Real Madrid's pursuit of Paris Saint-Germain's 22-year-old forward Kylian Mbappe has been widely observed.

Los Blancos could not prise the France striker away from PSG during the last transfer window but may be ready to enter the market in a major way next year.

Carlo Ancelotti took over as Madrid head coach in June and is beginning to build his side.

 

TOP STORY –   REAL CONFIDENT OF HUGE DOUBLE SIGNING

The Sun reports that Real Madrid are confident of signing both Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe next year.

The report claims securing Pogba's signature would help Los Blancos clinch a deal for the Paris Saint-Germain star who is a France team-mate.

Pogba is out of contract with Manchester United at the end of this season, while Mbappe has stalled on an extension with PSG and appears set to exit.

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- Madrid are also interested in signing Italy international Federico Chiesa from Juventus, reports Fichajes.

- Atletico Madrid, Juventus and Tottenham are keen on Fiorentina's Serbian forward Dusan Vlahovic, but Mundo Deportivo reports La Viola have set a €70million (£59m) asking price for him.

- Roma are willing to offload Everton target Gonzalo Villar in the January transfer window in order to raise funds to move for Borussia Monchengladbach's Denis Zakaria, claims Tuttomercatoweb.

- Liverpool are leading the race to sign highly sought-after Belgian talent Jeremy Doku who is currently with Rennes, reports RTL.

- Sky Sports reports that Atletico Madrid are eager to complete new deals for Jan Oblak and Thomas Lemar, with talks under way.

- Tottenham's Ryan Sessegnon could be offered a fresh start by Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, according to Takvim.

The October international break has provided an opportunity to reflect on the club season so far, with the campaign starting to settle into some sort of pattern.

Paris Saint-Germain have quickly moved clear at the top of Ligue 1, but there look to be genuine title tussles on the cards in the Premier League, Bundesliga, LaLiga and Serie A.

However, while there are familiar names involved in each league, that does not mean the same individuals are excelling as in previous seasons.

A close-season that saw two of the sport's greats make moves shook things up a little, giving other emerging stars the opportunity to establish themselves at the forefront of the European game.

Studying the best shooters, creators, dribblers and goalkeepers, Stats Perform takes you through the standout statistical performers of 2021-22 so far.

Hotshot Haaland and luckless Lorenzo

There were familiar faces at the top of the shooting charts last season, as Lionel Messi (196 shots) led the way ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo (168). This term, although Ronaldo has hit the ground running, neither rank among the top marksmen.

Kylian Mbappe (35) has had the most attempts, but Erling Haaland is averaging 5.2 per 90. While that is the most among players with 20 total shots or more, it falls short of the 5.8 Messi was mustering last term.

Haaland is certainly making the most of his opportunities, though. From chances worth just 4.77 expected goals (xG), he has produced finishes worth 7.05 expected goals on target (xGOT) – a metric measured after the shot. These efforts have led to seven goals, performing in line with the quality of his finishing.

The Borussia Dortmund man is not outperforming his xG by as much as Karim Benzema, who leads the way in that regard. His nine goals have come from opportunities worth 4.43 xG, although his shots have only accounted for 5.22 xGOT, suggesting poor goalkeeping has also contributed to his success.

Lorenzo Insigne certainly has not encountered any below-par work from opposition keepers. His 27 attempts have been worth 5.5 xG, and he has narrowly surpassed that mark with his xGOT of 5.57. Yet the Napoli captain, third behind Messi and Ronaldo last year with 144 shots, somehow has only two goals.

Just two players in the whole of 2020-21 – Houssem Aouar (seven goals, 10.75 xGOT) and Edin Dzeko (seven goals, 10.58 xGOT) – fell so far short of their xGOT, suggesting Insigne's fortunes must surely change soon.

Benzema benefiting like Kane last year

Bruno Fernandes is one of Europe's best creators and scarcely gets a rest at Manchester United, so it is no surprise to see him figuring high up the rankings for key passes both this season and last. In 2020-21, Fernandes created the second-most chances (95) and the second-most chances from open play (77). This term, he is joint-fifth for total chances created (23).

