Christian Eriksen had his contract terminated with Inter last month.

The Danish midfielder has been training with Ajax in recent weeks.

But the 29-year-old former Tottenham star is set to return to England.

 

TOP STORY – ERIKSEN SET TO COMPLETE BEES DEAL

Former Inter midfielder Eriksen is set to complete a deal to join Brentford in the next 72 hours according to the Mirror.

Ex-Tottenham star Eriksen has agreed terms but needs to pass a medical with the Bees to seal the imminent deal.

The Denmark international, who suffered a cardiac arrest at Euro 2020, was unable to play for Inter this season due to Italian football regulations.

 

ROUND-UP

- Newcastle United will open new talks with Brighton as they move to sign Yves Bissouma, claims the Daily Mail. The Magpies are also pondering an offer for Tottenham's Dele Alli.

- The Sun reports that Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola may be lured away with by the offer to take over as the Netherlands national team boss. The Dutch deal would start in 2023 when his current contract expires.

- West Ham will make a bumper move for Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin claims The Sun. The deal would be worth £60million.

- Mundo Deportivo claims that ex-Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj is set to extend his current deal with Real Sociedad .

- Diego Carlos' representatives are trying to convince Sevilla to sell him to Newcastle with a £60m deal on the table according to 90min.

Everton have confirmed that a supporter has been arrested after Aston Villa pair Matty Cash and Lucas Digne were struck by a bottle during Saturday's Premier League clash.

The incident occurred in first-half stoppage time at Goodison Park as Villa's players celebrated Emi Buendia's headed opener, which proved to be the only goal of the game.

Villa's players celebrated the goal in the corner in front of Everton fans and several drinks bottles were thrown in their direction

One of those objects hit Cash and Digne, the latter of whom spent three and a half years with Everton before joining Villa last week after falling out with former boss Rafael Benitez.

Both players fell to the turf and held their heads, but they were able to continue.

Everton confirmed shortly after the 1-0 loss that they had identified the supporter and the matter is now being dealt with by Merseyside Police.

"Police have arrested a supporter at Goodison Park for throwing a missile onto the pitch during today's Premier League match against Aston Villa," a club statement read.

"Everton security staff and Merseyside Police identified the supporter using CCTV footage.

"Several objects were thrown towards the pitch following Aston Villa’s goal at the end of the first half, with one missile appearing to strike two opposition players.

"Investigations in conjunction with the police are ongoing, and the club will issue bans to any fans identified throwing objects."

Duncan Ferguson hailed the work Wayne Rooney has done at Derby County as the former England captain acknowledged he is "flattered" by reports of Everton's interest.

Rooney, England's record goalscorer who had two spells at boyhood club Everton either side his trophy-laden stint at Manchester United, moved into management in 2020 at Derby, where he played out his final year as a player.

In his first half season at the club, Rooney kept Derby up on the final day. However, the Championship club's financial woes came to a head in September when they filed for administration, which was subsequently followed by a 12-point deduction and then a further nine-point penalty.

Yet against the odds, Rooney has Derby off the foot of the table and eight points from safety. 

Everton, meanwhile, sacked Rafael Benitez on Sunday after a defeat to lowly Norwich City capped a dismal run of just one win in 13 Premier League games. They sit 16th, six points above the relegation zone.

 

Ferguson, as he did in 2019 before Carlo Ancelotti arrived, has taken interim charge and will oversee Saturday's clash with Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa, but Rooney – along with Frank Lampard and Fabio Cannavaro – is a reported candidate, with Belgium having rebuffed an approach for Roberto Martinez.

Asked about the rumours during Friday's media conference ahead of Derby's contest with rivals Nottingham Forest, Rooney said: "I'm the same as everyone else. I see the speculation on social media and in the papers.

"Of course, Everton is a club I grew up supporting and I'm flattered to be brought up in those conversations. But I know Everton will know for them to have any communication with me, they have to go through the administrators.

"I think it's all hearsay as there has been no approach. My focus is on Derby."

Rooney was brought up in Ferguson's own media conference, and the Scot said: "I'm not going to drag on too many names who would be a good fit, but certainly Wayne's done very well at Derby, he's an Evertonian.

"He could be one candidate of many and he's proved himself as a very good manager."

 

Ferguson – who revealed Real Madrid manager Ancelotti had contacted him this week to offer advice – was pressed on whether he would like the opportunity to manage Everton.

"Maybe, down the line, one day – I always dream about becoming Everton manager – but I've not quite got that experience," he answered.

"My job at the moment is to take the upcoming games, steady the ship and the club will go through a process of identifying the new manager. 

"You never know in football, but my job at the moment is to focus on the next game and that's it. 

