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."

Giovanni Reyna's mother Danielle told U.S. Soccer how Gregg Berhalter kicked his wife in 1991 as she was angered by treatment of her son after the World Cup.

Berhalter revealed on Tuesday he was the subject of an investigation as he admitted to the altercation.

The United States head coach 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 has now released a statement confirming she was the individual involved, explaining her frustration at criticism of Giovanni.

"I thought it was especially unfair that Gio, who had apologised for acting immaturely about his playing time, was still being dragged through the mud when Gregg had asked for and received forgiveness for doing something so much worse at the same age," she said.

Berhalter had seemingly referenced Giovanni Reyna when he detailed how one USMNT player was almost sent home from Qatar due to poor behaviour.

The player criticised the "highly fictionalised versions of events", having been forgiven, he said, for a lack of effort in training after learning of his "limited role" in Berhalter's plans.

Also on Wednesday, Claudio Reyna, Giovanni's father and Danielle's wife, as well as a former USMNT team-mate of Berhalter, confirmed he had been in contact with key U.S. Soccer personnel, although he denied threatening the coach.

"While in Qatar, I 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," he said.

"However, at no time did I ever threaten anyone, nor would I ever do so."

Berhalter's U.S. Soccer contract expired last week, with assistant Anthony Hudson set to lead the team in their January friendlies.

Cape Verde is to rename its national stadium after Pele, following FIFA president Gianni Infantino's professed desire to have every nation name a venue after the late forward.

The Brazil star, who passed away last month aged 82, was the only man to win the World Cup three times and remains arguably the greatest footballer of all time.

Speaking at the attacker's memorial earlier this week, Infantino called on each federation member to name a stadium for Pele, to honour the mark he left on world football.

Now Cape Verde will rename its 15,000-seater Estadio Nacional de Cabo Verde, located just outside the capital Praia, as the Pele Stadium, per the country's prime minister Ulisses Correia e Silva.

"As a tribute and recognition to this figure that makes us all great, I manifest the intention of naming our national stadium as Pele Stadium," he said in a statemeFacebook.

"[This is] an initiative that, I believe, will be followed by several countries around the world.

"With the physical disappearance of Edson Arantes de Nascimento, King Pele, who soon became a planetary figure, it is now our wish to pay tribute to him.

"Cape Verde and Brazil have a history and culture that go hand in hand, considering they are two sister countries, linked by language and very similar identities.

"Pele was and always will be a reference in Brazil, in our Portuguese-speaking countries and in the rest of the world, being an idol that links several generations."

Pele, whose Brazil tally of 77 goals remains a joint-record for the men's national team, was laid to rest on Tuesday following a procession.

Lionel Messi was welcomed back to Paris Saint-Germain training with a guard of honour after inspiring Argentina to World Cup glory last month.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner was given an extended break by his club after scoring seven times and assisting three more in Qatar.

Messi, who announced ahead of the tournament it would be his last World Cup participation, landed a second Golden Ball for his starring role in Argentina's third global triumph.

He has played no part in PSG's two matches since Qatar 2022, missing the win over Strasbourg and defeat to Lens in Ligue 1, but he was back in Paris on Wednesday.

PSG's players and coaching staff formed a tunnel for Messi as he walked out of their training base, before he was handed a small trophy by sporting director Luis Campos.

Neymar was among those to greet Messi upon his arrival, but Kylian Mbappe – a beaten finalist at Messi's expense – was absent after being given a breather by Christophe Galtier.

Messi may now be in contention to play a part in Friday's round-of-64 Coupe de France tie with third-tier side Chateauroux.

Prior to heading off to the World Cup, the 35-year-old scored 12 goals and assisted 14 more in 19 appearances this season.

Jon Rahm wants the PGA and DP World tours to collaborate in making a decision on the inclusion of LIV Golf players at this year's Ryder Cup.

A number of high-profile players have left both tours for LIV Golf since the Saudi Arabia-backed circuit's inception last year.

Henrik Stenson was stripped of the Europe captaincy in July after making the switch, with Ryder Cup veterans like Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood among those in danger of being ruled ineligible, while the United States have ruled out the selection of LIV players.

