Manchester United, Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona all pursued Erling Haaland in the recent transfer window.

The 21-year-old Norway forward opted to stay with Borussia Dortmund.

But the race will heat up again at the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA INTERESTED IN STERLING

Manchester United still want to sign Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland and will make a move next European summer, reports the Express.

United made a major transfer splash when they landed Cristiano Ronaldo last month but remain in the Haaland race.

The Red Devils are looking to end their trophy drought and added Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho along with Ronaldo for this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- United are leading the way in the chase to sign Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund, according to The Sun. The 18-year-old is being pursued by Chelsea and Manchester City too.

- The Sun reports that United are planning a clear-out at the end of this season, including Donny van de Beek , Jesse Lingard and Anthony Martial to free up funds.

- Calciomercato reports that Juventus have identified Real Madrid forward Luka Jovic as a transfer target in the January window on loan.

- Ligue 1 club Lens could make a bid for Liverpool's Belgium international forward Divock Origi , claims Fichajes.

- Crystal Palace are interested in signing US international forward Daryl Dike from Orlando City, reports The Sun. Dike is set to command a £18m fee.

- Transfer expert Ekrem Konur claims that Flamengo have tabled an offer to sign Brazilian veteran Dani Alves.

Manchester United have a "massive" opportunity to win multiple titles this season following the return of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, according to former Red Devils winger Jesper Olsen.

Ronaldo is back at Old Trafford after re-joining United from Serie A giants Juventus before the transfer window closed last week – the all-time leading goalscorer in men's international football signing a two-year contract with the option for a third in Manchester.

The 36-year-old won one of his five Ballon d'Or trophies with United, scoring 118 goals in 292 games across his first spell in Manchester as he clinched three Premier League titles and the Champions League – a competition he has since won four more times – before moving to Real Madrid in 2009.

Formerly a dazzling winger but now a penalty-box poacher, Ronaldo has netted 674 times across 895 club games in all competitions, averaging a goal every 108 minutes.

Between his entrance on the Premier League stage and his final appearance in May 2009, Frank Lampard (131) and Thierry Henry (124) were the only two to have a hand in more English top-flight goals than Ronaldo (118) – Henry (92) the only one to outscore Ronaldo's 84.

After his 12-year absence, Ronaldo – who scored the first of his 48 club hat-tricks against Newcastle United in 2008 – is in line to make his debut against the Magpies in the Premier League on Saturday, and former United winger Olsen is excited about the Portuguese's second coming.

"I think it's fantastic. It's a great way to finish his career I suppose. He is 36 now," Olsen, who won the FA Cup during his four years at United in the 1980s, told Stats Perform.

"I was doing a lot of work in Manchester at the time when he arrived, we looked after Wayne Rooney – our sports management company – I can only see the whole thing being positive.

"The stature of the guy and also the players around him getting to play with him and learn from him. Exciting for the Premier League, absolutely."

Not since 2012-13 – Alex Ferguson's final season in charge – have United won the Premier League, while the Red Devils have not celebrated silverware since claiming the Europa League, EFL Cup and Community Shield in 2016-17.

United, who finished second to rivals Manchester City in the Premier League in 2020-21, surprisingly lost to Villarreal in last season's Europa League final.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United have won two of their opening three league fixtures this season, ahead of Newcastle's visit to the Theatre of Dreams.

Ronaldo's last Premier League appearance was in May 2009 against Arsenal – if he faces Newcastle, it will set a new record for the longest gap between appearances in the competition's history (12 years, 118 days).

His last Premier League goal came 12 years and 124 days ago, against City in May 2009. Assuming he scores again for the Red Devils, only one player has ever had a longer gap between Premier League goals – Matt Jackson (13 years and 187 days between May 1993 and November 2006).

"It [Ronaldo's arrival] certainly hasn't made United weaker as a team. It isn't easy to win anything, we know that," Olsen continued. "We talk about Tottenham who haven't won anything for a long time. The Premier League is hard.

