Matthijs de Ligt will watch from the sidelines as both the Netherlands and Ukraine aim to end miserable runs in their Euro 2020 opener on Sunday.

De Ligt missed the Oranje's final warm-up friendly due to a groin issue and will not recover in time to face Ukraine in Amsterdam.

Coach Frank de Boer said: "The game comes a little too early. We don't want to take any chances. We've got two more group games.

"If it had been very important, he could have played. He's very close to it."

It is a blow to a Netherlands side who have not won at the European Championship since the 2008 group stage.

The Dutch were quickly beaten in the knockout phase of that competition, lost all three matches at Euro 2012 and then failed to qualify four years later.

Centre-back is suddenly a potential area of weakness, with Virgil van Dijk missing the tournament, while De Boer only confirmed the identity of his starting goalkeeper – 38-year-old Maarten Stekelenburg – on Saturday.

Regular number one Jasper Cillessen, cut from the squad following a positive coronavirus test, was the only ever-present in qualifying besides De Ligt.

Ukraine might make for accommodating opponents for Stekelenburg, though, having themselves lost five in a row at the Euros and failed to score in each defeat.

Andrey Shevchenko, now their coach, is the only player to have ever scored for Ukraine at the finals, as they have failed with 67 shots since his 2012 brace against Sweden.


PLAYERS TO WATCH

Netherlands – Memphis Depay

Even with De Boer switching to an unpopular 5-3-2 formation, Depay will be the chief threat in attack. Although Georginio Wijnaldum (eight) outscored his team-mate in qualifying, Depay was involved in a goal every 38 minutes (six goals and seven assists in 495 minutes) – the best rate of any player involved in five or more.

Ukraine – Andriy Pyatov

If Depay is as involved as the Netherlands hope, that will mean another busy outing for Pyatov. The Ukraine goalkeeper saved 88.6 per cent of the shots he faced in qualifying (31 of 35), which was the best rate of any keeper to appear in six or more games.


KEY OPTA FACTS

– This is the first meeting between the Netherlands and Ukraine at a major tournament (World Cup or European Championship). The Dutch are unbeaten in their two friendly encounters – winning 3-0 in Rotterdam in May 2008 and drawing 1-1 in Donetsk in August 2010.
– The Netherlands are playing their first major tournament game at the Johan Cruyff Arena since the Euro 2000 semi-final against Italy, a game in which the Dutch failed to score despite having 31 shots and 71 per cent possession (0-0 after extra time, 1-3 on penalties).
– Since and including 1988, only Germany (six) have reached the semi-finals of the European Championship more often than the Netherlands (four). However, the Netherlands have not made the final four since 2004 and they have not won a game in the tournament since 2008.
– After winning their first game at the European Championship (2-1 v Sweden, 11 June 2012), Ukraine have subsequently lost their past five. In fact, only Yugoslavia have had a longer losing run in the history of the tournament (six in a row, from Euro 1968 to Euro 1984).

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.

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

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

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

Meanwhile, neither situation necessarily suits the Netherlands.

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

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

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

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

 

COACH ACCUSTOMED TO CRITICISM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

YOUNG STARS' STUNTED PROGRESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

DETERMINED TO MAKE THEIR MARK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Memphis Depay scored one and created another in his latest dominant display as the Netherlands defeated Georgia 3-0 on Sunday ahead of Euro 2020.

Lyon striker Depay had scored both goals in the prior friendly against Scotland to rescue a draw and played a key role again a week out from the Oranje's tournament opener at home to Ukraine.

The first from Depay came from the penalty spot after 10 minutes and he then teased a gorgeous pass through for Wout Weghorst's first international goal in the second half. Ryan Gravenberch later broke his own duck.

Depay and Weghorst again headlined a Frank de Boer XI that showed only two changes from the team that faced Scotland, hinting at his finals line-up, but Matthijs de Ligt was one of those to make way due to a groin complaint.

He was a miss in the defence as Saba Lobzhanidze advanced inside two minutes and squandered a big chance with a tame finish.

The Netherlands would not be as wasteful when they forged a similarly straightforward path through the Georgia back line and Depay converted the penalty won from his pass by Denzel Dumfries, who was tripped by Lasha Dvali.

