Liverpool have announced Trent Alexander-Arnold has signed a new long-term contract extension with the club.

Alexander-Arnold has made 179 appearances for the Reds and was a crucial part of Jurgen Klopp's squad that won the Premier League title in 2019-20, ending the 30-year wait to be crowned top-flight champions again.

The right-back – who made his first-team debut in a League Cup tie against Tottenham in August 2016 – has committed his future to Liverpool as he prepares for the new domestic season, having missed out on Euro 2020 with England due to a thigh injury.

"I'm honoured to be given the opportunity and to be shown the trust in the club to be given an extension, so it was a no-brainer for me," Alexander-Arnold told the club's official website after agreeing terms that reportedly run until 2025.

"The state the club is in and where I'm at in my career is always a good option for me. To extend and make sure I'm here longer is always a good thing. I'm made up.

"It's the only club I've ever really known, so to be here for this amount of time and extending to be here for a longer amount of time is amazing for me and my family.

"It's a proud moment for me – it always is – signing a new contract here. To be given the trust, like I said before, by the club and the staff is an amazing feeling."

Alexander-Arnold has played over 40 games in each of the previous three campaigns under Klopp, including starting the Champions League final win over Spurs in 2019 – a year that also saw him make the shortlist for the Ballon d'Or.

The 22-year-old excelled as Liverpool were crowned champions the following season, scoring four goals and providing 13 assists – only Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne (20) supplied more – while playing in every league fixture.

While he struggled to replicate the same form in 2020-21 in a defence that lost key personnel to serious injuries, he still made 34 starts and managed two goals, one of which was a dramatic long-range late winner at home to Aston Villa in April.

"I live the dream every day really. Being able to represent the club and to be in and around names and players, and obviously managers and staff, that are world class every day is a privilege for me and I'm very fortunate to be in the position I am," Alexander-Arnold added.

 

Gareth Southgate selected Alexander-Arnold in his 26-man England squad for this year's European Championship, despite speculation he would be a high-profile absentee from the final list.

However, injury deprived him the chance of being involved with the Three Lions as they reached the final, losing on penalties to Italy.

Liverpool open the new Premier League season with a trip to Norwich City on August 14.

Liverpool have announced Trent Alexander-Arnold has signed a new long-term contract extension with the club.

Alexander-Arnold has made 179 appearances for the Reds and was a crucial part of Jurgen Klopp's squad that won the Premier League title in 2019-20, ending the 30-year wait to be crowned top-flight champions again.

The 22-year-old right-back – who made his first-team debut in a League Cup tie against Tottenham in August 2016 – has committed his future to Liverpool as he prepares for the new domestic season, having missed out on Euro 2020 with England due to a thigh injury.

"I'm honoured to be given the opportunity and to be shown the trust in the club to be given an extension, so it was a no-brainer for me," Alexander-Arnold told the club's official website.

"The state the club is in and where I'm at in my career is always a good option for me. To extend and make sure I'm here longer is always a good thing. I'm made up.

"It's the only club I've ever really known, so to be here for this amount of time and extending to be here for a longer amount of time is amazing for me and my family.

"It's a proud moment for me – it always is – signing a new contract here. To be given the trust, like I said before, by the club and the staff is an amazing feeling."

These have been some tough months for the grand old city of Liverpool, the men in red losing a Premier League title first and then the waterfront being stripped of its UNESCO World Heritage status.

The cause of the latter bitter blow might be boiled down to a rush to regenerate. United Nations cultural blazers were ultimately at odds with city chiefs over the merit in complementing an elegant Victorian window on the world with shiny towers, sharp-angled business premises and apartment buildings. There's an arena too, and, perhaps the straw that broke the camel's back, a gleaming new stadium for Everton.

Goodison is going, and perhaps UNESCO is privately upset to see another of Archibald Leitch's greatest hits bite the dust.

Quite what has gone wrong at Liverpool Football Club is far from as easily deciphered, and if we were to ignore the wild journey that has led to where they stand today, perhaps there would be no real cause for worry in the first place.

