Erling Haaland's talents in attack make him "an absolute weapon" for Borussia Dortmund, says boss Marco Rose, favourably comparing the forward to Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski.

The two Bundesliga heavyweights meet this weekend in the latest edition of Der Klassiker, with Julian Nagelsmann's side able to claim the title against their biggest rivals with victory.

Much of the result will likely hinge on the performances of two of European football's most talismanic strikers, in Poland star Lewandowski and Norway forward Haaland.

The latter looks set to play out his final few games for the Black and Yellow over the coming weeks, and is widely expected to seal a major move during the close-season to a European rival with Manchester City heavily tipped to win the race for his signature.

But his contributions have been invaluable for Dortmund and head coach Rose, who hailed his prowess when speaking about him and Lewandowski ahead of their encounter.

"They have different strengths," he stated. "Lewandowski serves all facets with more experience and drops a lot.

"He's in a good position in the box too though. His first contact is world class.

"[But] Erling has also made progress this season. In the transition game, he is an absolute weapon.

"His header game has also gotten much better. When the ball comes into the box, both know exactly where the goal is."

Dortmund's last Bundesliga Klassiker victory came back in 2018, when they defeated Bayern 3-2 on home soil under Lucien Favre.

Rose knows it is due time that his side rise to the occasion in the Bundesliga's biggest fixture, and that the merit of the occasion drives them on to deliver.

"It's a classic," Rose added. "It's also about reputation. A win in Munich is always good. We don't want to just defend.

"Bayern can become champions on Saturday and will perform accordingly. We want to prevent that.

"We played a good game last Saturday, we need that performance at an even higher level and consistently over 90 minutes."

Pep Guardiola refused to answer questions surrounding reports Manchester City are closing in on a deal for Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland.

Reports have suggested City are ready to meet Haaland's €75million (£64m) release clause and that Haaland wants to join the reigning Premier League champions this summer.

City failed in a protracted effort to prise Harry Kane away from Tottenham before the start of this season, while forward Ferran Torres departed to join Barcelona in January.

Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez have carried the bulk of the goalscoring burden as City bid for a Premier League and Champions League double, while Gabriel Jesus, whose contract expires at the end of next season, has also been linked with a move away.

Haaland's arrival would see City atone for the disappointment of missing out on Kane by acquiring another of the most feared centre-forwards in world football.

But when asked about reports of them nearing the signing of the Dortmund forward, Guardiola told a media conference ahead of Wednesday's game with Brighton and Hove Albion: "No answer to your question. I have another concern in my head, to think what will happen in this club next season."

Pressed on the question of whether he needed to add a striker to his ranks, Guardiola replied: "We are playing without a striker.

"For many years I don't think about transfer windows, especially when we have incredible things to play for."

Haaland has scored 25 goals in 24 games in all competitions for Marco Rose's team this season, outperforming his expected goals tally of 22.2.

One of world football's hottest commodities, Erling Haaland, is reportedly set to join Manchester City in the next transfer window after agreeing to personal terms.

It has long been understood that Haaland would likely not return to Borussia Dortmund for another season, with the Bundesliga club entertaining offers from the world's biggest clubs.

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain were considered Manchester City's biggest competition for the Norway forward's signature, but a massive contract, recent success and close personal ties to his father seem to have been the deciding factors.

 

TOP STORY – HAALAND CHOOSES MANCHESTER CITY

The Daily Mail is reporting Haaland has agreed to a deal with Manchester City that will make him the highest-paid player in the Premier League at £500,000 per week.

With terms agreed, City are expected to trigger Haaland's £62.2million (€75m) release clause and sign him to a five-year deal, which could be announced in the next week.

His father, Alf-Inge Haaland, played at Manchester City from 2000-2003 and is said to have been "heavily involved in the negotiations".

 

ROUND-UP

– According to Goal, Real Madrid did not want to unsettle their dressing room by signing Haaland and making him the highest-paid player.

– Fichajes is reporting Real Madrid's attention will turn to Manchester United's Edinson Cavani now Haaland is out of the picture, while The Mirror claims Madrid have strong interest in Chelsea right-back Reece James.