Dumfries and Depay soon combined again, but the latter's stretching effort was superbly saved by Giorgi Loria, a stop that should have allowed the visitors to equalise when Valeriane Gvilia instead steered wide.

Loria was at his best again to touch over Frenkie de Jong's drive, yet Weghorst's close-range strike escaped his clutches 10 minutes into the second half.

Although more agile goalkeeping kept out Depay's blast, pressure continued to build on Loria's goal and he blocked again from the same man only to see Gravenberch nod in.

A sensational Jambul Jigauri volley beat Maarten Stekelenburg five minutes from time but bounced away off the crossbar, ensuring a one-sided final scoreline.

 

What does it mean? Steady stuff from De Boer's men

De Boer clearly has a settled side, which might give the Netherlands an edge over some opponents, but they will have to beat better teams than Georgia to become champions of Europe.

This was not the most convincing display, although there could have been more home goals if not for some excellent work from Loria, who prevented 1.19 goals using expected goals on target data.

Depay devastating once again

Depay was involved in a goal every 38 minutes in qualifying (six goals and seven assists in 495 minutes), the best rate among the 54 players to have a hand in five or more. A goal and an assist in 90 minutes meant he was only marginally less effective on Sunday.

With the defence looking a little shaky and Weghorst still making his way on the international stage, the Netherlands' campaign will live or die by Depay's performances.

Daley a disappointing deputy

It was no surprise to see Daley Blind removed in De Boer's only half-time change, having replaced De Ligt in the line-up. The Ajax defender was preferred to Nathan Ake, the substitute that took his place.

Blind failed to complete a tackle or interception as he was exposed by the pace of Lobzhanidze. Euros opponents will be more clinical if Blind has to step in again for De Ligt.

What's next?

All eyes now are on the Euros, which begins for the Netherlands against Ukraine in Amsterdam next Sunday.

Euro 2020 is just days away, and that means the rumour mill is about to go into overdrive.

International tournaments always represent something of a showcase for clubs seeking reinforcements and this year will be no different, even if the impact of the pandemic means spending may not quite reach levels of old.

There will be several players eager to impress at these finals: some will be long-term targets out to justify the hype, while others will be seeking a new challenge as contracts begin to wind down.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform has compiled a list of some of the candidates vying to be front and centre of this particular shop window...

 

Belgium: Jeremy Doku

One of Belgium's less-known attacking stars, Jeremy Doku was directly involved in 10 goals in the Jupiler League by the time he was 18 years and 115 days old, a record bettered only by Romelu Lukaku.

Previously wanted by Liverpool, the Rennes forward could become a target for Jurgen Klopp – thought to be exploring new attacking options – should he be given the chance to impress by Roberto Martinez.

Croatia: Bruno Petkovic

"Bruno Petkovic has to be at Euro 2020 what [Mario] Mandzukic was in Russia," said Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic last month. No pressure, then.

Still, the Dinamo Zagreb forward impressed in last season's Europa League with four goals in nine starts and could represent a relatively low-cost option in the market.

England: Jadon Sancho

The star performer as Borussia Dortmund won the DFB-Pokal final, Jadon Sancho was the first English player since David Beckham 20 years ago to register at least 10 assists for three seasons in a row in Europe's top-five leagues.

Manchester United continue to be mooted as the winger's most likely destination should he leave Dortmund, but a star turn at the Euros could trigger a bidding war among some of the biggest clubs.

France: Jules Kounde

Getting into the France starting line-up is no easy task these days, but Jules Kounde could well force Didier Deschamps' hand given the qualities he brings to centre-back.

An accomplished stopper, the Sevilla man is also impeccable on the ball: he made 887 forward passes in LaLiga last season, the most of any outfield player. Little wonder that Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal have all been linked.

Germany: Florian Neuhaus

Given he has been linked with Bayern Munich for months now, Florian Neuhaus must be doing something right.

The 108th Germany debutant under Joachim Low, the Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder could well find himself in high demand in the transfer window should he earn a regular spot at the Euros.

Italy: Manuel Locatelli

The heartbeat of a vibrant Sassuolo side, Manuel Locatelli in January became the first Italian player born after January 1, 1998 to record 10 Serie A assists.

Juventus are considered his likely next destination, but there are reports of interest from the Premier League, which would likely only increase in number should he shine at the Euros.

