Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere harbours no ill-will towards Christophe Galtier, who he hopes the best for at Paris Saint-Germain.

Galtier left Nice on June 27 and is expected to replace Mauricio Pochettino at PSG.

The former Lille coach enjoyed a fine start to his single season in the south of France, with Nice flying high in Ligue 1 and embarking on a run to the Coupe de France final, beating PSG en route.

However, Nice were unable to keep up their push for Champions League qualification and ultimately had to settle for fifth place, while they were defeated 1-0 by Nantes in the Coupe de France final in May. 

Nevertheless, Rivere is happy that Galtier has the chance to coach a star-studded PSG team, and believes the impending move suits all parties.

He told L'Equipe: "I am very happy that Christophe has the opportunity to coach PSG and I will always keep a watchful eye on him.

"This alignment of the planets is good for everyone."

Galtier did not reportedly see eye to eye with Nice sporting director Julien Fournier, and Rivere conceded there were issues at the club.

"There were these tensions that should not have been expressed in the press," he added.

"It may seem very confusing, but we analysed the situation calmly and I was able to explain my strategy to [INEOS director of sport] Dave [Brailsford].

"Nice must project itself with an offensive style, from the training centre to the first team. The pleasure we had at one time has been lost over the last three years."

Lucien Favre, who enjoyed success at Nice between 2016 and 2018, has been appointed as Galtier's successor.

Former Nice goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale has given a stern warning to Paris Saint-Germain, revealing a fractious dressing room under Christophe Galtier.

Galtier is set to replace Mauricio Pochettino and take over as PSG boss, following the Parisian club's dramatic failure to claim the Champions League.

Nice were second in Ligue 1 at the end of January last season, but the proverbial wheels fell off, with four wins from 12 games between February and April before eventually finishing fifth.

Cardinale, who has been without a club since his contract expired with Nice at the end of the 2020-21 season, cited Galtier's negative impact on the dressing room as a factor and claimed his potential departure for PSG benefits all.

"Honestly, I think it's a good thing that he's leaving," Cardinale told RMC Sport. "For having had two or three conversations with players who are still in the Nice dressing room, there was a big break in the dressing room. There were a lot of problems.

"The coach alienated the dressing room to make himself heard better by management. What I was told, problems between the management of Nice and the coach had become so important that it was rubbing off on the dressing room.

"The coach put the dressing room on his back to be better heard by the management, in view of the signings which were arriving."

Meanwhile, Lucien Favre has been confirmed as Galtier's replacement at Nice, with whom he qualified for the Champions League in 2017, before being taking over at Borussia Dortmund in 2018.

Cardinale, who made 36 Ligue 1 appearances for Nice in that first season under Favre, reiterated his belief the coaching changes will benefit both clubs.

"I think this deal is going to be a win-win. Galtier will be happy," he added. "The Nice locker room, with the Favre's return, I think he's going to be a winner too. And in the eyes of the fans especially, it's the right pick.

Paris Saint-Germain appear close to finalising the appointment of Christophe Galtier after Nice announced his departure, with former Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre replacing him for a second spell at the club. 

PSG have been expected to dispense with the services of Mauricio Pochettino since falling to a dramatic Champions League exit at the hands of Real Madrid in March, despite wrapping up their 10th Ligue 1 title last season.

Galtier, who beat PSG to the title as Lille boss in 2020-21, emerged as their number one target after leading Nice to a fifth-placed finish and the Coupe de France final last term.

The 55-year-old also won the Coupe de la Ligue as Saint-Etienne coach in 2012-13, and has been named Ligue 1 Manager of the Season on three occasions - in 2012-13, 2018-19 and 2020-21.

Speaking to Le Parisien last week, PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi confirmed the club's interest in Galtier, saying: "We are discussing with Nice, it is not a secret. I hope that we will find an agreement quickly."

 

That agreement now looks to be close after Nice confirmed Galtier's departure on Monday, revealing Favre will return to the club he led between 2016 and 2018.

"Christophe Galtier is no longer in charge of the first team at OGC Nice," read a statement on the club's website. 

