Kylian Mbappe has insisted he has never asked Paris Saint-Germain to sign any players in response to recent comments made by president Nasser Al-Khelaifi.

The 22-year-old's future at the Parc des Princes remains a hot topic of discussion as he is soon to enter the final year of his contract.

He did little to quell speculation earlier this week in an interview with France Football when admitting he is unsure whether PSG is the best place for him.

That comes on the back of rumours that Mbappe is stalling on signing a new contract until more high-profile signings are made by last season's Ligue 1 runners-up.

In response to that, Al-Khelaifi stated earlier this week "it is not possible" for Mbappe to have any say over the club's recruitment and that he will not be sold in the current transfer window.

When asked about those comments at a news conference while on France duty, Mbappe denied ever discussing transfer targets with Al-Khelaifi or director Leonardo.

"I have never asked for a single player from the president or Leonardo. I am a simple football player," he told reporters on Sunday ahead of France's Euro 2020 opener against Germany.

"But I'm here to represent France – the team is the most important thing. I don't want to disrupt the group."

Mbappe is coming off the back of another impressive campaign for PSG in which he scored 42 goals in 47 appearances in all competitions, an average of one every 88.62 minutes.

In Europe's top five leagues, only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (48) scored more goals in all competitions than Mbappe in 2020-21.

Mbappe scored at a greater rate than his expected goals (xG) number, which averaged out at 34.14, while also providing 11 assists.

He is expected to start France's Group F showdown with Germany at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday.

Les Blues are taking part in their 10th European Championship finals, and their eighth in a row, last failing to make the competition in 1988.

Only Germany and Spain (three each) have won more European Championships than the two won by France in 1984 and 2000.

Achraf Hakimi is a player in demand following his first season with Inter.

Hakimi helped Inter to Serie A glory for the first time in 10 years, but his future could be away from San Siro.

Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly determined to beat Chelsea and Bayern Munich to the full-back.

 

TOP STORY – PSG CHASING HAKIMI

Paris Saint-Germain remain interested in signing Inter star Achraf Hakimi, according to Gianluca Di Marzio.

PSG had a €60million (£51m) bid turned down by Serie A champions Inter, who are facing financial problems due to the coronavirus pandemic amid speculation over stars Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez, Alessandro Bastoni and Hakimi.

Ligue 1 giants PSG are still keen on Hakimi as Champions League winners Chelsea hold talks with the Morocco international's agent, while Bayern Munich have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

Bernardo Silva wants to leave Premier League champions Manchester City, reports Duncan Castles. The Portugal international has already been linked with Atletico Madrid and Barcelona after finding himself out of favour under Pep Guardiola.

- Fabrizio Romano claims Gianluigi Buffon is close to re-joining Parma. Buffon will leave Juventus in the off-season and the Italy great is reportedly on track to return to Parma, where the 43-year-old emerged from the youth team in 1995 before eventually moving to Turin in 2001. Parma were relegated from Serie A in 2020-21.

Arsenal have turned their attention to Real Betis attacker Nabil Fekir but Diario AS says the Gunners and LaLiga side remain apart in his transfer valuation.

- Calciomercato claims there are still concerns over Paulo Dybala's future at Juventus. Dybala is out of contract in 2022 and no closer to renewing after struggling for game time. The possible departure of Cristiano Ronaldo – who has been linked with PSG and Manchester United – could solidify Dybala's position in Turin.

Leicester City are the latest team to join the race for Salzburg's Patson Daka, according to the Mirror. Liverpool, Chelsea and RB Leipzig have also been linked.

- The Mirror reports Everton and Leeds United are considering moves for veteran Real Madrid star Marcelo.

Georginio Wijnaldum explained he joined Paris Saint-Germain as they were "faster and more decisive" after talks with Barcelona stalled.

Wijnaldum's Liverpool contract expires at the end of the month and his next move to PSG has been confirmed.

But the Netherlands captain, who led his team with eight goals in Euro 2020 qualifying, was expected to link up with former Oranje coach Ronald Koeman at Barca.

Following weeks of speculation, though, there was no deal, allowing PSG to make their move.

Wijnaldum said on Saturday: "I negotiated with Barcelona for four weeks and unfortunately we didn't [agree].

"Paris Saint-Germain were faster and more decisive. And the project they have there appeals to me very much.

"It was a tough choice. I have to say that I too thought I would go to Barcelona, also because Barcelona was the only club that was really interested at the time.

