Cristiano Ronaldo became a free agent earlier this week after mutually agreeing with Manchester United to terminate his contract.

Ronaldo's availability has prompted numerous clubs to weigh up moves for the five-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Brazilian giants Flamengo and Saudi Arabian powerhouse Al Hilal have been linked with Ronaldo in recent days.

AL NASSR OFFER LUCRATIVE DEAL TO FREE AGENT RONALDO

CBS claims Saudi Arabian club Al Nassr have offered Cristiano Ronaldo a three-year deal worth £186m.

The deal would see Ronaldo play into his 40s, with Al Nassr having resumed talks with his representatives having initiated them in the close season.

An unnamed Saudi Arabian club reportedly made an offer for the 37-year-old Portuguese prior to the start of this campaign.

Al Nassr are nine-time Saudi Arabian champions and ex-Lyon and Roma boss Rudi Garcia is their head coach.

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Cody Gakpo and Milan's Rafael Leao are top of Erik ten Hag's wish list to replace Ronaldo at Manchester United in January, claims ESPN.

- Arsenal are set to beat Newcastle United to sign Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Mykhailo Mudryk for approximately £40 million, reports The Mirror.

- Bayern Munich are the latest club to enter the race to sign West Ham's England international Declan Rice, according to El Nacional.

- Juventus are planning a move for Athletic Bilbao winger Nico Williams, reports AS. Williams is contracted with Athletic until 2024.

- Milan are keen on Salzburg forward Noah Okafor, with the Austrian club asking €35m for him, according to Calciomercato.

Atletico Madrid were eliminated from Europe in midweek after a 2-1 loss at Porto and are looking to bolster their squad.

One player who could be sold is Joao Felix, who Atleti signed for €126million from Benfica on a seven-year deal in 2019.

The Portuguese forward has underwhelmed this season, with only two goals, and has been unsettled at times.

 

TOP STORY – ATLETICO WILLING TO LISTEN TO JOAO FELIX OFFERS

Cadena SER claims Atletico Madrid have put Joao Felix on the market and are open to offers for him.

Bayern Munich were rumoured to have made a €100m off-season move for Felix, while Manchester United reportedly had a €130m bid turned down in August.

Fichajes reported last month that the 22-year-old had handed in a transfer request, while Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona have been linked with him recently.

 

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Real Madrid are getting proactive in the pursuit of Palmeiras' 16-year-old talent Endrick, sending officials to Brazil to commence talks over a deal, claims Marca. Endrick cannot officially join Madrid until he is 18-years-old but Los Blancos are eager to get an agreement in place.

West Ham, Leicester City, Southampton and Brentford are all monitoring Lyon's Brazilian winger Tete, according to The Sun.

– Diario Sport reports Barcelona want to sign Athletic Bilbao centre-back Inigo Martinez as a replacement for the retiring Gerard Pique.

Leicester are weighing up their options for a Youri Tielemans replacement, keeping tabs on Lorient midfielder Enzo Le Fee, reports 90min.

– La Gazzetta dello Sport reports veteran French forward Olivier Giroud will be rewarded with a new Milan contract after the World Cup. The new deal will run until 2024.

Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk is valued at "more than Antony of Manchester United, who cost €100million" according to assistant sporting director Carlo Nicolini, with Arsenal and Manchester City said to be interested.

Mudryk, 21, has been with the Ukrainian club since he was 15 years old, and after a pair of loan moves he returned to the club this past season and forced his way into the first team.

After the league season was halted due to the war between Ukraine and Russia, Mudryk returned in style this campaign, collecting three goals and five assists in six league fixtures, as well as three goals and two assists in five Champions League contests.

His exploits included two assists and a goal in a surprise 4-1 win over RB Leipzig, as well as goals in both of Shakhtar's 1-1 draws against Celtic – and Europe's top clubs have taken notice.

TOP STORY – PRICE TAG FOR SHAKHTAR'S MUDRYK SET AT NORTH OF €100M

In an interview with Calciomercato's TV Play, Nicolini claimed City and Arsenal are among teams keen on the Ukraine international, but made it clear Shakhtar are in no rush to sell.