"This Monday morning, the resumption of the Aiglons will be led by Lucien Favre, whose return the club is proud to announce.

"His first stint on the Cote d'Azur will go down in history. So when it comes to a future full of challenges, it is difficult not to mix ambition and sentiment. 

"The excitement felt by the whole red and black community at the simple mention of his name, for years now, illustrates wonderfully the attachment that is felt for him."

Favre led Nice to a third-placed finish in the 2016-17 season, Mario Balotelli top-scoring with 15 Ligue 1 goals as they sealed Champions League qualification, before departing for Dortmund in 2018.

Favre enjoyed a stunning start to his Dortmund tenure, going unbeaten through his first 15 league games, but failed to end Bayern Munich's dominance of the Bundesliga, finishing second in each of his two full seasons before departing in December 2020.

William Saliba has said he wants to show Arsenal his "true face" next season.

The France international has still not played for the Gunners since his transfer from Saint-Etienne in 2019, reportedly worth around £27million (€31.5m).

Loan moves with Saint-Etienne, Nice and Marseille have followed, but now the 21-year-old centre back is eager to finally show his parent club what they bought three years ago, although he admits he does not know if the Premier League club still want him.

Speaking to Telefoot, Saliba said: "I belong to Arsenal, I still have two years left [on my contract].

"I will be back with Arsenal. I have played zero matches and I still want to show them my true face and have the chance to play for these fans and this great club.

"But it doesn't just depend on me. In any case, to leave like this, would be a shame."

Saliba enjoyed a strong 2021-22 season at Marseille, finishing second in Ligue 1 and reaching the semi-finals of the inaugural Europa Conference League.

He played 36 games in Ligue 1, keeping 13 clean sheets, and attempted 490 passes more than any other player in the French top flight (3,044), completing 599 more than anyone else (2,834).

Asked to describe his campaign in one word, he said: "Surprising, or magical. It's my first full season. I was keen to show who I really am. It's a very positive assessment and really I'm very happy with my season.

"And that's why I had this little lump in my stomach saying to myself: 'Here you go to a club and you mustn't laugh, you mustn't have fun, you must play every game thoroughly.'

"It's as if I stayed at least two or three years, it's really special. Even if I don't come back to Marseille, I'll never forget. Thanks to OM, I spent a great course in my career and it was they who boosted me."

Christophe Galtier and Nice have strongly condemned chants from their supporters about the late Emiliano Sala.

Former Nantes striker Sala died in a plane crash in January 2019 as he travelled from France to the United Kingdom having signed for Cardiff City.

Sala was a hugely popular figure at Nantes, and supporters of the Ligue 1 club sang his name as they won the Coupe de France on Saturday. Nantes beat Nice 1-0 in the final.

But in Nice's first match since their defeat, sections of their home crowd in a 4-2 win over Saint-Etienne could be heard directing derogatory chants towards Sala.

Head coach Galtier was shocked by the abuse, revealing it was the focus of he and the Nice team after the match.

"I don't have words to describe what I heard," Galtier said. "One of the first reactions in the dressing room was not our songs, shouts of joy or relief. It was to talk about what the players heard.

"On behalf of my dressing room, my technical staff, my medical staff, the players, we would like to apologise to the family of Emiliano Sala and FC Nantes."

A Nice statement read: "OGC Nice condemns in the strongest terms the chant about Emiliano Sala heard on Wednesday evening at the Allianz Riviera.

"The club does not recognise its values or those of the entire red and black family in this unthinkable and abject provocation of a minority of its supporters.

"OGC Nice extends its support to the family and loved ones of Emiliano Sala."

Nantes, who beat Rennes 2-1 on Wednesday, also responded to news of the incident.

"I'm outraged," said coach Antoine Kombouare. "These people have no place in stadiums. They should be banned.

"It's shameful, I feel sorry for the family. I knew the fans could be stupid, but these are donkeys."

A Nantes statement added: "FC Nantes has discovered with horror the content of the chants of some OGC Nice supporters and can only strongly condemn such acts degrading the memory of Emiliano Sala.

"At the same time, FC Nantes would like to thank OGC Nice and its coach Christophe Galtier for their support and their firm condemnation of such remarks.

