Could Jurgen Klopp and Robert Lewandowski be set to work together again?

The pair enjoyed a successful partnership at Borussia Dortmund.

Now, Klopp is reportedly trying to lure the Bayern Munich forward to Liverpool.

 

TOP STORY – KLOPP WANTS LEWANDOWSKI REUNION

Liverpool are targeting Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski, according to Fichajes.

Lewandowski worked with Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund before joining Bundesliga rivals Bayern in 2014.

There has been talk Lewandowski could be ready for a new challenge amid links to Real Madrid and Manchester City, though Klopp is reportedly determined to reunite with the Poland international.

 

ROUND-UP

- Bild claims Dortmund have identified Chelsea forward Timo Werner as a possible option to replace Erling Haaland. Club are queueing up to sign Haaland, with City, Manchester United, Bayern, Liverpool, Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain all reportedly interested. Should Haaland leave Dortmund, the Bundesliga outfit reportedly see former RB Leipzig star Werner as a potential successor.

- Fabrizio Romano says Inter forward Lautaro Martinez is nearing a contract extension at San Siro. He has reportedly turned down offers from Tottenham and Atletico Madrid.

Bayern, Inter, Real Madrid and Tottenham are interested in Borussia Monchengladbach defender Matthias Ginter, reports Calciomercato.

Chelsea are looking to sign Jorginho, N'Golo Kante, Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen to new contracts, according to Romano.

Thomas Tuchel revealed Saul Niguez has been a long-term target for Chelsea and the Atletico Madrid loanee could be in line for his debut against Aston Villa.

The 26-year-old won LaLiga with Atletico last term before joining the Blues on a season-long loan, Tuchel's men reportedly holding a purchase option for £30million (€34m) after paying an initial loan fee of £5m (€5.8m).

As Chelsea look to become the second team, after Manchester United, to reach 600 Premier League wins, Tuchel explained his new recruit's debut has been years in the making.

"He was with us now for two weeks," Tuchel told reporters. "He played on the highest level. I think the picture is very clear. The club follows him for years.

"We know the player very well. He had a quick adaptation with Marcos Alonso and Kepa [Arrizabalaga], in welcoming him into the group.

"He is in the squad for tomorrow. Jorginho can never say no when Italy plays, even when they are 5-0 up, so he is quite tired. It's absolutely possible Saul plays for us."

Saul only managed 22 league starts last campaign, his fewest since 2014-15, but still ranked fourth for attempted tackles in LaLiga for Atletico (57).

Indeed, prior to his departure, only Real Madrid's Casemiro (190) had attempted more tackles by a midfielder than Saul (159) in the Spanish top flight since August 2019.

With N'Golo Kante out injured with an ankle problem sustained against Liverpool, the Spain midfielder could provide vital legs in Tuchel's midfield.

But Tuchel credited those above him in the Chelsea hierarchy for securing the deal from Diego Simeone's side.

"Marina [Granovskaia] was in charge, the best person," the Blues head coach continued. "We were in contact. We knew about the situation.

"We knew things could happen later, we were very aware. I assured everybody that I'm also happy if we cannot bring a player in. We would find a solution in the squad. It was clear, we would try for [Jules] Kounde and Saul.

"In the end, it was possible to get Saul which was a key position for us to have more alternatives. A lot of competition [is] now going on. It's my job to be a good moderator."

France will be without N'Golo Kante for their World Cup qualifier against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Wednesday, Didier Deschamps has confirmed.

The Chelsea midfielder aggravated an ankle injury during the 1-1 draw with Liverpool at the weekend.

Sitting top of Group D with seven points from three games, Les Bleus resume their World Cup qualifying campaign with a trio of fixtures in early September.

However, the reigning world champions will be unable to call upon Kante for the first of those, which takes place in Strasbourg.

Addressing the media on Tuesday, head coach Deschamps said: "Kante will be too soon for tomorrow. 

"There are too many risks; he will not be used tomorrow."

 

Meanwhile, Hugo Lloris believes Kylian Mbappe will not be bothered by the recent speculation linking him with a blockbuster move to Real Madrid.

The forward has made a bright start to the Ligue 1 season with three goals in Paris Saint-Germain's first four games, including a brace in Sunday's 2-0 win over Reims as Lionel Messi made his debut for the club.

"As you could see, he was very focused in the last game. He is very professional," Lloris said.

"He was decisive in the first four matches. It shows that he respects his club and is ready to perform. 

"There is a lot of agitation around him, it's normal, but he knows how to make the difference to help the French team."

France are looking to bounce back having exited Euro 2020 in the round of 16 following defeat to Switzerland on penalties.

Lloris revealed that following positive discussions within the camp, he and his team-mates are hungry to make amends with a fresh approach.

