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.

Sevilla have signed Marcos Acuna from Sporting CP to all but end their interest in fellow left-back Sergio Reguilon.

Reguilon starred on loan with Sevilla last season and the Europa League winners had hoped to re-sign him from Real Madrid for the 2020-21 campaign.

However, sporting director Monchi conceded last week his side would likely miss out on the 23-year-old, who is also a reported target for Manchester United.

And on Monday the LaLiga outfit confirmed the arrival of Argentina international Acuna on a four-year deal for a reported upfront fee of €10million.

Acuna spent three seasons with Sporting, making 134 appearances for the Portuguese giants in all competitions.

He becomes Sevilla's fifth signing of the window following deals for Ivan Rakitic, Oscar Rodriguez, Yassine Bounou and Suso, the latter two making their loan moves permanent.

Julen Lopetegui's side finished fourth last season to qualify for the Champions League and begin their 2020-21 campaign with a UEFA Super Cup clash against Bayern Munich on September 24.

Real Madrid have made no secret of their admiration for Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe himself has flirted with the possibility of working with fellow Frenchman Zinedine Zidane at the Santiago Bernabeu.

A blockbuster transfer could be getting closer…

 

TOP STORY – MADRID WAITING FOR MBAPPE

Real Madrid are prepared to target Kylian Mbappe next year as the Paris Saint-Germain forward wants to leave the Ligue 1 champions, according to reports in Spain.

Mbappe has reportedly told PSG he wants to depart the French capital at the end of the 2020-21 season.

Monday's editions of Marca and Diario AS are dominated by Mbappe, with the front pages saying Madrid are waiting to pounce for the France star in 2021.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Telegraph claims Manchester United have shown an interest in Inter's Ivan Perisic as the Red Devils struggle to negotiate a deal with Borussia Dortmund for Jadon Sancho. Perisic spent last season on loan at Bayern Munich.

Tottenham have set their sights on Southampton striker Danny Ings, says Football London. Spurs are desperate to bolster their attacking stocks, though it will be tough to prise the former Liverpool man to London.

- Sportitalia claims Roma have agreed personal terms with Napoli forward Arkadiusz Milik, who has also been linked with Tottenham and Juventus. Milik's possible arrival in Rome could see Edin Dzeko leave for Serie A champions Juve.

Milan are confident of signing Federico Chiesa from Fiorentina, reports La Gazzetta dello Sport. Milan's faith is based on the likely exit of Lucas Paqueta and Chiesa's dropping price tag.

- Mundo Deportivo says Liverpool star Georginio Wijnaldum is set to stay at Anfield despite interest from LaLiga champions Barcelona. Ronald Koeman's Barca could now rival Liverpool for Bayern's Thiago Alcantara, who has also been linked with United.

Roma are struggling to reach a deal with United for defender Chris Smalling, claims Calciomercato. Roma had hoped to sign the former loanee by the weekend, but the Italian club are now turning to Torino centre-back Armando Izzo as a possible alternative.

- Madrid defender Sergio Reguilon prefers another loan move to Sevilla rather than a United transfer, according to Diario AS. Despite United's interest, Reguilon wants to remain in Spain as he eyes a possible return to the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of 2020-21.

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.

With the asking price for Memphis Depay reportedly set, Barcelona also apparently want Thiago Alcantara back.

Ronald Koeman is preparing a rebuild at Camp Nou after a tumultuous 2019-20 season in which Barca finished trophy-less.

The former Netherlands coach wants Depay, while an ex-Barcelona midfielder may also make a return.

 

TOP STORY – LYON WANT €30M FOR DEPAY

Lyon want €30million from Barcelona for Depay, according to Mundo Deportivo.

After the Netherlands' Nations League loss to Italy, Depay said he was aware of interest in him, but remained unsure about his future.

Meanwhile, the cover of Mundo Deportivo also says Barcelona want to negotiate with Manchester City for defender Eric Garcia.

ROUND-UP

- Widely expected to leave Bayern Munich, Thiago has been heavily linked with a move to Liverpool. However, Sport Bild reports Barca are interested in bringing the midfielder back to Camp Nou, seven years after he left for Bayern. 