"The way United played last season, they got some rhythm and continuation in terms of winning matches. I think they have the spine and now the belief as well. The players seem to have settled in.

"The mixture of younger players, too. The likes of [Paul] Pogba and [Bruno] Fernandes performing well, [Edinson] Cavani coming on to score goals, [Mason] Greenwood as well. I think it's a really good mix. We know there's a lot of different competitions. It's a long season. It can only help them with that squad they have."

With United also bringing in top transfer target Jadon Sancho from Borussia Dortmund and World Cup-winning defender Raphael Varane via Real Madrid, pressure is on manager Solskjaer to deliver.

"Every year, if you play for United, you're expected to win titles – players and managers. Obviously, he came to United with a bit of experience but it's a massive club and a huge task," ex-Denmark international Olsen added.

"…It has to click but they definitely have a massive chance to not win one title but possibly a few over the next 12 months.

"It takes time but if you look as a player, and I don't think at any stage or age, if you look around Europe, the bigger clubs you can join, United surely stands as one of those at the top.

"They have certainly been on reliant on a way of playing that suits the team. They will have a lot of ball now with the way they play. It's a lot more settled. They've done really well in terms of signings. It can take some time to settle at United, but after a long time in the wilderness I suppose, it's settled down.

"Solskjaer is very calm and very structured. He knows what he's doing with his management team. It's a very exciting season. Obviously, it all depends on the games and if you win of course."

While fans and pundits have been buoyed by United's transfer business in 2021-22, one recent signing has been left in the wilderness.

Donny Van de Beek joined from Ajax last season amid much fanfare, however the Netherlands international is yet to make an appearance this term, having made just four Premier League starts in 2020-21.

"It doesn't make sense because we all know what he did for Ajax, but there's obviously something that the way Solskjaer wants to play doesn't fit in," Olsen, who also played for Dutch giants Ajax, said. "There's no doubt that you don't become a bad player overnight.

"Maybe he is getting used to a different style and system. Sometimes it takes a while but of course there would be people watching because you don't want to go two-three years without playing when you're such an exciting player who has done so much already."

Donny van de Beek is determined to win a place in the Manchester United side after positive talks with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – although he admits his time in England has been "so hard".

Signed from Ajax last September for an initial £34.7million (€39m), the Netherlands international scored on his Premier League debut in a home defeat to Crystal Palace.

The midfielder has since found first-team football hard to come by. He has only started four league matches for the Red Devils, playing just 1,460 minutes of football, fewer than back-up defenders Eric Bailly and Alex Telles.

Van de Beek's agent suggested there was a chance to join Everton in the transfer window, with United's signings of Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo further limiting his client's chances of playing, but there was no progress on any possible move away.

Now, Van de Beek says manager Solskjaer has made it clear he will get his opportunities to impress, even though the 24-year-old has yet to get on the pitch for United this season.

Speaking to Vibe with Five, he said: "First year, you come from another competition and it's normal you need time to adapt. But of course, you're not happy. I want to play – that's clear.

"It's so hard. Of course, also mentally, it's so difficult. The only thing you can do [is] I train really hard every day, I try to improve and you just wait for your chance. If the moment is there, I have to be ready.

"If you're lost or anything, just talk with players, be a part of the team. If you're not playing, try to help them and be positive. You can sit there and just be angry, but that's not the key to come in the team.

"You need to be involved with the team. Sometimes you're angry, every player has that. You're not going to show them if you're not training hard any more. You give the manager a reason to play without you.

"I speak with the manager about it, the club, and they were clear they want me to stay. The manager was really positive about me and said, 'I need you, I want to keep you here because what I see now, in training, I see a different Donny now'. He was really positive about me.

"He saw a big difference, a little bit stronger now and he can see I have a one-year experience in England now.

"I need to trust him. If he doesn't need me, I think he will let me go. I think he has plans with me. I just need to work hard and I hope I can show the people what I can [do].

