Luis Enrique claimed Spain are among the top teams in the world, but insisted they have to improve if they want to be the best.

La Roja defeated a plucky Kosovo side 2-0, making it consecutive wins to top Group B after Sweden ended their 66-game unbeaten run in World Cup qualifying that stretched back to 1993.

Pablo Fornals was on target for his first international strike, while Ferran Torres scored to become the first player to score six goals in a calendar year for Spain since David Silva (seven) in 2017.

Second-place Sweden slipping up against Greece opened a four-point gap but Luis Enrique implored his team to improve if they are to challenge to be the world's number-one outfit.

"We have made many mistakes, we have had many inaccuracies and we have suffered because of that," Luis Enrique told reporters post-match.

"It was a great relief to score the second goal, which ended the match and see the result that we all hope.

"This group is excellent and eager to improve, accept everything that they are told with the idea of being a stronger team. [We] made changes, six or seven new players coming in but the idea and philosophy stays the same.

"But we are not the best in the world even though we are among the best. Anyone can beat us and there is no one who wins every game."

The Spain head coach also bemoaned the quality of the pitch in Pristina, a sentiment echoed by Aymeric Laporte, who recorded a game-high 139 touches and completed another game-leading 96.9 per cent of his 129 passes.

"It was a highly contested game, we got [the win] at the end and it relieved us," Laporte said post-match.

"The pitch was not optimal. We kept our idea of playing and with a pitch like this, it is complicated.

"In the end, the important thing is the result. We have the determination to win everything, we are Spain and now we have to win everything."

Liverpool fans enjoyed their return to Anfield for Saturday's 2-0 win over Burnley, and Jurgen Klopp's subsequent comments ensured the focus remained on the Reds.

Discussing Burnley's approach, Klopp said: "Watch wrestling if you like that kind of thing."

Indeed, the Clarets' physicality is "too dangerous", according to the Liverpool manager.

Some of the most intriguing Opta facts from the Premier League weekend emerged from that feisty encounter, while there were predictable developments as Manchester United visited Southampton...

No reds against Reds despite 'wrestling' claims

The clash at Anfield was not quite WWE, but there was also limited football on display. The ball was in play for just 49 minutes and 47 seconds.

That was the second-shortest such length of time for a Liverpool league game under Klopp, longer only than the 48 minutes and 46 seconds against Watford in 2015.

The Hornets won that game 3-0, so it can be an effective stifling tactic, but it did not work on this occasion as Liverpool scored in either half through Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane.

Klopp's men have now won seven consecutive Premier League games while scoring in both halves in each of them. Liverpool's own run of 11 victories with goals before and after half-time in 2014 was the last longer streak.

Burnley are on their own impressive run, though – one at odds with Klopp's frustrations.

Sean Dyche's side are now 95 Premier League matches without a red card since Robbie Brady's late dismissal against Huddersfield Town in January 2019, surpassing the previous competition record that saw Ipswich Town go 94 games without having a player sent off prior to December 1994.

Home comforts at last for City star Laporte

In Manchester City's 5-0 demolition of Norwich City, Aymeric Laporte scored his ninth goal for the club but first at the Etihad Stadium.

Laporte had turned out at City's home stadium 44 times previously without hitting the net, with each of his eight prior strikes coming at different grounds.

The Spain centre-back had goals at the AMEX, Emirates Stadium, Goodison Park, Groupama Stadium, Metalist Stadium, Molineux, Wembley and Vicarage Road before finally celebrating in front of the Etihad supporters.

Another Villa pen makes for Premier League first

Danny Ings' outrageous overhead kick lit up a tight affair between Aston Villa and Newcastle United, but it was a controversial second from the penalty spot that put the game beyond the Magpies.

Ings had scored from 12 yards on his debut against Watford – his volley against Newcastle making him the fourth Villa player to net in each of their first two Premier League games for the club – and so was expected to step up again when Jamaal Lascelles was adjudged to have handled.

Instead, Anwar El Ghazi grabbed Villa's second, maintaining his perfect penalty record in the competition with six from six.

Ings was overlooked despite missing just one of his nine attempts, meaning Villa became the first side in Premier League history to have two different players score spot-kicks in the first two games of a season.