"We highlighted what was less successful, but there were also good things –especially in the group stage – which were quite successful," the goalkeeper added.

"We switch to something new, fresh. Everyone must participate in giving a new impetus.

"We are positive. We have very little time to prepare for the match, but there is desire."

Aurelien Tchouameni said he is inspired by Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante as the Monaco sensation continues to be linked with Chelsea and Manchester United.

Tchouameni is reportedly wanted by Premier League giants Chelsea and United following his exploits in Ligue 1.

Before the weekend's fixtures, the 21-year-old midfielder ranked first in possessions won (209) and tackles won (52) in the top five European leagues in 2021, while he was tied for fifth in duels won (221).

Tchouameni's performances under Niko Kovac earned a France call-up for the first time as Les Bleus face Bosnia-Herzegovina in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday before continuing their road to Qatar 2022 against Ukraine on Saturday and Finland on September 7.

Amid speculation over his future heading into the international break, Tchouameni was asked about his inspirations, and he told reporters: "I followed a lot what [United midfielder] Paul [Pogba] was doing. Since he started his career.

"Now I have the chance to be with him and [Chelsea midfielder] N'Golo [Kante]. They are players who are very successful at their clubs, so I try to see what they do and take inspiration from their strong characteristics.

"There are also some players I didn't get to see play at the time, like Patrick Vieira. Foreign players too, like [Manchester City and Belgium midfielder] Kevin De Bruyne. I try to look at everything that is good in the midfield and their characteristics to inspire me."

Meanwhile, France head coach Didier Deschamps will be without Dayot Upamecano for the three World Cup qualifiers after the Bayern Munich centre-back suffered a right thigh injury.

Upamecano has been replaced in the squad by Barcelona defender Clement Lenglet.

Jorginho has been crowned UEFA Men's Player of the Year for the 2020-21 campaign following a stellar year for club and country.

The 29-year-old helped Chelsea to Champions League success in May and followed that up by winning Euro 2020 with Italy six weeks later.

He started every game for Italy and missed just one match for the Blues in their run to continental glory as he became the 10th player to win both competitions in the same year.

Former Napoli midfielder Jorginho edged out Chelsea team-mate N'Golo Kante and Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne for the award at Thursday's ceremony in Istanbul.

It is the first time in the award's 11-year history that the top three was comprised exclusively of midfielders.

Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, Kylian Mbappe, Cristiano Ronaldo and Erling Haaland were notable absentees from the three-man shortlist.

The award, which is based on performances at club and international level over the course of a season, was last year won by Lewandowski.

Jorginho's memorable campaign

The role Jorginho played in Italy's triumphant Euro 2020 campaign likely cemented the award, the deep-lying playmaker leading the way in a number of areas.

Jorginho topped the list for interceptions (25), recoveries (48) and fouls won (19), rightly earning himself a spot in the official Team of the Tournament.

He was just as important to Chelsea's second ever Champions League triumph, with no midfielder intercepting the ball more times (26), while only four players in his position completed more than his 662 passes.

Despite an underwhelming Premier League campaign on the whole for the Blues last time out, Jorginho topped the scoring charts with seven goals in total, each of those coming from the penalty spot.

Edouard Mendy, Ruben Dias, N'Golo Kante and Erling Haaland won the positional awards for the 2020-21 Champions League.

Chelsea goalkeeper Mendy kept nine clean sheets in last season's competition as the Blues won the trophy for the second time, beating Manchester City 1-0 in the final.

City defender Dias was named the best defender, while Chelsea's Kante – UEFA's man of the match in each leg of the semi-final and the final – won the prize for midfielders.

Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland was chosen as the best forward in 2020-21.

The players were chosen from a shortlist of 12, who had each received the most points in each positional category following a jury vote. The jury comprised coaches from the 32 clubs that entered into the group stage last season, as well as 55 journalists representing UEFA's 55 member associations. Coaches could not vote for players from their own teams.

Five of the 12 nominees were from Chelsea: Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, Kante and Jorginho.

City had three representatives – Ederson, Dias and Kevin De Bruyne – while beaten semi-finalists Real Madrid and PSG provided one each: Thibaut Courtois, and Kylian Mbappe.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Haaland, who finished as top scorer last season with 10, were the other nominees.

Jorginho and Roberto Mancini could cap a golden year for Italy by landing UEFA honours after both were shortlisted for top awards on Thursday, though Manchester City duo Kevin De Bruyne and Pep Guardiola could spoil the Azzurri's party.

Azzurri midfielder Jorginho won the Champions League with Chelsea and followed that by helping his country to Euro 2020 glory, under the leadership of coach Mancini.