Liverpool target Serge Gnabry is discussing a contract extension with Bayern Munich, according to Goal.

West Ham are hoping to add Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope, with the England international likely to leave the club if they are relegated, per the Daily Mail.

Arsenal are in the box seat to land Marco Asensio from Real Madrid after Milan rejected his wage demands, reports CalcioMercato.

Erling Haaland's price tag means he is an unrealistic transfer target for Bayern Munich, according the club's chief executive Oliver Kahn.

With Bayern's own star striker Robert Lewandowski linked with a move to Spain ahead of his contract expiring in 2023, it has been suggested that Die Roten could make another raid on rivals Dortmund, just as they did when bringing Lewandowski to the club in 2014.

Haaland has scored 18 goals in 20 Bundesliga appearances this season, 14 fewer than Lewandowski, albeit having played nine games fewer than the 33-year-old.

A host of Europe's top clubs expected to make serious attempts to sign the Norwegian come the end of the season. However, Kahn says Bayern do not have the finances to make a deal work.

"I don't think we would be doing our job well if we didn't deal with a young striker," Kahn told German TV channel Sport1.

"He's shown his performances too, at BVB he's an excellent striker. He's also a very interesting player for the future.

"There is always talk of the 'Haaland package'. [But] these are areas that are very, very far away from what we imagine [financially]."

Haaland has averaged a goal every 86.78 minutes in the Bundesliga this season, the third-best rate amongst players to have hit double figures, behind only Lewandowski (a goal every 78.22 minutes), and Bayer Leverkusen's Patrik Schick (every 83.35 minutes).

Since making his Bundesliga debut on January 18, 2020, Haaland has scored 58 goals in 63 league games, a tally only bettered by Lewandowski's astonishing return of 88 goals in 72 games during that time.

The 21-year-old scored twice as Marco Rose's side hammered Wolfsburg 6-1 on Saturday, with team-mate Tom Rothe becoming the youngest player to score on their Bundesliga debut (aged 17 years and 169 days) as BVB look to deny Bayern a 10th consecutive title. 

Real Madrid should not be ashamed to be reliant upon talisman Karim Benzema, according to Los Blancos head coach Carlo Ancelotti.

France international Benzema has helped Madrid to the LaLiga summit, 12 points clear of Barcelona, who have played a game less.

The former Lyon striker also propelled the LaLiga giants into the ascendancy with his hat-trick in a 3-1 win against Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final at Stamford Bridge.

Indeed, he became the first player to score a treble against the Blues in European competition as he joined Cristiano Ronaldo, Luiz Adriano and Lionel Messi as the fourth player to manage consecutive hat-tricks in the Champions League following his heroics in the last 16 against Paris Saint-Germain.

Only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (46) has found the net more times in Europe's top-five leagues in all competitions than Benzema, who has 37 goals to his name in as many appearances.

Ancelotti heaped praise on his star forward as he fielded questions over whether potential transfer target Erling Haaland would be put off Madrid by Benzema's exploits.

"What a question... I'm sorry, I can't answer," he said. 

"But I can say that Benzema is a modern centre-forward, in the past the number nine would get into the area and finish off whatever was going on there.

"Karim is what modern football demands in a striker, shooting, playing, defensive work, not giving away balls... It's the perfect representation of what a centre forward should be today".

Benzema and Vinicius Junior have formed a formidable partnership this campaign, with the duo combining for a competition-leading five goals in the Champions League.

Ancelotti referenced the likes of Los Blancos greats Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale as he pointed towards his new pairing as the stars of the show this season.

"The season says that there are two strikers who have stood out a lot, Vinicius and Benzema," he added.

"In the past we had Cristiano, Bale... To say that we are dependent on Benzema is the truth, there is no need to hide it. I am very happy to be dependent on Benzema".

Benzema has netted 11 times in the Champions League this campaign, the most by a Frenchman in Europe's premier club competition and as many as he had scored in the previous two editions combined.