There had been previous examples of two team-mates converting penalties in the same game – Fulham's Louis Saha and Steve Marlet on the opening day in 2002-03, and Southampton pair Dusan Tadic and Charlie Austin on matchday two in 2017-18 – but never in different matches at the start of a campaign.

Dom spot on at Leeds as Gray makes amends

There was a personal penalty first at Elland Road, as Dominic Calvert-Lewin kickstarted Everton's 2-2 draw with Leeds United. It was the England striker's 55th Toffees goal but his first from the spot.

Demarai Gray had Everton in front for a second time in the second half with his maiden strike for the club. Having netted in a 2-0 Leicester City win in 2017, he became the 34th player to score for and against Everton in the Premier League.

That puts Everton fourth in that regard, behind West Ham (46), Aston Villa (42) and Liverpool (39). Villa's Ings and Liverpool's Mane are both included.

Saints brush off Fred the Red's helping hand

It is a fixture best known for a famous grey-clad Manchester United loss, but Southampton's slip-up against a Red Devils side unmistakably dressed in blue and yellow went entirely to script.

Saints led through a Fred own goal, the fourth time United have netted for Southampton in the competition. Only against Newcastle (five) have United scored more own goals.

But Mason Greenwood's equaliser ensured Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side are now unbeaten in a record-equalling 27 away league fixtures.

For Southampton, this was nowhere near as bad as last season's clash when they collapsed from 2-0 up to lose 3-2 – or, of course, the 9-0 Old Trafford humiliation – but it was still painfully familiar. They have now dropped 42 points from winning positions against United in the Premier League, fewer only than Tottenham's 45 against Arsenal.

Since the start of last season, Saints top the charts for squandering leads, giving up 28 points – three ahead of second-placed Brighton and Hove Albion.

Jack Grealish was among the scorers as Manchester City eased past Norwich City 5-0 on Saturday for their first win of the Premier League season.

The reigning champions fell to a 1-0 loss at Tottenham in their opening game but had no trouble in seeing off their newly promoted opponents at the Etihad Stadium.

British record signing Grealish scored in an unconventional manner 22 minutes into his home debut after Tim Krul's unfortunate own goal had given the hosts an early lead.

Aymeric Laporte added to the scoring in the second half and substitutes Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez piled the misery on Norwich, who slipped to a second successive defeat on their return to the top tier.

City had won their previous three home league games against Norwich by an aggregate score of 14-1 and were ahead inside seven minutes of this latest one-sided encounter.

Gabriel Jesus chested down Rodri's diagonal pass and fired a low cross into the six-yard box, Grant Hanley diverting the ball against goalkeeper Krul and into the net.

Ferran Torres was denied a goal by VAR for Bernardo Silva's trip on Milot Rashica in the build-up, but Grealish netted soon after as Jesus' cross hit his thigh and beat Krul.

Having played a part in those opening two goals, Jesus went close to scoring one of his own early in the second half when dragging a shot just wide from range.

City's third did arrive nine minutes later when Laporte stroked home after Norwich failed to deal with a corner and the ball bounced around in the box.

Sterling was next to register with a close-range finish after being teed up by the impressive Jesus, while Mahrez rounded out the scoring late on, brilliantly controlling Ruben Dias' long pass and tucking in off the inside of the post.

The transfer window is not even closed but attention is already turning to next season.

Kylian Mbappe is into the final year of his Paris Saint-Germain contract, while Erling Haaland's Borussia Dortmund deal has clubs queuing up.

Manchester United are reportedly set to pursue both.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE, HAALAND FUTURE RED DEVILS?

Manchester United have made Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe a target for next season, according to ESPN.

Mbappe has long been tipped to join Real Madrid and Saturday's Marca and Diario AS claim the LaLiga giants are still trying to sign the PSG star before the end of the transfer window.

Liverpool have also previously been linked with Mbappe, but United are keeping tabs on his situation, with the Frenchman out of contract at the end of 2021-22.

French journalist Julien Laurens, meanwhile, also suggests next year could be the perfect time for United to prise Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.

Haaland has no shortage of suitors, linked with Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City and Bayern Munich as his release clause comes into force at season's end.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Daily Mail says City are willing to sell defender Aymeric Laporte for £60million (€69m). The Spain international is reportedly wanted by Juventus and Madrid.

Chelsea remain interested in Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde, per The Telegraph. The Blues have also been linked with Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez, who has also caught the attention of United and Liverpool.

