Chelsea boss Frank Lampard praised Olivier Giroud for once again stepping up with his late goal against Rennes and says the striker has given him "a problem" when it comes to his team selection.

Second-half substitute Giroud headed in an injury-time winner for Chelsea in Tuesday's 2-1 victory to earn his side a place in the last 16 of the Champions League with two Group E games to spare.

The 34-year-old scored from his only shot at Roazhon Park, for what was his second goal of the campaign in his eighth outing.

Seven of those appearances have now come via the bench and the France international revealed last week he may have to leave Chelsea in January if he is to keep alive his hopes of representing his country at Euro 2020.

Lampard vowed on the eve of the Rennes match to give Giroud more opportunities, however, and the Chelsea head coach heaped further praise on the former Arsenal man after his late heroics in his homeland.

"He does things like he does tonight, he's great for us," Lampard told BT Sport. "It wasn't just his goal when he came on but his hold-up play and physicality.

"I have a problem because Tammy [Abraham] is playing well and Olivier in the restart was incredible. I have two players fighting for the position, but it's a good problem.

"He'll get his minutes because of the amount of games. You saw the reaction to his goal, and that wasn't just because it was a late winner – it shows what he does day to day and what he means to the team."

Giroud has scored six goals in 13 matches since the Premier League resumed post-lockdown in June – one more than next-best Abraham, who has played four games more.

Abraham has been favoured of late and scored in last weekend's 2-0 win at Newcastle United, with Lampard welcoming the competition to lead the line.

"They are fighting for a place in the side," he added at his post-match news conference. "But we know what a great professional [Giroud] is. To see the reaction of the team-mates showed what kind of a player he is. He always keeps the right attitude.

"We are playing every three days, maybe two days. I don't want think I have to prove to him that he will play games. Tammy is in great form as well. I hope that he knows what I want with him. He came on today and impressed."

Callum Hudson-Odoi had earlier given Chelsea the lead after being played in by a sublime pass from Mason Mount, who also won possession to start the attack from inside his own half.

Mount has now registered eight assists in all competitions since the start of last season, putting him level with Cesar Azpilicueta and Abraham among players still at the club.

The England international has had his place in the side questioned by some but Lampard feels he has more than justified his selection.

"With Mason there's been a lot of talk and any negative talk just needs to go away," he said. "I've been lucky enough to be closer to him and what he did at Derby and last season has been outstanding. 

"I'm not going to undermine the quality he has and when we have two number eights he's got all the qualities – I think he can get more goals and assists. The pass for Callum Hudson-Odoi's goal was top class. We need to keep that competition."

Hudson-Odoi's opener and Giroud's winner came either side of Serhou Guirassy's header five minutes from time for a Rennes side on a four-match losing streak, ensuring that Chelsea can look forward to the knockout round.

"I'm very happy to qualify with two games to spare," Lampard said. "It was a really tough match, they're a very good team. 

"Their recent form doesn't reflect how good they are, it was a tough, hard-fought win."

Olivier Giroud powered in a stoppage-time header as Chelsea beat Rennes 2-1 to book a place in the last 16 of the Champions League with two games to spare.

Frank Lampard's side won the reverse fixture 3-0 earlier this month but they were made to work a lot harder for Tuesday's victory - their sixth in a row in all competitions.

Serhou Guirassy looked to have rescued a point for Rennes when he cancelled out Callum Hudson-Odoi's first-half opener in the 85th minute at Roazhon Park.

But second-half substitute Giroud won it in added time to ensure Chelsea will progress from Group E along with Sevilla.

Frank Lampard assured Olivier Giroud he will get plenty of opportunities in the coming weeks but is willing to discuss his future if the France star feels he needs more game time.

Giroud appeared headed for the exit door last January but remained at Stamford Bridge and helped the Blues to a top-four finish, scoring eight goals in the final 12 games of last term.

But the arrival of Timo Werner from RB Leipzig coupled with the early season form of Tammy Abraham has seen Giroud struggle for minutes under Lampard in 2020-21.

