Christian Eriksen was rumoured to be close to leaving Tottenham at the beginning of the season.

Real Madrid were among the clubs interested in the Dane, whose contract expires in 2020, but a move did not materialise before the end of the transfer window.

But that has not deterred the Spanish giants, with Zinedine Zidane willing to move two fringe players away from them Santiago Bernabeu to get a deal done for the 27-year-old.

 

TOP STORY - LOS BLANCOS PAVING WAY FOR ERIKSEN

Real Madrid could reignite their interest in Christian Eriksen in the January transfer window, AS reports a move will only happen if Madrid dispense of two players.

Isco and Mariano Diaz are understood to be the most likely to be sacrificed.

Mariano is yet to make a single appearance this season but could command a fee of around €20million, while Isco's two LaLiga starts came in the draw against Real Valladolid in August and last weekend's loss to Mallorca.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud is being eyed up by Crystal Palace for a January switch across London, according to the Daily Star.

- El Mundo reports Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have ended their dispute over the transfer of Antoine Griezmann with an extra €15m changing hands.

- The Daily Mail claim Arsenal are in pole position to sign RB Leipzig's France Under-21 defender Dayot Upamecano.

- Italy boss Roberto Mancini has not ruled out a return to the national team for veteran duo Gianluigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi as he shapes his squad for Euro 2020.

- The Sun says Juventus and Atletico Madrid are chasing 19-year-old West Bromwich Albion defender Nathan Ferguson.

Bayern Munich coach Niko Kovac warned Niklas Sule against rushing his comeback from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in order to feature for Germany at Euro 2020.

Sule, 24, went into a challenge with Augsburg's Florian Niederlechner in the early stages of Saturday's 2-2 draw in Bavaria and tore his ACL.

He underwent surgery the following day and is expected to miss the remainder of the season, while Bayern president Uli Hoeness said Sule "can forget the Euros, that's all nonsense".

Nevertheless, with more then seven months to go until Euro 2020 begins on June 12, some have suggested he could yet be of use to Joachim Low in the tournament.

Kovac urged him to be careful to not rush his rehabilitation, however.

Speaking ahead of Bayern's Champions League clash with Olympiacos, Kovac said: "Niklas is an important part of the national team.

"But the injury is serious, but we cannot predict it the amount of time he'll need, you have to give it the time needed and you have to be careful.

"It's clear he's motivated, but he cannot make the mistake of [returning] too early or too soon. We'll give him all the time in the world.

"Sule is a very important part of the team, but we are at Bayern and have high-quality replacements, so I'm convinced we can compensate for the loss."

Thomas Muller was once again only used as a substitute against Augsburg, with the forward recently going public with his frustration at a lack of starts this term.

He featured for only 10 minutes in the draw, but Kovac insists he still sees the 30-year-old as a key player.

"I understand the questions about Muller, but I hope you understand me as well," he said.

"Thomas is an important part of the team, but whether he plays tomorrow [Tuesday] or in the coming weeks, you will see, but his value is undisputed.

"Muller always wants to play and of course he can also come on the right wing, he won the World Cup on the right wing. However, we also know that this is not his favoured position.

"But we have the squad we have. With [Philippe] Coutinho we got a player who's doing very well on the right.

"Also, against Augsburg I saw him do well and the number of games will ensure that everyone will play enough."

Serbia have been ordered to keep supporters out of their next UEFA fixture at home after "racist behaviour" from fans during a September match against Portugal.

UEFA announced the ban on home fans – which is for two matches, with one suspended for a probationary period of 12 months – on Monday.

Portugal beat Serbia 4-2 in Belgrade in a Euro 2020 qualifier in September that was marred by the behaviour of the home supporters.

UEFA charged the Football Association of Serbia with six offences, including racist behaviour, illicit chants, the setting off of fireworks and field invasions by supporters.

There were also two charges for a late kick-off.

A UEFA statement said the organisation's control, ethics and disciplinary body would "order the Football Association of Serbia to play their next two UEFA competition matches as host association behind closed doors, the second of which is suspended during a probationary period of one year, for the racist behaviour of its supporters".

UEFA added: "The Serbian FA is ordered to display a banner with the wording #EqualGame with the UEFA logo on it, in the next UEFA competition match which the association will play as the host".

The Serbian FA was also hit with a €33,250 fine, while Ljubisa Tumbakovic was warned about the late kick-off.