"We need a winning manager. A manager who can come and win games of football, build something and get us back up the league."

Everton have taken just five points in their last 12 Premier League matches (W1 D2 L9), the fewest in a 12-game span since earning four points between August and October 1994, and asked about Benitez's departure, Ferguson replied: "I think the results weren't there, we weren't too surprised, I don't think Rafa would be too surprised."

Saturday's game with Villa has plenty of side stories. Liverpool great Gerrard was on the winning side against Everton more often than he was against any other opponent in the Premier League (16), while Lucas Digne is returning to Goodison Park just over a week after he left due to a falling out with Benitez.

Jose Mourinho has reiterated his commitment to Roma saying he could not be happier at the Italian club.

The former Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham manager has been linked with the vacant Everton job following Rafael Benitez's dismissal on Sunday.

Mourinho was appointed Roma head coach on a three-year contract in May, with Giallorossi currently seventh in Serie A.

Roma qualified for the Coppa Italia quarter-finals on Thursday with a 3-1 win over Lecce, with Mourinho pressed on his future after the game.

“In terms of emotion, passion, empathy, of being happy working with Roma, I say I am 11 out of 10," Mourinho told Sport Mediaset.

"I am truly, very, very happy to be at a club where I feel the people trust me. I couldn’t be happier than this.

“In football terms, playing to finish between fourth and eighth place is obviously not what I want, but this is a moment of a different project for me and we will be better off next season.

“I won’t deny in the first half I did feel frustrated, as our performance was horrible. Having said that, I am happy right now and would not change this Roma project for any other.

“I gave my word for these three years and I will not leave before the three years are up. This is my project too."

Roma have been drawn against Italian champions Inter in the Coppa Italia last-eight.

"There’s a long way to go, we have a few more games and for me there’s no doubt Inter are the strongest team and overall squad of the league and the Coppa Italia," Mourinho said.

"We therefore got the worst possible draw, but we will go there and try to cause a surprise. We’ll see if it’s possible."

Everton have bought themselves time while they pursue a successor to Rafael Benitez by appointing club legend Duncan Ferguson as caretaker manager.

A run of three defeats in four top-flight games resulted in former Liverpool boss Benitez being sacked at the weekend, with Everton plummeting worryingly close to the Premier League drop zone.

Reports have indicated 16th-placed Everton, who have never been relegated from the Premier League, could interview Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard as they hunt their next boss.

Lampard did well in his first management job at Derby County before experiencing mixed fortunes as Chelsea boss, while Rooney is catching the eye in difficult circumstances at Derby this season.

Former Everton manager Roberto Martinez has also been linked with a return to the role.

Ferguson, who was already on the Everton staff as assistant manager, may also come into contention. Everton said he has been installed for their "upcoming games", suggesting a permanent appointment is considered quite some way off. The Toffees said an announcement would come "in due course".

Everton revealed Ferguson's short-term role on their official website, after the former striker took first-team training on Tuesday.

It is his second stint as caretaker, having filled in between the sacking of Marco Silva and the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti in December 2019. The fiery Scot led Everton to a win over Chelsea and draws with Manchester United and Arsenal to give the club a lift ahead of Ancelotti coming in.

His first game of this spell in charge will be the home clash with Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa on Saturday.

Everton then do not have a game scheduled for two weeks, with their next assignment due to be an FA Cup home game against Brentford on February 5, followed by a Premier League trip to Newcastle United three days later.

Former Everton players John Ebbrell and Leighton Baines will work alongside Ferguson, as will ex-Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Alan Kelly.

The irony of Everton sacking Rafael Benitez on the day Carlo Ancelotti won the first trophy of his second Real Madrid stint was not lost on the Goodison Park faithful.

Ancelotti stunned Everton in June by leaving to return to Madrid. While there can be no comparison between Los Blancos when it comes to allure, it cut deep that a manager who seemed committed to a long-term project on Merseyside, had left at the first opportunity.

Not that Ancelotti's 18 months at Everton had been a roaring success. His final game was a 5-0 drubbing at Manchester City – the heaviest defeat of the Italian's managerial career, in his 1,167th match.

That result condemned Everton to a 10th-placed finish. Just City and Manchester United won more away games last term in the Premier League, yet the Toffees suffered nine home defeats, with only the three relegated sides losing more on their own turf.

But there was a feeling that Everton might have enough to push on under Ancelotti, should reinforcements arrive.

Instead, it was former Liverpool boss Benitez, who had replaced Ancelotti for an ill-fated spell at Madrid in 2015, who arrived at Goodison.

An unpopular pick among the fanbase, the Spaniard was always starting from behind the eight-ball.

