RB Leipzig have completed a permanent deal for Benjamin Henrichs, who has been on loan at the Bundesliga club in the 2020-21 season.

Henrichs has made 15 appearances in all competitions since joining from Monaco, with his campaign hampered by injury issues.

However, the Germany international contributed his first goal involvement on Saturday, providing the assist as captain Marcel Sabitzer completed the scoring in second-placed Leipzig's 4-1 triumph at Werder Bremen.

The 24-year-old has signed a contract that runs through to 2025 after the purchase option was activated, reportedly at a cost of €15million.

"Since first coming to Leipzig, it’s been my goal to stay for the long term. I feel really good here and am pleased to be an RB Leipzig player for the coming years," Henrichs told Leipzig's website.

"The injuries I've suffered this season are completely behind me. Now I want to get back at it along with the rest of the team."

Leipzig's resounding triumph over Bremen allowed them to close the gap to leaders Bayern Munich, who were surprisingly held to a 1-1 draw by Union Berlin at the weekend.

Julian Nagelsmann's side trail the reigning league champions by five points with eight games remaining.

Henrichs previously played for Bayer Leverkusen before joining Monaco in 2018.

Kylian Mbappe has reached another milestone, with the Paris Saint-Germain star moving onto 100 goals in Ligue 1.

Mbappe initially opened the scoring on Sunday and then got his landmark goal to make it 4-0 in the second half, racing on to a gorgeous pass from Marco Verratti and coolly converting.

The 22-year-old started his career with Monaco, making his debut in 2015-16 before going on to star as the principality club charged to the title the following season.

Having earned his move to PSG, Mbappe has gone from strength to strength, and scored his 100th goal for the club in all competitions when he netted in a 3-1 win over Montpellier in December.

Mbappe is now a Ligue 1 centurion and, using Opta data, here is a breakdown of his 100 strikes in France's top tier.

Mbappe's 100 Ligue 1 goals 

2015-16

Mbappe opened his Ligue 1 account in February 2016, scoring a stoppage-time goal in Monaco's 3-1 triumph over Troyes. It was the only "big chance", as per Opta metrics, that the youngster had that season, while he also crafted four chances across 11 league appearances in total.

2016-17

As far as breakthrough seasons go, Mbappe's 2016-17 performance is up there with the very best. From 29 Ligue 1 appearances – 17 of them coming as starts – Mbappe scored 15 goals, created 31 chances and missed only five big opportunities. He scored his final top-flight goal for Monaco in a 2-0 win over Saint-Etienne. 

2017-18

Arriving at PSG alongside Neymar, Mbappe managed 13 Ligue 1 strikes from 28 appearances in his first season in Paris. Eight came with his right foot, while five came from his left, with just one of his efforts having come from outside the 18-yard box. His creativity also came to the fore, with the prodigy teeing up 52 opportunities in total.

2018-19

Having starred as France won the 2018 World Cup, Mbappe carried his sensational form into the following season, scoring a spectacular 33 Ligue 1 goals. Remarkably, 30 of these came from his right foot, and none with his head, while his total would have been even better had he put away the 27 big chances that he missed.

2019-20

Injury hampered Mbappe in his third season at PSG, limiting him to just 20 appearances in the league. He still managed 18 goals, none of which came from penalties, and crafted 40 opportunities for his team-mates.

2020-21

It is now 20 Ligue 1 goals for Mbappe this term. After a relatively slow start to the campaign by his standards, he has been in fine form lately, with his sparkling efforts against Barcelona in the Champions League cementing his place at the very top of the game.

Manchester United have secured talented youngster Hannibal Mejbri to a new long-term contract.

The 18-year-old France youth international joined in a reported £9million deal from Monaco in 2019 and has quickly established himself at the club.

Mejbri has already been deemed to have outgrown the Under-18s and is a regular for the club's Under-23s, scoring four goals and registering seven assists this term.

In February, Mejbri and Under-23s team-mate Shole Shoretire were promoted to the senior squad for the rest of the season, only for the former to sustain an injury soon after.

Therefore, Mejbri is likely to return to action first with the second team before making his debut for the senior side once he has recovered.