He will look to add to that tally at home to Chelsea on Tuesday as Ancelotti aims to qualify for an eighth Champions League semi-final – the joint-most of any coach in history, along with Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.

Not a window goes by where Sergej Milinkovic-Savic's name does not emerge in transfer speculation.

The 27-year-old's contract expires at the end of the 2023-24 season, but Juventus are keen to move on the long sought-after Lazio midfielder.

The Serbia international has only progressed under Maurizio Sarri, attracting reported interest from the Turn giants.

 

TOP STORY – JUVE RAMP UP CHASE FOR MILINKOVIC-SAVIC

Milinkovic-Savic's agent Mateja Kezman has commenced talks with Juventus over a possible transfer from Lazio, according to Calciomercato.

The Serbian midfielder has long been a weak area since their appearance in the Champions League final in 2015, and multiple coaches in that period have not been conducive for personnel.

Lazio president Claudio Lotito famously placed an initial €100million value on Milinkovic-Savic, but it has reportedly dropped to €70m. It is perceived that price tag is still too steep a figure for Juventus, as a consequence of compatriot Dusan Vlahovic's signing in January.

It is believed that Lazio would be open to players in return as part of a packaged deal.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United and Arsenal have joined the race to sign Benfica striker Darwin Nunez, the Mirror reports.

- Erling Haaland has dismissed interest from Manchester United, believing they do not meet the Norwegian striker's ambitions, according to ESPN.

- Paris Saint-Germain are in talks to sign Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku, only a year after he joined the London club from Inter, per the Sun.

- Roma are interested in signing Aston Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz, Calciomercato is reporting.

- Spanish international Marco Asensio is expected to leave Real Madrid at the end of the season, per Mundo Deportivo, with Milan and Tottenham interested.

Jesse Lingard's future with Manchester United is unclear.

The 29-year-old England international is out of contract at the end of the season.

Lingard had a brilliant loan spell at West Ham United last season but has remained out of favour at Old Trafford this term.

 

TOP STORY – ITALIAN OPTIONS FOR LINGARD

Lingard could reunite with Jose Mourinho at Roma, with the Italian club joining the race for the forward, according to the Mirror.

Lingard is being pursued by West Ham following his impressive loan spell, while Newcastle United are also interested in the 29-year-old.

Serie A clubs Milan and Juventus also have an interest in Lingard, with a move to Italy offering a lucrative alternative option.

English pair Chris Smalling and Tammy Abraham have enjoyed productive spells at Roma, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles is on loan from Arsenal.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid are moving on from their pursuit of Kylian Mbappe , who appears set to stay with Paris Saint-Germain, by turning their attention to landing Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, claims the Mirror.

- Inter will make a move to sign Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea, following his August exit from the Italian champions, reports Football Insider. Lukaku previously expressed his regret at leaving Inter.

- The Sun claims that Arsenal and Tottenham will battle to sign Leicester City midfielder James Maddison who is rated at £60million and could be put up for sale.

- Danny Ings could be on his way out of Aston Villa as manager Steven Gerrard plans a clear-out, according to the Mirror.

- CBS Sports claims Liverpool and West Ham are no longer interested in Leicester City's Youri Tielemans, leaving the door open for Manchester United to land the midfielder.

- Juventus are circling for Chelsea midfielder Jorginho , reports Tutto Mercato.

Xavi had no issue with Dani Alves' controversial opinion on Erling Haaland's worth, saying he would forgive his former Barcelona team-mate for anything. 

Alves, 38, is back at Barca as a veteran player under Xavi, having featured alongside the coach in hugely successful Blaugrana teams earlier this century. 

Xavi has enjoyed being able to work with his old colleague again, but Barca have their sights set on rather more ambitious signings at the end of this season. 

Borussia Dortmund sensation Haaland has regularly been linked with a move to Camp Nou, although Barca are far from alone in admiring a striker whose contract reportedly includes a €75million release clause. 

However, right-back Alves has claimed Kylian Mbappe – widely expected to join rivals Real Madrid – "is a more complete player than Haaland in all aspects of the game". 