Netherlands: Memphis Depay

It appears likely Memphis Depay will leave Lyon for Barcelona on a free transfer, but, as long as that deal is not concluded, other clubs may sense the chance to snap up the forward.

Depay just became the first Lyon player to register at least 20 goals and 10 assists in a single Ligue 1 season since at least 2006-07 and looks like one of the Oranje's form players.

Poland: Kacper Kozlowski

At just 17, Kacper Kozlowski has established himself in the Pogon Szczecin first team, something made all-the-more remarkable given he was badly injured in a car crash in January 2020.

Although a name not well known outside Poland, the midfielder has been scouted by Manchester United and interest across the continent could well pick up after this tournament.

 

Portugal: Nuno Mendes

Considered one of Portugal's brightest prospects, Nuno Mendes has already been linked with the Manchester clubs after shining for Sporting CP.

Interest in the 18-year-old is only likely to increase should he perform well at the Euros, especially if he ousts Raphael Guerreiro from the side, and Sporting would surely be prepared to sell for a handsome fee.

 

Russia: Denis Cheryshev

Zero goas in 21 games for Valencia in LaLiga last season underlined a frustrating spell for Denis Cheryshev at club level.

The 30-year-old was Russia's star performer at the World Cup three years ago, though, and the Euros offer a good chance to tempt any possible suitors as he considers his future.

Spain: Pau Torres

Pau Torres was at the heart of Villarreal's Europa League triumph. In fact, he made nine appearances without being dribbled past, a single-season tally only bettered twice in the competition's history.

The centre-back has made it clear he is happy at the club, but strong performances for Spain could tempt suitors including Manchester United to test Villarreal's resolve to keep him.

Sweden: Alexander Isak

Linked with Barcelona during the season, Real Sociedad's Alexander Isak broke Zlatan Ibrahimovic's record for most goals by a Swede in a single LaLiga campaign by scoring 17 in 2020-21.

With Ibrahimovic missing these finals due to injury, 21-year-old Isak has a good opportunity to impress on the international stage.

Switzerland: Denis Zakaria

With his contract expiring next year, Denis Zakaria could be a more affordable midfield signing for any clubs willing to tempt Borussia Monchengladbach into a sale.

The 24-year-old offers great variety to the Switzerland midfield and English sides are expected to be watching him closely at these finals.

Ukraine: Ruslan Malinovskiy

Ruslan Malinovskiy is another Atalanta player to catch the eye under Gian Piero Gasperini. He was directly involved in a goal every 94 minutes in Serie A in 2020-21, the most of any midfielder to play at least 15 times.

Now 28, this could be his best chance to secure a significant transfer should he decide to leave Bergamo, and there have been rumblings of interest from Chelsea.

Wales: Gareth Bale

With 11 goals in 10 Premier League starts in 2020-21, Gareth Bale registered the best minutes-per-goal ratio (84) of any of the competition's top goalscorers.

He is returning to Real Madrid following his loan at Tottenham and Carlo Ancelotti appears keen to keep him, but heroics for Wales could encourage suitors to bid.

Is Cristiano Ronaldo's time in Turin coming to an end?

Juventus reportedly feel the end could be nigh.

Paris Saint-Germain are waiting in the wings…

 

TOP STORY –  RONALDO HEADING FOR EXIT?

Juventus are convinced Cristiano Ronaldo is considering his future with the Serie A giants, according to Goal.

Ronaldo has been tipped to leave Juve amid growing speculation, with Diario AS reporting Paris Saint-Germain have opened talks with the superstar.

Juve and Ronaldo – also linked with his former clubs Manchester United and Real Madrid – reportedly met on Thursday following the return of head coach Massimiliano Allegri, who has replaced Andrea Pirlo.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester City are the team most interested in Tottenham's Harry Kane, says Fabrizio Romano. Kane is reportedly looking to leave Spurs and the England striker has been linked with Premier League champions City, United, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona. City are eyeing a replacement for Barca recruit Sergio Aguero, with Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Eintracht Frankfurt forward Andre Silva also targets.

Tottenham are in talks with Son Heung-min over a contract extension, reports Romano.

- BBC Sport claims Alisson is set to hold contract talks with Liverpool. The Brazil international goalkeeper's current deal does not expire until 2024.