As was inevitable, the experiment failed. Benitez was sacked on Sunday after defeat at lowly Norwich City with Everton lingering six points above the bottom three after a run of one win in 13 league games (the club's joint-worst Premier League run) and facing the prospect of hiring a sixth permanent manager since 2016-17.

False promises

From Benitez's first news conference, it was clear that Everton, lavish spenders in recent years, were going to be cutting their cloth in line with tight financial limitations.

"You have to work in the context of having a director of football, the board, and financial restrictions," he said after becoming only the second manager to take over Everton and Liverpool. "Talk the talk and walk the walk? I prefer to walk the walk."

Only £1.7million was spent, but Everton started the league campaign brightly. Indeed, ahead of a September 13 game with Burnley, they had scored seven times, as many as they had in their last 10 games last term.

After a 1-1 draw with United on October 2, Everton had 14 points from their seven Premier League games, the most since they had gone on to secure a fourth-place finish in the competition in 2004-05 (16). 

Was that optimism built on solid foundations, though?

Benitez's system was based on counter-attacking, with Everton happy to surrender possession. Only once before October had they had more than 50 per cent of the ball (51.71 v Burnley).

It is a trend that has continued, with Everton – who have had more possession than only three top-flight teams across the season – only seeing more of the ball than their opponents on three further occasions. In each of those games, they lost.

However, to be a counter-attacking team you must be solid, and Everton are not. They have shipped 34 goals, with only four teams having weaker defences, while 11 goals have been conceded from set-pieces, the second-worst figure in the league (Ancelotti's team only allowed 10 from dead-ball situations in 2020-21).

But since Everton's woeful run started with a 1-0 defeat to West Ham on October 17, they have taken the lead just once – in a 5-2 home defeat to Watford. It is hard to sit back and play on the break if you are constantly chasing a game.

In total, the Toffees have spent 36 per cent of games losing this season (when the ball has been in play), and only 12 per cent of the time ahead. West Ham (12) are the sole team to have gained more points from a losing position than Everton (11), so at least Benitez's men showed resolve on occasion.

From October 17, Everton rank 18th for goals (11), 16th for shots on target (46/139), 12th for touches in the opposition box (259), 15th for chances created (93) and have the third-worst defence (27 goals conceded). They have an expected goals against (xGA) of 20.6 in that timeframe, the fourth-worst in the division. Their position is in no way false.

Everton did play forward under Benitez (41.6 per cent of their passes were in an attacking direction, up from 32.9 per cent last season) but on only 86 occasions have they strung together a move of 10 passes or more, which ranks them 18th in the league, while their 490 passes/crosses is the fifth-lowest total.

The bright sparks in that run have come from moments of inspiration. Demarai Gray's stunning winner against Arsenal or Richarlison's overhead kick at Norwich. Gray has been a standout performer, scoring five league goals from an xG of only 2.7, but it felt like there has been too much onus on the winger in recent weeks.

Though injuries to Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Richarlison, Yerry Mina and Abdoulaye Doucoure must be taken into account, Benitez's mantra became "I know what the fans want", but he appeared to be talking the talk rather than walking the walk. 

Falling outs

With Everton craving stability and unity, it is odd that owner Farhad Moshiri (more on him later) turned to Benitez, who was never the right pick to unite the fanbase or stabilise the club.

He has fallen out with owners, sporting directors and high-profile players at previous clubs and, indeed, his time at Everton proved no different.

Director of football Marcel Brands, who signed a contract extension in April, was moved on when Everton fans protested over the running of the club back in December, following a 4-1 defeat to Liverpool. 

Evertonians' worst nightmare had played out, their rivals singing Benitez's name at Goodison after a humiliating defeat. It was the first time the Reds scored four goals in an away league derby since a 5-0 win in 1982, and Brands paid the price. His recruitment department followed, with director of medical services Dan Donachie having already left.

Everton offered their full backing to Benitez and five days later, claimed a vital win over Arsenal. But a cloud hung over that victory.

Since his arrival at Everton, Lucas Digne was second only to Liverpool's Trent Alexander-Arnold for chances created by a Premier League defender (211). The France international had spoken openly of having been asked to play a more defensive role under Benitez, though behind the scenes matters appeared to boil over in a reported training-ground row.

Digne was dropped and did not return bar, for reasons known only to Benitez himself, to take a seat on the bench in a 3-2 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion. The full-back received applause from the crowd when he warmed up, but did not come on despite Everton needing an equaliser late on in a game in which they only made two changes.

Last week, Digne was sold to Aston Villa. The sale eases the financial issues but leaves Everton without their third-most creative player (22 key passes) in the league this term. Indeed, only Andros Townsend (2.13) has crafted more opportunities for them this season than Digne (1.69) per 90 minutes.