Speaking to Telefoot this week, Giroud stated he may have to ponder his future in the next transfer window as he aims to nail down a spot in France's Euro 2020 squad.

Lampard understands Giroud's concerns but with matches coming thick and fast, the Blues boss says the veteran forward will feature prominently.

"I do have plans to have Oli with us, he's a very important player in our squad, and was a big part of our squad last year," Lampard told a news conference ahead of Tuesday's Champions League clash with Rennes. 

"When you look at his Chelsea career in terms of league starts he's played a relative amount. He's a big part of us going forward. 

"I want him to stay here, I have a very good relationship with Oli. If ever he felt it was going to go a different way I'd talk to him. At the moment he's very important to me."

He added: "When he doesn't play he's a great support, we have really grown up conversations as we did in January. 

"I'll be relying on top players, top strikers as I see it for us. I'll always be honest with Oli I think he's still got a big contribution for us. I don't want to be drawn in November about conversations that might happen in January."

Lampard, who as expected confirmed Kai Havertz is fit after recovering from coronavirus and Thiago Silva travels having been rested for the win over Newcastle United, has been impressed by the form of Abraham.

The England striker, who has five goals in 13 games this season, is showing signs of a promising partnership with Werner and Lampard says his task now is to show more consistency.

"Yeah I'm really pleased with him, he's playing really well at the minute, his all round game off the ball work for the team, link up play is good," Lampard said. 

"In some parts I think it got forgotten how good he was the first half of last season, he was a big reason for us finishing fourth. 

"The second half was more difficult for him. That's normal for a young player, he's still young, but now he's seeing a mirror of how he is in training. He's training brilliantly, he's enthusiastic, that's when he's at this best. I hope that continues.

"When they play like Tammy is at the minute they make my decisions easier because he's playing so well. Tammy should take credit, his next challenge is to remain consistent."

Lampard also talked up the qualities of Mason Mount, who has faced suggestions on social media of receiving favouritism from the Chelsea boss and his England manager Gareth Southgate.

For Lampard, Mount epitomises what managers look for in a player and believes social media has changed the way footballers face scrutiny.

"We have a big fanbase, it's very easy for someone to sit on a phone and make very harsh statements," he added. "With Mason he looks clean cut, he did an advert with his top off and that's about as edgy as he gets! 

"There are a hundred things in his game to impress his manager. He's a different type of footballer. When I say that I don't want to add fuel to the fire of people saying he's my son!

"He's got a lot to improve on, he can add more goals, add more assists, but he's a quality football player who can only get better. 

"Mason Mount or anyone will not be getting favouritism. In midfield we have options, out wide we have options, no one gets the edge from me other than how they train and perform."

Olivier Giroud is worried about his lack of playing time at Chelsea and admits he will have to make a decision over his future in January if the situation does not change. 

Striker Giroud has yet to start a Premier League game for Frank Lampard's side this season, instead restricted to four substitute appearances in the competition. 

The France international was also on the periphery of the first team in the previous campaign, though did become more involved when the action resumed following the coronavirus-enforced break. 

However, the signing of Timo Werner – coupled with the continued presence of Tammy Abraham in the squad – has increased the competition at Chelsea, leaving the 34-year-old facing a dilemma. 

Giroud still believes he can contribute but, looking ahead to the delayed Euro 2020 tournament next year, has raised concerns over his lack of playing time. 

"Even if some people talk about my age, I still feel very good physically. I have a lot of desire and freshness, and what makes a career last is also the head," Giroud said in an interview with Telefoot. 

"We would like things to be a little easier, but we are built in adversity. And as my buddy [Laurent] Koscielny often says, 'I am the best when I am back against the wall'.

"It's worrying. I thought I still had a role to play at Chelsea, but my playing time is getting reduced a lot. It's going to have to change, or else make a decision.

