Thiago Silva has implored his Brazilian team-mate Neymar to join him at Chelsea if he decides to leave Paris Saint-Germain.

There has been recent speculation about Neymar's future at PSG, with the French club reportedly open to selling him should an acceptable bid come along.

Neymar's former agent Wagner Ribeiro said last week the 30-year-old wants to remain with PSG, to fulfil his dream of winning the Champions League there.

Chelsea's 37-year-old defender Thiago Silva, who has played alongside Neymar at international level and at PSG from 2017 to 2020, has urged to join him at Stamford Bridge.

"He has to go to Chelsea," Silva told Globo about Neymar who is contracted until 2025.

"If he is about to leave, then he must go there. If it happens, then the expectation is the best possible one.

"We don't even need to talk about Neymar's ability. Besides that, he is a super friend.

"I hope this happens instead of only being something on the news, but I don't know anything about it."

In recent days, Chelsea have been linked with another Brazilian, Leeds United's Raphinha, but are yet to spend in the transfer market this off-season.

Chelsea had a change of ownership completed in May with a group led by Todd Boehly replacing Roman Abramovich following a long association with the London club.

Neymar's former agent Wagner Ribiero believes the Brazilian is not about to leave Paris Saint-Germain as he is still dreaming of Champions League glory with the French champions.

The 30-year-old is contracted in Paris until 2025, but there have been rumours that PSG could look to offload him, having signed Lionel Messi in 2021 and recently renewing Kylian Mbappe's contract.

A return to Barcelona has long been muted for Neymar, with whom he won the Champions League with in 2014-15, while he has also previously spoken about his desire to play in the United States. 

However, when quizzed about Neymar's future, Ribiero made it clear his understanding that the former Santos starlet is not considering an exit and has his eyes firmly set on ending PSG's wait for Champions League glory.

"Neymar has a dream: to be champion of the Champions League with PSG," he told Goal.

"Despite all the rumours regarding a possible exit, he is very motivated and will not stop until he achieves it."

 

Asked whether Neymar likes the project at PSG, he added: "Of course. Every year that passes Nasser Al-Khelaifi (club president) improves the team in every way.

"They just finished the training centre, which will be one of the best. And now he wants to have the best French players at PSG."

Since Neymar joined PSG in 2017, the French giants have been eliminated at the quarter-final stage in three of the five seasons – finishing runners-up in 2019-20 and falling at the semi-finals the following year.

During that period, Neymar has scored 20 Champions League goals and secured 13 assists – with the only player to have more assists in the same period being team-mate Mbappe.

And so at the end of a gruelling 63-game season, mentality monsters Liverpool met their match against the miracle men of Real Madrid.

For the best part of an hour in Paris, Carlo Ancelotti's side looked off the pace and seemingly in need of some inspiration. Yet Madrid did what Madrid do. 

Just ask Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City exactly how that feels.

Unlike in the previous three rounds, no comeback was required on Saturday thanks to Vinicius Junior's 59th-minute strike and a string of incredible Thibaut Courtois saves.

The pair, who along with Karim Benzema have been key in Los Blancos' run to the final, will now forever be synonymous with their side's 14th continental triumph.

That is double the number of European Cups or Champions Leagues won by the next most successful side, with Milan on seven and Liverpool just behind, still stuck on six.

Back in the city of the first of their triumphs, you can be sure that this will not be the last for the true kings of Europe.

 

Not for the first time this season, Ancelotti's men were slow getting out of the blocks, perhaps not helped by a delay to kick-off of more than 30 minutes.

That was down to crowd congestion, as UEFA put it, with one half of the ground swathed in white 45 minutes before the scheduled start time and the Liverpool end a patchy red.

Those Liverpool fans who didn't make it into the ground on time would have missed a dominant first-half display from their side.

The Reds had more shots on target in the first 22 minutes than they did in the entire of the 2019 final, which ended in victory against Tottenham.

Madrid had not even registered a shot or a touch in the Liverpool box by that point, and the Premier League side's dominance only grew as the warmth in the Paris air turned to a slight chill.

