Brazil great Cafu has backed Darwin Nunez to succeed should he join Liverpool, given the Reds' recent purchasing history and coaching ability of Jurgen Klopp.

Sadio Mane has been subject of repeated interest from Bayern Munich, with the Bundesliga champions attempting to secure the services of the Senegal international.

Julian Nagelsmann's side are reported to have had a second bid for the Liverpool forward rejected earlier this week, but Bayern are expected to persist with their advances.

Mane's exit would open the door for Liverpool to sign Nunez, who has been heavily linked with a big-money move to Anfield that could be worth up to €100million (£85m).

Nunez has scored 48 goals in 85 games for Benfica in all competitions and averaged 1.2 goals every 90 minutes in the Portuguese Primeira Liga last season.

The 22-year-old managed 34 goals in 41 games in all competitions last campaign, including six Champions League strikes against Barcelona, Bayern, Ajax and Liverpool.

After the success of signings such as Mohamed Salah, Mane and Alisson, along with more recent transfers such as Thiago and Luis Diaz, Cafu believes Liverpool rarely get things wrong in the transfer market.

"Look, every time Liverpool acquires a player, it's a spot-on purchase," Cafu told Stats Perform at a media day ahead of his participation in Sunday's Soccer Aid charity match.

"Klopp is a very, very smart coach, very good, he's been doing well at Liverpool for many years, if he wants to get this player it's because Liverpool really wants to bet a lot on him."

Cafu also discussed the success of his former side Roma, who lifted their first major European trophy with Europa Conference League success under Jose Mourinho this term.

That was the Giallorossi's first title in any competition since the Coppa Italia in 2008 and Cafu, who won the Scudetto with Roma in 2001, expressed his delight to see his former team triumphing.

"Yes, it's difficult but not impossible [winning trophies in Rome]. We won, we celebrated, we've been celebrating until today," he added. 

"Congratulations to Mourinho and the whole team, which has a great season this year, getting to win the Conference League, and let's hope they can continue this way.

"It's a place where, when they win, they celebrate for a long time. I hope they're very happy of this season."

However, Cafu refused to make comparisons between Mourinho's winning team and the Roma side he played in.

"It's not that we were stronger, you just can't compare," he continued. "It was a team that won the Scudetto, we won a lot of great things, this team won as well, but you can't compare a winning team."

Jordan Pickford is undoubtedly the number one goalkeeper for England, according to former Three Lions star David Seaman.

Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale and Nick Pope are embroiled in a battle for a place between the posts for Gareth Southgate's side, with the Everton keeper the long-term favourite.

Former Sunderland man Pickford was the first-choice starter as England made the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and when the Three Lions lost on penalties in the final at Euro 2020 to Italy three years later.

Questions have persisted as to the credentials of Pickford, with suggestions his distribution is inferior to his competitors, while he has been battling Premier League relegation with Everton at club level.

Ramsdale has been fighting at the other end of the league with Arsenal, who narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification to Tottenham after a poor end to the 2021-22 campaign.

Pope is another name often floated for a place in Southgate's side, but he will be playing Championship football with Burnley next season unless he secures a move away.

Seaman, speaking to Stats Perform at a media day ahead of his participation in Sunday's Soccer Aid charity match, believes there should be no doubts over Pickford's position in the England side.

"There's a lot of competition, there's no doubt for the number one spot. Jordan's the number one, there's no doubt about that because he keeps producing for England," Seaman said. 

"There's no way or no reason for him not to be England number one. He had a great end to the season with Everton producing massive saves under massive pressure.

"The relegation battle is far worse than going for titles trust me. I've had a relegation with Birmingham City, and it was horrible. And especially with a team like Everton who were in serious trouble, that's even more pressure.

"So Jordan's proved that he can handle that. He's played in the semi-final and final. He's got great experience. He's got great ability, and while he keeps doing it, he'll stay number one, but they're really close to it. The other two."

Only five goalkeepers made more saves than Pickford's 117 in the Premier League in the 2021-22 season, but he is 15th in terms of save percentage (66.7) of goalkeepers to have played five games or more, while Ramsdale is ninth (69.8 per cent).