Third in the Premier League last season means the Champions League awaits the Reds in 2021-22. And third after first place in 2020-21 does not sound like the worst of outcomes, a solid enough follow-up season, if just a touch deflating. Owners Fenway Sports Group will know another truckload of UEFA coinage is heading for the bank vaults, and Jurgen Klopp has been able to carry out a tweak or two to his squad, with more surely to come.

Yet with four weeks of last season remaining, Klopp's team were toiling in sixth place, the manager showing signs of feeling pressure as his team scrambled for the form that would conceal the imperfections of the previous eight months.

Ahead of the new campaign, Stats Perform looks at how Liverpool, with a long-awaited championship now long out of their system, could evolve as they bid to close the gap to the Manchester giants, United and City.


RED PERIL, OR RED HERRING?

With a little hindsight, might the drama that encircled Liverpool last season have been overblown? Anyone can lose 7-2 at Aston Villa, right?

And six consecutive home defeats... well, that occasionally happens to the best teams, doesn't it? Were three of those Anfield raiders – Brighton and Hove Albion, Burnley and Fulham – perhaps better sides than our memories recall?

Weren't Everton due a win on the other side of Stanley Park?

And above all, didn't it seem like Klopp essentially had the situation under control?

Sorry to come across all 2 Unlimited, but no, no, no-no, no-no.

Liverpool are coming off a honker of a season that they rescued rather too easily as their nearest top-four rivals waved them through. Wins over Southampton, Manchester United, West Brom, Burnley and Crystal Palace in May papered over quite substantial cracks.

"In the harder moments you can show the most and we really stuck together all the time," Klopp said.


WHAT MADE THE NEAR-INVINCIBLES SO FALLIBLE?

The injuries to Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip are an obvious but credible answer here. Klopp took flak for not having top-class back-up to his back-up defenders, and when captain Jordan Henderson suffered a groin injury in the Everton defeat in February that was his season over too.

A strong spine turned, if not to jelly, then to something suddenly highly penetrable.

Opta data shows Liverpool gained 19 points from a losing position last season, just as they did when landing their first Premier League title in the 2019-20 campaign.

That looks admirable, and only Manchester United (31 points) and Leicester City (20) hauled back as many from being in deficit, but Liverpool also dropped 15 points from a winning position, when in the title year they let just five slip away in such a circumstance.

In the Premier League, Liverpool's players were involved in 3,736 duels in 2019-20 and a near-identical 3,729 in 2020-21. (Opta defines a duel as a 50-50 contest for the ball.)

But tellingly, Liverpool's success rate in such duels slipped from 50.55 per cent in the championship-winning campaign to 47.78 per cent.

And if that sounds like a small dip, consider that only two teams in the past two Premier League seasons have won a lower percentage of duels across a season: Bournemouth in 2019-20 with a 47.69 per cent rate, and Sheffield United with 46.55 in 2020-21. Both those sides were relegated.

It feels telling, and Klopp will want the pendulum to swing back above 50 per cent in the new campaign. Marginal gains in this area can have an enormous impact.

Mid-table Everton (52.92 per cent) and Aston Villa (52.58) led the way last season, and both had spells where they threatened to snatch a top-six place, while champions Manchester City were third, followed by Leicester and Manchester United.


NAME NAMES!

Among defenders, only Leeds United's Luke Ayling (279) made more ball recoveries than Andy Robertson (229) and Trent Alexander-Arnold (258).

There, that's a good thing.

Less good: among defenders who played at least five games, Liverpool's Alexander-Arnold (25.49 times), Neco Williams (23.59) and Robertson (20.39) stood first, second and fourth on the list of Premier League players who lost the ball the most often per 90 minutes.

Rhys Williams, who like namesake Neco had more opportunities in the top flight than he might have anticipated, achieved the Premier League's highest duel success rate among all defenders (76 per cent from nine appearances; 38 of 50 duels).

That sounds promising for the future, and Nat Phillips was another game stand-in, winning a defender's league-high 7.92 duels per 90 minutes.

Phillips stood sixth on the list of the most duels contested per 90 minutes by a defender too (13.05), and here's a statistic that won't have passed Klopp by: Liverpool won 11, drew two and lost only two games when Phillips started in the Premier League.

