Speculation has swirled for months about the future of Lionel Messi following a season of change at Barcelona.

Barca have been busy already this off-season, signing Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.

Compatriot Aguero had implored Messi to extend his Barcelona stay, which dates back to 2000, and it seems the striker may get his wish.

 

TOP STORY - MESSI RE-COMMITS TO CATALANS

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi is set to pen a new two-year contract with Barcelona, according to AS.

The Argentina forward has practically agreed to the deal, with only "structural details" to complete.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have both shown interest in Messi but he looks set to commit until 2023.

 

ROUND-UP

- Everton are in the market for a new manager after Carlo Ancelotti's sudden departure and The Athletic reports they will consider Rangers boss and Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard. TalkSPORT claims ex-Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo is also on their radar.

- COPE claims that new Real Madrid boss Ancelotti will not push to recruit James Rodriguez from the Italian's former club Everton.

- The Sun reports that Arsenal are in pole position in the race to sign Raheem Sterling from Manchester City. 

- The Sun also claims any potential Sterling move to Arsenal may scupper Manchester City's plans to sign Tottenham's Harry Kane , as they want to use the winger in a swap deal given Spurs hefty asking price.

- Manchester United are keen on Sevilla defender Jules Kounde but Barcelona have joined the pursuit for his signature, claims Mundo Deportivo.

Rangers ended their triumphant Scottish Premiership season undefeated thanks to a thumping 4-0 win over Aberdeen.

A Joe Lewis own goal put Steven Gerrard's champions ahead at Ibrox, with a Kemar Roofe double and an effort from veteran striker Jermain Defoe completing a dominant victory that took the Glasgow giants up to 102 points.

Gerrard's side emphatically halted Celtic's bid for 10 consecutive top-flight crowns and, in going an entire campaign unbeaten, they matched the exploits of Brendan Rodgers' Bhoys in 2016-17.

Rangers' 55th Scottish title overall has proved to be a record-setting affair, with a miserly 13 goals conceded – one fewer that the previous best by Celtic back in 1913-14.

Despite Aberdeen's spirited efforts after half-time, Allan McGregor was able to keep a clean sheet – the Gers' 26th shutout this term to match Celtic's 107-year-old record.

Victory also meant a perfect return of 19 wins from 19 at Ibrox in 2020-21. That matched the feat achieved by Martin O'Neill's Celtic, who eventually chalked up 26 in succession at Parkhead between 2002 and 2004.

"It's been a while since I've had the smell of champagne. It's been so long I'm actually enjoying it," a sodden Gerrard told Sky Sports during the post-match celebrations.

"I'm so proud of the boys and all the staff around it, but the main thing is the supporters. I was asked to come here at a difficult time, it had been even more difficult before that.

"I have to pay my respects to the people who got it to the point where I took over. After that it was about having a vision, getting the right people in the right places, the right support from the board and fighting for it.

"We've fought every day for the last three years to get to this point."

Celtic concluded an utterly wretched season, that brought about the sacking of manager Neil Lennon, with a 0-0 draw at Hibernian to finish 25 points shy of their bitter rivals.

Iconic former Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson put aside any anti-Liverpool agenda as he saluted the impacted Steven Gerrard has had on another of his old clubs, Rangers.

Gerrard played for United's bitter rivals Liverpool from 1998 to 2015, a period that coincided with Ferguson's glory years at Old Trafford, and was Reds captain for much of that time.

But despite their respective roles in one of English football's fiercest rivalries, Ferguson can appreciate the job Gerrard has done since trying his hand in management.

Gerrard took over at Rangers – with whom Ferguson spent two years as a player in the 1960s – in 2018, the club having been without a top-flight title since 2010-11. They had to start all over again in the third tier in 2012 after insolvency.

Rangers' great rivals Celtic went on to claim nine successive Scottish Premiership titles, but under Gerrard's guidance they ended the Bhoys' dominance this term, cruising to the crown in remarkable fashion.

They wrapped it up in early March having not lost a single game and, with two games left, are in with a chance of completing the campaign undefeated, a feat they have not managed since 1898-99.

And Ferguson, who won 16 top-flight titles with United and Aberdeen, has been impressed.

"Oh, he's done magnificent," Ferguson told the Guardian ahead of the release of a documentary about his life.

"He really has, both on and off the field. A press interview can lose you your job in management. But Steven's press conferences are fantastic.