Mudryk signed a four-year contract in February this year that ties him to the club until 2026.

As well discussing where interest is coming from – saying "the Italians bring low proposals" and "always come later", while confirming Spanish and French suitors – Nicolini claimed Mudryk was one of the best wingers in the world.

"It takes the right amount to take him away – together with Mbappe, Leao and Vinicius, Mudryk is the strongest player at the position," he said.

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– According to HITC, Fulham are interested in four of Sao Paulo's players, including 20-year-old midfielder Pablo Maia, for whom they have reportedly submitted a second bid.

– Nottinghamshire Live claims Nottingham Forest are also prepared to bid for Sao Paulo's Maia, who is said to have a price tag of £9million.

– The Athletic is reporting Manchester United are monitoring 23-year-old Porto goalkeeper Diogo Costa and 25-year-old Athletic Bilbao goalie Unai Simon as they decide whether to trigger David de Gea's contract extension.

– According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Juventus have joined Newcastle United and Arsenal in the chase for 24-year-old Lyon midfielder Houssem Aouar.

Arsenal also have strong interest in 23-year-old Eintracht Frankfurt centre-back Evan Ndicka, according to GiveMeSport.

Xavi credited Ousmane Dembele's willingness to take risks after the France winger starred in Barcelona's 4-0 thrashing of Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou. 

Barca moved back to within three points of Real Madrid on the LaLiga table by putting Athletic to the sword on Sunday, with Dembele opening the scoring before recording three assists.

By laying on goals for Robert Lewandowski, Sergi Roberto and Ferran Torres, Dembele recorded four goal involvements in a single game for Barca for the first time, in what was his 165th Blaugrana appearance.

Dembele's tally of five assists in LaLiga is the best in the competition this season, and Xavi described the 25-year-old as a difference-maker following Barca's victory.

"He was in the spotlight because he takes risks and it's like a flip of a coin. He was especially motivated," Xavi told Movistar.

"He understood everything well. He's here to make a difference and he's capable of doing these things."

Barca raced into a three-goal lead within 22 minutes as Athletic collapsed, before controlling possession as Pedri repeatedly drifted inside from an unfamiliar left-wing role.

"We thought it was a game of intensity and rhythm, we understood that they were going to put a lot of pressure on us," Xavi said of Barca's approach.

"We put one more midfielder in and we attacked inside. We found the superiority and we matched their intensity, those were the keys. We showed solidarity and it was a complete game."

Barca endured a run of just one win in four matches earlier this month, losing to Clasico rivals Madrid and failing to beat Inter in two Champions League meetings, leading captain Sergio Busquets to emphasise the importance of their response.

"We came from a difficult week after losing against Madrid, but we have remade ourselves with two good games and we continue to fight for the top positions here," Busquets said.

"We came out very strong, because we knew that they are a very intense team and we wanted to match that intensity. 

"We had ten minutes of great success in front of goal and that made it easy for us to break up the match."

Ousmane Dembele scored and assisted three others as Barcelona warmed up for Wednesday's Champions League clash with Bayern Munich by thrashing Athletic Bilbao 4-0 at Camp Nou.

Xavi's team raced into a three-goal lead before half-time in Thursday's mauling of Villarreal and they repeated the trick on Sunday as Sergi Roberto and Robert Lewandowski joined Dembele on the scoresheet within 22 minutes.

Having set up Roberto and Lewandowski, Dembele continued to terrorise Athletic after the break and helped Barca add some gloss when he teed up Ferran Torres for a neat finish late on.

The result moved Barca back to within three points of leaders Real Madrid in the LaLiga standings, with Los Blancos having moved clear with a 3-1 win over Sevilla on Saturday. 

Dembele opened the scoring after 12 minutes, testing Unai Simon before nodding in Lewandowski's cross after the striker had recycled the loose ball.

There was more fortune about Barca's second, which arrived when Roberto's shot deflected beyond Simon from a tight angle following Dembele's throughball. 

Dembele played a role again in Barca's third as Athletic crumbled, driving inside from the right to feed Lewandowski, who swivelled and lashed into the roof of the net.