"FC Nantes as a whole supports Emiliano's family and loved ones."

Nantes captain Ludovic Blas said he "was taken for a madman" after insisting the club had a good team last year, but had the last laugh after lifting the Coupe de France on Saturday.

La Maison Jaune beat Nice 1-0 in the final at the Stade de France thanks to Blas' penalty early in the second half.

The 24-year-old midfielder emphatically drilled home his spot-kick after Hicham Boudaoui handled and that was enough for Nantes to win their first major trophy for 21 years, marking the fourth time the club has lifted the Coupe de France.

It has been quite the comeback story for Nantes, who only avoided slipping down to Ligue 2 last season after beating Toulouse on away goals in the relegation playoff.

“Last year, I persisted in saying that we had a good team. I persisted," Blas said after lifting the cup. "I was just saying that, and we had talented players. I was taken for a madman. 

"Now, I would like people to remember that, and not take me for a fool. Frankly, it's the most beautiful thing that could happen. Being this close to going down to Ligue 2, and winning the Coupe de France shows that I really wasn't wrong about this team."

Nantes boss Antoine Kombouare was just as impressed by what he had witnessed, also referencing the journey from nearly being relegated to sealing a place in European football next season.

"We had to stay strong, despite the pressure of what was at stake, we had come from nowhere," he told reporters after the game. "A year ago, we could die and end up in Ligue 2, and here we won the Coupe de France and we will play the Europa League.

"I was reminded that we [are] going to play the Trophee des Champions. Can you imagine the difference? It's hard to believe. It is something exceptional, unique, almost miraculous."

Kombouare also revealed a conversation he had when he gave Blas the captaincy, with the player appearing to predict the future.

"I'm going to tell you a secret," he said. "During the first match at Sochaux, I gave him the armband in the locker room just before going to warm up, and he immediately said to me: 'Coach, I'm very proud, I will take us to the Stade de France and I will lift the Coupe de France'. I was a prisoner of these words."

Dante says Nice's 1-0 Coupe de France final defeat to Nantes on Saturday will "hurt for a long time".

Ludovic Blas scored the only goal of the game from the penalty spot in the first minute of the second half at the Stade de France.

Blas emphatically drilled home his spot-kick after Hicham Boudaoui handled and that was enough for Nantes to win their first major trophy for 21 years.

Nice were left to rue their lack of a cutting edge as they failed to end a trophy drought that stretches back to 1997, when they lifted the Coupe de France for a third time.

Captain Dante was left to reflect on a painful missed opportunity and warned Christophe Galtier's side must respond when they face St Etienne in Ligue 1 on Wednesday, with European qualification not secured.

The Brazilian defender said: "A lot of sadness. We are very disappointed because we really wanted to give this to our supporters and the people that have been waiting for this for so long, but we didn't manage to do so.

"It will hurt for a long time but we need to quickly lift our heads. We have a very important match on Wednesday."

Nice boss Galtier felt his side did not do themselves justice in Paris.

He said: "My feeling is disappointment. When you reach the final and you play for this magnificent trophy, you do everything possible to try to win it. 

"The big regret I have is about our technical quality on an offensive level. We had very little success in what we undertook. We showed too much haste in the game."

He added: "It is a great regret, a very great disappointment."

Ludovic Blas was the hero with a second-half penalty as Nantes ended their 21-year trophy drought by beating Nice 1-0 in the Coupe de France final.

Not since 2001 had Nantes added to their list of honours, but they will play in the Europa League next season after edging Saturday's showdown at the Stade de France.

Blas was on target from the spot in the first minute of the second half after Hicham Boudaoui handled and Stephanie Frappart - the first female to referee a men's Coupe de France final - pointed to the spot.

Nantes held on to to secure a return to Europe, leaving Nice without a trophy since back in 1997.

Amine Gouiri set the tone for a poor first half when his sloppy touch in the penalty area gave Nantes an early let-off.

Blas tried his luck at the other end from just outside the box, but failed to generate enough power on a shot that was saved by Marcin Bulka.