Eden Hazard is back producing once again, averaging 3.99 key passes per 90 – all from open play. He is third for chances created and first for chances created from open play among those to forge 10 or more opportunities.

But Hazard has only a single assist to his name, not so far as fortunate as Fernandes' team-mate Paul Pogba or his own colleague Benzema.

Pogba has created chances worth just 1.45 expected assists (xA) and Benzema 2.05 xA, yet the pair have seven assists apiece thanks to the fine work of their club-mates. It means Benzema has been involved in 16 goals despite his combined xG and xA making up a mere 6.48. He is a man in top form, but this statistical output does not seem sustainable.

It is Harry Kane's example that Pogba and Benzema are following. His 14 assists led the Premier League last term, but he only actually created chances worth 3.63 xA, far and away the most spectacular disparity as Son Heung-min and Co. boosted Kane's figures.

Messi actually went in the opposite direction, last season creating chances worth 13.37 xA but only being rewarded with nine assists.

Adama dominant with Messi missing

As well as being one of Europe's most prominent shooters and creators, Messi was right at the top for dribbles last term. No player attempted (261) or completed (159) more take-ons. Given Neymar attempted the most dribbles per 90 (11.28) among those with 50 or more attempts, slow starts for two Paris Saint-Germain stars have left a gap in the market.

Unsurprisingly, Adama Traore has stepped into that void. The Wolves winger was next behind Messi for attempts (232) and completions (153) in 2020-21 and now comfortably leads the way (61 and 49). Among those with 20 attempted take-ons or more, Traore is now completing more dribbles per 90 (9.63) than any other player in Europe is even attempting. His success rate is an astonishing 80.33 per cent.

The Spain international has 14 times this season beaten multiple players in the same run and has created six chances immediately after a successful dribble – two more Europe-wide highs.

Traore only ranks joint-second for chances created from all carries, however, his nine trailing Allan Saint-Maximin's 11, with the pair out in front of the rest across various metrics with the ball at their feet.

Oblak off the mark and Keylor kept out

There were two clear outstanding goalkeepers in Europe in 2020-21, as Jan Oblak led the way for goals prevented using expected goals on target data (8.58, having conceded only 25 times excluding own goals) while Keylor Navas had the best save percentage of those to face 50 or more shots on target (80.43). Oblak was second for save percentage (80), with Navas third for goals prevented (8.11).

But both men have slipped below those standards this season.

Oblak has endured a significant wobble, saving only 57.14 per cent of 14 shots and conceding five goals from efforts worth 4.22 xGOT. Navas has a better save percentage of 72.73 but still is not having a positive impact, conceding six from an xGOT of 5.02. He also now looks to have lost his place to Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Going the other way, though, there has been a positive change in fortunes for Aaron Ramsdale, who last year had to make 147 saves – behind only fellow relegated England international Sam Johnstone (166). Since joining Arsenal, Ramsdale has faced just 10 shots on target and saved nine of them, a benchmark save percentage.

Matias Dituro is the standout difference-maker this term, however. Despite conceding 11 times, excluding own goals, since joining Celta Vigo, he has actually prevented 4.05 goals.

Neymar claimed the injury he suffered in the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup was one of the worst moments of his career.

During the making of an exclusive new documentary entitled 'Neymar and The Line of Kings', the 29-year-old Paris Saint-Germain star has seemed to suggest his playing days are winding down.

"I think it's my last World Cup," Neymar told DAZN when asked about next year's showpiece in Qatar. He will turn 31 seven weeks after the final of the tournament, scheduled for December 18, 2022.

PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino, Brazil boss Tite and compatriot Thiago Silva have been among those offering their support to Neymar, who claims he is unsure whether he has the "strength of mind to deal with football" much longer.

And, in another excerpt from the documentary, Neymar revealed one of the toughest incidents he has gone through to date, and just how close he was to suffer an injury with serious consequences.

