Alexandre Lacazette has urged Corentin Tolisso to follow his lead by returning to Lyon.

Lacazette, 31, was presented as a Lyon player on Thursday after the club confirmed he is re-joining from Arsenal when his Gunners contract expires at the end of June.

The France striker spent five years in north London after leaving Lyon in 2017 in a deal the Ligue 1 club claim was worth €60million (£51.3m).

It was confirmed on Thursday that he has signed a three-year deal with his former club, though it would seem he may not be the only Lyon youth product to return to the Groupama Stadium.

Tolisso left for Bayern Munich the same year Lacazette departed, and while he won a host of titles, including five Bundesliga crowns and the Champions League, his spell in Germany was an injury-interrupted disappointment.

Only once did he manage to appear in more than half of Bayern's league games, and it was confirmed at the end of May that Tolisso, 27, was to depart at the end of June once his contract had finished.

And, speaking during his presentation, Lacazette told the midfielder where he should head next.

He said: "Above all, I want to help the club get back to the top of the pile. I spoke with the coach, he called me last week. He told me what he expected of me. I don't need the armband to talk in the locker room.

"There have been many changes since I left. The club is progressing well. Anthony [Lopes], he's been writing to me every week for six months to find out if I've made my decision. I also push for Corentin Tolisso to come back."

Lacazette's return means he could yet become Lyon's all-time leading goalscorer.

During his first spell at the club, he netted 129 times – the record, set by Fleury Di Nallo in 1974, is 222.

He could not hide that the record is at the back of his mind but stressed it is not his main objective.

"I thank the president, Vincent [Ponsot, director of football] and Bruno [Cheyrou, technical director], but above all for the welcome and the love you have shown me in recent weeks. It was obvious to me [to return]," he said.

"Despite the absence of the Champions League, the project was more important than anything else.

"I felt I could be useful in the locker room and on the pitch in this project, so it was the best decision.

"It's exciting to come back. I can't wait to start the season. I have progressed in my leadership, I gained experience.

"The ranking of goalscorers in OL's history is in the back of my head, but it's not the priority."

Petr Cech insists he has "full confidence" Romelu Lukaku will find his form again for Chelsea after a frustrating return to the Premier League.

Lukaku returned to Stamford Bridge for a club-record £97.5million after winning the Scudetto with Antonio Conte's Inter in the 2020-21 season.

The Belgium international fired in 24 Serie A goals in that campaign, but struggled to replicate that goalscoring form for Thomas Tuchel's side.

Lukaku still finished the season as Chelsea's top scorer, with his 15 goals leaving him one ahead of Kai Havertz in all competitions, despite the former starting six games fewer.

There were also growing concerns over the fractured relationship between Tuchel and Lukaku, who suggested he would one day like to return to Inter and was not happy with his role at Chelsea.

Chelsea's technical and performance advisor Cech envisages a prosperous season for Lukaku next term, though.

"I personally believe he will have a great season," said Cech, who made 333 top-flight appearances for Chelsea and lifted the Premier League four times.

"Last season, we've seen how strong he can be at the beginning when he came, but unfortunately the long-term injury he sustained in a game against [Aston] Villa slowed everything down and then he had Covid as well.

"We could see towards the end of the season when he was fit and ready to go again how strong he is.

"We had a particular season as a team around Christmas with the Covid issues, he was one of those players affected.

"I have full confidence that he will bounce back, he will have a strong season."

Arnaut Danjuma acknowledged he has "unfinished business in England" but assured he is happy at Villarreal amid speculation over a move to Liverpool.

Danjuma spent two years with Bournemouth before joining Villarreal last August.

The winger was an integral part of Unai Emery's side that reached the Champions League semi-finals, while finishing seventh in LaLiga to qualify for next season's Europa Conference League.

Danjuma led the Villarreal scoring charts in all competitions (16), while only Gerard Moreno can match his 20 direct goal involvements for the Yellow Submarine in the 2021-22 campaign.

