Marco Asensio was delighted his hard work paid off as he made a stunning return from injury in Real Madrid's 3-0 win over Valencia.

Making his comeback from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), Asensio scored seconds after coming on and then set up Karim Benzema's sealer at the Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Thursday.

Asensio, 24, was pleased to be back, with the appearance his first competitive club outing since May last year.

"I really wanted to return. It has been many months of hard work," the midfielder told Movistar.

"I am very happy to play, to score and for the team's victory."

On his goal, Asensio added: "A lot of excitement and satisfaction, because there is a lot of work behind this. I am in the final stretch of the season."

Asensio also set up Benzema for the striker to complete his brace, the Frenchman's first touch setting up a spectacular volleyed finish.

Spain international Asensio lauded Benzema, who became Madrid's fifth all-time top goalscorer with 243, surpassing Ferenc Puskas (242).

"It was a great goal. He has made a great control and in general we have made a great match," he said.

Madrid's win saw them climb back to within two points of rivals and leaders Barcelona with nine games left to play.

"We have nine finals left that we have to win," Asensio said.

"We are now focusing on the Real Sociedad match [on Sunday], which is the objective we have in mind."

Marco Asensio marked his long-awaited return by scoring with his first touch and Karim Benzema netted twice as Real Madrid cruised to a 3-0 win over Valencia on Thursday.

The Spain international has not kicked a ball in anger this season after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament injury last July and only regained fitness during LaLiga's suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Asensio made up for lost time by showing sublime technique to double Madrid's lead in the second half of the contest at Madrid Castilla's Alfredo Di Stefano stadium.

Karim Benzema had opened the scoring from a wonderful team move just after the hour and rounded things off with a stunning second as Zinedine Zidane's men deservedly earned a win that moves them back to within two points of leaders Barcelona, with Valencia's disappointment compounded by a late red card for Lee Kang-in.

Toni Kroos and Eden Hazard had squandered presentable early chances when teed up by Benzema, the latter shooting straight at Jasper Cillessen when one-on-one.

Rodrigo Moreno almost made Madrid pay but his shot across goal was brilliantly tipped onto the left-hand post by Thibaut Courtois.

Rodrigo slotted home after 21 minutes, only for VAR spot an offside against Maxi Gomez, who deflected Carlos Soler's pass into his team-mate's path.

Both goalkeepers were busy again before the break, Cillessen denying Dani Carvajal after a jinking run and Courtois parrying away Geoffrey Kondogbia's long-range effort.

Madrid were completely in control after the restart, though it took until the 61st minute for the breakthrough to arrive.

Hazard picked up the ball on the left of the area and played a wonderful one-two with Luka Modric before teeing up Benzema, who arrowed his strike into the bottom-left corner.

Modric, who grew in influence after a quiet first half, brought the best out of Cillessen again with a long-range drive but there was nothing the keeper could about Asensio's goal.

Ferland Mendy fired a cross in from the left and Asensio sensationally guided home a first-time volley into the right-hand side of the goal.

Not to be outdone, Benzema put the cherry atop the cake with a delightful effort, lifting the ball over Hugo Guillamon before rifling a volley past a helpless Cillessen, with Valencia's misery compounded when Lee was sent off late on for kicking Sergio Ramos.

Zinedine ZIdane has no issues with adapting to the new, condensed Champions League format to take place in August, should Real Madrid progress past Manchester City.

Madrid were defeated 2-1 by City at Santiago Bernabeu in the first leg of their last-16 tie in February, before football across Europe was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Matches in Europe's top leagues – bar France, with the Ligue 1 season having been cancelled – is now returning, with the Bundesliga having restarted in May and the Premier League, Serie A and LaLiga also returning to action this month.

On Wednesday, UEFA officially confirmed the Champions League campaign would be concluded with an eight-team competition to be held in Lisbon in August.

Quarter-final matches will take place from August 12-15, with the semi-finals on August 18 and 19 before the final at Estadio da Luz on August 23. The outstanding last-16 fixtures – including Madrid's tie with City – are to be held on August 7-8, though it is yet to be decided where these games will take place.

And Zidane believes the solution proposed by UEFA is the best way to complete this season's competition.

"We are living a special moment and everything will be special," Zidane told a news conference ahead of Madrid's LaLiga clash with Valencia.

