Barcelona coach Xavi says midfield duo Gavi and Pedri are better than he and fellow Blaugrana legend Andres Iniesta were at 20 years of age.

Gavi and Pedri each started all four of Spain's games at the World Cup in Qatar, having also assumed key roles for LaLiga leaders Barca since Xavi took charge last year.  

The duo's incisive passing and telepathic relationship has attracted comparisons to Xavi's own partnership with Iniesta, with that pair experiencing remarkable success at club and international level.

However, when speaking to Barca's media channels on Tuesday, Xavi said the Blaugrana's current midfield duo had developed quicker than their illustrious predecessors.

"Me at 20 years old and Andres at 20 years old were not at the level of Pedri or Gavi," Xavi said. "How Gavi competes, the passion he puts in... we were not at his level.

"We have very young players. Eric [Garcia], Pedri, Ansu [Fati], Gavi... Frenkie [de Jong] is young. We have Barca for the present and for the future."

Xavi did concede the demands on some of Barca's young players may be too great, adding: "Gavi has played practically everything. Ansu is a talent, but perhaps we are asking too much of them."

Barca are two points clear of rivals Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga, winning 12 of their 14 games this season after investing heavily in the transfer window.

The Catalan giants put together big-money moves for the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde and Raphinha in the off-season, but Xavi does not expect a repeat in January.

"I told [director of football] Mateu [Alemany] not to play too much, that I'm happy with the family, it's a fantastic group," Xavi said. "We don't know if we'll be able to incorporate new players.

"I think we can be competitive. I'm happy with the leaders, we train at 100 per cent and it shows on the field. If we don't touch anything, I'll be very happy."

Bayern Munich are looking at Aston Villa's Emiliano Martinez as the potential solution to their goalkeeper issue, as Manuel Neuer is expected to miss the second-half of the season through his skiing injury.

Martinez, 30, had an interesting journeyman career before arriving with Villa in 2020, having been contracted to Arsenal, but loaned out to Oxford United, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United, Wolves, Getafe and Reading.

In his first two seasons with Villa, Martinez kept 26 Premier League clean sheets, earning his Argentina debut in June 2021.

His ascension to La Albiceleste's number one saw him earn the 2021 Copa America Golden Glove as the tournament's best goalkeeper, and he followed it up with another Golden Glove after securing the World Cup title in a penalty shoot-out.

Neuer's leg fracture leaves Bayern without their first-choice goalkeeper, and with only a four-point gap atop the Bundesliga, they are reportedly desperate to secure a replacement in January.

 

TOP STORY – ARGENTINA WORLD CUP HERO TARGETED AS BAYERN'S NEUER REPLACEMENT

According to Media Foot, it is "out of the question" for Bayern to leave the January transfer window without a new goalkeeper, and Martinez's World Cup exploits have him at the top of the list.

He remains under contract with Villa until 2027, giving the Premier League side plenty of leverage in negotiations, and after signing him for £17million, will likely have their sights set on a significant profit to part ways with their world-class shot-stopper.

However, he is not the only keeper the German giants are keeping a close eye on from the World Cup, with Sky Sports Germany reporting they also are investigating Croatia's Dominic Livakovic and Morocco's Yassine Bounou.

That report states Bayern will try to tempt 34-year-old Borussia Monchengladbach's Yann Sommer to the club on a free transfer when his contract expires at the end of the season, but that will not address their immediate pressing need.

ROUND-UP

– Sport is reporting Barcelona are in advanced negotiations with Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante on personal terms, as he is able to leave Stamford Bridge on a free transfer after the season.

– Journalist Ekrem Konur claims Sevilla are the latest club to enquire about 22-year-old Angers midfielder Azzedine Ounahi, who impressed for Morocco in Qatar.

– According to GiveMeSport, Chelsea are in the race to land 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund phenom Youssoufa Moukoko when his contract expires at the end of the season, while Si Phillips adds they will also try to sign out-of-contract Manchester United prospect Alejandro Garnacho.

– Sky Sports is reporting Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and multiple Premier League clubs have taken a liking to 27-year-old Celtic right-back Josip Juranovic after his performances at the World Cup for Croatia.

– According to Fabrizio Romano, 20-year-old Italian midfielder Ibrahima Bamba will likely leave Vitoria Guimaraes in January amid interest from Atalanta, Club Brugge and unnamed Premier League sides.

Xavi and Joan Laporta paid tribute to Lionel Messi following his long-awaited World Cup triumph, the latter stating "historical justice has been done."