Niklas Sule can forget about featuring in Germany's Euro 2020 campaign, according to Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness.

The 24-year-old underwent surgery on Sunday after scans confirmed he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the 2-2 Bundesliga draw with Augsburg.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Bayern's Champions League clash with Olympiacos on Tuesday, Hoeness said: "Sule can forget the Euros. That's all nonsense. He should focus on the next season now."

Hoeness' assessment will come as a blow to national team boss Joachim Low, who has made the former Hoffenheim man a central part of his side over the past few years.

Sule played the full 90 minutes in last week's friendly against Argentina, as well as the Euro 2020 qualifier against Estonia.

The centre-back has made 11 appearances in all competitions for Bayern this season.

Ronald Koeman has a clause in his Netherlands contract that allows him to leave to coach Barcelona, but Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) director Nico-Jan Hoogma hopes he stays put.

One point from their final two qualifying matches in Group C will see Netherlands clinch their place at Euro 2020 and they are in good shape after winning their past four games.

Former Barca defender Koeman is under contract until the conclusion of the 2022 World Cup and Hoogma hopes not to change coach until after the tournament in Qatar.

"I hope we can work together for a very long time, because I think it is going very well," Hoogma said of Koeman on FOX Sports.

"But Ronald has long indicated that he wants to be Barcelona coach someday. Let's see what will happen.

"Success with Oranje will certainly help him. But again, I hope that the process continues up to and including the World Cup in Qatar."

Barcelona are top of LaLiga after nine matches in 2019-20 but question marks linger over the future of head coach Ernesto Valverde, who came under pressure towards the end of last season.

The Blaugrana's elimination from the Champions League semi-finals by Liverpool and defeat in the Copa del Rey final to Valencia left Valverde's position in doubt, but Hoogma indicated Koeman would not come cheap if there is an attempt to lure him to Camp Nou.

"Agreements have been made about it," said Hoogma. "They will have to pay something for him. How much? I'm not talking about that.

"After one year [of Koeman's time in charge] we still have a year to go to the European Championship, so this is not the time [to talk about it].

"No matter how I respond, there will always be people who say if they [Barcelona] come for him, he will go anyway."

Krasimir Balakov has resigned as head coach of Bulgaria four days on from the 6-0 Euro 2020 qualifying loss to England that was marred by racist abuse.

The Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) confirmed Balakov's departure following a meeting of its executive committee on Friday.

In a statement, the BFU attributed the 53-year-old's resignation to substandard performances.

Bulgaria succumbed to a heavy defeat against the Three Lions in Sofia but not before their supporters subjected England players to racist chants, which forced the match to twice be halted in the first half.

"The performance of Bulgaria's men's national team in recent months has been described as unsatisfactory, which is why the national coach Krasimir Balakov resigned, which was accepted by the members of the [executive committee]," the BFU's statement read.

Balakov initially said he did not hear the abuse directed at England's players at Vasil Levski National Stadium but later apologised to Gareth Southgate's squad and condemned the behaviour of the fans responsible.

"I would like to say very clearly: since there were cases of racial discrimination in Sofia, I would like to sincerely apologise to the English footballers and to all those who felt offended," Balakov wrote in a letter posted to his official Facebook page.

Balakov's decision to quit after five months in charge follows that of BFU president Borislav Mihaylov, who was urged to stand down by Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov.

The organisation's former vice-president Mikhail Kasabov has been temporarily installed as Mihaylov's replacement after two others rejected the opportunity, with an extraordinary congress to elect a new board on the agenda.

The BFU is facing disciplinary proceedings from UEFA in response to the ugly scenes at Monday's match, during which several supporters appeared to perform Nazi salutes.

Mauricio Pochettino hailed stand-in Tottenham captain Harry Kane as a "natural leader" as he reflected on the England skipper's response to the racism row in Bulgaria.

Kane will take the Spurs armband in the absence of injured goalkeeper Hugo Lloris in the coming months, while he is also England's captain.

The striker's role with the Three Lions put him at the forefront of the controversial Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia on Monday, which was twice stopped due to racist abuse from the crowd.

Kane stood by his team-mates as they followed UEFA's protocol and ultimately saw out a 6-0 win, later describing his pride at the way England players had acted in testing circumstances.

Pochettino, discussing Kane's more prominent Tottenham role on Thursday, said: "He's become a natural leader. He's great.