"We know the format, how it will be, but we still do not know where we will play the return leg against City.

"We will adapt. If it has to be in Lisbon or Manchester, we will play. First we are going to try to progress against City.

"The important thing is to play again and we are happy, but this formula for the Champions does not seem bad to me.

"I like it. It's okay to decide everything in the same place."

Madrid resumed their LaLiga campaign with a 3-1 defeat of Eibar on Sunday, though Zidane acknowledged there was plenty of room for improvement.

However, Zidane does not believe Madrid have an issue upping their game against the lesser sides in LaLiga.

"We had a game where we started very well, we scored two or three goals in half an hour," he added.

"We found it difficult afterwards to maintain throughout the game, which is what happened against Eibar. 

"This is a very difficult league. I have emotions and I can be a bit upset when things don't go well, but we scored three goals and we played with intensity."

Kai Havertz leaving the Bundesliga for the Premier League has emerged as a strong possibility.

Chelsea and Manchester United are reportedly vying for the Bayer Leverkusen attacker's signature.

However, Bayern Munich could keep the Germany international in his homeland.

 

TOP STORY – BAYERN IN POLE POSITION FOR HAVERTZ

Bayern Munich are favourites to sign Bayer Leverkusen star Kai Havertz, according to the Telegraph.

The race is heating up for Havertz, who has been heavily linked to Premier League trio Chelsea, Manchester United and Liverpool.

Real Madrid are also reportedly interested but Bundesliga champions Bayern are in pole position to bring the Germany international to Bavaria as they also look to sign Manchester City's Leroy Sane.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato says Milan are determined to lure Madrid forward Luka Jovic to San Siro. The Serbia international has struggled since swapping Eintracht Frankfurt for Madrid at the start of the season. Madrid want between €45 and €50million for Jovic and the report claims Milan could look to sell Rade Krunic, Lucas Paqueta, Andre Silva, Suso and Mateo Musacchio to raise funds.

- The front page of Tuesday's Diario AS claims Bayern will offer Achraf Hakimi a "galactic" salary to prise the Morocco international from Madrid. The full-back has spent the past two seasons on loan at Borussia Dortmund.

United are leading the chase for Watford defender Pervis Estupinan amid interest from Tottenham, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, according to the Express. The Ecuadorian is on loan from Osasuna.

Juventus and Barcelona have entered the chase for Lazio star Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, reports Corriere dello Sport. Milinkovic-Savic has been heavily linked to Paris Saint-Germain, as well as United.

- Sport says Pedro's proposed move from Chelsea to Roma has collapsed amid an internal fallout in the Italian capital. The veteran forward has now been offered to Valencia.

Chelsea will finalise a deal to sign RB Leipzig and Germany forward Timo Werner this week, the Evening Standard claims. Liverpool and United were also eyeing Werner.

- Sport Bild journalist Christian Falk reports PSG are interested in signing Bayern's Lucas Hernandez to replace departing defender Thiago Silva. PSG will not renew Silva's contract in the French capital.

- Falk also says Dortmund have not received any official offers for star Jadon Sancho, who has been linked to United, City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Madrid and Barca.

Manchester City and Bayern Munich are seemingly a long way apart when it comes to Leroy Sane.

Sane has been heavily linked with a move to the Bundesliga giants, although it seems City's valuation of the attacker is proving problematic for Bayern.

And, they are reportedly not getting much closer to a deal for the Germany international.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY, BAYERN STILL FAR APART OVER SANE

Manchester City are remaining tough with Bayern Munich over the transfer fee for Sane, according to Sky Sport.

Reports says City are hoping for €70million (£62.4m) for Sane, but Bayern are offering just €40m (£35.6m).

Sane, 24, left Schalke for City in 2016 and has won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two EFL Cups with the club.

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- Manchester United may be considering their options. Tuttosport reports the Premier League giants are ready to make an offer for Juventus midfielder Federico Bernardeschi if they do not land Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.

- Out of contract next year, Georginio Wijnaldum's Liverpool future has been questioned. However, The Guardian reports the Premier League leaders held positive talks with the midfielder and hope to extend the Netherlands international's deal for at least three years.

- Sergio Ramos is set to stay at Real Madrid. AS reports the club captain has agreed a one-year extension, taking his deal through until 2022.