The former Barcelona star led Argentina to glory in Qatar as La Albiceleste defeated reigning champions France 4-2 on penalties following an enthralling 3-3 draw at Lusail Stadium.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner finally added the sport's biggest prize to his collection following a glittering career that has also seen him win 11 league titles, four Champions Leagues, three Club World Cups and the Copa America.

And the Paris Saint-Germain forward's achievements were by saluted by Barca head coach Xavi with his former team-mate also empathising with Ousmane Dembele and Jules Kounde, who were on the losing French side.

"It was an extraordinary final for the spectator, one of the best matches I've seen in my life," he said at the premiere of a new Prime Video docuseries entitled 'FC Barcelona, A New Era.'

"I think Argentina were better and deserved it. I feel sorry for Dembele and Kounde. But we must congratulate Leo Messi, who now has his World Cup, something that could not be missing in his career."

Blaugrana president Laporta added: "He deserves it, he is the best of all time, historical justice has been done.

"We would have been happy if our Kounde and Dembele won it, but I think all of us who love and are grateful to Messi for what he has given us are happy for him."

Andrea Pirlo was "very, very close" to signing for Real Madrid in 2006 and also held talks with Pep Guardiola's Barcelona.

Pirlo played for Milan between 2001 and 2011, winning two Serie A titles as well as a pair of Champions League trophies with the Italian giants.

But during this time, the Rossoneri were involved in the Calciopoli scandal as one of five teams accused of fixing Serie A matches.

This brought their future participation in Serie A and the Champions League into doubt as Pirlo won the 2006 World Cup with Italy, and a move to Santiago Bernabeu almost materialised.

The former midfielder told FourFourTwo: "We had just won the World Cup, but we didn't know what would happen.

"I was very, very close with Real Madrid. But then we got told that Milan could enter Champions League qualifying and be readmitted to Serie A.

"I was offered a new contract straight away and the club did a lot to keep me."

Pirlo also had discussions with Madrid's rivals Barcelona and head coach Guardiola in 2010. "He called me in [to his office after the game] and started talking about how he wanted to play and how he would like me to join his team," he recalled.

"For me, it was a source of pride, especially to talk to him and also to be compared to a Barcelona player. In the end, nothing happened, but being called by Guardiola into his office to talk was a wonderful experience."

Pirlo, now the head coach of Turkish side Fatih Karagumruk, was wanted by English sides, too, with Chelsea one of those who tried to lure him away from Milan.

"Ancelotti asked me to go with him [to Chelsea]," the 43-year-old said. "The two teams talked about it with my agent, and there was a big chance.

"But in the end, when it was time to sign the contract, Silvio Berlusconi [then Milan owner] and Adriano Galliani [CEO] didn't want me to go."

Manchester City also tried to unsuccessfully bring Pirlo to the Premier League before he eventually joined Juventus, where he stayed for four years before ending his career with MLS franchise New York City FC.

"I spoke with Juventus, with Roberto Mancini's Manchester City and with other big teams," he explained. "But in the end, I decided to go to Turin because they had a good project to get back to winning ways.

"They had just gone through some tough years, but they had a new stadium and were building a new Juve, where I would be an important player, so I decided to go there."

Manchester United are set to be a prime mover in the January transfer window.

The Red Devils have parted ways with Cristiano Ronaldo following their falling-out, meaning they are likely to be eager for a new forward option.

United are also six months into manager Erik ten Hag's tenure, which has got off to a solid start, sitting fifth in the Premier League, but the Dutchman wants to keep building.

TOP STORY - MAN UTD SET TO REVIVE BID FOR DE JONG IN JANUARY

Manchester United will revive their interest in Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong in January after their failed pursuit of him prior to this season, according to the Manchester Evening News.

United manager Erik ten Hag was keen to land his fellow countryman following his arrival at Old Trafford.

The cultured midfielder's contract with the Blaugrana is complicated by the LaLiga club's financial situation but De Jong has so far remained committed to Barca despite the interest.

However, the report claims De Jong has privately told Ten Hag he would be happy to move to United.

ROUND-UP

– Fabrizio Romano claims Chelsea have completed a deal for RB Leipzig's French forward Christopher Nkunku, which will officially go through at the end of the season.

Liverpool are interested in Milan's Algerian defensive midfielder Ismael Bennacer and are set to meet with him to open talks, claims Relevo.

– Sky Sports claims Chelsea and Liverpool will joust for the signature of Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder Moises Caicedo, although neither club has opened talks yet.