By half-time, Jurgen Klopp's side had aimed as many shots on target as in their previous two finals combined, including the defeat to Madrid four years ago in Kyiv.

Crucially, though, Courtois had kept out each of them, including a fine stop from Sadio Mane, helping his shot onto the post.

That was the seventh time Liverpool had hit the woodwork in the Champions League this season – the most of any side – yet the first signs of the tide turning arrived just before the break.

Benzema, kept quiet for large parts, fired the ball in after a mix-up between Alisson and Ibrahima Konate, only for the officials to deem the France striker to be offside.

It was a hugely contentious call, one that took three minutes for VAR to review, although it will now represent a mere footnote when looking back at this game in years to come.

 

Vinicius – and Courtois – ultimately proved the difference, despite Liverpool throwing all they had at their opponents. The Belgium international made the most Champions League final saves (nine) of any goalkeeper on record (since 2003-04).

And so, for the eighth final running, the side that scored first went on to win, a run stretching back to Madrid's comeback victory against Atletico Madrid in 2014.

Digging deep is nothing new for Madrid, then, and again in Paris – albeit perhaps not quite to the same extent as witnessed in previous rounds – their grit and character was on show.

A side who had trailed for 178 minutes in the semi-final, and 243 minutes in total in this campaign (21 per cent of their minutes played), came through this most difficult of runs.

Let it not be forgotten that the LaLiga winners saw off the champions of France, the champions of England and the erstwhile champions of Europe en route even before facing Liverpool and toppling them, too.

It will be particularly special for Ancelotti, who becomes an outright record four-time winner of the Champions League, but this success was about a team who refused to be beaten and again had the ability to grind out a victory just when required.

Never has a Champions League triumph been so hard-fought and yet so deserved.

Sadio Mane has revealed he came close to joining Manchester United in 2016, agreeing a contract with the Red Devils before making a last-minute decision to join Liverpool after a call from Jurgen Klopp.

Mane has scored 23 goals in 50 appearances for Liverpool in all competitions this term, helping Klopp's team to win the EFL Cup and FA Cup trophies, while the Reds could yet add the Champions League when they face Real Madrid in Saturday's final in Paris.

The 30-year-old scored when Liverpool faced Madrid in the 2018 final in Kyiv, though substitute Gareth Bale netted a brace to condemn Klopp's side to a 3-1 defeat.

Liverpool are bidding to win their seventh European crown at the Stade de France, and Mane has been touted as a potential Ballon d'Or contender after also firing Senegal to their first Africa Cup of Nations title earlier this year.

However, things could have been very different for Mane, who said he had the chance to join Liverpool's rivals United when he departed Southampton in 2016.

Speaking to former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher in an interview for the Telegraph, Mane recalled how a phone call from Klopp, who had attempted to sign him for former club Borussia Dortmund on a previous occasion, saw his head turn.

"I have to say, I was really close to going to Manchester United," Mane said. "I had the contract there. I had it all agreed. 

"It was all ready, but instead I thought, 'no, I want to go to Liverpool'. I was convinced to go with Klopp's project. 

"I still remember the first time I got the call from Klopp. He said, 'Sadio, listen, I want to explain to you what happened at Dortmund'. 

"That was when he thought of signing me for Dortmund and for some reason, it didn't work out. He tried to explain and I said, 'it's okay, it happened'. I forgave him.

"Then he said, 'now I want you at Liverpool', and I said, 'okay, Dortmund is behind us, let's focus on the future'. He said, 'we have a big project at Liverpool and I want you to be part of it'."

Mane scored in both legs of Liverpool's Champions League semi-final win over Villarreal, setting up the Reds' ninth European Cup/Champions League meeting with Madrid.

Having won the first three such contests between 1981 and 2009, however, Liverpool are winless in the last five (one draw, four defeats), including their 2018 final loss.

Luis Diaz insists Liverpool are not favourites to beat Real Madrid in Saturday's Champions League final, as he prepares for a "dream" appearance in European football's showpiece event.