- Diario AS says wantaway Tottenham midfielder Tanguy Ndombele is eyeing a switch to Madrid, Barca or Bayern.

Real Sociedad are tracking PSG star Pablo Sarabia, according to Le Parisien. Sevilla could also reportedly rival Sociedad for the Spain international.

- Sky Sport Italia reports Juve are set to meet with Paulo Dybala's agent to discuss a new contract.

Pep Guardiola will take the mental health of his international stars into consideration as Manchester City prepare for a quick turnaround into the new season.

The Premier League champions went down to a 1-0 Community Shield defeat against Leicester City on Saturday, their former striker Kelechi Iheanacho coming off the bench to win and convert a late penalty at Wembley.

Guardiola remained without Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Ederson and Gabriel Jesus after their respective runs to the finals of Euro 2020 and the Copa America with England and Brazil.

The sextet will return to training on Monday, while Kevin De Bruyne is still on the mend after an ankle injury sustained during Belgium's progress to the quarter-finals of the European Championship.

Aymeric Laporte – a Euros semi-finalist with Spain – must self-isolate until the middle of next week because a passenger on his flight back to the United Kingdom after a vacation tested positive for COVID-19. The defender has tested negative.

It adds up to a far-from-ideal preparation for next weekend's league opener at Tottenham, a fixture likely to be lent a tempestuous edge by City's pursuit of Harry Kane.

Nevertheless, Guardiola knows a return to peak physical fitness will come in time, even though he again took aim at scheduling arrangements by UEFA and FIFA in his post-match comments at Wembley.

The former Barcelona boss is more concerned about the mental strain endured by players who have been on a near non-stop schedule since returning to action from the coronavirus lockdown last June.

Asked whether his England players would benefit from being afforded an extra week of rest, he replied: "It depends on their heads. They have to rest and now they can be ready, but it depends on here [the head].

On whether his returning internationals would be ready to play at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Guardiola replied: "A few players get the condition so quick, others need a little more time. We will see the weight, the body fat, how they arrive. And especially their heads.

"There are players who play three, four or five days and their mentality is positive and they are ready to fight and suffer in the bad conditions. Some of them take a little more time.

"We will try to discover which ones are ready immediately."

Foden is unlikely to be among that group, given he must still recover from the foot injury that ruled him out of England's penalty shoot-out loss to Italy.

Stones was an ever-present at centre-back for Gareth Southgate's side, while Sterling and Walker were each named in the UEFA Team of the Tournament.

"All of them, they played really well. I'm glad and happy for them. They have had many years together," Guardiola said.

"They made an incredible achievement. When you achieve a final in the Euro it's a big, big thing.

"They have to be so proud of what they have done with the national team. The benefits to the confidence will be there.

"But the past is the past. What you have done with the national team is for the memories. The challenge is ahead of us to do a good season."

European champions Chelsea have been in the market for a new striker this off-season.

The Blues chased Erling Haaland without success and have now set their sights on Romelu Lukaku.

Lukaku was on Chelsea's books from 2011 and 2014 but has since become one of the world's best forwards.

 

TOP STORY - CHELSEA TO TABLE NEW BUMPER LUKAKU BID

Chelsea  are preparing to table a new bid of between £100million and £110m (€120-130m) bid for Inter forward  Lukaku  claims Fabrizio Romano.

The Blues had an initial £85m (€100m) offer, including Marcos Alonso, for the Belgian striker rejected by Inter.

The Sun claim Lukaku is keen on a return to Chelsea, citing "unfinished business" from his previous stint in London.

 

ROUND-UP

- Paris Saint-Germain are not guaranteed to retain Real Madrid target  Kylian Mbappe , reports AS. The France superstar has already informed PSG that he will not extend his current contract, due to expire in 2022, and president Nasser Al-Khelaifi is set to take over talks.

- Aymeric Laporte has told Manchester City he wants to leave to return to Spain this off-season, reports 90min. Barcelona and Real Madrid are both interested in the Spain international, who is not first choice at City.

- Arsenal have proposed a player-plus-cash deal, believed to be worth £60m, for Leicester City's James Maddison according to Football.London, but negotiations are "very slow". 

- Tottenham will complete a £47m (€55m) deal for Atalanta defender  Cristian Romero imminently according to Romano. Atalanta will fill the void by signing Merih Demiral from Juventus.