"He's cool, he's composed, he gives the right answers. He's really top because it's an art."

Nevertheless, Ferguson stressed he has not exactly become an avid follower of Rangers in his retirement – he is only really bothered when it comes to one game in particular.

"The only time I really support Rangers is when they play Celtic. The big one," he added. "Jason [his son] is a Celtic fan.

"I love phoning him up when Rangers have beaten them. The funny thing is that the one team I always look for on Saturday night is Queen's Park, my first club.

"I had a great learning experience as a 16-year-old lad playing for them. People think it's an amateur team but you had to be tough to play for Queen's Park. That was a great foundation for me."

Tottenham's Jose Mourinho gamble has not paid off and once again Spurs find themselves at a crossroads with their next managerial appointment.

Installing Mourinho as boss, even with his astounding list of achievements, appeared a slightly bemusing decision considering the complete contrast between his pragmatic style and the more high-intensity football played by predecessor Mauricio Pochettino.

There were plenty of signs of promise, not least the 6-1 hammering of Mourinho's former employers Manchester United at Old Trafford in the infancy of a Premier League campaign that offered early promise of a title tilt.

But a run to the EFL Cup final has not done enough to assuage Spurs' hierarchy, who have decided to pull the trigger after a slump in form has left Tottenham seventh in the table, out of the Europa League and in serious jeopardy of missing out on Champions League football again.

So, 17 months after his appointment, Mourinho has been sacked. Here, we look at the potential candidates to replace the Portuguese.

JULIAN NAGELSMANN

Is there a more in-demand young coach in world football than RB Leipzig boss Julian Nagelsmann right now? Hansi Flick dropped a huge bombshell on the world of football when he announced on Saturday that he intends to leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season, with the German national team likely to be his next venture. Nagelsmann is thought to be Bayern's top target but reports in Germany suggest Leipzig will attempt to resist such a move, given it would considerably strengthen a rival. The 33-year-old has long-been linked to Tottenham, and the decision to wield the axe on Mourinho may have been prompted by Flick's announcement and the need to act fast to land a top target.

BRENDAN RODGERS

Another man whose name has been heavily linked with Tottenham is Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers, one of the most revered coaches in the Premier League. After falling agonisingly short of leading Liverpool to the Premier League title in the 2013-14 campaign, Rodgers departed Anfield in October 2015 and went on to enjoy an excellent period of success at Celtic. He has since turned Leicester into Champions League contenders over the past two seasons, playing an exciting brand of football at the same time. A potential stumbling block may be the fact his contract runs until 2025 but many believe Daniel Levy sees Rodgers as the man to lead Tottenham.

MASSIMILIANO ALLEGRI

Massimiliano Allegri is a name that crops up pretty much any time a vacancy becomes available at a big club across Europe, and it is not hard to see why. The Italian won five straight Serie A titles with Juventus, also lifting the Coppa Italia on four occasions during that golden period. With a top-flight title to his name during his time at Milan also on his resume, Allegri has proven to be a serial winner in the past. With the 53-year-old out of work, Allegri would provide a cheaper solution than others. His compatriot Maurizio Sarri, a Europa League winner with Chelsea, has also been touted – he too led Juventus to Serie A glory before being replaced by Andrea Pirlo ahead of the 2020-21 campaign.

LEDLEY KING/RYAN MASON

It seems unlikely, but Spurs may decide to appoint from within. One option would be to instil former captain Ledley King, who made 268 Premier League appearances for Tottenham. Upon his retirement, King took up an ambassadorial role at the club and was appointed to Mourinho's coaching staff as first team assistant last August. Another who provides an internal option is Ryan Mason, who has been asked to take first-team training. The former England midfielder was forced to retire at the age of 26 after fracturing his skull and has been working in Tottenham's academy coaching set up.

GERRARD, BENITEZ AND OTHER OUTSIDERS

Even the best laid plans can go to waste and should luring Nagelsmann or Rodgers not come to fruition, several other interesting candidates have been mooted. Chief among them is Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard, who has cut his managerial teeth at Rangers and ended Celtic's dominance in Scotland by leading the club to Scottish Premiership glory this season, while a 2-0 win over their Old Firm rivals on Sunday kept them in the hunt for Scottish Cup glory. Rafael Benitez, the man who Gerrard lifted the Champions League under at Liverpool, is another interesting name said to be in the running. The Spaniard has plenty of experience in England having managed the Reds, Chelsea and Newcastle United and is out of work having left Chinese side Dalian Professional back in January. Fulham boss Scott Parker, a former Tottenham midfielder, and ex-Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe have also been suggested as potential alternatives.