"I wouldn't do crazy things for Haaland," the Brazil defender told Sport. "Honestly, I wouldn't spend a lot of money on him." 

Alves' employers Barca, on the other hand, may well be up for splashing out on the 21-year-old – but that does not mean Xavi was concerned by his player's comments. 

"I forgive Dani everything, anything he says," the Barca boss said at a media conference ahead of Sunday's game against Levante. "He's a phenomenon, really. 

"Sometimes you guys complain that you don't have headlines, right? Well, with Dani, it's hard to choose just one. He is a phenomenon. 

"The truth is that the signing of him has gone very well for us, he is a natural leader. It is a spectacle, both for us and for you." 

On Haaland, Xavi added: "We'll see. Yes, we are planning for next year, but let's see. The situation is not easy, especially financially, economically." 

Whether Barca can afford the type of sums required to both sign and pay Haaland remains to be seen, but Xavi is confident he has the club's backing. 

"[The club] know my priorities," he said. "From here on, whatever we can do, well, we are going to do it, but it is true that we have to be very prudent and very cautious because the economic situation is what it is." 

Kylian Mbappe is a more complete player than Erling Haaland, according to Barcelona defender Dani Alves.

Two of the hottest properties in world football, both players are heavily linked with moves away from their respective clubs.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe, who is widely believed to be heading to Real Madrid in the close season, has scored 28 goals and assisted a further 17 in 38 appearances across all competitions this term.

Meanwhile, despite a string of injuries, Haaland has been directly involved in 29 goals (scoring 23 and assisting six) for Borussia Dortmund in 2021-22.

Barcelona are among a host of clubs reportedly interested in both forwards, with Manchester City and Real Madrid also in contention to make blockbuster moves.

 

But if the Blaugrana are to spend big on one of them, Alves believes that Mbappe should be their main priority. 

Speaking to Sport, the veteran defender said: "Mbappe is a more complete player than Haaland in all aspects of the game.

"I wouldn't do crazy things for Haaland. Honestly, I wouldn't spend a lot of money on him.

"I would spend a lot of money on Mbappe, but not on Haaland.

"If you are going to make a giant investment, you have to do it in the best way. If it depended on me, I would bet on Mbappe."

After a disappointing few seasons in LaLiga, Eden Hazard may be heading back to the Premier League next term.

Hazard has made 65 appearances for Real Madrid since arriving ahead of the 2019-20 season, but has not played more than 25 minutes in a league game since a late-January fixture against Elche.

Battling poor form and injury, Real Madrid are reportedly planning to loan the Belgian winger out for next season, and one Premier League club has jumped to the front of the line.

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL HOPE TO LAND HAZARD ON LOAN

If Real Madrid are to loan out Hazard, Foot Mercato is reporting that Arsenal are the team most aggressively seeking his services.

According to the report, Real Madrid's plan is to loan the former Chelsea star for the 2022-23 season, with the goal of increasing his value enough to sell him ahead of the 2023-24 season, when one year remains on his deal.

Arsenal used a similar tactic to land Martin Odegaard last season, securing him on loan from the Meringues in January before signing him with a €35million transfer seven months later.

It is worth noting that the Foot Mercato report also stated that Hazard has no interest in leaving the Spanish side after this season, and may be willing to ride out the rest of his contract.

 

ROUND-UP

Newcastle United are set to challenge Manchester United for the signature of Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips, according to i News.

Newcastle and Borussia Dortmund are reportedly interested in Real Sociedad star Mikel Merino, per Fichajes.

– El Nacional is reporting that Barcelona believe Ousmane Dembele will leave the club and head to Paris Saint-Germain if the French giants do not retain Kylian Mbappe.

– According to ESPN's report, Erling Haaland fears Manchester United would not be able to match his competitive ambitions on the pitch.

– Benfica's Darwin Nunez is signing with a new agent as Arsenal and Manchester United circle the striker who has five goals in nine Champions League games this campaign, per Metro.

Karim Benzema was served a rich compliment when Carlo Ancelotti said the Real Madrid striker reminds him of the great Marco van Basten.