Gouiri's deflected strike flashed wide and Andy Delort should have done better with a header from the resulting corner, with Nantes goalkeeper Alban Lafont flapping.

It was Les Canaris who took the lead right at the start of the second half, Blas emphatically dispatching his spot-kick after Boudaoui handled in the box.

A desperate last-ditch block prevented Moses Simon from doubling Nantes' lead soon after they went in front and Jean-Charles Castelletto headed wide, with Nice looking vulnerable at the back.

Lafont palmed away Delort's drive and showed great reactions to deny Delort following up with 20 minutes to go as Nice failed to conjure up an equaliser.

 

Jim Ratcliffe has pledged to invest £1.75billion into Chelsea's teams and infrastructure if successful in purchasing the Blues, including a "world-class" redevelopment of their Stamford Bridge home.

Ratcliffe, who announced his bid for the west London outfit earlier on Friday, promised to ensure the Blues are "held in the same regard as Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich" in a statement released by his company INEOS.

INEOS already has extensive sporting ties, owning Ligue 1 outfit Nice and enjoying sponsorship deals with the INEOS Grenadiers cycling team and Formula One's Mercedes, and Ratcliffe is now rivalling three consortiums for control of the Blues.

He told The Times the only motivation behind his offer was to "create a very fine club in London", although Friday's statement expands upon Ratcliffe's declaration of interest, pledging substantial investment "for the direct benefit of the club" over the next 10 years and to redevelop Stamford Bridge rather than build a new stadium.

The British billionaire has also said £2.5billion will go to a charitable trust to support victims of Russia's ongoing war on Ukraine after Roman Abramovich was placed under sanctions by the UK government last month.

"Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Chairman of INEOS, has made a formal bid for Chelsea FC, for £4.25billion. £2.5billion is committed to the Charitable Trust to support victims of the war, with £1.75billion committed to investment directly into the club over the next 10 years," the statement read.

"This is a British bid, for a British club. We believe that a club is bigger than its owners, who are temporary custodians of a great tradition, with responsibility to the fans and the community.  

"That is why we are committing to spending £1.75billion over 10 years that will be for the direct benefit of the club.

"We will invest in Stamford Bridge to make it a world-class stadium, befitting of Chelsea FC. This will be organic and ongoing so that we will not move away from the home of Chelsea and risk losing the support of loyal fans.  

"We will continue to invest in the team to ensure we have a first-class squad of the world's greatest players, coaches and support staff, in the men's and women's games, and we hope to continue to invest in the academy to provide opportunity for talented youngsters to develop into first class players. 

"We believe that London should have a club that reflects the stature of the city. One that is held in the same regard as Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich. We intend Chelsea to be that club. 

"We are making this investment as fans of the beautiful game – not as a means to turn a profit. We do that with our core businesses. The club is rooted in its community and its fans. And it is our intention to invest in Chelsea FC for that reason.  

"No further comment will be made from Sir Jim or INEOS during the bidding process."  

Ratcliffe's offer is competing with bids from consortiums fronted by Todd Boehly, Martin Broughton and Stephen Pagliuca, as the Blues await an end to the uncertainty that has surrounded the club since Abramovich announced his intention to sell last month.

Mauricio Pochettino has suggested Paris Saint-Germain's defeat against Nice came down to misfortune more than anything else, after Andy Delort struck late to sink the Ligue 1 leaders.

The title frontrunners came up short against Christophe Galtier's hosts at Allianz Riviera thanks to the Algerian striker's late finish.

With the suspended Kylian Mbappe's absence leaving Les Parisiens short in attack, they have now lost consecutive league games on the road for the first time since April 2019.

Pochettino admitted that his side had not done enough to claim victory, but maintained Nice had not earned their three points either, chalking it up as something of a sporting incident.

"We thought it was going to end in a draw because neither of them had done enough to win," the Argentine stated in his post-game news conference.

"We had control of the game, especially in the second half, but we took a goal in transition and we lost. There's not much to analyse. There are times when if you cannot win, you mustn't lose."

With a Champions League last-16 second leg against Real Madrid to come, Pochettino was keen to re-focus thoughts towards the future, rather than dwell on Saturday's result.