- Football Insider reports Everton's Richarlison is on Madrid's radar following the appointment of ex-Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti. Madrid have long been tipped to prise Kylian Mbappe from PSG.

Juventus and PSG are in the race to sign Sassuolo midfielder Manuel Locatelli, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. City and Inter have also been linked.

Memphis Depay is on the verge of completing a move to Barca on a three-year deal, per Diario Sport. Depay is available on a free transfer, with his Lyon contract expiring.

- The Yorkshire Evening Post claims Liverpool are among the teams interested in Leeds United's Raphinha. Manchester United and City are also believed to be among the possible suitors.

Memphis Depay underlined his importance to the Netherlands with both goals as Frank de Boer's side twice fought back to secure a 2-2 draw against shorthanded Scotland.

Kevin Nisbet's first international goal appeared to have Scotland – without seven players following a positive coronavirus case within the squad – on course for a first victory over the Dutch since November 2003, only for Depay to curl in a free-kick and level the game.

The influential Netherlands forward had earlier cancelled out Jack Hendry's long-range opener as two nations preparing for the upcoming Euro 2020 tournament could not be separated after 90 minutes in Faro.

Hendry had broken the deadlock in spectacular fashion in the 11th minute, the centre-back drilling in a low, right-footed shot from just outside the penalty area, punishing the Netherlands as an attempt to play out from a goal kick led to a costly turnover.

However, after Lyndon Dykes was denied by Tim Krul, the Netherlands responded with an eye-catching strike of their own.

Picked out with a long pass after making a forward run into the penalty area, Georginio Wijnaldum headed the ball down into the path of supporting team-mate Depay, who sent a left-footed volley beyond Craig Gordon.

Wijnaldum did not feature for too much longer after his assist – De Boer replaced both his captain and also fellow midfielder Frenkie de Jong in the 31st minute. Substitutions became a common theme in the second half too, including the introduction of Nisbet.

The forward wasted little time in making an impact on proceedings after replacing Dykes, providing the finishing touch when picked out by Andy Robertson's inviting cross from Scotland's left flank.

Gordon denied Patrick van Aanholt to preserve the slender advantage, but there was nothing the goalkeeper could do with Depay's set-piece strike in the 89th minute.

Memphis Depay hopes Barcelona keep faith with Ronald Koeman as president Joan Laporta scours for a superior alternative.

It appeared certain, until recent developments, that Depay and former Netherlands boss Koeman would be reunited at Barcelona in the coming weeks, but now it is unclear whether either will start the season with the Catalan giants.

Depay has looked destined to arrive as a free agent after deciding to leave Lyon, while Koeman was chasing a LaLiga and Copa del Rey double until Barcelona's league form deserted them in the closing weeks of the season.

Now Laporta is assessing whether there is a better coaching option available to Barcelona for the new campaign, at the same time as keeping Koeman on in the event he cannot find a more accomplished boss. Reports have even suggested Laporta would like to bring Pep Guardiola back to the club, which on the face of it looks highly unlikely.

Depay says his own prospects of a move to Barcelona do not hinge on Koeman being the man in charge.

"I don't think that matters if a club like Barcelona is interested," said Depay. "It's a fantastic club, but there are more great clubs.

"Regardless of where I go, I would like it if Koeman stays there. For himself anyway."

Laporta indicated on Friday that Barcelona would begin to announce new signings over the coming week, and Depay confirmed in his interview with Dutch broadcaster NOS that "interest is there".

He is with the Netherlands squad that is preparing for Euro 2020, having qualified under the guidance of Koeman before he was tempted away by Barcelona last August.

Frank de Boer now holds Koeman's old job and Depay promised to have "100 per cent focus" on national team duties, with a June 2 warm-up game against Scotland coming up.

Depay scored 22 goals in 40 games across all competitions for Lyon in the season just ended, at an average of one goal every 141.5 minutes, his second best rate since joining the French club in January 2017 from Manchester United.

He massively exceeded his expected goals (xG) tally of 12.38 and also had 12 assists, down on his 2017-18 best of 17 for the club but still immensely useful. Of all players from Ligue 1, only Paris Saint-Germain's Angel Di Maria beat that assists total, setting up 15 goals.

