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.

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– 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.

Rafael Benitez has confirmed Lucas Digne wants to leave Everton.

Left-back Digne, who signed from Barcelona for a reported £18million in August 2018, has not featured for the Toffees since a 4-1 home defeat to Merseyside rivals – and Benitez's former club – Liverpool on December 1.

That loss was one of eight for Everton from their last 12 Premier League games. They have won just one of their fixtures in that run, beating Arsenal 2-1 thanks to a late Demarai Gray stunner.

Everton, who were limited in the off-season transfer window partly due to the Premier League's profit and sustainability rules, have been active already this month, signing right-back Nathan Patterson from Rangers for a fee believed to be £11m plus add-ons, and bringing in left-back Vitaliy Mykolenko from Dynamo Kiev, seemingly to replace Digne.

Chelsea, who need cover at left wing-back following news of Ben Chilwell's season-long injury lay-off, are rumoured to be interested, while West Ham and Newcastle United have also been linked.

And, in a somewhat unexpected outburst during Friday's news conference to preview Everton's trip to Hull City in the FA Cup, Benitez revealed Digne, who signed a new long-term contract in 2021, wished to leave.

Benitez also addressed an Everton legend from the club's 1980s heyday in the form of Peter Reid, who on Sunday, after a 3-2 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion, tweeted: "Major problems at Goodison Park, huge concerns about the direction of the football club."

The Spanish coach told reporters: "I want to ask a question to every fan, or former players, what Peter Reid will do or say if a player doesn't want to be there. That's it, simple.

"I had a couple of conversations with [Digne], he told me what he thought. What do you expect a manager to do? Fans, former players, what will Peter Reid say if a player goes to the manager that he doesn't want to be here?

"We need players that want to be here. Talking about individual stats when the team finished 10th [last season], it means nothing for me. I want a winning mentality, ambition, it will take some time."

Asked why he included Digne on the bench for Sunday's loss to Brighton, having dropped him altogether for previous matches, Benitez said: "I try to do what is best for the club, sometimes you pay for that."

Benitez also confirmed there had been no bids for Digne.

"I would like to sign [Erling] Haaland and [Kylian] Mbappe, but you'd need commitment. We don't have commitment yet," he said.

"There is interest but nothing concrete. What I cannot do is give priority to those who are not interested. Do we want to grow and improve or just manage egos?"

Big boots to fill?

With Digne's replacement already through the door, the focus for Everton will be on recouping a suitable fee for such an experienced player in arguably his prime years.

Digne has undoubtedly been a success at Everton after having a tricky spell at Barca, where he struggled for regular minutes behind Jordi Alba in the pecking order.

Having replaced fan-favourite 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 desire 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.

Aaron Ramsey has not had the best of times since moving to Juventus.

The Wales midfielder joined Juve from Arsenal in 2019 on a four-year deal.

Ramsey has only managed 70 appearances in an injury hit two and a half years with Juventus.

 

TOP STORY – RAMSEY TO LEAVE JUVENTUS IN JANUARY

Aaron Ramsey is set to exit Juventus in the January transfer window, reports Sky Sports.

Italian transfer supremo Gianluca Di Marzio claimed that Ramsey is likely to return to the Premier League, having already turned down an offer from Burnley .

Newcastle United have been linked with Ramsey, along with Everton.

 

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- Bayern Munich will consider swapping Kingsley Coman with Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele in the off-season, reports L'Equipe. Coman's contract expires in 2023 and negotiations on a new deal have stalled.

- Sky Sports have reported that Newcastle are contemplating a bid for Lucas Digne. The full-back is set to leave Everton this month after a falling out with Rafael Benitez, though supposedly prefers a move to London, with Chelsea and West Ham also said to be interested.

- Everton, meanwhile, hold an interest in Newcastle midfielder Sean Longstaff and have already made a bid, according to the Daily Mail and Sky Sports.

- Paris Saint-Germain may look to sign Lyon's Lucas Paqueta next off-season, so say L'Equipe.