But having signed a new deal and seen Shoretire – who also recently agreed fresh terms – make his first-team bow, Mejbri's introduction to top-flight football cannot be far off.

United have not confirmed the length of Mejbri's contract, but he was already signed until 2024.

Cristiano Ronaldo's future is dominating headlines.

After Juventus crashed out of the Champions League last 16, Ronaldo has been linked with a move away from Turin.

Could a return to the Spanish capital be on the cards?

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO ON MADRID'S RADAR

Real Madrid are interested in bringing Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo back to the club, according to the frontpage of Monday's Diario AS.

Ronaldo – Madrid's all-time leading goalscorer – left Los Blancos for Juventus in 2018 but his future with the Serie A champions is far from certain following their Champions League elimination.

Diario AS says Ronaldo represents an easier and quicker target than Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland and Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe.

Marca, though, insists Ronaldo's possible return does not alter Madrid's objectives as they weigh up either Haaland – heavily linked to Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona, Juve, PSG and Liverpool – or Mbappe.

 

ROUND-UP

- TodoFichajes reports United will turn their attention to Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres if they miss out on star Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, whose contract expires at season's end.

Chelsea and United want to sign Rennes star Eduardo Camavinga, claims Diario AS. Camavinga has been tipped to join Madrid, while PSG have also emerged as a possible destination.

Bayern Munich are in danger of losing head coach Hansi Flick, claims Bild. Flick has been named as a possible replacement for Germany boss Joachim Low. It comes as Bild says Flick's relationship with Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic is worse than previously known, while RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann has reportedly been sounded out.

- Football Insider reports Barca's move for Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum is "95 per cent done". The Dutchman is set to become a free agent.

City are set to make an approach for Sporting CP left-back and Madrid target Nuno Mendes, says Diario AS.

- ESPN claims Barca are tracking Rapid Vienna sensation Yusuf Demir. The 17-year-old is also reportedly wanted by City, United, Dortmund and Bayern.

- Ligue 1 side Monaco are interested in a two-year loan deal for Bayern goalkeeper Alexander Nubel, according to Kicker. Monaco are led by former Bayern head coach Niko Kovac.

Erling Haaland continues to dominate headlines.

The Borussia Dortmund sensation is one of the most sought-after players in Europe.

Manchester City and Real Madrid are reportedly going head-to-head to sign the Norwegian.

 

TOP STORY – AGUERO OUT, HAALAND IN?

Manchester City want to sign Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland as a replacement for veteran forward Sergio Aguero, according to Bild.

Aguero, who has been hampered by injury this season, is out of contract at the end of the current campaign.

Haaland is a player in demand, having been linked to Manchester United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich.

But Haaland dominates the front pages of Thursday's Marca, Diario AS and Mundo Deportivo in Spain amid Madrid's interest.

The Norway international reportedly wants to listen to Madrid, who will need €150million to prise Haaland to the Santiago Bernabeu.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato reports Lyon star Houssem Aouar remains on the radar of Juventus. Aouar has previously been linked with the Serie A champions, as well as Arsenal.

Chelsea are interested in Monaco's defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, claims ESPN.

- O Jogo says Liverpool could reignite their interest in Sporting CP defender Nuno Mendes. Juve, Madrid and Milan have also been tracking the 18-year-old, who has a £60m (€70m) release clause.

Edinson Cavani is open to extending his United contract, according to Fabrizio Romano. Cavani joined United as a free agent on a one-year deal at the start of the season. The former PSG star has been linked with Boca Juniors.

Lionel Messi is reportedly open to staying at Barcelona, but the LaLiga giants have work to do.

Messi, 33, stayed at Barca after sensationally requesting to leave ahead of this season.

But the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is out of contract at the end of the campaign, leading to more talk over his future.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI OPEN TO BARCELONA STAY

Messi is open to staying at Barcelona and is prioritising the sporting project over the economic offer, according to Marca.

The report says Barca strengthening their squad could convince Messi, who has been linked to Manchester City.

Signing City forward Sergio Aguero, Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, Chelsea's N'Golo Kante or Liverpool's Roberto Firmino would help Barca's position in their bid to re-sign the superstar.