That is a massive 73.3 per cent win rate, and they went 9-7-7 without him (39.1 per cent win rate).

The 24-year-old was the Reds' player of the month for March, and perhaps Klopp would do well to keep him around the first team, even with Matip, Van Dijk and Gomez back for the new term.


A SOFT CENTRE?

Thiago Alcantara's first season with Liverpool proved largely anticlimactic and Klopp will expect more from the Spaniard in the new campaign. Goodness knows, with Georginio Wijnaldum now at Paris Saint-Germain, Klopp needs to find something extra in midfield, which has begun to look increasingly like the team's problem area.

Liverpool were hindered last season by losing Fabinho to a central defensive role at times, and it seems imperative Klopp has the Brazilian and Thiago forging an alliance in the coming months.

In the 21 games where skipper Henderson featured, he made 8.86 ball recoveries per 90 minutes, which put him fifth overall among midfielders and top among the squad's engine-room stars.

Henderson, playing the role of disruptor and creator, also attempted the most throughballs of any Liverpool midfielder (averaging 0.21 such passes per 90 minutes) and Klopp must long for a genuine playmaker who might get closer to the numbers posted by the likes of City's Kevin De Bruyne (0.58 per 90 minutes), United's Bruno Fernandes (0.35) or even Everton's James Rodriguez (0.41).

Liverpool did not have a midfielder in the top 20 for open-play goal assists per 90 minutes among those to have played at least 15 games, with Curtis Jones having 0.15 per 90 to sit in a tie for 21st on the list. When the assists from the flying full-backs dry up, as they rather did in the league last season, Liverpool need to do better in midfield.

MARGINAL PAINS

Liverpool had more big chances – where a player should reasonably be expected to score – than any other team in the Premier League last term. Being more clinical could have made it a very different season.

They only scored from 37.61 per cent of those 109 opportunities, however. Pep Guardiola's City stuck away 44.34 per cent of their 106 big chances and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's United netted 45.74 per cent of their 94 such openings. The Manchester giants duly finished first and second.

Liverpool also had more passes into the final third (2,508) than any other side, so clearly they are doing a lot right, yet when their players see the whites of the opposition goalkeeper's eyes, their aim has not been as precise as would be ideal.

Their overall shot conversion percentage tumbled from 14.38 to 11.18 – from the league's highest rate in 2019-20 to only the 11th-ranked in the 2020-21 campaign.

Mohamed Salah scored 22 times with a shot conversion rate of 17.46 per cent, and Klopp would settle for a repeat of that in 2021-22, but Sadio Mane's form in front of goal has left a lot to be desired in the league.

Mane's conversion rate dipped from an impressive 23.38 per cent in the title campaign to a wholly underwhelming 11.7 per cent in the hangover season, with the addition of Diogo Jota to Liverpool's attacking ranks not proving perhaps the spur to the existing strike force that the manager might have expected.

Roberto Firmino's 9.09 per cent strike rate was tolerable in the championship year because so many others were banging goals in, but with those drying up by comparison in 2020-21, nine goals from a conversion rate of 10.84 was not what Doctor Klopp ordered.


BETTER CALL FOR SAUL?

Like just about every club, Liverpool have been hit hard financially by the coronavirus pandemic and it remains to be seen if there is a significant transfer kitty for Klopp, who has already invested by bringing in promising young French defender Ibrahima Konate from RB Leipzig.

Atletico Madrid's LaLiga-winning midfielder Saul Niguez is a rumoured target and would be a handy acquisition, but the Spaniard has also been linked with United.

Should Saul go to Old Trafford, joining Jadon Sancho and the expected addition of Raphael Varane to Solskjaer's ranks, then the team in red challenging City for supremacy next season would seem more likely to be the record 20-time English champions, and not Liverpool.

But the numbers here tell us that Klopp's team are perhaps not as far away from City as the 17-point gap from last season may suggest.

Just like a rock star's guitar, Klopp's heavy metal football only truly works when the tuning is right, and when the entire band is in sync.

Last season, Liverpool without Van Dijk were like Black Sabbath without Ozzy, Motorhead without Lemmy. They were not themselves but just about got away with it.