Having already lifted the EFL Cup and FA Cup this season, Jurgen Klopp's team are looking to make up for missing out on the Premier League title by being crowned European champions for a seventh time in Paris.

Such a triumph would see Liverpool draw level with Milan's tally of European Cup/Champions League successes, leaving only Madrid (13) with more titles in the competition's history, as well as avenging their 2018 final loss to Los Blancos.

Liverpool have been touted as favourites after ending their domestic league campaign with a 19-match unbeaten run (16 wins, three draws), while Madrid have already required several spectacular comebacks in the competition, becoming the first team to reach a Champions League final after losing a match in each of the round-of-16, quarter-finals, and semi-finals.

Diaz has been a key part of Liverpool's extraordinary four-front fight since joining from Porto in January, recording six goals and four assists in 17 starts for the club.

But Diaz was cool to temper expectations ahead of an intriguing final.

"Always I have dreamed of winning the Champions League. Even more so against a team like Real Madrid, I am living a great dream," Diaz said. "I want to take advantage of these moments and be happy.

"Are we favourites? No, there are no favourites here. 

"We know that a final is contested minute by minute. We are going to give 100 per cent. We know what we have to do."

When asked if he was the side's most in-form player, the 25-year-old responded: "No, I don't believe so. I think every one of us is in very good shape to compete at a high level, not only me. 

"Everyone in the squad is in good form. I know if I am given the opportunity, I will go out there to take advantage like always."

The winger also highlighted attacking duo Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior, alongside midfielder Toni Kroos, as the key threats for Carlo Ancelotti's side, with the former having scored 15 goals for Madrid in the Champions League this season to sit just two strikes shy of Cristiano Ronaldo's single-season record in the competition (17 for Madrid in 2013-14).

"Clearly, we know what Real Madrid have, what a great team they are, the experience they have," he said.

"But we also have a great squad and a great game, and we are going to counteract what they do. Who are Real's best players? I don't know – Karim, Vinicius, I really like Toni Kroos."

Jordan Henderson and the Champions League trophy will become well-acquainted again if Liverpool beat Real Madrid in Paris on Saturday – though he might not be allowed to take it to his local pub.

Phil Thompson was the Reds' captain in 1981, when Liverpool also faced Madrid in a European final in Paris.

A 1-0 win at the Parc des Princes ensured the trophy was going back to Merseyside once again following their successes in the European Cup in 1977 and 78.

But this time there was even more of a local flavour to Liverpool's victory, with Thompson becoming the first Scouser to lift the trophy, and he was determined to make it a memorable homecoming.

The UEFA delegate who handed him the cup might not have expected Thompson to take it to the pub, however.

Alan Kennedy, who scored Liverpool's crucial goal in that final, told Stats Perform: "First of all, we knew that Phil Thompson had it, but we didn't know what he was going to do with it.

"We thought he might take it in his car. What was it? I'm sure he had a Ford Capri at the time, and it was a souped-up one, if I remember rightly!

"He put it on the front seat and everybody else had to get in the backseat and whatever. But he knew we had to look after it. He knew he was responsible for it.

"I think the rest is history about going to some of the pubs in Kirby [a town on the outskirts of Liverpool]."

There were no such stories after Henderson and his Liverpool team-mates returned to Merseyside victorious in 2019, with the trophy seemingly guarded with greater security these days.

Though Thompson insists the cup never left his sight.

"It wasn't a mission, it was always in my safe hands," he added. "I'd always planned that I was taking it back to the Falcon [a pub], I was taking it home to the Falcon in Kirby, so it's now become quite legendary.

"I travel the country and they say, 'Is it a myth?' Or, 'is it true that you took the European Cup to a pub in Kirby?' And I did.

"After we'd done the [parade] I put the European Cup in a big velvet bag in the back of the Ford Capri, an awful one, to the Falcon."

Henderson will surely just be happy to get his hands on the trophy once again, even if bringing it to his local is out of the question.

Former Liverpool and Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso says both teams should be described as "mentality monsters" ahead of Saturday's Champions League final.

Alonso played for Liverpool between 2004 and 2009, before moving to Madrid where he also spent five seasons, winning the Champions League with both clubs.

