Gareth Bale has brought an end to an illustrious playing career after announcing his retirement at the age of 33.

The forward hangs up his boots with a record of 226 goals in 664 games from spells with Southampton, Tottenham, Real Madrid, Los Angeles FC and on the international stage with Wales.

Initially a left-back, Bale was utilised further forward by Harry Redknapp at Spurs which sparked the start of an incredible transformation of the player – who would go on to make a significant impression at both club and international level.

Here, we've taken a look back at some of the finest moments from Bale's career.

San Siro statement

On October 20, 2010, Bale gave Tottenham fans memories to last a lifetime with a stunning hat-trick in a Champions League group stage fixture against Inter at San Siro in a year that marked Spurs' first-ever involvement in the competition.

Four goals down at half-time and down to 10 men, Bale enjoyed a meteoric display in the second period that, despite Spurs losing 4-3, still stands as one of the greatest individual performances in the competition's history.

A hat-trick saw the then 21-year-old display his raw pace and strength, tormenting opposing players Maicon and Javier Zanetti, propelling him into stardom and setting the path for a remarkable career.

World record transfer & Copa del Rey Clasico

A six-year spell in north London came to a close in 2013, when Real Madrid splashed a then world record fee of €100.8 million (£85.1m), a figure that surpassed the previous record set by Cristiano Ronaldo's move to Santiago Bernabeu from Manchester United.

Scoring on his debut against Villarreal, the first half of Bale's inaugural season in Spain was plagued by injuries and came alongside some media criticism – something that he would have to endure throughout the majority of his spell with Los Blancos.

A starring moment came in the 2014 Copa del Rey final against Barcelona, however, outsprinting Marc Barta and even exiting the field on his way to goal before tucking home his first El Clasico strike.

Champions League glories

Just over a month after scoring in the Copa del Rey final, Bale was at it again in the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid – putting his team ahead in the 110th minute of an eventual 4-1 victory to seal Madrid's 10th European Cup, the fabled La Decima.

In 2015-16, Bale won the Champions League for a second time, Atletico on the receiving end yet again, retaining the trophy the following season against Juventus in his home city of Cardiff, and winning a third in a row in 2017-18, where Bale added to his incredible highlight reel.

Against Liverpool in Kyiv, Bale scored an overhead kick from the edge of the 18-yard box to give Madrid a 2-1 advantage, then doubling his tally for the game with a speculative 30-yard effort that goalkeeper Loris Karius fumbled into the net.

Euro semi-finalists

While criticism at club level with Madrid was rife, Bale continued to be the leading man on the international stage for Wales and excelled for his nation at Euro 2016, the first time they had featured at the tournament.

Bale scored in all three of Wales' group-stage matches against Slovakia, England and Russia as Chris Coleman's side topped the group, with victories against Northern Ireland and Belgium to follow in the knockout stage.

An incredible tournament came to a close in the semi-finals with a 2-0 defeat to eventual champions Portugal but Wales returned five years later at the rearranged Euro 2020, where they reached the last 16.

MLS Cup victory

Bale's Madrid career ended in June 2022, fresh from picking up a fifth Champions League victory, as he completed a move to Major League Soccer to join Los Angeles FC.

LAFC won the Supporter's Shield in the regular season, though Bale was mostly unused, but he made his impact in the MLS Cup as his side won the title for the first time, having joined the league in 2017.

Bale came off the bench to score in the 128th minute against Philadelphia Union, sending the contest to a penalty shoot-out that LAFC subsequently won.

World Cup

After a 64-year absence, Wales returned to the World Cup stage after qualifying for the 2022 tournament in Qatar – which would prove to be Bale's last involvement as a player for either club or country.

An 82nd-minute penalty against the United States saw Bale score on his tournament debut as Wales begun the group stage with a point, but two stoppage-time goals in the second game gave Iran a shock victory.

Wales' campaign came to an early end with a 3-0 defeat to England in the final group match, marking a disappointing end to Bale's international career.  

When Fernando Santos called time on his eight-year stint as Portugal head coach after their 2022 World Cup quarter-final elimination, few would have correctly predicted his replacement.

Roberto Martinez also left his national team role after the tournament in Qatar, with Belgium disappointingly falling at the group stage.