– The Telegraph reports Gareth Southgate has decided he wants to remain as England manager despite their World Cup quarter-final exit to France.

Luis de la Fuente tried to convince Sergio Busquets to postpone his international retirement, but the new Spain head coach will respect the veteran's call.

The 34-year-old called time on his career with La Roja following their World Cup exit to Morocco in the last 16, departing with 143 caps and two goals to his name.

Busquets' announcement came following the news De la Fuente would succeed Luis Enrique in charge of the national set-up, after their under-performance at Qatar 2022.

The new head coach has now revealed he sought to convince the Barcelona stalwart to reverse his decision, and acknowledged he will miss his experience as he takes charge.

"It's a shame that, at international level, he wants to close the book, but I can only respect him," he said.

"He is one of the most important players in Spanish football, because of what he has achieved on the field.

"I had the privilege of receiving a call yesterday in which he informed me that he had made that decision.

"I tried to convince him otherwise, but he is a man with clear ideas and he has made his call.

"But football continues, and we will have to think about the future. There are players who have already occupied that position, like Rodri.

"We are following other players and surely there are those who will have their chance. There is still time until March to see the evolution of the players."

De la Fuente will take charge of his first matches as Spain coach in a pair of Euro 2024 qualifiers against Norway and Scotland in three months' time.

Xavi paid tribute to Sergio Busquets following his decision to retire from international football, describing him as one of the greatest midfielders in history.

Busquets announced his retirement from Spain duty on Friday having captained La Roja in each of their four games at the World Cup in Qatar.

Busquets' miss in a penalty shoot-out defeat to Morocco in the last 16 provided a less-than-fitting end to his stellar career with Spain, for whom he made 143 senior appearances.

The 34-year-old starred alongside his Barcelona team-mate-turned-coach Xavi as Spain won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, and the Blaugrana boss believes few can match his impact.

"In the end, it's a personal decision that you make when you feel the time is right," Xavi told Barcelona's website. "I wish him the best, now he will be able to rest more and focus on Barca.

"He is a player who has made history. He is one of the best midfielders that football has produced worldwide and, for sure, the best defensive midfielder in the history of Spain."

Fellow Barcelona star Jordi Alba said Busquets will be "sorely missed" by Spain, who will be led by Luis de la Fuente in Euro 2024 qualifying after Luis Enrique left his role as head coach. 

"You have always been a great leader for all of us who are part of the team, both in good times and in bad," Alba wrote on Twitter.

"After so many training sessions and games together in the national team, today you say goodbye and you will be sorely missed, friend. 

"Thank you for what you have contributed to us and for everything you have given."

Spain's third-highest appearance maker Sergio Busquets has announced his retirement from international football.

The 34-year-old captained Spain in each of their four games at the World Cup in Qatar, missing a penalty in the shootout as Luis Enrique's side were knocked out by Morocco at the last-16 stage.

Busquets made his debut for La Roja against Turkey in April 2009 and went on to make 143 appearances, behind only Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos in the country's history.

The Barcelona midfielder, who scored two international goals, was an integral part of the Spain squads that won the World Cup in 2010 and the European Championship two years later.

"I would like to thank all the people who have accompanied me on this long journey," he wrote on Instagram. 

"From Vicente del Bosque who gave me the opportunity to start, to Luis Enrique for making me enjoy it until the last second.

"I also thank Julen Lopetegui, Fernando Hierro and Robert Moreno for their trust, as well as all their staff.

"And, of course, to each and every one of my team-mates, with whom I have struggled to try to take the team where it deserved, with more or less success but always giving everything and with the greatest of pride.

"It has been an honour to represent my country and take it to the top.

"To be a World and European champion, to be captain and to play so many games, with greater or lesser success but always giving everything and contributing my grain of sand so that everything went the right way."

Chelsea are reportedly weighing up a bevy of forward options in the January transfer window, including Milan's Rafael Leao and Juventus' Dusan Vlahovic.

The Stamford Bridge side are said to have already come to terms on a deal worth at least €10million for 19-year-old striker David Datro Fofana from Norwegian side Molde, per Fabrizio Romano, but their hunt for reinforcements will not stop there.

With young Chelsea striker Armando Broja set for an extended stint on the sidelines due to injury, they are looking to bring in at least one more new face – or perhaps an old face.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA LOOK TO SERIE A FOR NEW MARQUEE FORWARD

According to Calciomercato and ESPN, Chelsea are engaged in discussions about Serie A forward Leao, Vlahovic, and Roma's Tammy Abraham – who left Chelsea in August 2021.