Spain head coach Luis Enrique hailed the impact of newcomer Aymeric Laporte after his controversial allegiance switch ahead of Euro 2020.

Laporte is the only Spain defender to play every game at Euro 2020 and looms as a key figure in Tuesday's semi-final against Italy in London.

The France-born Manchester City centre-back only made his international debut last month after being granted Spanish nationality in May.

Laporte, who moved to Spain as a 16-year-old and came through the Athletic Bilbao system, had been capped at every under-age level by France and called up twice for the senior team in 2019 but never debuted for Les Bleus.

Luis Enrique and the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) pursued Laporte over the past three years, despite the player claiming it was "out of the question", eventually winning him over ahead of Euro 2020.

"As soon as he was able to play with us he began to do a huge amount for us," Luis Enrique said during Monday's news conference. "He's a top defender, both in the attacking and defensive phases.

"We obviously need our defenders to have composure in order to bring the ball out and pick out that free man in midfield.

"He is strong in the air, he can play with both feet, he is physically strong, he's quick, he's strong, as I've said, he is good at playing on the front foot, he is good with how he covers.

"He's a top defender and we are delighted that Aymeric has decided to play for Spain."

Laporte's inclusion in Spain's European Championship squad has arguably vindicated Luis Enrique's decision to exclude veteran captain Sergio Ramos.

Luis Enrique has a selection headache with Pablo Sarabia unlikely to be fit to face Italy due to a muscle injury, having started in the quarter-final penalty shoot-out win over Switzerland.

RB Leipzig's Dani Olmo replaced Sarabia at half-time against Switzerland and is a likely preferred option.

"They are all fit except Sarabia," Luis Enrique said. "Physically they are well and tiredness ends 45 minutes after finishing the quarter final game."

Luis Enrique's Spain bossed possession (73 per cent) against Switzerland but relied on penalties to advance to the last four, despite having 28 shots to eight.

Spain have reached the semi-finals of the European Championship for the third time in the past four editions of the competition (failing to do so in 2016). They have gone on to win the Euros on each of the past two occasions they have reached the final four – in 2008 and 2012.

After losing each of their first four matches at Wembley between 1955 and 1968, Spain have only suffered one defeat in their past five games there (W2 D2). However, they were knocked out of the Euros in 1996 at Wembley, losing to hosts England on penalties.

Luis Enrique was wary of Italy's desire for possession too, in a looming clash of styles.

"I think that's one of the main questions really," he said. "We are leaders in terms of possession stats but they are also a side that can use the ball and enjoy their football with the ball.

"I guess that's the first battle to win. I think that they are very good without the ball as well. They've shown that at times during the championship, but they are far more comfortable with the ball.

"Our objectives are clear. We need the ball, we want to have it. If we have to play a different game we'll adapt but of course we'd prefer to have possession."

Aymeric Laporte has claimed Didier Deschamps did not reply to his messages before the defender switched international allegiance from France to Spain.

Manchester City centre-back Laporte declared for La Roja last month after being granted Spanish citizenship, leading to him being included in their 24-man Euro 2020 squad.

Laporte represented France at youth level, including the Under-21s, but was never handed a senior cap despite being called up by Deschamps.

The 27-year-old has made a positive start to his Spain career by helping his side to three clean sheets in his first four caps, while also scoring in last week's 5-0 win over Slovakia.

Spain finished second in their Euro 2020 group and are on course to face France in the quarter-finals should the heavyweight nations see off Croatia and Switzerland respectively in the last 16.

Deschamps insisted ahead of the tournament he was only ever contacted once by Laporte to discuss an injury issue, but the player has refuted those suggestions.

"They called me six years ago. But in 2019? No, they didn't call me. While I don't want to go over this again, I had sent a message and didn't get a reply," he told The Guardian.

"I have it here. Maybe [Deschamps] changed number, got a new phone. Could be. I don't know, but I replied to the same number he'd called from before.

"I didn't get a reply then. Anyway, given everything that happened, nor did I think I was important enough to France to have to inform them of anything.

"My importance to them has been more a media issue than anything. I've always been very clear that I'm going to be with those that want me, not those that don't.

"I'm not saying France didn't want me, but I'm grateful to those that bet on me. Spain did and I'm trying to return that faith."