- With his deal expiring at season's end, Thiago Silva looks likely to leave Paris Saint-Germain. ESPN reports the defender wants to stay in Europe and play for another top club for at least two more seasons.

- Jose Callejon appears happy at Napoli. CalcioMercato reports the attacker, out of contract at the end of the campaign, would like to stay at the Serie A club for at least another year.

- Valencia attacker Ferran Torres has drawn plenty of interest. According to Radio Valencia, Napoli have spoken to the LaLiga club about the 20-year-old, who has also been linked to Real Madrid, Juventus, Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund.

Chelsea have reportedly agreed a deal for RB Leipzig star Timo Werner.

Werner, 24, has been heavily linked with a move to Liverpool after an impressive campaign with the Bundesliga club.

But their Premier League rivals are seemingly set to bring in the forward.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA AGREE £54M DEAL FOR WERNER

Chelsea have agreed a £54million (€60m) deal for RB Leipzig star Werner, according to The Sun.

The report says the Germany international is set to sign a five-year deal at Chelsea.

However, it also reports there is still a danger of Liverpool making a last-ditch bid for Werner.

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- Perhaps Paul Pogba will extend his stay at Manchester United. The Daily Mail reports the France midfielder, who has been linked with Real Madrid and Juventus, could extend his contract – which runs until 2021 – at Old Trafford if he forms a good combination with Bruno Fernandes when the Premier League season resumes.

- Having starred for Bayer Leverkusen, Kai Havertz has been linked with a move. The Manchester Evening News reports the attacker is open to a switch to Manchester United.

- On loan at Inter from Chelsea until the end of the season, Victor Moses' future is uncertain. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A club want to hold onto the 29-year-old, either by his loan being extended or with a permanent deal worth less than €12m (£10.8m).

- Could Kurt Zouma be set for a reunion with Jose Mourinho? RMC Sport reports the Chelsea and France defender could join his former manager at Tottenham this close season.

- Perhaps Zouma could arrive at Spurs as a replacement for Jan Vertonghen as the Evening Standard says the Belgium defender is expected to complete the Premier League season before leaving Tottenham on a free transfer.

- Another player coming out of contract is Pedro. The Chelsea attacker has decided to sign with Roma, according to Sport, after links to the likes of Juventus, Valencia, Sevilla and Real Betis.

The arrivals of Lautaro Martinez and Neymar at the end of the season had been the dream for Barcelona.

Forming the best attack in the world had been the idea, prising Inter's Martinez to Camp Nou and re-signing Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.

But Barca have reportedly been priced out of a deal for Neymar.

 

TOP STORY – PSG SET NEYMAR PRICE

Paris Saint-Germain want €175million in cash for Barcelona target Neymar, according to Sport.

Neymar left Barca for PSG in a world-record €222m transfer in 2017 but the Brazilian superstar continues to be linked with a Camp Nou comeback.

But Barca's hopes have been dealt a blow due to PSG's demands and coronavirus as they prioritise Inter forward Lautaro Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

- RMC Sport claims Manchester City are interested in Milan midfielder Ismael Bennacer. Pep Guardiola has reportedly talked to Bennacer about a move to the Premier League. City are also interested in Barca's Sergi Roberto, claims Mundo Deportivo.

Real Madrid are keen on signing Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, AS says. The England international has been tipped to join United, while Chelsea and Liverpool have also been linked.

- Calciomercato claims Napoli are eyeing a move for Lille forward Victor Osimhen. It comes amid uncertainty over the futures of Arkadiusz Milik and Jose Callejon. Milik has been heavily linked to Juventus, while the likes of Sevilla and Real Betis are reportedly interested in bringing former Madrid winger Callejon back to LaLiga.

Sevilla are prepared to wait until the end of the season for Barca's Ivan Rakitic, reports Mundo Deportivo. Barca are willing to sanction Rakitic's transfer and Spanish rivals Sevilla are looking to bring the Croatia international back to Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

- According to L'Equipe, injury-plagued Barca star Ousmane Dembele has no intention of leaving Camp Nou for Juve.

- ESPN says United need more cash to sign Birmingham City sensation Jude Bellingham. The 16-year-old has also been linked to Dortmund.