Neymar, aged 22, was Brazil's poster boy heading into the 2014 World Cup on home soil. Only a year on from his move from Santos to Barcelona, the forward was the nation's great hope as it hosted FIFA's flagship tournament.

He scored four goals – including a double in the opening game against Croatia – as Brazil finished top of Group A.

 

However, Neymar's tournament was ended in the quarter-finals, when Colombia's Camilo Zuniga barged into his back, fracturing a vertebra.

"It was one of the worst moments of my career. It destroyed my dream to keep playing in the World Cup," reflects Neymar in the documentary.

"When I felt that pain in my back, I remember that Marcelo wanted to help me up, but I was really in pain.

"I then tried to move my legs, but I wasn't able to. I didn't have the strength to get up. I told them: 'I can't, I can't, I can't feel anything'.

"The doctor told me, 'I have good news and bad news'. I asked him to tell me the bad news first. He said, 'your World Cup is over'.

"I started sobbing, and asked him, 'and the good news?' – he said: 'you were two centimetres away from not being able to walk anymore'."

Brazil held on to progress to the semi-finals, yet without Neymar, capitulated 7-1 to Germany in one of the most humiliating results in World Cup history.

Neymar, fortunately, recovered, going on to help Barca win a treble in 2014-15, before becoming the world's most expensive player when he joined PSG in 2017.

He also helped Brazil win Olympic gold in Rio in 2016, a crown that was retained at Tokyo 2020.

Sergio Ramos' debut for Paris Saint-Germain has been pushed back again as he continues his recovery from a thigh injury.

Ramos ended a 16-year association with Real Madrid as he joined PSG in July on a free transfer, but he has not played since Los Blancos' Champions League semi-final loss against Chelsea in early May.

Reports suggested the centre-back, who signed a two-year deal at the Parc des Princes, could make his debut on Friday against Angers. However, PSG have confirmed that is not the case.

The Ligue 1 champions released an update on Thursday, announcing Ramos is still in individual training with a view to joining the squad in 10 days, which means he will also seemingly miss Tuesday's Champions League clash with RB Leipzig and the trip to Marseille for Le Classique on October 24.

When asked about the Spain international's prolonged absence, Pochettino said at his pre-match news conference: "I am convinced he will get back to his best.

"It is clear that every player, in this case Sergio Ramos, does not enjoy the situations when they are out and unable to train with their team-mates and play for such a long time.

"He is suffering but is strong mentally and he is coping with it as well as he can. The performance team are helping him stay at a high level and full of motivation to get over this problem."

Ramos appeared in 469 top-flight games for Madrid – with only three players racking up more appearances in the competition for Los Blancos.

He lifted 22 trophies at the club – with only Paco Gento (23) bettering that haul – and started all of his 129 Champions League matches, the most of any player in the competition without a single substitute appearance.

When fit, Pochettino will not just have a defensive leader to call upon, Ramos is also one of the best defenders in terms of attacking returns.

Since the turn of the century, Ramos is the only defender to score 100 goals while playing in one of Europe's top five leagues, and only three players have netted more headed LaLiga goals in that period than the 35-year-old (39).

Karim Benzema remains hopeful of one day linking up with France team-mate Kylian Mbappe at Real Madrid.

Madrid are reported to have had three bids for Mbappe rejected by Paris Saint-Germain during the most recent transfer window, the biggest of which was said to be worth €200million.

The 22-year-old, whose current contract expires at the end of the season, revealed last week he asked to leave the Parc des Princes when Madrid's interest became apparent.

PSG publicly remain confident of convincing him to stay, though Madrid president Florentino Perez has hinted the Spanish giants may look to strike a deal with Mbappe in January when the prolific striker is free to open talks with foreign clubs.

Benzema has previously stated he has no doubt Mbappe will one day join Madrid and reiterated his desire to play alongside his compatriot at club level.

"Do I want to play with Kylian at Madrid? I've said it before, and if you want, I'll say it again. Of course, one day," he told RTVE.