Only Samuel Chukwueze (73) and Etienne Capoue (50) completed more dribbles than the Netherlands international, who has starred on the flanks or in a more central role for Emery.

That has led to interest from Liverpool, who could be looking to replace Sadio Mane if the forward joins Bayern Munich, but Danjuma insists he has heard nothing from the Premier League club.

"We've all read what has been said in the press, but I am a quick learner," he told Sky Sports News. "I did an interview in Holland saying I'm aware of the interest.

"They asked me if I was aware of it and I am, as everyone is. I'm aware of it, you are aware of it because it has been in the press. My phone literally went off all the time.

"In that sense, I am aware of it because of the media but I never actually confirmed the interest from Liverpool because the only one that confirms it to me is my team.

"I haven't heard anything from my team and as it stands now, I am enjoying my football at Villarreal. I am really happy there. We had a fantastic season.

"Unai Emery has been fantastic to me. The striking coach has been fantastic to me. The entire club has been unbelievable to me so I'd never in that way downgrade the club I’m playing for."

As for returning to England with a point to prove, Danjuma would like to put the record straight in the Premier League.

"There is definitely unfinished business for me in England," he added. "If you look back to the reasons why I joined Bournemouth initially it was for me to play Premier League football."

Liverpool have confirmed Divock Origi will leave Anfield when his contract expires as the striker reportedly closes in on a move to Milan.

Origi moved to Anfield from Lille in 2014 but was immediately loaned back to the Ligue 1 side.

That set the precedent for an eight-year stay with the Reds in which the Belgium international was used sparingly, but he scored some crucial goals for Jurgen Klopp's side.

"He [Origi] is a legend on and off the pitch. Fantastic footballer, a world-class striker and is our best finisher," Reds manager Klopp said of Origi after he scored in a Merseyside derby win over Everton in April. 

"Everyone would say the same. You see this in training. It is a really hard decision to make to leave him out. Everyone loves Divock here."

Origi scored 22 goals in 107 Premier League appearances for Liverpool, only starting 34 of those matches.

He developed a reputation of being a super-sub, popping up with late strikes against Everton and in the iconic 4-0 thrashing of Barcelona in a Champions League semi-final.

Origi also scored the game-clinching second in the 2019 Champions League final win over Tottenham, securing his legendary status among the Reds faithful.

The 27-year-old has reportedly agreed to join Serie A champions Milan when his Liverpool contract expires at the end of this month.

Alexandre Lacazette will rejoin Lyon on a free transfer from Arsenal, despite the Ligue 1 side not qualifying for European football next season.

Lacazette moved from Lyon to Arsenal in 2017 for an initial €60million (£51.3m) fee on a five-year contract, which comes to its end in June.

The 31-year-old previously suggested he would be open to re-signing for Lyon, adding in April he was in discussion with "many clubs".

Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas responded by stating "if we need to make compromises to get [Lacazette], we will", while director of football Vincent Ponsot outlined his desire to bring the forward back home.

And Peter Bosz's team, who finished eighth in Ligue 1 this season, have managed to seal the France international's return to his boyhood club, announcing on Thursday that Lacazette has signed three-year deal.

Lacazette endured a frustrating campaign in front of goal this season as Arsenal missed out on Champions League qualification to fierce rivals Tottenham.

The striker played 30 Premier League games but only scored four times, his worst return since the 2012-13 term when he managed only league three goals for Lyon.

However, Lacazette provided a creative force for Mikel Arteta's team, sitting joint-top of the assists chart with Bukayo Saka on seven.

Lacazette also ranked sixth for chances created at Arsenal, with his 29 placing him behind Emile Smith Rowe (30), Granit Xhaka (32), Gabriel Martinelli (34), Saka (68) and Martin Odegaard (77).

Bosz will hope Lacazette can deliver that creativity for Lyon next season and find his feet in front of goal, given he was the last non-Paris Saint-Germain player to finish as Ligue 1's outright top scorer (27 goals in 2014-15).