- Manchester United are determined to secure Wolves' Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves in January, according to The Sun.

- Lazio have opened talks with Liverpool on a deal for Belgium international forward Divock Origi, claims LazioNews24.

- According to Sky Sports, five Premier League clubs have held talks with Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho.

Dusan Vlahovic looms as a major topic in this January transfer window.

The 21-year-old Serbia international has scored 18 goals this season for Fiorentina.

Chelsea, Manchester City, Barcelona and Juventus have all been linked with Vlahovic, along with Arsenal and Tottenham.

TOP STORY - GUNNERS LODGE VLAHOVIC BID

Arsenal have lodged a €70million (£58.3m) bid for Fiorentina's Serbian forward Dusan Vlahovic,  according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

As part of the proposed deal, Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira would join La Viola on a permanent deal.

Arsenal, who were seen as a long shot to secure Vlahovic's services, are keen to sign a new forward, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang falling out of favour.

 

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal are willing to listen to offers for outcast forward Aubameyang in January, claims Sky Sports. Aubameyang lost the Gunners' captaincy last month and has been dropped from the side. Newcastle United have been linked with the Gabon international.

- Goal reports that Aston Villa, Everton and Liverpool are all keen on bringing in Philippe Coutinho during the January transfer window as Barcelona shop him around. Coutinho is not keen on a return to Brazil and fancies playing in England again.

- Atletico Madrid full-back Kieran Trippier has agreed personal terms with Newcastle with a medical to complete before a deal is confirmed, reports Fabrizio Romano.

- Real Madrid have thrown in the towel in their pursuit of Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger due to his wage demands, claims Marca.

- Chelsea, Newcastle and West Ham are all circling for Everton's full-back Lucas Digne,  according to Sky Sports. Digne is valued at £30m.

Everton forward Demarai Gray is reportedly close to finalising a move to represent Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz pending the approval of official documents.

The 25-year-old player, who qualifies to represent the country by virtue of having Jamaican parents, is one of a number of footballers with Jamaican heritage approached by the JFF in recent times, as the team looks to bolster its chances of qualifying for the World Cup.  Gray has earned 21 caps for the England U21 team but has never played for the senior team.  He is expected to secure his passport in a few weeks.

So far, the likes of West Ham’s Michail Antonio, Reading’s Liam Moore, and Fulham’s Bobby Reid to name a few have all already shown up to represent the Reggae Boyz in the World Cup qualifiers.  The team did not get off to a great start.  With eight matches played Jamaica are currently sixth in the eight-team table and seven points off the final qualifying spot.

The Jamaicans are looking to get back to the World Cup for the first time since their historic qualification in 1998.  After a slow start, the team parted ways with longtime coach Theodore Whitmore and handed the job to assistant coach Paul Hall in December.  Both men were part of the team’s historic World Cup qualification campaign.  The Reggae Boyz will be back in action on the 27th of January with a crucial home fixture against Mexico.

Everton have completed the signing of Nathan Patterson from Rangers for an undisclosed fee.

The Scotland right-back has penned a deal until June 2027, with reports suggesting that the initial fee is in the region of £10million.

Patterson becomes the Toffees' second acquisition of the January transfer window following the arrival of Ukraine left-back Vitalii Mykolenko on New Year's Day.

Upon completion of the move on Tuesday, the 20-year-old shared his delight at signing for the Premier League side.

"I'm over the moon to sign for Everton and looking forward to getting started," he told the Toffees' website.

"It was an easy choice to sign. This is a massive club with huge history and the fanbase is tremendous.

"Obviously we aren't in the place where we want to be right now, but we can definitely get there with the talent in the changing room and staff here, and I have full belief we can do that.

"It is really exciting to come to a club that has huge talent in the team. I am going to work my socks off and hopefully I can do well with them in training and in games.

"It was also great for me knowing the manager really wanted me here and that made my decision. When a club really wants you, it makes your mind up early on.

"Long-term, I want to nail down a starting position and win some trophies to make the fans proud."