The former Everton and Wigan Athletic boss took the Red Devils to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018, before reaching the last eight of Euro 2020, being eliminated by the eventual winners in both.

Martinez finds himself in charge of A Selecao now after his appointment was confirmed on Monday, and there is plenty of work to be done.

Qualifiers for the 2024 European Championships get underway in March and with the talent at their disposal, Portugal must be fancied to be among the favourites for the tournament in Germany.

Stats Perform has taken a look at five things in Martinez's in-tray that he will need to consider if he is to find success with his new team.

Solve the Ronaldo conundrum

"Decisions have to be made on the pitch. I won't rush into decisions. I want to meet everyone, and from today I want to talk and meet all the players," Martinez said at his first press conference as Portugal coach.

"Cristiano [Ronaldo] is part of that list. He's had 19 years in the national team and deserves respect, let's talk. From there, it's up to me to make the best list for the European Championships."

Ronaldo has 118 goals in 196 caps for Portugal, undeniably an international record to be proud of, but he will be 38 years old when Martinez takes charge of his first game.

One of the new boss' biggest issues with Belgium was getting the best out of ageing stars, and with Portugal arguably looking far sharper when Ronaldo was benched in Qatar – hat-trick hero v Switzerland Goncalo Ramos in particular – perhaps now is the perfect time to allow the former Real Madrid and Juventus man to fully focus on his new adventure in Saudi Arabia and call time on his international career.

Getting the best out of Joao Felix

This is a problem Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone is all too familiar with, hence why Joao Felix is being linked with a loan move to the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal instead of lighting up LaLiga on a weekly basis.

The 23-year-old has plenty of talent, but a lack of consistency belies the nine-figure fee Atletico paid Benfica for him back in 2019.

If Martinez chooses to move on from Ronaldo though, Joao Felix could find the space and responsibility to thrive at international level as part of a team where everyone would be expected to chip in.

Of players to have featured in at least 14 LaLiga games this season, only Mikel Merino, Antoine Griezmann, Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele average more than Joao Felix's 0.42 assists per 90.

Utilise Dias to build solid foundation

Arguably Martinez's main struggle by the end of his time with Belgium was managing a defence filled with players who were several years past their prime.

He will need to make sure that Portugal maintain freshness there as a good defence will always give you a chance in international competitions, such as when Portugal conceded just once in four knockout games on their way to winning Euro 2016.

One key decision could be taken out of his hands, with Pepe expected to announce his retirement from international football, but in Ruben Dias, Martinez has the perfect figure to build his defence around.

The Manchester City centre-back is one of the best in Europe and has shown under Pep Guardiola he can also be relied upon in a backline that pushes high to close space and allow the attack to press from the front, something Martinez has often favoured when he has had the tools to do so.

Build around Bruno

Since his move to Man Utd in January 2020, Bruno Fernandes has proven himself to be one of the premier midfielders in Europe, and at the World Cup, he began to show that he can lead for his national team as well.

Only Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi (both 10) had more goal involvements than Fernandes' five (two goals, three assists) in Qatar, while no-one produced more than his three assists.

In the Premier League this season, only Kevin De Bruyne (41) has created more chances from open play than his 40, with the Manchester City man having played a game more, and with plenty of attacking firepower to aim for with Portugal, Fernandes can in theory fill his assist boots over the coming years under Martinez.

Make the most of Leao

One of those talents Fernandes should be working with is Rafael Leao, one of the most exciting attackers in Europe right now.

While Santos had plenty of other fine players to choose from, it was surprising to see Leao reduced to just substitute appearances in all five games at the World Cup, though he still produced two goals before Portugal were eventually eliminated by Morocco in the quarter-finals.

The Milan forward should really be Martinez's primary weapon on the left of the attack, especially if he can replicate the form that saw him win Serie A's player of the season award as the Rossoneri claimed the Scudetto in 2021-22.

Portugal have appointed Roberto Martinez as their new head coach.

Fernando Santos called time on his eight-year stint at the helm last month, a decision which followed Portugal's surprise World Cup defeat to Morocco.

Santos led Portugal to the quarter-finals in Qatar, where he benched Cristiano Ronaldo for the Selecao's two knockout games – a comprehensive 6-1 win over Switzerland and the 1-0 loss to the Atlas Lions.