"But we couldn't [agree] and with PSG we did."

Wijnaldum is moving on after playing 235 times for Liverpool in five years, scoring 22 goals and assisting 15, but his focus is now on the Euros.

Facing Ukraine first up on Sunday, the Netherlands are aiming to win a finals match at the competition for the first time since 2008.

"I'm very happy to have been able to arrange it before the European Championship," Wijnaldum said of his move.

"With the European Championship, you just want to be 100 per cent focused on the tournament. It was a hectic week, though, where I had to make choices.

"But I'm glad that this doesn't play during the European Championship anymore."

Kylian Mbappe has raised questions over his future at Paris Saint-Germain, revealing he is unsure if the French club is the best place for him.

France superstar Mbappe was in sensational form in the 2020-21 season, yet while PSG won the Coupe de France and Trophee des Champions, his efforts were not enough to help them successfully defend their Ligue 1 title, or propel them to Champions League glory.

In Europe's top five leagues, only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowksi (48) scored more goals in all competitions than Mbappe, who managed 42 in 47 appearances, averaging out at one every 88.62 minutes.

Like Erling Haaland, Europe's other free-scoring youngster, Mbappe achieved at a greater rate than his expected goals (xG) number, which averaged out at 34.14, while also providing 11 assists.

Now, Mbappe will be looking to drive France to glory at Euro 2020, with Les Bleus kicking off their campaign against Germany on Tuesday.

However, while his current focus is on contributing to Didier Deschamps' side, speculation continues over Mbappe's future at club level.

PSG have already tied Neymar down to a new contract, but despite reported discussions, have yet to agree a deal with Mbappe, who could leave the club on a free at the end of next season.

And it seems Mbappe is considering his options, with the 22-year-old World Cup winner telling France Football: "I don't necessarily need to go fast. I have to make the right decision, which is difficult, and give myself every chance to make up my mind.

"I am in a place where I like myself, where I feel good. But is this the best place for me? I don't have the answer yet.

"I know that a project with or without me is not quite the same for the club."

Mbappe, however, insists he has been, and will continue to be, up front with PSG over his plans.

"PSG understand my feelings. Probably also because they know that I will not be sneaky," he added.

"Being a great player also proves itself outside the field where you have to know how to do things cleanly and with class."

Real Madrid have been heavily linked with Mbappe, with Carlo Ancelotti asked about the possibility of signing the player during his unveiling as Los Blancos' new head coach last week.

It remains to be seen as to whether Madrid would have the finances to pull off such a move this year, however, while Premier League champions Manchester City have also been rumoured to hold an interest.

The Jadon Sancho saga continues.

A move to Manchester United has long been mooted for England international Sancho.

While United and Borussia Dortmund negotiate, could Sancho's future be set to become clearer?

 

TOP STORY – UNITED HAVE OFFER REBUFFED

Manchester United have had their first offer for Jadon Sancho rejected by Borussia Dortmund, according to the BBC.

United have long been interested in Sancho, with the Premier League giants unable to prise Sancho from Dortmund before the 2020-21 season.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United are back again for England international Sancho, though their initial £67million (€77.9m) bid will not suffice as Dortmund hold out for at least £77.5m (€90.1m).

 

ROUND-UP

- If United miss out on Sancho, Sport1 claims the Red Devils will turn to Kingsley Coman after registering their interest in the Bayern Munich winger.

- Mundo Deportivo says Barcelona are interested in Roma and Italy midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini. The 24-year-old is out of contract in 2022 and Liverpool and Atletico Madrid are also eyeing the Italian.

United and Liverpool are set to go head-to-head for Argentina defender Cristian Romero, per Calciomercato. Romero has impressed during his loan spell with Atalanta from Juventus. Atalanta are expected to trigger a clause to sign the 23-year-old permanently as they then look to receive a big fee.

- Ronald Koeman is the key to Barca signing Memphis Depay, reports Mundo Deportivo. Depay is a free agent following the conclusion of his Lyon contract.

Barcelona have offered Antoine Griezmann to Juve, according to Calciomercato. With Cristiano Ronaldo's future in Turin uncertain, Juve could be tempted by Griezmann's availability. Juve have also been linked with Tottenham star Harry Kane, who is reportedly wanted by United, Manchester City, Chelsea, BarcaReal Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.