"His commitment, not only for Tottenham but the national team, is fantastic for England and Tottenham. We will miss Hugo for a few months and to have Harry to step up is important, like others who are important and mature.

"They will step up and handle problems when they happen like this. It's good to see how he behaved and of course he showed great maturity."

Asked specifically about the Bulgaria match, the Spurs boss added: "I'm going to respect players always. The way Harry behaved was top.

"The way he handled the situation on Monday was exemplary. He showed calm, followed the rules. We're so proud of how he behaved.

"But of course, when you're on the touchline, you need to understand the players always have rights and it's difficult to be in their position, know how they feel when they suffer abuse like this. That's why I will always support my players.

"Harry handled everything perfectly, I want to congratulate him. He was calm, the situation was always under control. He showed great maturity in these situations which are not always easy to manage."

As well as missing Lloris, Tottenham are waiting for news on star midfielder Christian Eriksen, who suffered a dead leg on international duty with Denmark.

Callum Hudson-Odoi has supported the idea of walking off the pitch as a team in response to racist abuse at football grounds.

The Chelsea winger suffered abuse on his first start for the Three Lions in Montenegro last May which he described as "evil" at the time.

The 18-year-old is hoping to force his way into the Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2020 squad as he makes his way back from an Achilles injury suffered last season.

Hudson-Odoi scored twice in a 5-1 win for England’s under-21s against Austria on Tuesday and said he was proud of the solidarity shown by the senior players and coaching staff when questioned about the unsavoury scenes in Bulgaria.

"It’s disgusting to hear or see players getting discriminated against," he told reporters.

"It’s not right. I say to myself whenever that happens you have to stick together as a team, which the boys did.

"I am really proud to see the boys stick together in those situations where they say they would walk off the pitch. It is right because no player should be treated differently.

"We’re all equal and it’s an equal game, so we have got to stay strong. Hopefully everything will be sorted out properly by UEFA."

Bulgaria great Hristo Stoichkov fought back tears in a TV appearance as he demanded action over the racist abuse England players suffered in their Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia.

The former Ballon d'Or winner suggested "heavier punishments" than stadium closures could be required in response to the shameful scenes that marred Monday's match.

A section of Bulgaria supporters aimed monkey chants at Raheem Sterling, Tyrone Mings and Marcus Rashford and were also seen performing Nazi salutes.

Bulgarian Football Union president Borislav Mihaylov stepped down amid the fallout and UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against the organisation.

The abuse witnessed at Vasil Levski National Stadium moved 53-year-old Stoichkov during an appearance on TUDN programme Futbol Central.

"People don't deserve to suffer," Stoichkov said, before becoming emotional and hanging his head.

Play was twice halted in the first half on Monday before a group of fans were ejected from the ground.

Asked about about a suitable sanction, former Barcelona forward Stoichkov said: "That fans are not allowed in the stadium, or even heavier punishments, like in England a few years ago."

Stoichkov did not specify a particular incident involving punishment in England. He may have meant the ban from European club competitions imposed after the 1985 Heysel Stadium disaster, when English clubs were barred from UEFA competitions for five years, and Liverpool excluded for a further year.

The Sofia stadium that hosted Monday's match had already been partially closed as a result of racist behaviour from fans during qualifiers against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June.

Bulgaria head coach Krasimir Balakov issued an apology on Wednesday and condemned the racist abuse after initially stating he did not hear it occur during his team's 6-0 defeat.

"I would like to say very clearly: since there were cases of racial discrimination in Sofia, I would like to sincerely apologise to the English footballers and to all those who felt offended," Balakov said.

Cristiano Ronaldo should be regarded as the greatest footballer in history after reaching 700 career goals, according to his agent Jorge Mendes.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner brought up his latest milestone for club and country when he dispatched a second-half penalty against Ukraine on Monday, taking his Portugal tally to 95.

The majority of Ronaldo's goals came during a storied spell with Real Madrid, for whom he scored 450 times after netting 118 for Manchester United.

Although Ronaldo is entering the twilight of his career at the age of 34, Mendes sees no sign of him slowing down at Juventus.

And there is even more still to come, the agent suggests.

"He is the strongest ever. For him, the best is yet to come and will arrive with the Juve jersey," Mendes told Tuttosport.