"We are preparing for a competition that everyone in Paris is waiting for and that everyone dreams of," he added. "Wednesday will be a different game, a different opponent, a different competition. I have no doubts that we will play the game that we have to do".

Having guided Lille to the top-tier crown last term before a shock exit, Galtier has set about returning Nice to the upper echelons of the domestic pyramid in the south of France.

His win over PSG notched his fourth consecutive clean sheet as a manager against Saturday's opponents, while match winner Delort was one of his major signings last summer.

Speaking to Canal+ after the match, the Algeria striker was quick to heap praise on his coach too, stating: "He's the best coach in Ligue 1 and I hope he'll stay with us for a long time."

Paris Saint-Germain will be without the suspended Kylian Mbappe against Nice, but Mauricio Pochettino knows his side should not rely on individual performances from one of the world's best players.

PSG are 15 points clear at the Ligue 1 summit ahead of a clash with third-placed Nice on Saturday, but they will not have Mbappe among their ranks.

The France international will return for the second leg of their Champions League last-16 clash with Real Madrid, who he has been heavily linked to when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Mbappe has dominated for PSG this season, scoring 14 times and assisting 10 goals in Ligue 1, while creating a team-leading 47 chances.

No other PSG player has more than five goals (Danilo Pereira) and only Lionel Messi has as many assists, but Pochettino insisted his side cannot continue to rely on individuals to come up with match-winning moments.

"We're talking about one of the best players in the world," Pochettino said of Mbappe's absence at Friday's pre-match news conference. 

"The psychological aspect is important for his team-mates and the opponent. But we know it can happen during a season. The important thing is that the squad believes in its collective strength. 

"We have to develop the idea that the squad isn't strong thanks to individual performances, but rather thanks to its collective strength, which is something we have to cultivate despite having players missing."

PSG's away form in the top flight has come under scrutiny this campaign, picking up 25 points on the road in comparison to 37 at home.

But Pochettino assured that his team's away challenges are normal as they prepare for a trip to Coupe de France finalists Nice, who have won just one of their last 17 top-flight meetings against PSG.

"It can happen during a season. It happens to every big club – and not only to Paris – to play less well away from home," he added. 

"There's no single factor that determines that. We try to play each game in the same way, whether it's home or away. 

"We analyse the way in which we play, looking to dominate, if there is pressure, or a difficult atmosphere in terms of the opponent.

"We also have to acknowledge the contribution of our fans, who generate an atmosphere and give energy, that has an impact, not only on our players but also it negatively affects the opposition."

Pochettino, whose side have lost just one of their last 17 league matches, will see his side take a slender 1-0 lead to Madrid on Tuesday, but his focus remains on one game at a time.

"We have to be focused on the match against Nice and find the right tactics to win," he continued. 

"For the second leg, there will be players missing in Madrid. As for us, we'll see after Saturday's game which players are available. We'll see which is the best team to play Real after the Nice match. 

"We have to be competitive and focused on Saturday's game, out of respect for the competition and for Nice. The best means of preparing for big Champions League matches is to be focused all the time."

Christophe Galtier guided Nice past the minnows of Versailles and into the Coupe de France final, before declaring: "I can't wait to see the Stade de France in red and black."

A first appearance in the competition's final for 25 years awaits Nice now, with Nantes and Monaco going head to head on Wednesday for the right to join them in Paris on May 8.

Nice are owned now by British billionaire Jim Ratcliffe and have big ambitions they are moving towards fulfilling. A trophy is now in their sights, while they sit third in Ligue 1, which meant they began as overwhelming favourites against fourth-tier Versailles.

Goals in the second half from Amine Gouiri and Kasper Dolberg did the job, earning a 2-0 win for the home side as an initially nervy Nice stepped up the pace once they edged ahead.

"There was a lot of pressure before this match," head coach Galtier said. "People wanted to see the amateurs beat the pros. The joy was not the same with us as it was after the successes against PSG or Marseille. It was more relief and satisfaction."

PSG and Marseille were beaten by Nice in the previous two rounds, and it will be the Parisians who are next to come to the Allianz Riviera on Saturday for a Ligue 1 assignment.

