Paris Saint-Germain have appointed Mauricio Pochettino as their new head coach.

The former Tottenham boss has signed a contract until June 2022, with the option for a further year, with the Ligue 1 champions. He will replace Thomas Tuchel, whose dismissal was finally confirmed on Tuesday after days of speculation.

The German was sacked after an inconsistent start to the 2020-21 season despite having guided PSG to their first Champions League final in August, where they lost 1-0 to Bayern Munich.

Defeats in this season's group stage to Manchester United and RB Leipzig had put Tuchel under pressure, although he was able to lead his side into the last 16 after winning their final three games.

However, there were suggestions PSG's hierarchy had concerns about Tuchel's ability to guide his team past Barcelona in the knockout phase.

Four defeats in 17 Ligue 1 matches, leaving PSG a point behind leaders Lyon, also counted against Tuchel, while a public spat with sporting director Leonardo over transfers appeared to weaken his position further.

Pochettino, previously linked with the Real Madrid and Manchester United jobs, was sacked by Spurs in November last year after five impressive years in charge in north London.

Although he failed to win a trophy, the former Espanyol and Southampton boss turned Spurs into regular top-four contenders and Premier League title hopefuls, while he took them to the Champions League final in 2019, where they lost to Liverpool.

After taking charge in 2014, Pochettino led Spurs to four top-four finishes in five full seasons, twice the number they managed in their previous 22 Premier League campaigns.

He reached 100 wins in the competition in 197 games, the sixth quickest in history alongside Liverpool great Kenny Dalglish.

However, Spurs' domestic form suffered badly in 2019 as they tallied 18 defeats in all competitions from January 1 to November 19, when Pochettino was dismissed.

Pochettino has won admirers throughout his coaching career for getting his teams to adopt high-pressing and attacking football, qualities which have become demands of PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi in recent seasons.

When Tuchel was appointed in 2018, Al-Khelaifi said: "He abides by very strong principles of playing spectacular and clinical football that has always been the foundation of German football, especially on the international scene.

"His competitive spirit, his preference for attacking football and his strong character are in line with what we have always wanted for PSG - this style that our loyal supporters have always demanded and admired."

A sliding doors moment kept Mauricio Pochettino and Lionel Messi apart in 2005. But 15 years later, their paths could well realign at Paris Saint-Germain.

Back when Messi was in the embryonic stages of a Barcelona career that has seen him win six Ballons d'Or, 34 trophies and score a world record 644 goals for a single club, a temporary switch to cross-town rivals Espanyol was mooted.

There he would have linked up with an uncompromising defender by the name of Pochettino, and the subsequent decade and a half could have turned out very differently.

"I remember that summer, he was so close to moving to Espanyol," Pochettino said ahead of Tottenham facing Messi's Barcelona at Wembley in a Champions League clash in October 2018.

"If he did, maybe he could have been the biggest star in Espanyol. We should be the Barcelona! He would have been my team-mate and maybe I would still be in Espanyol managing him."

It only would have been a loan move, but an 18-year-old Messi convinced Barca he was ready for a more prominent role in the team by producing a stunning display in a victory over Juventus in the Joan Gamper Trophy.

Fabio Capello was in the opposition dugout at Camp Nou and after 25 awestruck minutes, he approached his counterpart Frank Rijkaard to ask if he could take the Argentine wonderkid on a temporary deal.

Barca finally realised they had a generational talent on their hands and opted against letting him go.

"I'd started to hear about Messi when I was an Espanyol player – this small guy playing in the Barcelona academy, who had arrived from Argentina when he was 13," Pochettino said.

"And then I heard he was very close to signing for Espanyol. But because he was so fantastic in the Joan Gamper against Juventus and Fabio Capello praised him afterwards in the press conference, Barcelona changed their minds. They kept Messi at Barcelona."

2030 vision

Messi began his youth career with Newell's Old Boys in 1994 – the same year Pochettino left the club for his first stint with Espanyol – and has often been linked with a return to the Rosario side to end his playing career.

Pochettino has been out of work since being sacked by Tottenham in November 2019 and was reportedly approached by Barcelona to replace Ernesto Valverde two months later, but his request for more time to consider the offer due to his loyalties to Espanyol resulted in Quique Setien getting the job instead.