Manchester United have become somewhat accustomed to disappointment over the past nine years, but the 2021-22 season arguably saw them plumb new depths.

United accumulated just 58 points, their worst record in a single Premier League campaign.

But on top of that, champions Manchester City's haul of 93 points meant United finished the season 35 points adrift of the summit – that is comfortably the furthest off the top the Red Devils have ended a term in the Premier League era.

It was also the first time since 1989-90 that United failed to finish a league season with a positive goal difference, as they scored and conceded 57 goals.

Interim manager Ralf Rangnick said during his tenure that the squad needed the equivalent of open-heart surgery, suggesting they needed potentially 10 new players.

There are arguably four players who head into the pre-season under new manager Erik ten Hag having not done themselves a disservice this season, though even they will still have points to prove.
 

Fred

The United career of Fred has been a peculiar one. It's fair to say even his most-ardent backers would admit he's not exactly been worth the monumental reported transfer fee of £52million.

But in his defence, a lot of his time at United has been spent playing out of position. At no point since he joined have the club had a world-class defensive midfielder, meaning he's very often been shoe-horned into that role.

And it rarely takes long for his glaring inadequacies in such a position to come to the surface. First and foremost, his awareness of what's around him is poor, and that's arguably the nightmare situation for someone playing a role in which you expect to receive the ball under pressure just outside your box.

The 2021-22 season still had a bit of that for Fred, but crucially there were more signs of him operating more functionally as a 'number eight', rather than a six, and while few would consider him to be an outstanding passer, it's in this role where his excellent work rate and generally solid technique become much more of an asset to the team.

Among United players to feature for at least 500 minutes across all competitions this season, only Diogo Dalot (2.9) attempted more tackles than Fred (2.7) on a per-90-minute basis, while just three players engaged in more duels than the Brazilian (11.7). He also ranked behind only three for passes into the final third (7.5).

Now, perhaps perception plays a part in what many would consider a decent season for Fred, meaning his low performance level in the past suggests his improvement is exaggerated. But as long as he's not playing as a six again, expect Ten Hag to find a use for him.
 

David de Gea

Few would disagree with the suggestion De Gea's level dipped significantly a few years ago, but there were some positive signs in the 2021-22 season, almost as if he had reacted to the scare of seeing Dean Henderson get some game time in 2020-21.

In fact, his 2.8 goals prevented was the second-best score in the Premier League, highlighting how good his shot-stopping was.

Over the course of the campaign, only Illan Meslier (143) and Kasper Schmeichel (131) managed more saves than De Gea (128). This obviously proves just how unreliable the defence in front of him was, because no team of their stature should have such a busy goalkeeper.

For example, Ederson faced just 60 shots, which was the fewest of any goalkeeper to play over 1,600 minutes.

But despite De Gea generally enjoying a positive season when it comes to bailing United out, there remain plenty of fans and critics who feel the club could still do better than him.

Under Ten Hag, it would seem likely there will be a greater reliance on keeping possession, and this could be where other options are considered.

While De Gea's own-half passing accuracy of 88.2 per cent doesn't sound alarming, there were 12 goalkeepers (minimum 500 minutes) with better records, while the 96 and 95 per cent posted by Ederson and Alisson, respectively, show a significant gulf.

Similarly, in the same group of goalkeepers, De Gea ranked 18th (out of 26) for long-pass accuracy (33.1 per cent). The gap to Ederson (59.3 per cent) and Alisson (48.1 per cent) is even more pronounced.

Of course, a goalkeeper's primary function is to prevent goals, but if yours is completely out of sync with the team's style, then that's automatically an area where you're not maximising potential.
 

Cristiano Ronaldo

When Ronaldo's return was confirmed last year, there was an awful lot of noise around whether he was right for United.

People claimed that, despite his goals, Ronaldo made Juventus a less functional team because he didn't offer enough outside the penalty area.

