Juventus welcomed Alvaro Morata back to Turin ahead of the forward's expected return to the Serie A champions.

Morata is reportedly set to join Juve on loan from Atletico Madrid in a deal that will cost €9million and the Italian club will also apparently have an option to buy the 27-year-old for €45m.

Juventus, who have been searching for a forward, welcomed Morata back as he landed in Turin.

"@AlvaroMorata is back in town!" the club wrote on Twitter alongside a picture of the forward.

Morata is set for his second spell at Juve, where he scored 27 goals in 93 games across two seasons between 2014 and 2016.

He then returned to Real Madrid for a season before joining Chelsea and later Atletico, where he netted 12 LaLiga goals in 34 games last season.

With Gonzalo Higuain having left to join Inter Miami, Juve had been linked with the likes of Barcelona's Luis Suarez and Roma's Edin Dzeko.

Morata's move could pave the way for Suarez, 33, to join Atletico.

Juve have won nine consecutive Serie A titles and opened their campaign under Andrea Pirlo with a 3-0 win over Sampdoria on Sunday.

Will Manchester City finally land Kalidou Koulibaly?

Pep Guardiola's City want defensive reinforcements and Napoli centre-back Koulibaly is reportedly at the top of the list.

If they are unsuccessful, Sevilla's Jules Kounde is next on the list.

 

TOP STORY – CITY NOT GIVING UP KOULIBALY

Manchester City are still in talks with Napoli to sign star defender Kalidou Koulibaly, according to journalist Fabrizio Romano.

City have been tipped to sign Koulibaly, who has also been linked to Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

However, City are yet to reach an agreement with Napoli and Sevilla's Jules Kounde is the "backup option" but a bid has already been turned down.

 

ROUND-UP

- Romano says Wolves will complete the signing of Barcelona full-back Nelson Semedo on Monday. It comes as Barca eye Ajax defender Sergino Dest or Real Betis' Emerson to replace Semedo. Norwich City's Max Aarons has also been linked.

Milan have made Fiorentina's Nikola Milenkovic their number one defensive target ahead of Celtic centre-back Kristoffer Ajer, reports the Daily Record.

- Calciomercato claims Juventus are eyeing Real Madrid full-back Marcelo. The Brazilian has been repeatedly linked with a Cristiano Ronaldo reunion in Turin.

- The Telegraph says PSG are interested in Tottenham's Dele Alli. Out of favour under Jose Mourinho, Spurs are reportedly targeting Manchester United's Jesse Lingard as a replacement.

Roma remain interested in Napoli's Arkadiusz Milik but Madrid outcast Luka Jovic has emerged as 'Plan B', according to Calciomercato.

Leeds United are out of the race to sign Dinamo Zagreb sensation Josko Gvardiol, reports Romano. Wanted by Marcelo Bielsa, the Croatian teenager is now set for Bundesliga outfit RB Leipzig.

Liverpool and Wolves could be involved in another deal, while Arsenal's shortlist reportedly includes four players.

Premier League champions Liverpool confirmed the signing of Diogo Jota from Wolves on Saturday, with Ki-Jana Hoever heading in the opposite direction.

But the business between the clubs may not end there.

 

TOP STORY – WOLVES TARGET OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN

Wolves are eyeing a move for Liverpool midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, according to the Mirror.

The report comes after Liverpool signed star midfielder Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich earlier this week.

Oxlade-Chamberlain arrived at Anfield from Arsenal in 2017, and made 43 appearances in all competitions in 2019-20.

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal could strengthen further. The Express reports the Premier League club have Lyon star Houssem Aouar, Atletico Madrid midfielder Thomas Partey, Dijon goalkeeper Runar Alex Runarsson and Brentford shot-stopper David Raya on their shortlist.

- Staying in the Premier League and Goal reports Atletico Madrid attacker Thomas Lemar has interest from two clubs in England's top flight. Arsenal, Wolves and Everton have been linked with Lemar previously.

- Manchester City are reportedly close to signing a centre-back. AS reports the Premier League giants are close to sealing a deal for Sevilla's Jules Kounde, a 21-year-old who is a France youth international.