The English and Spanish giants meet at the Stade de France at the weekend in a repeat of the 2018 final, which Madrid won 3-1 in Kyiv.

Speaking to BT Sport, Alonso expressed his admiration for Reds boss Jurgen Klopp and his ability to get the most from his team.

"Jurgen, I have played many times against him," he said. "He is intense, he is very passionate and I think that one of his best qualities is that he is able to get the best from his players and he is able for them to commit in a very generous way and create proper teams.

"Each manager, I think they have their own way, their own book. Some managers, they do it on a tactical way, on a very analytical way. There are others that like to create more of that connection, to give that freedom, but you need to know the players.

"You need to be able to give them the right recipe for them to show their best level. That’s the beauty - you don't have just one way, you have many different ways and Carlo [Ancelotti] is different to Jurgen, Jurgen is different to Pep [Guardiola], Pep is different to Thomas Tuchel to Xavi, so they are all different."

Klopp regularly refers to his Liverpool team as "mentality monsters" in relation to their ability to respond to adversity and find a way to win, and Alonso believes this is an accurate assessment, but also feels Ancelotti's men have the same attribute.

"I love when Jurgen says that they are 'mentality monsters' because to do what they are doing, it is not easy," he said. "It's not just this year, it's what they have been doing for the last few years and they have that mentality.

"But, another thing is the final. The final, it is a big one and when you need to show that mentality because Madrid, they are other mentality monsters, so it's a big, big clash that we are going to have. Enjoy it.

"I was in Kyiv a few years ago and it was great to enjoy with two of my teams. It's not all about the final, it's also about reaching the final and enjoying it with the crowd. I was there with friends from Madrid and friends from Liverpool and I am kind of in the middle of both teams, so I will win whatever happens.

"[They are] both great teams, they both deserve [to win] so I will feel for one not to get it.

"We will see. It's the Champions League final so just enjoy it."

Lionel Messi believes "good things are coming" after ending his first season at Paris Saint-Germain with a 5-0 win over Metz, as the Parisians celebrate Kylian Mbappe's decision to stay with the club.

But while highlighting his delight at helping the club to their 10th Ligue 1 title, Messi also recalled the "bitter taste" of March's Champions League elimination against Real Madrid, a tie in which he still believes PSG were the better team.

Messi recorded an assist as PSG rounded off their season by thrashing Metz, with the Argentine ending his first campaign at the club with 25 goal contributions in 34 appearances across all competitions (11 goals, 14 assists).

The 34-year-old's first season in France has not gone entirely to plan, however, with the Parisians squandering a two-goal lead in their 3-2 aggregate Champions League defeat to Los Blancos in March.

That collapse led to both Messi and Neymar being jeered by their own supporters in subsequent matches, while head coach Mauricio Pochettino has come under increasing pressure after his failure to deliver PSG their first European crown.

Nevertheless, a celebratory mood surrounded PSG after Saturday's announcement that Messi's strike partner Mbappe had agreed a three-year contract extension with the club.

The 23-year-old, who was heavily linked with a blockbuster move to Madrid, celebrated his new deal with a hat-trick that take him to 45 Ligue 1 goal contributions for the season (28 goals, 17 assists) – the highest tally across Europe's top five leagues this term.

Reflecting on a mixed first season in Paris, Messi expressed his belief that the club was on course for better things next term.

"The season is over, and I wanted to thank my teammates for how they treated me since I arrived and my family for always accompanying me and supporting me," Messi wrote on Instagram, alongside an image of him celebrating with team-mates Mbappe, Neymar, and Marco Verratti. 

"It was a different year because of everything that happened, but at the end of it all we achieved a league that I was very excited to achieve, because of what it means to be the first trophy here in Paris.

"We are left with the bitter taste of losing in the Champions League in a tie that we were being better [in], and at the same time, I want to be left with the joy of having added another title that was also one of the objectives.

"Surely good things are coming in 2022; it will be an important year, and we are going to fight to be competing with ambition for everything."