Still, Pochettino retained hope that he will still have an opportunity to join forces Messi.

"I want to return to Newell's with Messi," he told Radio del Plata last March. "I can still wait, [for an opportunity] and the best [possible scenario] would be in 10 years with Messi."

But with PSG's decision-makers showing minimal festive cheers by firing Thomas Tuchel on Tuesday, Pochettino has been gifted a potential opportunity to work with Messi far sooner.

Pochettino was on Saturday named as the successor to Tuchel. Sporting director Leonardo and president Nasser Al Khelaifi will no doubt hope his appointment helps tempt Messi to forego a reunion with Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and relocate to Paris when his Barcelona contract expires at the end of the season.

"He's one of the gods of football"

Pochettino may not have won a trophy with Tottenham, but he led them to four straight top-four finishes in the Premier League.

His crowning achievement was steering them to the 2019 Champions League final, which ended in a 2-0 defeat to Liverpool.

Spurs finished behind Barcelona in the group stage that season. Messi scored a double in a 4-2 win for the Blaugrana at Wembley, while a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou saw Pochettino's men edge Inter to the runners-up spot in Group B.

After Spurs lost the first leg of their semi-final to Ajax 1-0, Pochettino urged his team to play like Messi during the second leg in order to have another chance of taking on the Barcelona captain in the final.

"He's one of the gods of football. It's unbelievable, it's unbelievable. It's unbelievable, the desire and the capacity to fight with the ball at his feet, to fight without the ball at his feet," said Pochettino.

"What happens when he touches the ball? When he doesn't have the ball, it's unbelievable the character, how he presses, how he works for the team. If we play like him, for sure we are going to have a chance. Of course.

"But not like him doing what he does with the ball. If we play like him without the ball, with the desire that he showed, for sure we are going to have a chance to qualify for the final. If not no chance."

Should Pochettino's desire to work with "one of the gods of football" at long last become reality, together they will be expected to help PSG finally conquer their Mount Olympus: winning the Champions League.

Paris Saint-Germain have appointed Mauricio Pochettino as their new head coach.

 

Real Madrid are reportedly close to agreeing a deal with David Alaba, while Manchester United are expecting the asking price for Jadon Sancho to drop.

Alaba, 28, is set to leave Bayern Munich with his contract expiring at the end of the season.

The defender is free to speak to other clubs, and Madrid are making their move.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID CLOSE TO ALABA SIGNING

Real Madrid are close to landing Bayern Munich defender Alaba on a four-year deal, according to Marca.

Alaba is likely to have offers from multiple clubs after establishing himself as one of Europe's leading defenders.

The Austria international has won nine Bundesliga titles and two Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies with Bayern.

 

ROUND-UP

- With Jadon Sancho yet to hit top form for Borussia Dortmund this season, Manchester United may be able to land the attacker later this year. 90min reports United believe they can land Sancho for less than £100million (€112.7m) after not meeting Dortmund's valuation of £107m (€120m) in the close season.

- Lionel Messi's future remains a major talking point. Sport reports the Barcelona star – who is out of contract at the end of the campaign – will wait until the end of the season to decide between the LaLiga giants, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and MLS.

- Real Madrid are apparently eyeing a replacement for Marcelo. AS reports the LaLiga giants are tracking Sporting CP left-back Nuno Mendes, who is also linked to Liverpool, Manchester United, Juventus and PSG.

- Liverpool are also linked with centre-backs after long-term injuries to Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez, while potential exits have been mentioned. However, the Liverpool Echo reports the Premier League giants are not expecting any senior departures in January, which would mean Xherdan Shaqiri and Divock Origi remain despite speculation over their futures.

Manchester City are reportedly planning a bid for Harry Kane, while United are still interested in Jack Grealish.

City have been linked with numerous forwards amid uncertainty over Sergio Aguero's future.

And it seems the Tottenham star is among their targets.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY PLANNING £88.7M BID FOR KANE

Manchester City are planning an £88.7million offer for Tottenham star Kane ahead of next season, according to Bild.

Kane, 27, is contracted at Spurs, where he continues to star, until 2024.