Martinez, who was presented as Portugal's new coach on Monday and has reportedly signed a four-year deal, became a free agent shortly before Santos' exit, leaving his role as Belgium coach after the Red Devils slumped to a dismal group-stage exit in Qatar.

Former Wigan Athletic and Everton boss Martinez led Belgium to their best World Cup campaign when they clinched third place at Russia 2018, though his failure to deliver silverware with a crop of players said to be the country's "golden generation" has attracted criticism.

Martinez oversaw 61 games during his six-year spell in charge of Belgium, winning 47 (77 per cent).

Belgium beat Canada in their opening match in Qatar but a defeat to Morocco and draw with Croatia saw them slump eliminated from a World Cup group for the first time since 1998.

They entered the World Cup second in FIFA's world rankings, but dropped to fourth after their failure to reach the knockout round.

Upon taking the job, one of Martinez's foremost challenges will be to make a decision on the international future of Ronaldo, who has joined Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia following the termination of his contract with Manchester United.

Though Ronaldo recognised his "most ambitious dream" was over after failing to inspire Portugal to glory at his fifth World Cup, the 37-year-old is yet to retire from international football.

Portugal will begin their qualification campaign for Euro 2024 at home to Liechtenstein on March 23, having been drawn into a group also containing Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Slovakia and Luxembourg.

Portugal have appointed Roberto Martinez as their new head coach.

Fernando Santos called time on his eight-year stint at the helm last month, a decision which followed Portugal's surprise World Cup defeat to Morocco.

Santos led Portugal to the quarter-finals in Qatar, where he benched Cristiano Ronaldo for the Selecao's two knockout games – a comprehensive 6-1 win over Switzerland and the 1-0 loss to the Atlas Lions.

Martinez, who was presented as Portugal's new coach on Monday and has reportedly signed a four-year deal, became a free agent shortly before Santos' exit, leaving his role as Belgium coach after the Red Devils slumped to a dismal group-stage exit in Qatar.

Former Wigan Athletic and Everton boss Martinez led Belgium to their best World Cup campaign when they clinched third place at Russia 2018, though his failure to deliver silverware with a crop of players said to be the country's "golden generation" has attracted criticism.

Martinez oversaw 61 games during his six-year spell in charge of Belgium, winning 47 (77 per cent).

Belgium beat Canada in their opening match in Qatar but a defeat to Morocco and draw with Croatia saw them slump eliminated from a World Cup group for the first time since 1998.

They entered the World Cup second in FIFA's world rankings, but dropped to fourth after their failure to reach the knockout round.

Upon taking the job, one of Martinez's foremost challenges will be to make a decision on the international future of Ronaldo, who has joined Al Nassr in Saudi Arabia following the termination of his contract with Manchester United.

Though Ronaldo recognised his "most ambitious dream" was over after failing to inspire Portugal to glory at his fifth World Cup, the 37-year-old is yet to retire from international football.

Portugal will begin their qualification campaign for Euro 2024 at home to Liechtenstein on March 23, having been drawn into a group also containing Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Slovakia and Luxembourg.

Kylian Mbappe has accused Noel Le Graet of disrespecting Zinedine Zidane after the French Football Federation president's dismissive response to suggestions the former Real Madrid coach could join Brazil.

On Saturday, it was announced Didier Deschamps had signed a new four-year contract as France head coach, allowing him to lead Les Bleus at a fourth World Cup in 2026.

Former France talisman Zidane had been linked with his country's top job on several occasions, including in the aftermath of their World Cup final defeat against Argentina last month.

However, with that position set to be occupied for the foreseeable future, Zidane has been suggested as a potential candidate to succeed Tite as Brazil's head coach.

Asked about speculation linking Zidane with the Selecao on Sunday, Le Graet told RMC he did not "give a toss" where the 1998 World Cup winner went and added he would not answer the phone to the former midfielder.

Those comments attracted criticism from star player Mbappe, who wrote on Twitter: "Zidane is France, we don't disrespect the legend like that..."

Zidane has been out of work since leaving Madrid in 2021, having led Los Blancos to three Champions League triumphs and two LaLiga titles across two spells at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

Julian Nagelsmann has elected against discussing Germany's poor World Cup with his Bayern Munich players.

Seven Bayern players featured in Germany's World Cup squad, as Hansi Flick's side failed to progress from the group stage in Qatar.