Madrid head coach Ancelotti told a news conference he also expects Benzema to remain a talisman for the LaLiga giants, even if the club bring in Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland before next season.

French striker Benzema has 10 goals in his last four games, boosting his total to 37 in 36 appearances during a remarkable campaign for the 34-year-old club captain.

It will not have escaped Benzema's attention that Madrid are engaged in long-term planning, with his France team-mate Mbappe thought to be their prime target.

Paris Saint-Germain frontman Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund's Haaland are the two hottest young properties in the European game, and it might not be beyond the realm of possibility that both end up in Madrid.

Asked how that might change Benzema's position in the pecking order, Ancelotti cast doubt on whether it should make any immediate difference.

"Considering Karim's age, and considering the fact over the past years he's been getting better and better, I don't think this situation will change," Ancelotti said. "I know he will continue to do well, and he's one of the most important players of this club. We will see what happens, but I'm sure nothing will change for him."

Ancelotti, whose Madrid side face Getafe on Saturday evening, was asked how Benzema compared to players he has coached in the past, including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Didier Drogba.

This spurred the veteran Italian to mention Van Basten, his former Milan team-mate and a Dutch legend whose career was cruelly cut short by injury.

"It's really difficult to make these comparisons because we're talking about different eras and different people," Ancelotti responded.

"I think comparing him to Van Basten is actually a good comparison. I think they would both appreciate that comparison, Marco and Karim."

It remains to be seen whether Ancelotti remains at the helm with Madrid next season.

His team are close to securing the LaLiga title, holding a 12-point lead over Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, and a 3-1 win at Chelsea on Wednesday gave them a handsome first-leg lead in their Champions League quarter-final.

Benzema's hat-trick at Stamford Bridge should mean Tuesday's second leg is one that Madrid can safely negotiate.

Yet doubts exist and rumours circulate about whether Madrid are planning to stick with Ancelotti, who arrived ahead of this season after a stint with Everton.

Asked about his prospects, Ancelotti said: "I enjoy what I do every day. I love the atmosphere we have in the team and I'm 100 per cent focused on my work.

"When the season is over, we will evaluate everything, and we will make decisions."

He refused to give himself a mark out of 10 for his performance so far.

"I'm not giving myself any marks," he said. "I have to give it my all, and we have to wait until the end of the season to see if we are lucky enough and have enough quality to win titles, and then we will draw conclusions."

Mats Hummels said Borussia Dortmund would have to stomach the criticism after a 4-1 home defeat to RB Leipzig that he felt was particularly harsh.

There was evidence to back up defender Hummels' verdict, with Opta data showing Leipzig only shaded the game 0.79 to 1.24 in terms of expected goals (xG), which is a measure of the quality of a team's chances.

Dortmund had 63.8 per cent of possession, and both teams had 10 shots, but Leipzig were far more clinical with the chances that fell their way.

Indeed, 10 shots is the fewest needed by any team to score four goals in a Bundesliga game this season.

It added up to a desperate day for Dortmund, who were playing inside a full home stadium for the first time since the pandemic hit after restrictions were relaxed in Germany.

In-demand striker Erling Haaland, who played the full game, had only one shot and was largely peripheral.

"That's disappointing for us," Hummels said of the result. "We had a lot planned for the crowd here today. The first time with over 80,000 after two years.

"That was a victory for Leipzig today in terms of effectiveness and the exploitation of chances. It was by no means a 4-1 game in terms of performance ratios, but we have to live with the fact that we are criticised for the result because that's the way it is in football.

"I think the people of Leipzig know that things could have gone very differently in the first half. In the end, it's goals that count in football."

Christopher Nkunku, fresh from winning his first two caps for France, scored one and assisted two of Leipzig goals.

He now has 16 goals for the season and 11 assists, which are both team highs.

 

Leipzig have won more points (26) and have a better goal difference (plus 22) than any other side in the second half of the Bundesliga season, and they sit fourth, three points clear of a Freiburg side that lost at home to leaders Bayern Munich.