- Chelsea's spending spree seems set to continue. Goal and The Athletic report the Premier League club are pushing to seal a deal for Rennes goalkeeper Edouard Mendy. Chelsea have been linked with numerous goalkeepers amid pressure on Kepa Arrizabalaga.

- Manchester United's interest in Alex Telles has reportedly intensified. A Bola says the Porto left-back's representatives are in Manchester for talks over a possible €30m (£26.9m) move, while Sevilla are also reportedly interested.

- Aleksandar Kolarov is seemingly close to an Inter switch. Sky Sport Italia reports the Serbian has landed in Milan for a medical ahead of joining from Roma.

- With Kai Havertz having left for Chelsea, Bayer Leverkusen are likely to be looking for a replacement. Le 10 Sport claims the Bundesliga club are interested in Paris Saint-Germain attacker Julian Draxler.

- Aston Villa are looking to strengthen. The Sun says they want Liverpool forward Rhian Brewster in a £20m move, while The Athletic understands they have made a second bid for Arsenal goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

Barcelona's chances of landing Inter star Lautaro Martinez could reportedly become clearer this week.

The LaLiga giants remain interested in the Argentina forward, who scored 21 goals for Inter in 2019-20.

Just whether they can get a deal done, however, may become known this week.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA'S CHANCES OF SIGNING MARTINEZ SET TO BECOME CLEARER

Martinez's agents will meet with the leaders of Inter this week to assess his situation, according to Sport.

The report says Barcelona and Inter are in regular contact, but there is a big difference between the clubs.

It says Barca want to pay a maximum of €65million plus a player, while Inter are demanding a minimum of €85m.

Goal reports Barcelona are preparing a final offer for Martinez.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona are seeking a forward with Luis Suarez set to leave. Goal claims Barca and Juventus are negotiating a fee for the 33-year-old Uruguayan, who is said to have agreed to a three-year deal with the Serie A champions.

- Staying at Camp Nou and Marca reports Philippe Coutinho is set to spend 2020-21 at Barca. Coutinho spent 2019-20 on loan at Bayern Munich but the LaLiga club have ruled out another loan move, the report says.

- A player set for a Barcelona exit is Arturo Vidal. Sport Mediaset says Vidal is expected in Milan soon as he prepares to join Inter, where he has agreed a two-year deal with an option for a third.

- Real Madrid, meanwhile, look set to keep Gareth Bale. Mundo Deportivo reports Madrid have not received an offer for Bale, who is contracted until 2022 but has been linked with a move away.

- With Ronald Koeman having left to take over at Barcelona, the Netherlands are looking for a new head coach. Voetbal International reports the players want Henk ten Cate to be the Netherlands' next coach.

- Watford forward Gerard Deulofeu is reportedly wanted by numerous European clubs. The Telegraph reports Milan, Napoli and Sevilla want Deulofeu on loan with an option to buy.

Ivan Rakitic joked Sevilla could find a place for Lionel Messi if the superstar decided to leave Barcelona.

Rakitic, 32, has returned to Sevilla after six successful seasons at Barcelona, where he won four LaLiga titles and a Champions League among numerous other trophies.

Messi could also sensationally leave Camp Nou, although recent reports suggest the six-time Ballon d'Or winner may stay at the LaLiga giants.

Asked if Sevilla could land Messi, Rakitic said on Thursday: "We would find him a place, no problem.

"No, seriously, I think it is nice to see how the club is growing. Always humble. And this is also what is attractive to me.

"I want to work, fight with my team-mates for making Sevilla even bigger. So, fight, work and I am looking forward to start right now."

Rakitic's Sevilla return on the field is set to come on September 24, when the LaLiga club face Bayern Munich in the UEFA Super Cup.

The Croatian midfielder was part of the Barca squad embarrassed 8-2 by Bayern in the Champions League quarter-finals last month.

But Rakitic was unfazed by any suggestions he could get some revenge for that defeat when Sevilla meet the Bundesliga champions in Budapest.

"Big respect for Bayern. Obviously, it will be a very difficult game. We know how strong they are," he said.