With Digne and James Rodriguez, who left for Qatar in September, gone and Gylfi Sigurdsson not involved, Everton are without all three of their leading creators from 2020-21.

Moshiri mayhem

Benitez leaves with a 26.3 win percentage from 19 league games. Only Mike Walker performed worse in the Premier League era. His dismissal should have come sooner, it seemed pointless delaying the inevitable.

But for his faults, he is not the root cause of Everton's issues and owner Moshiri and chairman Bill Kenwright must look in the mirror.

Since Moshiri took over in 2016, Everton have recorded 1.37 points per game, ranking them 10th in the league, but a vast amount of investment has been made. So, what next?

Roberto Martinez, who was sacked in 2016, is reportedly a leading candidate. The Belgium boss won 21 Premier League games in his first season in charge at Everton, guiding them to a record points total of 72, but he won just 22 games combined across the next two years.

Lucien Favre has also been mooted. He averaged 2.08 points per game at Borussia Dortmund, a figure bettered by only Thomas Tuchel (2.09) and new boss Marco Rose (2.11), while the Swiss led the club to their third-best Bundesliga points tally in 2017-18. He could provide experience and a modern approach.

Graham Potter seems to have ruled himself out. Wayne Rooney is doing terrific work at Derby County, might he be an option?

For now though, Everton's immediate focus must be on avoiding a relegation scrap. 

Assistant Duncan Ferguson, who remained unbeaten in the league in his spell in charge prior to Ancelotti's arrival, seems a logical pick to take over on a temporary basis, with Villa visiting Goodison on Saturday, to perhaps provide some of the spark missing during Benitez's doomed tenure and buy Everton time to make the right choice.

With just 19 points from the first half of the season, their lowest tally at the halfway stage of a season since 2005-06 (17), Everton cannot afford to get this appointment wrong, too.

Real Madrid's squad is already packed with a magnitude of talent – and it could become even stronger should Erling Haaland arrive from Borussia Dortmund later this year.

Haaland has scored 78 goals in his two years with Dortmund – only Robert Lewandowski (107) has more in Europe's top five leagues – and would be a major coup for Madrid.

But while the Spanish giants remain confident of bringing in the in-demand striker from Dortmund, it could have a negative knock-on effect.


TOP STORY - HAALAND IN, BENZEMA OUT?

Karim Benzema is a much-loved figure at the Santiago Bernabeu and is enjoying another impressive campaign, but El Nacional claims that Madrid risk losing the Frenchman.

The report suggests that Benzema does not like the fact that president Florentino Perez is so fixated on bringing in a new player to lead Los Blancos' attack from next season.

While the 34-year is not currently seeking an exit, that could change should Madrid reach a pre-contract agreement with Haaland in the coming weeks, as has been suggested.

Benzema would not feel the need to move on should Kylian Mbappe join, though, as he considers that case to be different given the PSG striker is set to become a free agent.


ROUND-UP

Barcelona accept that it is increasingly likely Ousmane Dembele will leave Camp Nou as a free agent at the end of the season. According to Sport, Manchester United and Juventus have held talks with the player's camp, while Chelsea and Bayern Munich have an outside shot of signing the forward.

Arsenal have made their first move to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina, with Corriere Della Sera reporting that the Gunners have tabled an offer of £50million (€60m) plus Lucas Torreira, who is currently on loan with the Serie A side.

Chelsea are interested in signing Layvin Kurzawa on loan as they look to bolster their full-back ranks. However, Fabrizio Romano claims that the Blues have not yet officially opened talks with PSG.

– Calciomercato reports that Man Utd forward Anthony Martial has emerged as a January target for Juventus. The France international has struggled for games this season and has openly admitted he wants to find a new club this month.

Everton are on the lookout for a new manager after parting company with Rafael Benitez on Sunday and hope to make a swift appointment. According to ESPN, former boss Roberto Martinez – now in charge of the Belgium national team – is the leading candidate to take over.

Newcastle United have already brought in Kieran Trippier and Chris Wood this window, but The Telegraph reports that they have been knocked back in their bid to bring in Donny van de Beek on loan. The Man Utd midfielder is said to have been put off by the Magpies' position in the Premier League.

Rafael Benitez said he did not realise the "magnitude of the task" at Everton after he was dismissed on Sunday following a run of just two wins in 14 games across all competitions.

The Toffees announced Benitez's departure a day on from losing 2-1 to bottom side Norwich City.

Former Liverpool boss Benitez was a divisive appointment at Everton when he was drafted in to replace Carlo Ancelotti in July.

They started the season well, winning three of their first four league matches, yet injuries to key players and a dreadful loss of form has seen them slide down the table.