- Arturo Vidal is finally set to get his move to Inter. Fabrizio Romano reports Inter have agreed a €1million fee with Barcelona for the midfielder, while he also says veteran defender Diego Godin will join Cagliari next week.

- After almost signing Daniel James in 2019, Leeds United could be set for another move for the attacker. The Sun reports Leeds are planning a move for James, who joined Manchester United in 2019.

- Staying at Old Trafford and another exit is expected. The Sun says the Red Devils are looking for a new club for Sergio Romero with the goalkeeper upset about missing last month's Europa League semi-final loss to Sevilla.

Liverpool's transfer activity is ramping up.

After securing the services of Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcantara, Diogo Jota is reportedly next on the list.

Could there be more arrivals?

 

TOP STORY – JOTA LIVERPOOL BOUND

Premier League champions Liverpool are set to complete the signing of Wolves star Diogo Jota, according to Goal.

Liverpool announced the arrival of Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich on Friday as they look to retain their Premier League crown in 2020-21.

Now, Jurgen Klopp's men are poised to bring former Atletico Madrid forward Jota to Anfield amid widespread speculation.

 

ROUND-UP

- RMC claims Porto full-back Alex Telles has agreed terms with Manchester United over a five-year deal. However, Paris Saint-Germain are also considering a move for the 27-year-old Brazilian following Juan Bernat's knee injury.

- Liverpool have enquired about Schalke star Ozan Kabak, reports Chris Williams. Bundesliga strugglers Schalke are reluctant to sell the 20-year-old centre-back.

Atletico Madrid are finalising a deal for Bayern Munich utility Javier Martinez, says Marca. Martinez played for Athletic Bilbao before joining Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern in 2012.

- The Daily Mail claims Manchester City are eyeing Sevilla defender Jules Kounde as an alternative to Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly. Pep Guardiola's City have been tipped to sign Koulibaly, though they have struggled to find an agreement with Napoli as PSG reportedly circle.

Milan have overtaken Barcelona in the race to sign Lyon captain Memphis Depay, according to Sky Italia. Tipped to reunite with former Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman at Barca, Depay could now join Milan in a swap deal involving Lucas Paqueta.

- The front page of Saturday's Mundo Deportivo says Barca are looking to sell Nelson Semedo to fund new arrivals, with Ajax sensation and Bayern target Sergino Dest, City defender Eric Garcia and Depay wanted.

- Goal confirmed Juventus are working to bring Everton forward Moise Kean back to Turin in addition to signing Roma's Edin Dzeko. Juve are interested in a loan deal, though Everton are asking for a permanent transfer or loan with an obligation to buy.

Liverpool and Manchester United could be set for another transfer battle.

The Premier League rivals were both reportedly interested in Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago Alcantara, who is set for a move to Anfield.

Now it seems they could be targeting the same player once more.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL, MAN UTD TARGET SARR

Liverpool have enquired about Watford star Ismaila Sarr, according to the Daily Mail.

It reports Watford want at least £36million for the 22-year-old forward, who scored five goals and provided four assists in 28 Premier League games last season.

Meanwhile, The Independent says Manchester United are looking at Sarr as they continue to be frustrated in their pursuit of Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.

 

ROUND-UP

- What is next for Luis Suarez? Goal reports Roma striker Edin Dzeko is set to join Juventus on a two-year deal, dashing Barcelona forward Suarez's hopes of heading to the Serie A champions. Fabrizio Romano says Atletico Madrid are considering a move for Suarez, while he also claims Napoli's Arkadiusz Milik is getting closer to a Roma switch.

- Gareth Bale's return to Tottenham is almost done. Sky Sports reports the Real Madrid attacker will fly to London from Spain on Friday after completing a medical, returning to Spurs after leaving for the LaLiga giants in 2013.

- Staying at Tottenham and The Sun claims Spurs had a transfer enquiry for forward Danny Ings rejected by Southampton. Ings enjoyed a prolific 2019-20 season, scoring 22 Premier League goals.

- After a difficult first season at Real Madrid, Luka Jovic is apparently considering his options. According to Marca, the Serbian forward is studying a temporary loan move from the LaLiga champions.

- At Madrid's rivals, Barcelona, more movement is also expected. Mundo Deportivo reports Ronald Koeman wants Ajax full-back Sergino Dest if Nelson Semedo leaves the club.