Recent reports claimed Milan had rejected a €70m offer from Chelsea for Leao, and are trying to hold out for his full €150m release clause, but ESPN's update states it will take "at least €80m" – a figure that is not scaring the Premier League side away.

Vlahovic is also believed to be available due to Juventus' behind-the-scenes turmoil, while Abraham has a €75m buy-back option, but that price is said to be above what Chelsea are willing to pay for him.

Meanwhile, the Evening Standard are reporting Atletico Madrid have offered Chelsea two more options up top, giving them the opportunity to buy Joao Felix or Matheus Cunha.

 

ROUND-UP

– Mundo Deportivo is reporting Liverpool will have to pay £87m for 21-year-old Benfica midfielder Enzo Fernandez, who they are believed to have made a pre-agreement with.

– According to 90min, Manchester City have circled Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham and Arsenal's Bukayo Saka as two key targets going forward.

Manchester United, Newcastle United and Real Madrid are the teams competing for the signature of breakout PSV talent Cody Gakpo, per the Mirror.

– Sport are reporting Barcelona are the favourites to sign Juventus midfielder Adrien Rabiot, as he would prefer to head to Spain instead of the Premier League.

– According to SoccerNews, the agent of Fiorentina midfielder and Morocco standout Sofyan Amrabat is pushing for his move to Liverpool.

The Premier League has welcomed a declaration from the European Union Court of Justice (CJEU) that attempts to sanction European Super League clubs would be legal.

On Thursday, CJEU advocate general Athanasios Rantos dealt a blow to the Super League's supporters – including Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus – stating UEFA and FIFA would be acting lawfully by preventing clubs from participating in third-party competitions.

With a judgement expected in the new year, Rantos was responding to a request by a Madrid court for a ruling on whether the governing bodies could take action in accordance with competition law and fundamental freedoms.

Supporters of the Super League had argued sanctions would be incompatible with EU competition law.

But UEFA described Rantos' opinion as "an encouraging step towards preserving the existing dynamic and democratic governance structure of the European football pyramid."

Both FIFA and the European Club Association – of which Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus are no longer members – have also welcomed the message.

The Premier League echoed those thoughts in a statement on Thursday, outlining its continued support for open, merit-based access to European competitions. 

"We share the advocate general's clear view that open access is fundamental to European club football," the statement read.

"Further to today's opinion, the Premier League reiterates its commitment to the principles underpinning the current balance of domestic and European competitions including open access, annual merit-based qualification from domestic leagues for European club competitions, weekends reserved for domestic football and substantial solidarity funding for football development.

"The fans' voice regarding the essential nature of sporting integrity has been heard.

"Above all, the focus of Premier League clubs is on improving the collective strength and competitiveness of the league in the best interests of the wider game.

"The Premier League will continue to engage in an open dialogue, with all relevant stakeholders, about how best to protect the complementary balance between domestic and European club football."

Each of the six English clubs involved in the Super League's ill-fated launch last year withdrew their support amid fierce opposition from supporters, players and the media.

The powerful European Club Association hailed the latest setback to the European Super League as "a clear rejection" of the plans of a "self-interested few".

UEFA and FIFA would be acting lawfully by freezing out the proposed competition and its teams, the European Union Court of Justice advocate general Athanasios Rantos said on Thursday.

Formally announcing his non-binding opinion in Luxembourg, ahead of a judgement expected in the new year, Rantos was responding to a request by a Madrid court for a ruling on whether FIFA and UEFA would have the right to take action in accordance with competition law and fundamental freedoms.

European Super League (ESLC) officials have argued such actions should be regarded as anti-competitive and incompatible with EU competition law.

Responding to the opinion from Rantos, the European Club Association (ECA) said the message proposed "a clear rejection of the efforts of a few to undermine the foundations and historical heritage of European football for the many".

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus are no longer members of the ECA, having quit when the breakaway was announced in April 2021 and retained an interest in the breakaway getting off the ground even after its dramatic near-immediate collapse.

The nine clubs that fled the Super League project have returned to the ECA fold after withdrawing their resignations from the group. Those clubs are Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham, Atletico Madrid, Inter and Milan.

The ECA, which represents nearly 250 clubs, said it remained "explicit in its strong opposition towards those self-interested few seeking to disrupt European club football and undermine the values that underpin it".