"We have to recover quickly to play a big match against Paris," Galtier said. "But there is a lot of joy and relief. I can't wait to see the Stade de France in red and black."

More joy for Galtier could come at the national stadium, as the man who won the Coupe de la Ligue with Saint-Etienne nine years ago and the Ligue 1 title with Lille last season attempts to complete the set of French football's major trophies.

"It would be great as a treble with three different clubs," Galtier said. "I've already won the Coupe de France as an assistant with Alain Perrin at Sochaux and Lyon, but as a head coach it would be extraordinary. However, we are a long way from that."

Goalkeeper Marcin Bulka said Nice were good value for their place in the trophy match.

Bulka told Nice's official website: "There are thousands of teams who take part in this competition, and we have qualified for the final! We are very happy with this qualification. It's well deserved, because we eliminated strong teams like Paris and Marseille.

"It is no accident, no coincidence that we are here. The team deserves this victory and those before and to be in the final. Now we have one last step. We want to win and I hope we will achieve our goal."

Amine Gouiri put Nice in sight of a first Coupe de France triumph for 25 years as Christophe Galtier's team reached the final with a 2-0 win over minnows Versailles.

France Under-21 forward Gouiri eased nerves inside the Allianz Riviera when he drilled Nice ahead with a sharp finish in the 48th minute.

Gouiri had chances to extend the home team's lead, before he laid on the chance for Kasper Dolberg to rattle in the second goal.

Nantes or Nice's neighbours Monaco await in the final, which will be played on May 8 at the Stade de France.

Nice last won this cup in 1997 but have already eliminated Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille in this season's competition and fourth-tier Versailles were understandably conservative in their approach.

Khephren Thuram headed inches over the bar after a left-wing corner from Calvin Stengs picked him out at the near post.

Stengs had a shot from 12 yards well blocked after working the chance well with Gouiri on the left, before Diego Michel trickled a low shot wide at the other end.

Thuram had another great chance after Stengs, this time from the right, clipped in a cross that he could headed straight at goalkeeper Dan Delaunay.

Gouiri threatened early in the second half but took a heavy touch and the chance went, yet within a minute he had another opening, controlling Jordan Lotomba's cross right-wing cross and finding the top-right corner from 12 yards.

Gouiri was denied by Delaunay and then saw another shot deflect wide but Nice's insurance goal came in the 73rd minute when substitute Dolberg lashed into the bottom-left corner.

Evann Guessand struck the crossbar amid a late Nice flurry, as they eased into their first Coupe de France final in 25 years.

Amine Gouiri put Nice in sight of a first Coupe de France triumph for 25 years as Christophe Galtier's team reached the final with a 2-0 win over minnows Versailles.

France Under-21 forward Gouiri eased nerves inside the Allianz Riviera when he drilled Nice ahead with a sharp finish in the 48th minute.

Gouiri had chances to extend the home team's lead, before he laid on the chance for Kasper Dolberg to rattle in the second goal.

Nantes or Nice's neighbours Monaco await in the final, which will be played on May 8 at the Stade de France.

Nice last won this cup in 1997 but have already eliminated Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille in this season's competition and fourth-tier Versailles were understandably conservative in their approach.

Khephren Thuram headed inches over the bar after a left-wing corner from Calvin Stengs picked him out at the near post.

Stengs had a shot from 12 yards well blocked after working the chance well with Gouiri on the left, before Diego Michel trickled a low shot wide at the other end.

Thuram had another great chance after Stengs, this time from the right, clipped in a cross that he could headed straight at goalkeeper Dan Delaunay.

Gouiri threatened early in the second half but took a heavy touch and the chance went, yet within a minute he had another opening, controlling Jordan Lotomba's cross right-wing cross and finding the top-right corner from 12 yards.

Gouiri was denied by Delaunay and then saw another shot deflect wide but Nice's insurance goal came in the 73rd minute when substitute Dolberg lashed into the bottom-left corner.

Evann Guessand struck the crossbar amid a late Nice flurry, as they eased into their first Coupe de France final in 25 years.

It's officially a World Cup year, that means footballers all over the globe will be hoping to get themselves into contention for their own shot at glory in Qatar.