With the talismanic Dutchman and the inspirational Henderson over their injuries, there is just that nagging feeling that those treasured big hits could get another airing.

Kieran Trippier has one year remaining on his Atletico Madrid contract.

The England international has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United.

It has been reported that Trippier wants to return to England, having left Tottenham for LaLiga in 2019.

 

TOP STORY - TRIPPIER TO WAIT ON UNITED MOVE

Manchester United target Kieran Trippier is willing to wait until late in the transfer window to secure his move, reports the Telegraph.

Atletico Madrid full-back Trippier is said to have set his sights on a move to United, who have already been busy in the transfer market by launching moves for Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane.

The report claims Trippier is prepared to sit tight and wait for United to raise the funds required to put together a move for the 30-year-old former Manchester City junior.

 

ROUND-UP

- Aston Villa are ready to restart talks with Jack Grealish about a new deal next week as Manchester City begin to ramp up their interest, according to the Express and Star.

- Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma is being lined up by West Ham,  with a proposed £20m bid set to be tabled, according to the Daily Mail. It had been reported Zouma may be used in a deal for Sevilla's Jules Kounde.

- Barcelona are lining up a second bid to sign Juventus defender Cristian Romero after having had a player-plus-cash deal turned down, reports SportItalia. Tottenham are also keen on Romero.

- Celtic could make a move for ex-England goalkeeper Joe Hart, who is currently on Tottenham's books, says BBC Sport.

Virgil van Dijk expressed his gratitude for the support he has received after making his return in Liverpool's 4-3 friendly defeat to Hertha Berlin.

Van Dijk made his first appearance since suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury in the Merseyside derby last October at the Tivoli Stadion in Tirol on Thursday.

The Netherlands captain and fellow defender Joe Gomez, who had been sidelined with a knee injury since November, were introduced by Jurgen Klopp with 20 minutes to go.

Van Dijk later thanked those who had helped him on the road to recovery during his lengthy absence.

He tweeted: "285 days ago, I started on a journey back towards playing. It's hard to express how I am feeling, but it's important to me that I say I feel blessed to have had the support of so many incredible people.

"The surgeon, my physios, coaches and staff who have been with me in my corner since day one. My team-mates for giving me energy and keeping my head up.

"The fans for their love, support and encouragement. And most of all, my family because without them, I'd be nothing. Thank you. The work doesn't stop now. It's only just starting. We keep going!"

Reds boss Klopp said: "I'm not sure, 260-something days for Virgil and not much less for Joe that they didn't play football, so it's nice to have them back. It was the first step, really important."

Strikes from Santiago Ascacibar and Suat Serdar left Liverpool two goals down, but Sadio Mane and Takumi Minamino restored parity.

Stevan Jovetic's brace gave Hertha a two-goal advantage once again, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scoring Liverpool's third goal after Van Dijk's header was saved.

Liverpool defenders Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez made their long-awaited returns from injury as substitutes in a 4-3 friendly loss against Hertha Berlin on Thursday.

Van Dijk had not featured since a clash with Jordan Pickford in October's Merseyside derby left him needing anterior cruciate ligament surgery on his right leg.

Centre-back partner Gomez had experienced a similar spell on the sidelines, having also suffered a knee injury.

Jurgen Klopp eased the pair back into action, bringing them on for 20-minute cameos in the Reds' final pre-season game in Austria.

Liverpool may well have been grateful for the defensive pairing earlier, given they fell two goals behind courtesy of strikes from Santiago Ascacibar and Suat Serdar.

Sadio Mane and Takumi Minamino restored parity before Stevan Jovetic's brace gave Hertha a two-goal advantage once again.

Gomez was cautioned before Netherlands captain Van Dijk saw his header saved, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain finished for Liverpool's third following up.

Diogo Jota and Andrew Robertson also appeared for the first time in pre-season as they both came off the bench for the Reds.

Speaking to LFCTV before Thursday's clash, Klopp confirmed that Liverpool will take on Bologna in two hour-long friendlies at a training camp in France.

"It’s now the last game in Austria, then we go to France, we have two 60-minute games against Bologna there," Klopp said.