Those suggestions never quite went away at United either because, regardless of how effective he proved to be in the box, the team in general played below expectations for practically the entire season.

It's impossible to say whether a different striker with a broader arsenal would have turned United into a better team, but given how deep their issues run, it seems a little unfair to pin the blame on Ronaldo.

After all, goals win football matches – he certainly did his bit. Across all competitions, he scored 24 goals at a rate of one every 132.9 minutes. Only Jamie Vardy (131.6 mins), Mohamed Salah (129.5 mins) and Riyad Mahrez (122.1 mins) netted with greater frequency among Premier League players (min. 50 shots).

Similarly, only Salah (31) and Harry Kane (27) scored more than Ronaldo, though each of them had at least an extra 800 minutes on the pitch than him.

Ronaldo's 24 makes him one of only six players to net at least 20 goals in a single season for United since Alex Ferguson retired, with Bruno Fernandes and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (both 28) plundering the most in that span.

Surely Ten Hag won't discard him?
 

Anthony Elanga

There was an expectation Elanga was going to play a reasonable amount of football this season, such had been his progress in the United youth sides.

But he didn't feature in a single Premier League game until Ralf Rangnick's first match in charge at the start of December. Before then, he'd had one brief cameo in the EFL Cup before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer promptly forgot about him again.

As it happened, Elanga proved to be a bit of a Rangnick favourite. Even though a lot of his appearances were from the bench, no outfield player featured in more games for the interim manager than the speedy forward.

Rangnick clearly liked Elanga's pace, attitude and work rate, and he did chip in with three goals. Granted, that was hardly an outstanding number, but over the same period only Ronaldo (12) and Fernandes (five) managed more.

His nine chances created was a pretty poor return, but again, only Ronaldo (84) and Fernandes (67) attempted more shots than the Sweden international (27), so he was offering something in attack.

There's undoubtedly a lot of room for improvement there, and he'll need to sharpen up from a creative sense if he's to have a long-term future at the club, but he's clearly in a stronger position than 12 months ago.

The seemingly never-ending 2021-22 season may be ongoing, with a number of big international fixtures still to be played this month, but plenty of focus is already on the next campaign.

This month's conclusion will mark the end of an era for many players as their contracts come to an end – though for some it will provide a much-needed opportunity to begin a new chapter elsewhere.

For others, becoming a free agent simply provides more bargaining power when negotiating fresh terms with their current employers, at a time when most clubs cannot spend as frivolously on new players as they once could.

While some big-name freebies have already moved clubs, and others are reported to have signed pre-contract agreements elsewhere – such as Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen at Barcelona – others remain on the market.

Here, Stats Perform picks out some of those who are on the lookout for a new club.


Player: Paul Pogba
Current club: Manchester United
Rumoured suitors: Juventus, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain

United last week announced the departures of six players, with Juan Mata, Edinson Cavani, Jesse Lingard and Pogba among them. While the first three of those will undoubtedly be of interest to teams across the continent, Pogba is arguably the most in-demand free agent around.

Juventus reportedly lead the way for the France international, who won eight trophies in four seasons with the Serie A giants prior to rejoining United in 2016. Whichever side of the divide you stand – that Pogba has too often been used out of position or is just simply not good enough – there is no denying his second spell at Old Trafford has not gone to plan.

Still, with 67 goals and assists in the Premier League since the start of 2016-17, United are waving goodbye to a player who has been involved in 17.5 per cent of their goals across that period – only Marcus Rashford (21.9 per cent) has directly contributed to more.

 

Player: Gareth Bale
Current club: Real Madrid
Rumoured suitors: Cardiff City, Getafe, MLS clubs

As the winner of 16 trophies across nine seasons at Madrid – one of those spent on loan at Tottenham – and still aged just 32, you would imagine Bale would have the pick of the world's top clubs to choose from in the upcoming transfer window.

But that is not quite the case, with hometown club Cardiff City and Madrid-based Getafe now considered the two favourites to land the Wales international. That does come with a caveat of sorts, though, as Bale's main focus is on entering November's World Cup with Wales in peak fitness, rather than adding to his trophy collection.