Jorginho, 29, is joined on the three-man shortlist for UEFA Men's Player of the Year by Chelsea team-mate N'Golo Kante, a standout in the Champions League final, and by City playmaker De Bruyne.

Kante played for France at Euro 2020 and De Bruyne featured for Belgium, but neither side made the progress many anticipated, with Les Bleus eliminated in the last 16 and the Red Devils bowing out to Italy in the quarter-finals.

The three players received the most votes from a panel consisting of the 24 head coaches at Euro 2020, the 80 coaches from the Champions League and Europa League group stages, and journalists from each of UEFA's 55 member associations.

The Men's Coach of the Year shortlist consists of the two coaches from the Champions League final, Chelsea's Thomas Tuchel and City's Guardiola, plus Italy boss Mancini.

It means there is no place for Gareth Southgate, who guided England to their first major men's final since the 1966 World Cup. He finished seventh in voting, UEFA announced, behind Villarreal's Europa League winning boss Unai Emery, Atletico Madrid's Diego Simeone and former Inter coach Antonio Conte.

Like Guardiola, both Simeone and Conte led their club sides to domestic league title success.

The winner of each award will be announced at UEFA's Champions League group stage draw on August 26 in Istanbul.

Barcelona had a clean sweep of the players shortlisted for the Women's Player of the Year prize, following their Spanish league and cup and Champions League treble.

The Spanish duo of Jennifer Hermoso and Alexia Putellas were joined on the list by Dutch club-mate Lieke Martens.

UEFA's women's awards stem from votes from each of the coaches in the Champions League last 16 and the leading 12 coaches according to UEFA's national team rankings, plus a pool of 20 journalists.

Former Barcelona boss Lluis Cortes is joined on that list by Chelsea's Emma Hayes and Sweden coach Peter Gerhardsson.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are not among the final nominees for the 2020-21 Champions League positional awards.

On Friday, UEFA announced the 12 players, three per position, who could win the individual prizes on August 26.

The 12 players each received the most points in each positional category following a jury vote. The jury comprised coaches from the 32 clubs that entered into the group stage last season, as well as 55 journalists representing UEFA's 55 member associations. Coaches could not vote for players from their own teams.

Messi came fourth in the poll for the best forwards, while Ronaldo did not make the top 10. Each player was eliminated at the last-16 stage, Barcelona losing to Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus to Porto.

Five of the 12 nominees are from Chelsea, who won their second Champions League by beating Manchester City in the final. Edouard Mendy, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, N'Golo Kante and Jorginho are all nominated.

City have three representatives – Ederson, Ruben Dias and Kevin De Bruyne – while beaten semi-finalists Real Madrid and PSG provide one each: Thibaut Courtois, and Kylian Mbappe.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski and Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, who finished as top scorer last season with 10, are the other nominees.

The winners of the best goalkeeper, defender, midfielder and forward prizes will be announced at the group-stage draw in Istanbul in two weeks' time.

Having been scrapped last year due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the Ballon d'Or returns in 2021.

With Euro 2020 and the Copa America rescheduled for this year, the stars of Europe and South America had the chance to use those tournaments as a springboard towards claiming the game's top individual prize.

Italy and Argentina lifted the respective trophies at the weekend, with the Azzurri beating England in a penalty shoot-out and La Albiceleste seeing off bitter rivals Brazil at the Maracana to win the Copa for the first time since 1993.

Stats Perform has looked at 13 of the leading candidates to feature at either tournament to determine how their chances look heading into the new season.

Jorginho

Before Euro 2020, N'Golo Kante was the Chelsea midfielder seen to be within the best shot of scooping individual honours at the end of 2021, but a month on it's Jorginho who is the European champion at club and international level.

While he has perhaps been underappreciated or misunderstood at times with Chelsea, perhaps supporters will see him in a new light after playing a vital role in Italy's success as their deep-lying playmaker.

Robert Lewandowski

It's widely accepted that, had the award been handed out last year, it would have gone to Robert Lewandowksi, the man whose 55 goals in 47 games delivered Bayern the treble.

How do you follow that? Well, he scored 41 times in the Bundesliga alone in 2020-21, breaking Gerd Muller's 49-year-old single-season record. Lewandowski's Ballon d'Or hopes arguably aren't any worse now than before the Euros as no one will have expected Paulo Sousa's men to make much of an impact. He got three goals in as many games and was only out-scored by six players, which is a solid achievement.

 

Marco Verratti

Had he not been injured for the first two games of Euro 2020, there's every possibility it would have been Verratti being crowned as player of the tournament, with the Paris Saint-Germain star arguably the player who embodies the qualities of Roberto Mancini's transformed Italy side more than any other.