Speaking ahead of the Sentry Tournament of Champions, Rahm said it would not be smart to have a situation at the Ryder Cup – which takes place in Rome in September – where one team calls up LIV Golf players and the other does not.

"Listen, there's some people that are going to have to make some tough choices," he said. "I hope the PGA of America and European Tour make a decision together. I don't think it would be smart to have one team allowing LIV players and one not to.

"And besides that, even if they decide not to on that side, I think it's going to give an opportunity for a lot of great young players to show up and have the chance in Europe, right? It's just going to be an opportunity for all of them. We saw a younger United States team last Ryder Cup and they did what they did [beating Europe 19-9 in 2021].

"I'm hoping these younger guys who have grown up watching the Ryder Cup and seeing their idols do what they do, let's say, it energises the team a little bit in any manner and we show up there to win."

Rahm also joked about the "chaos" around the LIV Golf breakaway, saying: "I've had two kids in 15 months, so compared to that, I don't know if what's happened around golf is as comparable."

He insists it has not changed his perception of his fellow professionals, though, adding: "I didn't feel a difference in any of the majors last year. If somebody has a problem with LIV players, they're just not going to deal with them and that's about it.

"In my mind, like I've said it before, I respect their choice and the ones I was friends with before I'm still going to be friends with, right? It doesn't change the way I'm going to operate with them."

Rahm, a big football fan, was also asked for his opinion on the recent World Cup final that saw Argentina and Lionel Messi beat France on penalties after an exciting 3-3 draw in Qatar, which also featured Kylian Mbappe scoring a hat-trick for Les Bleus.

"That final was incredible," he said. "I think I took more inspiration from Mbappe. He put the team on his back and tied a final that they had no business tying, let's be honest.

"And Messi, I mean, I've been watching Messi play for so long that it's amazing that he can still surprise a lot of people. When the debate of greatest of all time is up in the air, he does what he did and carried Argentina to a World Cup final.

"It's not my business to decide who is the best or who is not because I never saw [Diego] Maradona play, but he's made a pretty good argument.

"I don't know if I'll see a final this good ever again in my lifetime. I hope I do, but I doubt it. The only way this could have been better if it was Messi and [Cristiano] Ronaldo facing off and they each had a hat trick and things like that. Kylian being the next closest thing, because he's clearly the future of this sport."

Most football seasons carry a degree of unpredictability; that's just the nature of sport.

But it's certainly arguable that this season is among the least predictable in living memory due to the unique timing of the World Cup, which took place across November and December for the first time.

In Italy, Napoli would've presumably been the team most frustrated by the timing of Qatar 2022. On course for a first Scudetto since 1990 and the days of Diego Maradona, the Partenopei had been head and shoulders above the rest in Serie A before the World Cup and among the most eye-catching sides in Europe.

They'd lost just once – a 2-0 Champions League defeat at Liverpool – and won all but three matches across all competitions prior to the season's break. So, the key question facing them now is, can momentum survive a two-month hiatus?

The next 10 days or so will give us a fairly clear indication of just how good Napoli are.

Napoli's testing return

Napoli return to action in 2023 with one of the most-anticipated games of the season. Not only are their title credentials set for a thorough examination, but Inter could do with a positive result to kick-start their season.

Simone Inzaghi's men sit fifth, 11 points behind Napoli. A spell of four defeats in six Serie A games between August and October gave Inter an uphill struggle right from the early weeks of the season.

They recovered, to an extent, but did also lose to Juventus in early November. You'd have to think their chances of regaining the title they won in 2021, but relinquished to city rivals Milan last season, will disappear into the realms of impossibility if they are beaten on Wednesday.

Some might even suggest that's the case already. After all, Stats Perform's AI prediction model gives them only a 4.3 per cent chance of finishing the season top – though that is at least higher than the two teams directly above them.

It's not just this Inter clash that Napoli fans will have on their minds, however.

They host bitter rivals Juventus on January 13, and like Inter, the Bianconeri will also still harbour title hopes. That's assuming they don't suffer the unlikely fate of losing to Udinese – whose form tailed off after an incredible start – and winless Cremonese in the interim.

Perhaps all this talk of the title is a bit daft when you consider Napoli's clash with Juve won't even be the halfway point of the season: there remains a long way to go.

However, when a team has been as good as Napoli were before the World Cup, it's only normal to start considering how many more opportunities their rivals have.