"He is a great player, but you have to respect PSG."

Unlike Benzema, Mbappe has made an underwhelming start to the 2021-22 campaign with just four goals in his first 11 appearances for PSG.

That includes a run of 17 shots without scoring in Ligue 1 since netting against Clermont Foot on September 11.

However, Mbappe's 136 goals in 182 games since joining PSG in August 2017 is a tally bettered by only Cristiano Ronaldo (149), now team-mate Lionel Messi (163) and Robert Lewandowski (191) across that period among players from Europe's top five leagues in all competitions.

The former Monaco man's 61 assists over the same timeframe is the sixth-highest total, meanwhile, with Bayern Munich's Thomas Muller leading the way on 75.

 

Mbappe was last week named on the 30-man shortlist for the 2021 Ballon d'Or, an award that Benzema is among the favourites for in what has been a prolific year in front of goal.

Benzema has a combined 17 goals and assists for Madrid this campaign – 10 goals of his own and a further seven assists – which is three more than next best, Erling Haaland and Lewandowski.

And the Frenchman has been backed by Brazil great and former Madrid striker Ronaldo to see off the likes of Haaland, Lewandowski, Jorginho, Ronaldo and Messi to win the most prestigious individual accolade in football.

"Without a doubt, my candidate for the Ballon d'Or is Benzema," Ronaldo posted on his personal Instagram page on Thursday. 

"He is the best striker, who has played at a brutal level for 10 years and is a champion above all. Don't you think?"

Neymar will find all the support he needs at Paris Saint-Germain after the Brazil superstar questioned his long-term future in football, head coach Mauricio Pochettino has promised.

In May, Neymar signed a new contract to stay with PSG until 2025, and this season he has been joined by Lionel Messi at the Parc des Princes.

Along with Kylian Mbappe, they could forge one of the great strike forces in the game, although at this stage the trio are still finding their way as a combination.

Despite the challenge of making such an exciting alliance work, Neymar has said he is unsure whether he has the "strength of mind to deal with football" much longer and would likely play his final World Cup in Qatar next year.

"Neymar is an honest person and a player who expresses his feelings quickly," PSG boss Pochettino told a news conference on Thursday.

"But I think his mental strength, considering he has been playing football since a very young age and has always had the media spotlight on him, I don't think there are any problems.

"Sometimes things are taken out of context, but I have no doubt he enjoys his football and I'm sure he will play for many years. I don't have any doubts about that."

Asked about mental health in football, in relation to Neymar's comments, Pochettino said: "This is something that exists in high-level sport. As the coaching staff it is our job to have certain tools in place to help our players.

"But I also don't like talking about this in such a surface-level way, because I think it is much more complicated than that. Certain things cannot be taken out of context and we can't simplify these situations, particularly ones that we are not going through ourselves.

"We are always very worried about our players' physical and mental well-being, so we are always available to help them."

 

Focusing on Neymar, Pochettino said: "His passion for football is on display with us every day so I have no doubts about that."

The former Barcelona forward has experienced a slow start to the campaign in terms of his productivity, scoring only once and having just two shots on target in his first seven club games of the season across all competitions.

Yet only Pele (77) has scored more goals for Brazil than Neymar (69), who has won the Confederations Cup (2013) with his country, along with an Olympic Games gold medal in 2016.

His suggestion that the 2022 World Cup may be his last also reflects that Neymar will be 34 by the time the 2026 tournament comes around.

It remains to be seen how PSG are as a force by then, but for now they are expected to win every game, which made the 2-0 loss to Rennes before the international break such a surprise.

That shock reverse followed on from a victory by the same scoreline against Manchester City in the Champions League, and Pochettino reflected on the Rennes game again on Thursday, choosing to describe it as "a slip-up".

On Friday, his team tackle Angers at the Parc des Princes, when they will be expected to get back on track, albeit hampered by absences caused by stars such as Neymar being on World Cup qualifying duty this week in South America.