A defeat to Japan in their Group E opener was followed by a 1-1 draw with Spain, and a 4-2 victory over Costa Rica was not enough to send Germany through.

It is the second successive World Cup that Germany have failed to make the knockout stage, but Nagelsmann – who succeeded Flick at Bayern and has taken his squad to Doha for a training camp – does not believe it is his job to discuss the tournament with his players.

""I thought a lot about how we would address it during the break. I decided on very little," he told reporters.

"The players have the opportunity to come to me. I deliberately left them alone.

"I'm not much of a comforter. It's always a matter of choice. I can talk for half an hour about the bad, sad World Cup. Or I just leave it out.

"Focus on what they can influence – in the present and in the future. I tried to limit myself to that."

Indeed, Nagelsmann hopes the Bayern players instead turn their disappointment into motivation for the rest of the season.

"I can imagine what it means when you are eliminated from a World Cup," he said.

"But sometimes it's night, then it's usually day again. It's day now and there's a lot of light.

"You have it in your own hands to be more successful than you were at the World Cup.

"We, as the coaching staff, need to create the foundation for the players to perform at their best.

"Frustration and disappointment can also be the biggest motivating factor. I sense they are in a good place, they're training well and are fit."

While Thomas Muller, Joshua Kimmich and the rest of Bayern's Germany players endured a difficult World Cup, Dayot Upamecano established himself as a key part of France's defence.

Upamecano made a spectacular block as France drew 3-3 with Argentina in a thrilling final, only for Les Bleus to lose on penalties, but Nagelsmann has been impressed with the 24-year-old's development over the course of the campaign.

"Upamecano has been solid, as he was in the first half of the season, when he developed well," Nagelsmann said.

"He was also on top form in training. He had a good World Cup and he was one of the best defenders. We need him in top form."

Bayern Munich ruled out rushing through a deal for a new goalkeeper as Yann Sommer emerged as a prime target to replace the injured Manuel Neuer.

The 34-year-old Sommer has a contract with Borussia Monchengladbach that runs to the end of this season.

Bayern are weighing up a bid before the January transfer window closes, but they are away in Doha at a training camp for now, so nothing appears imminent.

Sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic spoke at a press conference in the Qatari city on Saturday, where he said efforts were under way to resolve the problem that arose when Neuer suffered a broken leg on a post-World Cup skiing holiday.

Having confirmed Bayern's interest in Switzerland international Sommer on Friday, Salihamidzic has now stressed a deal is not yet in place.

"As I said yesterday, I don't like to talk about other clubs' players," said the former Bayern defender. "The topic of the goalkeeper is of course one where we're thinking about it, but we're working on everything.

"Of course, Manuel's injury is a big blow for us. We're going to continue our work, check options, and then make a decision.

"We have until January 31 and until then we'll either do something or not."

The prospect of the goalkeeper issue going to the wire still appears unlikely, given Bayern resume their Bundesliga campaign on January 20 after the extended winter break.

Coach Julian Nagelsmann would ideally want the situation resolved by then, with there being seemingly little prospect of Alexander Nubel returning from his loan at Monaco.

Nubel has indicated a reluctance to come back, having become a regular in the Monaco team, and Salihamidzic says Bayern are aware of his stance.

"We have had very good communication between us, him and his management. We know exactly what the situation is," said the sporting director.

Bayern will be without defender Noussair Mazraoui for several weeks after announcing on Friday that medical tests had showed up an inflammation issue relating to his heart.

The Morocco international tested positive for COVID-19 at the World Cup, before recovering in time to face France in the semi-finals.

Subsequent tests have shown Mazraoui has a mild inflammation of the pericardium, which is the fluid-filled fibrous sac surrounding the heart.

Salihamidzic said it was unclear whether Mazraoui had been brought back too soon by Morocco.

"It's hard to tell if it was too early or not. He talked to [Morocco] medical staff, he talked to our medical staff, and he had tests. The tests were okay," Salihamidzic said.

"We don't know how it is with post-COVID. It's quite a blow for us that we have to be without him now.

"We'll talk about why this has happened to us. He's an important player for us, so we'll have to try to replace him.

"Of course he will be able to take all the time that he needs to recover. We'll have a test every week and see how he feels from week to week, but for now we're without him."