Inter potentially have a joker in the pack, though.

Romelu's redemption?

It's been a difficult 18 months for Romelu Lukaku. His highly anticipated return to Chelsea was underwhelming, to say the least, and resulted in him making his way back to Inter.

"It's like coming home," he said. But injuries restricted the 29-year-old to just four appearances in Serie A before the World Cup, therefore Italy is very much still waiting for the real Lukaku to return.

In fact, the world is still waiting. Let's not forget, Lukaku did feature for Belgium in Qatar but did little to rebuild his fractured reputation.

Granted, injuries again limited his involvement but that performance against Croatia as Belgium were knocked out at the group stage was remarkable. He had five shots equalling 1.7 expected goals (xG), including three absolute sitters, yet he failed to convert any.

But if Lukaku does get back to anything like what he showed during his previous spell in San Siro, there's every reason to expect a slightly different Inter between now and the end of the season.

During those two campaigns with the Nerazzurri, Lukaku's haul of 47 league goals was bettered by only four players across the top five leagues. Similarly, his 35 non-penalty (np) strikes was only slightly above his np-xG (33.1 – also the fifth-highest in the top five leagues), which supports the idea he was dependable without being regularly lucky.

Of course, Antonio Conte's system at Inter was what many considered key in Lukaku's improvement. His pace, strength and running power – helped of course by his finishing ability – made the Belgian almost unplayable in a transition-based side.

Chelsea never saw the same player partly because Thomas Tuchel is a more possession-orientated coach; those opportunities to release Lukaku in behind defences just weren't as frequent and he arguably isn't technically good enough to be a key player in such a setup.

As such, Inzaghi was aware he'd have to change his tactics somewhat to adjust to Lukaku this season – this will be tested to the max over the coming weeks, and its success will likely determine Inter's campaign one way or the other.

Alexis Mac Allister is in no rush to make an exit from Brighton and Hove Albion after his World Cup triumph, despite reported interest from multiple European heavyweights.

The Argentina midfielder earned a recall to the national team at the start of last year and proved instrumental in helping Lionel Messi and company reach the summit at Qatar 2022.

His form had already been impressive for the Seagulls this term, but his performances with La Albiceleste have seen links to several major suitors only multiply since.

But speaking after his return to the Premier League outfit following an extended post-tournament break, Mac Allister has insisted he is happy at Brighton.

"I try not to read too much [into speculation]," he told the club's Albion TV channel. "I always say I am happy here. I don't have any rush to leave.

"I feel really good. I'm really grateful [for] this club, my team-mates and all the people who work here. I'm just focused on the next game."

Mac Allister's words will come as a boost to coach Roberto De Zebri, who warned on Monday the 24-year-old could find a mid-season switch an impediment to his game.

Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Juventus are among those all linked with a move for him, though the Blues' pursuit of Enzo Fernandez suggests they may have cooled their interest.

Mac Allister was one of eight Brighton players who headed to the World Cup, and the first Seagulls player to reach the tournament final in history.

The playmaker feels that the experience for all of the team's international stars however will benefit them going forward into 2023, as they look to press on for a top-six finish.

"It was a good World Cup for this club and for the players who went to the World Cup," he added.

"We know we’ve got a good team with really good players. This is a tough league, it will be hard, but we will try to finish as high as we can."

Alexis Mac Allister has been warned against a January move by Brighton and Hove Albion boss Roberto De Zerbi.

Mac Allister won praise for a series of energetic performances for Argentina in Qatar, starting six of La Albiceleste's seven matches as they won the World Cup for a third time.

Although he signed a new three-year contract with Brighton in October, Mac Allister has been linked with some of Europe's biggest sides, with Juventus, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea credited with an interest in the 24-year-old.

On Monday, Mac Allister returned to Brighton for the first time since the tournament and told Sky Sports he was "in no rush" to move elsewhere. 

De Zerbi welcomed those comments as he insisted the AMEX Stadium was the best place for Mac Allister to continue his development.

"I spoke with him an hour ago about playing better. If he wants to stay, we're happy. It's better for him as well as for us," De Zerbi said as he previewed Tuesday's trip to Everton.

"In this moment, changing team could be a problem for him.