A win over Hull City in the FA Cup third round offered Benitez a brief reprieve, but defeat to lowly Norwich on Saturday marked a new nadir, and Everton decided to act.

Benitez cited injuries as a significant factor in their dismal form, and believed they would improve in the second half of the campaign. 

"We knew it wouldn't be easy, and that it was a big challenge, both emotionally and in terms of sport," he said in a statement posted on his official website.

"My love for this city, for Merseyside and its people, made me accept this challenge, but it is only when you are inside that you realise the magnitude of the task.

"From the very first day, my staff and myself worked as we always do, with commitment and full dedication, we didn't only have to get results, but we also had to win over people's hearts.

"However, the financial situation and then the injuries that followed made things even harder. I am convinced that we would have been better once the injured players were back and with the arrival of the new signings.

"The road to success isn't easy and sadly, nowadays in football there is a search for immediate results and there is always less and less patience; unfortunately circumstances have determined the results and it won't be possible to continue this project."

Benitez left the club after a mere 200 days, giving him the third-shortest reign of any Toffees manager in the Premier League with 40 or more days in charge. Only Sam Allardyce (167) and Dave Watson (60) were at the helm for fewer days.

It was his fourth time in charge of a Premier League club and he departed with comfortably the worst win percentage ratio during his time in England.

He won just seven of his 22 games in charge, leaving him with a win ratio of 31.8 per cent – significantly behind his records at Liverpool (55.4 per cent), Chelsea (58.3) and Newcastle United (42.5).

Rafael Benitez's dismal tenure as Everton manager was brought to an end on Sunday after a run of just two wins in 14 games across all competitions.

Former Liverpool boss Benitez was a divisive appointment at Everton when he was drafted in to replace Carlo Ancelotti in July after the Italian left for Real Madrid.

Everton started the season well, winning three of their first four league matches, yet injuries to key players and a dreadful loss of form has seen them slide down the table.

A win over Hull City in the FA Cup third round offered Benitez a reprieve, but defeat to lowly Norwich City on Saturday marked a new nadir, and Everton have decided to make a change.

Here, Stats Perform looks at the data behind Benitez's miserable spell at Goodison Park.

A torrid tenure cut short

Despite not being a popular appointment, Benitez's success at the likes of Valencia and Liverpool at least gave sceptical fans hope that he might be able to reverse the recent fortunes of the club.

To say it did not turn out that way would be something of an understatement.

He left the club after a mere 200 days, giving him the third-shortest reign of any Toffees manager in the Premier League with 40 or more days in charge. Only Sam Allardyce (167) and Dave Watson (60) were at the helm for fewer days.

Top of the pile by a comfortable distance is David Moyes, who oversaw the team for a whopping 4101 days between 2002 and 2013.

Wins hard to come by

Everton was Benitez's fourth time at the helm of a Premier League club and he departed with comfortably the worst win percentage ratio during his time in England.

He won just seven of his 22 games in charge, leaving him with a win ratio of 31.8 per cent – significantly behind his records at Liverpool (55.4 per cent), Chelsea (58.3) and Newcastle United (42.5).

Surprisingly, it is only the fourth-lowest win ratio in his managerial career, with his spells at Real Valladolid (17.2), Osasuna (27.3) and Dalian (31.6) all bringing about worse records in that department. 

The best win ratio in his career? That came during a 25-game stint as Real Madrid boss when he won 68 per cent of his games in charge.

Rafael Benitez has been sacked by Everton after a run of just two wins in 14 games across all competitions. 

The Premier League side announced Benitez's departure on their official website on Sunday, a day on from losing 2-1 to bottom side Norwich City.

"Everton Football Club can confirm the departure of Rafael Benitez as first team manager," the statement read. 

"An update on a permanent replacement will be made in due course."

Former Liverpool boss Benitez was a largely divisive appointment at Everton when he was drafted in to replace Carlo Ancelotti in the close-season after the Italian left for Real Madrid.

Hampered by financial restrictions, Benitez was only able to spend a reported £1.7million in his first transfer window at the club, bringing in Demarai Gray, Andros Townsend, Asmir Begovic, Andy Lonergan and Salomon Rondon, while star player James Rodriguez left the club in September.

Everton nevertheless started the season well, winning three of their first four league matches, yet injuries to key players and a dreadful loss of form has seen them slide down the table.

A 4-1 home defeat to Liverpool in December resulted in director of football Marcel Brands leaving the club, with a fan protest against the board taking place in the following match against Arsenal

Gray's late stunner sealed a 2-1 win over the Gunners, yet that is the only victory Everton have claimed in the league since they defeated Norwich on September 25.

A win over Hull City in the FA Cup third round offered Benitez a reprieve, but defeat to lowly Norwich – who had lost their previous six top-flight matches without scoring – marked a new nadir, and Everton have decided to make a change.