Fabian Ruiz is wanted by Spain's two biggest clubs – Barca and Madrid. But Mundo Deportivo says the Napoli star is moving further away from a switch to the Santiago Bernabeu due to Madrid not being able to meet the Italian club's valuation. Luka Jovic and James Rodriguez have been mentioned as possible makeweights but Napoli only want cash.

- Lille defender Gabriel has emerged as a possible replacement for Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly. Le10Sport says Napoli have identified Gabriel as well as Fiorentina pair German Pezzella and Nikola Milenkovic. Sky Sport Italia, meanwhile, says United are offering £71m (€80m) for Koulibaly but Napoli are holding out for at least £89m (€100m).

Pedro is a player in demand. The Chelsea forward is set to become a free agent and AS says Roma are the Spaniard's "priority". Juve, Sevilla, Betis and Valencia have also been credited with interest.

Atalanta owner Antonio Percassi has given his backing to head coach Gian Piero Gasperini, who was criticised by Valencia for being at a Champions League game despite suffering from coronavirus symptoms.

Gasperini revealed last week he was scared as he appeared to suffer from COVID-19 as Atalanta defeated Valencia 4-3 behind closed doors in the Champions League on March 10.

The Bergamo outfit advanced to the quarter-finals 8-4 on aggregate at Mestalla, although the competition has since been suspended due to the virus.

Valencia expressed "surprise" at Gasperini's comments, suggesting his actions "put at risk numerous people" in the city.

However, Percassi does not wish to drag the saga out, insisting he and Gasperini followed the rules and are moving forward.

"I am with Gasperini and the players. I am looking ahead," he told L'Eco di Bergamo.

"The controls say that, like Atalanta with our members, we did everything in compliance with the rules and with the utmost prudence.

"This is fundamental for us. We are in Bergamo."

With the Champions League reportedly set to resume in August, Atalanta will first return to Serie A action on June 21 as they look to secure qualification for Europe's elite club competition for next season.

La Dea are fourth, three points clear of fifth-placed Roma with a game in hand.

LaLiga has confirmed the season will restart with a Seville derby on June 11 and the campaign will wrap up on July 19, it was confirmed on Sunday.

Suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, LaLiga will get back underway with a clash between Sevilla and Real Betis.

The remaining 11 matchdays will be played in less than six weeks as Barcelona and Real Madrid battle for the title.

Barca were two points clear of their bitter rivals when the season was stopped due to COVID-19, which has killed more than 373,000 people worldwide.

Quique Setien's men return to action with a trip to Real Mallorca on June 13, a day before Madrid host Eibar.

Barcelona also host Atletico Madrid on July 1 before facing rivals Espanyol in a derby clash a week later.

Barcelona's remaining fixtures
June 13: Real Mallorca (A)
June 16: Leganes (H)
June 21: Sevilla (A)
June 24: Athletic Bilbao (H)
June 28: Celta Vigo (A)
July 1: Atletico Madrid (H)
July 5: Villarreal (A)
July 8: Espanyol (H)
July 12: Real Valladolid (A)
July 15: Osasuna (H)
July 19: Deportivo Alaves (A)

Real Madrid's remaining fixtures
June 14: Eibar (H)
June 18: Valencia (H)
June 21: Real Sociedad (A)
June 24: Real Mallorca (H)
June 28: Espanyol (A)
July 1: Getafe (H)
July 5: Athletic Bilbao (A)
July 8: Deportivo Alaves (H)
July 12: Granada (A)
July 15: Villarreal (H)
July 19: Leganes (A)

Valencia expressed their "surprise" at Gian Piero Gasperini's revelation that he suffered coronavirus symptoms during the Champions League last-16 tie, insisting the Atalanta head coach put people at risk.

Gasperini revealed over the weekend he was scared while appearing to suffer from COVID-19 as Atalanta defeated Valencia 4-3 behind closed doors in the Champions League on March 10.

Atalanta advanced to the Champions League quarter-finals 8-4 on aggregate at the Mestalla before the 2019-20 football season was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In light of Gasperini's comments, LaLiga outfit Valencia released a statement, which read: "Valencia CF wish to publicly express our surprise at comments made by Atalanta coach Gian Piero Gasperini which appeared in the Italian press this Sunday, stating that, both the day before and the day of the match played on March 10th at Mestalla, the coach of our opposing team in the UEFA Champions League last-16 game was aware of suffering symptoms theoretically compatible with those of coronavirus, without taking preventive measures. Such actions, if this was the case, would have put at risk numerous people during the trip to – and stay in – Valencia.