ROUND-UP

- With Real Madrid linked with a move for Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, such a deal could lead to questions over Eden Hazard. AS reports Mbappe joining Madrid could lead to an exit for Hazard, who has struggled with injuries since joining the LaLiga giants.

- Staying at Real Madrid and there is uncertainty over Raphael Varane's future. AS reports Madrid are prepared to listen to offers for Varane ahead of next season if they cannot agree to a new deal with the defender, who is out of contract in 2022. Manchester United have been linked with Varane, who is valued at £60.7million (€70m).

- Harry Kane has again starred for Tottenham this season. The Telegraph reports the forward, who is contracted until 2024, is set to stay at Spurs for at least another campaign.

- Amid suggestions Sevilla defender Jules Kounde is too expensive, Manchester United could look elsewhere. Eurosport reports Villarreal's Pau Torres may be a more realistic target due to his reported release clause of around £43m (€49.6m).

- Alexandre Lacazette seems set for an Arsenal exit. The Mirror reports Monaco are targeting the forward ahead of next season.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino insisted Kylian Mbappe's below-par display was not solely to blame for Sunday's 2-0 defeat against Monaco.

In-form Monaco upset Ligue 1 champions PSG in a blow to their title hopes as the Parisians slipped four points behind leaders Lille with 12 games remaining.

PSG have already lost six Ligue 1 games this season, their worst tally in a single campaign since the beginning of the Qatar Sports Investment (QSI) era in 2011/-2, and their worst since the 2010-11 campaign (eight).

Mbappe grabbed global headlines in midweek with his hat-trick against Barcelona in the Champions League but Monaco put extra work into minimising his impact in the French capital.

Pochettino, though, leapt to the defence of Mbappe – who continues to be linked with LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

"Today, it's not only Kylian but the whole team that hasn't been at the level," Pochettino said post-game.

"That didn't show what it takes to win. But as I said, the first person responsible is the manager and I take responsibility for it.

"When you lose, the first person responsible is the manager and I fully assume it."

Niko Kovac said Monaco had to nullify star Kylian Mbappe as he revealed how the French side shocked Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

Monaco became the first team to beat PSG twice in a single Ligue 1 season since Nancy in 2011-12 thanks to Sunday's 2-0 upset in Paris.

Sofiane Diop opened the scoring in the sixth minute before Monaco defender Guillermo Maripan doubled the lead six minutes into the second half.

Mbappe was kept quiet by fourth-placed Monaco, who moved within two points of PSG and six of leaders Lille through 26 matches.

Afterwards, Monaco head coach Kovac told Canal+: "I am very happy with the performance of my team. Paris are a great team.

"We played very hard for 90 minutes and we deserved the victory. They didn't have a lot of opportunities. I have to congratulate my players.

"Our plan? We had to erase Kylian Mbappe because he's a great striker. Deprive him of the ball by being three or four on him. In defence, we showed another face of Monaco, because we didn't concede many chances.

"Tonight was wonderful. This is what we needed. We managed to beat PSG for the second time, now we are going home and going to rest."

Kovac's Monaco have won their last six away games in Ligue 1 – only Lille (seven) are on a longer current run.

Monaco's only previous longer win streak away from home in the top flight was in February-August 2017 (eight).

"The top three? As I said before, we mainly have to increase the gap with the fifth and sixth," added former Bayern Munich boss Kovac, who is leading Monaco back to the upper echelon of Ligue 1, having languished ninth and 17th in the previous two seasons.

"There are still a few games left, if we have the opportunity to close the gap then we will do it. But we are not yet at the level of the first three."

Marco Verratti acknowledged Paris Saint-Germain are "starting to lose a lot of opportunities" to retain the Ligue 1 title after their 2-0 home defeat to Monaco.

Five days after their thrilling 4-1 victory over Barcelona in the Champions League, PSG crashed to a damaging loss at the Parc des Princes on Sunday.

The defeat is the second of Mauricio Pochettino's tenure and leaves PSG third in Ligue 1, two points ahead of Monaco, in fourth, and four behind leaders Lille.

It means PSG remain winless in their four games against the other sides currently in Ligue 1's top-four positions this season, losing 3-2 and 2-0 to Monaco, 1-0 at home to Lyon and drawing 0-0 at Lille.