PSG are unbeaten in their past 21 Ligue 1 games against Angers (W14 D7), which is their longest run without defeat against a single top-flight opponent.

After his Nations League efforts for France, PSG will hope to have a firing Mbappe on the pitch. The striker has failed to score in his previous four Ligue 1 games, his longest top-flight drought since March-May 2018 (six games). None of his past 17 shots in Ligue 1 has found the net.

Newcastle have the wealthiest owners in the world following their £300million takeover last week.

The Magpies have since been linked to a host of top players including Niklas Sule and Philippe Coutinho, with Timo Werner now joining that list.

The Premier League club are 19th in the table, winless this season with only three points from seven games, which suggests they need significant strengthening.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE KEEN ON GERMAN STRIKER

Newcastle are set to splash the cash and could make a bid to sign Chelsea's German striker Timo Werner, says Bild.

The report claims Newcastle have been "in regular contact" with Werner's agent ahead of the January transfer window.

Werner joined Chelsea in a £47.5million deal in June last year from RB Leipzig.

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- Juventus are willing to sell France international midfielder Adrien Rabiot, with Newcastle linked as a suitor, as they raise funds for moves for Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni and Manchester United's Donny van de Beek.

- Marca claims Real Madrid are looking to sign Chelsea's Germany international defender Antonio Rudiger, who is out of contract at the end of this season.

- Liverpool are open to the idea of bringing Philippe Coutinho back to Anfield from Barcelona in January, claims the Express.

- Fichajes claims Liverpool are also considering a £68million (€80m) swoop for Atletico Madrid star Joao Felix, while they also progress contract talks with Mohamed Salah.

- Barcelona and Milan are top of the queue in the pursuit to sign Jesse Lingard if he leaves Old Trafford on a free transfer at the end of this season, according to the Daily Mail.

- Phil Foden has agreed terms on a new six-year contract with Manchester City, reports Goal.com.

Paris Saint-Germain head coach Mauricio Pochettino offered a less assertive assessment of Kylian Mbappe's prospects of remaining with the Ligue 1 giants but said the "situation is open" amid interest from Real Madrid.

Mbappe, who is into the final year of his contract in Paris, has long been courted by Madrid and the French star revealed he wanted to leave PSG for the LaLiga powerhouse at the start of the season.

PSG sporting director Leonardo last week slammed Madrid for their "not respectful" conduct in pursuing Mbappe for the past two years.

Leonardo was confident about the Parisians' chances of extending the 22-year-old's current deal, but Pochettino was less bullish in his assessment of Mbappe's future in the French capital.

"Mbappe is fine, he's a calm boy with a lot of personality and a very sociable character, he is clear about things and loves football, he's very mature for 22-years-old," Pochettino said in an interview with COPE and Radio MARCA.

"Kylian will make the decision he has to make and the club will do everything possible to keep him, because we're taking about one of the best players in the world at 22.

"I'm left with the fact that the situation is open and in the future anything can happen, the position of a few months ago may change in the future, PSG as a club certainly have the ambition and ability to persuade him and offer him things so that he can stay and be happy, the possibilities that he could change his mind are there."

Pochettino also offered an update on former Madrid captain Sergio Ramos, who joined PSG on a free transfer in the off-season but is yet to debut due to injuries.

The 35-year-old is closing in on a return to fitness after a frustrating start to life in Paris.

Ligue 1 leaders PSG play Angers on Friday, before meeting RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Tuesday.

"Unfortunately, Ramos hasn't started training with the group yet, but he is close," Pochettino said.

"We're happy with his progression, he's a great champion and someone who isn't going to doubt his qualities and footballing talent, he's not having a good time right now but he is strong."

Jules Kounde is seemingly bound to eventually move to the Premier League.

But where will the French centre-back land?

Manchester United and Chelsea are both believed to be interested.

 

TOP STORY – ANOTHER DEFENDER SET FOR OLD TRAFFORD?

Manchester United are in the race to sign star Sevilla defender Jules Kounde, according to Fichajes.