"It should be remembered that this game was held behind closed doors amidst strict safety measures, on the order of the Spanish health authorities, to prevent the risk of COVID-19 contagion, precisely due to the presence of persons from an area already publicly classified as 'at risk' at that time."

LaLiga and Serie A have been suspended since March but the two leagues are preparing to return following the COVID-19 crisis.

The Seville derby between Sevilla and Real Betis will headline LaLiga's return on June 11 in Spain.

Italy's Serie A, meanwhile, is scheduled to restart on June 20.

After the Bundesliga's successful return, LaLiga looks to be up next among Europe's top five leagues.

Spain's top flight has been suspended since March 12 after Real Madrid went into quarantine when a player on their basketball team tested positive for coronavirus.

A resumption date of June 8 has been approved, however, and a tense title tussle is back on the cards between the country's two grandest clubs.

Ahead of the big kick-off behind closed doors, we take a look at the story so far in this LaLiga campaign.
 

What is the state of play?

Madrid have won the domestic league title in just one of the past seven seasons, yet they are poised to push Barcelona all the way this time.

It is Barca who again have the advantage for now, though, holding a two-point lead over their bitter rivals, having reclaimed top spot ahead of the suspension when Zinedine Zidane's side lost at Real Betis.

Defeat in Seville represented a bitter blow for Madrid, who seemed to have seized the initiative by beating the Blaugrana at the Santiago Bernabeu the previous week.

The big two still have work to do in the Champions League - Madrid trail Manchester City after a last-16 first leg, as Barca-Napoli stands at 1-1 - but there is no third horse in the race positioned to take advantage.

It is all to play for in the race for Champions League qualification, as just two points separate third-placed Sevilla and Atletico Madrid in sixth.

Shot-shy draw kings Atleti upset holders Liverpool to reach the quarter-finals of Europe's elite club competition, but must battle past Real Sociedad and Getafe to be assured of a return to the big time next season.

At the foot of the table, Espanyol, Leganes and Real Mallorca occupy the relegation places. Celta Vigo are a point clear of Mallorca in 17th.
 

What have been the big controversies?

Even by Barca's colourful standards, this has been a particularly tumultuous season.

Head coach Ernesto Valverde was sacked in January following a Supercopa de Espana semi-final reverse at the hands of Atletico, and sporting director Eric Abidal bravely picked a fight with the squad, including former team-mate Lionel Messi, by suggesting players were not working hard enough for the dismissed boss.

Messi fired back and claimed Abidal was "dirtying" the squad, with reports of discontent behind the scenes persisting ever since.

To make matters worse for Barca, club great Messi has a clause in his contract that could prompt a free transfer - although such a departure still seems incredibly unlikely.

Ivan Rakitic is among the Blaugrana stars who might well depart, reminding the club: "I am not a sack of potatoes. I will decide my future. I want to be where I am valued."

Sales are said to be required to fund potential big-money bids for Lautaro Martinez and ex-Barca forward Neymar.
 

Who had momentum before everything stopped?

New head coach Quique Setien was not immediately able to arrest Barca's January slump and they ceded top spot to Madrid after a run of just two wins in six in the league.

However, the Catalan giants had been a picture of consistency since the January 25 loss at Valencia - until visiting Madrid.

A run of four straight wins was ended by Zidane's men, yet Barca were back on track when they beat Sociedad prior to the pause in play.

Madrid, by contrast, have taken just four points from their past four games, with the Barca game sandwiched between a pair of defeats. Los Blancos had previously lost just once in the league this term.

The suspension came at a frustrating time for Sociedad, meanwhile, after four wins in five - losing only to the leaders - moved the Basque outfit into the top four.

Wins for Leganes and Mallorca in their most recent fixtures ensured both sides retained survival hopes.
 

Which clubs have had it toughest during the COVID-19 months?

The positive test for a Madrid basketball players may have prompted the season's suspension, but Valencia were the LaLiga club most prominent in early discussion of coronavirus.

Ezequiel Garay, Jose Gaya and Eliaquim Mangala each confirmed diagnoses, before Los Che revealed on March 16 that 35 per cent of those at the club tested had returned positive results.