Barca suffered a blow when Gavi limped off following a collision with Dani Garcia before the break, but they almost scored a fourth when Garcia's clearance hit Pedri and crashed against the post.

Dembele showcased his creative qualities once again when Barca completed the rout after 73 minutes, drilling a low cross into Torres, who shifted the ball to his right foot before finishing coolly. 

Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak could not remember what happened and will be kept under observation after being "slightly concussed" in Saturday's 1-0 LaLiga win over Athletic Bilbao.

Oblak was taken off in the 69th minute as part of a triple substitution due to an apparent shoulder issue, with his replacement Ivo Grbic making some key late saves at San Mames.

Atletico confirmed after the game that the Slovakian goalkeeper had been substituted "because he was slightly concussed, having also suffered direct trauma to his right shoulder".

Atleti head coach Diego Simeone added: "Jan didn't remember much of what had happened. I haven't talked to him, but the doctor told me that he didn't remember."

The club said Oblak underwent a neurological examination after the game without any worrying symptoms, but will be kept under observation by medical staff.

Oblak attempted to play on after initially appearing to suffer a shoulder injury before succumbing in the 69th minute.

The shot-stopper has started eight of Atletico's nine league games this term, having suffered a thigh issue in early September.

Diego Simeone was delighted to see Atletico Madrid's trademark resilience come to the fore in a 1-0 win at Athletic Bilbao, declaring 'the team's work continues to excite me'.

Antoine Griezmann's second-half goal – his 100th strike for Atletico in LaLiga – ensured Los Colchoneros leapfrogged Athletic into third place in the early season standings on Saturday.

Discounting Alvaro Morata's disallowed opener, Atletico failed to manage a single attempt prior to Griezmann's 47th-minute goal, and they recorded just three shots throughout the game – their lowest tally of the league season.

Atletico came under pressure late on and were indebted to substitute goalkeeper Ivo Grbic for making a flying save from Inigo Martinez's header, but Simeone always felt they were in control.

"It was seen what we came to try to do. We were undoubtedly facing one of the best teams in LaLiga and I think we were able to take the game to where we felt better," Simeone said.

"The most difficult thing in the game is to control the game, and that doesn't mean only with the ball, but also the positional game. 

 

"In the second half, the goal came with a very nice play and great definition. Today we had the forcefulness and it generates optimism for the rest of the match. 

"The team's work continues to excite me, it's been 11 years here."

Atletico have now won three successive league games for the first time since April, and trail Barcelona and Real Madrid by just three points ahead of the duo's Clasico meeting on Sunday.

Simeone has faced criticism for a perceived lack of progression this season, but he believes his team are on track, adding: "I think we're gaining mettle in a championship with a large number of games. 

"It's hard to please all the boys, they all want to play, they have the World Cup close and it's hard when they don't see themselves in the starting 11. 

"We are going to count on everyone, it is impossible to play every three days with the same ones. Hopefully they feel proud of what they do, because winning in this field is not easy."

Antoine Griezmann fired Atletico Madrid to a valuable 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday and reached 100 LaLiga goals for the club in the process.

Atletico announced on Monday that Griezmann's loan return from Barcelona would be made permanent, and the France forward marked his first league appearance since with a composed second-half finish.

Alvaro Morata had earlier been denied an opener by a VAR review, but Griezmann's effort proved enough for coach Diego Simeone's men during a typically disciplined display. Athletic rightly had a late penalty award overturned.

The victory sees Atletico leapfrog their hosts into third place in LaLiga, trailing Barcelona and Real Madrid by three points ahead of Sunday's Clasico.

Inaki Williams headed over the crossbar when left unmarked from an early free-kick, and only a VAR review prevented Athletic from being punished for that miss after 10 minutes.

Morata appeared to have taken advantage of a slip from Yeray Alvarez before rounding Unai Simon to score, but on second viewing the referee ruled the Spain striker was guilty of a foul, much to Atletico's frustration.

Simeone's visitors failed to register a single shot between Morata's disallowed strike and half-time, but they hit the front within two minutes of the restart when Griezmann side-footed Morata's cut-back into the bottom-right corner.