"Then we get home – finally, Anfield is calling! We’re getting closer. The season is not too far away anymore, so we should be better prepared."

Jack Grealish has been linked with a move away from Aston Villa in the past, and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola is a known long-term admirer.

Grealish is currently on holidays after Euro 2020, but talks of a huge transfer to City have not gone away.

Could the Premier League champions be about to make their move?

 

MAN CITY SET TO TABLE GREALISH BID

Manchester City are set to officially commence their move for Aston Villa's Jack Grealish with a £75m bid, claims the Daily Mail.

According to the report, Villa will hold out for £100m for their star England international.

Villa have no desire to sell Grealish for anything less and will know Guardiola is keen to secure his services.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea have opened talks with Sevilla about potentially signing French centre-back Jules Kounde, according to The Guardian. The 22-year-old has a release clause worth €80m (£68.4m).

- Arsenal have enquired with Inter about star forward Lautaro Martinez, reports the Telegraph. It is believed Inter may be willing to sell the Argentina striker for €90m (£77m).

- Eurosport reports that West Ham are interested in a move for Manchester United defender Phil Jones who has struggled with injury in recent times.

- Newcastle are closing in on a deal for Arsenal's Joe Willock, and it could be finalised  within the next 48 hours after his loan stint last season, claims Mail Online.

- Liverpool may sign Wolves' Spanish winger Adama Traore in a cut-price £30m deal, according to the Star.

Liverpool forward Diogo Jota hopes it is only a matter of time before he can experience playing in front of a full capacity crowd at Anfield for the first time.

The 24-year-old is gearing up for his second season with the Reds after joining from Wolves in September 2020.

Although playing to an empty Kop for almost the entirety of 2020-21, Jota made a blistering start to life on Merseyside with seven goals in his opening 10 appearances, making him the first Liverpool player to achieve that feat since Robbie Fowler in 1993.

The Portugal international, who represented his nation at Euro 2020, would go on to find the net 13 times for Jurgen Klopp’s side in all competitions – a tally only bettered by Mohamed Salah (31) and Sadio Mane (16).

That goals return was all the more impressive considering he missed three months of his maiden campaign with a knee injury sustained during the Champions League clash with Midtjylland in December.

Upon his return to action, Jota sampled playing in front of a reduced Anfield crowd as spectators were gradually reintegrated towards the end of the season due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Aaron Ramsey has not set the world on fire since joining Juventus from Arsenal two years ago.

It has been reported in Italy that the Serie A club are ready to listen to offers.

Ramsey reportedly earns £250,000 per week and Juve are said to be keen to ease that burden.

 

TOP STORY - SPURS SHOCK MOVE FOR RAMSEY

Tottenham are lining up a shock move for former Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, claims The Sun.

Juventus may be looking to offload the Wales international, who has made 46 league appearances in two seasons in Turin.

Tottenham's managing director of football Fabio Paratici is keen to bring Ramsey back to London to team up with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.

 

ROUND-UP

- Tottenham have ramped up their bid to sign Atalanta centre-back Cristian Romero who will cost around £40million (€46m), according to The Telegraph.

- Marca claims Inter, Sampdoria and Genoa are monitoring Real Madrid's 23-year-old striker Luka Jovic.

- Monaco's Montenegrin striker Stevan Jovetic has agreed to join Bundesliga club Hertha Berlin on a deal until 2024, reports Sky Sport.

- The Telegraph reports that Newcastle United  are keen on signing Manchester United defender Axel Tuanzebe, with a loan or permanent move discussed.

- Sky Sports claims West Ham are still interested in signing Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Alphonse Areola, who spent last season on loan at Fulham.

- Italian clubs Lazio and Napoli,  along with Spanish outfit Villarreal,  fancy Liverpool's Xherdan Shaqiri, reports Sky Sports.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has confirmed centre-back Virgil van Dijk is in contention to make his long-awaited return from injury in Thursday's pre-season friendly with Hertha Berlin.

Van Dijk appeared just five times for the Reds in the Premier League last season and missed the Netherlands' Euro 2020 campaign due to an anterior cruciate ligament injury sustained against Everton in October.