Pope is fourth on that list with a save percentage of 71.7, and Seaman reckons England have the best depth of choice in goal that they have had in a long time. 

"It's good at the moment. The only thing that you look at now is that obviously Nick's gone down into the Championship," he added.

"That's not a real boldness, but for Aaron, he's established himself now as Arsenal's number one and he's done that really well this season. And it's his first season and he's dealt with it fantastically.

"So he will be pushing but the future does look good. We've got quite a few goalkeepers obviously in the Championship now with Nick and Sam Johnstone, then you've got [Dean] Henderson at Man United but he's not playing.

"In the three that we've got there at the moment, there's good quality."

Robbie Keane has questioned why any player would swap Liverpool for Bayern Munich amid strong speculation that Sadio Mane could be on his way to the German champions.

Bayern are reported to have had a second bid of €35.3million (£30m), a part of which is made up of bonus-related add-ons, rejected by Liverpool earlier this week.

Mane has won six major trophies across his six seasons at Anfield and has another 12 months to run on his contract.

However, speaking while away on international duty with Senegal last week, the 30-year-old hinted he is open to departing the English giants this window.

But ex-Liverpool striker Keane has suggested Mane would be making a backwards step in his career if he moves from the Premier League runners-up to the Bundesliga winners.

"If Mane goes obviously it's a big loss for Liverpool," Keane told Stats Perform at a media day ahead of his participation in Sunday's Soccer Aid charity match.

"If the rumours are true and he goes to Bayern Munich, it's a great signing for them. It looks like they're going to lose [Robert] Lewandowski. 

"I can't really see why would you leave Liverpool to go to Bayern Munich at this moment in time.

"Especially when you got a manager like Jurgen Klopp and what they're doing at the moment in winning two cups, and could've easily won four of them. 

"I'm surprised by it. Obviously he's a top, top player. I'm sure, wherever he goes, any team will be happy with him."

 

Mane has scored 90 goals in 196 Premier League appearances for Liverpool since joining from Southampton for £34m at the start of the 2016-17 campaign.

Only Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy (104), Liverpool colleague Mohamed Salah (118) and Tottenham's Harry Kane (134) have scored more in the competition in that period.

He would undoubtedly leave a huge void to be filled, but Jurgen Klopp's side appear to be close to signing Benfica forward Darwin Nunez as a likely replacement.

Nunez has scored 48 goals in 85 games for Benfica in all competitions, 61 of those being starts, and averaged 1.2 goals every 90 minutes in the Portuguese Primeira Liga last season.

That compares to 0.5 goals per 90 minutes in the Premier League for Mane, albeit across six more matches in the 2021-22 season and in what is a tougher division.

Keane, who spent a season at Anfield in 2008-09, believes Nunez will provide something a little different for Liverpool should a deal be agreed with Benfica.

"I've watched him a few times and I think he's a good player," Keane said. "He's obviously young and he's more of a number nine, which Liverpool haven't had for a few years.

"They have [Roberto] Firmino, of course, but Firmino drops into 10. They haven't had a typical number nine. 

"So it'll bring a bit more of a target man up there who others can play off. I think it will be a good signing."

Keane is also looking forward to playing in this weekend's Soccer Aid in association with UNICEF, a charity match that will help raise money to give kids the best start in life.

"We're here so UNICEF can raise as much money as possible, which is an incredible cause," he said.

"What they've done over the last 11-12 years, the amount of money they've raised is incredible. But it's also good to come here and mix with completely different people."

Romelu Lukaku wants to be made to feel important to enjoy his football amid uncertainty around his Chelsea future, according to Belgium manager Roberto Martinez.

Lukaku completed a club-record £97.5million return to Stamford Bridge after winning Serie A with Inter last season, scoring 24 times in Serie A under Antonio Conte's tutelage in that successful campaign.

But the Belgium international has struggled on his Chelsea homecoming, managing 15 goals in all competitions for Thomas Tuchel's side in a season blighted by injury and controversy.

In an interview with Italian television Lukaku spoke of his desire to one day again represent Inter, while speaking about his disappointment with his role within Tuchel's team.

Lukaku subsequently apologised for his comments and assured of his commitment to Chelsea, although doubts still remain over his future.