"We are happy for him. Now for us he's a very important player. It's better to play with him than to play without him."

Mac Allister scored twice as Brighton won 3-2 at Goodison Park in January last year, but De Zerbi will leave it late before deciding on his involvement this time around.

Asked whether Mac Allister was ready to start, De Zerbi said: "Mentally yes. Physically, I don't know. We'll decide [on Tuesday]."

Brighton fell to a 4-2 defeat in a thrilling contest against Premier League leaders Arsenal on Saturday, with De Zerbi left to lament a lack of luck.

"We are disappointed with the result. We played well," he said. "To get a good result against a big team you have to be a little lucky. We weren't lucky. 

"We had chances to open the game but Arsenal are a great team. We can lose the game, but we are disappointed with the way in which we lost the game, not only for the result, but for the way."

Lautaro Martinez is focused on reigniting Inter's Scudetto charge after returning from his "beautiful" World Cup triumph with Argentina.

Martinez, who was struggling with an ankle injury, played six of Argentina's seven games in Qatar as La Albiceleste claimed their third world crown – 36 years after their last – after a penalty shoot-out victory over France in a dramatic final.

While he did not score in regulation or even extra time at the tournament, Martinez did net the winning spot-kick in a feisty quarter-final against the Netherlands.

His focus has now switched to club matters. Inter are 11 points behind runaway leaders Napoli after 15 games ahead of facing the Partenopei when Serie A resumes on Wednesday.

It was not too long after World Cup glory that Martinez started mentally preparing for the blockbuster clash, and he hopes to inspire the Nerazzurri with his leadership qualities over the remainder of the campaign.

"Already on the return flight, the head was to Napoli and to the things that the coach will tell us to prepare this challenge in the best possible way, because it will be very important," Martinez told reporters.

"I've been here for almost five years and I definitely feel important. I took responsibility in the locker room and I always try to help someone who needs a hand, even young players, because that's how groups are created."

When asked if Inter were still in the Scudetto race, he added: Yes, I believe in everything. The first part [of the season] is not even over yet – even if we have lost important points – and we know it."

While Inter are Martinez's immediate future, he also emphasised the importance of Argentina continuing to pursue further silverware, having also captured the Copa America title in 2021.

"I dreamed of that moment as a kid and didn't think it could be so beautiful," he added. "It was the most important step of my career, the maximum point to reach because you play for the people of your country.

"It was beautiful and exciting also for how we won it, but now we have to keep winning because that's the mentality – to win all the competitions in which you play."

Gianni Infantino has asked each country to name one stadium after Pele in a tribute to the Brazil great.

Pele, the only man to win the World Cup three times as a player, passed away last week aged 82.

Brazil entered a national period of mourning after Pele's death.

Pele's coffin was placed in the centre circle at Urbano Caldeira Stadium in Sao Paulo, the home of his former club Santos, and FIFA president Infantino was in attendance on Monday.

"We are going to ask that all countries in the world have at least one stadium with the name of Pele," Infantino told reporters in Brazil.

"[This will be] so that children know Pele's importance [to the game of football]."

Naming a sporting venue after a former player is not an uncommon occurrence, with such examples as Hungary's Puskas Arena and the Johan Cruyff Arena in Amsterdam.

However, it is more unusual for a venue to be named for a player outside their native country, though again not implausible.

Serie A side Napoli renamed their home ground the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in memory of the Argentina great following his death in 2020.

South Korea's Gwangju World Cup Stadium meanwhile was named after Dutchman Guus Hiddink, who took the nation to a fourth-place finish at the 2004 World Cup.

Pele, whose 77 goals for Brazil stands as a joint record, is set to be laid to rest on Tuesday.

Alexis Mac Allister was welcomed back to Brighton and Hove Albion in elaborate fashion on Monday following his World Cup triumph with Argentina.

The midfielder started six of his country's seven matches in Qatar, scoring in the 2-0 victory over Poland in the group stage, and assisting Angel Di Maria's goal in the final victory against France last month.

Mac Allister subsequently lifted the trophy at Lusail Stadium, and was given the opportunity to do so again on his return to Brighton's training ground in Lancing.

Surrounded by team-mates and members of staff, the 24-year-old raised a replica trophy to huge cheers while sprayed with confetti in the colours of La Albiceleste.