 

Laporte's passing accuracy of 96.64 is the third-highest of any player to have played more than 90 minutes at Euro 2020, behind Axel Witsel (96.91) and Dedryck Boyata (97.74).

The former Athletic Bilbao man's 86.33 successful passes per 90 minutes, meanwhile, has been bettered by just five others, including new team-mate Pau Torres (94.52), reflecting how quickly he has settled in with his adopted national team.

"Everyone has different feelings. I felt comfortable coming with Spain, fully identified," he said. "That's what made me change everything. 

"Also, my family hasn't spent eight years in Spain like me.

"I'd been in contact with Spain for years because they've always wanted me. Luis Enrique called. I took the decision.

"It wasn't easy at all. My family still lives in France and from very young I played there with the national team. 

"There were family chats, discussions, an exchange of opinions, the same doubts there would be if you had dual nationality I imagine."

Spain profited from Martin Dubravka's goalkeeping howler and then turned on the style to thrash Slovakia 5-0 and book their place in the last 16 of Euro 2020.

Luis Enrique's men required a win in Wednesday's clash to guarantee a last-16 spot after drawing their first two games and were given a huge helping hand by Dubravka.

The Slovakia keeper saved an Alvaro Morata penalty early on – the fifth in a row Spain have missed – before comically flapping the ball into his own net with half an hour played.

That put Spain on their way to an emphatic win, the first time they have ever scored five times in a European Championship match, after Aymeric Laporte's first international goal and strikes from Pablo Sarabia and Ferran Torres before Juraj Kucka's own goal.

Spain were awarded a penalty inside the first 12 minutes after VAR intervened and adjudged Jakub Hromada fouled Koke when attempting to clear the ball.

Dubravka dived to his right and got two hands to the powerful attempt but, after chances went begging for Sarabia and Pedri, the keeper went from hero to zero.

Sarabia's long-range shot looped into the air after striking the crossbar and Dubravka, under a bit of pressure from Morata, inexplicably pushed the ball into his own net.

Dubravka could have done better for Spain's second goal, too, as Gerard Moreno beat the marauding keeper to a ball and crossed for Laporte to head into the top-right corner.

Spain were in complete control of the game when Sarabia swept home Jordi Alba's pass into the bottom-right corner with 56 minutes on the clock.

Slovakia still had a chance of advancing as one of the best third-placed sides, but substitute Torres flicked Sarabia's cross past Dubravka just 44 seconds after entering the pitch and Kucka knocked the ball into his own net soon after for Spain's fifth.

Aymeric Laporte has insisted he is paying little attention to the "political agenda" driving criticism of his surprise selection in the Spain squad for Euro 2020.

Born in Agen in the south of France, the defender represented Les Bleus' youth teams from U17s level all the way through to the U21s.

He was also twice called up by the senior national side but injury and a failure to convince manager Didier Deschamps of his worth meant he had not made an appearance by the age of 27.

However, an eight-year stint with Athletic Bilbao meant Laporte, whose great grandparents hailed from the Basque region, remained eligible for Spain, and Luis Enrique took advantage by including him in the squad for this summer's European Championship.

The Manchester City man performed impressively in his first competitive appearance for his new nation - a 0-0 draw with Sweden - winning all three of his aerial duels and completing more passes (115) than any other player on the pitch.

But the move continues to prove controversial in some quarters, with one Spanish journalist recently asking Laporte if he "[felt] Spanish enough to be able to defend the badge, the flag, the nation, the anthem".

Still, the player remains unperturbed by the debate surrounding his involvement and told AFP: "There is a bit of everything, like anywhere, there are a lot of people who are in favour but there are many who are also against.

"There is a political agenda behind all that and I can see that it's not easy for everyone to accept. I also understand those people. Everything is fine, for now.

"There will be worse times to come and also the opposite. I just try to make the most of the good moments and push the bad ones aside because otherwise I know it'll be a rollercoaster."

Laporte's inclusion was considered even more contentious given it came off the back of Spain and Real Madrid icon Sergio Ramos being excluded from the squad.

But he insisted the two decisions were not directly linked, and lavished praise upon his fellow centre-back.

"This is what the press wanted to blame me for a bit," he added. "The manager said he was injured so it has nothing to do with me. I'm also not the only centre-back in the squad so I don't think it's my fault.