The England international has scored nine goals in 15 Premier League games this season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United remain interested in signing Aston Villa star Grealish, according to the Daily Mail. The midfielder was heavily linked with a move to United in the close season, but ended up staying at Villa, who are in action at Old Trafford on Friday.

- Eric Garcia has seemingly made a decision on his future. The Guardian reports the Manchester City defender has agreed personal terms on a five-year deal with Barcelona. Garcia is contracted at City until the end of the season.

- With Mauricio Pochettino reportedly set to take over at Paris Saint-Germain, Tottenham apparently have worries over Hugo Lloris. The Sun reports Spurs fear the goalkeeper could join former boss Pochettino in Paris and they are eyeing West Brom's Sam Johnstone and Manchester United's Dean Henderson as potential targets.

- Yet to play for Arsenal this season, Mesut Ozil's future remains a talking point. Bild reports the playmaker wants to see out his contract, which runs until season's end, with the Premier League outfit.

- Also coming out of contract, Sami Khedira looks set for a Juventus exit. The Daily Mail reports the midfielder is set to hold talks with Everton over a potential move.

- Struggling for game time at Manchester United, Jesse Lingard has had the one-year option on his contract at the club triggered, according to Sky Sports. Lingard's deal now runs until 2022.

Lionel Messi, one of the greatest football players of all time, stunned Barcelona by telling the club he wanted to leave only to be thwarted in his attempts in the last transfer window.

However, as he enters the final six months of his contract, it seems likely talks have already begun with interested parties as he considers where his future will lie in 2021.

The Argentina superstar has spent his entire career at the Catalan giants, but he now looks likely to start the 2021-22 campaign with a new club. 

Where Messi goes remains to be seen but any deal for the 33-year-old will rank as one of the most dramatic in the history of sport. 

Here, we look at a selection of other sporting deals that shocked the world. 

 

Neymar: Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain, 2017

The Brazilian had formed a potent attacking trio with Messi and Luis Suarez at Camp Nou but a move to PSG was inevitable when the French side met his world-record buyout clause of €222million. He has played an important role in their continued dominance of domestic football, but has so far been unable to guide them to Champions League glory. He was reduced to tears by his side's 1-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2020 final last term. 

LeBron James: Cleveland Cavaliers to Miami Heat, 2010

Basketball icon James announced that he would sign with the Miami Heat instead of returning to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and a six-time All-Star, James added to the spectacle of the stunning move by announcing it on a special television broadcast called The Decision. He enjoyed four years in Miami, where he won a pair of NBA titles, before returning to the Cavaliers in 2014. 

Tom Brady: New England Patriots to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2020

Few people expected Brady to leave the Patriots after 20 years and six Super Bowl victories. Not only did one of the game's greatest ever quarterbacks leave, but he joined one of the least successful franchises in NFL history. Time will tell if his decision to sign with a highly promising Buccaneers team proves to be a masterstroke.  

Luis Figo: Barcelona to Real Madrid, 2000

Should Messi ever return to Camp Nou as an opposition player, it is unlikely he will be on the receiving end of the kind of abuse that greeted Figo. Barca fans threw bottles, lighters and even a pig's head at the Portuguese star when he went back to Camp Nou with Los Blancos in the seasons following his controversial move. 

Wayne Gretzky: Edmonton Oilers to Los Angeles Kings, 1988

In 1988, the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings agreed a deal that shook the NHL to its core. The trade left Canada in disbelief, with a member of the country's parliament even proposing the federal government block the trade or buy Gretzky's contract and sell it to another Canadian team. "The Great One" would go on to enjoy eight successful years in Los Angeles before spells with St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers.

Lionel Messi's future has been the subject of much speculation but a reunion with Pep Guardiola is still very much in Manchester City's plans.

Messi has been disgruntled with his situation at Barcelona since the end of last season, despite head coach Ronald Koeman's insistence that his superstar captain is happy.

Four-time Champions League winner Messi unsuccessfully tried to force an exit in August, however there will be no legal clauses to stop him when his contract expires in June 2021.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI WANTED ON FIVE-YEAR DEAL

The City Football Group (CFG) is eyeing a 2021 swoop that will see Lionel Messi split time between their Premier League powerhouse Manchester City and MLS franchise New York City, according to the Telegraph.