Not only did he create more chances than anyone else at Euro 2020 (14), but averaged more touches (114.5) than anyone, played the fourth-most passes (87.1) and ranked third for tackles (four) per 90 minutes among all players to have featured for at least 125 minutes. His all-action excellence set the tone for the Azzurri's vibrant and, ultimately, successful football.

 

N'Golo Kante

Kante inspired Chelsea to Champions League glory, named man of the match in both legs of the semi-final versus Real Madrid and the final against Manchester City.

But France's last-16 elimination by Switzerland will have done little to boost his chances, with Paul Pogba rather than Kante the standout figure for Les Bleus. While a nomination is almost a certainty, taking the gong home now looks beyond the all-action midfielder.

Kevin De Bruyne

A second successive PFA Players' Player of the Year award for Kevin De Bruyne came after another standout season for Manchester City in which he won the Premier League and EFL Cup.

His exceptional quality was further underlined by the fact only Verratti created more chances than him over the course of the tournament, an impressive feat given he started the tournament late due to injury and then had to play through another fitness issue in Belgium's final match, but that's unlikely to be enough to earn him the award.

Gianluigi Donnarumma

Generally, the player considered to be the best at a major international competition has a pretty good chance of winning further accolades, so in that case Donnarumma may have a reasonable opportunity after UEFA crowned him Euro 2020's Player of the Tournament.

Statistically there were numerous goalkeepers who were more important than him to their respective teams given he technically didn't prevent any goals according to Opta's xGOT metric – Tomas Vaclik's prevented a tournament-high 2.5. Nevertheless, Donnarumma wasn't guilty of any drops or errors that led to shots, and made crucial saves across two penalty shoot-outs, including a couple in the final.

 

Harry Kane

Another star performer in 2020-21 to end the season empty-handed, Harry Kane finished top for goals (23) and assists (14) in the Premier League despite Tottenham finishing seventh.

A slow start to Euro 2020 followed, although Kane scored four times in the knockout phase as he played a key role in England's journey to the final. But when it mattered most he failed to have a single touch in the Italy penalty area. A talismanic performance in the showpiece may have put him firmly in the running, but it's difficult to see him being a major contender now.

Romelu Lukaku

The best player in Serie A as Inter ended an 11-year wait to win the title, Romelu Lukaku enjoyed the best season of his career, with 41 direct goal involvements in 44 appearances.

He certainly cannot be accused of failing to deliver for Belgium given he scored four times, but they came up short against Italy in the quarter-finals, with a partially injured De Bruyne unable to truly weave his magic. Lukaku's influence upon Inter shouldn't be overlooked, but the achievements of others on the international stage may overshadow his own.

Lionel Messi

The winner of the previous award in 2019 – the sixth of his astonishing career – Lionel Messi amazingly plundered 28 goals and had nine assists for Barcelona from January 1 onwards.

It wasn't enough to win Barca the LaLiga title, but it did put him right in the mix and he followed that up with a starring role in Argentina's Copa triumph, the first senior international trophy of his career. Given his lack of success with La Albiceleste was arguably the final barrier to clear in his career, a Ballon d'Or will surely follow later this year as he led Lionel Scaloni's men with four goals (joint-most) and five assists (the most).

 

Kylian Mbappe

Paris Saint-Germain lost their Ligue 1 title to Lille and could not reach back-to-back Champions League finals, which seems incredible given Kylian Mbappe managed 42 goals and 11 assists in just 47 appearances.

Departing Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick this year said there was no question Mbappe would win the Ballon d'Or one day, but it probably won't be in 2021. He was one of the biggest disappointments at Euro 2020, failing to score once despite his chances having an accumulative xG value of 2.02 – that under-performance was second-worst to Gerard Moreno (3.32).

Neymar

Even Neymar would admit he only had an outside chance of winning this year's Ballon d'Or ahead of the Copa America, his 17 goals and eight assists in 2020-21 a modest return for the world's most expensive footballer.

While his performances with Brazil would see him included in most people's team of the tournament, he wasn't dependable in front of goal, his one non-penalty strike coming from 5.3 xG, an under-performance unmatched by anyone in the tournament. He'll have to wait a bit longer for the prize he supposedly craves above all others.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo

Juventus may have lost their grip on Serie A, but Cristiano Ronaldo still finished as top goalscorer (with 29), and they won the Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia.

He definitely didn't do his chances any harm as he won the Golden Boot for most goals (five) – beating Patrik Schick by virtue of having more assists – after becoming the Euros' all-time leading scorer (11) and levelling Ali Daei's world-record haul of 109 international goals, but Portugal's failure to get beyond the last 16 won't help.

 

Luis Suarez

Discarded by Barcelona for being past his usefulness, Luis Suarez responded with 21 goals in 32 games to propel Atletico Madrid to a first league title since 2013-14.