Griezmann then miscued a volley after finding space at the back post, before injured goalkeeper Jan Oblak was replaced by Ivo Grbic in an apparent blow to Atletico's hopes.

Atleti were indebted to their substitute goalkeeper, however, when he made a spectacular save from Inigo Martinez's header. The visitors then survived late drama when a penalty was awarded for handball against Reinildo, with a VAR check showing the referee called that incorrectly, the ball having struck the defender's face.

Ander Herrera has returned to Athletic Bilbao after the club agreed a loan deal with Paris Saint-Germain.

Although the loan is initially for only the 2022-23 season, Athletic have the option to extend his stay for an extra year or make the arrangement permanent in 2023.

Herrera, 33, was born in Bilbao and spent three years at Athletic from 2011 after coming through Real Zaragoza's academy.

The experienced midfielder signed for PSG in 2019 after his Manchester United contract expired and made 95 appearances, winning Ligue 1, the Coupe de France and Trophee des Champions twice each, while also lifting the Coupe de la Ligue.

However, Herrera was never a regular starter for PSG and had been linked with a move away for much of the transfer window, with Christophe Galtier yet to call upon him this season.

Recent media reports suggested Herrera was likely to leave PSG on a free transfer, but the Parisians retain ownership of him for the time being.

The European domestic season is now back up and running, meaning we are officially into a World Cup campaign.

For some players, the main focus over the next few months will be remaining fit with the hope of entering Qatar 2022 in peak condition for their respective nations.

For others, the first part of the 2022-23 season will provide an opportunity to play themselves into contention for a squad place ahead of the biggest tournament of them all.

That includes an array of talented stars who have yet to represent their countries at senior level, but who could be given the chance to showcase their talent on the global stage.

With the big kick-off now just 100 days away, Stats Perform has identified five uncapped players who still have an outside shot of glory in Qatar.


Gleison Bremer (Brazil) – 25, centre-back, Juventus

If Bremer was not on the radar of Brazil head coach Tite ahead of the 2021-22 season, the 25-year-old certainly will be now. He ranked first among Serie A defenders last term for duels contested (451) and also led the way for headed clearances (75), showing that he can be relied upon at the back.

Indeed, Bremer's form last time out led to Juventus splashing out a reported €50million to sign him from Torino during the close season. Brazil must be quick, though, as the Italian top-flight's best defender last season is also eligible to represent the Azzurri.

 

Luis Maximiano (Portugal) – 23, goalkeeper, Lazio

Goalkeeper Maximiano is another who moved to a club of bigger stature just a few months out from the World Cup beginning after swapping relegated Granada, where he impressed in his only campaign, for Serie A side Lazio. The 23-year-old certainly had a chance to showcase his shot-stopping abilities last season, with his 127 saves the most of any keeper in LaLiga, and the fifth-most of anyone in Europe's top five leagues.

Following the departure of long-serving Thomas Strakosha, Maximiano will be installed as first choice at Stadio Olimpico, where Portugal boss Fernando Santos may make a visit or two in the coming months.



Sven Botman (Netherlands) – 22, centre-back, Newcastle United

Despite catching the eye in Ligue 1 with Lille, particularly in 2020-21 when starting 37 of the 38 matches played in their stunning title-winning campaign, Botman has remained on the periphery of the Netherlands squad. He has been a regular for the Oranje at Under-21 level, but after joining Newcastle in a £31.8m (€37m) transfer last month, he is surely now in serious consideration for a place in the senior squad.

Having led the way among Lille players last time out per 90 minutes for successful passes (53.4), blocks (0.84) and headed clearances (2.2), the Dutchman will hope to hit the ground running in another new league.

 

Benjamin Bourigeaud (France) – 28, attacking midfielder, Rennes

Reigning world champions France are blessed with world-class talent right across the pitch, but could there be room for a wild card in the form of Bourigeaud? The versatile attacking midfielder can play in a number of positions, though was predominantly used out on the right in what was a career-best season last time out in Ligue 1.

While France are hardly crying out for another player to slot into the final third, Bourigeaud's 23 direct goal involvements for Rennes last season is a tally bettered by only four others, while his David Beckham-esque deliveries from wide can provide something a little different for Didier Deschamps' men.