Verratti, outstanding against Barca, came on as a 55th-minute substitute in Paris, going on to attempt 43 passes – with an accuracy of 81.4 per cent – and create one chance.

"It was a difficult match; they have very good players, we knew it. It's the kind of match you have to win," Verratti told Canal+. "We are starting to lose a lot of opportunities for the title.

"We concede a goal after five minutes, that can't happen. We have to understand that there are great teams in France.

"We must always play as a team; no one gives us gifts, the other teams are playing the game of their lives against us.

"You have to rise to the occasion, deserve it, play 100 per cent, because otherwise you won't win."

After scoring a hat-trick against Barca, Kylian Mbappe turned in a disappointing performance against his former club.

Since he joined PSG in 2017, Mbappe has scored seven goals against Monaco in Ligue 1; he has only found the net more often against Dijon (nine) in the top-flight during that period.

However, he failed to shine on Sunday. The 22-year-old did not register an attempt on goal and created just one chance.

Pochettino refused to pin the defeat on Mbappe, though.

"In football there are many situations, different opponents, different circumstances," Pochettino told a news conference.

"Football is not mathematical. We weren't at the level today to win at the collective level, not just Kylian. If we have to find a responsible, it's me."

Paris Saint-Germain crashed back to earth with a bump after their Champions League heroics as they suffered a 2-0 Ligue 1 defeat to Monaco on Sunday.

Mauricio Pochettino's side claimed a stunning 4-1 win over Barcelona in the first leg of their last-16 tie on Tuesday, but they never looked like scaling those heights as they slumped to a sixth league defeat of the season.

Sofiane Diop's sixth goal of the campaign handed Monaco an early lead before Guillermo Maripan put the game beyond the hosts' reach shortly after the interval.

The result means third-placed PSG are four points behind leaders Lille, who beat Lorient 4-1 earlier in the day, with Niko Kovac's Monaco two points back in fourth.

Monaco went ahead after just six minutes, Diop heading past Keylor Navas from six yards after Kevin Volland nodded Ruben Aguilar's cross into his path.

That did little to spark PSG into life, and the home team struggled to carve out any clear opportunities in the first half.

The closest they came was when Idrissa Gueye's powerful drive from distance flashed past Benjamin Lecomte's right-hand post.

Things did not get any better for PSG after the interval as Maripan dispossessed Ander Herrera in the penalty area before slotting a fine finish past Navas from 15 yards to double Monaco's advantage in the 51st minute.

Volland inexplicably headed wide from four yards soon after, but it mattered little in the end as Monaco held on to stretch their unbeaten run in Ligue 1 to 11 games.


What does it mean? PSG slump against top-four opposition... again

The swashbuckling side that demolished Barca in midweek was nowhere to be seen at the Parc des Princes as PSG - who managed just one shot on target - suffered a first home defeat in Ligue 1 since Lyon triumphed in the capital on December 13.

Indeed, the defending champions are now winless in their four games against the other sides in the league's top four positions this season. That does not bode well for Pochettino's chances of sealing his first title win as head coach.

Aguilar epitomises Monaco display

Aguilar was at the heart of everything good about Monaco’s fine win. His cross led to Diop’s opener – one of a team-high two key passes – while he made three clearances and three interceptions.

Herrera well off the pace

The former Manchester United midfielder endured a game to forget and it was little surprise to see him hauled off before the hour mark. He was at fault for Monaco's second goal and failed to register a single shot or key pass during his time on the pitch.

What's next?

PSG will hope to return to winning ways when they visit Dijon on Saturday, while Monaco host Brest a day later.

Paris Saint-Germain's aggregate lead over Barcelona will not result in a change in Neymar's scheduled return from injury.

Kylian Mbappe made up for the absence of his star team-mate on Tuesday, with his sensational hat-trick propelling Mauricio Pochettino's PSG to a 4-1 victory at Camp Nou in the first leg of the Champions League last 16 tie.

Neymar – who scored twice in Barca's famous 6-5 aggregate triumph over PSG in 2017 – missed the game through an adductor injury sustained in a Coupe de France win over Caen.