For those reasons, it is easy to see why Koeman would want him, but if a contract is not inked then any incoming Barcelona coach may take a different view.

Only Lionel Messi (38) beat Depay's goals haul in 2020-21 among current Barca players, and only Jordi Alba (13) had more assists.

Going into the Euros, Depay stands to be prominent for the Dutch, who last won the European Championship in 1988, when Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten, along with the likes of Koeman, made them a devastating side.

Koeman more recently lifted the gloom surrounding the national team, after they shockingly failed to qualify for Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

"You see, as has already been shown in the past, that the Netherlands can go a long way. We want to do that again," Depay said. "I think this team can do a lot.

"We are finally back and everyone is super happy about that. But now it is time to show why we are there."

What does the future hold for Achraf Hakimi?

In his first season with Inter, the Morocco international claimed the Scudetto.

However, his time in Milan could already be coming to an end.

 

TOP STORY – HAKIMI TO PSG?

Paris Saint-Germain want to sign star Inter full-back Achraf Hakimi, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Inter won the Serie A in 2020-21 but find themselves in a tough financial situation due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with head coach Antonio Conte already opting to depart.

Hakimi, Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez and Alessandro Bastoni could reportedly be sold to ease some of the economic pressure at San Siro.

PSG are believed to be interested, though Inter are demanding more than €60million for the 22-year-old, who only joined from Real Madrid at the start of the season.

Madrid have the right of first refusal and can match any offer for their former defender, while Bayern Munich and Chelsea have also been linked.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail claims Arsenal are plotting a shock bid for Manchester City star Raheem Sterling. The England international found himself out of Pep Guardiola's starting XI at times in 2020-21. Madrid and Barca have been previously linked.

Paul Pogba remains a dream signing for Juventus, reports Calciomercato. Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli and Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez have emerged as targets for Juve, though the Bianconeri are still keen on Manchester United star Pogba, though Udinese's Rodrigo De Paul is an alternative.

- Romano says Barca are open to selling Philippe Coutinho, though Arsenal are not interested in the former Liverpool attacker.

Lionel Messi's contract extension is a priority for Barca before any new signings are made, according to the front page of Saturday's Mundo Deportivo. Barca have been tipped to bring in Lyon captain Memphis Depay, Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Manchester City pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia on free transfers. Gianluigi Donnarumma – another free agent option as his Milan contract expires – is also a possible recruit.

- According to Romano and widespread reports in Italy, Luciano Spalletti has agreed to replace Gennaro Gattuso as Napoli head coach.

Is David de Gea's time at Manchester United coming to an end?

De Gea has spent a decade with the Red Devils but his form has been scrutinised in recent years.

A swap involving Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak could solve United's problems.

 

TOP STORY – DE GEA OUT, OBLAK IN?

Manchester United are lining up a swap deal involving star goalkeeper David de Gea and Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak, according to The Sun.

De Gea's future has been uncertain since Dean Henderson signed a long-term contract extension at United, who remain uncertain about the pair.

Spain international De Gea joined United from Atletico in 2011 and the Red Devils are prepared to offer the LaLiga giants a reunion in exchange for star Oblak.

 

ROUND-UP

- TV3 reports Barcelona have offered Lionel Messi a new contract. Messi's current deal is due to expire on June 30 and the superstar captain has been linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

Saul Niguez is adamant he wants to leave LaLiga champions Atletico and Juventus lead the race to sign the Spaniard, claims Marca. United – long-term admirers – Bayern Munich and PSG are also interested.

- PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, says the front page of Friday's Mundo Deportivo. Zidane has announced his departure. Former Inter boss Antonio Conte, Castilla coach and club great Raul and Xabi Alonso – currently in charge of Real Sociedad's reserve side – are also on the list. Pochettino has also been linked with a sensational return to Tottenham.

Barca have held talks regarding goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, according to Fabrizio Romano. Donnarumma's Milan contract is due to expire and his departure is already confirmed. After talking with agent Mino Raiola, Barca are set to decide whether to sign Donnarumma, who has also been linked with Juve and United.

- Premier League champions City are looking to smash their transfer record to bring in £100million-rated Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, reports the Daily Mail. City are also interested in Tottenham's Harry Kane – a target for rivals United, Chelsea, Madrid and Barca.