Jurgen Klopp paid a fond tribute to "Liverpool legend" Georginio Wijnaldum after the midfielder's move to Paris Saint-Germain was confirmed.

The Dutchman has agreed a three-year deal with Mauricio Pochettino's side ahead of the expiry of his Reds contract at the end of June.

The news officially brings the curtain down on Wijnaldum's five-year stay at Anfield, which saw him win the Premier League, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup.

And that has prompted Klopp to highlight the 30-year-old's contributions to a glorious era in Liverpool's history.

“As a team we said our goodbyes to Gini at Anfield after the final game of the season. There was the public farewell on the pitch with the guard of honour. But then a more private occasion also,” Klopp told the club's official website.

"It was difficult for all of us because of how much this astonishing person means to the group. He's been a big part of our lives for so long. There is nothing I won't miss about him."

Wijnaldum made 237 appearances for Liverpool across all competitions, scoring 22 goals.

"I will miss the player he is like crazy – highest-quality ability, one of the smartest players I have ever had the privilege to coach. His contribution was off the scale, a manager's dream," Klopp said.

"But as a person he'll leave just as big a hole. A more giving individual you could not wish to meet. Gini is very strong and opinionated, but his motivation is only to help the team – always. His team-mates adored him and respected him in equal measure.

"His smile lit up our workplace. He was a huge part of our beating heart. Of course, he is now someone else's and on behalf of the team we wish him great success in France with PSG.

"It is no surprise he's joined such an amazing club. Knowing his personality, he will fall in love with the city and the team – and they with him. Farewell, Gini: you came, you saw, you won the lot. You're a Liverpool legend now and forever."

Georginio Wijnaldum has agreed a deal to join Paris Saint-Germain despite looking poised to link up with Barcelona for several months.

The Netherlands international has signed a three-year contract at Parc des Princes, with his salary said to have been increased dramatically by the Parisians.

Wijnaldum joined Liverpool from Newcastle United in 2016 and quickly established himself as a key man for the Reds, only failing to appear in 11 Premier League matches over that five-year spell.

Liverpool had tried to keep the 30-year-old but he acknowledged last month that the two parties had been unable to agree on a new contract.

It seemed a given he would subsequently turn up at Barcelona, with transfer links between the two emerging as early as last year when Ronald Koeman replaced Quique Setien in August.

He was expected to be Barca's third free transfer of the close season after Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia, with Memphis Depay – who, like Wijnaldum, played under Koeman for the Oranje – expected to follow.

But PSG have pulled off something of a coup, luring Wijnaldum to Paris as the club's patchy relationship with Barca is thrust into the spotlight again.

Wijnaldum bolsters PSG's central midfield options that already include Idrissa Gueye, Leandro Paredes, Ander Herrera, Danilo Pereira and Marco Verratti.

Georginio Wijnaldum has agreed a deal to join Paris Saint-Germain despite looking poised to link up with Barcelona for several months.

The Netherlands international has signed a three-year contract at Parc des Princes, with his salary said to have been increased dramatically by the Parisians.

Wijnaldum joined Liverpool from Newcastle United in 2016 and quickly established himself as a key man for the Reds, only failing to appear in 11 Premier League matches over that five-year spell.

Liverpool had tried to keep the 30-year-old but he acknowledged last month that the two parties had been unable to agree on a new contract.

It seemed a given he would subsequently turn up at Barcelona, with transfer links between the two emerging as early as last year when Ronald Koeman replaced Quique Setien in August.

He was expected to be Barca's third free transfer of the close season after Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia, with Memphis Depay – who, like Wijnaldum, played under Koeman for the Oranje – expected to follow.

But PSG have pulled off something of a coup, luring Wijnaldum to Paris as the club's patchy relationship with Barca is thrust into the spotlight again.

Wijnaldum bolsters PSG's central midfield options that already include Idrissa Gueye, Leandro Paredes, Ander Herrera, Danilo Pereira and Marco Verratti.

Everton continue their search for Carlo Ancelotti's replacement.

One emerging candidate has plenty of familiarity with Liverpool. 

Could the Toffees turn to a former rival? 

 

TOP STORY – BENITEZ IN MERSEYSIDE RETURN?

Former Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has emerged as a strong contender to replace Carlo Ancelotti at Everton, the Daily Mirror and other outlets report. 

As the Merseyside club's interest in former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo has faded, majority owner Farhad Moshiri apparently plans to speak to the 61-year-old Benitez. 