A five-year contract could be offered to superstar Barcelona captain Messi, which includes three years in England, taking the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to the age of 37, followed by an additional two more in the United States.

In an interview with Spanish TV channel La Sexta, Messi admitted his desire to one day play in the United States, a hint that City's proposal may be on his mind.

Lionel Messi's days at Barcelona appear to be numbered, with the club captain and talisman heading into the final six months of his contract. 

As such, he can begin discussions with other clubs ahead of a potential free transfer once his contract expires on June 30. 

Messi, 33, set things in motion back in August when he rocked world football by publicly confirming his desire to leave the only club he has ever represented as a professional, and with whom he has won everything. 

Barca's surrender to Real Madrid in LaLiga's title race and the 8-2 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League appeared to be the final straw for Messi earlier this year, though the departure of president Josep Maria Bartomeu might have improved the club's chances of keeping him. 

Additionally, Joan Laporta is the favourite to succeed Bartomeu in next month's election, but if he cannot persuade Messi to stay then football looks set to see a move that will rank as one of the most seismic in the history of the sport. 

So, where could Messi end up next?

Newell's Old Boys

Messi's relationship with the public in Argentina has often been strained due to the fact he moved to Barca at the age of 13 and developed in their famous La Masia academy. But he started out at Newell's five years prior to that and a return to his hometown of Rosario would be an understandable move as he enters the latter stages of his career. Unrealistic? Perhaps, but it's a move all football romanticists would love to see.

Manchester City

While his form this term may have been somewhat disappointing by his usual standards, Messi undoubtedly still has the quality to play at the highest level. City, managed by former Barca boss Pep Guardiola, are said to have been looking into the feasibility of bringing the Argentina superstar to the Etihad Stadium. Media reports have suggested he could spend a few years in Manchester before then being sent to sister club New York City FC in MLS for the final seasons of his career. City are certainly one of a handful of clubs that could match Messi's huge wages, and there is a strong lure given the Blaugrana alumni running the show at City.

Paris Saint-Germain

PSG have been right at the forefront of this saga since the very start in August. Thomas Tuchel, since sacked of course, was asked about the possibility of signing Messi as early as his Champions League final post-match media duties. The Ligue 1 champions have never shied away from splashing the cash – they paid Barca a world record €222million for Neymar and shelled out €180m on Kylian Mbappe. If Messi wants to win another European crown before retiring, few clubs are better positioned to help him achieve that, and the chance to link up with Neymar again might be too good an opportunity to turn down.

Inter

Even before there was any doubt about Messi's future at Barca, Inter were the main club linked with an audacious attempt to sign the 33-year-old. The Suning Holdings Group ownership makes them one of the few clubs alongside City and PSG that have the financial capacity to offer him a sizeable contract, and they do appear to be getting back to the level expected of them since the arrival of Antonio Conte as coach. Links with Inter have cooled in recent months, but they cannot be ruled out yet. The chance to battle old foe Cristiano Ronaldo in Serie A may prove an enticing prospect, too.

Al-Sadd

Things could have gone very differently for Barca had club legend Xavi been handed the reins in January instead of Quique Setien. As it happened, the iconic former midfielder felt it was not the right time to return to Camp Nou and chose to remain at Al-Sadd. A link-up with his former team-mate in Qatar could be an option for Messi, though there is every chance Xavi finds himself back in Catalonia in the not-too-distant future.

Paris Saint-Germain have confirmed the sacking of head coach Thomas Tuchel.

Tuchel's departure was reported on Christmas Eve, but there was no official word from the Ligue 1 champions until Tuesday morning.

PSG have now released a statement confirming Tuchel has departed after "an in-depth analysis of its sporting situation."

Thomas Tuchel's tenure as Paris Saint-Germain head coach is all but over.

Tuchel will reportedly be replaced by Mauricio Pochettino, despite leading PSG to Ligue 1 glory last season and the Champions League final.

Can former PSG defender Pochettino help the French giants conquer Europe?

 

TOP STORY – POCH SET FOR PSG

Mauricio Pochettino has agreed terms to take charge of Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Thomas Tuchel's sacking is set to be announced after striking a deal with PSG to leave immediately – the compensation worth €6million, reports Bild.

Former Tottenham manager Pochettino is now poised to return to PSG, where he played between 2001 and 2003.