"I am clear-headed about my situation - I will have to make a decision in January. I hope to make the right one, as I have always done" 

Giroud has played just 36 minutes in the league so far in the 2020-21 campaign, during which his only start came in the EFL Cup defeat away to Tottenham in September. 

He still remains a key component for the world champions under Didier Deschamps, scoring twice in last week's 4-2 victory over Sweden in the final round of Nations League fixtures. 

Deschamps discussed the former Arsenal frontman's future during the November international break, telling RTL: "Olivier Giroud knows it - the situation he's in today cannot drag on forever. Before March he will have to find another situation than this one."

David Beckham's Inter Miami have been linked with a move for Giroud, while Inter were rumoured to be interested in bringing him to Serie A back in January.

Manchester City are reportedly set to extend the contracts of Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus as they consider another forward.

Pep Guardiola signed a two-year extension at City this week, keeping him at the Premier League giants until 2023.

And more re-signings look set to follow.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY SET TO OFFER NEW DEALS TO STERLING, JESUS

Manchester City are set to offer Raheem Sterling a new deal, according to the Mirror.

Sterling, 25, is contracted at City until 2023, but the club are hopeful he will renew on improved terms.

Also under contract until 2023, Jesus is set for a bumper new deal, the Daily Star reports.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Manchester City and Pep Guardiola is considering Benfica and Uruguay forward Darwin Nunez as a successor to Sergio Aguero, according to The Telegraph. Aguero is out of contract at the end of the season.

- Also coming out of contract at the end of the campaign is Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum. Corriere dello Sport says Inter are eyeing the midfielder in January, while the Serie A giants are also looking at Udinese star Rodrigo De Paul as they consider selling Christian Eriksen.

- As Olivier Giroud struggles for game time at Chelsea, the striker is linked with a move. The Mirror says David Beckham's Inter Miami are considering making an offer for the France international in January.

- Yet to play in the Premier League this season, Dean Henderson may look to leave Manchester United. The Sun reports the goalkeeper wants a January loan move to boost his chances of keeping his spot in England's squad for next year's European Championship. It says Leeds United and Brighton and Hove Albion are interested.

- Another Manchester United goalkeeper seeking an exit is Sergio Romero. The Mirror reports United are prepared to accept £2.5million for Romero in January, having wanted double that during the close season.

Olivier Giroud scored a double as France beat Sweden in the Nations League but was not spurred on by recent criticism because he is "used to being heckled".

In a surprise 2-0 loss in a friendly with Finland last week, Giroud only completed three more passes than goalkeeper Steve Mandanda, who was the only France player to have fewer touches than the Chelsea striker.

Giroud was dropped for Saturday's 1-0 victory over Portugal but struck twice in a 4-2 win over Sweden on Tuesday, taking his tally for Les Bleus to 44 – seven shy of Thierry Henry's all-time record.

The 34-year-old tucked home a cutback from Marcus Thuram after Viktor Claesson's opener and scored an excellent diving header following Benjamin Pavard's volley to turn the game around.

Robin Quaison pulled one back for Sweden in the 88th minute but, after they pushed goalkeeper Robin Olsen up for a free-kick in the hope of snatching a point to retain their League A status, Kingsley Coman hit them on the break to consign them to relegation.

"We had a lot of regrets and frustration, also on an individual level, against Finland. We wanted to learn from that match, and we were able to react against Portugal by dominating and deserving the victory," Giroud told M6.

"This gathering is positive after this last match. Even if everything is not perfect, there is still a feeling of satisfaction.

"There was no feeling of revenge for me. I'm used to being heckled, it's the story of my career. It gives me more strength. I have no problem with that."

Didier Deschamps reiterated his suggestion that Giroud should look to leave Chelsea, where he has just started one game this season, to get more regular football in the build-up to next year's European Championship.

With his double at the Stade de France, Giroud ensured he will end 2020 as Les Bleus' highest scoring player for the fifth time in the past six years.

"The situation in March may not be the same as it is today. But, between the young players who came and who we were able to see – and it is important that they have playing time – and the old ones who are still there, some may be in difficulty like Olivier Giroud," said Deschamps.