In a statement, it added: "ECA stands for the responsible, progressive evolution of football and remains steadfast in its belief that in Europe this should be achieved alongside and in partnership with UEFA as the legitimate governing body, together with other fellow professional football stakeholders and European and governmental institutions.

"A great amount of positive reform and progress has been achieved by ECA working in collaborative partnership with UEFA in recent years for the benefit of the entire European football ecosystem."

FIFA also said it welcomed the news from Luxembourg. It backed the opinion that any new competition would need approval from the world and European governing bodies, and that sanctions could be imposed if that was not forthcoming.

FIFA praised the noting by Rantos "of the special nature of sport, including the pyramid structure, which preserves the nature of sporting merit and open competitions accessible to all, as well as the principles of promotion and relegation, competitive balance, and financial solidarity".

Bernd Reichart, CEO of A22 Sports Management, the company formed to deliver the Super League project, believes it can still be realised.

Clubs from across Europe's top leagues would be targeted to be involved, with the concern of those in opposition being that it would weaken existing competitions.

Reichart said: "The opinion of the advocate general is one step in an ongoing case, and we are pleased with the recognition of the right of third parties to organise pan-European club competitions.

"The advocate general made clear that UEFA has a monopolistic position which comes with important responsibilities for enabling third parties to act freely in the market.

"However, we believe the 15 judges of the Grand Chamber who are entrusted with the responsibility to examine this case, will go substantially further and provide the opportunity for clubs to manage their own destiny in Europe."

UEFA and FIFA would be entitled to freeze out a European Super League and its competing teams, according to a key opinion published on Thursday by the European Union's Court of Justice.

A calamitous launching of the Super League last year saw 12 teams agree to take part, before most pulled out in a hurry after a furious backlash from fans, politicians and football governing bodies.

The Spanish league has since said it is determined to fend off a new proposition for an elite league, which it has warned would "destroy" the existing structure of the domestic game.

It was revealed in October 2022 that a move was under way to revive the proposals, with Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus still thought to be keen; however, there remains firm opposition from UEFA, which runs European football, and world governing body FIFA.

The advocate general of the EU Court of Justice (CJEU), Athanasios Rantos, was responding to a request by the Commercial Court in Madrid to rule on whether FIFA and UEFA would have the right to take action in accordance with competition law and fundamental freedoms.

European Super League (ESLC) chiefs argued such actions should be regarded as anti-competitive and incompatible with EU competition law.

Rantos said in his opinion, which is not binding and will be followed by a court judgement expected in the new year, that: "Whilst ESLC is free to set up its own independent football competition outside the UEFA and FIFA ecosystem, it cannot however, in parallel with the creation of such a competition, continue to participate in the football competitions organised by FIFA and UEFA without the prior authorisation of those federations."

FIFA and UEFA had warned that players and clubs taking part in the breakaway league would be banned from their own competitions.

Six clubs from the Premier League and three each from LaLiga and Serie A initially agreed to join the European Super League, prior to public reaction leading to a rethink.

The opinion from Rantos noted that national federations and leagues would be able to threaten sanctions against clubs entering competitions "which would risk undermining the objectives legitimately pursued by those federations of which they are members".

UEFA said in response: "UEFA warmly welcomes today's unequivocal opinion recommending a ruling of the CJEU in support of our central mission to govern European football, protect the pyramid and develop the game across Europe."

It described the opinion as "an encouraging step towards preserving the existing dynamic and democratic governance structure of the European football pyramid".

UEFA added: "Football in Europe remains united and steadfastly opposed to the ESL, or any such breakaway proposals, which would threaten the entire European sports ecosystem."

Neymar has been acquitted of fraud and corruption charges stemming from his 2013 transfer to Barcelona from Santos.

A Spanish court also exonerated Neymar's father and the two clubs, while ex-Barca presidents Josep Maria Bartomeu and Sandro Rosell were also found not guilty, as well as former Santos president Odilio Rodrigues.

The trial in October examined the Brazil international's move in 2013 after complaints by DIS, a Brazilian company that owned 40 per cent of Neymar when he was playing for Santos.

The case was brought by Spanish prosecutors, with DIS citing lost income after the real value of the transfer was understated by the other parties.

DIS were seeking a five-year jail term for Neymar as well as a fine of up to €149million, while the prosecutors hoped for a two-year prison sentence for Neymar.

But the now Paris Saint-Germain forward has been cleared. Following Brazil's exit from the World Cup, he could return for PSG when they resume their Ligue 1 season against Strasbourg on December 28.