The 30-year-old was included as part of Liverpool's squad for their warm-weather training camp in Austria this month, but he was not used in last week's 1-0 win over Mainz and Klopp made clear he would not rush the defender back.

However, the Liverpool boss is now ready to give Van Dijk some minutes at Tivoli Stadion, while fellow centre-back Joe Gomez – who has not featured since injuring his knee while on England duty last November – is also closing in on a return.

"I hope, I am not sure, there is the opportunity Virgil could play a few minutes. He looks really good in training and maybe we can bring him in, but I need to have some final conversations. He looks ready and we'll see," Klopp told Liverpool's website.

"If you see the games now as part of their rehab training, that makes sense. Joe is very close. There is no race between the two of them; they had different injuries and stuff like this, but he is very close.

"If Virgil can play now 20 then probably Joey can in the game after. We will see. In training they both look really good.

"I think from time to time there are some pictures of them from training sessions and everyone can see how good it looks, but there is no rush for us. 

"It is not about they now need five pre-season games to be ready for the start or whatever. It is a long season and we prepare them after these very, very serious injuries for the rest of their careers and not for the first game of the season.

"Losing a little bit of patience for them to return as a supporter or as a coach even is not bad, it just means they were pretty good and we want them to be back in the team."

The imminent return of Van Dijk is a major boost for Liverpool, who sorely missed the Dutchman's leadership and defensive attributes last season, having played every match in their successful 2019-20 Premier League campaign.

Only one defender in the league bettered his 191 aerial wins during that season, while he attempted and completed more passes than any of them. Trent Alexander-Arnold, meanwhile, was the sole defensive player to have more than his 3,624 touches.

Liverpool won 81.4 per cent of the 43 Premier League matches Van Dijk played between August 2019 and his injury, but that fell to just 51.5 per cent between October and the end of the season when he was out of the team.

Van Dijk is not the only player in line to return to the Liverpool side this week, with Andy Robertson and Diogo Jota set to feature against Bundesliga side Hertha.

Robertson and Jota represented Scotland and Portugal respectively at Euro 2020, but both players linked up with their club colleagues last week and are now deemed ready to feature in pre-season action.

"They will have minutes, that's the plan. They obviously trained completely normal all the time now and we try to involve them," Klopp said.

Liverpool also have friendlies against Athletic Bilbao and Osasuna to come before beginning their Premier League campaign against Norwich City on August 14, so Klopp will continue to rotate his side during the upcoming matches.

"Some of the players are ready for 60 minutes. It will be hard for them definitely, but it means then others play 30 minutes and stuff like this, or even maybe 20 minutes and these kind of things," he said.

"Pre-season is about trying. It's a proper, proper challenge to make all these individuals to bring them in the best possible physical shape and make us more ready or stronger as a team. 

"Unfortunately, football is not like cycling, so you don't miss it completely but the pedals and stuff like this just go away so quick that's incredible. So we have to work on that again, that's what we do.

"Today is a really tough [double session]. I like it, the players probably sleep now already and that would be better because this afternoon it would be really hard."

Xherdan Shaqiri has revealed he is ready to leave Liverpool and hinted he would enjoy playing under Maurizio Sarri at Lazio, praising the Italian coach's attacking style of play.

The Switzerland international joined the Reds in 2018 but has remained on the fringes of the first team throughout his time at Anfield.

And after enjoying Euro 2020 success, in which he became Switzerland's outright top scorer at major tournaments, Shaqiri has suggested his time under Jurgen Klopp may be coming to an end.

"Fortunately, football has helped me achieve many of my dreams," Shaqiri told Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport. "I was lucky enough to play with great teams and to win many titles.

"Who knows, maybe I could get something even with the Swiss national team. My contract [with] Liverpool expires in 2022, in 2018 I signed a four-year deal.

"The important thing at this moment in my career is to be able to play regularly, but that hasn’t always been the case in the last three seasons.

"This is why I told Liverpool that I feel ready for a new challenge. They accepted my wish and will seriously consider the offers that will come. They will not stop me."

Opportunities have been limited for Shaqiri at Liverpool as he has made just 45 top-flight appearances across a three-year spell, during which he has scored seven goals for the 2019-20 Premier League champions.