But he could only muster one goal at the Copa America as he and Uruguay had a minimal impact, meaning it'll take something special for Suarez to be a major candidate at the end of the year.

Having been scrapped last year due to the disruption caused by the pandemic, the Ballon d'Or returns in 2021.

With Euro 2020 and the Copa America rescheduled for this year, the stars of Europe and South America have the chance to use those tournaments as a springboard towards claiming the game's top individual prize.

Following club seasons either laden with trophies or padded with statistical achievements – or, in some cases, a bit of both – a few elite-level performances could make the difference in the race to win France Football's famous award.

Stats Perform has chosen a shortlist of 14 players who could make themselves Ballon d'Or favourites should they sparkle over the next month...

 

Karim Benzema

Remarkably, Karim Benzema failed to win a trophy with Real Madrid despite registering 30 goals and nine assists in 46 games in all competitions.

That form did bring his international exile to an end, though, and if he keeps it up for France over the coming month, a Ballon d'Or challenge is not out of the question.

Kevin De Bruyne

A second successive PFA Players' Player of the Year award for Kevin De Bruyne came after another standout season for Manchester City in which he won the Premier League and EFL Cup.

Had Pep Guardiola's men finally got their hands on the Champions League trophy, the Ballon d'Or might be De Bruyne's already. Leading Belgium to Euros glory would probably do the job.

Ruben Dias

The other prime candidate for City's player of the season, Ruben Dias was a colossal performer at the heart of their defence after joining from Benfica, winning the Premier League's Player of the Season award.

Defenders' difficulties winning big individual prizes are well documented, and the last to lift the Ballon d'Or – Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 – did so after leading Italy to the World Cup.

Bruno Fernandes

Bruno Fernandes was heartbroken to lose the Europa League final on penalties as his wait for a trophy with Manchester United goes on.

However, a combined 46 direct goal involvements – the most of any Premier League player – means individual glory could be on the cards should Fernandes and Portugal shine.

Phil Foden

The PFA Young Player of the Year winner, Phil Foden blossomed in 2020-21 from prodigious talent to integral player for both City and England.

His Ballon d'Or chances are probably slimmer than those of a couple of his City team-mates, but long-awaited success for the Three Lions could put him right in the mix.

Harry Kane

Another star performer in 2020-21 to end the season empty-handed, Harry Kane finished top for goals (23) and assists (14) in the Premier League despite Tottenham finishing seventh.

Winner of the Golden Boot at the last World Cup, Kane is England's undisputed star going into Euro 2020 and has every chance of topping the scoring charts again.

N'Golo Kante

Arguably the popular choice for the award, N'Golo Kante won the Champions League with Chelsea after being named man of the match in both legs of the semi-final and the final against City.

France are most observers' favourites to win the Euros and, if they do, Kante will surely be facing short odds to win the ultimate individual trophy – even if it's one in which he has little interest.

Robert Lewandowski

It's widely accepted that, had the award been handed out last year, it would have gone to Robert Lewandowksi, the man whose 55 goals in 47 games delivered Bayern the treble.

How do you follow that? Well, he scored 41 times in the Bundesliga alone in 2020-21, breaking Gerd Muller's 49-year-old single-season record. Winning the Euros with Poland might be a stretch, but finishing as top goalscorer is certainly achievable.

Romelu Lukaku

The best player in Serie A as Inter ended an 11-year wait to win the title, Romelu Lukaku enjoyed the best season of his career, with 41 direct goal involvements in 44 appearances.

With eight goals in his past nine games for Belgium, the 28-year-old could well be the man to fire Roberto Martinez's side to glory, which would make him very hard to overlook.

Kylian Mbappe

Paris Saint-Germain lost their Ligue 1 title to Lille and could not reach back-to-back Champions League finals, which seems incredible given Kylian Mbappe managed 42 goals and 11 assists in just 47 appearances.

Departing Bayern Munich boss Hansi Flick this year said there was no question Mbappe would win the Ballon d'Or one day. The Euros could be his ticket to glory in 2021.

Lionel Messi

The winner of the previous award in 2019 – the sixth of his astonishing career – Lionel Messi amazingly plundered 28 goals and had nine assists for Barcelona from January 1 onwards.

It wasn't enough to win Barca the LaLiga title, but it does put him right in the mix. If he can finally win the Copa America with Argentina, Ballon d'Or number seven may well follow.

Neymar

Even Neymar would admit he has only an outside chance of winning this year's Ballon d'Or, his 17 goals and eight assists in 2020-21 a modest return for the world's most expensive footballer.

He typically produces in a Brazil shirt, though, and winning the Copa America would propel him right back into the mix for the individual prize he supposedly craves above all others.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Juventus may have lost their grip on Serie A, but Cristiano Ronaldo still finished as top goalscorer (with 29), and they won the Supercoppa Italiana and Coppa Italia.