"Of course, he has to deal with his situation, psychologically and physically, but today he's still there and he's scored two more.

"You are going to tell me that he won points and Anthony Martial lost some, but no, it's the France team that wins points. Some are starting, and others came as substitutes. I have different options. I have top-level players and in terms of the mood that's perfect."

Kingsley Coman wrapped up a 4-2 win for France in the Nations League on Tuesday as he punished a Sweden side who were chasing an equaliser to retain League A status.

Sweden sent goalkeeper Robin Olsen up for a late free-kick as they tried to salvage a draw that would have relegated Croatia, who lost 3-2 to Portugal, but Dejan Kulusevski's delivery was cleared and Coman slotted into the empty net on the break.

Viktor Claesson had put the visitors in front at the Stade de France inside four minutes, but Olivier Giroud equalised before Benjamin Pavard turned the game around in the 36th minute.

Substitute Kylian Mbappe teed up another for Giroud just 70 seconds into his return from injury, before Coman killed the game with the final kick after Robin Quaison's 88th-minute strike gave Sweden hope.

Kylian Mbappe is fit to feature in France's Nations League clash with Sweden on Tuesday but Anthony Martial is an injury doubt. 

Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe sat out Saturday's 1-0 win over Portugal, as well as last week's 2-0 friendly loss to Finland, because of a hamstring issue. 

However, he took part in full training on Sunday and is now in contention to play a part in the meeting with Sweden at the Stade de France. 

"Kylian is fine - he took part in the collective training session yesterday," France boss Didier Deschamps said at Monday's pre-match news conference. "He will also take part in the session today. 

"I will then take the time to discuss with him to see if he starts or if he comes into play from the bench. These are the two options with their advantages and disadvantages.  

"I will decide on what is best for the team and for him. He had two weeks without playing, but he really wants it. He wants to be there tomorrow, and if all goes well, he will be." 

Martial, however, may not be fit for the visit of Sweden, with Deschamps confirming the Manchester United forward trained separately from the group due to a back problem.

The 24-year-old started against Portugal and had more shots than any France player, though he failed to beat goalkeeper Rui Patricio with any of his three on-target attempts. 

He has now failed to score with each of his last 22 shots for France but captain Hugo Lloris insisted his team-mate offers a lot more to the side than just goals. 

"If he is here with us it is because the coach shows confidence in him," Lloris said. "He has adapted very well to the team thanks to his personality and his qualities as a player.  

"The coach has given him confidence. He made the defensive efforts, coming to help [Benjamin] Pavard down the right-hand side, so that means he has the right frame of mind." 

Mbappe and Martial's lack of fitness could see Olivier Giroud start, despite Deschamps recently raising concerns over the striker's lack of playing time at club level. 

Giroud has made just three appearances for Chelsea in the Premier League this term, all of them from the bench, and his national team boss has raised the prospect of the country's second-leading scorer finding a new club in the January transfer window. 

"The situation is not good for him. It is for him to sort - he will decide," Deschamps said. "But compared to the France team, psychologically and physically for him too, he has every interest in having playing time.  

"I hope that by January he will have more playing time. After that, he will stay or not. He knows what I think about it - I've told him, although I don't forget what he has done for us and might still do." 

France have already made certain of top spot in Group A3 ahead of their concluding fixture against Sweden, who are level on points with Croatia in the battle to avoid relegation.

Neymar is again being linked with a return to Barcelona.

The Brazil forward left the LaLiga giants for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222million deal in 2017.

But rumours of a return to Camp Nou refuse to go away.

 

TOP STORY – NEYMAR CONTACTED OVER BARCELONA RETURN

Neymar has been contacted by different Barcelona presidential candidates over a return to the club from PSG, according to Sport.

It says Neymar, who was recently said to be happy to renew a PSG deal that expires in 2022, does not want to extend at the Ligue 1 champions.