The forward has had a number of injury setbacks in recent years but, wherever he plies his trade next season, he will want to play more football than he did in 2021-22 when available. He featured in just seven of Madrid's 56 matches, totalling 290 minutes on the field, and started only four of those – seven per cent of all minutes Madrid played.

 

Player: Ousmane Dembele
Current club: Barcelona
Rumoured suitors: Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool

Barcelona were eager to get Dembele off their books in January, so much so that director of football Mateu Alemany publicly told the France international to find a new club "immediately". Five months on, after a strong second half to the 2021-22 season, Barca would like nothing more than to retain Dembele's services.

The former Borussia Dortmund attacker assisted 11 LaLiga goals between the start of 2022 and the end of the season, a tally that no other player across Europe's top five leagues could match, with Lionel Messi next best on 10 with PSG in Ligue 1.

Re-signing Messi has been touted, but that seems fanciful a year on from his emotional exit, so Barca may well focus on tying Dembele down to a new deal before PSG – who also have another ex-Barcelona favourite in Neymar on their books – add to a star-studded frontline.

 

Player: Paulo Dybala
Current club: Juventus
Rumoured suitors: Arsenal, Tottenham, Barcelona

Juventus are coming off the back of their first trophyless season in a decade, and with it comes the end of an era in many ways as Giorgio Chiellini is departing after 18 years in Turin, while Federico Bernardeschi is also on his way out and seemingly set for Napoli.

However, the name on everyone's lips right now is Dybala's, even if the Argentina international has not fully lived up to the admittedly huge hype following his arrival at Juve from Palermo in a €40million transfer seven years ago.

Dybala can still be pleased enough with his goalscoring return at the Allianz Stadium, having netted 115 goals in 293 appearances in all competitions, making him the club's third-highest foreign goalscorer of all time behind David Trezeguet (171) and John Hansen (124).

 

Player: Angel Di Maria 
Current club: Paris Saint-Germain
Rumoured suitors: Juventus, Barcelona

Di Maria signed off from PSG in the near-perfect manner with a goal and an assist in his final game for the club against Metz last month, though his importance clearly diminished following the arrival of Messi as he started just 19 Ligue 1 games last term, down from 23 in the two previous campaigns.

That performance against Metz, albeit in a dead-rubber, highlighted Di Maria's quality when used and it is perhaps little surprise that some big-name clubs are interested. A move to Juventus seemed a certainty not so long ago, but Barcelona are supposedly now the frontrunners for the 34-year-old.

Di Maria is not the only South American attacker available to sign on a free next month, either, as the aforementioned Cavani and Uruguay international team-mate Luis Suarez are also on the lookout for a new club following their exits from United and Atletico Madrid respectively.

Gareth Bale can still "definitely do a job in the Premier League", according to his former Wales team-mate Joe Ledley.

Bale will officially become a free agent at the end of this month when his contract at Real Madrid, where he has spent the past nine seasons, expires.

The 32-year-old is on the lookout for a new club to maintain his fitness after inspiring Wales to their first World Cup in 64 years with victory over Ukraine on Sunday.

That ended any talk of an early retirement, with a number of clubs being credited with an interest in Bale, including hometown team Cardiff City, Getafe and sides in Major League Soccer.

Ledley, who played with Bale for Wales until 2018, believes English top-flight clubs should be eyeing up a move for him, one year on from his loan spell with Tottenham.

Speaking exclusively to Stats Perform, Ledley said: "I'd love obviously to see him back home in Cardiff, but the Championship is way too much; that's too many games.

"You're playing Saturday, Tuesday. The only benefit would be to have the Welsh medical team on his doorstep which is for me one of the best medical teams around - and that would benefit him.

"But the World Cup is not far away. I don't think he'll be missing many games wherever he signed.

"He can definitely do a job in the Premier League, without a shadow of a doubt.