"There's no extra pressure. I'm here to do my job, to fight for Spain in my own way.

"He is an icon in the world of football. I have watched him a lot since I was young. He is the benchmark.

"I love his character, not his aggressive side, the red cards and all that, but his resilience to make a mistake and still come back stronger, not to hide behind his reputation. He is always ready to stand up and be counted."

Spain have failed to score in two of their last three outings, having taken 51 international fixtures to produce two goalless games prior to that.

But Laporte is calm about a disappointing start to this summer's tournament, which he hopes to put right against Poland on Saturday.

"The results will say everything," he continued. "A lot of people think they know football but then the complete opposite to what they predict happens.

"We just try to do our job and I would even say so much the better if they think that we're not ready because it takes the pressure off. It motivates us even more."

Erling Haaland is the name on everyone's lips this off-season.

Haaland enjoyed a stunning campaign for Borussia Dortmund, earning admirers from Europe's elite.

As speculation mounts over his future, Dortmund are determined to keep the Norwegian.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND NAME HAALAND PRICE

Borussia Dortmund are demanding €200million (£172m) for star striker Erling Haaland, according to AS.

Haaland has been linked with Real MadridManchester CityBarcelona, Paris Saint-GermainManchester UnitedJuventusLiverpoolChelsea and Bayern Munich.

Dortmund previously quoted €180m (£154m) but BVB have reportedly increased their demands as they try to retain the Norway forward for at least another season.

 

ROUND-UP

- LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid are targeting Inter star Lautaro Martinez, according to AS. With Diego Simeone poised to extend his contract, the head coach is eyeing a move for Martinez, who has previously been linked with Barca.

Barca could sell Samuel UmtitiSergi Roberto and Junior Firpo to reduce their wage bill, says Mundo Deportivo. Jordi Alba could also depart for the right price as Ronald Koeman's men look to sign Lyon captain Memphis Depay.

- Fabrizio Romano reports PSG have agreed a deal to sign Georginio Wijnaldum, who had been tipped to join Barca with his Liverpool contract set to expire. As Wijnaldum looks destined for Paris, Marca claims Barca are now interested in City veteran FernandinhoPSG are also in talks with Inter to sign Achraf Hakimi.

- Staying at Camp Nou, Sport claims Barca are looking to sign City trio Aymeric LaporteGabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan, having already brought Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia in on free transfers from the Premier League champions.

- Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma will decide his future in the coming days, according to Romano. The soon-to-be free agent has been linked with JuventusBarca and PSG.

Atletico are hoping to lure Arsenal full-back Hector Bellerin to Madrid, according to Marca. It comes as United reportedly try to prise Kieran Trippier from Los Colchoneros.

Is Aymeric Laporte's future away from Manchester City?

Laporte hit the ground running in Manchester, but Pep Guardiola has since preferred John Stones and Ruben Dias.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are reportedly willing to pounce.

 

TOP STORY – LAPORTE HEADED FOR SPAIN RETURN?

LaLiga pair Real Madrid and Barcelona are tracking Manchester City defender Aymeric Laporte , according to Caught Offside.

Laporte left Spanish outfit Athletic Bilbao for City in 2018 but the newly capped Spain international slipped down the pecking order during the 2020-21 campaign.

As City reportedly prepare a new long-term contract for John Stones , who has been preferred alongside Ruben Dias, Madrid and Barca are waiting in the wings.

 

ROUND-UP

-  Tottenham have abandoned their plans to appoint former Inter boss Antonio Conte , reports Sky Italy. Spurs and Conte were in negotiations and while ex-Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici is poised to join the Premier League side, Conte will not reunite with his Italian compatriot. Tottenham were initially linked with former manager Mauricio Pochettino , who is currently in charge of Paris Saint-Germain. Amid ongoing speculation, Le10 Sport claims a sensational deal to bring Pochettino back to London could go ahead.

- PSG  are trying to hijack Barcelona 's move for Georginio Wijnaldum , says ESPN. Wijnaldum is available on a free transfer following the expiration of his Liverpool contract and he has been tipped to make the switch to Camp Nou.

- Mundo Deportivo reports Valencia captain Jose Luis Gaya is the on the radar for Barca , who are eyeing a new left-back.