- Could Chelsea's spending spree continue? The Independent reports West Ham star Declan Rice is yet to decide whether to push for a move to Stamford Bridge, where the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell, Hakim Ziyech and Thiago Silva are new arrivals.

Could Tottenham and Gareth Bale reunite?

Bale, who left Tottenham for Real Madrid in 2013, is not wanted in the Spanish capital.

While Manchester Untied are reportedly interested, former club Spurs are Bale's preference.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS LEAD BALE RACE

Tottenham are ahead of Premier League rivals Manchester United in the pursuit of Real Madrid outcast Gareth Bale, according to ESPN.

Bale has reportedly been told he can leave Madrid after falling out of favour with head coach Zinedine Zidane.

The Welshman wants to return to former club Tottenham after leaving Spurs for Madrid in 2013 and the Telegraph claims Dele Alli could be included in a deal to bring Bale back to London.

While United's interest is believed to be serious, it all depends on whether they are able to sign number one target and Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Transfer Podcast reports United believe that if they leave final negotiations for Sancho until the last week of the transfer window, Dortmund will eventually cave in and sell the England international. Dortmund have refused to budge on their €120million (£108m) valuation.

- The Mirror claims Arsenal are close to offloading unwanted trio Sead Kolasinac, Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira. Kolasinac has been linked to West Ham, Valencia are considering Guendouzi and Torreira has been tipped to join Torino. The Gunners want to keep full-back Hector Bellerin but he may be sold to Paris Saint-Germain.

Roma are poised to sign Juventus full-back Mattia De Sciglio, reports Fabrizio Romano. It comes as Juve close in on Roma striker Edin Dzeko, while Roma Press says the latter are set to complete the capture of Hellas Verona defender Marash Kumbulla. He had been linked to Inter, Lazio and Juve.

-  Luis Suarez's move to Juve has collapsed, says RAC1. The Barcelona veteran had been tipped to leave Camp Nou for Turin but a delay in an Italian citizenship test has reportedly scuppered the deal. Atletico Madrid are now an option for the Uruguayan.

- The Mail claims Bayern Munich are ready to renew their interest in Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi. The Englishman was linked to Bayern last year before opting to sign a new deal. Now, Hudson-Odoi could swap London for Munich before the October 5 deadline, with Juve also reportedly eyeing the Chelsea star.

- Diario AS reports Turkish giants Fenerbahce are eyeing Atletico's Diego Costa. Fenerbahce just sold striker Vedat Muriqi to Lazio and may use the transfer funds to bring Costa to Istanbul.

United had been favourites to land Sergio Reguilon from Madrid but the Telegraph and widespread reports say Tottenham are poised to sign the Spanish full-back. United have been reluctant to include a buy-back clause in any deal with Madrid.

- According to Sport Bild, Liverpool have contacted Bayern regarding Thiago Alcantara but the asking price is too high. United and Barca are also reportedly interested.

Memphis Depay will reportedly join Barcelona, who are having problems in their pursuit of Lautaro Martinez.

After a trophy-less 2019-20 season, LaLiga giants Barca are rebuilding under Ronald Koeman.

They have been linked with numerous forwards, and one looks set to join as early as this week.

 

TOP STORY – DEPAY TO JOIN BARCELONA

Lyon star Depay will join Barcelona and his €30million move could be announced this week, according to De Telegraaf.

The move would see the forward reunite with his former Netherlands coach Koeman.

Depay scored 15 goals in 22 games for Lyon last season, during which he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona's move for Martinez is more complicated. Sport reports they are waiting for exits before making a move, while Real Madrid and Manchester City are keeping an eye on the forward. Meanwhile, Fabrizio Romano claims Inter will have another meeting with Martinez's agents after the transfer window to extend his contract beyond 2023. It comes as Sport also believes former Paris Saint-Germain star Edinson Cavani has offered his services to Barca.

- Staying at Barcelona, Mundo Deportivo reports they will make a second offer for Eric Garcia. It says they are prepared to pay €15m (£13.9m) for the Manchester City defender, but the Premier League club want €18m (£16.7m). Meanwhile, Marca says Atletico Madrid have rejected a £92.5m (€100m) bid from City for defender Jose Gimenez.