Zinedine Zidane saw an obvious route back into coaching blocked off when France elected to stick with Didier Deschamps, raising the question of where the former Real Madrid boss could end up.

News came through on Saturday of a new deal for Deschamps that keeps him with France through to the 2026 World Cup.

Had Deschamps been unable to agree terms with the French Football Federation, or elected to walk away after his team's World Cup final penalty shoot-out defeat to Argentina, it seemed Zidane would have been the obvious choice as his successor.

Now, however, he must wait for the chance to coach his country, if it ever arrives, but Zidane should not give up hope of working at the top level in international football.

According to former Brazil playmaker Juninho Pernambucano, coaching the Selecao would be a "perfect" role for the 50-year-old former Ballon d'Or winner.

It has been a long-standing tradition for only Brazilians to be head coach of their national team, but ex-Lyon star Juninho thinks an exception should be made for Zidane.

Tite stepped down after Brazil's World Cup quarter-final exit, creating the current vacancy.

"Football is a democratic sport. Everyone can participate, although the priority will always be a coach from your country, who knows the local football," Juninho told French broadcaster RMC.

"But if today you don't have a name that is unanimous in Brazil, why not look outside? But you can't take someone outside because you're going to propose a huge contract."

Juninho floated the name of Fernando Diniz, who is head coach of Fluminense and "makes his team play in an incredible way".

Unlike Zidane, however, Diniz has yet to win major silverware as a coach.

"I see Zidane as the perfect coach for Brazil," Juninho added.

Speaking in October, Zidane, who has won three Champions League titles as a coach, said he was looking to get back into work.

He had been linked with Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, and club opportunities may be presented now it is clear he will not be stepping into the France job.

"Do I miss the coaching suit? No, I'm not far away," Zidane said. "We're waiting, we're waiting a little bit. Soon, soon."

Josko Gvardiol named Liverpool as his "dream" destination as the RB Leipzig defender continues to attract interest from a host of Europe's biggest clubs.

Gvardiol has been linked with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester City and Real Madrid after enjoying an outstanding World Cup campaign with Croatia, starting all seven of his country's games as they clinched the bronze medal.

The 20-year-old led all defenders for interceptions (11) and clearances (37) at the tournament, also scoring with a brilliant diving header in his team's third-place play-off against Morocco.

Gvardiol partnered former Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren at the heart of Croatia's defence in Qatar, and he is enthusiastic about the prospect of following in his footsteps by moving to Anfield. 

"My dream club? That would definitely be Liverpool," he told RTLDanas. 

"Since I was little, I watched a lot of their matches with my dad. We covered every season in detail. It is a club that has remained in my heart."

However, Gvardiol is in no rush to leave Leipzig – who sit third in the Bundesliga during the competition's mid-season break – before the end of the campaign. 

"I'm not in a hurry," he said. "I'm at Leipzig and we still have six months to finish the season and to win something. Then we will look further to the future."

Chelsea were strongly linked with a move for Gvardiol in the last transfer window before signing fellow defenders Kalidou Koulibaly and Wesley Fofana, and the Leipzig man revealed he was close to moving to Stamford Bridge. 

"Last summer a transfer was close and [Leipzig] simply kept me. I hope to spend these six months with [Leipzig]," he added. 

"Chelsea did not give up, but it was agreed that we would go for the winter. Winter has come, so we need to see what and how to proceed, but it's okay, there's still plenty of time, so we'll see.

"Nobody presented anything to me. But I'm not in a hurry, we have time, let them arrange the plan and we'll see."

Didier Deschamps has agreed to stay on as France coach until June 2026.

The French Football Federation (FFF) confirmed the news on Saturday.

France reached the World Cup final in Qatar, losing to Argentina on penalties following a remarkable 3-3 draw at Lusail Stadium.

Deschamps was appointed France coach in July 2012, succeeding Laurent Blanc.

The 2022 World Cup was unique for many reasons.

It was the first World Cup to be played in the Middle East, and the first one to take place in the middle of the season, as far as Europe's top clubs are concerned.

One thing that did not change, of course, was players being able to use the tournament as a platform to show what they can do on the biggest stage, and perhaps get big moves on the back of it.

While Josko Gvardiol, Enzo Fernandez, Alexis Mac Allister and Jude Bellingham are among the players to possibly fall into that category, Antoine Griezmann is different.