The Spaniard was Liverpool's manager from 2004-10, winning the Champions League title in 2005. He spent 18 months in charge of Chinese Super League club Dalian Professional before leaving by mutual consent in January. 

Others under consideration include Brighton and Hove Albion head coach Graham Potter, former Lille coach Christophe Galtier and former Toffees boss Roberto Martinez

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea have matched Paris Saint-Germain's offer of about €65million (£56.1m) to Inter for Achraf Hakimi, according to Sky Sport Italia, though Inter value the 22-year-old at €81m (£70m).

- Barcelona see Manchester City's Raheem Sterling as a potential replacement for Ousmane Dembele should the France international depart, according to Sport, and Marca says PSG have interest in Dembele. 

- David de Gea seems inclined to extend his stay at Manchester United and expects to be the first-choice goalkeeper ahead of Dean Henderson, The Sun reports. 

- Atletico Madrid rejected United's £10m bid for England right-back Kieran Trippier, according to Football Insider. 

- Roma are close to completing their long-rumoured signing of Arsenal's Granit Xhaka, Corriere dello Sport claims. 

- West Ham would like to sign Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard on a permanent deal, The Sun reports. 

- Tottenham have had discussions with Borussia Monchengladbach winger Marcus Thuram, RMC Sport reports, and The Athletic says Spurs could also be eyeing RB Leipzig's Marcel Sabitzer

- Former Roma coach Paulo Fonseca has emerged as Spurs' preferred option to replace Jose Mourinho and the sides have discussed a three-year contract, the Guardian reports. 

- Former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard could be in the mix for the Crystal Palace opening, the Daily Mirror reports. 

Manchester City's ambitions are showing no end after missing out on the Champions League title.

City have been linked with star England pair Harry Kane and Jack Grealish to further bolster the Premier League champions.

But the price tags on the duo from Tottenham and Aston Villa may be their stumbling blocks.

 

TOP STORY – CITY SALE TO FUND KANE AND GREALISH MOVES

Manchester City will offload several fringe players to raise £70million in order to fund their moves for Tottenham star Harry Kane and Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, claims the Daily Mail.

With Sergio Aguero departed, City manager Pep Guardiola wants a frontline striker and those surplus to requirements will reportedly be let go.

First-team players Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Ilkay Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez all have admirers and could move on.

But also fringe talent like Yangel Herrera, Ivan Ilic, Jack Harrison, Pedro Porro and Lukas Nmecha, who have had loan spells elsewhere, could be cashed in.

Bernardo Silva has been linked with a move to Atletico Madrid in exchange for Saul Niguez, while Juventus are reportedly eyeing Gundogan.

 

ROUND-UP

Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain are both keen on Inter's Achraf Hakimi and have lodged €60m (£52m) offers, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. Inter's asking price may be higher, while Chelsea may utilise Emerson Palmieri or Andreas Christensen as part of a swap deal.

- Bild says Borussia Dortmund will sell Jadon Sancho to United if they receive a suitable offer by the end of July. Sancho has long been tipped to swap Dortmund for United.

- Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin is being linked with LaLiga champions Atletico and Real Betis by CBS Sport, while Sport have also claimed Juve are interested in the Spaniard, utilising Aaron Ramsey in a swap deal.

Liverpool are looking to replace Georginio Wijnaldum, lining up Roma skipper Lorenzo Pellegrini, according to Corriere dello Sport.

- The Sun claims West Ham are ready this month to step up their bid to sign Jesse Lingard permanently from Manchester United after his excellent loan spell.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Arsenal are set to finalise the details on a new contract for young talent Emile Smith Rowe.

Crystal Palace are closed to appointing former Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo as their new manager to replace Roy Hodgson, claims The Telegraph.

Achraf Hakimi's agent Alejandro Camano said there is no agreement with Paris Saint-Germain over a move from Serie A champions Inter to the Ligue 1 giants.

Hakimi helped Inter to their first Scudetto in 10 years this past season but the Morocco international has been heavily linked with PSG amid the club's financial problems.

With Inter trying to cut costs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Hakimi, Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez and Alessandro Bastoni could be sold following Antonio Conte's departure.

PSG reportedly had a €60million offer rejected by Inter – who are holding out for at least €80m – but Camano denied there have been talks with the French powerhouse.

"There are no negotiations with PSG, there's nothing in it at the moment," Camano told FCInter1908.