- At Madrid, the attention is on a possible move for Kylian Mbappe next year. AS reports Los Blancos have an advantage over other clubs in their pursuit of the France international due to the forward's admiration for French coach Zinedine Zidane.

- Gareth Bale continues to be linked with Manchester United. The Sun reports United are preparing to make a loan move for the Real Madrid forward, whose high wages have seemingly made an exit from the Santiago Bernabeu difficult.

- United are also poised to make other moves. The Premier League giants are considering a move for Valencia midfielder Uros Racic, according to The Sun, which says the Serbian midfielder could be available for £28million (€30.3m). Meanwhile, Fabrizio Romano claims United are in talks with Sergio Reguilon's agents, but club officials are unwilling to accept Real Madrid retaining a buy-back clause for the left-back.

- Lucas Torreira could be set for the Arsenal exit. CalcioMercato reports Torino have agreed to pay €24m (£22.2m) for the 24-year-old midfielder.

Wolfsburg midfielder Ignacio Camacho has called time on his playing career at the age of 30 after struggling with a persistent ankle injury.

Former Atletico Madrid and Malaga man Camacho spent three seasons with Wolfsburg but last made a competitive appearance in September 2018.

The ex-Spain international injured his ankle in a DFB-Pokal game against Hannover in 2017 and failed to truly recover, despite undergoing five separate operations to resolve the issue.

Wolfsburg announced on their official website on Monday that Camacho's contract has been terminated, but he will stay at the club on a two-year training programme, which involves learning about the academy and other departments.

"I fought non-stop to get back on the pitch," Camacho said. "But I'm leaving safe in the knowledge that I did all that I could. 

"I gave it absolutely everything I'd got to get back to doing what I love best, and that's playing football. 

"It wasn't easy - I've been in pain every day over the last three years and, ultimately, it has prevented me from carrying on. 

"I'm very grateful to those who have helped me - it wasn’t easy for them either."

Camacho earned his only senior cap for Spain in a 2014 friendly against Germany and previously spent six years with Malaga, having come through the ranks at Atletico.

He was an unused substitute for Atleti in their Europa League final win over Fulham in 2010 and featured in that year's UEFA Super Cup triumph against Inter Milan.

Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone has tested positive for coronavirus, the LaLiga club have confirmed.

Atletico's full squad and coaching staff underwent COVID-19 tests on Friday after returning from their pre-season training camp in Los Angeles.

The latest round of testing was prompted by an unnamed member of the travelling party returning a positive on Thursday.

Simeone is now undertaking a period of isolation and is not displaying any symptoms.

"The analysis of these new samples in the laboratory has determined that our trainer, Diego Pablo Simeone, has given a positive result for COVID-19," Atletico said in a statement.

"Fortunately, our technician does not present any symptoms and is at his home isolated and fulfilling the corresponding quarantine after being concentrated with the team since last Monday."

Atletico are due to travel to Cadiz for a friendly on Tuesday before beginning their LaLiga campaign at home to Granada on September 27.

Simeone's side have been granted a later start to the domestic 2021-22 campaign due to their involvement in the latter stages of last season's Champions League, where they lost 2-1 to RB Leipzig in the quarter-finals.  

It is 16 years since Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid were all beaten to the Spanish title. Valencia were the victors then.

The season before saw Real Sociedad push Madrid all the way in the title race; Sevilla entered the final day of the 2006-07 campaign with a chance of an unlikely success, while Villarreal finished second the following year.

In more ways than one, it feels like a bygone era. As the money in football grew exponentially, so did the margin for error for the biggest clubs.

Atletico managed to buck the trend, re-establishing themselves as a top club through smart recruitment, plenty of money and finding a coach in Diego Simeone who was not only able to get the best out of players, but improve them.

Although they haven't quite kicked on in the manner many might have expected, stagnating perhaps, Atletico have finished in the top three every season since 2011-12.

But ahead of 2020-21's kick-off on Saturday, there is a feeling there might finally be the possibility for other clubs to join the party again.

With Madrid, champions though they are, by no means spectacular and seemingly reluctant to spend, Barcelona tearing themselves apart from the inside and Atletico in stasis, now seems to be as good a time as any for a challenge to come from elsewhere.