- The Telegraph says United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to sign a new three-year contract in Manchester. Solskjaer guided United to a second-placed finish in the Premier League, while the club were stunned by Villarreal in the Europa League final this season.

Barca are close to completing free transfers for Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Lyon star Memphis Depay, according to Mundo Deportivo. Ronald Koeman's men are also eyeing City's free agent pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.

- FootMercato reports PSG have made an approach for star Milan full-back Theo Hernandez.

Chelsea and Tottenham both have strong interest in Borussia Monchengladbach attacker Jonas Hofmann, claims Sport1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ronald Koeman is to hold further talks with Barcelona over his future and could stay on at the club beyond the end of next season, according to his agent Rob Jansen.

Reports in Spain suggest Koeman, who was appointed last August and has another year to run on his deal, met with president Joan Laporta for 40 minutes on Tuesday.

The Dutchman has come under pressure on the back of an underwhelming first campaign at Barca, whom he also represented for six seasons during his playing career.

Barca beat Eibar 1-0 in their final LaLiga game of the season on Saturday to finish third, five points behind Real Madrid and seven adrift of champions Atletico Madrid.

The Catalans also exited the Champions League to Paris Saint-Germain at the last-16 stage, as well as losing to Athletic Bilbao in January's Supercopa de Espana.

However, Koeman's men did exact revenge by beating Athletic in last month's Copa del Rey final – a result that may have salvaged the former Netherlands coach's Camp Nou job.

Following discussions with Laporta – who succeeded Josep Maria Bartomeu as president in March – Koeman's camp believe he is set to stay on for at least another season, even as alternative reports claim he could yet be replaced.

"There was a positive atmosphere during the meeting and I personally left it with a good feeling. There was mutual respect," agent Jansen told De Telegraaf.

"The feeling is even that positive that Ronald might even stay longer [than 2021-22]. But we have not got this far yet, more conversations will follow."

What next for Koeman's Barcelona?

Speaking after the win at Ipurua last weekend, Koeman insisted his first season in charge of Barcelona could be considered a positive one.

"We have won many points in the league since the start of 2021 and won the cup in a brilliant way," he told reporters. "If you'd told me in August we'd win a trophy and be fighting for LaLiga with two or three games to go, I would sign for it. 

"Hopes were too high during the season – that's how I see it. That's why I think it's not a bad season, far from it. It is not the best possible season, but you can't ask for a double every year, or from a team that is still forming."

The 79 points collected by Koeman is the fewest of any Barcelona boss in their first 38 league games since Frank Rijkaard (72) in 2003-04.

It is the first season Barca have finished outside the top two since 2007-08 and the only time they have gone successive years without finishing top since between 2006 and 2008.

The Catalans were as reliant as ever on Lionel Messi, who scored 30 league goals – seven more than next-best Karim Benzema, the Real Madrid striker – to win an eighth Pichichi trophy 

However, doubts remain over the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's future with his contract due to expire next month.

As well as tying down Messi to a new contract, Barcelona are also expected to strengthen during the close season with the additions of free agents.

Georginio Wijnaldum is rumoured to be close to arriving from Liverpool, while Lyon forward Memphis Depay and Manchester City pair Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero have also been strongly linked.

What would new signings add?

Koeman complained about an ageing squad last week and the addition of 30-year-old Wijnaldum would not exactly help lower the average age.

The pair know each other well from their time together with the Netherlands, so Koeman will know exactly what he is getting in Wijnaldum, who has also become accustomed to winning major trophies with Liverpool.

Wijnaldum is not a clear upgrade in terms of providing additional creativity in midfield, though, his 21 chances created in the Premier League this term fewer than the tallies eight Barca players managed in LaLiga from a similar number of games.

He also failed to register a league assist in 2020-21, while finding the net only twice, which pales against what Frenkie de Jong (three goals, four assists), Pedri (three goals, three assists) and Sergio Busquets (no goals, five assists) produced.

From a defensive perspective, Wijnaldum's 198 ball recoveries were better than Pedri's 142 and Busquets' 182 but lagged some way behind the 215 from De Jong in LaLiga this season.

Depay and Aguero would provide different qualities in attack should they arrive, meanwhile, with the former coming off the back of another impressive Ligue 1 campaign for Lyon that saw him score 20 goals and assist a further 12.