Alfredo Morelos finally broke his Old Firm duck, netting to give freshly crowned Scottish Premiership champions Rangers a 1-1 draw at Celtic.

Steven Gerrard's side dropped points for only the fifth time this season after Mohamed Elyounoussi put Celtic ahead, but Rangers remain undefeated in their top-flight campaign.

The usual hostilities were put aside during a show of pre-match unity from both teams, in response to Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara being allegedly subjected to racist abuse during their midweek Europa League defeat to Slavia Prague.

However, Morelos customarily ensured some of the old devilment remained when he scored in the league derby at the 13th time of asking – holding up 10 fingers in celebration to mock Celtic failing to a win a record-breaking 10th consecutive title this season.

Celtic, playing under caretaker manager John Kennedy, deserved their 23rd-minute breakthrough.

Callum McGregor slid a pass in behind Rangers right-back Leon Balogun and Odsonne Edouard's superb left-footed cross was matched by Elyounoussi's full-length diving header.

Edouard tormented Balogun and the rest of the Rangers defence at times, although referee Willie Collum adjudged him to have dived under a sprawling challenge from Borna Barisic and dished out a yellow card before the half hour.

Rangers were level in the 38th minute – Balogun atoning for his part in the opener by rising highest to meet Barisic's corner and leaving Morelos with the formality of nodding home unmarked at the far post.

That sparked a flurry of activity at both ends before half-time as Allan McGregor recovered to retrieve an Edouard effort that squirmed through his legs, before opposite number Scott Bain in the Celtic goal kept out a sublime Ryan Kent volley.

The champions continued to look vulnerable to set-pieces, with Elyounoussi and Stephen Welsh going close either side of the interval.

McGregor was equal to an Edouard long-ranger and then thwarted David Turnbull in the 72nd minute after the midfielder was played in by Ryan Christie.

Unsurprisingly, Edouard reacted quicker than any Rangers player to the resulting corner, but Gerrard's men kept their unbeaten league record intact.

Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara has demanded UEFA shows it is serious about banishing racism after he reported receiving "vile" abuse from Slavia Prague's Ondrej Kudela.

Kamara claimed he was targeted by Kudela during Rangers' Europa League defeat to Slavia on Thursday.

The Czech club have strenuously denied the allegations and issued a statement on Friday defending Kudela.

Kudela, who covered his mouth with his hand, leaned in to Kamara and said something which sparked fury from the Rangers man and his team-mate Bongani Zungu.

Rangers manager Steven Gerrard spoke to his Slavia counterpart Jindrich Trpisovsky on the pitch at full-time and then later on the touchline, along with officials from each club and tournament organisers UEFA.

Gerrard later insisted he stood by Kamara, and UEFA has said it will investigate incidents from the game. Kamara issued his personal recollection of events through his solicitor on Friday evening.

"There is no place for racism or any form of bigotry in football," Kamara said in his statement, which he published on his Twitter account.

"Since summer many of us have taken the knee in solidarity with those who have lost their lives to racial violence. If UEFA genuinely want to 'show racism the red card', then it's time to stop the tokenism and take a zero-tolerance approach.

"As a player I do not expect myself, nor any other to have to tolerate racial hatred on or off the pitch in 2021. The vile racist abuse by Ondrej Kedel [sic], took place on the international stage, and any failure to act by UEFA will be viewed as a green light for racism.

"During yesterday's match with Slavia Prague, Kedel (sic) was arguing with a Rangers player and after I tried to intervene, he told me to shut up and then said 'one second, my friend'.

"He then came over to me covering his mouth, leaning into my ear, he uttered the words – 'You're a f****** monkey, you know you are'.

"I was shocked and horrified to hear such racist abuse from a professional football player. Kedel's claim he simply swore at me and said 'You're a f****** guy' is a complete utter lie which does not stand up to any form of scrutiny.

"Kedel's actions were deliberate and premeditated, but he was loud enough for my team-mate Bongani Zungu to hear what was said."