"You can never promise a player if he will play or not, but I think I agree that I have to play more. You can train hard every day but, in the end, you need game time to show your best shape. If you play once in a month, you cannot show your best. That's really important."

Despite the intense competition for places, Van de Beek was delighted with United's transfer business, which also saw them bring in Raphael Varane from Real Madrid.

"To be with these players is fantastic," he said. "That's what we need: winners. I'm really positive about us this season. I think we can make big steps now.

"The level will go up, for sure. If good players join the team, the level goes up. You train with maybe 24 players, but good players can make a difference."

Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Manchester United is "bad news" for out-of-favour midfielder Donny Van de Beek, according to his agent Guido Albers.

Van de Beek arrived from Eredivisie giants Ajax amid plenty of fanfare ahead of the 2020-21 season but the Netherlands international has continued to be overlooked by United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The 24-year-old has been an unused substitute in United's opening three Premier League games of the 2021-22 campaign, having made just four starts in the league last term.

Van de Beek, who had a deadline-day move to Everton blocked, could now see his prospects of game time further hampered following the Old Trafford comeback of superstar Ronaldo.

"Cristiano arrived on Friday which we knew was bad news for us. Pogba plays on the left, and with Cristiano's arrival it means another extra player in midfield, with Pogba moving away from the left," Albers told Ziggo Sport. 

"We had conversations with Solskjaer and the board. We took the initiative to find a club and our search ended up at Everton. We opened talks with Marcel Brands and Farhad Moshiri.

"On Monday night [before deadline day] we received a call from Solskjaer and the club who told us that a transfer was out of question and that he had to report himself to training the next morning."

United won three and lost one of the four games Van de Beek started in the league last season for a 75 per cent win rate.

That dropped to 52.9 per cent in the other 34 matches the Red Devils started without the Dutchman, while their average goals scored fell from 2.3 with Van de Beek to 1.9 without.

Van de Beek led the way for United in the Premier League in 2020-21 in terms of tackles won per 90 minutes (1.75), meanwhile, and Paul Pogba (2.09) was the only midfielder to play more than once to complete more dribbles per 90 minutes than Van de Beek's 1.4.

Albers added: "The perspective now is that we stated that Donny is not a Carabao Cup player, or FA Cup player, or to play only in European games. Donny went to England to play in the Premier League.

"The way the conversation went this time [with Solskjaer] compared to last summer... things are much more clear now. I have full expectations that Donny will get his chance now.

"Donny worked extremely hard in the summer. He only had seven days off. The rest of the summer he trained to become top fit. He is totally ready."

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has allegedly blocked a potential loan move to Everton for midfielder Donny van de Beek, according to the player’s agent.

The Netherlands international is yet to kick a ball this season, appearing as an unused substitute in each of United’s opening three Premier League games.

Van de Beek played 19 times in the top flight last term, with his future reportedly uncertain after just a single year at Old Trafford.

The former Ajax man received assurances heading into this campaign from Solskjaer, who told the media: "Donny knows that when he keeps on performing and training how he does for us, he'll be fit and ready when he plays."

According to widespread reports, Van de Beek was nevertheless keen on departing the Red Devils in favour of a loan switch to Everton.

However, Solskjaer is alleged to have blocked the move, much to the dismay of the midfielder and his agent Guido Albers.

"Manchester United are holding everything back," Albers told Voetbal International. "It's disappointing that United are not cooperating."

Reports subsequently emerged from The Athletic claiming no such loan offer had been made for Van de Beek.

Manchester United midfield outcast Donny Van de Beek has been described as "one of the most disappointing transfers ever" by former Red Devils star Dimitar Berbatov.

Van de Beek arrived from Ajax amid plenty of fanfare ahead of the 2020-21 season but the Netherlands international has continued to be overlooked by United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The 24-year-old has been an unused substitute in United's opening two Premier League games of the 2021-22 campaign, having made just four starts in the league last term.