Griezmann is not the youngster making his name, but he did shine in Qatar as, in the space of seven games, he arguably redefined his own position.

That is not to say Griezmann had not been impressive this season prior to the World Cup. Before the tournament he had directly contributed to 10 goals for Atletico Madrid, scoring five and creating as many.

Griezmann's form has come during a season in which he had to settle for a substitute role up until September 18, due to Atleti attempting to navigate a financial clause in their loan agreement with Barcelona, which would have kicked in had the 31-year-old played a certain amount of minutes.

Had that clause been activated, Atleti would have had to pay €40million to re-sign Griezmann. As it was, they paid under half of that to bring him back to the club permanently in October.

It's Barca up next for Atleti in the highlight fixture of this weekend's LaLiga matches. Going into that match, Griezmann is a player reimagined.

 

The creator in chief

Griezmann has returned from the World Cup with a vigour and verve to his play perhaps not seen since his prime years at Atleti back in 2017 to 2019.

His goal contributions stand at 13 (five more than any of his team-mates) after three assists across two appearances since Atleti's campaign restarted – one game in LaLiga and one in the Copa del Rey.

Griezmann leads the club's scoring charts along with Alvaro Morata while his tally of seven assists is four clear of next-best Joao Felix, who seems destined to leave the club this month. None of his team-mates come close to matching Griezmann's 42 chances created, and 35 of those have come from open play.

But it's Griezmann's positioning that is the truly interesting aspect of his fine form.

Didier Deschamps has often utilised Griezmann as a second striker in international football. That was the position he played in at Euro 2016, and during France's successful run at the 2018 World Cup.

Yet in Qatar, Griezmann was deployed as the most advanced of a midfield trio, and there he showed his ability to not only find space in the final third, but run games altogether.

 

Only Kylian Mbappe (49) was involved in more shot-ending attacking sequences for France at the tournament than Griezmann (30).

However, of Griezmann's 361 open-play touches, just 14 came in the opposition box, with the vast majority clustered in the middle of the park.

Not that it prevented Griezmann from wielding his influence. He provided three assists, leading the competition alongside Harry Kane, Bruno Fernandes, Ivan Perisic and Lionel Messi. Unlike all of those players, however, Griezmann's expected assists (xA) of 3.6 was actually slightly underperformed. Essentially, he was creating higher quality chances for those assists than his counterparts.

 

That quality was evidenced with a sublime cross into Olivier Giroud for France's second goal in the 2-1 quarter-final victory over England, having earlier teed up Aurelien Tchouameni's strike to move ahead of Zinedine Zidane and Thierry Henry in terms of the most assists for Les Bleus. Griezmann's 28 assists rank as the most by any France player for his country in the last 50 years.

Griezmann's 22 chances created were the most at the tournament, albeit only nine of those came from open play. When it came to creativity, Griezmann was at the top of his game.

From poacher to playmaker

It was certainly a case of picking up where he left off for Griezmann when Atleti took on Elche in LaLiga on December 29. Diego Simeone's side won 2-0, and Griezmann was superb.

He set up both goals and created four chances. No player attempted more passes in the opposition half (37), or played in more crosses (five).

Despite Atleti having lined up in a 3-4-3, with Griezmann nominally positioned on the right flank, his average position was just ahead of the halfway line.

It was a similar story against Real Oviedo on Wednesday in the Copa del Rey. While he was supposedly playing in a front two alongside Alvaro Morata, Griezmann's touches were centred around the halfway line, with only two coming in the opposition box.

Dovetailing with Morata in a forward line, or indeed playing as an inside forward in a 3-4-3, is in principle ideal for Griezmann to drop into a similar role as to the one he thrived in during the World Cup.

Barca best be wary

It would seem the two-man attack would provide the perfect platform for Griezmann to show what Barca never managed to unlock on a consistent basis during his two years at the club.

Not that his time at Barca was a complete failure. Griezmann scored 35 goals and assisted a further 16 across 102 appearances. But he looks like he has his mojo back now. In fact, no LaLiga player has assisted more goals in all competitions.

Morata should provide the pace and work rate to stretch Barca's backline, handing Griezmann the space to drop between the lines and pull the strings.

Griezmann is averaging 73.4 touches per 90 minutes for Atleti this term, but only 4.8 in the opposition's box. His role has been gradually developing over the course of the campaign and the World Cup proved just how effective he can be.