Arsenal will reportedly launch a move for Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk in January, with his price now said to be more negotiable than the initial demand of €100million.

The 21-year-old has been a revelation this season for the Ukrainian club, announcing his arrival with a goal and two assists in a 4-1 win against RB Leipzig to kick off his side's Champions League campaign.

He scored both home and away against Celtic, while also racking up seven goals and six assists in 12 league fixtures, emerging as one of the most talented young forwards outside of Europe's big five competitions.

Earlier reports had claimed Shakhtar would hold out for a fee matching what Manchester United paid for Antony, but new information states that is no longer believed to be the case.

 

TOP STORY - ARSENAL PLOT JANUARY MOVE FOR UKRAINIAN SENSATION

According to The Athletic, there is a "good chance" Mudryk's move to Arsenal will materialise, with the publication claiming he is "determined to make the Emirates Stadium his destination".

The report says Arsenal will investigate what other deals they could potentially accomplish for a similar fee, but that "interested parties are of the understanding that a lower fee [than the initial €100m demand] would be deemed acceptable".

Adding fuel to the fire is the belief that the Kroenke family are willing to throw their trust into Edu and Mikel Arteta's decisions amid an unexpected Premier League title challenge, increasing the chance of such a significant January investment.

 

ROUND-UP

– Marca is reporting Arsenal have become the favourites to land 23-year-old Atletico Madrid forward Joao Felix in January, providing further indication the Gunners plan on making a splash in the upcoming transfer window.

– According to Sky Sports Germany's Florian Plettenberg, Milan rejected a €70m bid from Chelsea for Rafael Leao, and are holding firm on his €150m release clause with just over 18 months remaining on his contract.

– La Capital is reporting Liverpool have signed a pre-agreement for 21-year-old Benfica midfielder Enzo Fernandez, who is believed to be valued at €100m.

Paris Saint-Germain are interested in signing 25-year-old Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele, per El Nacional.

– Foot Mercato claims Manchester City have joined Manchester United and Chelsea in the pursuit of 20-year-old Croatia and RB Leipzig centre-back Josko Gvardiol.

Walid Regragui hopes Morocco's performance at the World Cup is showing why Arab coaches should get top jobs in Europe, which is "impossible" right now.

Regragui was only appointed as Morocco head coach at the end of August.

Since then, the Atlas Lions are unbeaten, conceding only an own goal against Canada and reaching the quarter-finals at Qatar 2022.

Regragui's short stint has included an upset win over Belgium and a penalty shoot-out success against highly-fancied Spain in the last 16.

Morocco are the first Arab team and fourth African side to make the last eight at a World Cup, prompting discussion of interest in Regragui's services.

But the coach explained the battle he had faced just to get this job, let alone taking over at Manchester City or Barcelona.

"This question is probably best asked to European clubs: why don't they hire Arab coaches? Maybe it's a cultural question, maybe it's a mentality aspect," he said.

"Today I think it's impossible Manchester City or Barcelona bring an Arab coach. They don't think about it, as if we're not worthy, as if we're not capable.

"But there's moments in history that make people change their mind. It's on us, the Arab and African people, to show we are ready."

Having spent much of his coaching career with clubs in Morocco, Regragui added: "Ten years I am a coach, nobody looked at me. 'No, it is impossible, he does not have the experience. Let's look at somebody else'.

"I'm in the quarter-final. Explain this miracle.

"Experience doesn't matter. It's skills. It doesn't matter your background, where you're from; skills matter. If you're not worthy, you don't have the skills, you can leave."

Perhaps Morocco's style of play could be an obstacle to Regragui's progress, with only Costa Rica (30.2 per cent) having a smaller average share of possession at the tournament than their 32.3 per cent.

But Regragui made no apologies for Morocco's approach as they stifled Spain, who dominated 76.8 per cent of the play in the previous round but had only one shot on target in 120 minutes.

Highlighting other examples of Spain – with the highest possession share at the finals (77.0 per cent) – bossing proceedings against elite sides, Regragui wondered if critics would rather Morocco had bravely lost.

He asked: "Why do Morocco need to keep the ball? Why do African teams need to play very well and lose after and cry?"

But now, against Portugal in Saturday's quarter-final, Regragui feels huge support for his side.

"We want to show Africa deserves to be here, Morocco deserves to be here, football is global," he said.

"We have a federation behind us, a whole people behind us, a whole continent behind us. We have the Arab world. That's a lot of people. That's what we're going to draw from."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.