Neymar has battled injuries since moving to the French capital, making 30 or fewer appearances in each of his three seasons at the club heading into 2020-21.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Barcelona and Mundo Deportivo reports Lyon star Memphis Depay has a four-year agreement with the Catalans. It comes days after Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas ruled out a January exit for the forward. Depay is out of contract at season's end and Mundo Deportivo says he could make a January move for €5m or €6m.

- Dominik Szoboszlai sent Hungary into Euro 2020 on Thursday, and the Salzburg star is wanted across Europe. AS says Real Madrid are following the midfielder, who it says is valued at around €25m and also wanted by Arsenal, Milan and RB Leipzig.

- Also at Real Madrid and AS reports Martin Odegaard could play a key role in helping the LaLiga champions land his Norway team-mate Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund in 2022.

- After playing just 33 Premier League minutes for Chelsea this season, Olivier Giroud is again linked with a move. CalcioMercato reports Inter are set to go back in for the forward in January.

- Amid their defensive crisis with Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez facing long spells on the sidelines, Liverpool are likely to look for a centre-back in January. TeamTalk reports the Premier League champions have been offered former Newcastle United and Watford defender Daryl Janmaat.

Barcelona's finances are reportedly precarious amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Wage cuts have been flagged, but the LaLiga powerhouse are also eyeing further sales.

Ousmane Dembele and Samuel Umtiti could be among the players to depart Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – DEMBELE AND CO. HEADING FOR EXIT

Barcelona are ready to sell five players during the January transfer window, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti, Carles Alena, Martin Braithwaite and Junior Firpo are the quintet up for sale as embattled LaLiga giants Barca look to raise funds.

Dembele was linked with Manchester United before the previous window closed.

 

ROUND-UP

- Former Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has twice snubbed Barca as he eyes the United job amid speculation over Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's future, says the Daily Star.

Barcelona have been linked with a move for Borussia Monchengladbach forward Marcus Thuram, according to Bild. Thuram's father, Lilian, played for Barca and Juventus, who are believed to be eyeing the Frenchman. Real Madrid have also been linked.

- OK Diario claims Madrid are interested in Rennes teenager Jeremy Doku. The 18-year-old has caught the eye of Madrid, who have also made Eduardo Camavinga one of their top targets.

- Staying at the Santiago Bernabeu and OK Diario says soon-to-be free agent and Bayern Munich defender David Alaba must lower his wage demands if he wants to play for Madrid. The Austria international has also been linked with PSGManchester City and Barca.

- Tuttosport says Antonio Conte wants Chelsea trio Olivier Giroud, Emerson Palmieri and Marcos Alonso at Inter.

- Lille star Renato Sanches is wanted in Italy. Calciomercato reports Serie A champions Juventus, Milan, Inter, Napoli and Roma are monitoring the former Bayern Munich midfielder.

- Salzburg sensation Dominik Szoboszlai is a serious January target for Arsenal, according to Index. The Hungarian has emerged as an alternative to Lyon star Houssem Aouar.

Olivier Giroud has half an eye on catching Thierry Henry at the top of France's all-time leading scorer list after grabbing two goals on his 100th international appearance. 

The Chelsea striker got his 41st and 42nd goals for Les Bleus in Wednesday's 7-1 thrashing of Ukraine in a friendly match at Stade de France. 

Giroud has surpassed Michel Platini on the list and is now behind only former Arsenal and Barcelona star Henry, who scored 51 in 123 games. 

Giroud's tally is all-the-more impressive given he has often been used by coach Didier Deschamps as a target man entrusted with bringing deeper forwards such as Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe into play.

Indeed, the 34-year-old played in all seven of France's games at the 2018 World Cup, including their 4-2 win over Croatia in the final, without once getting on the scoresheet. 

Although he is not focusing too much on catching Henry, he suggested setting a new national record could be within his reach.

"Obviously, I'm hugely proud," Giroud, who was captain for the Ukraine match, told TF1. "It's a great honour [to reach 100 caps] and I'm very happy that it happened like this.