The 29-year-old is set to miss four weeks, which would put him in line to be available for the return leg against his former club at the Parc des Princes on March 10.

However, asked if PSG's 4-1 lead heading into the game will mean there is less pressure on Neymar to recover on schedule, Pochettino insisted the result has had no impact on the Brazilian's lay off.

"Neymar's recovery is following the plans put in place and the strategy by our medical team," Pochettino told a news conference ahead of Sunday's Ligue 1 clash with Monaco.

"Whether it's one game, one competition or another, the priority is the player's well-being.

"We want players to get back as quickly as they can, but not linked to any specific game. The priority is for Neymar to make a good recovery and he will be back in the week when he is back."

Moise Kean also stepped up to fill the void left by Neymar, and scored the other goal in PSG's rout, heading in from Leandro Paredes' free-kick.

Kean, on loan from Everton, has now netted on his last three starts across all competitions, taking his tally to the season for 14 in total – he has scored a goal every 1.5 shots on target in Ligue 1 this season (10 goals, 15 shots on target), with only Lens' Gael Kakuta (1.3) having a better ratio in the top-flight among players with five or more goals.

"I was not surprised by Moise Kean's performance, if I said I was surprised it would be for a different reason," Pochettino replied when asked if Kean's display at the Camp Nou had shocked him.

"I think he has confirmed he has the potential that we knew about, but players don't surprise us in our team.

"When we take a decision to include a player – possibly they are young or playing in a different position – it's because of what we've seen in training and we think they can contribute positively in the match.

"Sometimes they may not perform as we expect, but he certainly does not surprise us."

With Monaco going into Sunday's game on the back of a 10-game unbeaten streak in Ligue 1 – the best current run in the division – Pochettino also stressed that PSG must avoid complacency, especially with the defending champions having taken only one point from their three matches against teams also in the top four this season.

"PSG is a club that has to win, and that is our responsibility," added Pochettino, who has suffered just one defeat, at Lorient on January 31, since he took over at PSG.

"I don't think you can relax in any way, or use that as an excuse not to perform in the same way we have been doing, and as we did against Barca.

"If we think we can be calmer we would unconsciously be making a big mistake, you have to respect everyone in football and always give your best in every competition.

"That's why we have to work hard, with enthusiasm and focus, so that competing at our best becomes a habit."

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's double in Arsenal's first-half dismantling of Leeds United on Sunday took the Gunners forward onto 200 goals in Europe's "top five" leagues, before the star striker then rounded off a first Premier League hat-trick.

Aubameyang, making his first league start since January 18 following a leave of absence to care for his ill mother, marked his return to Arsenal's line-up in style at Emirates Stadium.

The 31-year-old opened the scoring in the 13th minute with a low shot which had the power to beat Illan Meslier, whose clumsy challenge on Bukayo Saka then gifted Aubameyang the chance to make it 2-0 from the spot.

Having sent Meslier the wrong way, Aubameyang brought up his 200th goal in Europe's 'top five' leagues, in what was his 369th appearance – he is the ninth player to reach the landmark in those divisions.

It was his 61st Arsenal goal, which is 37 shy of the total he managed during his time with Borussia Dortmund (98).

Aubameyang's first goal in Ligue 1 came for Lille in December 2009, before he then went on to have spells at Monaco, Saint-Etienne in France prior to leaving for Dortmund in 2013 and eventually joining the Gunners three years ago.

It was also the first time Aubameyang has scored in consecutive starts in the Premier League within a single season since last February, when he did so against Newcastle United and Everton, and the first time he has scored at least twice in successive starts in the English top flight.

Hector Bellerin's well-crafted goal made it 3-0 to Arsenal on the stroke of half-time – the Gunners scoring three first-half goals in a Premier League game for only the second time under Mikel Arteta, having previously done so in July 2020 against Watford.

Aubameyang headed in from Emile Smith Rowe's cross-shot just after the break to complete his maiden Premier League hat-trick.

AUBAMEYANG'S 'TOP FIVE' LEAGUE GOALS – A BREAKDOWN

Lille (2009-10) – 14 appearances, two goals.

Monaco (2010-11) – 19 appearances, two goals.