Sevilla and Villarreal will hope it's their time.

"Why can't we dream?"

In the past 14 years, if any club has mastered knockout football, it's Sevilla. Six UEFA Cup/Europa League trophies now fill the museum at their atmospheric Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan home – no other team have won as many titles in UEFA competitions in that time.

So far they have failed to elevate themselves to the next level, though, with only one genuine title challenge in the same period – it's difficult to even consider them Champions League regulars either.

But their most recent Europa League success felt a bit different. Their route to the final was tricky, beating Roma, Wolves and Manchester United, before winning 3-2 against a resurgent – and expensively assembled – Inter in the showpiece.

It was a statement of intent, a declaration of ambition – it was the Europa League, but they beat Champions League-level opponents to win it.

The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly impacted upon the transfer market, and that has hampered the way Sevilla usually work. Sporting director Monchi makes no secret of the fact the club must sell every year in order to build a squad they otherwise would not be able to afford.

But the flipside to that is, for arguably the first time since Monchi first took up his role in 2000, Sevilla will begin the season with a settled squad. Sergio Reguilon and Ever Banega are the only major departures, while Oscar Rodriguez and Ivan Rakitic are fine acquisitions to replace the latter.

Coach Julen Lopetegui took a while to win over supporters, but by the end of the season he had Sevilla looking consistent and difficult to beat, setting a new club record of 21 matches unbeaten in all competitions.

That being said, Lucas Ocampos aside, the jury is out on their attack. Youssef En-Nesyri and Luuk de Jong failed to reach double figures for goals in LaLiga, and one gets the impression Sevilla will struggle to reach the next level without a deadlier finisher in the squad – their haul of 54 in 2019-20 was not especially remarkable.

But at the back Sevilla were frequently excellent, their 34 goals conceded being the third-fewest in the league and the lowest – by 13 – they have managed over the past five years.

The transformation in the team's style of play has been significant. They went from 35 fast breaks in 2018-19 to 19 last term, made almost 3,000 more passes and became increasingly direct, with headed attempts on goal up to 93 from 75.

But again, their main problem comes back to goals – they dropped 20 points from winning positions, and when you look at their 13 draws, seven were in matches where Sevilla netted first, and five of those finished 1-1. An extra goal in each of those five games would equate to 10 more points across the season.

Enough to win then the title? Not quite, but it highlights the fine margins - clubs like Sevilla don't have the room for error that Barca and Madrid do. They have to be more ruthless, and if they are, who's to say where they'll end up.

"Why can't we dream [about winning LaLiga]?" asked club president Jose Castro, quoted on the front cover of Marca recently. Challenging for the title is the next step and they look readier now than they have in 13 years.

Yellow Submarine ready to make a splash

The mess at nearby Valencia has proven particularly beneficial for Villarreal. Los Che are financially crippled, not in Europe this season and the whole club appears to be at odds with itself.

But few expected to see certain key players leave.

Captain Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin headed for the Ceramica, joining Villarreal for a combined figured of just €8m – the former was a free transfer.

Landing Spain international Parejo represents a remarkable coup for Villarreal. He had been a long-term servant at Valencia, spending nine years there and developing into one of LaLiga's most complete midfielders.

His arrival at Villarreal could be a game-changer, while Coquelin has also proven himself dependable in LaLiga. Add to that pair the precocious talents of Takefusa Kubo, a loan arrival from Madrid, and there's plenty of cause for optimism.

The Yellow Submarine finished fifth last term, 10 points adrift of Sevilla in fourth, but until the latter stages they had pushed Lopetegui's men - and Atletico - hard.

Villarreal's end-of-season struggles led to the sacking of Javi Calleja as coach, but in Unai Emery they have a replacement with pedigree, who also has a point to prove.

No one is expecting Villarreal to challenge for the title, but given the positives of 2019-20 and their impressive business off the field, there's certainly reason for optimism regarding a top-four push. Whether that also puts them in touch with the leaders depends on the form of Barca, Madrid and Atletico.

Defensively they will need to improve – 49 goals conceded meant only two teams in the top 10 let in more. At the other end of the pitch, they netted 63, making them the third-highest scorers in the division.