 

ROUND-UP

Diego Costa has requested to leave Atletico Madrid in January, claims Diario AS and Marca. If Costa is unable to depart during the next window, the veteran striker will farewell Atletico on a free transfer at season's end.

Wolves have joined the chase to sign Real Madrid outcast Luka Jovic, says The Athletic. Wolves are keen to bolster their attack following Raul Jimenez's serious injury and Jovic has emerged as a loan option for the Premier League side. Milan have also been heavily linked with the Serbia international.

Georginio Wijnaldum wants time to reflect on Liverpool's contract offer, reports Fabrizio Romano. Wijnaldum is set to become a free agent amid links to Barca.

- The Mirror reports Arsenal are circling for Brighton and Hove Albion full-back Tariq Lamptey should Hector Bellerin depart for Barcelona. Lamptey has been linked to Manchester City and Bayern Munich.

Sevilla are eyeing a January swoop for Marseille star Florian Thauvin, according to Andaluz Estadio Deportivo. Milan have also been tracking the Frenchman.

- Corriere dello Sport says Juventus and Inter remain keen on signing Udinese's Rodrigo De Paul. Meanwhile, Ilbianconeri claims Juve have been offered Arsenal outcast Mesut Ozil.

Manchester United remain in contact with Moises Caicedo's agents to sign the Independiente del Valle sensation, says Romano. The 19-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder wants to move to Old Trafford.

Lionel Messi has been encouraged by Ronald Koeman's impact since becoming Barcelona coach but feels the club is so financially crippled that "it will be difficult to get back where it was".

Messi was speaking to La Sexta in one of his first interviews since telling the club of his desire to leave in August. 

Barca stood firm back then, refusing to allow him to depart despite Messi insisting the get-out clause in his contract was still valid – the Argentinian ultimately opted against pursuing the matter any further. 

Although he stayed put, Messi's future and mindset have been constant sources of debate in the four months since. 

The highly publicised interview, which aired in full on Sunday, saw Messi vow not to decide on his future until the end of the season despite being able to discuss a free transfer with another club in less than a week. 

And while there are plenty of fans unimpressed by Koeman's start with the club - they sit fifth after 14 games - Messi was complimentary about the Dutchman. 

"I think that with Ronald Koeman, he has projected a seriousness and an idea of what he wants for his team and what he wants for the club," Messi said. 

"I think that it was a great success and that he is doing things very well. At the beginning it was difficult because there were a lot of new people, a lot of young players, but little by little the team is growing." 

One aspect that some believe could count in Barca's favour with respect to Messi's future is the fact a new president will be in place by the end of January, with Joan Laporta the favourite to succeed Josep Maria Bartomeu and take charge for a second time. 

But Messi certainly does not envy anyone stepping into such a position, given the state of Barca financially, and suggested fans should not get their hopes up about the prospect of Neymar returning. 

"For this [the club's finances] it is a difficult time for the club, as it is everyone," he continued. "But from what we know, the club is really bad [financially] – very bad. It will be difficult to get back where it was.

"It won't be easy for the new president because they will find a very difficult situation at the club. It won't be easy to turn it around. 

"I hope whoever wins [the election] does things well to put this great club where it deserves to be - and where it isn't at the moment. 

"It will also be difficult to bring players because we need money and there is no money. There are several important players [required] to fight again for everything, and those players you have to pay them big money. 

"I was laughing because you said Neymar must be very expensive. And how do you pay PSG for that transfer?" 

Messi then also hit out once again at Barca's "crazy" decision to let Luis Suarez leave to Atletico Madrid, whom he has helped to the top of LaLiga. 

"I had already decided [I wanted to leave] before that," Messi mused.

"But it did seem crazy to me what they did with Luis, speaking in the specific case of Luis, because of how things were done, because of how he left, and because he left for free, paying him for the remaining years of his contract and giving him to a team that was going to fight for the same titles as us."

Lionel Messi has vowed to ignore the advances of other clubs until at least the end of the season despite becoming eligible for a free transfer in a matter of days.

Messi's contract with Barcelona expires on June 30, meaning he is legally able to discuss a future free transfer with another club from six months before that date.