Kamara went on to thank Gerrard and the club, as well as Rangers' fanbase, while also highlighting that Kemar Roofe – who was sent off for a high lunge on Slavia goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar – had received racist abuse on Instagram.

On Friday it was confirmed Kolar had suffered a frontal sinus fracture.

Slavia said they have made a criminal complaint since the match, after alleging Kamara "physically abused" Kudela in the presence of officials from UEFA and both clubs.

They defended Kudela as "a football gentleman", and reiterated the centre-back refuted the racism allegations against him.

Slavia Prague have denied Rangers' claims that Glen Kamara received racial abuse from Ondrej Kudela during an ill-tempered Europa League clash on Thursday.

Scottish champions Rangers lost 2-0 at Ibrox – their first home defeat of the season – to seal a 3-1 aggregate defeat in the round-of-16 tie.

Yet Slavia's victory was marred by a late incident in which Kudela, who covered his mouth with his hand, seemingly said something that aggravated Kamara and his team-mate Joe Aribo, who was stood nearby.

The flashpoint escalated into a tussle between both teams, with a long stoppage following before play resumed.

Steven Gerrard spoke to his counterpart Jindrich Trpisovsky on the pitch at full-time and then later on the touchline, along with officials from each club and UEFA.

In his post-match news conference, Gerrard subsequently confirmed that Kamara alleged to have been racially abused by Kudela, asking UEFA to take swift action.

Slavia firmly denied the allegations and reported their player had been attacked following the game, saying police were called.

The Czech club have now reiterated that stance, insisting they stand against any form of prejudice, while backing Kudela's character.

Slavia also pointed out incidents within the match that saw both Kemar Roofe and Leon Balogun sent off for Rangers.

Roofe saw red for a high boot into the face of goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar, who had to be replaced and on Friday morning was confirmed to have suffered a frontal sinus fracture.

"The firm commitment to fight racism, xenophobia and all forms of hatred is one of the pillars of Slavia football policy," a club statement read.

"Any form of racial discrimination is contrary to our values and principles and we shall never tolerate such conduct.

"We are a club where all enjoy fair chance regardless of their race, colour, religion or beliefs. The modern Slavia is a fully multicultural team and even our hardcore fans wear jerseys of all players without exceptions.

"The second leg of the round of 16 of the Europa League between Slavia and Rangers was supposed to be a celebration of football as such. Our players faced excessively heavy-handed behaviour instead.

"Rangers injured Slavia goalkeeper Ondrej Kolar with a reckless tackle and other players were lucky not to be injured. Anyone who watched the game has surely formed their own opinion.

"Ondrej Kudela is one of the team captains elected in secret polls by the players who choose characters that enjoy their trust.

"He is a decent and modest person with a strong moral integrity, popular amongst the players and fans, a football gentleman. He categorically denies and refutes any allegations of racism.

"We are shocked that his reputation and the club's reputation are being smeared without a single piece of evidence. The only 'alleged' evidence is the player covering his mouth – which Ondrej does on a regular basis when he talks to his team-mates during our games."

Slavia went on to detail that Kudela had been "physically abused" by Kamara, and the club are considering filing a criminal complaint.

"Under the patronage and in the presence of the UEFA delegation, the coaches of both teams, Ondrej Kudela and Glen Kamara met," the statement continued.

"After the arrival of Slavia representatives, Ondrej was physically abused by the player of Rangers who then fled into the locker rooms followed by the manager Steven Gerrard without a single word of apology.

"The incident is thoroughly described in the match protocol and Slavia will consider filing a criminal complaint after their return to the Czech Republic.

"The movement of Slavia players and management was unprecedentedly restricted after the game. The players and staff were protected by the Czech Embassy in London and local police. We would like to express our gratitude for their professionalism."

Slavia concluded by demanding a full investigation from UEFA.

Steven Gerrard backed Glen Kamara "100 per cent" after the Rangers midfielder alleged he was racially abused during Thursday's Europa League clash with Slavia Prague.

Freshly crowned Scottish champions Rangers slipped out of Europe with a 2-0 defeat at Ibrox – their first home loss of the season – sealing a 3-1 aggregate reverse.

Rangers had Kemar Roofe and Leon Balogun sent off in an ill-tempered contest which culminated in a fracas between both sets of players late on.