"However, I am also aware of them knowing how powerful Sevilla is. So, we will be preparing that game in the best way possible. There is a trophy at stake – a very important trophy.

"We want to compete well and show them we are a great team. If it is a revenge or not… what I want is to win with Sevilla. I can't wait."

Ivan Rakitic hopes to help turn Sevilla into LaLiga title challengers after securing his return "home" following a six-year spell with Barcelona.

Rakitic, 32, completed his comeback to Sevilla on Tuesday as it was confirmed he had signed a four-year deal, with the Andalusian club paying an initial €1.5million, while another €9m could be due in performance-related variables.

The transfer sees Rakitic return to the club where he established himself as one of Europe's best midfielders in a three-and-a-half-year spell, helping them to Europa League success in 2013-14.

That was just a taste of what was to come at Barca, as Rakitic lifted 13 trophies in Catalonia, and now he is hoping to take Sevilla to the next level.

Having just won a fourth Europa League crown and with Barcelona in disarray, even club president Jose Castro recently suggested Sevilla are letting themselves dream of a first league title since the 1940s.

"With all due respect, the sixth [Europa League title] is already ours and we want it like no one else," Rakitic told reporters during his presentation on Wednesday evening.

"But we want to take the next step, both in LaLiga and in the Champions League. We all know what that means, but we don't want to put more pressure on each other either.

"But we do want to know which direction we want to go. I'm really looking forward to it.

"The situation is different from how I arrived nine years ago, especially because of the situation of the team and the environment.

"I'm in a team that's a champion, and luckily I know what that means. I was able to be the first foreign captain since [Diego] Maradona and this season I want to pass on to my team-mates and my family, which is what they are, that this is still the case.

"There is great potential, they work impressively, with a great coach and coaching staff. From me you can expect maximum.

"It's not just getting here, I want to help the club, the team-mates and the fans take the next step. I'm very happy and excited to come home. I'm very grateful also for how it all turned out, which was how we wanted it to be."

A fan favourite during his previous spell at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Rakitic was known to have a strong affinity with the city through his wife and rarely shied away from displays of passion for Sevilla during his Barca days.

The most recent of which saw Rakitic throw himself into his swimming pool in celebration of Sevilla's latest Europa League triumph, and although some Barca fans criticised him for it at the time, he made no apology.

"When I threw myself into the pool I was only celebrating, like another Sevilla player, the title," he said. "There was no other thought, only the joy of what the team had achieved.

"We like that the fans feel as close as possible to us and I felt like one more fan. They were very exciting games and it was a great joy. The dip in the pool was good for me because I had sweated a lot!"

Rakitic finished by paying tribute to his late friend and former Sevilla team-mate Jose Antonio Reyes.

"The day it was all closed would have been his birthday," Rakitic said. "These are moments where words aren't needed.

"We all know what Jose means to us and to those who like football. He had a special talent. I know he's watching me and supporting me and that he's happy for me.

"I wish I could see him happy and that much of this is for him, of course."

Sergio Reguilon says Real Madrid is his "home" but the left-back is keeping his options open amid reported interest from numerous clubs.

The 23-year-old enjoyed an impressive 2019-20 campaign on loan with Sevilla, which culminated in Europa League success with victory over Inter in the final.

His form has earned him links with Manchester United, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain, plus a call-up to the Spain national side.

And Reguilon, in line to earn his international debut against Germany or Ukraine this week, is still contemplating where his future lies given he is under contract with Madrid until 2023.

"I go day by day. If I am thinking about calls and my destiny I will not enjoy the national team and I do not have that," he told Radio Marca.

"Obviously Real Madrid is my home, but it is not easy... I have all the factors in mind."

Sevilla head coach Julen Lopetegui managed to get the best out of Reguilon, who featured 38 times in all competitions in his season at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

The defender is glad to have been able to reward Lopetegui's faith by playing a starring role in the club's latest European triumph.

"He means a lot to me and I have a lot of affection for him," Reguilon said. "He gave me my first opportunity in professional football and now we have shared something very nice. 