- Gazzetto dello Sport reports  Juventus  are interested in Fiorentina defender  Nikola Milenkovic . Fiorentina could be willing to sell the Serbia international, who is out of contract in 2022. Milenkovic has previously been linked with  Tottenham Manchester United  and  West Ham Milan  could also make a move if they fail to tie up a permanent deal for Chelsea's  Fikayo Tomori .

Dusan Vlahovic  of Fiorentina, Marseille's  Arkadiusz Milik and Sassuolo's Gianluca Scamacca  are among the possible new forward signings for  Milan , says Gazzetta dello Sport. Chelsea veteran Olivier Giroud has been strongly linked with Milan.

- Marca claims  Gareth Bale  is leaning towards retirement after Euro 2020. Bale is set to return to Real Madrid following his loan spell at Tottenham.

- New Inter boss  Simone Inzaghi  wants to keep  Alexis Sanchez , per Calciomercato. As Inter look to cut costs, Sanchez has been linked with  Roma Romelu Lukaku Lautaro Martinez  and  Alessandro Bastoni  and their futures have also been questioned due to the club's financial issues.

Luis Enrique issued a strong defence of Alvaro Morata after a 0-0 draw with Portugal that saw debutant Aymeric Laporte impress the Spain boss ahead of Euro 2020.

The 2012 winners were unable to find a way through against the reigning champions as the two neighbouring nations met in a friendly fixture as part of their preparations for this year's tournament.

However, Spain saw Morata fail to convert a glorious late chance at the Wanda Metropolitano, his attempt when clean through hitting the crossbar.

It was one of four shots by the striker during proceedings, of which only one ended up on target. Still, he did make two key passes and, despite the crowd getting on his case following the miss, his head coach was more than happy with what he saw.

"I am not worried about it," Luis Enrique said when asked about the 28-year-old.

"The last play saw Morata kill himself to pressure. He has been a constant nuisance for the Portuguese, doing an incredible job, and in the 90th minute he is able to make a 40-metre action, fool the goalkeeper and then has bad luck when hitting the crossbar. 

"I think that's something to be applauded. I have seen him very well in terms of his morale, he is already used to it [the criticism]."

There were also whistles at full-time after the hosts failed to capitalise on their dominance. Spain had 65.7 per cent of possession which led to 10 attempts, albeit Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio only had to make two saves.

"I haven't seen anyone whistle at me. I do not care. Yes, it bothers me that it is done to the players," a defiant Luis Enrique said.

"Everyone can do what they want, but I just found out now. I understand my role, I know what it means to be a public figure.

"But people praise me and even blow me kisses, so I feel loved and in Madrid I am delighted."

Laporte was clearly one of the positives to come out of the fixture for Spain, the Manchester City defender combining with fellow centre-back Pau Torres to keep Cristiano Ronaldo quiet.

After Portugal had just one on-target attempt during the contest, Luis Enrique said: "I have seen it as expected, very good. It is not common and normal to have two left-sided central defenders, but I have played many years with right central defenders and it does not surprise anyone.

"It is difficult to find two left-sided central defenders of this quality. They have been exceptional, dominating in the air, in passing the ball, putting pressure on the Portuguese forwards. They were outstanding."

Didier Deschamps has said Aymeric Laporte was incorrect to say the France coach ignored a message from the defender prior to him switching his international allegiance to Spain.

Manchester City centre-back Laporte declared for La Roja last month after being granted Spanish citizenship, leading to him being included in their 24-man Euro 2020 squad.

Laporte represented France at youth level, including the Under-21s, but was never handed a senior cap despite being called up by Deschamps.

It has previously been suggested that Laporte reached out to Deschamps to ask why he was continually overlooked, but the France head coach has strongly refuted that claim.

"He has the freedom to do what he likes," Deschamps said in an interview distributed to regional media in France.

"Ten seconds with the senior side would have been enough. But I don't select a player with the purpose of blocking him from having another choice. I was not going to do that.

"He was always included on the shortlists, but there is competition as well. What annoys me is what has been said, which is a lie.

"The only message I have received from him was in October, and that was regarding a specific situation after sustaining an injury.

"We considered him in November and March, and this time around. Leaving him out is not a mistake, it is just my decision. I wish him the best and he's free to make that choice."

Laporte spent nearly a decade in the Basque region while with Athletic Bilbao, initially as part of the youth squad before then graduating into the first team.

