing for United in January 2020, having made a huge immediate impact.

The 26-year-old is only the fifth player in club history to win the accolade in back-to-back years after Ronaldo, Van Nistelrooy, David de Gea and Roy Keane.

Fernandes and Van Nistelrooy are the only players to do it in their first two seasons with the club.

There was recognition for Shaw, though, as he was voted Players' Player of the Year, an award which went to Martial last time around.

Fernandes came out on top in another award, Goal of the Season, for his sublime chip against Everton in February.

That was one of 28 goals he has scored in all competitions this season, while he has also added 17 assists in a fine individual campaign.

Eighteen of his goals and 11 of the assists have come in 36 Premier League appearances, having featured in every top-flight game for United.

There was also recognition for two former United stars on Tuesday as Eric Cantona and Keane were named to the Premier League Hall of Fame.

They join Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry in what has been labelled the most prestigious honour awarded by the competition.

"I feel very lucky to be inducted but I've only been inducted because of the players I've played with," said ex-United captain Keane.

Cantona, meanwhile, felt his inclusion was warranted.

"I am very happy and very proud but, at the same time, I am not surprised," said the former United talisman. "I would've been surprised not to be elected! 

"I played football, I loved football, I dreamed about football as a kid. Of course to play in England was a dream, it was a dream for everybody, playing for the Premier League.

"I have been lucky to play in this team, with wonderful players, a wonderful manager and wonderful fans. 

"We won and we really enjoyed [it], and it was the football I dreamed about because Manchester United, it's a club where they want to win things but in a good way.

"It was like this in the time of Matt Busby, it's the identity of this club and the philosophy of this club."

Where will Pau Torres play next season?

The Villarreal defender is reportedly wanted by Premier League giants Manchester United, who are set to face the LaLiga outfit in the Europa League final.

But Napoli are also eyeing the Spain international.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED FACE FIGHT FOR VILLARREAL DEFENDER

Manchester United could face a battle from Napoli to sign Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

United are looking to bolster their defence amid links to Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and team-mate Raphael Varane, as well as Sevilla's Jules Kounde.

Torres has emerged as a serious option, though Napoli are also reportedly interested, with star Kalidou Koulibaly's future uncertain.

 

ROUND-UP

- Lautaro Martinez and Inter have opened dialogue over a contract renewal, says the front page of Monday's Gazzetta dello Sport. Martinez has previously been tipped to join Barcelona, while Madrid have reportedly emerged as suitors.

- L'Equipe claims Lyon captain Memphis Depay will complete his move to Barca in June. It comes as Barca look to seal other free-transfer details for Manchester City defender Eric Garcia and Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum. Barca have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and City's soon-to-be free agent Sergio Aguero.

Roma have no interest in signing Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. The Italy great will leave Turin at the end of the season, but it will not be for the Italian capital, reports Calciomercato.

- According to Calciomercato, Mauro Icardi has been tipped to swap Paris Saint-Germain for Juventus. With Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala linked with Juve exits, former Inter captain Icardi could return to Italy.

Atalanta are set to trigger their option to sign Cristian Romero from Juve, claims Fabrizio Romano. The defender has been scouted by United.

Andrea Pirlo claimed Cristiano Ronaldo was happy to be substituted with 20 minutes remaining of Juventus' pulsating 3-2 win over champions Inter in the Derby d'Italia on Saturday. 

The Portuguese superstar – who slotted home the opener after his penalty was saved – was withdrawn for Alvaro Morata with the Bianconeri leading 2-1 after Juan Cuadrado had restored the hosts' lead following Romelu Lukaku's leveller from the spot. 

Rodrigo Bentancur was dismissed for the hosts after just 55 minutes for picking up two yellow cards and intense Inter pressure finally told seven minutes from full-time when Giorgio Chiellini bundled into his own net. 

There was to be one final twist, though, as Cuadrado powered home from the spot in the 88th minute after he had been brought down inside the area by Ivan Perisic. 

The result moved Juve into the top four, although they could be usurped ahead of next weekend's final matchday if Napoli overcome Fiorentina on Sunday.

It was just the third time Ronaldo has been substituted this season, but Pirlo was adamant his talisman took the withdrawal well. 

"I think it was the first time he was happy to be subbed off," he told Sky Sport Italia. "We were one man down, and he'd have been chasing shadows. He was happy and smiling in the dressing room."

It has been a dismal first season in charge for Pirlo, with a Champions League last-16 exit followed by a tepid surrender of their nine-year stranglehold on the Serie A crown to Inter.

It remains to be seen whether he will still in charge for the 2021-22 campaign but, if he stays, Pirlo wants to see more of the spirit shown in the win over Antonio Conte's side next term. 

"We should have had the same determination and desire to fight on every ball also in the other games of the season," he added.

"If we had done so, we would not be fighting for a top-four finish at this point. We made too many mistakes in games that seemed easy on paper.

"We've asked ourselves many times what we've lacked this season. We didn't have the same fire burning inside. We had to turn the light on again to fight the title and a top-four finish. The lads have proved they are up to the task in big games.

"This group has a lot to give, we have many young players, but playing for Juventus means having more responsibility. It takes time to adapt.

"We shouldn't have dropped so many points, but this is a good team, we have room for improvement, there is a good base to work well."

Juve finish their campaign with a trip to Bologna next week.

Juventus kept alive their Champions League qualification hopes with a dramatic 3-2 win over Serie A champions Inter in the Derby d'Italia on Saturday. 

Cristiano Ronaldo tapped home after his initial penalty was saved to put Juve ahead midway through the first half, but Romelu Lukaku drew Antonio Conte's side level soon after with a penalty of his own. 

A Giorgio Chiellini own goal seven minutes from full-time cancelled out Juan Cuadrado's earlier strike, but the Colombia international sealed a vital three points for Juve – who had Rodrigo Bentancur dismissed early in the second half – in the 88th minute, powering home from the penalty spot after he had been brought down by Ivan Perisic, whose team-mate Marcelo Brozovic was sent off in stoppage time.

The result moved Andrea Pirlo's side into the top four, although they could be usurped ahead of next weekend's final matchday if Napoli overcome Fiorentina on Sunday.

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