"When I saw him crying after winning the Europa League I couldn't be more happy, he worked like a b***ard."

Ivan Rakitic has rejoined Sevilla from Barcelona after six years at Camp Nou.

The Croatia midfielder has signed a four-year deal with Julen Lopetegui's side.

Barca will receive €1.5million up front for the player, with up to another €9m due in performance-related variables.

New Barca head coach Ronald Koeman is said to have made it clear to Rakitic, who made 42 appearances in all competitions last season, that he would not be in his plans for 2020-21.

Negotiations stepped up on Monday, with Rakitic undergoing a medical after a fee was agreed between the clubs.

Rakitic was a fan favourite at Sevilla and captained them to Europa League glory in 2013-14 before signing for Barcelona.

His first season at the club was a resounding success, the Catalans winning the treble under Luis Enrique, with Rakitic scoring the opening goal in the 3-1 Champions League final win over Juventus.

In total, Rakitic won 13 trophies with Barca, including four LaLiga titles and four Copas del Rey, and he was reportedly the subject of a €90m bid from Paris Saint-Germain in 2018.

However, his position in the first team has come under scrutiny over the past two seasons.

The 32-year-old became the target of criticism from a particular section of the fanbase as results and performances began to dip during the latter part of Ernesto Valverde's time in charge.

Rakitic always maintained he did not want to leave the club despite speculation Barca were keen to offload him, possibly in part-exchange offers for Neymar or Lautaro Martinez, and his frustrations boiled over in April when he told Mundo Deportivo: "I understand the situation but I am not a sack of potatoes to do whatever you want with."

Rakitic's wife Raquel Mauri and her family are from Andalusia and the player has previously admitted he would like to move back to the region and play for Sevilla once his time at Barca came to an end.

In December last year, he told El Desmarque: "If the time was right then we all know that I'd be delighted to pursue this as I've always stated that if I was to return to one of my previous clubs then it would be Sevilla.

"I'm really happy to see the team do so well and they seem to be getting better each year and that's something that greatly pleases me. My dream would be to wear the Sevilla shirt again at some point in the future."

Ivan Rakitic has rejoined Sevilla from Barcelona after six years at Camp Nou.

The Croatia midfielder has signed a four-year deal with Julen Lopetegui's side.

According to Sport, Barca will receive a maximum fee of €8m for the player depending, on whether Sevilla qualify for the Europa League or Champions League over the next two seasons.

Sevilla have won the race for the highly coveted Oscar Rodriguez, who arrives from Real Madrid on a five-year deal.

Oscar, 22, will reportedly cost Sevilla €16million for 75 per cent of his ownership rights, with Madrid retaining the remaining 25 per cent.

The gifted midfielder came through Madrid's academy but had spent the two previous seasons on loan with Leganes in LaLiga, helping them to preserve their top-flight status in 2018-19.

Leganes were unable to repeat the feat in 2019-20 as they were relegated on the final day of the season, but Oscar still managed to enjoy a fine campaign individually.

His haul of nine goals made him Leganes' top-scorer and he also supplied a pair of assists.

A fine technician and dead-ball specialist, Oscar's arrival will help alleviate the loss of Ever Banega.

Experienced Argentine playmaker Banega joined Saudi Arabia's Al-Shabab after helping Sevilla to a sixth Europa League crown against Inter.

Oscar had been strongly linked with several other clubs, particularly Milan, but he moves to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan where he will get a taste of Champions League football.

The transfer caps a special couple of weeks for the midfielder, who received his first call-up to Spain's senior side on August 20.

It is reported that, as part of the deal, Sevilla will keep Madrid informed of any bids they receive for highly rated centre-back Jules Kounde.

Luuk de Jong's unlikely heroics, Diego Carlos controversially escaping a red card, Romelu Lukaku losing focus at the decisive moments – much will be analysed and discussed in excruciating detail following Sevilla's latest Europa League success, but Julen Lopetegui deserves all of the attention.

This is a tale of redemption, from a man who was lambasted and derided in equal measure over the past two-and-a-bit years, to a coach who masterminded a European success against a sleeping giant that was ready to awaken.