Patterson also revealed that he has already spoken to club captain Seamus Coleman, who he will be competing with for a spot at right-back.

"I’ve had a good conversation with Seamus," he added. "I am really looking forward to learning from him and working together.

"That is why I am here: to learn and get better as a player and, hopefully, win things and do well for the club. If I am working alongside Seamus, that is definitely going to happen."

Patterson, who will wear the number three shirt at Goodison Park, has made six starts and five substitute appearances for Rangers in all competitions this season, registering one assist.

The first heavyweight tussle of the new year in the Premier League did not disappoint as Chelsea and Liverpool played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues were held at home for the fifth time in six league games, a run that includes three straight draws in the top flight for the first time since February 2016.

But Thomas Tuchel's side can be happy with a point after recovering from two goals down as they extended their unbeaten run against the Reds in the league to four matches.

While there was nothing to separate the sides sitting second and third, Brentford, Brighton and Hove Albion and Leeds United were all victorious on Sunday.

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

Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool: Blues hit back after Salah strikes again

Sadio Mane opened the scoring in a Premier League game for the 37th time since joining Liverpool in 2016-17 – only Tottenham's Harry Kane (40) has done so on more occasions.

However, some will argue that Mane was fortunate to be on the field at that point after catching Cesar Azpilicueta with his elbow after just six seconds.

Mane was instead issued a yellow card with 15 seconds on the clock, making it the earliest booking in a Premier League game since Opta started recording such data in 2006-07, nine seconds faster than the previous quickest caution for Scott McTominay against Newcastle United in December 2019.

Mohamed Salah went on to double Liverpool's lead with his fourth league goal against Chelsea, which is the joint-most any player has scored against the Blues after playing for them, along with Manchester City's Kevin De Bruyne.

Chelsea responded brilliantly with two goals in the space of 245 seconds through a Mateo Kovacic stunner and Christian Pulisic's well-taken strike, ensuring they remain a point above their opponents having played a game more.

This was the fourth occasion in this season's Premier League that a side has failed to win a game in which they have led by two goals, with Liverpool accounting for two of those occasions, having also drawn 2-2 with Brighton in October.


Leeds United 3-1 Burnley: More Maxwell magic not enough

Leeds scored three times in a Premier League game for the first time this season on their way to ending a four-game run without a victory, putting distance between themselves and Burnley in the final relegation spot.

Previously with just one win to their name in the competition since the end of October, Jack Harrison squeezed home for Leeds to open the scoring at Elland Road before Maxwell Cornet equalised through Burnley's first direct free-kick goal since Boxing Day 2017.

That was Cornet's sixth Premier League goal in 10 appearances, the most by an African player in their first 10 games since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Arsenal in April 2018 (also six).

Stuart Dallas restored Leeds' advantage on his 250th appearance for the club in all competitions, becoming the first United player to reach that tally since Lucas Radebe in November 2003.

The much-needed victory was sealed by Daniel James in added time, meaning Leeds are unbeaten in 10 Premier League games against sides starting the day in the relegation zone (W8, D2) since returning to the top flight last season.

As for Burnley, they have now won just one of their last 20 Premier League matches and are winless in 11 on their travels, their worst such run on the road since 17 without a victory between August 2016 and April 2017.


Everton 2-3 Brighton and Hove Albion: Mac Allister inspires soaring Seagulls

The highest-scoring game of the day in the Premier League took place at Goodison Park, where Everton suffered defeat in their opening league game of a calendar year for the fifth year running, their worst such streak since a run of seven between 1957 and 1963.

Brighton's opening goal via Alexis Mac Allister after two minutes and 43 seconds was the Seagulls' fastest-ever away from home in the competition, and their third-fastest overall.

Dan Burn doubled the visitors' lead on Merseyside, shortly before the returning Dominic Calvert-Lewin became the 22nd different player to miss a Premier League penalty for the Toffees – only Arsenal (23) have more.