Dortmund head coach Marco Rose felt Leipzig said his team, who remain second in the table but nine points behind Bayern, "didn't defend well enough".

"Offensively, we didn't finish the attacks enough and thus gave Leipzig opportunities to counter-attack again and again," Rose said. "We have to work on that."

Leipzig boss Domenico Tedesco, quoted on the Bundesliga website, said: "Winning 4-1 in Dortmund is not something that can be taken for granted.

"We played with discipline, won the ball a lot and in the end we deserved a win. We played well on the counter-attack too, so we could have scored one or two more goals in the second half."

The best teams in the world are circling Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, who has 23 goals and six assists in 23 club appearances this season.

The 21-year-old Norwegian was ruled out of Barcelona's price range earlier this week by president Joan Laporta, but there are some clubs who can stomach the asking price.

While there will be an array of suitors investigating if a move will be possible for their club, Manchester City and Real Madrid are the most likely to put their money where their mouths are.

TOP STORY – MANCHESTER CITY HAVE UPPER HAND IN HAALAND SWEEPSTAKES

ESPN is reporting City are "optimistic they can see off competition from Real Madrid" in the race for Haaland's services.

City are said to be in the market for a striker, and are confident they can pay the reported €75million release clause in Haaland's Dortmund contract.

After the departures of Angelino, Ferran Torres and Jack Harrison for a combined €85m, City are in a position of financial strength heading into the upcoming transfer period.

ROUND-UP

Manchester United have reignited their chase of Villareal defender Pau Torres, according to 90min. Torres was a target for the Red Devils before they ultimately signed Raphael Varane back in August.

Barcelona will look to bring in French forward Alexandre Lacazette on a free transfer after his contract expires at Arsenal after this season, reports Diario SPORT.

– Football Insider is reporting Aston Villa are planning on spending more than £150m in the next transfer window, breaking their previous spending record.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is confident in retaining the services of defender Antonio Rudiger with a new contract, according to Goal.

– El Nacional is reporting Real Madrid believe they can land Arsenal target Karim Adeyemi from Red Bull Salzburg.

Dusan Vlahovic joins Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland as "the best players of their generation", according to Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Allegri signed Serbia international Vlahovic from Fiorentina in January in a transfer initially worth €70million, and the striker has managed four goals in his first seven Serie A games for his new club.

The former Viola star also netted 33 times in the league in 2021, matching Cristiano Ronaldo's record for the most scored in the Italian top flight during a calendar year.

Indeed, his 21-goal league haul last season was the highest recorded by a Fiorentina player in a single campaign since Alberto Gilardino in 2008-09 (25), and he has carried that form into the new campaign as well.

Vlahovic has registered 21 goals across appearances for Juve and Fiorentina in Serie A this season, making him the league's joint-top scorer – level with Ciro Immobile – while only Robert Lewandowski (31) and Karim Benzema (22) have scored more in Europe's top-five leagues.

Haaland, who has been limited by injuries at Borussia Dortmund, is ninth in the same list with 16 Bundesliga goals, striking once every 81 minutes on average, while Paris Saint-Germain's Mbappe is 11th with 15 to his name in the French top flight.

Allegri hailed the youthful trio as he expressed his excitement to see Vlahovic develop more.

"He is a young player with not much international experience. But he has quality. He wants and can improve. He has time to do it," Allegri said of Vlahovic in an interview with GQ, as quoted by CalcioMercato.

"He is ruthless in front of the goal and Juventus made an important signing. He, Mbappe and Haaland are the best players of their generation."

While there were expectations that Vlahovic's arrival may knock Alvaro Morata down the pecking order of Juve strikers, Allegri reiterated that the Spain international remains integral to his plans in Turin.

"I called him that night [when Juve signed Vlahovic] to tell him: 'You are going nowhere, with him, you will become even more important,' and that's what happened," Allegri added on Morata.

"It's crazy to question Morata. He can't be at his best if he is asked to do things that he can't. But he's always been available playing in a position which is not exactly the best one for him."