Lopetegui's history is well-known – on the eve of the 2018 World Cup, he was unceremoniously given the boot by Spain for agreeing to join Real Madrid, for whom he had previously worked in the youth team, after the tournament.

It was an ugly affair that, rightly or wrongly, led to Lopetegui harbouring the blame for Spain's disappointing campaign, for which Fernando Hierro ultimately took charge.

Lopetegui's Real Madrid dream then lasted only until October, his sacking coming after a humiliating 5-1 Clasico defeat to Barcelona.

The Basque coach, a former goalkeeper for both Clasico clubs, disappeared from the limelight, and who could blame him?

That was until Monchi came calling in June 2019.

Sevilla's sporting director will rightly receive acclaim from far and wide for this triumph – after returning from an underwhelming spell with Roma last year, he built a squad that has got the club back into the Champions League via a fourth-placed LaLiga finish, and now possesses yet another Europa League crown.

But Lopetegui is the true hero of this success. To further understand Lopetegui's fight, we must go back to February.

Sevilla scraped past Cluj in the Europa League last 32. A 1-1 draw in Romania was followed by the cagiest of return legs, as Los Nervionenses were dominated for long stretches.

Their European quest appeared to be over when Cluj scored late on… But VAR bailed them out.

Real discontent from the fans swirled around the team and Lopetegui at that point – they haven't lost a game since, embarking on a club-record 20-match unbeaten run.

Aside from some of their players attracting negative headlines due to their lack of social distancing, the coronavirus-enforced hiatus served Sevilla well.

After securing fourth in LaLiga, they came into the Europa League knowing they were likely to face an extremely difficult route to winning the tournament – Roma came first, then Wolves, Manchester United and now Inter. They all failed to end the club's remarkable record in European finals.

But there's no doubt they rode their luck in Cologne on Friday.

It looked like being a long night for Sevilla right from the off – a rare lapse from Ever Banega on the edge of the Inter box allowed the Italians to break, and pantomime villain Diego Carlos then took centre-stage.

The highly rated Brazilian, who conceded penalties against both Wolves and Manchester United, continued his bizarre streak as he found himself the wrong side of Romelu Lukaku, who he eventually hauled down in the area.

Quite how Diego Carlos remained on the pitch is a mystery. He clearly made no attempt to get the ball, but referee Danny Makkelie only produced a yellow. It would prove decisive, but initially Lukaku made the most of the spot-kick and at that point one had to fear for Sevilla.

A resilience swiftly shone through, however. Luuk de Jong, one of the most heavily criticised players in Spain this season, again showed his worth as he did with the winner in the semi-final.

A clever stooping header from Jesus' Navas' cross gave Samir Handanovic too much to do, and he soon followed that up with an even better goal – again with his head – as he met a marvellous delivery from the exceptional Banega.

Given he had previously lost his place in the team to Youssef En-Nesyri, being restored to the line-up was a big call by Lopetegui, but the Dutchman – scorer of just eight goals before this game – vindicated the decision.

Diego Carlos was again under the microscope for the equaliser. His needless foul led to Marcelo Brozovic's free-kick, and Diego Godin lost the former Nantes defender to nod home.

The second half was a much tenser occasion – Sevilla continued to see more of the ball, but Inter appeared to have the greater threat in attack.

Lukaku failed to beat Yassine Bounou when one-one-one and Sevilla took full advantage.

Inter failed to clear a corner and Diego Carlos unleashed an overhead-kick, which Lukaku turned into his own net with 16 minutes to go.

And that was that.

Inter's chance to end a nine-year wait for silverware ended with that incident, as Sevilla clinched the trophy, remarkably, for a sixth time in just over 14 years.

As was the case all of those years ago when they won their first against Middlesbrough, much of the spotlight will fall on Monchi, the transfer guru, but Lopetegui fought back from the brink to mastermind this triumph.

From moulding together what was essentially a brand new squad, to establishing a new style of play that secured Champions League football and another European success for Sevilla, Lopetegui answered his critics resoundingly.

This was a tale of redemption.

Page 3 of 8
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.