It was the Toffees' first away defeat against a team starting the day bottom of the Premier League table since May 2004.

Benitez, who signed a three-year contract, was the club's fifth permanent manager during the ownership of Farhad Moshiri, who bought a majority share of Everton in 2016.

He leaves with Everton in the lower reaches of the division with 19 points from as many games, just six clear of the relegation places.

Everton are back in action next Saturday with a home match against Steven Gerrard's Aston Villa.

The futures of Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, arguably the two most sought-after players in world football, could be determined by the end of the January transfer window.

While the forwards look set to stay at Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain respectively this month, moves away at the end of the campaign look increasingly likely.

And despite intense competition from fellow heavyweight clubs, Real Madrid are determined to win the race for both players.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID TO PUT ASIDE €350m FOR HAALAND

Madrid had two bids knocked back for Mbappe last year but, according to Marca, they remain in pole position to sign the France international in six months' time.

Landing Haaland could prove to be a little more complicated, though, given he will still have two years to run on his contract at the end of the 2021-22 campaign.

However, the Spanish publication reports that Madrid are willing to spend big on the prolific striker, who is thought to have a €75million release clause in his deal.

On top of triggering that, it is claimed that Los Blancos will have to set aside cash for Haaland's father, agent Mino Raiola and a hefty salary for the player himself, which could total around €350m.

 

ROUND-UP

- Madrid may be considered the frontrunners to sign Mbappe and Haaland, but they already have a back-up plan in place should either of those moves fail to materialise. According to El Nacional, Fiorentina's in-demand Dusan Vlahovic is also on the Spanish giants' radar.

- CalcioMercato reports that Milan have joined the queue to sign Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen. Christensen, who comes out of contract at the end of this season, is being chased by Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.

- Newcastle United could beat Manchester United in the race for RB Leipzig's Amadou Haidara, with The Mirror reporting that the newly-rich Magpies are set to make an offer.

- The Everton board got together on Saturday to discuss manager Rafael Benitez's future in the job, according to Sky Sports. Everton have won one of their past 13 league games and lost to bottom club Norwich City 2-1 on Saturday.

- PSG, Bayern and Madrid are among Kalvin Phillips' suitors. El Nacional reports that Leeds United have a battle on their hands fending off interest in the midfielder, who has been capped 19 times by England.

- The Mirror reports that Chelsea are considering a move for Inter's Ivan Perisic. The Blues are in the market for a versatile player who can play at left-back while Ben Chilwell recovers from a long-term injury.

 

Kevin De Bruyne came back to haunt his old club as his fine strike handed Premier League leaders Manchester City a 1-0 win over Chelsea on Saturday.

Against no side has De Bruyne scored more Premier League goals than he has against the Blues (five), with this total the most against Chelsea by any player who has previously played for them in the competition.

Elsewhere, Manchester United threw away a two-goal lead at Aston Villa to draw 2-2, with Philippe Coutinho sealing a point on his debut following his loan move from Barcelona.

Wolves beat Southampton 3-1 and Norwich City piled the pressure on Rafael Benitez with a 2-1 win over Everton, while strugglers Newcastle United and Watford played out a 1-1 draw.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the Opta data from another eventful day in the Premier League.

Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea: De Bruyne edges Guardiola's men closer to the title

City's seemingly unstoppable march towards the Premier League title continued with a 12th straight top-flight win.

It marked the ninth run of 12 or more victories in the competition's history, with Pep Guardiola's side now responsible for four of those.

The decisive goal came from Kevin De Bruyne, the Belgium international superbly whipping into the bottom-right corner from distance with 20 minutes remaining.

De Bruyne has scored 21 Premier League goals from outside the penalty area – the most of any player since his first season with City (2015-16), and the joint-most of any Citizens player in the competition's history (level with Sergio Aguero).

Chelsea scarcely landed a blow on their hosts, failing to register a single shot in the first half. Indeed, they had just seven touches in City's penalty area – their fewest in a single Premier League match since January 2015 (also seven vs Man City).

Aston Villa 2-2 Manchester United: Red Devils squander two-goal lead

A stirring late fight back from Villa meant United failed to win a Premier League away game in which they led by 2+ goals for the first time since January 2016 against Newcastle (3-3).

Bruno Fernandes' opener was the first Premier League goal United have scored from a set piece situation this season (excluding penalties), before the Portugal international doubled their advantage in the second period.  

Since making his United debut in February 2020, only Mohamed Salah (45) and Harry Kane (34) have scored more Premier League goals than Fernandes (33), while only James Ward-Prowse (seven) has scored more goals from outside the box in the competition during this period than the Portuguese (six).