Ronaldo won his fourth of five Ballons d'Or after Portugal triumphed at Euro 2016, and there's little doubt he would be vying for a sixth if they defend that trophy.

Luis Suarez

Discarded by Barcelona for being past his usefulness, Luis Suarez responded with 21 goals in 32 games to propel Atletico Madrid to a first league title since 2013-14.

Should Uruguay upset the odds at the Copa America, you can bet Suarez will be in the running for the Ballon d'Or. Quite what Barca fans would make of that is hard to say.

N'Golo Kante believes Ballon d'Or speculation is way ahead of schedule as he attempts to add Euro 2020 glory to his Champions League success.

After an outstanding performance against Manchester City helped Chelsea become European club champions, Kante wants to make it a double by guiding France to success over the coming month.

The dynamic midfielder was tipped for the highest individual honour in football after Chelsea's 1-0 win over City in Porto, and Les Bleus team-mate Paul Pogba has thrown his support behind the growing clamour.

But Kante said he doesn't "pay attention" to praise of his displays, saying on Sunday: "What I hear can be touching, but I try to do what I have always done: be natural and give my best on the pitch. If it can give people pleasure, so much the better."

Asked about the prospect of winning the Ballon d'Or, Kante said: "It's a bit too soon to speak about that now. We're just getting to halfway through the year, there are six months to go, lots of competitions to play and it doesn't help to say that I deserve it now.

"Some years ago, I was in the top 10, that was the first time and it made me happy. To win it, that would be another story."

It was December 2017 when Kante cracked the top 10, finishing eighth in the vote.

"It's a great personal reward," Kante said of the prize. "I see it like the reward for an accomplished season by a player, but it's not an objective I work towards. Those who have won it are the players who have achieved the great things during their career."

Kante's France and Chelsea team-mate Olivier Giroud has little doubt the 30-year-old would be a worthy winner, describing him as "clearly a contender".

Speaking in a France news conference on Sunday, Giroud said: "We'll start talking to him about the Ballon d'Or if we win the Euros.

"He is stressed and tense when we talk to him about it! But it flatters him of course, even if he doesn't like compliments too much and prefers to keep a low profile. He deserves what happens to him."

Should Kante go on to land the award, which is handed out annually by France Football magazine, he would be the first Frenchman to do so since Zinedine Zidane.

Zidane took the honour in 1998, having inspired hosts France to win the World Cup for the first time.

Paul Pogba believes his France team-mate N'Golo Kante would be a worthy winner of the Ballon d'Or after playing a key role in Chelsea's Champions League success.

It was not too long ago that speculation suggesting Chelsea were tempted to cash in on Kante was rife, with the midfielder struggling with a few injuries in 2019-20.

But he enjoyed a strong 2020-21, evidenced particularly by his performances towards the end of the season in the Champions League.

The 30-year-old stamped his presence all over the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid and was named man of the match for both legs in a 3-1 aggregate triumph.

During the second encounter in London, Kante made five interceptions – only bettered by six from Jorginho – but also made more passes in the opposition half (25) and created more chances (three) than any other Chelsea player.

Heading into the final, he was one of just six midfielders in the 2020-21 competition with a passing accuracy above 85 per cent (86.4), an accuracy into the final third of above 80 per cent (82.1), more than 40 ball recoveries (63), over 500 touches (511) and at least 25 possession wins in the middle third of the pitch (42).

Then, in the final itself, Kante won 11 of 15 duels, recovered the ball 10 times for his team, and, as the shortest man on the pitch, won four out of seven aerial duels – nobody on his team won more. Chelsea beat Manchester City 1-0, with Kante a vital component as Pep Guardiola's men lost the midfield battle.

While some in the past might have limited Kante's strengths to the more defensive aspects of the game, his form in the Champions League highlighted that to be unfair, with the World Cup winner actually a far greater all-round player than many give him credit for.

Indeed, international colleague Pogba thinks he is deserving of the most illustrious individual prize of all.

"What I would like to say to the whole world is that the 'NG' we have seen in recent months has always been the same," Pogba told Eurosport. "We talk a lot about his performances but he has always been as good as ever.

"There was no Cristiano [Ronaldo] and [Lionel] Messi in the semi-final, so it's good to see the performances of the midfielders or even the defenders.

"I said a long time ago that it would be appropriate, if Chelsea won, for him to win the Ballon d'Or. It would be deserved, too.

"He's always performed well. I'm not surprised by what he's doing, I'm just surprised that he's still doing it. He has always played matches like that."