Saint-Etienne (2010-13) – 87 appearances, 37 goals.

Borussia Dortmund (2013-18) – 144 appearances, 98 goals.

Arsenal (2018-21) – 105 appearances, 62 goals.

"I think I would've been the best batsman in the world if I played cricket."

Christian Vieri is regarded as one of the greatest strikers to have played football.

Once the most expensive player in the world, the former Italy international won titles with Juventus, Inter, Lazio and Torino, while he claimed numerous individual honours – the Pichichi Trophy and Serie A Footballer of the Year to go with his FIFA 100 selection and other awards.

But it could have been a lot different for the cricket-mad 47-year-old after growing up in Australia – a far cry from his birthplace in Bologna.

"My whole family is a soccer-team family," Vieri, who also played for Milan, recalled to Stats Perform News. "My father played, I played, my grandfather, my brother. So when my father at the end of his career in Bologna, they asked him if he wanted to go play in Sydney with Marconi. He said yes and the whole family moved there. He played for some time and coached there. We all went with him. 

"I think I was about four years old and I stayed 10 years there, till about 14. I grew up there. It was good. Growing up with the kids, for me it wasn't strange. Now, if you tell people, it's a bit strange that I grew up in Australia but when I was there it was normal – going to school, playing soccer, playing cricket, playing different sports. I was a big fan of cricket. Even if we were 13-14, we would go watch Australia play Test matches, ODI matches in Sydney. I'm a very big, big cricket fan."

"I just love playing," Vieri said. "I was probably playing more cricket than soccer at school. You know what we would do? The tennis ball, we would tape it up to make it go faster and swing. I think I would've been the best batsman in the world if I played cricket. I was an all-rounder. I was really good. 

"You know what happened now? Two months ago before the second coronavirus wave, I spoke to someone from the cricket association, I'm going to start playing in March, April. It's a small thing in Italy, in Milan there is a cricket team. I spoke with the Italian cricket captain. They said listen, when you want to play with us, just come. I said listen, one thing is playing with a tennis ball when you're 14, one thing is playing with professionals. I want to come three or four days, train with you guys and see how it is. 

"I just love the game. I watch all the West Indies' games – Viv Richard, Clive Lloyd, Joel Garner, all those guys. I would watch Australia but in those days, the Windies were too strong for everyone. I'm on YouTube a lot watching cricket. My wife always says 'what are you watching? what is this?', three hours a day watching games from 1984 and 1986, and she is going 'what is wrong with you, why aren't you normal?' I say to her, 'listen, I grew up there, these are the days I was there following cricket'. She takes the p*** out of me. Pakistan had Imran Khan, I know the players. England had Ian Botham. It was fun. 

"I love the game. Couple of months when it gets a bit warmer and we can start to go out a bit easier, I would like to go training with the Italian team, see how fast the ball really comes at you, with your pads and everything. I think it would be a good experience."

So, as Vieri prepares to dust off his pads and helmet in Italy, who would he compare to in the current era of cricket?

"I think Chris Gayle from West Indies. I'm a left-hander," he added. "When I used to play, I'm not a Test match guy, I want to smash the ball outside the stadium. I think I would've been good."

And if Vieri remained down under in Australia, rather than returning to Italy at the age of 14, would he have opted for cricket over a football career?

"Cricket, soccer or tennis," Vieri, who retired in 2009, responded. "I play paddle, I play tennis for 30 years. I like tennis too because it's an individual game – it only depends on you."

Vieri went on to make 49 appearances for his beloved Italy, scoring 23 goals (ninth on the all-time list) following an international career spanning eight years between 1997 and 2005.

He made two trips to the World Cup in 1998 and 2002 – his nine goals across the two major tournaments a joint national record alongside Paolo Rossi and Roberto Baggio, while he also featured at Euro 2004.

While Vieri joined forces with the likes of past greats Paolo Maldini, Francesco Totti, Alessandro Del Piero, Filippo Inzaghi, Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta and Andrea Pirlo for the Azzurri, his younger brother Max followed a different path.

Max Vieri, who was part of Juve's youth team before going on to play for Napoli in a notable spell, opted to represent Australia.