"It was always going to be emotional. It's a friendly match but it's still my hundredth, so I'm very happy for me and for the team as well. We showed a lot of good things.

"Now I keep looking forwards, without setting any limits. I hope to continue like this.

"I think you have to set goals. It's now maybe a little early to say [if I will break the record]. We'll see when I'm maybe on 46 or 47 goals!"

France face Portugal in the Nations League on Sunday.

Olivier Giroud celebrated his 100th cap with a double as France cruised to a 7-1 friendly win over Ukraine. 

The Chelsea striker, named as captain for the game at the Stade de France, was in fine form for the reigning world champions. 

Eduardo Camavinga broke the deadlock in the ninth minute with an exquisite opener, before Giroud lit up the game with a stunning long-range strike 15 minutes later.  He then made it 3-0 in the 34th minute, with Vitalii Mykolenko's own goal soon after putting the game beyond doubt. 

Viktor Tsygankov reduced the deficit eight minutes into the second half but Corentin Tolisso bent home and Kylian Mbappe added a sixth before Antoine Griezmann's fortuitous effort rounded off a rout that thoroughly reflected France's dominance.

Skipper Giroud was involved as Camavinga marked his first start in spectacular fashion.  

Georgi Bushchan did well to keep out Giroud's close-range header, but Camavinga was there to convert on the rebound with a deft overhead kick that looped beyond the forlorn Ukraine goalkeeper.  

Anthony Martial was denied at the near post after a neat run into the box and Camavinga fired over with a long-range volley before Giroud ensured his landmark appearance would be a memorable one.  

His perfectly placed left-footed effort left Bushchan with no chance, while there was to be further misery for the visitors.  

Tolisso saw a half-volley tipped over but Bushchan was soon picking the ball out of his net again, the keeper only able to turn Houssem Aouar's long-range effort as far as Giroud, who doubled his tally with a diving header.  

Ruslan Malinovskiy spurned a gilt-edged chance at the other end and that profligacy was punished as Martial was again thwarted by Bushchan, only for Mykolenko to head into his own net from the resulting corner. 

Malinovskiy tested Steve Mandanda twice before the interval and Ukraine did get some reward for their efforts in the 53rd minute through Tsygankov's vicious drive. 

Normal service quickly resumed, however, as Tolisso sent a sublime finish into the bottom-right corner after cleverly linking up with Mbappe, who eight minutes from time weaved his way into the box and rifled home. 

There was still time for Griezmann to have the last word, his powerful strike taking a heavy deflection to leave poor Bushchan rooted to the spot. 

Olivier Giroud is "convinced" he can still play a part for Chelsea but admitted he will reconsider his future in January if opportunities continue to be limited.

The striker has struggled to hold down a regular starting spot in two and a half years at Stamford Bridge since joining from Arsenal and has repeatedly been linked with an exit.

He fought off competition from Tammy Abraham to become first choice towards the end of last season but has fallen back down the pecking order under head coach Frank Lampard since the arrival of Timo Werner.

After being used for just 17 minutes in Chelsea's first four Premier League games this term, Giroud is determined to prove his worth and win back his place in the side.

"I've written a book called 'Always Believe It' so I'm not going to go anywhere without a fight," he said at a news conference while on international duty with France.

"There is competition but I will fight and we saw the rewards of that at the end of last season. I am convinced I have a role to play at Chelsea. We will see in January."

Giroud is one cap short of a milestone 100 for France ahead of their friendly with Ukraine on Wednesday.

The 2018 World Cup winner did not earn the first of those caps until the age of 25 and is proud of what he has achieved on the international stage.

"I signed in Ligue 1 at 25 - it's an atypical course," he said. "The chance to play for Les Bleus at that age was just a bonus.

"I never set any limits for myself and maybe at 75-80 [caps], I thought 'why not 100?'. It's a good number but I still have many years ahead of me."

He added: "If someone told me I was going to reach a centenary at 34, I wouldn't have believed it when I was at Grenoble or Tours.