Van de Beek's agent Guido Albers said the Dutchman has been given "clarity" over his United future by Solskjaer, who insisted the former Ajax star is an "important" part of his plans.

Berbatov – who won two Premier League titles among other honours during his time at United – believes Van de Beek should leave Old Trafford if he is unhappy.

"The transfer window closes on Tuesday and, while United have done well to bring in some good players, I still think there may be some action to come with outgoings," Berbatov wrote in his Betfair column. "I don't think we're going to see any more playing time from Donny van de Beek.

"It's a really strange, disappointing and surprising situation. They spent around £35million on him and, to pay that for a player who isn't starting many games, doesn't make sense. I'm not blaming the player at all, but for me it's one of the most disappointing transfers ever."

United won three and lost one of the four games Van de Beek started in the league last season for a 75 per cent win rate.

That drops to 52.9 per cent in the other 34 matches the Red Devils started without the Dutchman, while their average goals scored fell from 2.3 with Van de Beek to 1.9 without.

Van de Beek led the way for United in the Premier League in 2020-21 in terms of tackles won per 90 minutes (1.75), meanwhile, and Paul Pogba (2.09) was the only midfielder to play more than once to complete more dribbles per 90 minutes than Van de Beek's 1.4.

"He has got a lot of quality," Berbatov added. "I don't like it when clubs buy for the sake of buying and this is one of those situations. I'm sure he's banging on the manager's door and asking questions.

"I think if he's not happy, Van de Beek should push to leave. His place in the national team is at risk, especially now with Louis van Gaal in charge. Van Gaal is a disciplinarian who like his players to play football.

"Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes are untouchable in the United midfield at the moment. Scott McTominay, Fred and even 33-year-old Nemanja Matic are ahead of van de Beek.

"I know how Van de Beek feels. In the late stage of my career I was playing in Greece, the president wanted me and signed me, but the coach didn't want me and we had some issues. It is frustrating for a player. He needs to have a long hard think about his situation and what he wants."

Donny van de Beek has been given "clarity" over his Manchester United future by boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to the midfielder's agent Guido Albers.

The 24-year-old started just four times in the Premier League in a disappointing first campaign at Old Trafford following a reported £35million switch from Ajax last September.

He was then forced to miss the Netherlands' Euro 2020 campaign through injury and has been an unused substitute in United's opening two games of the 2021-22 campaign.

However, speaking after Sunday's 1-1 draw with Southampton, Solskjaer offered Van de Beek assurances when stating the Dutchman is an "important" part of his plans this term.

Van de Beek's agent Albers is confident Solskjaer will stick to his word and use the Ajax academy product more often over the next nine months.

"Everyone within the club knows that Donny cannot have another season like last year," Albers told De Telegraaf. "In preparation, clarity has been provided about his role. 

"The fans had already embraced him before, but the most important thing is that the trainer has now provided clarity in the English press.

"We are happy with that. And I assume that Donny will play a lot in one of the positions in midfield in the coming period."

United won three and lost one of the four games Van de Beek started in the league last season for a 75 per cent win rate.

That drops to 52.9 per cent in the other 34 matches the Red Devils started without the Dutchman, while their average goals scored fell from 2.3 with Van de Beek to 1.9 without.

He led the way for United in the Premier League in 2020-21 in terms of tackles won per 90 minutes (1.75), meanwhile, and Paul Pogba (2.09) was the only midfielder to play more than once to complete more dribbles per 90 minutes than Van de Beek's 1.4.

A Liverpool stalwart might make an early exit from the club.

Jordan Henderson is under contract for two more years and is said to want an extension.

But talks have reportedly not progressed, potentially opening the door for outside suitors.

 

TOP STORY - HENDERSON COULD LEAVE ANFIELD

Completing a new deal for Henderson is reportedly not a priority for Liverpool's ownership this off-season, and The Athletic says a move could be on the cards for the England international.