"The numbers do not lie and they illuminate the overwhelming way in which Cristiano Ronaldo shatters the records, which elevates him to the category of the best player in the history of football and with a big difference compared to the second [best].

"He's in that position for all that he has achieved in the service of the different clubs that he represented, either in England or in Spain or now in Italy, but also with the Portuguese national team.

"And the fact is that, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal has already played in three finals, winning two."

Bulgaria coach Krasimir Balakov has apologised after initially saying he did not hear the racist abuse directed at England players during Monday's Euro 2020 qualifier in Sofia.

England claimed a 6-0 win but the match was marred by incidents in the stands, which were reported to officials and resulted in two delays to the action before half-time.

UEFA opted to charge the Bulgarian Football Union (BFU) for "racist behaviour (chants, Nazi salutes)", with local reports indicating four people have been arrested in connection.

BFU president Borislav Mihaylov resigned under pressure from Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borissov in the wake of the furore.

Before the match, coach Balakov claimed England had a bigger problem with racism in football than his own country, then insisted after the game he had not heart the chanting.

But he has since issued an apology after accepting racist abuse did occur.

In a letter posted to his official Facebook page, Balakov wrote: "I condemn all forms of racism as an unacceptable behaviour that contradicts normal human relations.

"I think that this form of prejudice should be buried deep in our past, and no one should ever be subjected [to it].

"I have trained many Bulgarian teams with players of different origin and never anyone judging by the colour of their skin. In addition, I have always participated actively in all initiatives involving privileged people or those who need to be involved.

"My comments before the game against England that Bulgaria did not have problems with racism is based on the fact that the local championship did not see such a problem on a large scale.

"There may have been individual cases, but it's definitely not something you see at the stadium. The majority of football fans do not participate in this kind [of behaviour], and I believe that this has also been the case in the game against England.

"I would like to say very clearly: since there were cases of racial discrimination in Sofia, I would like to sincerely apologise to the English footballers and to all those who felt offended.

"At the same time, however, I would like to address everyone who uses hateful language on social media, that my words have been incorrectly removed from context - and if that does not stop, I will be forced to take legal action against it."

England manager Gareth Southgate praised the leadership qualities shown by defender Tyrone Mings after a challenging international debut against Bulgaria on Monday.

England bounced back from defeat in the Czech Republic with a 6-0 rout of Bulgaria in Sofia, but the Euro 2020 qualifier was marred by racist behaviour from home fans in the partially-closed stadium.

Mings was at the forefront of the unsavoury scenes having noticed racist chants by Bulgarian fans, before beginning the process which led to the implementation of UEFA's three-step protocol for racist abuse.

UEFA has since opened disciplinary proceedings against Bulgaria for the scenes at the Vasil Levski National Stadium with four charges laid out by European football's governing body.

But despite the difficult circumstances which Mings made his debut in, Southgate was full of praise for the maturity shown by the Aston Villa centre-back.

"To me, since I have been watching him for the past 12 months or so, he's displayed outstanding leadership qualities throughout that time. I thought I would see that and I saw that [against Bulgaria]," Southgate told reporters.

"We presented him with his shirt and the point I made was that everybody's journey to becoming an England international is different, but his is very different to most of the boys who have just been in the academy system.

"That worldly wideness, if you like, showed. An incredibly mature performance and you could hear his communication on the pitch I'm sure from where you were sat.

"I said to him the level of opponent often isn't the issue when playing for England. It's being able to handle wearing the England shirt. I didn't think he would have to go through everything tonight that he did, but he's an impressive young man and I couldn't be happier for him.

England finish their qualifying campaign for Euro 2020 with a doubleheader against Group A opponents Montenegro and Kosovo in November.

Sandro Tonali said he is a mix of Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso as he compared himself to the Italy greats following his international debut.

Tonali came off the bench to make his Italy bow in the country's 5-0 rout of Liechtenstein in Euro 2020 qualifying on Tuesday.

The 19-year-old Brescia sensation – who has been linked to Serie A champions Juventus, Manchester United and Fiorentina – addressed comparisons post-match.

"It's tough to pick one of those champions," Tonali told Rai Sport after being compared to Pirlo, Gattuso and Daniele De Rossi.

"Maybe a mix of all of them would be perfect. I guess there are similarities with Pirlo in a way but I also add a lot of a grit in there, so maybe more Gattuso."