Rafael Nadal believes he can win a 14th French Open title despite other players arriving at Roland Garros in better condition, as he labelled the venue the "most important" place in his tennis career.

Nadal won a record 21st grand slam title when he recovered from two-sets down to beat Daniil Medvedev in a thrilling Australian Open final in January, and has won 13 of the last 17 editions of the year's second slam.

However, Nadal admitted he was "living with an injury" after falling to a third-round defeat to Denis Shapovalov at the Internazionali d'Italia earlier this month, and will need to overcome a tough draw to build on his fine record in Paris, with Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz both on his side of the bracket.

Ahead of his first-round clash with Australia's Jordan Thompson, Nadal insisted that while he was not the favourite to triumph at Roland Garros, he hoped to replicate his performance at the year's opening grand slam in order to give himself a chance.

"I just enjoyed all my tennis career to be where I am, and I always feel very privileged and lucky to have the chance to enjoy all the experiences that I am enjoying and I am living because of this sport," Nadal said.

"And here I am in Roland Garros, another year. It is a place I know well. It is a place that I consider the most important one in my tennis career, without a doubt, and with a lot of positive memories.

"Today, it looks difficult and there are players that are in better shape than me, without a doubt, that is true today. But you never know what can happen in the next couple of days.

"The same happened in Australia, and I put myself in a position to have a chance, and here is no different. Things can change quick, and the only thing that I can do is try to be ready if that change happens."

 

Pressed on the effects of the foot injury which troubled him in Rome, Nadal said he is feeling better, but maintained it was a case of managing, rather than curing, the pain.

"What happened in Rome is something that happened very often in my practices," he added. "I was suffering after that for a couple of days, but I feel better.

"The pain is there always. It's not going to disappear now. It's about if the pain is high and strong enough to allow me to play with real chances [of winning] or not.

"But in my case, is something that I live every day, so it's nothing new for me and is not a big surprise. 

"I am here just to play tennis and to try to make the best result possible here in Roland Garros. And if I didn't believe that this thing can happen, probably I would not be here."

Meanwhile, the stars appear to have aligned for Nadal, with his beloved Real Madrid facing Liverpool in the Champions League final on May 28 just a short journey across Paris at the Stade de France.

Nadal, a known supporter of Los Blancos who requested not to play at the same time as their semi-final win over Manchester City while competing at the Madrid Open earlier this month, revealed he has already made plans to attend the conveniently located contest. 

"Well, I am here to play Roland Garros more than anything else. But of course, I have my tickets already," he smiled.

Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka was furious after his side's 2-0 Premier League defeat against Newcastle United, saying Mikel Arteta's team "don't deserve" Champions League qualification after the damaging reverse.

A Ben White own goal gave the Magpies the lead in a must-win clash for the Gunners, before Bruno Guimaraes sealed Newcastle's victory late on, leaving Arsenal's top-four hopes hanging by a thread.

Arsenal are now two points behind Tottenham in the standings with one match remaining, where Spurs will need to lose to Norwich City to allow the Gunners a chance to sneak back into the top four, courtesy of their inferior goal difference.

The Gunners were comprehensively outclassed in the crucial encounter, producing just 0.40 expected goals compared to Newcastle's 1.38, and only controlling 33 per cent of the first-half possession.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the loss, Xhaka called it a "disaster performance", accusing his team-mates of not following Arteta's gameplan and asserting the team did not deserve European football after producing such a showing.

"So difficult to find right words after the game," he said. "We came here to show a different game, but from the first minute until the 90th minute we didn't deserve to be on the pitch today.

"I can't explain why we didn't do what the game-plan was. Not listening to the coach, [it] was a disaster performance.

"[If you] play like this you don't deserve Champions League, don't even deserve Europa league. Very hard to take it at the moment, I don't know why we are not doing what the coach is asking of us."

Xhaka went on to declare Arsenal had not shown the necessary fight at St James' Park and his told team-mates that if they didn't "have the balls", they should have stayed at home.