A midfielder, Max earned six caps for the Socceroos, but Christian Vieri never considered wearing the green and gold.

"I had two dreams when I was in Sydney playing and I was only 12, 13, 14, so you're going to school playing soccer. That's why I left Australia when I was 14 – my two dreams were to play in Serie A and for the national team – the blue jersey," said Vieri. "I remember in 1982 when Italy won the World Cup – Paolo Rossi and all those big players – I had it stuck in my head that I wanted to become an Italian player. When I was 14, I started breaking my dad's head about going to play soccer in Italy.

"When I started playing for Marconi, I started left full-back and then after I while, I said to the coach 'put me up front' and that's it, I was scoring goals and that's how everything started. My brother wanted to play for Australia always and I just had my dream to play the World Cups with Italy."

"I think the Australian team has done well in the last 10-15 years World Cup-wise and qualifications," he added. "They've done good. Of course when I was there – the big sports were AFL, rugby league, cricket – football wasn't the main sport but I think it's getting bigger. The evolution of football around world is just so big now, so much money behind it. When I was there, we were playing soccer and it wasn't the main sport but the passion we have and the kids have, it was bigger than the other sports."

Vieri's choice to chase his dream in Italy proved a wise decision, winning the Scudetto with Juve in 1997 before joining Atletico Madrid after just one season in Turin.

An incredible return of 24 goals in as many LaLiga matches for Atletico, and 29 from 32 appearances across all competitions in 1997-98, led to head coach Radomir Antic famously saying: "Vieri dead is better than any other attacker alive".

"We had a good relationship. I won the goalscoring award. I was a bit crazy those days. I would go out a lot. He would always say don't go out too much, train," Vieri recalled. "He knew I wanted to go back to Italy after about seven, eight months. He said, 'where are you going? you are going to stay here, LaLiga is your competition. You stay here and you just train a little bit, you score 50 goals a year with a cigarette'. I said yeah but I wanna go back home. 

"I think it was the best experience in my life playing in the Spanish league. It's the best quality league. There is so much technique and the way all the teams play, they all play to win. A lot of ball possession. Those days, you had to be really good to play. I had an amazing season."

Like his time at Juve, Vieri's spell with Atletico was brief as he returned to Italy via Lazio in a €25million deal the following season.

After 14 goals in 28 appearances and a UEFA Cup Winners' Cup triumph in the Italian capital, Vieri became the most expensive player in the world when he reunited with former Juve boss Marcello Lippi at Inter, who splashed out €49m to partner the Italian with Brazilian great Ronaldo.

"The thing is that, if you play in Spain, Italy, England – they're the biggest competitions, so you can't block it out," Vieri said when asked about the pressures of being the world's most expensive player. "Automatically, from being normal to 100 times of pressure on you because 90billion Italian lire in those days, the player who cost more than anyone, every game you play you're judged… even more than before. 

"At Atletico, I was sold to Lazio – big scandal came out – then when I went to Inter for 90b [lire], the world went crazy. From Lazio, moving to Inter, going to play at San Siro, it's a heavy thing because San Siro – the biggest players in the world have played there, 85-90,000 people judging you all the time. They whistle if you don't play good. They've seen everyone. 

"When I went there, I said to myself, 'Bob, first game is at home, when I went to camp, in a month and a half, your first game is at home and whatever happens, you have to go score in that game. if you score in that game, you're gonna fly'. I trained a month and a half in camp, I wouldn't go out anywhere. First game, I scored three goals at home, 90,000 people went crazy. Took a lot of pressure off my shoulders that first game. Here they call me Mr. 90m guy, even today. It's a thing you're gonna call you that for the rest of your life."

Now, Vieri watches the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Mohamed Salah, Romelu Lukaku, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe bang in the goals across Europe. 

How would he fare in 2020-21?

"I think it's easier to score these days because there's less marking. Before, football, first thing was not to concede, in Italy league at least," Vieri said. "It was probably the hardest league in the world in those days. All the biggest players in the world were there. We started the competition where seven teams were trying to win the league, not one or two but seven big teams with big, big players. If we would shoot twice in 90 minutes, we were happy. Those two shots, we would score one goal, we had to score once. 