But the 29-year-old, whose 10 chances created at Euro 2020 were three more than Ricardo Rodriguez for the Swiss, proved his quality as he was one of Vladimir Petkovic's standout performers at the tournament.

While Shaqiri explained there had been no direct contact from clubs yet, he made clear his desire to keep playing regularly and praised the development of Italian football.

"I'm only 29 years old, I have played in some of the best leagues in Europe, and I would like to continue being a part of them," Shaqiri said. "I’m not yet thinking about the end of my career, it’s a future I imagine far away. We will see what destiny has in store for me.

"I think it’s not just my opinion that football in Italy has developed substantially in recent years. The win at the European Championship is there to prove it, a well-deserved result.

"Just take a look at how many Premier League players have moved to Serie A."

The former Bayern Munich winger, who has been directly involved in 51 goals in 96 appearances for his country, has limited experience in Serie A, too, given he spent six months with reigning champions Inter in 2015.

Asked whether a move to Italy and, more specifically, Lazio was an option, Shaqiri spoke glowingly of Sarri's qualities and complimented sporting director Igli Tare.

"Igli Tare has been doing an excellent job at Lazio for years," Shaqiri commented. "If it's true that he has great respect for me, then I’m honoured.

"I have been following Lazio for a long time, they are a top team. In general, due to my characteristics, I like to play more attacking football and Sarri practices it. It would be intriguing."

All indications are Raphael Varane is set to move on from Real Madrid. 

The France international appears locked in on one destination. 

Manchester United are said to be close to a deal for the defender. 

 

TOP STORY – UNITED CLOSE TO VARANE MOVE

Manchester United have been linked to Raphael Varane in transfer rumours for months. 

Now it appears the move could come to fruition, as Marca reports United and Real Madrid are close to a €50million (£42m) agreement. 

Though the Mirror reports some at the Premier League club are worried the 28-year-old is merely using them to get a better deal out of Madrid, Fabrizio Romano says United are "confident" a deal is close and that no other clubs are involved. 

 

ROUND-UP

– With his Arsenal contract set to expire next year, Alexandre Lacazette is in demand, and Calciomercato says Atletico Madrid are pondering a potential €15m offer. 

Erik Lamela is set to join Sevilla in a swap deal, with Tottenham getting Bryan Gil, Marca says, while Romano says Spurs will also get €25m in the deal and Gil will sign through 2026.  

Newcastle are eyeing Ross Barkley as a potential addition if they cannot pry Joe Willock away from Arsenal, says The Athletic, with a loan move for Leicester's Hamza Choudhury also a possibility.

West Ham could make a move for Liverpool's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, says the Express. 

Ben White's £50m move from Brighton to Arsenal will be official next week, reports Romano. 

Paris Saint-Germain have had talks with Kalidou Koulibaly's agent about a move from Napoli, reports Corriere dello Sport. 

Roma have offered €15m for Barcelona's Clement Lenglet, says Sport. 

Harry Wilson has ended a 16-year association with Liverpool to join Championship outfit Fulham ahead of the 2021-22 season. 

Wilson – who has signed a deal that could see him stay at Craven Cottage until 2026 – progressed through the ranks of the Reds after joining at the age of nine. 

The 24-year-old made just two appearances for Jurgen Klopp's first team, however, and has spent much of the past four seasons out on loan. 

Spells at Crewe Alexandra and Hull City were followed by a successful stint at Derby County in the 2018-19 season.

He spent a season in the Premier League with Bournemouth in 2019-20, scoring seven goals as the Cherries were relegated, while last term he was on loan with Championship side Cardiff City. 

Wilson has been capped 29 times by Wales and featured for the Dragons in their Euro 2020 campaign, receiving a red card in the closing stages of their 4-0 last-16 defeat to Denmark. 

Fulham also announced the signing of goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga on Saturday after he left Tottenham last month, the 29-year-old Argentine signing a two-year deal.

Jurgen Klopp revealed Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez have looked "really good" in pre-season training with Liverpool, though made clear the need for patience over the returning duo.