"I don't know if someone is not ready for this game, stay at home." he added. "Doesn't matter the age. You can be 30, 35, you can be 10, you can be 18 – [if you're] not ready, stay on the bench, stay at home, don't come here. 

"We need people to have the balls - sorry to say that - to come here to play, because we knew this game is maybe one of the most important games for us.

"A performance like this… [we cannot] accept it, very very sad for us. Sorry for the people that came over here to support us. I feel sorry for Arsenal supporters, this is the only thing I can say – to say sorry to them."

Arsenal play Everton at the Emirates Stadium in their final fixture of the Premier League season on Sunday.

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti emphasised how difficult it is to pick his starting XI after a tricky 1-1 draw against Cadiz on Sunday.

Mariano Diaz put Madrid ahead just five minutes into the contest from point-blank range, but the league champions struggled the rest of the way.

Cadiz's Sobrino equalised in the 37th minute and, according to expected goal data, the home side also had the four best chances of the second half.

For the game, Cadiz had 2.90 expected goals, compared to just 1.64 for Madrid.

With the LaLiga title secured, Carlo Ancelotti looked towards his side's Champions League final in his post-game comments to the media, commending the efforts of experienced defender Nacho and highlighting the difficulty of picking a line-up.

"A player like Nacho always makes you think twice when picking the line-up," he said.

"He's not the only one, as you have doubts over the line-up for every match here at Real Madrid. There is a full squad and not just 11 players."

When asked specifically about if in-form duo Federico Valverde and Rodrygo will start in the Paris showdown against Liverpool, Ancelotti played his cards close to his chest.

"Maybe they'll start or maybe they won't, but they will definitely play," he said.

"[Valverde] needs to make the most of his long shot, which he has been doing more in recent matches. I think it's good for him and us for him to try shooting more."

Following Wednesday's Coppa Italia final defeat to Inter, it was confirmed Juventus will finish the 2021-22 season without a trophy for the first time since 2011.

Last season under Andrea Pirlo, Juventus not winning Serie A was in itself shocking, but this season has only shown further regression.

Massimiliano Allegri returning to replace Pirlo after his single season in charge was viewed as a means to halt that slide, but Juve will not just likely finish 10 points off the Serie A title winners and without a trophy this term; the Bianconeri are set to finish with a double-digit deficit in a season where the champions will likely will not break the 85-point barrier.

How much the Turin club spend relative to the rest in Italian football must be brought into context. Granted, the financial impact of COVID-19 caused significant restructuring, but they are still the only club in Italy to have a gross annual payroll in excess of €150million and are joined by Inter as one of only two over €100m. Meanwhile, seven Juventus players make up the top 10 salaries in Serie A this season.

Given that comparatively gaudy expenditure, that represents a spectacular failure – especially in comparison to the likes of the notoriously thrifty Atalanta or this Milan project that has sought to maximise value on the pitch and cut unnecessary spending. The major issue with Juve over the past four seasons has been a dramatically diminishing return on investment, but how has it manifested on the pitch?

Juventus had this inevitable capacity to find a way to win games in Allegri's first stint, but they were still volatile. It would be misguided to look at this season in isolation when in a continuum. Cristiano Ronaldo's arrival for the 2018-19 season – which was viewed as the key signing to propel them to long-awaited Champions League glory – arguably accelerated the regression.

Real Madrid's midfield and Karim Benzema allowed Ronaldo to have a largely singular role as the end point to the team's actions in possession. At Juventus, a player who was largely a finisher and was not going to force defensive collapses between the lines by that point had to take on greater responsibility in the team's build-up. Despite the Portuguese star's stature in the game, he was effectively signed for a task on the pitch he was not capable of fulfilling.

Consider that in his last season at Madrid, Ronaldo was averaging 46.87 touches per 90, and 10.02 were in the opposition's penalty area. The next two seasons at Juventus saw a dramatic shift, where for touches per 90 he averages 54.5 and 56.26 respectively. Touches in the penalty area actually decreased, however, at 6.64 and 6.92 respectively per 90.