Although he signed a new three-year deal with the Seagulls in October – with the option to extend it by a further year – Mac Allister has been heavily linked with a move away from the Amex Stadium.

Serie A giants Juventus are reportedly favourites to secure his services, while Premier League trio Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea have also been touted as potential destinations.

Virgil van Dijk has not given up on Liverpool's Premier League title hopes despite being 15 points behind Arsenal.

The Reds came from behind to beat Leicester City 2-1 at Anfield on Friday thanks to two Wout Faes own goals, making it four league wins on the bounce for Jurgen Klopp's men.

Van Dijk previously acknowledged Liverpool's performance against the Foxes had been underwhelming, but results are suddenly looking up for a side that had headed into November with just two wins – and three defeats – in seven top-flight games.

Liverpool are four points adrift of great rivals Manchester United in fourth, and yet Van Dijk is still not admitting defeat in the Premier League title race, even though Arsenal are starting to create a handsome lead over everyone.

For Van Dijk, this belief and motivation has partly come from his experience at the World Cup, where the Netherlands were eliminated by eventual winners Argentina in a feisty quarter-final.

He remains hopeful of international success being just around the corner, and this mentality is seemingly keeping his eyes on the prize with Liverpool as well.

"Things were disappointing in the end [for the Netherlands], that is also part of football," he told reporters.

"It was a tough couple of days but then it was about switching back towards the most important things in life; my wife and kids.

"It fuels me because I want to be successful with the Netherlands. I feel like we have a fantastic squad and new era with Ronald Koeman coming back and young players coming through, like Cody [Gakpo] for example. He can make big steps with his transfer [to Liverpool] and then become more important [for the Netherlands].

"Hopefully we can do something nice in the summer with the Nations League finals, that is something I really want to win, even though it is the end of the season when you are absolutely shattered.

"It has also motivated me here. We are quite some points behind Arsenal, but the season could be a very crazy one, a very strange one.

"But we have to be realistic and we're not thinking about the title at the moment. We have to focus on the game ahead of us, win games and then we'll see."

Liverpool are next in action away to Brentford on Monday.

Enzo Fernandez is the epitome of the type of footballer Germany must look to produce, according to RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl.

Benfica midfielder Fernandez had an outstanding World Cup for Argentina and has since been linked with a host of major European clubs, prompting speculation of a move in the January transfer window.

The 21-year-old was an all-action figure in the team that carried off the trophy, and Eberl said Fernandez and Rodrigo de Paul were players whose industry caught the eye.

Eberl, previously sporting director at Borussia Monchengladbach for 14 years, is considered one of German football's smartest thinkers.

He wants to see leaders produced and believes that character trait can be as significant as skill.

"We should have this heart for the cause more into focus again. We have recently moved away a bit from the German virtues such as robustness and assertiveness," Eberl said.

In an interview with Kicker magazine, Eberl spoke of the players who are approaching the end of their international careers.

With Germany hosting Euro 2024, this is a moment where the pressure is on to deliver a winning team, and the World Cup group-stage exit suggests coach Hansi Flick is a long way off establishing such a group.

Eberl said: "I think we have outstanding football players in Germany, but we also know that we will lose very important players like Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller and Ilkay Gundogan.

"We need players like Enzo Fernandez or Rodrigo de Paul with the Argentines. Good footballers who act with total dedication and the ability to work as part of a team. We've lost a bit of that greed to win every single duel."

Among players from teams who reached the World Cup knockout stage and contested at least 60 duels, only Croatia's Mateo Kovacic in the select group of 16 bettered Fernandez's 59 per cent success rate (40 of 68 duels won).

Germany goalkeeper Neuer broke his leg in a skiing accident after the World Cup and will be sidelined for the rest of the season. He is 36, while his Bayern Munich team-mate Muller is 33 and Manchester City midfielder Gundogan is 32. They are in the twilight of their international careers, and the new generation has yet to show it can deliver the success Germany expects.

Eberl added: "Time is clearly against us, because we will only see in the next 10 to 15 years what we have missed.

"We have to get more boys into football again. And one question would be: does it make sense to have youth academies up to under-eight or should we leave the boys in their clubs and start with the junior academies later?"

Page 3 of 110
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.