The report cites Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino as a long-time admirer of the midfielder and notes Henderson's close friendship with Atletico Madrid's Luis Suarez as potentially weighing in favour of a move to one of those clubs.

Liverpool are said to be eager to get something in return for Henderson, should he leave, after watching Georginio Wijnaldum move to PSG on a free transfer last month.

 

ROUND-UP

- If the rumoured swap deal that would send Saul Niguez to Barcelona and Antoine Griezmann to Atletico falls through, the Daily Mail reports that Liverpool and Manchester United could swoop for the 26-year-old Spaniard.

- Raphael Varane's expected move to Old Trafford is gaining momentum, as Fabrizio Romano reports the Real Madrid centre-back has told United he is "ready" to accept their contract offer should the clubs agree to terms.

- Tottenham are set to acquire Pierluigi Gollini from Atalanta on loan through next season with a €15million option to make the move permanent, says Romano, and Football London reports Atalanta defender Cristian Romero also is in talks to join Spurs.

- Manchester United's Donny van de Beek could be headed to Barcelona on loan, according to Mundo Deportivo.

- Villarreal are the leaders to sign Arnaut Danjuma away from Bournemouth, the Sun reports, with Villa and Southampton also possibilities for the Dutch forward.

- Burnley winger Dwight McNeil is Everton's top transfer target according to the Mirror, though the Liverpool Echo says Aston Villa may also be in the mix.

Donny van de Beek has been underwhelming since his £35million (€40m) move to Manchester United from Ajax.

The Netherlands international only scored once in 19 league appearances in 2020-21.

He only managed four Premier League starts and, if reports are to be believed, could be used as a pawn in United's transfer activity.

 

TOP STORY – REAL WANTS DONNY IN VARANE DEAL

Real Madrid want  United flop Donny van de Beek as part of a deal for Raphael Varane, claim The Sun.

The Red Devils have chased the French defender this off-season and Los Blancos are open to a switch which could include midfielder Van de Beek joining Madrid on a season-long loan.

Madrid have reportedly asked for €50m ($42.9m) for Varane, after the two clubs held initial talks. The 28-year-old has 12 months left on his current deal.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool are interested in Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez according to La Razon. The 26-year-old Spain international is understood to be keen on a Premier League move.

- The Reds have also looked into signing Lille's Renato Sanches, reports Onze Mondial. The midfielder is said to have admirers at Arsenal, too.

- The Star reports Arsenal are considering a move for West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, if they fail to land Sheffield United's Aaron Ramsdale .

- Corriere dello Sport claim Milan are keen on Chelsea midfielder Hakim Ziyech, who they believe is more attainable than reported target James Rodriguez.

- After scoring four goals at Euro 2020, Leverkusen striker Patrik Schick has drawn interest from Milan, according to Tuttomercatoweb.

Donny van de Beek has been underwhelming since his £35million (€40m) move to Manchester United from Ajax.

The Netherlands international only scored once in 19 league appearances in 2020-21.

He only managed four Premier League starts and, if reports are to be believed, could be used as a pawn in United's transfer activity.

 

TOP STORY – REAL WANTS DONNY IN VARANE DEAL

Real Madrid want  United flop Donny van de Beek as part of a deal for Raphael Varane, claim The Sun.

The Red Devils have chased the French defender this off-season and Los Blancos are open to a switch which could include midfielder Van de Beek joining Madrid on a season-long loan.

Madrid have reportedly asked for €50m ($42.9m) for Varane, after the two clubs held initial talks. The 28-year-old has 12 months left on his current deal.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool are interested in Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez according to La Razon. The 26-year-old Spain international is understood to be keen on a Premier League move.

- The Reds have also looked into signing Lille's Renato Sanches, reports Onze Mondial. The midfielder is said to have admirers at Arsenal, too.

- The Star reports Arsenal are considering a move for West Brom goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, if they fail to land Sheffield United's Aaron Ramsdale .