"We'll see what happens but I'm sure after these few games [for Wales] he will have a rest for a month or two and decide his future."

Bale won 16 trophies during his time with Madrid, but he barely played in the 2021-22 campaign, which ended with Los Blancos winning a LaLiga and Champions League double.

He featured in seven of Madrid's 56 matches in all competitions – 13 per cent – with just four of those being starts.

Ledley thinks Bale was harshly treated by the Spanish giants, yet believes the club and their supporters are already starting to appreciate what he achieved during his time there.

"I thought they were very harsh on him considering what he achieved," he added.

"Then you look at how grateful they were to him near the end of his last appearance at the Bernabeu [when he was applauded by supporters]. They appreciate what he's done and sometimes this happens in football.

"Once they've gone you appreciate them more, but during his time I thought they were very harsh considering some of the other signings and other players that they've had.

"They got away with a little bit more than Gareth did considering what he's achieved there.

"But that's football and people say maybe he didn't help yourself and stuff like that, but, for me, he's one of the most dedicated footballers and professionals. He's never been in the papers for the wrong things."

There had been speculation Bale could retire if Wales did not qualify for Qatar 2022, but Ledley hopes the Dragons' success means he keeps going for a while yet.

"I'm sure he's dedicated to trying to play for Wales as long as possible," he said.

"The one thing you miss is playing for your national team because we've got that sort of unique camp where everyone just loves meeting up for Wales and I think he would miss that.

"I'm just grateful he's still got another year hopefully inside him and he hasn't decided to retire because football is better with him."

Matt Targett has made the switch to Newcastle United on a permanent basis after the Magpies signed the defender from Aston Villa on a four-year deal.

The 26-year-old spent the latter half of last season on loan at St James' Park under Eddie Howe, and played a major role in their remarkable revival from being in great danger of suffering relegation.

Full-back Targett has now returned to Tyneside as Newcastle's first signing of the transfer window.

"I'm absolutely delighted to sign a four-year contract with this club," Targett told the club's official website.

"For me, it was an easy decision to make the loan permanent after the welcome I had from my fellow players, the staff, the supporters and the owners so I'm really happy to be here."

Newcastle boss Howe said: "Matt had a fantastic impact after joining on loan in January and made a big contribution to some excellent team performances.

"He is a great lad and a top professional who undoubtedly makes us stronger, so I'm delighted he sees his future here."

Targett made 16 appearances for the club last season and is expected to be the first of several new faces for the ambitious Magpies.

Tottenham have reached an agreement to sign Fraser Forster on a free transfer.

The 34-year-old will join at the start of July on a two-year deal once his Southampton contract officially expires.

Forster has spent the past eight years at St Mary's, albeit with a season on loan at Celtic in 2019-20, and made 134 appearances for the club in the Premier League.

That includes 19 top-flight outings last season when conceding 35 goals and keeping three clean sheets.

Tottenham confirmed the six-cap England international's imminent arrival on their official website on Wednesday.

The agreement comes a week after Spurs agreed terms with Ivan Perisic, who will also arrive on a free from Inter.

Forster is expected to be second choice behind Hugo Lloris following loanee Pierluigi Gollini's return to Atalanta last week.

Youri Tielemans says leaving Leicester City this transfer window "is not out of the question" amid ongoing links with a possible move to Arsenal.

The Belgium international is into the final 12 months of his Leicester contract and has also previously been touted as a target for Tottenham, Manchester United and Real Madrid.

He has impressed across his three-and-a-half-year stay at Leicester, the 25-year-old having scored 18 goals and assisted the same amount in 120 Premier League games.

That ranks Tielemans in the top 10 midfielders in the competition since his debut in February 2019 in terms of goal involvements, while he is sixth for successful passes (5,477).

The Anderlecht youth product is understandably attracting interest from elsewhere, and he has not ruled out the possibility of exiting the King Power Stadium in the coming weeks.