Anthony Gordon scored his first senior goal to give Everton a bit of hope, only for Mac Allister to register for a second time as Brighton moved to 27 points after 19 games – their joint-best return at this stage of a top-flight campaign alongside 1981-82.

It was another afternoon to forget for Rafael Benitez, however, with Everton having now picked up only 19 points from 18 games, which is their worst return at this stage since accruing 17 from 18 matches in 2005-06.

Brentford 2-1 Aston Villa: Bees bounce back again

Comeback experts Brentford hit back to beat Villa late on thanks to goals from Yoane Wissa and Mads Roerslev after Danny Ings had opened the scoring in west London.

Only West Ham (12) and Everton (11) have won more points from losing positions in the Premier League this term than Brentford, who have now recovered nine points in total.

That is in complete contrast to a Villa side that have lost more games in the competition since the start of last season after scoring first than any other side (eight).

Ings has now opened the scoring in more different English top-flight games since the start of 2019-20 than any player (18), but that early strike was not enough for Steven Gerrard's men.

Wissa's equaliser was Brentford's first Premier League goal from outside the box and full-back Roerslev, who set up that strike, completed the turnaround to become the second Bees player to score and assist in the same game in the competition for the club after Ivan Toney.

Leeds United winger Raphinha is drawing plenty of attention.

The Brazilian debuted for his country in October and has scored two goals in five caps.

Raphinha joined Leeds from Rennes on a four-year deal in 2020.

And, having seen his career hit new heights since that move, he does not appear to be desperate for another switch.

TOP STORY - RAPHINHA NOT PUSHING FOR LEEDS EXIT

Brazil international Raphinha will not push for a January move away from Leeds United according to the Mirror.

Raphinha has been linked with moves to both Liverpool and Bayern Munich during the January transfer window.

The 25-year-old's agent has spoken about his ambition, but he is content at Leeds who are battling relegation.

 

ROUND-UP

Inter are angling to sign Germany international Matthias Ginter as a free agent in the middle of next year claims Fabrizio Romano. Ginter confirmed on Tuesday he would leave Borussia Monchengladbach when his contract expires at the end of this season.

- Gerard Moreno reports that Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta has reached an in-principle agreement to join Barcelona in the close-season.

Sevilla are considering a bid to sign Barcelona defender Mika Marmol, according to Diario Sport.

Everton want to land Chelsea midfielder Ross Barkley on loan in January, says The Telegraph.

- Sky Sport Italia claims MLS club Toronto are in advanced talks with Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne and Torino striker Andrea Belotti.

Real Madrid saw Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos leave in the off-season.

The Spanish champions have fared well without them, leading LaLiga comfortably.

But Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti wants to add to their backline.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID CONSIDER GOMEZ MOVE

Madrid are lining up a potential move for Liverpool defender Joe Gomez, according to the Daily Mail.

Madrid will monitor the England international defender who has recently returned to fitness ahead of an off-season move.

Los Blancos' priority after 2021-22 is their attack and landing Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe, but they do want to bolster their defensive options.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool are genuine contenders to sign Borussia Dortmund forward Erling Haaland according to Sky Germany. Madrid, Manchester CityManchester United and PSG have been heavily linked with the Norwegian, but the Reds are in the race.

- Mundo Deportivo claims that Manchester UnitedBarcelona and Madrid are all keeping tabs on Bayern Munich's Kingsley Coman.

- United forward Anthony Martial wants to join Sevilla on loan in January and will hold talks with the club, claims Sky Sports.

- Hoffenheim midfielder Florian Grillitsch is drawing interest from both Tottenham and Roma who will jostle for his services, reports Sky Germany.

- Everton will look to sign Rangers right-back Nathan Patterson again but will need to pay £10m, reports the Daily Mail.

Paul Pogba's club future continues to be a major topic of speculation.

The 28-year-old is into the final year of his Manchester United contract.

Pogba has flirted with the idea of an extension but has been stalling on a decision.

 

TOP STORY – REAL AND PSG HOME IN ON POGBA

Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain are both ready to ramp up the race to sign Paul Pogba from Manchester United, claims Marca.