Champions League man of the match N'Golo Kante covers so much ground he is like "two players", according to former Chelsea midfielder and assistant head coach Eddie Newton.

Kante was in imperious form on Saturday as Chelsea edged past Manchester City 1-0 to secure their first Champions League triumph since 2012, Kai Havertz scoring the decisive goal shortly before half-time.

The France international won 11 of 15 duels, recovered the ball 10 times for his team, and the shortest man on the pitch won four out of seven aerial duels – nobody on his team tallied more.

Former Chelsea playmaker Joe Cole hailed Kante's display, telling BT Sport: "I don't think there's a more important player for his team in world football than Kante."

And Newton, who played for Chelsea between 1990 and 1999 and had spells as assistant head coach in 2012 and 2015-16, was in agreement, describing Kante as the Blues' "engine".

"He's an integral part of any team," Newton exclusively told Stats Perform. "He is the engine. He doesn't care about the razzmatazz, he's a very humble human being. 

"He raises his game every single time. He trains the way he plays. His levels are always the same. 

"His mindset is very strong. Physically he's a joke and able to cover so much ground; he's like two players. 

"He inspires players around him. It motivates you to do more. If you're going to war together, you're going to raise your game, that natural human spirit will rise to the occasion. 

"That's what he does; motivates and inspires others to raise their game."

Newton was also fulsome in his praise of Mason Mount and Reece James, who are both expected to be named in Gareth Southgate's final England squad for Euro 2020. 

Mount laid on Havertz's goal with one of three key passes – the most of any player on the pitch – while he finished with a joint game-high pass completion rate of 96 per cent. 

James, meanwhile, superbly shackled City forward Raheem Sterling, making more tackles (seven) and clearances (five) than any player on the pitch. 

Right-back James is a year younger than 22-year-old Mount and Newton believes the pair can be integral figures for Chelsea over the next decade. 

"Everyone at Chelsea is proud of what Mason's done," he said. "It doesn't matter how many people are around you, this young man's mental attributes set him apart. 

"Reece was outstanding and was very close to being man of the match. He took Sterling out of the game, nullified him, forcing Sterling to defend. Maybe he won't get the plaudits, but he was outstanding. 

"He's done himself so many favours with his performances and his attitude. His work rate, concentration and adaptability is very strong. 

"Another one for the future. You're looking at so many players. It's a fantastic squad that is quite young. 

"This is the beginning of a cycle. It could be the next 10 years for Chelsea. For the rest of the league, they'll be looking at Chelsea and it's ominous for them."

Christian Pulisic said it felt "just crazy" as the Chelsea forward became the first American player to be a Champions League winner.

The 22-year-old former Borussia Dortmund star came off the bench in the second half and went close to doubling Chelsea's lead, but they settled for a 1-0 victory over Manchester City.

Speaking after the final in Porto, Pulisic told CBS Sports: "I can't explain it, it's still such a shock. I'm so proud."

He was watched by his parents and a number of friends from the stands at the Estadio do Dragao, making the occasion all the more special.

"I'm so thankful for all the support. To have people here today was amazing," Pulisic said.

"I knew I was going to have to put in the hard work defensively. I wish I put away the chance I had. I didn't quite get under it like I wanted, but in the end this team was always going to win this game and I'm so proud of them."

Plagued by injuries this season, Pulisic was able to bring father Mark and mother Kelley into the celebrations on the pitch to mark a happy ending to a tough campaign.

Pulisic added: "I have my parents here so I've just been speaking to them. I'm so proud to be here.

"It's been a difficult road for me and I couldn't imagine winning the Champions League ever in my life and now I'm here so it's just crazy."

While Chelsea's players head off to summer breaks or away on international duty, Pulisic said the aim next season would be to "come back and try to do the same thing".

Olivier Giroud, who played a significant part in Chelsea reaching the final, was an unused substitute against City.

But the veteran striker, who could have a big role to play for France at Euro 2020, was determined to enjoy the evening.

"It's extraordinary, we had a remarkable route, we knocked out some big teams like Real [Madrid], Atletico wasn't easy, Porto either, and tonight we played against a great team in City," Giroud told RMC Sports.

"It wasn't played out on a big thing, these kinds of matches are played out in details."

Giroud hailed the performance of player of the match and fellow Frenchman N'Golo Kante, whose action-packed display in midfield kept Chelsea moving forward.

"It's right that he was man of the match, he's huge, he won 50 balls, he hurt them," Giroud said.

"He's unbelievable, this guy. It feels like there are 12 players on the pitch with him. I'm happy for him.

"We're a bunch of friends and it shows on the pitch, I'm happy that our efforts have been rewarded. You could see our determination tonight and our desire to go out and get it."