Jacob Ramsey inspired a memorable comeback, though, the 20-year-old becoming the first Villa player to both score and assist against United in a single Premier League game since John Carew in April 2009, and the third-youngest player to do it against the Red Devils in the Premier League overall after Kelechi Iheanacho in September 2016 and Harry Kewell in November 1998.

Coutinho ensured the points were shared in what was his first Premier League appearance in 1477 days (for Liverpool vs Leicester City in December 2017).

Norwich City 2-1 Everton: Idah gets off the mark to put Benitez on the brink

The Canaries kick-started their bid for survival with a second win in six Premier League home games under Dean Smith – as many as they managed in their final 21 home games in the competition under previous manager Daniel Farke.

There were just 92 seconds between Michael Keane's own goal and Adam Idah's first Premier League strike, the hosts scoring as many times inside the opening 18 minutes as they had in their previous eight top-flight matches combined (one).

Idah's goal was his first in 27 Premier League appearances, while it was his first league goal since May 2021, when he scored in Norwich's final game of the Championship season.

The result meant Everton, who pulled one back through Richarlison, have won just 19 points from their 19 league games this season. Only twice previously have they had fewer at this stage of a Premier League campaign (17 in 1997-98 and 2005-06) and it looks as though Benitez's time may be up.

Wolves 3-1 Southampton: Traore off the mark as hosts' fine season continues

Wolves completed a top-flight double over Southampton for the first time since 1971-72, as well as winning three in a row against Saints in the top tier for the first time since October 1970.

Raul Jimenez and Conor Coady put them 2-0 up before the hour mark, with the latter's three Premier League goals coming from just four shots on target in 134 appearances.

Saints captain James Ward-Prowse scored his 12th direct free-kick goal in the Premier League to reduce the deficit – a haul bettered only by David Beckham (18).

However, Adama Traore's first goal in 22 top-flight appearances ensured Wolves picked up 31 points from their first 20 games of the season – their best return at this stage of a top-flight campaign since 1979-80 (also 31 points) when they finished in sixth place.

Lucas Digne has completed his move to Aston Villa from Everton.

Villa have secured a deal reportedly worth up to £25million for the France full-back, who moves to Villa Park on a long-term contract.

Digne becomes Villa's second signing of the January transfer window after Philippe Coutinho linked up with former Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard – now manager at Villa Park – on loan from Barcelona.

Villa confirmed Digne's arrival on their official website on Thursday and Gerrard added: "When Lucas became available we jumped at the opportunity to bring him to the club.

"To sign a player of his pedigree and quality in the January window is a great addition to our squad and his arrival excites me and everyone associated with Aston Villa."

Asked about Gerrard's influence in completing a move between Everton and Villa, Digne said: "It was the main factor. I came here for the manager.

"I had a very good meeting with him and we spoke a couple of times during this month. I feel his desire to win, to show his football as a manager – the attacking football, the possession. I feel it’s what I want and what I want to show to the fans."

Digne moved to Everton from Barcelona for a reported £18m in August 2018 and had been a fan favourite at Goodison Park.

However, the left-back has not featured for the Toffees since a 4-1 home defeat to Merseyside rivals – and Rafael Benitez's former club – Liverpool on December 1.

Digne had fallen out of favour following a rift with Benitez over tactics employed by an Everton side who have won just one of their past 12 Premier League matches.

The defender appeared to aim a parting shot at Benitez in a social media post on Wednesday, stating "sometimes it only takes one person from outside to destroy a beautiful love affair".

He had also been heavily linked with Chelsea, who are seeking a reinforcement in the position following a long-term injury to Ben Chilwell, while Newcastle United, West Ham, Inter and Napoli were also credited with an interest. 

What will Digne bring to Villa?

Having replaced Leighton Baines as first choice at Everton, Digne went on to be a creative fulcrum under Marco Silva and Carlo Ancelotti, both from set-pieces and open play.

Since making his Everton debut on August 11, 2018, Digne has created 211 chances in the Premier League, ranking him behind only Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold (267) among defenders.

Digne's 34 big chances created is the third most, behind Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson, with his 18 league assists also only bettered by the Liverpool duo.

Alexander-Arnold (1,408) is also the only defender to have played more passes/crosses into the area than Digne (902), highlighting just how much of a persistent threat the Frenchman can be.

But on the defensive side of things, Digne has proven himself slightly more reliable in the tackle than Alexander-Arnold and Robertson, with the former Paris Saint-Germain full-back boasting a better success rate (63.2 per cent) than both in such situations.

That also translates to his duels involvement, with Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Charlie Taylor the only full-backs (minimum 50 games played) to have a better duel success rate than Digne's 59.4 (712/1,199) since the Everton man made his Premier League debut.