Kounde was tipped to join Champions League holders Chelsea but a transfer did not materialise before the end of the previous window, much to the frustration of the player.

Despite the arrival of Raphael Varane, United are reportedly set to make a move for the France international centre-back.

 

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- The front page of Wednesday's Diario AS claims Real Madrid have re-activated their interest in United star Paul Pogba, who will become a free agent at the end of the season. A deal for Pogba would reportedly provide further encouragement for Kylian Mbappe in their pursuit of the Paris Saint-Germain forward.

- Corriere dello Sport claims PSG and Atletico Madrid want Nicolo Barella as his contract talks with Serie A champions Inter stall.

- The Express reports United are considering a move for Monaco and France sensation Aurelien Tchouameni, who is also attracting interest from Madrid, LiverpoolChelsea and Juventus.

Barcelona will sell Sergio Busquets in order to sign Milan's Franck Kessie, says El Nacional. Kessie is out of contract at the end of the season and the star midfielder has been linked with United, PSG, Liverpool, Arsenal and Inter. The front page of Wednesday's Mundo Deportivo, meanwhile, reports Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana, Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger and Pogba are among several soon-to-be free agents being eyed by Barca.

- Le10 Sport claims PSG could join the race for Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic, who is seen as a potential replacement for Madrid target Mbappe. Vlahovic has been linked with Manchester City, Atletico Madrid, Juve, Inter, Arsenal and Liverpool. PSG are also believed to be interested in Borussia Dortmund's sought-after forward Erling Haaland.

Arrigo Sacchi is not surprised Gianluigi Donnarumma was jeered on his return to San Siro after suggesting the Italy goalkeeper "betrayed" Milan by joining Paris Saint-Germain.

Donnarumma arrived at the Ligue 1 giants on a free transfer in July after reaching the end of his Milan contract and failing to agree fresh terms with his boyhood club.

The 22-year-old made 251 appearances for Milan between emerging through their youth ranks in 2015 at the age of 16 and departing for PSG three months ago.

Donnarumma's reluctance to sign a new deal at San Siro, thus meaning Milan received no transfer fee, angered some supporters of his former club.

A section of Milan fans inside San Siro made that frustration known when whistling the young keeper every time he touched the ball for Italy in last week's Nations League semi-final loss to Spain.

Azzurri head coach Roberto Mancini criticised the supporters who booed their former hero, but Milan great Sacchi can understand the reaction.

"I have never jeered anyone in my life, but at times people do go looking for these insults," he said at the Festival dello Sport event in Trento.

"Evidently, there was a betrayal. In football and in everyday life, betrayal has to be repaid in kind. So let's not be shocked by a few jeers."

 

Despite his young age, Donnarumma has already appeared 218 times in Serie A and Ligue 1 combined since making his Milan debut in October 2015.

Only Samir Handanovic (219) and Inaki Williams (220) have featured more regularly in Europe's top five leagues across that period.

Donnarumma has kept 72 clean sheets in those 218 league games and has a save percentage of 72.72.

Eleven others to have played at least 100 times in that timeframe rank higher in that metric than Donnarumma, with Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak (78.87) leading the way.

He earned his 38th cap for Italy in Sunday's 2-1 win over Belgium as the Azzurri finished third in the Nations League.

Georginio Wijnaldum admitted he is "not completely happy" with a lack of playing time at Paris Saint-Germain but has vowed to fight for his place in the side.

The 30-year-old joined the Ligue 1 giants on a free transfer in June after failing to agree a new deal with Liverpool, where he had been a regular for the past five seasons.

Having started five of PSG's first seven games this term, Wijnaldum was named in the starting line-up just once in their five matches prior to the international break.

He has played a part in all but one of the French side's 12 fixtures in all competitions, but the midfielder is not pleased to be playing back-up to Marco Verratti, Idrissa Gueye and Ander Herrera.

"I can't say I'm completely happy," he said at a pre-match news conference ahead of the Netherlands' World Cup qualifier against Gibraltar.