"We have no agreement with the French club over personal terms. He is happy at Inter."

It comes as Champions League holders Chelsea reportedly join the chase for Hakimi, who has also been linked with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

According to reports, Chelsea could use Italy international Emerson Palmieri or Andreas Christensen as part of a deal to prise Hakimi to Stamford Bridge.

"It's a difficult moment for everyone," Camano replied when asked if he was optimistic about Hakimi remaining at Inter, who replaced head coach Conte with Simone Inzaghi.

Hakimi played in 37 of Inter's 38 Serie A fixtures as the Nerazzurri clinched their first Scudetto crown since 2010, making 29 starts. Only Martinez (38) featured in more top-flight games for Inter in 2020-21.

He scored seven league goals, including a double against Bologna in December, a total only bettered in Inter's ranks by Martinez (17) and Lukaku (24), as well as laying on a further eight assists.

Hakimi played 3,216 minutes across 45 appearances in all competitions, and by early February had been directly involved in 10 Serie A goals, becoming the first defender to do so in Europe's top five leagues in 2020-21. Maicon – in 2009-10 – was the last Inter defender to score at least six league goals.

He created 46 opportunities, with all but one from open play, while his tally of 12 big chances crafted is a joint team-high alongside Ivan Perisic. Hakimi also delivered 145 crosses from open play, 17 more than any other Inter player, recording an accuracy of 25.52 per cent.

Hakimi is more renowned for his attacking, but helped Inter to eight clean sheets in total – of defenders, Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij (both 14) and Bastoni (15), were involved in more.

Indeed, Hakimi's tally of 38 successful tackles is a higher total than any of his fellow defensive team-mates managed.

Hakimi's ball-carrying ability is another major facet of his play. Over 370 carries, he progressed the ball 4,609 metres, at an average of 12.46m.

Sixteen of the carries resulted in a shot, and of all of the full-backs in Europe's top five leagues, Hakimi is top for carries with goals and assists (four and five respectively).

Chelsea won the Champions League last month but they are not sitting still.

Thomas Tuchel is determined to strengthen his attack as he seeks to dethrone Premier League champions Manchester City in 2021-22.

Erling Haaland is reportedly Chelsea's number one target.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA WANT HAALAND

Chelsea are "working intensely" on a deal to sign Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to the Telegraph.

Haaland has been linked with Real MadridManchester CityBarcelonaParis Saint-GermainManchester UnitedJuventusLiverpoolChelsea and Bayern Munich.

Tottenham's Harry Kane and Inter forward Romelu Lukaku have emerged as options for Chelsea, though the Champions League winners appear set on Haaland.

 

ROUND-UP

PSG are poised to sign Italy international goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma on a free transfer, reports Gianluca Di Marzio. Out of contract at Milan, Donnarumma was also linked with Juve and Barca.

- The Times says United are moving closer to reaching an agreement with Dortmund for Jadon Sancho. The England international was heavily tipped to move to Old Trafford ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

City are chasing Spurs star Kane and Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, per ESPN. Pep Guardiola's side are willing to buy both if they are able to do so. Kane and Grealish have also been linked with Manchester neighbours United.

Atletico Madrid have offered Saul Niguez to City in exchange for Bernardo Silva, according to the Times. Unsettled at LaLiga champions Atletico, Saul has also reportedly caught the attention of United, Chelsea and Bayern.

- The Daily Mail claims Brighton and Hove Albion are looking to keep England international defender Ben White by demanding £50million amid interest from clubs such as United, Liverpool and Arsenal.

Milan are eyeing Chelsea trio Olivier Giroud, Fikayo Tomori and Hakim Ziyech, claims the Gazzetta dello Sport. Ziyech has also been linked with Napoli.

- Gazzetta dello Sport says Inter are hopeful of re-signing Nicolo Barella and Atletico Madrid target Lautaro Martinez by the end of the off-season.

- Juventus are interested in Roma veteran Edin Dzeko and are ready to offer a two-year deal, reports Corriere dello Sport.

It may be a year late, but Euro 2020 is almost upon us and the opportunity for glory is just around the corner.

The usual suspects will be undoubtedly favoured by many, with France's squad seemingly stronger than ever, Portugal possessing a seriously talented group and England looking good as they bid to end their long wait for international success.

Similarly, Italy and the Netherlands are back on the scene after missing out on tournament qualification in recent times, while Germany will be hoping to bounce back from their World Cup humiliation.