The 33-year-old Barca captain and talisman attempted to force a move away from Barca in August after the Blaugrana surrendered the league title to Real Madrid and lost 8-2 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Barca stood firm and refused to let him depart despite Messi being adamant a get-out clause in his contract was still valid – the Argentinian opting against dragging the club through the courts.

He is now the master of his own destiny as Barca's contractual hold on him will diminish once he enters the final six months of his agreement, with Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City expected to fight it out for the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

But Messi reassured Barca fans he will wait until the conclusion of the season before making any decisions, a potentially huge boost to the club given a new president will be in place by the end of January.

Speaking to La Sexta in a highly publicised interview on Sunday, when asked if he will start talking with new clubs next week, Messi said: "No, far from it. That would go against everything I've been saying.

"My plan is to give all I can for the club at the moment. Nothing is decided until the end of the season. Now I only think about finishing the season and winning titles.

"I know there are a lot of Barca people who still love me, but I'm going to do what is best for the club and for myself. Besides, I want to live in Barcelona and be in the club in some way when I retire.

"I don't know if I'm going to leave, but if I do, I would like to leave in the best way and be able to return to the club in the future. Barcelona is much bigger than any player.

"It's a love story from a very young age with the club and the city. Either way, everything that my career has meant should not be stained [by this saga]."

But while he offered no hints as to whether City or PSG were enticing options for him, Messi did reveal a desire to live on the other side of the Atlantic.

"I always had the dream of living in the United States, living this experience," he said. "Today I am focused on these six months, on fighting for what I can and not thinking about how the year will end because it wouldn't be good for me to say what I am going to do. I don't know either."

What does the future hold for Phil Foden?

Foden is highly rated at Manchester City, but he is struggling for regular game time.

Could Real Madrid prise the Englishman to the Santiago Bernabeu?

 

TOP STORY – LOS BLANCOS EYE FODEN

LaLiga champions Real Madrid are ready to pounce for Manchester City's Phil Foden, according to the Mirror.

City sensation Foden has been struggling for regular game time under manager Pep Guardiola, starting just five of his 10 Premier League appearances this season.

Madrid have emerged as serious suitors for the 20-year-old sensation and there is a growing belief that he could be prised to the Spanish capital.

 

ROUND-UP

Arsenal are considering a move for Borussia Dortmund winger Julian Brandt, reports The Athletic. Out of favour at Dortmund this season, Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is reportedly keen to reinforce his struggling side in January.

Manchester United could send Donny van de Beek to Inter on loan as they look to bring in Christian Eriksen from the Serie A side, claims Calciomercato. Eriksen is set to leave Inter in January and the Danish midfielder has been linked to Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain.

- As question marks grow over Samir Handanovic, Calciomercato says Inter are considering Udinese goalkeeper Juan Musso as a successor to the long-serving Nerazzurri star.

Madrid are confident of re-signing veteran star Luka Modric, according to Fabrizio Romano. It comes as Madrid still try to negotiate a new contract with captain and soon-to-be free agent Sergio Ramos, who has been linked to the likes of Juventus, PSG, United and City. Modric has previously been a target for Inter and Milan.

Luka Jovic would not be against a return to Eintracht Frankfurt but the out-of-favour Madrid forward is eyeing Milan, reports Calciomercato.

It has been a year like no other, but football eventually managed to continue amid the coronavirus pandemic and give fans across the world something positive to focus on.

Ligue 1 was curtailed and a streamlined version of the Champions League knockout rounds took place in Lisbon in August, before a new season got under way.

There have still been plenty of performances to savour, though, and Stats Perform News has used Opta data to calculate a Team of the Year from the top five European leagues.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi made the grade in 2020 but the same could not be said of Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, while Kylian Mbappe earned a spot that his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Neymar could not.

Supporters of Premier League clubs may not be rejoicing about the selections, which were made based solely on data.

 

Goalkeeper: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid)

Atletico lead the way in LaLiga on goal difference and have two games in hand on nearest rivals Real Madrid. Diego Simeone's side owe much of their success to Oblak, who has kept 17 clean sheets in 33 LaLiga appearances this year – the most of any keeper in the division during the same period.

Right-back: Juan Cuadrado (Juventus)

Juve won a ninth straight Scudetto this year and Cuadrado has played an important role throughout 2020, creating 45 chances (including seven assists) for the Bianconeri in Serie A – only Paulo Dybala (56) supplied more key passes for the club.