"The situation is not what I wanted. I have played a lot in recent years, was always fit and also did very well. 

"This is something different and that takes getting used to. I was really looking forward to the new step and then this happens. It is very difficult.

"That's football and I'll have to learn to deal with that. I'm a fighter. I have to stay positive and work hard to turn it around."

 

Wijnaldum made 51 appearances for Liverpool in all competitions last season – his most in a single campaign since making his senior debut for Feyenoord in 2006-07.

The 502 minutes Wijnaldum has played this season is the 12th most among PSG players, behind the likes of Gueye (588) and Herrera (868).

Speaking last week, Netherlands head coach Louis van Gaal said he was "worried" by Wijnaldum's situation at the Parc des Princes.

"I already talked to him about that when he arrived here. But the alarm bells are not sounding just yet. I have lots of trust in certain players," Van Gaal added.

"You will remember I took him to the World Cup in 2014 when he was carrying an injury. I started with [Jonathan] De Guzman but Wijnaldum soon took over and did well."

Wijnaldum is in contention to start the Netherlands' home match with Gibraltar on Monday, with victory enough to guarantee a top-two finish in Group G should other results go their way.

Brazil head coach Tite insists too much is expected of Neymar after the superstar forward came in for more criticism following his below-par display against Colombia.

The Selecao's run of nine straight victories in their World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign was ended in a stalemate at Estadio Metropolitano on Sunday.

Neymar played the full 90 minutes in Barranquilla but struggled to make an impact in a game of few clear-cut opportunities.

He misplaced 15 passes against Colombia – his highest tally in a game this qualifying campaign – but Tite defended the 29-year-old after the match.

"Neymar was good and so were the whole team," Tite said at his post-match news conference. 

"Maybe he's expected to do exceptional things all the time and make a difference all the time. 

"He's an exceptional player because he produces exceptional moments, but not all the time. He's a different player, we know that.

"But today he was very well-marked, sometimes with two players on him."

 

Neymar's underwhelming performance came on the day in which he revealed the next World Cup could be his third and final one for Brazil.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has scored 69 goals in 114 caps for Brazil since making his senior debut against the United States in August 2010.

Only Pele (77) has found the net on more occasions for the Selecao, while his cap tally is only bettered by Cafu (142), Roberto Carlos (125) and Dani Alves (119).

Neymar has also endured a largely disappointing campaign at club level, having registered just one goal and two assists in seven games for PSG in all competitions.

Bayern Munich could be set for a busy transfer window.

With Barcelona struggling financially, clubs are eyeing some of their talent.

Bayern are reportedly interested in a number of players at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – DE JONG, TER STEGEN WANTED IN MUNICH

Bayern Munich are eyeing Barcelona quartet Frenkie de Jong, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Pedri and Sergino Dest, according to Sport.

Barca are a club in crisis amid their financial woes, which led to the departure of superstar captain Lionel Messi on a free transfer at the start of the season.

Now, Bundesliga champions Bayern are looking to capitalise, having previously been linked with midfielders De Jong and Pedri, goalkeeper Ter Stegen and right-back Dest.

 

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Barca's move for Manchester City star Raheem Sterling is dependent on the future of Ousmane Dembele, says Sport. Dembele has been linked with Liverpool and Manchester United previously.

- Calciomercato claims Milan will wait to sign wantaway Torino star Andrea Belotti on a free transfer at the end of the season. Monday's Tuttosport reports Serie A champions and city rivals Inter are also interested in the Italy international.

Bruno Fernandes' contract extension is a priority for United, according to Fabrizio Romano. United are also looking to re-sign Luke Shaw and Paul Pogba, who has been linked with Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid.

- The Daily Telegraph reports Newcastle United are eyeing a move for Ralf Rangnick as their sporting director following the club's huge takeover. Rangnick currently works for Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow.

Erling Haaland has his pick of Europe's elite.