The uproar followed on from an incident between Kamara and Slavia defender Ondrej Kudela, who covered his mouth and leaned towards the Rangers man before appearing to say something which sparked fury from both Kamara and his nearby team-mate Joe Aribo.

Rangers' stand-in captain Connor Goldson subsequently confronted Kudela and the referee Orel Grinfeld, who issued the pair a booking each. After a lengthy stoppage, the game continued, with Gerrard then speaking to his counterpart Jindrich Trpisovsky on the pitch at full-time.

Gerrard and Trpisovsky, along with officials from each club and UEFA, were involved in what appeared to be a heated debate on the touchline some time after the final whistle.

Slavia later firmly denied Kudela had been involved in any incident of racist abuse and reported their player had been attacked following the game, saying police were called.

In his post-match news conference, Gerrard confirmed Kamara claimed to have been racially abused, and the Liverpool legend called on UEFA to act decisively.

"You build relationships in football and I've built a very strong relationship with Glen Kamara," Gerrard said.

"Glen Kamara, to me, is one of my own, like many others, like all of them in that dressing room. I 100 per cent believe him, what he's saying, in terms of the accusation.

"Other players around it heard it, so I will stand toe-to-toe with Glen Kamara and I will deal with this however Glen Kamara wants to deal with it.

"It's up to UEFA, now, and I just hope it doesn't get brushed under the carpet. I feel angry, now. It's difficult to describe how I feel because I know Glen, I trust him 100 per cent. It's extremely disappointing."

Slavia chairman Jaroslav Tvrdik responded to the allegations with a strenuous denial of any racism from the visiting team.

Tvrdik wrote on Twitter: "Slavia categorically opposes the fact that the player Ondrej Kudela racially insulted the opponent's player in any way."

He added: "It shocks us that our player was physically attacked after the match. At the request of Slavia, the case was resolved by the local police. We would like to see a detailed investigation of the whole situation by UEFA."

Tvrdik defended Kudela's character, saying: "I'm sure I don't know a more decent and modest person than Ondra."

Steven Gerrard famously never won the Premier League as a player with his beloved Liverpool but he is delighted to have led Rangers to Scottish Premiership glory.

Gerrard came agonisingly close to top-flight success with the Reds, most memorably in the 2013-14 season when his slip against Chelsea proved costly for Brendan Rodgers' charges.

Liverpool ended their 30-year title drought last season, six years after Gerrard called time on his long and distinguished Anfield career, and their former captain has enjoyed a stellar campaign at the Gers helm this term.

The Ibrox club wrapped up their first title since 2011 at the weekend, denying bitter rivals Celtic a 10th championship in a row in Gerrard's third season in charge.

Despite his failure to clinch the top prize in England, Gerrard's playing career yielded domestic trophy triumphs in the FA Cup and EFL Cup, while he also led the way in Liverpool's Istanbul revival to secure the Champions League trophy in 2004-05.

The 40-year-old found it hard to compare those achievements with the feat of guiding Rangers to the title.

"To be honest with you, I haven't really had time to reflect to think about the last two or three days and compare it to other achievements in my career," he said.

"I don't think it's fair to compare achievements. What I achieved as a player was fantastic, of course it was, but I'm on a different journey, I'm on a different career path, I'm at a different club.

"It's not really about me, from a personal point of view. Me making up for highs or lows or comparing stuff. It's about Rangers, it's about achieving our first massive goal together. It's all about the players and the supporters for me.

"In this position, I'm extremely proud of both. First and foremost the player for doing the majority of the job and doing it in style, but also the backing we've had since the first day I came in has been incredible as well."

Rangers are still vying for further silverware in the Scottish Cup and Europe League, but Gerrard conceded he would have to make allowances for his players to enjoy their success.

"Obviously the size of the achievement and the emotions that came with that, I think the players deserve to celebrate," he said.

"They've worked ever so hard during this journey, sacrificed a lot, put a tremendous amount of effort in to get this done and get this over the line.

"We also as a group have had some criticism along the way and we've been down at times along the way as well, so when you finally get this over the line the feeling is difficult to describe."

Next up is Thursday's first-leg Europa League showdown with Slavia Prague in the round of 16.

Rangers have been crowned Scottish Premiership champions for the first time in a decade after Celtic slipped up at Dundee United on Sunday.  

Steven Gerrard's side had moved to the brink of glory on Saturday, a 3-0 home win over St Mirren leaving them needing just one more point to get over the line – provided Celtic triumphed at Tannadice less than 24 hours later.  