"But, that's the beauty of football. I have always worked my way up through the ranks one after the other, thanks to great people.

"I am a good example for young people who do not turn professional at 17."

Karim Benzema's ongoing exile from the France team is "a shame" and "kind of a mess", but Olivier Giroud insists he has nothing but respect for his fellow striker.

Real Madrid forward Benzema has not played for Les Bleus since 2015 having been kept out of the set-up due to his alleged involvement in a plot to blackmail Mathieu Valbuena.

Giroud has established himself as a key part of France's attack in his absence and is set to earn his 100th cap in a friendly against Ukraine on Wednesday.

Since being dropped, Benzema has been heavily critical of Giroud's presence up front for Les Bleus. Asked to rate the Chelsea striker on social media last April, Benzema said: "You don't confuse F1 with go-karting … and I know I'm F1."  

But Giroud insists he has no issue with the former Lyon star, who he regrets has been consigned to the international wilderness for so long.

"Clearly, it's a shame, because Karim remains an impressive player for his qualities," Giroud told RMC.

"Me, I never had a dispute with him, history wanted us to be opposed. I've always had a good understanding with him, a lot of mutual respect ... at least from me towards him.

"I think it's a shame everything that has happened, it's kind of a mess, but now we have to move on. The English envy us a lot of this young generation which is growing up."

Giroud was part of the France squad that won the World Cup in 2018 and feels he has proved he merits his place in the team, with a "supposed rivalry" with Benzema manufactured in the media.

"At the time, when I was unfairly criticised because of Karim's absence, it hurt me," he said.

"I continued to prove that I deserved my place and that this supposed rivalry with Karim was created from scratch by some people.

"I had nothing to do with it, we just play the same position. It happened but I reacted well to these difficulties."

Eduardo Camavinga is highly coveted following his exploits for Ligue 1 outfit Rennes.

The 17-year-old's stock has also risen after making his first France appearance.

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly vying for his signature.

 

TOP STORY – GIANTS GO HEAD-TO-HEAD FOR CAMAVINGA

Real Madrid face competition from Paris Saint-Germain to sign Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, according to Marca.

Camavinga, who made his international debut for France on Tuesday, has been heavily linked with a move to LaLiga champions Madrid.

However, Ligue 1 holders PSG are reportedly determined to keep the 17-year-old in France.

The front page of Friday's AS Diario adds Camavinga, PSG star Kylian Mbappe and RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano are being targeted by Madrid in 2021.

 

ROUND-UP

- TyC Sports claims Barcelona have made a new offer for Inter forward Lautaro Martinez. Repeatedly tipped to swap Inter for Barca, Martinez's agents are believed to be in Spain to discuss another bid.

Ronald Koeman has handed Barca a four-player shortlist, including Lyon's Memphis Depay, Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum, Inter defender Stefan de Vrij and Manchester City defender Eric Garcia, claims Marca.

- FootMercato reports Madrid are considering a move for City attacker Riyad Mahrez.

- Sky Sport says Inter are convinced they will sign Arturo Vidal from Barca. It comes as Cagliari and Rennes try to sign veteran Nerazzurri defender Diego Godin, while Inter reportedly close in on Parma full-back Matteo Darmian.

- Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud has agreed a provisional contract to join Juventus as the Serie A champions wait on Barca veteran Luis Suarez, claims Sky Sports Italia. Juve have also been linked with Roma's Edin Dzeko, Napoli forward Arkadiusz Milik and Alvaro Morata of Atletico Madrid. Andrea Pirlo's Juve have also eyed former forward Moise Kean but Everton are unwilling to do a loan deal, reports Gianluca Di Marzio.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Juve striker Gonzalo Higuain, meanwhile, is set to complete his move to David Beckham's Inter Miami in MLS.

Leicester City want to sign Saint-Etienne defender Wesley Fofana but former Foxes boss Claude Puel is reluctant to part with the centre-back, according to Le10 Sport.

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