With Paco Alcacer, Gerard Moreno and Samuel Chukwueze all still there, it seems unlikely they will suddenly have problems in attack this term.

Their mentality was also questioned at times and it's easy to understand why when you consider they gained just four points from losing positions, while they also spurned 52 big chances. Although a slight decrease from the season before (54), those totals of big chances gone begging in each of the last two years were a significant increase on the previous three campaigns.

One of the main differences between Villarreal and Sevilla last season was the latter's superior resilience, as they gained three times as many points (12) from losing positions, but the right coach can inspire changes in such areas – Emery had the very same effect on Los Nervionenses in their run of three successive Europa League wins from 2014 to 2016.

He may have been criticised back then for not doing better in LaLiga, but in Europe Emery's Sevilla never knew when they were beaten and always seemed to have immense belief.

Villarreal will do well to mount a title challenge, that much is clear, but they look set to be a force to be reckoned with. The Yellow Submarine can summon everything necessary to make a splash in 2020-21.

Jadon Sancho has been tipped to swap Borussia Dortmund for Manchester United.

But the England international remains in Germany and United are growing frustrated.

Could United move on from the Dortmund sensation?

 

TOP STORY – UNITED READY TO PULL PLUG ON SANCHO

Manchester United are ready to give up on signing Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, according to the Daily Star.

Sancho has emerged as United's top transfer target, but the Premier League giants have been unable to negotiate a deal with Dortmund.

With United and Dortmund apart in their valuation of Sancho, the Red Devils are frustrated and could turn to alternative targets.

Juventus attacker Douglas Costa, Atletico Madrid's Joao Felix and Real Madrid outcast Gareth Bale are possible options.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca claims Barcelona are contemplating a loan move for Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin, who left Camp Nou for the Gunners in 2011. Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked, while Barca will only target the Spaniard if they are able to part with Nelson Semedo.

- Staying at Camp Nou and Barca are targeting Sevilla's star centre-back Jules Kounde. The front page of Saturday's Mundo Deportivo says Barca could wait 12 months to secure a deal. Mundo Deportivo also reports Emerson could be included in a deal to prise Lyon captain Memphis Depay to the embattled LaLiga giants.

Tottenham have had an offer for Torino striker Andrea Belotti rejected, according to Gianluca Di Marzio. Spurs proposed a loan deal with an option to buy the Italy international for €50million (£46m). Di Marzio also claims Tottenham will not be signing Napoli forward Arkadiusz Milik, who has been linked to Roma and Juventus.

Chelsea are ready to loan out winger Calum Hudson-Odoi, says 90Min. The Englishman has previously been linked to Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.

- Remaining at Stamford Bridge and Fabrizio Romano reports Chelsea will consider a move for West Ham's Declan Rice after having a bid accepted for Rennes goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.

Inter are ready to sell defender Milan Skriniar as they eye Hellas Verona's Marash Kumbulla, according to Calciomercato. It comes as Nerazzurri boss Antonio Conte tries to sign Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante and full-back Marcos Alonso.

Outcast midfielder Matteo Guendouzi is back in Mikel Arteta's plans after holding "really positive conversations" with the Arsenal first-team manager ahead of the new campaign.

Guendouzi fell out of favour after Arteta's arrival in December and has not featured in the squad at all since an altercation with Neal Maupay in June's 2-1 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion.

However, he returned to first-team training this week and Arteta has opened the door for the France Under-21 international to play more of a part this coming season.

"Matteo has been training like any other player in the squad," he said at a pre-match news conference ahead of Saturday's Premier League opener against Fulham.

"Obviously it's a new season - time is over. We had some really positive conversations with both parties, and now he's back with the group and training really well. 

"He went to France to play with Under-21s last week, played well again, and now he's here."

Arsenal are in the market for a new central midfielder, with Atletico Madrid's Thomas Partey and Houssem Aouar of Lyon rumoured to be high on their wish list.

Lyon director Juninho suggested this week they rejected the chance to discuss a deal for Guendouzi, who may have been used in a player-plus-cash move for Aouar.

But Arteta, who has already added Gabriel Magalhaes and Willian to his squad during the close season, was unwilling to discuss his transfer business further.

"I don't know about this. I'm not going to discuss here things that happen internally," he said. "But a lot of things they have been writing I can say they are not true."