Barca twice gave away the lead against Intercity Sant Joan d'Alacant in their Copa del Rey tie, and as Inter and Bayern Munich displayed in the Champions League, the Blaugrana's defence can be got at, even if in LaLiga Xavi's side have conceded just six times.

If Griezmann, who at least might be easier to spot, what with his bright pink hair, can replicate the influence he had in Qatar, Barca will be hard-pressed to stop him.

Southampton have signed Croatia winger Mislav Orsic from Dinamo Zagreb in an attempt to boost their Premier League survival hopes.

Orsic – who made six appearances for Croatia at the World Cup in Qatar and scored a sublime winner in their third-place play-off success against Morocco – has signed a two-and-a-half-year deal at St Mary's.

Southampton reportedly convinced Dinamo to part ways with Orsic by making a bid of £6million plus add-ons after Everton and Nottingham Forest were also linked with the 30-year-old.

Saints sit bottom of the Premier League table and three points adrift of safety after Wednesday's 1-0 defeat to Forest, their sixth consecutive loss in the competition.

Southampton manager Nathan Jones was only appointed as Ralph Hasenhuttl's successor in November, but he is already under pressure after becoming the second Saints boss to lose each of his first four Premier League games after Nigel Adkins in the 2012-13 season.

Jones will hope Orsic can transfer his outstanding record against English teams in continental competitions into the Premier League.

Orsic scored the only goal of the game as Dinamo beat Chelsea in their Champions League opener earlier this season, while he also netted a stunning hat-trick in a Europa League win against Tottenham in 2021.

Bayern Munich defender Noussair Mazraoui faces a period on the sidelines after medical tests showed up an inflammation issue relating to his heart.

The Morocco international tested positive for COVID-19 at the World Cup, Bayern said on Friday.

He returned to the team for the Qatar 2022 semi-final against France after missing the last-eight clash with Portugal, but subsequent tests have shown Mazraoui has a mild inflammation of the pericardium, which is the fluid-filled fibrous sac surrounding the heart.

Bayern travelled without him on Friday to a training camp in Doha, and the club have not specified a timeframe for Mazraoui's absence from the squad.

Newspaper Bild has reported the 25-year-old former Ajax player could be out of action for four to six weeks. That would make Mazraoui a doubt for the February 14 first leg of Bayern's Champions League last-16 tie against Paris Saint-Germain.

The Bundesliga leaders said in a statement on their website: "Noussair Mazraoui was not able to fly with the Bayern team to Doha on Friday as they prepare for the second half of the season at their training camp.

"The 25-year-old Morocco international tested positive for COVID-19 during the World Cup in December, meaning he missed the quarter-final against Portugal.

"During a follow-up examination in Munich after the World Cup, FC Bayern team doctor Professor Dr Roland Schmidt diagnosed a mild inflammation of the pericardium, which the defender will now cure.

"This means that Mazraoui will not be available to coach Julian Nagelsmann for the time being."

Bayern signed up Dutch defender Daley Blind on Thursday to fortify their squad ahead of the resumption of the Bundesliga after its extended winter break.

The 10-in-a-row German champions return to domestic action against RB Leipzig on January 20.

Midfielder Marcel Sabitzer also missed the beginning of the training camp due to flu, with plans for him to make the trip to Qatar once well.

Gregg Berhalter was left devastated for his wife after Giovanni Reyna's mother revealed herself to be the one who reported the United States coach to U.S. Soccer over a domestic altercation in 1991 following perceived mistreatment of her son at Qatar 2022.

Berhalter revealed on Tuesday he was the subject of an investigation after he admitted to kicking his then-girlfriend Rosalind, who is now his wife.

He said U.S. Soccer was made aware of the incident by "an individual" who planned to "take me down" during the World Cup.

Danielle Reyna subsequently released a statement on Wednesday confirming she was the individual involved, explaining her actions stemmed from Berhalter seemingly referencing Giovanni when revealing a USA player was nearly sent home from Qatar for poor behaviour.

Giovanni's father, Claudio, a former USA team-mate of Berhalter, also confirmed he "shared my frustrations about my son's World Cup experience with a number of close friends, [U.S. Soccer sporting director] Earnie [Stewart] and [general manager] Brian McBride among them", but he insisted he never made any threats.