Van Dijk and fellow centre-back Gomez were long-term absentees during the Reds' unsuccessful title defence in the 2020-21 campaign, making a combined total of just 12 Premier League appearances.

Both are closing in on a comeback but Klopp insisted after the 1-0 friendly win over Mainz on Friday that neither are likely to feature in the next fixture, which sees Liverpool take on Hertha Berlin.

Asked by the club's official website if the defenders could play next Thursday, he replied: "Yeah, it would still be a surprise, unfortunately. But they look really good.

"Look, I think, they do everything, they play football, we keep them in training, we do the things we can do, they don't do too much and stuff like this.

"We just have to be patient – we prepare for a full season, not for a pre-season game. I will not risk it for a game here, so we have to see.

"We have a lot of games still coming, pre-season games, but I don't see them being involved for the next one."

Liverpool recorded a first win during pre-season action thanks to a late own goal against Mainz, Luca Kilian turning Owen Beck's cross into the net in the 86th minute.

Klopp had included a host of first-team regulars in his starting XI, which saw Harvey Elliott utilised in a midfield role, before a much younger line-up were introduced after half-time.

A number of the squad remain absent following their exertions at Euro 2020 and the Copa America, though Scotland captain Andy Robertson has joined up with his team-mates in Austria.

"I am happy about a lot of situations I saw," the Liverpool boss said of the game against Mainz.

"I saw in the first half some really good football where we came through, we passed, we passed the ball quite quickly, quick enough against a good, organised side, a deep-defending side and this kind of stuff. It was far away from being perfect, but it is absolutely okay.

"Second half I saw the boys, the kids, fought for a result and they got it. They forced it and I am happy about that."

Sadio Mane feels he has benefitted from an extended break as he looks to regain his best form for Liverpool in 2021-22.

Mane scored 11 times in the Premier League last season as Liverpool failed to defend their title.

That was his second-lowest tally for Liverpool since he joined from Southampton in 2016-17, with the Senegal forward only netting fewer league goals in the 2017-18 season (10), while last term also featured a run of just three strikes in 20 games before helping himself to a double against Crystal Palace on the final day.

Mane did however keep up his creativity, supplying seven assists from 61 chances created – the most opportunities he has crafted in a Premier League season since his arrival in England seven years ago.

Only in 2018-19 (3,085) did Mane play more minutes than in 2020-21 (2,810), and the 29-year-old believes the longer break he was able to have before he joined up with the Reds' pre-season training camp in Austria has provided a much-needed boost.

Asked if he felt in better shape compared to before the 2020-21 season, Mane told Liverpoolfc.com: "Yes, sure.

"I think it's always important as a player to have a break because I can say since I came to Liverpool this was the first time I have had four weeks or more holidays, so I think that sometimes helps a lot. 

"I could see from day one that everybody was looking sharp, which for me was unbelievable! I am not complaining about having one week or two weeks' holiday, but I think it's always extra [helpful] for us to have this long period of holiday. 

"At the same time, we have been working in individual training, which is also important because you could see from day one that everybody was looking sharp and ready to go for the new season.

"To be honest, everybody, and myself for sure, feels more ready. I always say tiredness is here [in the head] and obviously you have to be mentally strong to cope with it, but at the same time I think resting is the best thing.

"I think now we have all rested properly so this is another advantage for us. We are looking to be ready for the season now."

Liverpool fell way short of competing with Manchester City for the title, though Jurgen Klopp's side will point to the impact injuries to key players – mainly in defence – had on their efforts.

The Reds lost Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez and Joel Matip to season-ending injuries, while Jordan Henderson also failed to return after sustaining a problem in February.

"I think not only me, I think everybody [is excited]!" Mane said when asked how positive it was to see Van Dijk, Gomez and Matip back in training.

"As a player we all become like fans because if you see your team-mate getting back in training and fit, you just say, 'Wow!' 

"When I see Virgil, Joe and Joel, after every training session I say, 'My friend, how are you feeling?' because I think to have everybody back in the team is just incredible.

"Because we know what they are capable of doing for the team and for us the most important thing is the team, so having those players fit, 100 per cent – I think you can always see the smiles of the boys and say: 'Wow, what a season it’s going to be for us again.'"

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