Die Mannschaft were eliminated from the group stage of a World Cup for the first time ever by South Korea three years ago, and Joachim Low will be eager to restore some dignity in what will be his final tournament in charge.

But could the trophy actually end up being lifted by one of the unfancied teams? We all remember Greece's remarkable triumph in 2004, for example.

With that in mind, Stats Perform has identified some potential dark horses ahead of the tournament.

Turkey – Group A

Key man: Burak Yilmaz
One to watch: Abdulkadir Omur

It's fair to say Turkey are a curious team in international football. They have reached the semi-finals in two – and come third on both occasions – of their past three major tournaments, which is impressive, but the caveat is that trio of qualifications spanned 2002-2018.

Euro 2020 will be only their fourth major tournament appearance out of a possible 11 this century across the European Championship and World Cup, and they disappointed at Euro 2016 as they were eliminated at the group stage.

But there are reasons for optimism this time, particularly given the encouraging amount of talent in a youthful squad – their average age of 25 years exactly is the lowest at the tournament, and it would be even lower were it not for the presence of 35-year-old Burak Yilmaz, who certainly isn't there as some kind of token 'Golden Oldie'.

 

The burly centre-forward proved plenty of doubters wrong in his debut Ligue 1 season with Lille, his 16 goals and five assists helping them to an unlikely title triumph. Those 21 direct goal involvements put him six ahead of any other Lille player, and his experience helped a Les Dogues team that was also on the young side.

Yilmaz became the first player to score at least 15 goals in his first season with Lille in Ligue 1 since Moussa Sow in 2010-11 (25), while his penalty at Angers on the final day saw him beat the record for the most goals netted by a Turkish player in a single campaign in the competition, set by Mevlut Erdinc in 2009-10.

 

Yilmaz's Lille team-mates Zeki Celik and Yusuf Yazici – the latter scored 14 club goals across all 2020-21 competitions from midfield – are also present, while Hakan Calhanoglu offers guaranteed creativity. The Milan playmaker created the most chances in Serie A (98) in 2020-21, while his nine assists came from an xA (expected assists) value of 8.5, suggesting that haul came from a place of consistency rather than luck.

But then Turkey also looked solid at the back in qualifying, their three goals conceded in 10 games was the joint-best record alongside Belgium, and Kaan Ayhan's three headed goals en route to the Euros wasn't bettered by anyone, meaning Calhanoglu's set-piece deliveries could be a real asset.

 

Senol Gunes is back at the helm having guided them to third place at the 2002 World Cup, and he may just fancy another upset 19 years on.

Ukraine – Group C

Key man: Ruslan Malinovskiy
One to watch: Illya Zabarnyi

Ukraine are long-term underachievers at this level. They've failed to score in their last five games at the European Championship, the longest goalless run in the history of the tournament.

In fact, none of Ukraine's last 67 shots have ended in the back of the net. This, coupled with the fact their coach Andrey Shevchenko is the only player to find the net for them at the Euros (a brace against Sweden in 2012) highlights their biggest issue over the past nine years: scoring goals.

While the likes of Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka – the latter of whom isn't in the squad due to injury – have good records, Ukraine have lacked a reliable goal threat in the central striker berth practically ever since Shevchenko retired.

 

However, in Gent forward Roman Yaremchuk they may have finally founded a suitable answer, with the 25-year-old heading into the tournament on the back of his best-ever season for goals, having netted 20 times in the Belgian top flight.

Those 20 strikes came from an xG (expected goals) value of 18.2 as well, so although he may have been fortunate once or twice, he would still have expected to get a good haul, which speaks to his reliability in front of goal.

 

Ruslan Malinovskiy of Atalanta is another interesting player. Something of a late bloomer, the talented central midfielder has been an important part of a wonderful Nerazzurri side this season.

While his Serie A-high 12 assists was considerably higher than his 6.7 xA, suggesting his passes benefited from particularly impressive finishing, that xA figure was still only bettered by only six players.

Similarly, his 57 key passes in open play was second only to Luis Alberto (59), yet it's worth bearing in mind Malinovskiy only actually started 22 matches. 

 

Czech Republic – Group D

Key man: Tomas Soucek
One to watch: Adam Hlozek

At Euro 2016, the Czech Republic only managed one point as they failed to get past the group stage, and there will be plenty of people expecting them to crash out in a similar manner again.