Madrid still made the headlines, though, as forward Luka Jovic was criticised for breaching self-isolation measures on his return to Serbia.

Fifteen cases were soon confirmed at Deportivo Alaves, too, while Spain has become one of the worst-affected countries with more than 28,000 related deaths.

The country's leading players at least helped to limit the financial impact of the crisis with pay cuts, with Barca stars forgoing more than 70 per cent of their wages.

Former Italy and Valencia striker Marco Di Vaio sympathised with Alessandro Florenzi after the full-back riled Los Che supporters when suggesting there was "less passion" for the team than at his parent club Roma.

Florenzi, who joined Valencia on loan in January, was speaking about various subjects during an Instagram Live session earlier this week – one focus being his time at Valencia, his first non-Italian club.

He suggested there was not as much passion for the team as he experienced towards his hometown club Roma, but pointed out the players were subsequently able to enjoy more freedom.

Florenzi has already indicated he expects to return to Roma at the end of the season, with the Italian struggling to make much of an impression on the pitch at Mestalla.

Di Vaio holds fond memories of Valencia and its people following two years with the club until 2006, but he also understands why Florenzi might not appreciate it as much, such is his love for the Eternal City and Roma.

Speaking to Stats Perform, Di Vaio said: "Valencia is a beautiful city, sunny as its citizens.

"Florenzi comes from Rome and when you leave the place you love, it is always hard to appreciate where you are and what you have.

"It happened to me too and to other players I played with, despite arriving in great cities with clubs in favourable conditions.

"When you leave your heart there [where you were], you can't appreciate here [where you are]. What happened in the last six months haven't helped Florenzi to appreciate Valencia at its best.

"He went there to play enough to be at the Euros, but then when it all stopped he may have gone back home and couldn't probably appreciate the city.

"I realise it may have not been easy. But for sure, he will have noticed how warm the city, the people and the fans are and how wonderful the stadium is and how organised the club is."

Unai Emery reckons Diego Simeone has got the Atletico Madrid job for life.

Unless Simeone decides to call a halt to his Wanda Metropolitano career, Emery cannot see the club parting ways with the charismatic Argentine boss.

That factor reduces Emery's chances of getting back into coaching at the highest level in Spain, as he searches for the next calling point in a well-travelled career following spells at Paris Saint-Germain and Arsenal.

Simeone has spent over eight years in charge at Atletico, leading them to the 2013-14 LaLiga title and two Champions League finals.

Atleti have established themselves as the most consistent challengers to Real Madrid and Barcelona for the biggest prizes in Spain, which is why when Emery looks at potential landing spots in LaLiga, he finds it hard to see an opportunity coming up with the Rojiblancos.

"You go where they want you," Emery said to AS. "Now I live in Valencia to be with my son, but I'm registered in Madrid. I don't know where my next project will be, I am open to everything.

"What is clear is that Atletico have Simeone, who should be with the team until he wants to be, or his whole life, because there is no one who fits like him."

Emery first forged his reputation with successful spells in charge of Valencia and Sevilla, but the 48-year-old would not discount taking charge of either side's main city rivals, Levante and Real Betis.

"I'm a professional," Emery said. "My heart has always been with Real Sociedad, where I was for 10 years, but if Athletic [Bilbao] ever called me... I've been to Valencia, but if Levante called me... I have been to Sevilla, but if Betis called me...

"Wherever they want me and I feel recognised, I will be there, and that will be what matters."

Mario Alberto Kempes Chiodi, just known as Mario Kempes, was a good goalscorer before he cemented his name in history by leading Argentina to their first World Cup title in 1978. Kempes would score two goals in that World Cup final against the Netherlands and lead all scorers. He would become just one of three men in history to not just lift the World Cup, but also to win the Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards at the same time. The other two are also considered all-time greats, in Brazil’s Garincha and Italy’s Paolo Rossi. Kempes would also lead the LaLiga goalscoring charts on two occasions during his playing days with Valencia where he scored 95 goals in just 142 games. That kind of performance earned him the nickname El Matador. Kempes was difficult to mark because he chose to operate like the modern-day false nine, arriving from outside the box with surging runs and rangy drives.

"He's strong, he's got skill, he creates spaces and he shoots hard. He's a player who can make a difference, and he can play in a centre-forward position," said César Luis Menotti, Kempes’ 1978 coach. And his description of Kempes was spot on.     