Back in November, Stats Perform began their one-year countdown to the biggest show in football by identifying 11 uncapped players who could potential break into their respective national squads before Qatar 2022 got under way.

With February now upon us, we have revisited those players to see how they have been faring and whether a trip to World Cup looks any likelier…

Luis Maximiano (Portugal) – 23, goalkeeper, Granada

Having been one of LaLiga's form goalkeepers during the early stages of the season, Maximiano has been a little rocky lately. Since the start of December, he has conceded 10 times (excluding own goals) in the league despite those chances only being worth 7.9 xG – that puts him at least partly at fault for 2.1 goals, the sixth-worst over that period.

 

Jonathan Clauss (France) – 29, right-back, Lens

Clauss continues to show his worth in Ligue 1. Since December 1, his three assists have been bettered by only Dimitri Payet and Lovro Majer. Granted, the expected assists (xA) value of those was only 1.2, so there's an element of luck or benefiting from expert finishing, but he's still proving himself a good outlet both out wide and from set plays.

 

Bremer (Brazil) – 24, centre-back, Torino

Torino managed to keep Bremer in January before they extended his contract by a year to 2024 on Wednesday. Not only does that protect his value to the club, it was also a just reward for his reliable form. Since December 1, his tally of 21 interceptions is the second-highest among Serie A defenders, as is his 28 aerial wins.

Sven Botman (Netherlands) – 22, centre-back, Lille

Lille stood firm as Newcastle United tried to prise Botman away in January. Over the past two months, the Dutchman has continued to look an imperious presence at the back – his duel success rate (76.5 per cent) is the highest among defenders with at least 300 minutes on the pitch, while only two of those to have engaged in more than 11 aerials can better his success rate (79 per cent) in the air.

Angelino (Spain) – 25, left-back, RB Leipzig

Spain certainly aren't short of quality options in this area of the pitch, but Angelino is still a standout from an attacking sense. Since early December, his 3.0 xA is the best in the Bundesliga, while only five players have played more key passes than him (16).

 

Riqui Puig (Spain) – 22, midfielder, Barcelona

It's not looking good for Puig. It was thought Xavi's arrival might finally be the break he needed, but he has played only 158 minutes of LaLiga football in the past two months, and that was a period that saw Barca under real stress amid an injury and COVID-19 crisis. With players returning to action, including Pedri, few would be surprised to see his minutes reduce even further.

Christopher Nkunku (France) – 24, midfielder, RB Leipzig

Nkunku continues to look to be in with a great chance of forcing himself into France reckoning. Since we last checked on him, the versatile midfielder has scored four non-penalty Bundesliga goals, bettered by only four players (all out-and-out strikers), and laid on three assists. Only five players have tallied more goal involvements over the same period.

 

Alan Velasco (Argentina) – 19, winger, FC Dallas

Young talents leaving South American countries for MLS is becoming a recurring them – Velasco is the latest. The young winger became Dallas' record signing on February 1, reportedly costing $7million. He has not played much in recent months due to the Argentinian football calendar, so it will be intriguing to see if he kicks on when MLS starts again at the end of the month.

Cade Cowell (United States) – 18, forward, San Jose Earthquakes

The first success story on this list! Cowell was given his international bow in December as the USA beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0. He did only feature for 12 minutes, and it was a partly experimental squad, but a cap is a cap.

Amine Gouiri (France) – 21, forward, Nice

Gouiri is another who continues to plug away to good effect. He slowed a little, and his return of five goal involvements (three assists, two goals) in the specified period is bettered by as many as eight players, though only Payet has as many as seven. The exciting forward is still doing well, though he could do with another minor boost.

 

Matias Arezo (Uruguay) – 19, forward, Granada

With the Uruguayan season finishing in early December, Arezo has not played much since his form was last examined – though he did get one more goal to take his seasonal tally to 15 in 29 games for River Plate (URU). That form earned him his shot in Europe, with Granada pulling off a potentially major coup in bringing him to Spain for about €3million. He awaits a first senior cap, though Uruguay are back in an automatic qualification spot.

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