Centre-back: Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund)

Bayern Munich may be the dominant force in the Bundesliga, but Hummels has continued to show his worth since returning to Dortmund. He made the most interceptions (57) and completed the most passes (2,056) of any Bundesliga defender in 2020.

Centre-back: Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)

France international Upamecano is one of the hottest properties in European football and has been linked with a host of elite clubs. He shows great coolness in possession – as evidenced by him completing 24 of the 33 dribbles he attempted for a success rate of 73 per cent, the best of any Bundesliga defender to try at least 30.

Left-back: Theo Hernandez (Milan)

While Upamecano has established himself with Les Bleus, Hernandez's continued absence from the France set-up despite stellar showings for a resurgent Milan remains a source of much debate. The Rossoneri will end the year top of Serie A and Hernandez has been directly involved in 102 shots (46 chances created, 56 attempts on goal) in the league in 2020. That is more than any other defender in the same period.

Centre midfield: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)

Kimmich's looping goal against Dortmund at the back end of last season was pivotal to Bayern retaining their German league title, which came as part of a treble. It has been the Germany international's distribution that has stood out this year, though. He completed an average of 75 passes per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga in 2020, the most of any midfielder in the competition to feature for at least 1,000 minutes.

Centre midfield: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)

Madrid regained the title in LaLiga in 2020, with Kroos a central figure in Zinedine Zidane's midfield. Of all players who attempted at least 1,000 passes in the opposition half in the Spanish top flight this year, Kroos was the only one who had a completion rate higher than 90 per cent.

Right wing: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

This year may have proved to be terminal to Messi's tight relationship with Barcelona, and while he was not quite up to his previous goalscoring exploits he still proved massively influential in the final third. He was the only player in LaLiga in 2020 to both score at least 15 goals and register as many assists.

Attacking midfield: Alejandro 'Papu' Gomez (Atalanta)

His time with Atalanta may seemingly be coming to an end after a falling-out with Gian Piero Gasperini, but Gomez has been one of the club's most important players. He had more assists (12) and created more chances (81) in Serie A this year than any of his team-mates.

Left wing: Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain)

PSG were crowned Ligue 1 champions despite the season being cut short in April, meaning they have played just 26 games this year. Mbappe only featured in 21 of those, but he was still directly involved in 24 goals (19 scored, five assisted) which was more than any other player in the competition in 2020.

Striker: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

It was no surprise to see Lewandowski named The Best FIFA Men's Player after an incredible campaign with Bayern. He scored 32 Bundesliga goals in 26 appearances this year and only five of them were spot-kicks. His tally of 27 non-penalty goals was the most of any player in the top five European leagues.

Paris Saint-Germain have sacked head coach Thomas Tuchel a day after they hammered Strasbourg 4-0, according to widespread reports.

Tuchel has come under increasing pressure this season, with champions PSG third in Ligue 1 after losing four of their 17 matches.

A rout of struggling Strasbourg on Wednesday came too late for the German boss, who was reportedly relieved of his duties on Christmas Eve.

Former Tottenham head coach Mauricio Pochettino, who spent over two years with PSG in his playing days, looks poised to replace the 47-year-old.

Tuchel masterminded back-to-back Ligue 1 title triumphs after he was appointed in May 2018, also winning the Coupe de France, Coupe de la Ligue and claiming the Trophee des Champions twice.

PSG missed out on a maiden Champions League success when they were beaten 1-0 by Bayern Munich in the final in August.

Tuchel endured a fractious relationship with sporting director Leonardo, but the Brazilian last month stated that the club had never considered sacking the former Borussia Dortmund head coach.

Criticism of PSG's lack of transfer business from Tuchel, whose contract was due to expire at the end of this season, did not go down well with Leonardo during the previous window.

PSG lost their first two Ligue 1 matches of the campaign amid a coronavirus outbreak and Tuchel then suggested a repeat of the 2019-20 campaign could not be expected due to a lack of investment in the playing squad.

Despite a less than vintage start domestically, Tuchel guided last year's runners-up into the Champions League round of 16 as Group H winners.

His replacement will do battle with Barcelona for a place in the quarter-finals.

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