 

Inaki Williams (Ghana) – 28, forward, Athletic Bilbao

Ghana's squad has been completely transformed since booking their place in Qatar, having persuaded six players to switch allegiance and represent them at the World Cup. Patric Pfeiffer, Stephen Ambrosius and Ransford-Yeboah Konigsdorffer are all available for selection, as are Inaki Williams, Tariq Lamptey and Mohammed Salisu.

Each of those players will enhance Otto Addo's squad, with Williams – capped once by Spain in a friendly – possibly a game-changing option in attack. He is someone who can be replied upon, too, having appeared in each of Athletic's past 233 LaLiga matches, a run spanning back to April 2016. 

Former Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde has said he is "calm" about reports linking Inigo Martinez with the Blaugrana.

Reports in Spain have indicated that Barca see the 31-year-old as an alternative option to Jules Kounde if they are unable to complete his signing from Sevilla.

The France defender has also been heavily linked with a move to Chelsea, though reports on Saturday suggested Barca were confident of beating the Premier League side to a deal.

Valverde was appointed as Athletic boss last month for a third spell, after managing Barca between 2017 and 2020, where he won two LaLiga titles and a Copa del Rey.

Speaking after Athletic's 1-1 friendly draw with Bundesliga side Mainz on Saturday, Valverde said he was relaxed about the Martinez rumours.

"We are calm about Inigo," he said. "For us there is no situation.

"I guess all this is the classic thing that happens every summer, that some clubs are interested or talked about as they are interested.

"We are calm. From what comes out we always isolate ourselves a little and that's it.

"He hasn't said anything to me [about a move], at all. At the club we are all very calm about it. We have players very committed to the club, you see it in every training and in every game. He's a very important player for us."

Martínez has made 342 LaLiga appearances for Real Sociedad and Athletic, 99.7 per cent of which have been from the start (341), the highest percentage of any outfield player with at least 250 appearances in the competition in the 21st century.

Barca teenager Pedri recently told Marca he hopes to see Martinez at the Camp Nou, saying: "Inigo is a magnificent player, I've played with him in the national team, I hope it can happen."

Pedri hopes Barcelona can raid Athletic Bilbao to sign "magnificent" defender Inigo Martinez.

Barca have reportedly turned their attention to centre-back Martinez, with Sevilla's Jules Kounde expected to join Chelsea rather than move to Camp Nou.

Pedri believes his Spain team-mate would be a great signing for the Blaugrana, who have been busy in the transfer market ahead of the 2022-23 season.

The teenage midfielder said when asked about the prospect of signing Martinez: "I hope he comes. He is a magnificent player. I know him very well from the national team."

Barca academy graduate Pedri believes the Catalan giants have a great chance of winning LaLiga after recruiting the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Franck Kessie.

Asked how the team is ready to approach the season, he replied: "With the greatest enthusiasm. In addition, the reinforcements that have come are helping people get excited.

"We face this season with the illusion of winning all the titles."

Xavi's side face Real Madrid in an El Clasico friendly at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Pedri is relishing doing battle with the LaLiga champions in a mouthwatering pre-season friendly.

"There is always a desire to play against Real Madrid," he said. "I had never been to the United States and I am noticing the affection of the people."

He added: "it's pre-season and the important thing is to add minutes. But it's true that playing against Real Madrid is always a motivation and winning is always good for the dynamics of the group."

Ernesto Valverde has secured a return to Athletic Bilbao after being appointed the club's head coach on president Jon Uriarte's first day in office.

Valverde remains a popular figure at the club following a successful second stint as the first team's coach between 2013 and 2017.

During that four-year spell, Valverde took Athletic into the Champions League, reached the final of the 2015 Copa del Rey and a few months later ended the club's 31-year trophy drought with a 5-1 aggregate defeat of Barcelona in the Supercopa de Espana.

He eventually left in May 2017 to take over from Luis Enrique at Barcelona, with whom Valverde won two LaLiga titles, the Copa del Rey and Supercopa before being dismissed in January 2020.

The Blaugrana have won just one trophy since.