The Borussia Dortmund and Norway star is wanted by the likes of Manchester City and Real Madrid.

But Premier League champions City are one particular club looking to prise Haaland from Germany if the rumours are to be believed.

 

TOP STORY – CITY HOPING TO CAPITALISE ON PUMA PARTNERSHIP

Manchester City are hoping their Puma sponsorship and a looming boot deal can help land Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, according to the Daily Star.

City's kits are manufactured by Puma, while Haaland is reportedly poised to sign a boot deal with the German giants.

Haaland has been linked with City, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Barcelona and Juventus.

 

ROUND-UP

- Gazzetta dello Sport claims Juve are planning an approach to bring United midfielder Paul Pogba back to Turin. Pogba is out of contract at the end of the season and while United are keen for a renewal, the Frenchman has been linked with Madrid and PSG also.

- United captain and England defender Harry Maguire is poised for a new bumper contract at Old Trafford, reports the Mirror.

Liverpool are considering a move for Barca's Ousmane Dembele with Juve unwilling to part with Federico Chiesa, says Team Talk.

- According to Football Insider, Newcastle United have made star Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly a priority signing in January. It comes after Newcastle's blockbuster takeover.

PSG are targeting Napoli's soon-to-be free agent Lorenzo Insigne, per Le10 Sport. Insigne has also been linked with Inter and Milan.

- Manchester United outcast Donny van de Beek is wanted by Serie A powerhouse Juve, claims Corriere dello Sport. Van de Beek was in talks over an Everton switch during the previous window.

- Milan star Franck Kessie is among Barca's midfielder targets for the January window, says Diario Sport. Van de Beek, Tottenham's Tanguy Ndombele and Marcelo Brozovic of Inter are also options.

Lionel Messi did not want to leave Barcelona and his eventual signing for Paris Saint-Germain even caught them by surprise, according to the Parisians' sporting director Leonardo.

Messi ended a 21-year association with Barca back in August when it was announced he would not be re-signing for the club.

His contract had officially expired at the end of June but Barca and Messi were expecting to be able to announce a new deal on a reduced salary.

But even with the reduced terms, Barca were still unable to get their wage expenditure under their LaLiga-imposed salary cap, which prevented them registering new signings.

As such, Messi was officially a free agent and PSG quickly swooped to bring him in, with the Ligue 1 champions and Manchester City both being linked with him extensively in the past.

The situation surrounding Messi's inability to re-sign for Barca and his move to PSG shocked the world of football, and that included those at PSG.

"Messi was convinced to stay at Barcelona," Leonardo told reporters at the Festival dello Sport on Saturday.

"We had some contacts. Some rumours were saying he may not stay at Barcelona because his contract was expiring.

"We checked the situation, we talked but we did not have the feeling he wanted to leave Barcelona. However we started networking. This helped us to be in a good position.

"Then Barcelona announced the end of their relationship, so that's the moment we started and it's been great. It's been a surprise for everybody.

"Then he arrived. The way he arrived… he was at Barcelona for 21 years. It was the first transfer he'd done.

"It was a new thing for him to be in a new dressing room. He's got an impacting silence, he doesn't talk much but he is someone to admire."

Another high-profile player signed by PSG on a free transfer in pre-season was Gianluigi Donnarumma, who departed Milan after running his contract down.

Many in Italy have been intensely critical of Donnarumma for opting to leave for the greater riches on offer in Paris, but Leonardo insisted PSG did not get in touch with him until June, two months after his exit was confirmed.

"I know it's a difficult situation," Leonardo said. "We never contacted Donnarumma before June. I don't want to be wrong, I think Milan announced in April that they were not extending the contract [of Donnarumma].

"They signed a new goalkeeper in Mike Maignan, so Donnarumma was free for the market. We had never contacted Donnarumma before, then some things happened.

"I had been in Milan but his future was not decided yet. He was free in June. We talked and we took this decision.

"We had never done previous work to have him for free. He was going to another team if it wasn't PSG. He wouldn't have stayed at Milan."

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