Allegri will be hoping for Morata and Vlahovic to link-up once more when Juve, who are fourth in Serie A and seven points adrift of leaders Milan, host Inter on Sunday.

The qualification campaign for the 2022 World Cup is all but over.

Some key matches still have to be played, with Wales yet to find out their fate as they wait to face the winner of Scotland's play-off with Ukraine, which has been postponed due to Russia's invasion of the country, while there are inter-confederation play-offs also to be decided.

In total, 28 nations have qualified already, and most of football's star names will be present.

That being said, while France's world champions will bid to defend their crown, Neymar will bring the Brazilian stardust, Lionel Messi will look to build on Argentina's Copa America triumph and Cristiano Ronaldo will feature at a record-equalling fifth tournament, some huge players - and indeed teams, in the case of Italy - will not be present in Qatar.

Stats Perform has looked at some of the star players who will be watching the tournament from home.

Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

Arguably the best player in the world this season, Salah will not be lighting up Qatar with any mazy runs or sensational strikes. Given the tournament is in the middle of next season, Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp may secretly be pleased his talisman will not be risking injury or fatigue, but Salah – who blazed his penalty over in the decisive shoot-out against Senegal on Tuesday – will be a big miss.

 

James Rodriguez (Colombia)

A star of the 2014 World Cup, in which he won the golden boot, James Rodriguez scored Colombia's winner against Venezuela on Tuesday, yet Peru's victory over Paraguay meant the ex-Real Madrid playmaker and his team-mates will not appear in Qatar, where James currently plies his trade for Al-Rayyan.

Luis Diaz, who has made a flying start to life at Liverpool since joining from Porto in January, is another Colombian talent who will be watching on from the sidelines.

Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)

The hero of Italy's Euro 2020 triumph with his saves in the penalty shoot-out victory over England last July, Donnarumma – one of Europe's best goalkeepers – will be watching on from afar along with the rest of Roberto Mancini's players. After his error in Paris Saint-Germain's capitulation against Madrid in the Champions League, March has been a sour month for the 23-year-old.

Georgio Chiellini (Italy)

While Donnarumma has time on his side to make it to the next World Cup, the same cannot be said for Giorgio Chiellini. The centre-back is 37 and will surely not be featuring at another major tournament for Italy now.

Defensive partner Leonardo Bonucci may also fall into that category, given he turns 35 in May, while 29-year-old playmaker Marco Verratti may also have seen his final chance of appearing at the World Cup for a second time dashed.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)

It was the battle of two of Europe's leading marksmen of the last decade on Tuesday, as Poland went head-to-head with Sweden, and it was Robert Lewandowski and Co. who came out on top, winning 2-0.

Bayern Munich star Lewandowski opened the scoring from the penalty spot, and though Ibrahimovic came on as a late substitute, he could not turn the tide in Sweden's favour. The Milan striker has suggested he wants to carry on playing for his country, but at 40, surely this was his last chance of appearing at a World Cup.

Erling Haaland (Norway)

Although Ibrahimovic may be approaching the tail-end of his career, Haaland is certainly not. Yet like the Swede, the Borussia Dortmund forward will not be playing in Qatar either.

Indeed, even if Norway had made it through their qualification group, it is uncertain as to whether or not the players would have chosen to boycott the tournament, having previously made their feelings on Qatar's human rights record clear. But they finished third in Group G anyway.

Arsenal playmaker Martin Odegaard is another bright Norweigian talent, though the Scandinavian nation may well fancy their chances heading towards Euro 2024 and the 2026 World Cup.

 

David Alaba (Austria)

Madrid defender Alaba could not inspire Austria to victory in their play-off clash with Wales, with Gareth Bale's double doing the damage. After a glittering career with Bayern, Alaba is on course to win LaLiga with Los Blancos, but any form of real, tangible success on the international stage looks set to avoid him.

Jan Oblak (Slovenia)

Oblak's form has dipped this season for Atletico Madrid but on his day he is still right up there among the world's best goalkeepers, though he could not help Slovenia finish higher than fourth in their qualification group, as their wait to qualify for a first World Cup since 2010 rolled on.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.