Kai Havertz takes the glory and Timo Werner did everything but score, running Manchester City ragged for over an hour, rewriting the narrative surrounding Chelsea's spending spree of last year.

But perhaps the smartest move by those pulling the strings at Chelsea has been to keep N'Golo Kante, a colossus of this Champions League final; crowding, cramping City's style, always lurking and looking, Kante was absolutely pivotal to the dark blues bossing this match.

The talk was, going back 12 months, that Chelsea were thinking about selling Kante.

Billy Gilmour was emerging, Mason Mount was everything Frank Lampard has ever looked for in a midfielder, and with a big-money Havertz deal in the pipeline it seemed the face of Chelsea's midfield would be a young one.

Kante had endured injuries, and then he was reluctant to immediately return to training when the Premier League's lockdown ended in June, seeking clear assurances of coronavirus safety where others were perhaps in a hurry to get back to Cobham.

Was he as committed as others? Was his injury track record a worry? Lampard – remember him? – memorably killed the Kante exit talk at a stroke last June when he labelled the Frenchman "one of the best midfield players in the world".

"I actually would have loved to play with him, the type of player he is," Lampard said in a news conference. "He has everything, and coming back to Chelsea and managing this club, having N'Golo Kante, is something I really wanted to appreciate and work with."

Lampard presumably watched this final, regardless of his sacking by Chelsea in January, and how he must have again admired the Parisian's all-action efforts.

At full-time, former England and Manchester United captain Rio Ferdinand declared on BT Sport: "Kante put on a masterclass in how to retrieve the ball, to defend, to then break things up and be a menace in that midfield. He controlled the game."

Joe Cole, the former Chelsea playmaker, went one step further, saying: "I don't think there's a more important player for his team in world football than Kante. We've watched a showpiece game and with him it looked like man against boys. He drove that Chelsea team."

Before this game, Kante had started seven games and came off the bench six more times in the Champions League this season.

Heading into the final, there had been just six midfielders in this season's competition with a passing accuracy above 85 per cent (Kante: 86.39), an accuracy into the final third of above 80 per cent (82.14), more than 40 ball recoveries (63), over 500 touches (511) and 25 possession wins in the midfield third of the pitch (42).

The others have been Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Toni Kroos – hopes of silverware for Los Blancos ended with the semi-final defeat to Chelsea – plus Atletico Madrid's Koke and the City pair of Rodri and Fernandinho.

That's the City pair who started this final on the substitutes' bench, both having been almost ever-present throughout the European campaign, victims of Pep Guardiola's latest big-match team selection twaddle.

By half-time, Chelsea were in front and Kante was in charge.

Former City midfield hardman Nigel de Jong tweeted: "Not the first half you want to see as a city fan... Kante is running the show at the moment stretching that midfield out. Restore a holding midfielder is key here."

De Jong had nailed it. Thomas Tuchel, the Chelsea boss, must have been relieved the Dutchman sent the message on social media rather than as a text to the City dugout.

Ben Chilwell had made an early dash down the left and Kante burst forward, the furthest Chelsea man upfield. Although the move came to nothing, it was a sign he would not simply sit deep.

Moments later, Kante was helping out right-back Reece James against Phil Foden. In the 12th minute it was Kante bursting on to a pass on the edge of the City penalty area, albeit without having the sass to outwit Ruben Dias.

When City broke at pace after Werner twice went close, it was Kante on the edge of the 18-yard box there to make the crucial interception, and a minute later the five foot, seven inch Frenchman was winning the ball in the air at the other end of the pitch but heading just off target from left-back Chilwell's cross.

Proving a terrific nuisance, a hawk constantly surveying the field for his next prey, Kante pinched the ball from Kevin de Bruyne and raced from his own half deep into City territory, feeding Havertz who might have done better but had the ball whipped away from his left foot as he prepared to unload a shot.

Havertz, suddenly with a taste for goal, did better just before the break after Mount's delicious throughball, the young Englishman stepping into an area of the pitch where on another day he might have encountered Fernandinho or Rodri.

Kante teed up Werner for a half-chance before the whistle came for the interval, a cute chip into the penalty area from the right wing showing another unsung aspect of his repertoire.

It continued into the second half, Kante sliding in to take the ball off De Bruyne with a clean tackle as the Belgian darted towards the edge of the Chelsea box.

When De Bruyne went off, dazed by Antonio Rudiger's bodycheck, he might well have been seeing double. But he had endured an hour of that with Kante anyway, or at least it must have felt that way, more often than not finding the Frenchman on his heels.

And so Chelsea's other players raised their game to match Kante, and now they are European champions again. He won 11 of 15 duels, recovered the ball 10 times for his team, and the shortest man on the pitch won four out of seven aerial duels – nobody on his team won more.

In every way possible, he rose to the challenge.

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