Pogba is running down his United contract, meaning he will be a free agent in mid-2022.

Real and PSG will rekindle their interest after new United interim manager Ralf Rangnick said Pogba should not need to be convinced to stay.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United forward Edinson Cavani has offered his services to Juventus, according to Calciomercato. The Uruguayan veteran has also been linked with Barcelona.

- Barcelona are plotting moves for Chelsea's trio Cesar Azpilicueta, Christian Pulisic and Antonio Rudiger, reports Mundo Deportivo.

- Milan are circling to sign Liverpool's super-sub Divock Origi as they seek a long-term replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, claims Tuttomercato. Atalanta are also interested.

- Calciomercato reports that Roma are considering a move for Spezia midfielder Jiulio Maggiore. The 23-year-old is out of contract in 2023 and valued at €8m (£6.8m).

- Roma are also interested in a move for Norwich City's Max Aarons, according to Corriere dello Sport. Tottenham and Everton are also in the race.

- Lyon are interested in a move for Villarreal's Arnaut Danjuma, claims Todofichajes. Manchester United and Barcelona are also tracking the ex-Bournemouth winger.

Is a Leeds United midfielder ready to reject a switch to Old Trafford?

Typically, Manchester United are too big to turn down but Kalvin Phillips is believed to be willing to withstand their interest due to the rivalry between the two clubs.

The beneficiaries of such a decision? Liverpool apparently.

 

TOP STORY – PHILLIPS TO TURN DOWN MAN UTD

Leeds United star Kalvin Phillips will snub a move to Manchester United in favour of Premier League rivals Liverpool, according to The Sun.

Phillips has emerged as a target for Leeds' bitter rivals United, while Liverpool are also admirers of the England international.

Wary of the backlash a move to Old Trafford would cause among Leeds fans, Phillips is ready to reject United and join Liverpool.

 

ROUND-UP

Arsenal are plotting a move for Everton star Richarlison, claims Fichajes. The Brazil international scored against Arsenal on Monday, while he has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain.

- Fabrizio Romano reports Borussia Dortmund have made direct contact with Salzburg star Karim Adeyemi. The Germany international is Dortmund's main target as clubs queue up to sign Erling Haaland, who is wanted by Manchester United, Manchester City, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Liverpool, Chelsea, PSG, Juventus and Bayern Munich.

- Tuttomercato says Franck Kessie could leave Milan on a free transfer. The soon-to-be free agent has been linked with Tottenham, Inter, PSG and United.

Fiorentina are poised to sign Lille star Jonathan Ikone, per Gianluca Di Marzio. The deal is reportedly not related to the future of wantaway forward Dusan Vlahovic – the Serbia international has been linked with City, United, Bayern, Inter, Juve, Tottenham and Arsenal.

Everton insisted manager Rafael Benitez retains their "full support" amid an ongoing slump, but director of football Marcel Brands has left the Premier League club.

Dutchman Brands joined Everton from Eredivisie outfit PSV in 2018 and signed a new three-year contract as recently as April.

Reports emerged on Sunday he had left his Goodison Park post and that was made official late in the evening, with Brands saying it was his choice to move on.

Brands departed due to differences in opinion over plans for the future of the club, with his views apparently not sufficiently aligned with those of others.

He said, quoted on Everton's website: "This decision has taken some time and some consideration and was one of the most difficult I have faced in my career.

"The board and I agreed that there is a clear difference in the vision and direction for this beautiful club and, with that in mind, the decision was taken."

Everton are mired in a dismal run of form under former Liverpool boss Benitez, taking one point from a possible 21 across their last seven games to slide out of the top half and down to 16th place.

In a statement, the club said: "Everton Football Club can confirm that Marcel Brands has left his post as director of football.

"Brands joined Everton from PSV Eindhoven in June 2018 and was appointed to the club's board in 2019. The owner and directors would like to thank Marcel for the service he has given to the club over the past three and a half years and wish him well for his future.