Valverde's return for a third spell in charge of the team he also represented for six years as a player coincides with the election of Uriarte as Athletic's new president.

Uriarte's key pledge in his election campaign was to bring Valverde back as coach following Marcelino Garcia Toral's departure in May.

Former Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa – who has also coached Athletic before – appeared to be Valverde's biggest rival, having reached an agreement to take over if presidential candidate Inaki Arechabaleta had won the election.

But Uriarte took 47.7 per cent of the vote compared to Arechabaleta's 33.7 per cent, with his success confirmed last week.

As such, Valverde will extend his record as the coach with the most matches managed at Athletic (306), while supporters will hope he can maintain the feat of not finishing below seventh in his last spell – they have not ended a season higher than eighth since his departure.

Ernesto Valverde, not Marcelo Bielsa, is set to become Athletic Bilbao's next coach after Jon Uriarte won the club's presidential election on Friday.

Valverde has coached Athletic on two previous occasions, from 2003 to 2005 and 2013 to 2017. No coach has overseen more games for the club than his tally of 306.

He enjoyed success with Athletic during his second spell, leading the team to Europe in each campaign and winning the Supercopa de Espana in 2015-16, beating Barcelona 5-1.

In 2017, Valverde was appointed Barca coach. He won LaLiga in his two full seasons at Camp Nou, and a Copa del Rey title in 2018, but failure in the Champions League placed him on thin ice and he was dismissed in late 2019.

The 58-year-old has since been out of work but earlier this week, Athletic presidential candidate Uriarte stated that Valverde would become the club's new coach should he win the election.

Another candidate, Ricardo Barkala, had also backed Valverde to be the coach, while Inaki Arechabaleta had chosen Marcelo Bielsa – another former Athletic coach who is fondly remembered in the Basque country.

Yet Bielsa will not be returning to San Mames just yet, and instead it is Valverde who is set to be appointed following Uriarte's victory.

Uriarte, the youngest of the three candidates at 43, is a former banker who co-founded ticket portal Ticketbis, which was sold to eBay in 2016. He won the election with 46.71 per cent of the vote.

Arechabaleta was second with a 33.72 per cent share, with Barkala coming in third (18.13 per cent).

A move to take Antoine Griezmann to Athletic Bilbao is "impossible" according to Inaki Arechabaleta, the presidential candidate who has pledged to appoint Marcelo Bielsa if he wins the club's upcoming elections.

Griezmann came through the ranks at Athletic's local rivals Real Sociedad, meaning the 2018 World Cup winner is often spoken about as a potential target for the club, who remain committed to a policy of only recruiting players hailing from the Basque Country.

Having returned to Atletico Madrid on a two-year loan deal from Barcelona last August, Griezmann struggled to tie down a regular starting spot during an injury-hit season.

He made fewer appearances in all competitions (36) than fellow forwards Angel Correa (49), Luis Suarez (45) and Matheus Cunha (37).

The 31-year-old's frustrating campaign in the Spanish capital had fuelled speculation he could be targeted by Athletic, particularly as prospective boss Bielsa attempted to sign the forward during his first spell at the club between 2011 and 2013.

But Arechabaleta says the France star's significant wages make such a move implausible at this stage.

"With Marcelo we have talked about the possibilities of signing players for Athletic and, therefore, we will be attentive to the possibilities we have to strengthen our squad," he told Spanish podcast El Partidazo de Cope.

On a potential move for Griezmann, he said: "He could be [a target] because it's part of the club's philosophy, but I think it's absolutely impossible.

"The problem is not whether Griezmann enters our philosophy. Griezmann is unattainable at the moment for salary and what you have to pay for him."

Meanwhile, Arechabaleta revealed he has been in contract with managerial target Bielsa since the immediate aftermath of his Leeds United dismissal in late February, as he prepares for the elections on June 24. 

"Marcelo is a great professional, one of the best in the world and is an asset, who joins a lot of assets that we have presented these days," he added.

"I had one of the first contacts in the month of March. The first thing he told me is that he really likes the Basque Country and Athletic, but that we should let him analyse the Spanish league and the current Athletic.

"He is a very up-to-date football genius."

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