Probed on whether Aouar remains a target ahead of the October 5 deadline, Arteta added: "I don't want to talk about players at other football clubs."

Alexandre Lacazette is another player who has been touted as a possible makeweight in a deal for Thomas, but Arteta insisted the forward is not seeking a move away.

"He is really happy here and wants to keep contributing to the team," the Spaniard said. "He knows about the competition he has with the front players. 

"The way he has been training and conducting himself has been excellent. Yes, he is very happy here."

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid comprised LaLiga's top three for an eighth consecutive season in 2019-20.

The big three of this era in Spain's top fight have not been apart since Valencia came in third in 2011-12 - 30 points shy of second-place Barca.

The order has shuffled into various configurations since, most sensationally when Atleti pipped the Blaugrana to finish top of the pile in 2013-14.

Madrid and Barcelona have cashed in on the superclub era, aided by arguably the two finest footballers of all-time, while Atletico gradually gained the weight they once punched above to become their country's third heavy hitter.

Nevertheless, each club heads into the new campaign with cracks appearing. If the end of an empire isn't quite upon us, it might be closing in.

MESSI, KOEMAN AND CATASTROPHE. WHAT IS GOING ON AT BARCELONA?

"There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."

It is impossible to know whether Ronald Koeman has dwelt upon the wisdom of Oscar Wilde as he arrives at the apparent end of Barcelona's age of decadence, but there is something devastating about the timing of the Dutchman getting the job he has always coveted.

Indeed, it speaks volumes over how much Koeman wanted to come 'home' to Camp Nou that he would do so under an entirely discredited president to preside over an aging squad left somewhere close to mutiny by a humiliation of historic proportions.

Koeman did say he views Lionel Messi as key part of his project at Barca. And he has him, although there is the monumental catch of context.

In an explosive interview where he focused on everyone's fault but his own - a Leo culpa, if you will - Messi insisted he was only sticking around because Bartomeu had gone back on his word to him and made a departure financially "impossible".

"The truth is that there has been no project or anything for a long time, they juggle and cover holes as things go by," Messi told Goal Spain, in a remarkably damning inditement of those who remain his employers and team-mates.

Ivan Rakitic has gone, Luis Suarez is going and Koeman apparently wants to sign a selection of the Netherlands international players he left behind to take on the poisoned chalice of a lifetime.

As Messi allude to, decline has been eating away at Barcelona for some time. By the time they surrendered LaLiga to Real Madrid after the coronavirus hiatus - performances that effectively condemned Quique Setien's doomed reign even before the 8-2 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich - they had scored fewer goals (86), conceded more (38), had fewer shots (494), won fewer games (25) and lost more (six) than in any of their past five LaLiga seasons.

The potential saving grace - at the same time a damning indictment of the elite European game in the 21st century - is it seems there is only so far that a club on course for a $1billion record turnover before COVID-19 took hold should realistically be able to fall.

Even if the sum of Koeman's transfer incomings are some Oranje foot soldiers and Manchester City youngster Eric Garcia, a functional defensive set-up in front of the excellent Marc-Andre ter Stegen, a smooth midfield alliance between Frenkie de Jong and Miralem Pjanic and a delightful forward line featuring Messi, Antoine Griezmann, the prodigious Ansu Fati and the returning Philippe Coutinho is an assortment it is not too difficult to imagine as a championship-winning one.

MAGIC OF CHOLISMO STARTING TO FADE

Atletico do not have the luxury of mismanagement on the scale of which Josep Maria Bartomeu has shambolically overseen at Barcelona. At best they'd be Valencia; at worst they'd be playing Segunda Division football.

March's rousing Champions League triumph that unseated European champions Liverpool at Anfield showed Los Colchoneros retain an unmatched thirst for making an unholy nuisance of themselves against Europe's aristocrats.

Unfortunately, the start-up beverage spin-off that is RB Leipzig denied them another such showdown in the latter stages of the competition in Lisbon last month - a performance and result that spoke of problems that have quietly mounted to the point Simeone will struggle to shift them as he approaches nine years at the helm.