With Paulo Dybala as the team's attacking focal point, Miralem Pjanic had previously mitigated the deeply conservative nature of Juve's midfield, but with Ronaldo it became a bridge too far. Ronaldo might have sustained his goal involvements, but it came at the expense of the collective. The Bianconeri came no closer to winning the continental silverware he was brought to Turin to secure but, more importantly, declined domestically and were suddenly challenged for what had become a fait accompli that decade in Serie A.

Pjanic's departure at the end of 2019-20 further accelerates that regression, despite the arrivals of Arthur, Alvaro Morata, Federico Chiesa and Weston McKennie that off-season, as well as Adrien Rabiot, Mathijs de Ligt and Dejan Kulusevski the previous off-season.

Arguably, the additions of Rabiot, McKennie and Arthur have only further reinforced the rigidity of Juve's midfield over the years. Pjanic's final season saw him average 1.21 chances from open play per 90, along with 10.34 passes into the final third and 0.13 for expected assists at 92.66 touches. Not one Juventus midfielder since has been able to match all of those averages individually, and trying to replace them in an aggregate creates different requirements elsewhere.

 

Amid Dybala's increasingly marginalised status upon Ronaldo's arrival, it necessitated someone like Morata, whose fantastic movement and ability to incorporate the players around him is paired with erratic finishing in front of goal. It represents a sizeable trade-off. Still, Morata leads the Bianconeri for chances created (1.63) in open play per 90 in all competitions this season.

That provides some context for this season and Dusan Vlahovic's arrival, because he is almost the opposite to Morata – cold-blooded in front of goal, but much less flexible in build-up play and movement off the ball. Yet, while he creates fewer chances in open play (0.81) than Morata, the quality of his shots (0.13 xG per shot) is still lower than Morata's average of 0.16.

 

 

It all matters because, with the exception of Inter and Lazio, the Bianconeri still keep more of the ball than anyone else in Serie A. They both can and cannot afford for their midfield to be so palpably one-dimensional. While Juventus rank 19th across the top five leagues in Europe for touches per 90 (678.46) in all competitions, they rank 32nd for big chances created per 90 (1.56), and 50th for passes into the final third (53.02), calling into question the nature of their possession and how they actually generate their chances.

With that all in context, it can be difficult to definitively assess someone like Fabio Miretti or where he best suits in a system of play, because it is akin to developing an emotional attachment to a captor.

Yet Dybala's forthcoming departure from Turin at the end of this season is symbolic, let alone if he ends up somewhere else in Serie A.

His career trajectory over the past four years, coinciding with Juve's regression and eventual embarrassment of this season, represents how badly the club have managed squad composition and, to reference Jose Mourinho's famous quote, their Champions League dream that became an obsession. As such, they have lacked anything resembling a plan or clarity, and have been blindly led by ambition to this empty-handed season.

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah did not mince his words when defending his place as he declared he is the best player in the world in his position.

The Egypt international is on track to win the Premier League Golden Boot, while also boasting the highest assist tally in the top flight, being directly involved in 35 goals from his 34 appearances.

Salah was recently named the Football Writers' Association Player of the Year in England, and has a chance to make history with this Liverpool team as they have won the EFL Cup, and are still in the hunt for the Premier League title, FA Cup and Champions League.

Speaking to beIN SPORTS, Salah was adamant that there is no forward in world football scaling his heights.

"If you compare me with any player in my position, not only in my team but in the world, you will find that I am the best," he said.

"I always focus on my work and do my best, and my numbers are the best proof of my words.

"I like to always create a new challenge for me, to work in a different way and to make a difference, and that is my duty."

Ahead of Liverpool's Champions League final against Real Madrid – which is a rematch from the 2018 final, when the Spaniards won 3-1 – Salah called it "revenge time".

"Yeah – when we lost in the final, it was a sad day for all of us," he said. "But, yes, I think it's revenge time."

Ilkay Gundogan will find other ways to keep himself occupied when Liverpool face Real Madrid in the Champions League final as he is still "angry" at Manchester City's exit.