"A strategic review of the football structure will now take place which will inform the best model for the club to proceed with in the long-term.

"In the meantime, the owner and board of directors will continue to provide our manager, Rafa Benitez, with their full support."

Everton's owner is Farhad Moshiri, who elected to appoint Benitez after Carlo Ancelotti left the club at the end of last season to embark on a second spell as head coach of LaLiga giants Real Madrid.

A 4-1 defeat to Merseyside rivals Liverpool last Wednesday was Everton's last Premier League outing, with Benitez's team next in action on Monday when they face Arsenal at Goodison.

The appointment of Benitez in June was a controversial one given his past as a fans' favourite at Liverpool, and his renowned affection for the Reds. A positive start curried favour with some sceptics, but there has been a cooling in the support from many Everton supporters for the Spaniard and his team in recent weeks, with results in sharp decline.

Ralf Rangnick has been tasked with restoring the fortunes of struggling Premier League giants Manchester United.

His previous work at RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga has sparked speculation regarding possible transfers.

That has led to talk regarding Amadou Haidara.

 

TOP STORY – HAIDARA WANTED AT OLD TRAFFORD

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick wants to make RB Leipzig midfielder Amadou Haidara his first signing, according to The Sun.

Rangnick has been appointed until the end of the season and talk of January incomings have already emerged.

The German brought Haidara to Leipzig during his time at the Bundesliga club and he is believed to be interested in reuniting with the 23-year-old star.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying at Old Trafford and El Nacional reports United want Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong, having rebuffed a proposal for Philippe Coutinho.

- Portuguese journalist Pedro Almeida claims Jose Mourinho's job as Roma head coach is in danger following another defeat, this time 3-0 to former club Inter in Serie A on Saturday. Mourinho has cut a frustrated figure amid just three wins in nine league games. Mourinho has also been linked with Everton as pressure mounts on Rafael Benitez.

Chelsea and Arsenal are both interested in Paris Saint-Germain forward Mauro Icardi, says Ekrem Konur. The Argentina international has been linked with Barca, Newcastle United, Tottenham and Juventus.

- According to The Sun, Ligue 1 giants PSG are lining up a bid for Wolves' left-back star Rayan Ait-Nouri.

- Widespread reports claim Leipzig are seriously considering the sacking of head coach Jesse Marsch, who only replaced Julian Nagelsmann at the start of the season. Leipzig have lost three consecutive Bundesliga games for the first time in their history.

Kylian Mbappe has had an extended flirtation with Real Madrid.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward is out of contract at the end of this season.

Mbappe has stalled on signing a new deal with PSG amid speculation of a move.

TOP STORY – REAL CONVINCED OF MBAPPE DEAL

Real Madrid are convinced they will win the race for Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe's signature, according to AS.

Los Blancos are certain the 22-year-old France international will join the club on a free transfer at the end of this season.

Mbappe has long flirted with Madrid and has decided he will not renew with PSG. The LaLiga giants are already planning Mbappe's arrival at the sporting and commercial level.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester City have joined the race to sign Fiorentina's hot property forward Dusan Vlahovic, claims La Repubblica.

- Barcelona have held discussions with Manchester City about the potential to sign Spanish forward Ferran Torres in January, according to ESPN.

- Fichajes reports that Liverpool are interested in signing Lille's Portugal midfielder Renato Sanches. Lille have valued him at £34m.

- Arsenal are homing in on Lille's Canada international forward Jonathan David, according to the London Evening Standard. David is currently Ligue 1's leading scorer.

- Calciomercato claims Christian Eriksen is close to terminating his deal with Inter, having been unable to play since his cardiac arrest at Euro 2020.

- Bayern Munich midfielder Marc Roca is in the sights of Roma who have considered a move for the Spaniard, claims Corriere dello Sport.

- Chelsea have opened talks with goalkeeper Edouard Mendy over a new deal, claims Football Insider.

- Everton have joined the race to sign Zenit striker Sardar Azmoun, according to 90min.

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