However, with their Old Firm rivals only able to draw 0-0 on the road, Rangers were able to celebrate a first top-flight title in Scotland since the 2010-11 season, in the process ending Celtic's run of success in the competition.  

Securing the league also gives Gerrard the first trophy of his managerial career in his third season in charge at Ibrox. They had finished second in the previous campaigns under the former England international, as well as losing the 2020 League Cup final. 

Gerrard said after the victory over St Mirren that the club had been "to hell and back over the past 10 years", having been forced to start afresh in the fourth tier of Scottish football following major financial problems, including liquidation. 

The Gers eventually completed the journey back to the Premiership in 2016, though had been unable to end the dominance of their Glasgow neighbours in recent years.   

Celtic were bidding to win a 10th consecutive league crown this term, a feat neither club had previously managed to achieve. However, while the defending champions have stuttered, eventually leading to the departure of Neil Lennon, Gerrard's Rangers have dominated. 

They are yet to lose a league game in the 2020-21 season, recording 28 wins and four draws in 32 outings so far, meaning an average of 2.8 points per game.  

A total of 77 goals averages out at 2.4 per game. Full-back James Tavernier – the team's penalty taker – is leading scorer with 11, but forwards Kemar Roofe (10) and Alfredo Morelos (10) have also reached double figures.  

However, it is an outstanding defensive record that has underpinned their charge: Rangers have conceded just nine goals, which works out at a ridiculously low 0.3 per outing.   

The clean sheet against St Mirren was their 24th in the league, while they have not committed a defensive error that has led to an opposing team scoring so far, per Opta data.  

Rangers have scored first in 28 of their 32 league outings and only once have they failed to triumph after breaking the deadlock, while just four points have been dropped all season from a winning position. 

There remains the possibility of further silverware before the season is over, too. Rangers are still in the Europa League, with Slavia Prague their opponents in the last 16. 

Jurgen Klopp out, Steven Gerrard in?

Klopp ended Liverpool's 30-year wait for league glory last season, but the German manager could be set for a return to his homeland.

His exit could see Gerrard return to Merseyside.

 

TOP STORY – GERRARD TO REPLACE KLOPP IN LIVERPOOL RETURN

Steven Gerrard may soon return to Anfield but as manager to replace Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, according to The Mirror.

Liverpool reportedly expect Klopp to take up an opportunity with Germany in the near future amid doubts over long-time head coach Joachim Low.

As a result, Liverpool legend Gerrard has been sounded out as he has Rangers on a cusp of a drought-breaking league title in Scotland.

Gerrard, who made more than 700 appearances for Liverpool, took control of Rangers in 2018.

 

ROUND-UP

- Erling Haaland seems to be on every club's wish list but the Mirror reports Manchester City have joined the queue for the Borussia Dortmund star. City manager Pep Guardiola and Haaland's agent Mina Raiola have a testy relationship but the Premier League leaders will press ahead with an alleged £100million (€115m) deal. English pair Chelsea and Manchester United are also reportedly interested along with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Fabrizio Romano says Chelsea want to keep veteran defender Thiago Silva beyond the 2020-21 season. Chelsea signed Silva on a free transfer following his PSG exit.

- LaLiga giants Barcelona are in the market for a young defender and have set their sights on Inter's 21-year-old Alessandro Bastoni, according to Calciomercato.

Arsenal are in the hunt for Wigan Athletic sensation Kyle Joseph, with the teenager scoring five goals in 14 appearances. The Mirror claims the Gunners have joined Celtic and Rangers in their interest in the London-born Scotland youth international whose current contract expires in June.

Liverpool and rivals United are eyeing Leicester City's Harvey Barnes, reports the Mirror. The 23-year-old has established himself as a key player for the Foxes.

- Eric Bailly is in talks with United over a new long-term contract, claims The Sun. The 26-year-old defender, who has been plagued by injuries at Old Trafford, is out of contract in 2022. It comes amid United's reported interest in Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Ibrahima Konate of RB Leipzig and Brighton and Hove Albion star Ben White.

Steven Gerrard praised the "quality and character" of his Rangers side after they scored a couple of late goals to edge a 4-3 thriller with Royal Antwerp in their Europa League last-32 first leg.