With their backs against the wall and the bit between their teeth, few teams want to face Atletico. But in games where they are expected to win and take the game to the opposition, they increasingly appear woefully short of the right moves - the transition from reactive to pro-active football beyond them.

They were favourites to beat Leipzig but played a low percentage game and paid the price, as they did over the course of 16 LaLiga draws last season. Their 14 points dropped from winning positions marked their worst return in the past five years.

That Joao Felix came off the bench against Leipzig to win a penalty, convert it and briefly turn the game in Atleti's favour also spoke ill of Simeone's failure to get the best out of the majestically skilled Portugal forward.

Indeed, there is a mounting list of talented attackers who have failed to hit the heights under Simeone, with Griezmann something of an outlier in the aftermath of their 2013-14 success.

Back then, Atletico beat Madrid and Barca when it did not look possible. Now the Classico rivals look deeply fallible, Simeone is unable to rustle up enough of the old magic.

ZZ STAYING ON TOP?

It is not a story to live up to the self-aggrandising history of Madrid, but Zinedine Zidane's steadying hand last year saw them win the title through not messing up as much as their rivals.

Where Barca and Atleti dropped 13 and 14 points from winning positions, Madrid shelled six.

That is not to do down Zidane's achievements as a serial trophy collector. He now has two domestic titles to go with three Champions Leagues across two spells in charge.

The France great is perfectly in tune with a squad he knows well and coaxed a magnificent, career-best season out of Karim Benzema last time around.

From the resumption after lockdown until LaLiga was secured, Madrid won 10 straight matches to comprehensively overhaul Barca.

Their subsequent Champions League loss to Manchester City, where 2-1 defeats in each leg ultimately flattered the 13-time European champions, put their dominant domestic form in context.

Having led the way for much of the past decade, LaLiga's big three presently feel like they're a rung below Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain and the Premier League's top two of City and Liverpool. While it is easy to see Madrid retaining Spain's top-flight for the first time since 2007-08, it is hard the see the wider continental gap closing.

Eden Hazard must improve upon a stop-start first season at the Santiago Bernabeu, while Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Federico Valverde have futures of giddying excitement ahead of them. However, the old guard of Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Benzema remain the core and are the wrong side of 30. Galactico-hunters no more, Los Blancos have once again been fairly quiet in the transfer market.

Zidane's skill at Madrid has been to delay a wholesale transition, even when he returned in the aftermath of Cristiano Ronaldo's 2018 departure. But the clock is ticking on the time for change and, as Madrid's biggest rivals have shown, a painful process awaits.

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.

Real Madrid are prepared to pay to see Gareth Bale exit, while Manchester United have reportedly made progress in their pursuit of Jadon Sancho.

Bale has found himself on the outer in Madrid and has constantly been linked with a move despite being contracted until 2022.

The Welshman's huge salary is reportedly making it hard for the LaLiga champions to move him on, but they may be prepared to pay to see Bale exit.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID WILLING TO PAY HALF OF BALE'S WAGES

Real Madrid would pay half of Bale's salary to see him make a move, according to The Telegraph.

Bale has been linked with a return to the Premier League, with former club Tottenham reportedly interested.

The latest news could pave the way for Bale to finally leave Madrid after seven years at the club.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United look to have made some progress in their Sancho chase. ESPN reports the Premier League giants have made progress around wages and agent fees, but still need to find a deal with Borussia Dortmund.

- Houssem Aouar is linked with a move from Lyon, with a switch to the Premier League mooted. The Mirror says Arsenal are keen on the midfielder, who is believed to be a target for Manchester City.

- Barcelona are reportedly facing a dilemma. Mundo Deportivo reports the LaLiga giants are weighing up whether to rely on 17-year-old Ansu Fati or sign Lyon star Memphis Depay ahead of 2020-21.

- There seems to be uncertainty over Alexandre Lacazette's future at Arsenal. ESPN claims the forward is seeking clarification over his role at the Premier League club.

- Stephan El Shaarawy could be set for a return to Europe. Telefoot says Paris Saint-Germain are in contact with the Shanghai Shenhua forward's agents and Juventus, former club Roma and Atletico Madrid are also interested.

- While Watford were relegated from the Premier League, Troy Deeney could yet remain in the top flight. The Daily Mail says the forward is set to leave the club to join a Premier League side.

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