Italy matched a national team record as they extended their winning streak to nine games, having booked their place at Euro 2020 with a win over Greece at the weekend.

Roberto Mancini named a young starting team for the clash at Rheinpark Stadion as Federico Bernardeschi, Andrea Belotti, Alessio Romagnoli and Stephan El Shaarawy all got on the scoresheet in Vaduz.

There was also time for Tonali to make his debut with 16 minutes remaining and he reflected on the emotion he felt when replacing Bernardeschi.

"I felt wonderful as not everyone gets to play for the national team. I was a little emotional for 30 seconds that it was really happening," Tonali added.

"The coach told us all to be ready to play so I had an idea. Everyone in the squad was very helpful to the newcomers like me and it felt easy to come in.

"The system is different, so is the timing and there is obviously a lot more quality in the Italy side, but the role and position remain the same."

Republic of Ireland boss Mick McCarthy says a "cup final" against Denmark awaits his players after defeat to Switzerland damaged their hopes of qualifying for Euro 2020.

Haris Seferovic opened the scoring before a Shane Duffy own goal secured the Swiss a 2-0 win over their 10-man opponents on Tuesday, with the visitors having Seamus Coleman sent off.

McCarthy's team remain top in Group D with Denmark level with them on points. Switzerland are a point further back but both they and the Danes have a game in hand before the final round of fixtures on November 18. 

Denmark finish up with a trip to Dublin, where they ended Ireland's 2018 World Cup hopes in the play-offs.

"We've got to play Denmark now at home," said McCarthy. "I would've taken that at the start and I'll take it now. We've still got a chance to qualify automatically."

He added: "We've got ourselves a cup final against Denmark next month and if you have handed me that before the group began, I'd have taken it."

A philosophical McCarthy had no complaints over the outcome as his team were beaten for the first time in the group, capping a disappointing few days following a 0-0 draw against Georgia.

"We were beaten by the better team, much the better team actually," he added,

"Certainly in the first half we didn't play particularly well. Whatever system we play it does not excuse our wayward passing and the stuff that we did.

"I changed it midway through the second half and that settled things down a bit. Second half we played much better. I think it was a performance that we can be proud of, certainly when the players went down to ten men. Second half, not the first half."

Midfielder Glenn Whelan admitted they gave their hosts "too much respect" in the first half in Geneva.

"We stood off them a little bit but, in the second half, we had a go and tried to get back in the game," he added.

"I think, for us, we need to do that all of the time. We show teams too much respect and then get sloppy on the ball. If we are on the front foot we will get the fans behind us and give anyone a go."

Switzerland boss Vladimir Petkovic praised his team's response after defeat to Denmark in their previous outing but insisted they still have much to do despite having the easiest run-in.

"It was a good performance. We had to show a reaction after losing to Denmark and that's what we did," he said.

"The result doesn't mean a lot in the group – we still need to get results in our next two games. If we get the points we need against Georgia and Gibraltar, we can turn our attentions to Euro 2020."

Dani Ceballos acknowledged Spain were made to suffer before sealing their place at Euro 2020 with a dramatic 1-1 draw in Sweden.

Marcus Berg's 50th-minute opener and an abductor injury for David de Gea looked set to add up to a frustrating outing for Robert Moreno's men on Tuesday.

But Valencia striker Rodrigo Moreno came off the bench to poach a stoppage-time equaliser and make certain of qualification for next year's European Championship.

Spain were on the receiving end of a similar fightback when Norway snatched a 1-1 draw in their previous match and Arsenal playmaker Ceballos – who operated at the tip of a midfield diamond during an impressive opening – noted improvement in Stockholm.

"Against Norway we were more hesitant. Today we were very plugged in," Ceballos said.

"If Thiago [Alcantara's] chance had gone in, the game would have been different. The team is growing, it's time to be united for Euro 2020.

"The point gives us glory. In the first 30 minutes we dominated, but then it was complicated by the goal and injury to De Gea.

"The team has known how to suffer and we leave with good feelings of achieving our goal.

Moreno made six changes to the side that faced Norway but Spain's squad unity looked in good order as the bench deliriously joined in Rodrigo's celebrations.

"It has been crazy to look at the bench and see [unused substitute Sergio] Busquets celebrate with Rodrigo," Ceballos added.

"That reflects the good atmosphere of the dressing room, with the coach also celebrating like crazy. We have a good dressing room."

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