The Scottish Premiership leaders trailed 2-1 and 3-2 at Bosuilstadion but won the seven-goal classic through substitute Ryan Kent's strike and a second Borna Barisic penalty in the final seven minutes.

Rangers, who lost captain James Tavernier and attacker Kemar Roofe to injury in the first half, are now unbeaten in all seven matches in this season's competition proper and have tasted defeat just once in their last 40 games overall.

And while Gerrard admitted to being concerned about the poor defending on show - the Gers conceding as many goals in Thursday's match as in their last 11 matches combined - he was pleased with the way his side dug deep to pick up the win.

"I am just waiting for the heart rate to come down," he said. "It was a fantastic game. I am sure all the neutrals enjoyed it. But from a manager's point of view there is certainly a lot to analyse.

"Obviously, defensively we haven't been at it tonight, we haven't been at our very best. We have conceded three goals and that is the second time at this level that we have done that. That tells me we have a lot of work to do in terms of our organisation.

"But it is very difficult to win away from home in Europe. Experience of Scottish teams going out in Europe tells me that.

"It is very difficult to win at this level way from home. I have got to give the boys credit for winning the game. I thought we were much better in the second half."

Felipe Avenatti's header and a contentious Lior Refaelov penalty late in the first half gave Antwerp, competing in their first European knockout tie since 1994-95, the lead after Joe Aribo had opened the scoring.

Barisic was making his 100th appearance for Rangers and levelled up with the first of his two penalties, before Martin Hongla found the bottom-left corner with a deflected shot to put the visitors back in front.

But substitute Kent, who was not deemed fit enough to start the game, scored a third away goal for the Gers and Barisic converted from a last-minute penalty awarded for handball against Abdoulaye Seck, who was red carded as a result.

"I said to them at half-time not to panic," Gerrard added. "We were 2-1 down, but even if the game stayed at 2-1 it wasn't the end of the world, because we had got the away goal.

"I had seen enough in the first 45 minutes to tell me we could cause this team problems.

"Obviously, the injury didn't help us when it happened. I thought we lost a bit of our rhythm at the time. But I always knew I had quality on the bench to add to it. I thought Ryan showed his freshness coming on. 

"He scored a wonderful goal. Over the course of the 90 minutes we deserved to win the game. We could have scored a few more goals. It's a crazy football match to analyse just now because it has only just finished.

"But it shows we have got quality and character in our team."

Rangers are now the favourites to progress from next week's second leg at Ibrox as they aim to reach the last 16 of the competition in successive seasons.

However, they may be without Tavernier - arguably their key man - and Roofe after both players limped off in the first half.

Providing an update on the pair after the game, Gerrard told BT Sport: "Kemar's got another calf so that's a concern. He's getting too many of those calves at the moment so we're going to have to look into that and maybe get him to see the right people.

"He's very down and frustrated at the moment so that's a blow for us. Obviously James going off as well - he never goes off the pitch so that worries me a bit as well.

"We'll look at both situations, analyse them over the next couple of days and hopefully they're not as bad as first feared."

Steven Gerrard was "gutted" to see Chelsea sack Frank Lampard and has hit out at the Blues for not giving their managers time.

During their playing careers, Rangers boss Gerrard was a team-mate of Lampard for England as well as a Premier League rival as the two battled it out with Liverpool and Chelsea.

He felt Chelsea had the opportunity to be different this time by offering their former star player support during a difficult period, the Blues having slumped to ninth in the table.

But ultimately Gerrard was not surprised to see owner Roman Abramovich wield the axe on Monday.

"I did think it was an opportunity for Chelsea to really reach out and support him during this tough period rather than do what they have done," Gerrard said when asked about Lampard's sacking.

"But Chelsea have got history for that so it was no surprise."

Gerrard believes Lampard, who was previously in charge of Championship outfit Derby County, will make a prompt return to management.

He added: "Obviously I'm gutted for Frank, he's an ex-team-mate of mine, someone I respect greatly.

"But knowing the guy, he will be back in no time. He will dust himself down and get back involved. 

"He will use this time to spend with his family. He's obviously got a young family and one on the way.

"I'm disappointed for him. I thought it was a very swift exit on the back of a positive result at the weekend [a 3-1 FA Cup win over Luton Town on Sunday].

"But I don't know the details. I don't know how it's been for him, I don't know the relationships that he's had inside the club."