Playing Career

Full name: Mario Alberto Kempes Chiodi

Date of birth: 15 July 1954 (age 65)

Place of birth: Bell Ville, Argentina

Height: 1.84m (6ft 0 in)

Playing position: striker

Club Career

           Years           Team                    Apps   (Gls)

  • 1970–1973 Instituto                        13     (11)
  • 1973–1976 Rosario Central            107     (85)
  • 1976–1981 Valencia                      142     (95)
  • 1981–1982 River Plate                    29      (15)
  • 1982–1984 Valencia                       42      (21)
  • 1984–1986 Hércules                       38      (10)
  • 1986–1987 First Vienna                  20        (7)
  • 1987–1990 Pölten                          96       (34)
  • 1990–1992 Kremser SC                  39        (7)
  • 1992–1993 Fernández Vial              11        (5)
  • 1993–1994 Pelita Jaya                    18       (12)

Total                                                    555    (300)

Club Honours

  • Valencia - Copa del Rey: 1978–79; UEFA Cup Winners' Cup: 1979–80; UEFA Super Cup: 1980
  • River Plate - Primera División: 1981 Nacional
  • Pelita Jaya - Galatama: 1993–94

International Career

  • 1973-1982 Argentina 43 (20)

International Honours

  • FIFA World Cup: 1978

Individual Honours

  • Argentine Primera División top scorers: 1974 Nacional, 1976 Metropolitan
  • Pichichi Trophy: 1977, 1978
  • FIFA World Cup Golden Boot: 1978
  • FIFA World Cup Golden Ball: 1978
  • FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 1978
  • Ballon d'Or: 1978 - Le nouveau palmarès (the new winners)
  • Onze d'Or: 1978
  • Olimpia de Plata: 1978
  • South American Footballer of the Year: 1978
  • UEFA Cup Winners' Cup top scorers: 1979–80
  • FIFA 100: 2004
  • South American Player of the Century: Ranking Nº 23: 2006
  • Golden Foot: 2007, as football legend
  • AFA Team of All Time (published 2015)

Antoine Griezmann is seemingly not ready to accept that his Barcelona career could be over.

The LaLiga giants have been heavily linked with moves for Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar and Inter forward Lautaro Martinez.

It had been reported Griezmann could head to San Siro as part of a deal, but the France international will not move so easily.

 

TOP STORY – GRIEZMANN READY TO FIGHT NEYMAR, MARTINEZ FOR BARCELONA PLACE

Griezmann is prepared to battle for his future at Barcelona despite links to Neymar and Martinez, according to Marca.

The former Atletico Madrid star had scored 14 goals in 37 games this season before the campaign was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But, the 29-year-old forward is ready to fight for a spot even if Martinez and Neymar arrive in the close season.

ROUND-UP

- A player that seems certain to leave Barcelona is Philippe Coutinho, who is on loan at Bayern Munich this season. Goal reports the LaLiga giants are still aiming to sell the playmaker and are hoping for a suitor in the Premier League.

- Staying at Camp Nou, Arturo Vidal has been linked heavily with a move to Inter. However, Mundo Deportivo reports Manchester United and Newcastle United are also interested in the midfielder. Apparently, Newcastle would be the frontrunners if the Premier League club manage to appoint Massimiliano Allegri, who coached Vidal at Juventus.

- Could Arsenal and Atletico Madrid be prepared for a swap deal? The Sun reports Arsenal are ready to offer Alexandre Lacazette to the LaLiga club to seal a deal for midfielder Thomas Partey. Also with Arsenal, the Mirror says the Premier League side have asked Valencia about Rodrigo Moreno, with Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang potentially leaving.

- Out of contract in 2022, Marc-Andre ter Stegen appeared set to earn a new deal at Barcelona. However, AS reports the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic is set to make a renewal for the goalkeeper – linked with Juventus and Bayern Munich – a lot harder.

- Perhaps Thiago Silva will remain at Paris Saint-Germain. Le 10 Sport reports the Ligue 1 giants are offering the defender – whose deal expires at the end of the season – a one-year contract.

- In the first year of a two-season loan deal at AC Milan, Ante Rebic has netted seven times. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A side are keen to make the Eintracht Frankfurt forward's move permanent soon, before his asking price rises further.

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