To put that into perspective, only Messi (39) was directly involved in more league goals for Barcelona last season, with Antoine Griezmann (20) the sole other player to hit double figures.

Aguero may not have been used regularly for City in an injury and illness-plagued campaign, but his four goals in 12 games – two of those in the space of five minutes on the final day – gave him a return of one goal every 139.5 minutes.

That compares to a goal every 581 minutes in LaLiga this season for Barcelona's current back-up striker Martin Braithwaite, a goal every 296.5 minutes for Ousmane Dembele and one every 201.5 minutes for Griezmann.

Aguero's figures may be skewed by his limited outings this term, but he boasts a goal every 109.6 minutes in the English top flight since the start of 2018-19, a significant improvement on Barca's options aside from Messi.

Gianluigi Donnarumma's future is dominating headlines.

Milan want to re-sign the Italy international but time is running out.

A blockbuster move to LaLiga could be on the horizon…

 

TOP STORY – DONNARUMMA TO SPAIN?

Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma has been offered to Barcelona by his agent Mino Raiola, according to Diario AS.

Donnarumma is out of contract at the end of the season and the Italy international is yet to re-sign with Milan.

He has been linked with Serie A rivals Juventus, Barca, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Donnarumma's arrival could force Barca to sell star number one Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

 

ROUND-UP

- Diario AS claims Kylian Mbappe's proposed transfer to Real Madrid does not hinge on head coach Zinedine Zidane, who could leave at the end of the season. Former Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri and Madrid great Raul have emerged as the frontrunners should Zidane leave, but it will not impact Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe's future. Madrid have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and Tottenham's Harry Kane.

Sergio Aguero is set to accept a contract offer from Barca until June 2023, reports Fabrizio Romano. Aguero is poised to become a free agent once his deal with Manchester City expires. Lyon captain Memphis Depay is also on the verge of moving to Camp Nou on a free transfer.

- Udinese star Rodrigo De Paul, Atalanta's Josip Ilicic and Roma attacker Henrikh Mkhitaryan are potential replacements for Milan's Hakan Calhanoglu, according to Tuttosport. Calhanoglu's contract is expiring at San Siro amid links with Juve, United and clubs in Qatar.

Monza are eyeing Juventus great Gianluigi Buffon, says Gazzetta dello Sport. Monza – owned by former Milan president Silvio Berlusconi – are currently in Serie B and missed out on promotion via the playoffs. Monza also boast Mario Balotelli and Kevin-Prince Boateng. Buffon has already revealed he will leave Juve at the end of the season.

Where will Harry Kane play in 2021-22?

The Tottenham star Kane reportedly wants out of his boyhood club.

Premier League rivals Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea are ready to pounce…

 

TOP STORY – KANE SEEKING SPURS DEPARTURE

Harry Kane has told Tottenham he wants to leave the club in the off-season, according to widespread reports in England.

Frustrated at a lack of silverware in London, Spurs star Kane would reportedly prefer to remain in the Premier League amid links to champions Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.

Kane is believed to be open to a LaLiga switch, with Barcelona among his admirers.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Diario AS claims former Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane if the Frenchman leaves Real Madrid. Club great Raul, who is currently in charge of the Castilla team, is another option. It comes as Madrid push to bring in a franchise player in the form of Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, while Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Bayern Munich's David Alaba are also wanted amid links to Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga and United midfielder Paul Pogba.

- The Sun says City are considering a mega move for Barca superstar Lionel Messi, who is out of contract at the end of the season. Messi is reportedly open to reuniting with Pep Guardiola in Manchester on a one-year deal.

Barca are weighing up the futures of Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Antoine Griezmann and Sergi Roberto, reports Mundo Deportivo. Due to their financial situation, the players could be asked to take a pay cut as Lyon captain Memphis Depay prepares to arrive on a free transfer. City forward Sergio Aguero and defender Eric Garcia, Haaland and Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum have also been linked.

- Lille's Jonathan Ikone is Dortmund's top priority as the Bundesliga club prepare for life without Jadon Sancho, according to France Football. Sancho has been tipped to join United or Liverpool, while Dortmund are also eyeing PSV sensation Donyell Malen, Ajax forward David Neres and Pedro Goncalves of Sporting CP.

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