- Corriere dello Sport claim Milan are keen on Chelsea midfielder Hakim Ziyech, who they believe is more attainable than reported target James Rodriguez.

- After scoring four goals at Euro 2020, Leverkusen striker Patrik Schick has drawn interest from Milan, according to Tuttomercatoweb.

Is one of football's biggest transfer sagas coming to an end?

Manchester United wanted Jadon Sancho at the start of 2020-21 but a deal with Borussia Dortmund did not materialise.

However, Premier League giants United appear to be closing in on the England international ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

 

TOP STORY – SANCHO SET FOR OLD TRAFFORD

Jadon Sancho will join Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund, according to Fabrizio Romano.

United have long been interested in Sancho, who had previously attracted attention from Liverpool and Chelsea.

But Romano says an agreement is "really close", with "final details expected to be completed in the next few days".

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport Bild reports Real Madrid are scouting RB Leipzig and Spain star Dani Olmo during Euro 2020. Madrid continue to be linked with Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, however, Cadena Ser claims Los Blancos have ruled out an off-season move due to their financial situation.

United are confident of signing Raphael Varane from Madrid but the France defender's salary expectations are a stumbling block, says The Independent. It comes as ESPN reports Anthony Martial and Donny van de Beek could be sold as part of a revamp of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's squad.

- According to Foot Mercato, former Madrid captain Sergio Ramos has made PSG his priority. The veteran has also been linked with United, Manchester City and Chelsea.

Tottenham are interested in Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde as they edge closer to appointing former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo, says Romano and Gianluca Di Marzio. Kounde is one of the most sought-after defenders in Europe, linked with Chelsea, United and Madrid.

- Mundo Deportivo reports Barca are eyeing Valencia captain Jose Gaya and Chelsea's Marcos Alonso if Inter target Jordi Alba leaves and Junior Firpo joins Milan.

Lazio head coach Maurizio Sarri wants to reunite with Arthur in Rome and could send Sergej Milinkovic-Savic to Juventus, per Il Bianconero.

- Alfredo Pedulla claims PSG are leading the race to sign Lazio star Joaquin Correa. Arsenal and Tottenham are also eyeing the forward.

Is another move on the cards for Keylor Navas?

Navas felt he had little choice but to leave when Real Madrid signed Thibaut Courtois in 2019.

He is facing a similar situation at Paris Saint-Germain, who are trying to lure Gianluigi Donnarumma to the French capital.

 

TOP STORY – TRIO EYEING NAVAS

Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Keylor Navas is attracting interest from Manchester United, Juventus and Milan, according to Marca.

Navas' future is in doubt, with PSG reportedly poised to sign Milan star Gianluigi Donnarumma on a free transfer.

This comes despite Costa Rica international Navas extending his PSG contract until 2024 in April.

 

ROUND-UP

- Diario AS reports Real Madrid are prepared to offer star captain Sergio Ramos a new contract. Ramos is set to become a free agent and the Spaniard is said to have been unhappy with the club's offering of a short-term deal on a reduced salary. The 35-year-old has been linked with former club Sevilla, United and PSG among others.

- Juventus have started preliminary talks to sign Bayern Munich's Corentin Tolisso, says Sky Sport Italia. Juve are also interested in Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli.

- The Telegraph reports Manchester City are now open to giving Raheem Sterling a new deal. Sterling has been linked with Arsenal and Madrid.

- Atalanta are dreaming of signing Juve defender Merih Demiral, reports Calciomercato. Lille's Sven Botman and Torino defender Lyanco are also targets amid centre-back Cristian Romero's links with United.

- Fabrizio Romano says there have been no talks between Arsenal and United regarding Donny van de Beek. The Netherlands international struggled for game time in his first season at Old Trafford.

- According to the Daily Star, United could tempt Tottenham into selling Harry Kane by offering Anthony Martial, who has also reportedly been offered to Madrid. Kane is believed to be keen on an exit amid links with City, Chelsea, Madrid, Barcelona and PSG.