City were eliminated at the semi-final stage last week with a remarkable 6-5 aggregate defeat to Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Last season's beaten finalists, who have yet to win UEFA's showpiece competition, were ahead 5-3 in the tie with less than a minute of normal time remaining in the Spanish capital before Rodrygo scored twice and Karim Benzema netted an extra-time penalty.

And while he openly admits to being obsessed with all things football, Gundogan has no intention of tuning in to watch City's conquerors Madrid take on Liverpool in Paris.

"If I think about the final in Paris then I get very angry," he told the Daily Mail. "Frustrated, disappointed. I'm definitely not going to watch it. 

"I will definitely try to do something else that day. Nothing is going to really help; the only thing that will is time. 

"It's becoming a little bit easier, even though you know – yet again – you've missed a big chance to lift a possible trophy."

He added: "Maybe there's not much we can tell ourselves that we did wrong but at the end of the day, we conceded two goals in two minutes. 

"We were not there when it was necessary and we were not focused enough. It was not enough. That is the blame we give ourselves."

Gundogan, a second-half substitute in the second leg against Madrid, has won eight major trophies with City – but European silverware continues to elude him and the club.

That could soon become nine trophies as City will be crowned Premier League champions for a fourth time in five years if they win their remaining three matches.

City have been pushed all the way by Liverpool, who they have battled it out with for domestic honours over the past few seasons, though the rivalry remains relatively peaceful.

That is a far cry from the days when matters would often boil over both before and after matches between title rivals Manchester United and Arsenal.

Gundogan, who also won the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund in 2011-12, insists football has moved on in recent years.

"Those kind of rivalries don't really exist anymore in modern football," he said. "For some people who are more old school you know, that might be bad. 

"The game is not like, I don't know, 20-30 years ago, with people on the pitch killing each other and intentionally trying to injure. 

"That's not how we want the game to be. I want fairness. I want respect. Just because there's a rivalry we don't need to kill each other on or off the pitch."

Real Madrid talisman Karim Benzema is "one of the most underrated players in history" according to UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin.

Benzema has produced several incredible displays to fire Real Madrid to their 17th European Cup/Champions League final, scoring hat-tricks in last-16 and quarter-final ties with Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea, before netting three goals across a 6-5 aggregate win over Manchester City in the semi-finals.

The 34-year-old has been touted for the Ballon d'Or after scoring 43 goals and providing 14 assists in all competitions for Los Blancos this term, with Carlo Ancelotti's team also wrapping up the LaLiga title last week.

The France international has scored 10 goals in the Champions League knockout stages, the joint-most recorded by a player in a single campaign, along with Cristiano Ronaldo in 2016-17, also for Madrid.

Speaking to AS, Ceferin rejected suggestions Madrid had been fortunate in the competition this season, hailing the contributions of Benzema and midfielder Luka Modric and labelling the former "awesome".

"For me, one of the most underrated players in history is Benzema. He is an amazing player. And they have Luka Modric, who the older he gets, the better he plays," Ceferin said.

"Now [Benzema] is becoming more and more recognized. He has always been in someone's shadow. 

"It's amazing how this footballer can score goals. He finds a way, even when it seems impossible to score. He is an awesome player.

"We will have to ask them [Madrid] how it is possible. They are an experienced team. You could say that they have been a bit lucky in some matches, but you can only be lucky in one, not all."

After scoring an extra-time penalty to send Los Blancos to the May 28 final at City's expense, Benzema has scored seven Champions League goals against English teams this season, the most by a player in a single campaign in the competition's history.

He will have the opportunity to build on that record when Ancelotti's men face Liverpool in the final in Paris, and Ceferin believes the removal of the away goals rule has contributed to this Champions League season being one of the most exhilarating in recent history.

"That's the Champions League. The biggest football promotion and the best sports competition in the world," he added. "And when you watch these games… it's amazing. 

"I am happy that we have changed the away goals rule. When I told some of my team-mates that, they told me that there would be more penalty shoot-outs. 

"But it is not true and that is how it has been seen. The matches, in my opinion, are more interesting.

"The clubs in the Champions League are the best and playing away is almost the same as playing at home. I'm looking forward to the final."

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