Matt Targett will likely lose his place to Digne, who even in a more restricted attacking role has still created 1.7 chances per 90 minutes this season, compared to Targett's 1.3.

Digne's 1.5 tackles is also an improvement on Targett's 1.1, though he has averaged fewer interceptions (1.1) per 90 minutes than either Targett or Villa right-back Matthew Cash.

Lucas Digne appeared to aim a parting shot at Everton boss Rafael Benitez ahead of his move to Aston Villa, stating "sometimes it only takes one person from outside to destroy a beautiful love affair".

Digne is on his way out of the Toffees to join Premier League rivals Villa in a deal reportedly worth up to £25million.

The France left-back has fallen out of favour since Benitez arrived at Goodison Park and the Everton manager last week accused Digne of putting his own interests ahead of the team.

Benitez said: "I have had a couple of conversations with him, he told me what he thought. What do you expect a manager to do when a player tells a manager he doesn’t want to be here?

"I think he was very clear. I want to ask a question to any fan or former player, what [former Everton player] Peter Reid will say if a player doesn't want to be here? He told me what he thought, so what do you expect the manager to do?

"I have no explanation. We are professionals, we are paid big money to do our job. In modern football, maybe the priorities have changed and people think about themselves ahead of the team."

Digne took to Instagram on Wednesday to express his gratitude to Everton fans and made it clear he could no longer work with former Liverpool manager Benitez.

He posted: "Only one year ago I signed a new contract with the ambition of staying in this club for a long time, giving everything for my club, for the development and project, that I believed in – and for the passionate fans.

"My dream was helping the club back to where it belongs. Wearing the captain's armband in some matches always made me proud.

"Everything must come to an end. I just did not expect it to end this way.

"What has happened and some things that was said about me in the last month has made me very sad. But I will not enter a war of words with anyone.

"The club doesn't deserve that, the fans don't deserve that – and to be honest, I don't feel that I deserve that.

"There are so many good and decent people in and around Everton who want the best for this club and not only for themself – and to them I can only say from my heart: I wish you the best!

"Thank you, to all the wonderful, proud and passionate true Evertonians. It has been an honour and a true pleasure to play for you, the fans, the people – because a club does not belong to a player or a manager, but to the fans. I will always carry you with me in my heart wherever I go.

"Sometimes it only takes one person from outside to destroy a beautiful love affair."

Romelu Lukaku cast his Chelsea future in doubt with a recent interview – and the unsettled striker may now be offered a route out of Stamford Bridge by Paris Saint-Germain.

The 28-year-old revealed his regret at leaving Inter for Chelsea and questioned boss Thomas Tuchel's tactics, leading to him being dropped for the 2-2 draw with Liverpool.

Lukaku has returned for the Blues' two matches since, but doubts remain over whether he will still be a Chelsea player come the start of next season.

TOP STORY – LUKAKU LINED UP AS MBAPPE REPLACEMENT?

PSG look certain to lose Kylian Mbappe at the end of the campaign as the Real Madrid target fast approaches the end of his contract at the Parc des Princes.

The Ligue 1 giants are on the lookout for possible replacements and, according to El Nacional, Lukaku is one of those being considered by the club's wealthy backers.

The report suggests PSG are willing to pay €90million (£75.1m) to persuade Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich to part ways with the club's all-time record signing.

Lukaku, who apologised for giving the explosive interview in December, has scored eight goals in 20 appearances since returning to west London five months ago.

ROUND-UP

– Tottenham have decided to sell Steven Bergwijn this month amid interest from several clubs, according to Fabrizio Romano. Ajax are said to be among the sides to have already made an offer for the Netherlands international.

– Anthony Martial wants to leave Manchester United and has been touted as a possible target for Barcelona. But Spanish outlet Sport claims that, while Barca are eager to strengthen in the final third, Martial is not on their radar in this window.

– Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is wanted by a number of Europe's heavyweight clubs. According to Foot Mercato, PSG are prepared to pay more than the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid, but the latter remains the Germany international's preferred choice.

– A rumoured target for Chelsea and Bayern, Sergino Dest's Barcelona future may become clearer in the coming days. El Nacional claims the defender's representatives are set to hold talks with the Catalan giants.

– After being jeered off the pitch by his own supporters in Tottenham's 3-1 FA Cup win over Morecambe on Sunday, The Athletic reports that club-record signing Tanguy Ndombele is hopeful of ending his tumultuous spell in north London this month.

– The Athletic also reports Aston Villa are now the favourites to sign Everton full-back Lucas Digne, despite previous interest from Chelsea. Newcastle United have also been linked, but Digne is apparently not considering a move to the relegation-threatened side.

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