The 12-month delay to Euro 2020 has provided an easy angle for debate ahead of the finals this week.

Which teams might have benefited from the postponement? Italy are back in the groove, Spain were surely buoyed by a 6-0 win over Germany, and England continue to develop exciting young talents.

It works both ways, though, as Germany might have preferred the tournament to go ahead in 2020, prior to their heaviest competitive defeat and before Joachim Low confirmed his exit plans.

Meanwhile, neither situation necessarily suits the Netherlands.

The Oranje have a youthful, talented, newly settled side, but there is the suspicion they have already peaked.

Ronald Koeman, appointed in February 2018, had the Netherlands playing some thrilling, effective football in his first 18 months in charge, narrowly losing the showpiece match at the Nations League Finals while easing to Euros qualification.

Since then, the coach has departed, a number of his young charges have seen their careers stall somewhat and Virgil van Dijk, the team's standout star, has been ruled out by injury.

It means there is plenty of scepticism as Frank de Boer leads the Dutch into their first major tournament in seven years.

 

COACH ACCUSTOMED TO CRITICISM

Koeman left the national team to be appointed by Barcelona. It is highly unlikely De Boer could walk into such a role regardless of his success with the Netherlands.

Since leaving Ajax as a four-time Eredivisie champion in 2016, the coach has endured short, miserable stints with Inter, Crystal Palace and Atlanta United.

De Boer won just 36.4 per cent of his Serie A games, the second-worst rate of an Inter boss this century.

Only Gian Piero Gasperini was less impressive as he went winless, an unfortunate feat De Boer would repeat at Palace as the Eagles did not even score or earn a point in his four Premier League outings.

Atlanta faded from MLS Cup champions to also-rans under De Boer, too, before he was handed an unlikely Oranje opportunity, only to go four without a win at the start of his tenure.

The Netherlands' fortunes have since improved, winning five of seven – albeit while losing a key World Cup qualifier in Turkey and scraping to a friendly draw against Scotland.

Off-field faux pas have also persisted, including media conference mix-ups involving Queensy Menig and Donny van de Beek while Jasper Cillessen was controversially cut from the Euros squad following a positive COVID-19 test.

"It seems clear that things need to get better," De Boer acknowledged after the Scotland game, although he was more optimistic in the aftermath of a subsequent 3-0 win against Georgia.

Having made only two changes to his 5-3-2 line-up – one in goal, the other enforced by injury – De Boer declared: "We're ready."

 

YOUNG STARS' STUNTED PROGRESS

Six players who started the Nations League Finals matches should make De Boer's XI for the Ukraine game, but these stars are not necessarily in the same shape as they were in 2019.

Matthijs de Ligt, Daley Blind and Frenkie de Jong were all coming off an outstanding campaign with Ajax in which they reached the Champions League last four, swatting aside Real Madrid and Juventus on their way before coming within seconds of the final.

Van de Beek, called from the bench against England, was also part of that superb club side.

While Blind remains in Amsterdam and will surely now only start if De Ligt is injured – as he was against Georgia – the other three, who should fit well within De Boer's fluid formation, moved on with mixed success.

De Ligt's first season with Juve was tough, including two errors that led to shots (including one to a goal) and three penalties conceded, before he improved in 2020-21.

De Jong followed a similar path of slow progress at Barca, the highlight of his Camp Nou career so far – now under Koeman – a goal and two assists in April's Copa del Rey final.

That single-game contribution matched Van de Beek's meagre haul for his entire debut season at Manchester United, concerningly. A year behind his two younger international team-mates, the midfielder joined United in 2020 and his three goal involvements came across 36 games but just 15 starts.

Van de Beek's season has ended in miserable fashion, forced to withdraw from the Euros squad this week. Far from a regular at international level, too, this might be a bigger setback for the player than for the Netherlands.