Nevertheless, they're a country with a strong history in the competition given this is their seventh successive appearance at the Euros, a streak only Germany (13) and France (eight) can better.

Group D should provide them with opportunities as well. While England will be strongly fancied to finish top, Croatia aren't generally seen as quite the same force they were at the last World Cup, and Scotland, though possessing some talented players, are inexperienced at such competitions.

An area that could prove particularly useful for the Czech Republic in what could prove to be a tight group is their set-piece prowess. Seven of their 13 goals in qualifying were scored at set-plays – that's 54 per cent, the joint-highest ratio of any side to qualify.

That's not their only weapon, however. They do have talented individuals in the squad such as Jakub Jankto and Patrik Schick, the hard-working Tomas Soucek – who won more duels and aerials than any other Premier League player in 2020-21 – and a solid goalkeeper in Tomas Vaclik.

They also have something of a wildcard in their midst: Adam Hlozek.

Despite missing a chunk of the season through injury, Sparta Prague's Hlozek still managed to plunder 15 Liga goals in just 19 matches, and in April he became the competition's youngest hat-trick scorer with his treble against Opava.

He then finished the season with an astonishing four-goal haul against Zbrojovka Brno to finish as the league's joint-top scorer, though he also had six assists to his name. The 18-year-old is a complete striker if there ever was one, and he could be a potential breakout star for Czech Republic if he overcomes a pre-tournament injury.

Poland – Group E

Key man: Robert Lewandowski
One to watch: Kacper Kozlowski

Poland's situation in terms of grouping is quite similar to the Czech Republic. Spain will be expected to top Group E, otherwise it looks difficult to call between the Polish, Sweden and Slovakia.

Further to that, the runner-up spot will secure a second-round clash with the team that finishes second in Group D, which could potentially be the Czech Republic. It's entirely plausible that either of them could get as far as the quarter-finals thanks to a relatively kind draw.

Of course, there are lots of variables to consider before than and along the way, but Poland have the advantage of boasting arguably the world's best striker in their squad.

Sure, Robert Lewandowski has scored only one goal in his last 10 games in major competitions (World Cup and Euros), netting against Portugal in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals, but he heads into this tournament on the back of a remarkable season.

The Bayern Munich star's 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.

He and Poland were arguably unfortunate to not reach the semi-finals five years ago as they were the only team never to trail at any point in Euro 2016, with their elimination by eventual winners Portugal coming via a penalty shootout.

If Lewandowski manages to carry over his Bayern form a little better this time around, who's to say they can't go beyond the last eight in 2020.

Erling Haaland is the name on everyone's lips this off-season.

Haaland enjoyed a stunning campaign for Borussia Dortmund, earning admirers from Europe's elite.

As speculation mounts over his future, Dortmund are determined to keep the Norwegian.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND NAME HAALAND PRICE

Borussia Dortmund are demanding €200million (£172m) for star striker Erling Haaland, according to AS.

Haaland has been linked with Real MadridManchester CityBarcelona, Paris Saint-GermainManchester UnitedJuventusLiverpoolChelsea and Bayern Munich.

Dortmund previously quoted €180m (£154m) but BVB have reportedly increased their demands as they try to retain the Norway forward for at least another season.

 

ROUND-UP

- LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid are targeting Inter star Lautaro Martinez, according to AS. With Diego Simeone poised to extend his contract, the head coach is eyeing a move for Martinez, who has previously been linked with Barca.

Barca could sell Samuel UmtitiSergi Roberto and Junior Firpo to reduce their wage bill, says Mundo Deportivo. Jordi Alba could also depart for the right price as Ronald Koeman's men look to sign Lyon captain Memphis Depay.

- Fabrizio Romano reports PSG have agreed a deal to sign Georginio Wijnaldum, who had been tipped to join Barca with his Liverpool contract set to expire. As Wijnaldum looks destined for Paris, Marca claims Barca are now interested in City veteran FernandinhoPSG are also in talks with Inter to sign Achraf Hakimi.

- Staying at Camp Nou, Sport claims Barca are looking to sign City trio Aymeric LaporteGabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan, having already brought Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia in on free transfers from the Premier League champions.

- Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma will decide his future in the coming days, according to Romano. The soon-to-be free agent has been linked with JuventusBarca and PSG.

Atletico are hoping to lure Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin to Madrid, according to Marca. It comes as United reportedly try to prise Kieran Trippier from Los Colchoneros.

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