The saga has left a stain on American soccer, and Berhalter is particularly disappointed for his wife.

Speaking of the controversy for the first time publicly, Berhalter told the Harvard Business Review: "Our entire family is sad about these events, and it's something we want to move forward from.

"As we said in the statement, it was something we didn't hide from back then and isn't something we are prepared to hide from now, that's why we issued the statement.

"The events of that night 31 years ago and the lessons learned from that basically set the foundation for our relationship moving forward.

"It's a loving relationship, a devoted relationship, and we have four amazing kids to show for it. The worst part of it for me is my heart aches for my wife, because it was her story to tell if she chose to or not, and that's what just really saddens me."

Berhalter's original comments about Giovanni were erroneously published by the Charter newsletter after he spoke at the "HOW Institute for Society's summit on Moral Leadership".

He now regrets ever saying anything, despite believing he was not talking on the record.

"If I had to do it all over again I wouldn't have told that story," he added. "It brought too much attention to an overall shining example of team culture and teamwork. That would be something I'd go back and change, for sure."

Berhalter's contract with the USA ended last week and U.S. Soccer's probe into the 1991 incident is unlikely to have helped his chances of getting a renewal.

U.S. Soccer announced on Wednesday that Anthony Hudson will take charge of the team's upcoming January training camp, though Berhalter is hopeful of returning to the post.

"It's a fantastic group of players, a super high-potential group and we are competing in the World Cup in North America in 2026, so it would be amazing challenge for this team," Berhalter said.

"When we started in 2018, we wanted to change the way the world views American soccer and I think when you ask around the world now about our team, everyone sees us in a different light.

"But now it's about taking that next step, and that next step is doing something no US team has ever done, and that's get to the semi-finals [of a men's World Cup] and see what happens from there.

"There's a lot of great challenges involved, and of course I'd like to continue in my role."

Harry Kane's pivotal penalty miss in England's World Cup defeat against France is fuelling his desire to win trophies.

The Three Lions crashed out at the quarter-final stage in Qatar after Kane hammered an 84th-minute penalty over the crossbar with England 2-1 down against the eventual runners-up.

Kane has scored three Premier League goals in as many games since returning to club side Tottenham, as he looks to put his World Cup disappointment behind him.

The striker netted twice in a 4-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace on Wednesday, moving him to 264 goals for Spurs and within two of the club's all-time record goalscorer Jimmy Greaves.

Kane says his penalty miss still haunts him, but he hopes those bad memories can spur him on to success in the future.

"It was a tough moment for me," Kane told Standard Sport. "It's never an easy thing to go through, but it's part of football, part of the highs and lows of our sport.

"I had a bit of time away after, just to reflect, and it's made me even more hungry to come back and be successful.

"So nights like last night [Spurs' victory at Palace] are always good for me and the team, and it was much needed after the last couple of results as well."

Kane's first goal after the missed spot-kick came in his first game back as Spurs battled from 2-0 down to earn a point at Brentford on Boxing Day.

The striker believes getting straight back to playing has helped him, saying: "After it happened, I just wanted to play again as quick as possible and get it out of my head.

"It's something you have to deal with. I'll probably remember it for the rest of my life, but that's part of the game. It's not going to affect me as a player or as a person.

"I'll keep working hard to improve and it was nice to get our first win since coming back [at Palace]."

England's World Cup exit sparked speculation manager Gareth Southgate could walk away from the job after missing out on a third consecutive major tournament semi-final place.

However, Southgate subsequently decided to stay on until at least the 2024 European Championships, and Kane is delighted he has chosen to remain in charge.

"I'm really happy," Kane added. "I feel like there's some unfinished business there and he's a fantastic coach. We've been close now on a few occasions. 

"We looked strong in the tournament and it was small details that ended up not going our way. It will be nice to have another go at the Euros with the same team and staff."

Meanwhile, Kane already has one eye on the North London Derby against league leaders Arsenal on January 15, with no player scoring more often in that fixture than him (14 goals).

Kane is dreaming of surpassing Greaves' club-record tally against Spurs' rivals, explaining: "The derby would be a nice game [to break the record in], for sure.

"It's a really important game. Arsenal are top of the league and playing really well, so we'll be ready for that. We've got to try to pick up some results ourselves and get some good momentum."

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