"That is not out of the question," Tielemans, who scored the winning goal for Leicester in the 2021 FA Cup final, said at a news conference while away on international duty.

"I feel very good at Leicester, I was welcomed with open arms from day one. I'll give everything for the club until the last day.

"But of course you have to listen to other opportunities, you have to look at your career, and sometimes you have to make choices. Maybe one will come my way."

Tielemans started 29 games for Leicester in the Premier League last season – the most of any outfield player – and reached double figures for goals and assists combined (10).

Discussing Tielemans' future in March, Brendan Rodgers accepted the midfielder will have the final say on his future.

"He's got a big choice to make at some point. We'd love him to stay, we want him to stay," Rodgers said. "He's been a massive part of my time here. 

"It's a real pleasure to work with him and see his progress as well but he has to take his time and decide and if he feels that this is the place for him to be, we'll be delighted.

"But I always respect the choice of a player, as I've said many times, as long as they're committed and give everything and behave as you'd expect, then there'll be no drama."

With Marcus Rashford reportedly drawing interest from Italy, Spain and even Tottenham, Manchester United are trying to keep him at Old Trafford by placing a price-tag on him "between £70million and £80m".

In a disappointing campaign, the 24-year-old scored just five goals from 32 games in all club competition, and he did not play a full 90 minutes in any of the five Champions League fixtures he was healthy for (subbed on twice, subbed off three times).

His Premier League season also did not go to plan, missing the first seven games due to a shoulder injury, and finishing with 12 of his 25 appearances coming off the bench.

TOP STORY – RED DEVILS LOOK TO KEEP RIVALS AWAY FROM RASHFORD

The exact figures of "between £70m and £80m" came from Italian super-agent Roberto De Fanti during an exclusive interview with CaughtOffside, where he said he expected United to ask for "around £40m, maybe £50m."

De Fanti mentioned he was aware of interest from "all the top sides in Spain and Italy" and that Rashford's management had met with Tottenham about a potential deal, but Spurs "feel negotiating a deal for Rashford is virtually impossible" due to the asking price.

Emphasising that it is not a case of United trying to scrounge every possible dollar out of a sale, De Fanti said "United are confident a club is unlikely to pay that [figure]", and that he is not on the list of players Erik ten Hag is planning on selling to fund up to six new signings.

 

ROUND-UP

– According to The Sun, Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku has been contacting Inter since Christmas in an attempt to expedite a transfer away from Stamford Bridge.

– Todofichajes is reporting Liverpool view Chelsea's Christian Pulisic as a potential replacement for Sadio Mane, with the American's price-tag said to be in the range of £42m.

West Ham United sent scouts to watch Denmark's recent Nations League fixture, with the Daily Star reporting they are interested in both Christian Eriksen and Atalanta right-back Joakim Maehle.

– According to De Telegraaf, Barcelona are willing to part ways with Frenkie de Jong if they receive what they perceive to be a fair offer, with Manchester United leading the race.

– The Express is reporting that Newcastle United have set their sights on Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin after missing out on Bayer Leverkusen star Moussa Diaby.

Former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal says Ed Woodward’s departure from Old Trafford could "make the difference" for new boss Erik ten Hag to have success with the Red Devils.

Van Gaal led United from 2014 to 2016, winning the 2016 FA Cup before being sacked two days later with Woodward in charge as the club’s vice-chairman at the time.

The 70-year-old Dutchman has been critical of United in the past for being too commercially focused, rather than being a football club.

Woodward had been at the helm at Old Trafford from 2012 until February this year, with Richard Arnold replacing him in the lead-up to Ten Hag’s appointment as the club’s new manager in April.

Ten Hag, who joined United from Dutch champions Ajax, faces a stern challenge reviving the club who has not won silverware since 2017, but Van Gaal believes change at the top may help his cause.

"There is now a new leadership," Van Gaal told reporters ahead of the Netherlands’ Nations League game with Wales in Cardiff on Wednesday.