 

DETERMINED TO MAKE THEIR MARK

The absence of Van Dijk means the other Ajax graduates unquestionably maintain key roles in the defensive third, but the Netherlands are relying on older heads in attack, even if they are without the sort of superstar Dutch forward of years past.

This country once had Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooy born on the same day; now they rely on a midfielder and a converted winger for their goals.

It was effective in qualifying, though. Georginio Wijnaldum, 30, was their leading marksman with eight, while Memphis Depay, 27, either scored or assisted every 38 minutes – six goals and seven assists in 495 minutes the best rate among the 54 players to have five or more goal involvements.

Depay netted twice against Scotland and once against Georgia, along with an assist, and will be eager to establish himself on the European stage.

The Barca-linked Lyon forward was an under-19 international when the Netherlands last appeared at the European Championship in 2012, while he made only a single start at the World Cup two years later.

Wijnaldum was at least a regular at Brazil 2014, scoring in the third-place play-off, but both he and Depay have been robbed of a huge chunk of their major tournament careers by the team's failings.

Even with a kind group-stage draw, as they chase a first Euros win since the first round in 2008, the Oranje will need Wijnaldum and Depay to deliver. Neither should be lacking motivation.

Netherlands midfielder Donny van de Beek has been ruled out of Euro 2020 due to injury.

Van de Beek endured a difficult 2020-21 season with Manchester United, making only 15 starts for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side.

The 24-year-old played no active role in the Netherlands' European Championship warm-up fixtures against Scotland and Georgia.

It was announced by the Dutch federation – the KNVB – on Tuesday that Van de Beek will miss the tournament, and head coach Frank de Boer has decided against replacing the former Ajax man in his squad.

"Van de Beek has to let the European Championship pass by," the KNVB announced on Twitter.

"The midfielder is struggling with an injury. As a result, he is not available in time for EURO 2020. Frank de Boer will not call a replacement for Van de Beek."

The nature of Van de Beek's injury blow was not specified, but he had been seen training away from the main group.

Van de Beek may have seen the tournament as an opportunity to prove a point, having been frequently sidelined at Old Trafford following his £34.7million move from Ajax last August, but he must now get himself fit for the 2021-22 campaign.

Will Lionel Messi stay or leave?

The superstar Barcelona captain is set to become a free agent, though the LaLiga giants are determined to re-sign Messi.

Paris Saint-Germain are interested but Messi could reportedly extend his Camp Nou career.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI SET FOR BARCA STAY?

Lionel Messi is closer to staying at Barcelona than joining Paris Saint-Germain, according to L'Equipe.

Messi's future has dominated headlines, with his contract due to expire at season's end amid interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.

Barca are keen to re-sign Messi, who is encouraged by the Copa del Rey triumph and Joan Laporta's plans, despite an offer from PSG.

 

ROUND-UP

Barca have reached out to PSG regarding a possible reunion with Neymar, however, RAC1 says the Ligue 1 holders are not willing to sell the Brazilian superstar.

Everton are plotting a bid for soon-to-be free agent and City star Sergio Aguero, reports the Daily Star. Aguero will leave the Etihad Stadium on a free transfer and the forward has been linked with Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter and Tottenham.

- Fabrizio Romano says Leicester City are working on a deal to sign Lille star Boubakary Soumare, who has previously been linked with Manchester United, Tottenham, Inter and Napoli.

- The Sun claims Borussia Dortmund have joined United and PSG in the battle sign Brighton and Hove Albion defender Ben White.

- Sky Sport Italia claims Milan ultras met with star goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma and demanded he sits out the fixture against Serie A rivals Juventus if he does not renew his contract. Donnarumma is set to become a free agent and he is yet to re-sign amid reports he is in talks with Juve. The Italy international has also been linked with United, Chelsea and PSG.

United are prepared to sell Paul Pogba if he does not commit to a new contract, according to The Sun. Juve and Real Madrid are reportedly eyeing the French star. It comes as The Sun also claims United are not willing to part ways with Donny van de Beek following a difficult first season at Old Trafford.

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