Former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel is poised to replace Lampard at Stamford Bridge.

Gerrard, meanwhile, is closing in on a first Scottish Premiership title and has also led Rangers into the Europa League knockout stages.

Jose Enrique expects Liverpool great Steven Gerrard to manage the Reds one day but suggests it would be a tough ask to replace Jurgen Klopp.

Gerrard, who played alongside Jose Enrique at Anfield, is making impressive initial strides in his coaching career, leading Rangers to the top of the Scottish Premiership, on course to end Celtic's dominance of the division.

But having won nine trophies with his boyhood club as a player, including the Champions League, a return to Liverpool has long been mooted.

The Reds are reigning Premier League champions under Klopp and in a title race again this year, trailing rivals Manchester United by three points at the summit ahead of the sides' clash on Sunday.

So, while Jose Enrique anticipates Gerrard will take the helm, he sees no swift appointment and predicts succeeding Klopp will be difficult.

"Definitely, he will be [manager]," the former left-back told Stats Perform News. "I believe everyone knows that. I'm not sure when.

"But that's always different; I'm talking to you in an interview, but many Liverpool fans have this question.

"I always say, 'Listen, enjoy Klopp first, because we have so much good with him'. But Steven will become manager.

"I'm not sure, to be honest, if it's the best decision to be after Klopp. I'm not sure about that.

"Because anyone who is after Klopp is going to have the pressure that we saw with United and Sir Alex Ferguson, and Sir Alex Ferguson was for a longer time with more titles. That's true.

"Klopp, we don't know when he's going to retire from Liverpool and hopefully with many more titles, so going after someone like that, even if you're Steven Gerrard, is not easy.

"But it's true he is already doing really well in a big team in Scotland, because Celtic have been the king in Scotland for a really long time, but he's taken over now and is probably going to win the league. In Europe, he's doing well as well.

"So, from what I know – and I don't know him as a manager but as a man – I'm sure the players will be really happy with him and he was a great captain.

"It is a different role, but I'm sure he would have that inside him to be the manager and captain at the same time for the team, and you are seeing that at Rangers.

"He doesn't care, he will put the best to play and he will be the manager in the future."

Steven Gerrard felt Rangers had made a statement with their 1-0 win over rivals Celtic, but insisted they were not looking at their 19-point lead atop the Scottish Premiership. 

Rangers took a huge step towards winning the league, an achievement which would deny Celtic 10 in a row, with a narrow triumph at Ibrox on Saturday. 

Callum McGregor's second-half own goal, shortly after Nir Bitton had been sent off for a foul on Alfredo Morelos, meant Gerrard's men triumphed despite not registering a shot on target. 

They also won 2-0 at Celtic Park in October and have won three straight derbies dating back to last season, their best run since 2008 when Walter Smith was in charge. 

While 19 points is a formidable advantage, Gerrard is not taking anything for granted, with Celtic holding three games in hand. 

"We don't look at the 19-point lead, we look at our next game against Aberdeen," Gerrard said to Sky Sports. 

"There are three points available there and 48 still to play for, so still a lot of challenges, a lot of obstacles to get over. We don't look at leads and our season starts now. 

"But today was big in terms of making a statement and proving we can win our second derby out of two."

Celtic were on top until Bitton saw red, with Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor making three important first-half saves, most notably tipping a 25-yard Leigh Griffiths strike onto the post. 

Asked about McGregor's performance, Gerrard said: "Wow - outstanding. He is a world-class goalkeeper. 

"Good decision [making him man of the match]. The couple of saves he made kept us in the match. He is outstanding, reliable and trustworthy.  

"I knew already but I now know even more why he has been so successful at this club because he has bailed us out again." 

Former Liverpool captain Gerrard was not overly worried by Rangers' performance, adding: "First half we were not good enough, we were not ourselves and second best in a lot of areas. 

"There was a massive improvement in the second half, then obviously the sending off is a big, major incident in the game and it looked like only one team would win it from there. 

"Credit to Celtic - they played really well in the first half, but we were outstanding in the cup final for 90 minutes not too long ago and got nothing for it. It is about the end result. 

"You are not always going to be pretty on the eye and able to show your style. It is about the outcome. It was all about the three points, especially at this stage of the season. 

"It is another big three points and another clean sheet, so really proud of the team in terms of their efforts. We stretch our lead, remain humble and move on to Aberdeen."

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