"It was Woodward, now it's Richard Arnold, and that can make the difference so we have to wait and see.

"[Ten Hag] has a lot of confidence, so who am I to say something about that?"

Upon his appointment as United boss, Ten Hag had rebuffed Van Gaal’s claims about the club being too interested in commercial affairs.

"I draw my own line and I’m convinced that is not the case," Ten Hag said.

"I spoke to the directors about it and football is one, two, three these days."

Liverpool's Champions League final loss seemingly signalled the end for Sadio Mane at Anfield.

Luis Diaz's January transfer and fresh links to further potential signings at Anfield may all lead to Mane's eventual departure. 

And he might not be the only Reds superstar looking to the exit.

TOP STORY – SALAH WEIGHS UP BARCELONA MOVE

Mohamed Salah has reconsidered his future at Liverpool after an offer from Barcelona, according to the Mirror.

The 29-year-old had reportedly informed close friends he was willing to commit his playing future to Liverpool, with his contract expiring at the end of next season and talks over a renewal ongoing.

But reports suggested Barca's subsequent promise to sign him on a free transfer at the end of next season has prompted the Egypt international to reconsider his options at Anfield.

If Salah does not confirm an extension this off-season, it brings a number of other clubs into play, opening the possibility of him leaving as a free agent after what would be six years. 

ROUND-UP

Sadio Mane has already asked Reds team-mate Thiago Alcantara if he can move into his house in the event he signs for Bayern Munich, the Daily Mail reports.

– Manchester United have yet to lodge an official bid for Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong, but the Catalan club are open to selling him, per Sport.

– United are also keen on signing Inter right-back Denzel Dumfries, Calciomercato claims.

– Thomas Tuchel's primary defensive target for Chelsea remains Sevilla centre-back Jules Kounde, according to talkSPORT.

Kylian Mbappe, Vinicius Junior and Erling Haaland are the three most valuable players in world football, according to research group CIES Football Observatory.

Mbappe comes in as the most valuable having had a stellar season with Paris Saint-Germain, with 60 goal involvements (39 goals, 21 assists) in 46 games in all competitions.

Vinicius won the LaLiga and Champions League double with Real Madrid, while Haaland is soon to make a lucrative move from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City after scoring 86 goals in 89 games during his time in Germany.

Mbappe turned down a move to Madrid to sign a new three-year deal with PSG last month, and the France international and World Cup winner is valued at an estimated €205.6million (£175.7m) by the CIES.

 

Vinicius is second at €185.5m (£158.3m), while Haaland supposedly has a value of €152.9m (£130.4m) despite costing City just €60m (£51m) thanks to a release clause.

The rest of the top 10 includes Barcelona trio Pedri, Frenkie de Jong and Ferran Torres, City's Phil Foden and Ruben Dias, Dortmund's Jude Bellingham and Liverpool's Luis Diaz.

CIES' research is based on a range of measures such as age, value of club, level of player performance and inflation.

The CIES report states: "The statistical model to estimate the transfer values for players from teams of the five major European leagues was built from a sample of 1,790 paid transfers carried out between July 2012 and January 2020.

"The correlation between the sums paid and estimated is greater than 80 per cent. This shows that the variables taken into account explain more than four-fifths of the gaps in the level of fees paid for transfers included in the model."

 

Top 10 valued players in world football (according to CIES Football Observatory)
1. Kylian Mbappe (PSG) - €205.6m (£175.7m)
2. Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid) - €185.5m (£158.3m)
3. Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund) - €152.9m (£130.4m)
4. Pedri (Barcelona) - €135.1m (£115.4m)
5. Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund) - €133.7m (£114.2m)
6. Phil Foden (Man City) - €124.0m (£105.9m)
7. Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona) - €112.5m (£96.1m)
8. Luis Diaz (Liverpool) - €110.1m (£94.0m)
9. Ruben Dias (Man City) - €109.6m (£93.6m)
10. Ferran Torres (Barcelona) - €109.5m (£93.5m)

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