The centre-back's most recent call-up to the France squad was in August 2019 during qualifying for Euro 2020, which was pushed back by 12 months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He scored City's winner in April's EFL Cup final against Tottenham and collected a third Premier League title in four seasons, but 2020-21 was still a mixed campaign for Laporte.

John Stones and Ruben Dias were Pep Guardiola's preferred pairing at the back, though Laporte still made 27 appearances in all competitions during a gruelling campaign.

That total includes 16 outings in the Premier League, with the 27-year-old averaging 0.87 tackles per 90 minutes, as well as 0.47 blocks.

To put that into context, Raphael Varane – who looks certain to be a regular for France at Euro 2020 – averaged 0.73 tackles for Real Madrid in LaLiga this term, though did manage 0.6 blocks and won 2.42 aerial balls.

Presnel Kimpembe, meanwhile, impressed for Paris Saint-Germain with 1.09 tackles per 90 minutes, 0.43 blocks and 1.44 aerials won across his 28 Ligue 1 appearances.

Deschamps also has Jules Kounde, Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Digne, Lucas Hernandez, Clement Lenglet, Kurt Zouma and Leo Dubois to call upon in terms of defensive options.

France face Wales and Bulgaria in friendlies over the next week before beginning their Euro 2020 campaign against Germany in Munich on June 16.

Luis Enrique believes his decision to omit Sergio Ramos from Spain's Euro 2020 squad is in the best interest of the national team.

Real Madrid captain Ramos, the all-time record international appearance holder with 180, was the standout absentee when Luis Enrique named a 24-man party for the tournament, which begins next month.

The 35-year-old struggled with injury problems throughout 2020-21 and was restricted to 21 appearances for Madrid across all competitions.

However, Luis Enrique's decision not to select Ramos caused surprise on Monday – especially as he did not fill the 26 places allowed in expanded Euro 2020 squads, nor find a spot for any Real Madrid players.

"I'd like to send message to Sergio Ramos, our captain, who is not on the list as he has not been able to compete since January in the right condition, or even train with the group," Luis Enrique told reporters.

"I told him by phone last night, it was difficult and tough, but it's best for the team.

"My conversation with Sergio yesterday remains private, I won't tell anyone. It was not easy to tell him something which was not positive for him, but I have to make decisions which I and my staff consider is best for the team.

"Any decision I made about Sergio Ramos would have been controversial. I know where I am and accept there will be media noise."

Aymeric Laporte is now expected to play a key role in the heart of Spain's defence, even though he only changed international affiliation from France earlier this month.

Luis Enrique was reported to have lobbied the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to allow for Laporte's inclusion and insists the Manchester City centre-back's availability and Ramos being cast aside were not related.

"The Aymeric Laporte decision is nothing to do with the Ramos situation," he said.

"He is a top player, can help our national team a lot and plays at one of the best clubs in history.

"Please don't mix Ramos not being in the squad with call ups for others. I'd have liked him to be here, to have recovered."

Like his call not to pick Ramos, Luis Enrique neglecting to select 26 players was also one he attributed to nurturing squad unity.

"We are taking 24 players. Most have picked 26, but we just added another striker [to the original limit of 23] as we value a lot the feeling that each player can participate in any moment," he explained.

"Also, it is better to train with this number of players."

The former Barcelona boss failing to pick a single Madrid representative in his party will undoubtedly raise eyebrows, with fitness woes having also compromised Dani Carvajal's prospects.

Atletico Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente is likely to be an option at right-back in Carvajal's absence.

"I cannot pick the squad based on whether some people will be happy or not," Luis Enrique responded when the lack of a Madrid contingent was raised.

"Llorente can play at full-back but we won't forget what he can do in other positions, breaking forward from midfield. I like to have versatile players who can fill different roles."

Spain have been drawn alongside Sweden, Poland and Slovakia in Group E and are aiming to improve upon last-16 exits at Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

Nevertheless, Luis Enrique sees no reason why the glory days of three consecutive major tournament successes between 2008 and 2012 – successes to which Ramos was so pivotal – cannot return.

"Previous Spain teams have won trophies," he added. "I believe we are among the six or eight favourites this year, we will have to show on the pitch what we are capable of.

"Why not aim to win it all?"

Page 1 of 2
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.