"Today, the game has changed. The defenders don't mark as much, they play. They're more like midfielders, you have to play with the ball at your feet – the whole team have to attack. Now you have 15 strikers who score more than 20 goals. It's fun to watch still but changed a lot."

Popular on social media and Italian television in his post-playing days, Vieri has ventured into coaching as he works to complete his UEFA A and B license alongside the likes of former team-mates Del Piero and De Rossi.

"All of us, the former players, when we talk about things, we only miss one thing – staying together and training... having fun. The everyday stuff. The dressing rooms, we had the craziest dressing rooms, people. Taking the p*** out of everyone 24/7. 

"I speak with all my ex-team-mates. It's just fun. Now, I'm doing the coaching course… We just laugh, we have fun. We are doing UEFA A and B together. The way we talk to each other, it's just like back in the days. With a lot of former team-mates, we play paddle ball here in Milan. When we can, we hang out."

"The first thing is you need a license to coach. It's very hard, it's not easy. When you're doing two courses together because the federations asked UEFA if just the top 10 players could do it, so we're doing it," added Vieri, when asked if he was eyeing a coaching career.

"We'll see what happens. If I have a nice project, anything can happen. 1,000 of doors will open like I always say."

Chelsea are reportedly interested in Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland and Bayern Munich defender David Alaba. 

Haaland and Alaba have been linked with moves, with the latter almost certain to leave Bayern when his contract expires at the end of the season. 

Chelsea spent big last year – but they are apparently eyeing the pair.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA INTERESTED IN HAALAND AND ALABA

Chelsea are interested in signing Dortmund star Haaland and Bayern defender Alaba ahead of 2021-22, according to Sky Sports.

Real Madrid have been strongly linked with the duo, while Alaba is said to be a target for several other European giants.

Thomas Tuchel has replaced Frank Lampard at the helm for Chelsea, who are eighth in the Premier League.

 

ROUND-UP

- Jesse Lingard could join West Ham. Sky Sports reports they have offered a £1.5million loan fee and to pay Lingard's wages for the rest of the season to land him on loan from Manchester United.

- Amid reports Lucas Torreira could leave Atletico Madrid, where he is on loan from Arsenal, to join Monaco, it seems that may not be the case. Fabrizio Romano reports Monaco are not negotiating for Torreira.

- Bayer Leverkusen are confident of completing a deal for Leicester City midfielder Demarai Gray, according to Sky Sports.

- Struggling for game time at Arsenal, Ainsley Maitland-Niles could make a move. The Athletic reports West Brom are looking at the 23-year-old for a potential loan deal.

Kylian Mbappe wants time to make a decision on his future as Real Madrid await a signal from the Paris Saint-Germain star.

Mbappe, 22, has been linked with a move to Madrid and his contract at PSG ends in 2022.

But will the forward end up at the Santiago Bernabeu?

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID WAIT FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid are waiting for a signal from Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to Marca.

The report says Mbappe has asked for time to decide his future.

While Madrid have been most strongly linked with a move for Mbappe, Liverpool are also reportedly interested.

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Madrid and Fabrizio Romano says a new contract for midfielder Luka Modric is imminent. The Croatian midfielder's current deal expires at the end of the season.

- Dele Alli's future is set to be a constant talking point until at least the end of this transfer window. ESPN claims Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is reluctant to let the midfielder leave for PSG. Romano reports Spurs are still looking for a replacement and were working on re-signing Christian Eriksen, but Inter wanted a loan fee and the midfielder's salary paid in full.

- Lyon star Houssem Aouar was linked to Arsenal last close season, but the midfielder could head elsewhere. Gianluca Di Marzio reports Juventus are looking at the 22-year-old as an option ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

- Lucas Torreira seems set to move on from Atletico Madrid. Diario AS says Monaco are favourites to sign the midfielder, who is on loan at Atletico from Arsenal.

- Said Benrahma has made an impression at West Ham. Sky Sports reports West Ham have converted their loan for Benrahma from Brentford into a permanent move, paying £20million plus add-ons. The report says West Ham are also in talks to sign RB Leipzig forward Hwang Hee-chan.

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