Reports suggest Tuchel wants to bring Inter's Lautaro Martinez to partner Lukaku to recreate the pairing that fired the Nerazzurri to Scudetto success under Conte.

Alternatively, Chelsea are reportedly also considering a swap deal to send Lukaku back to Inter in exchange for Martinez and Alessandro Bastoni.

Martinez, who worked with Lukaku at Everton and now in international football, believes the 29-year-old simply needs to feel valued to thrive wherever he plays.

"He wants to be important and enjoy his football," Martinez told reporters. "I'm sure the decision in the summer will be the right one.

"In Belgium we are quite relaxed with Romelu's situation. I know it is a big topic, but at the moment he is trying to recover from the injury and that's the only thing he has in his mind.

"If he stays at Chelsea it will be for the right reasons. If he's moving away it will be because everyone agrees to it.

"Romelu is a player I know very well. I managed him at club level at a very young age.

"He was 19 and had a very different position than he has now. Now he's a player who is very mature and very clear what he wants."

Jurgen Klopp says Mohamed Salah's PFA Players' Player of the Year award was well-deserved after another fantastic season from the forward.

Liverpool fell just short in the Premier League title race with Manchester City, missing out by a point, but Salah edged out Kevin De Bruyne for another individual accolade on Thursday.

The Egypt international scored 23 top-flight goals to share the Premier League Golden Boot with Son Heung-min, while also claiming the Playmaker of the Season award for most assists.

Salah added the Premier League Goal of the Season trophy to his haul, alongside the FWA, PFA Fans' Player of the Year and PFA Players' Player of the Year awards.

No player in the Premier League could match the Liverpool talisman's 36 goal involvements (23 goals, 13 assists), and manager Klopp believes his star attacker deserved the accolade.

"What I really love about this prize is that it's voted for by the players," Klopp told Liverpool's website. "That's the one prize that you should be interested in.

"Whatever the supporters say, your own supporters always say, 'Oh you're the greatest' and all the others say, 'How can he win it?'

"So, in Mo's case obviously it's the numbers, scoring goals. But scoring the most goals and having the most assists, with all the ups and downs during a season, all the things I know about football, that's a deserved winner."

Salah has been a standout performer since arriving from Roma in 2017, scoring 156 times in 254 Liverpool appearances.

Klopp says it is Salah's character that has led to his improvements and dominance in the English top flight.

"I was incredibly excited about the chance to work together with him. We spoke, yes, that was a very good talk but obviously we all need longer to know about a person," he said of his initial impressions.

"The moment I knew it will be outstanding [was] when I knew him as a person, because he's full of desire, he never will stop developing and he's a workhorse.

"I know we say it a lot but he's really the first in – maybe around Millie [James Milner], maybe Millie beats him from time to time – and he's the last out. So treatment, gym work, all these kinds of things. 

"On the pitch, if you tell Mo because of the intensity of the games, 'Mo, you go in now. Thank you very much'. 'I'm good, I'm good, get me another 10 balls.'

"So he deserves it absolutely, and that's why he's the second-time winner of this wonderful trophy. Well deserved, Mo, by the way!"

Chelsea's technical and performance advisor Petr Cech believes the club did an "amazing job" at navigating the change of ownership last season.

The London club were thrown into uncertain waters when previous owner Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the United Kingdom government in relation to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

A consortium led by Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital eventually won the battle to take charge of the club in late May, with Chelsea working under a special licence from the government to operate until then.

Despite the ongoing distractions, Thomas Tuchel led Chelsea to third place in the Premier League and to the EFL and FA Cup finals, where they lost on penalties to Liverpool on both occasions.

Speaking to Stats Perform at a media day ahead of his participation in Sunday's Soccer Aid charity match, former Chelsea goalkeeper Cech said: "Of course, [the ownership situation] is something you are not prepared for but you need to find your way to go through it.

"I think everybody at the football club did an amazing job to be competitive and achieving what we achieved last season.

"So, now we know where we are and obviously, we're preparing for the next season and we hope to be as strong as we can."

Cech also had words of encouragement for Blues fans about next season, with the new owners reportedly willing to provide Tuchel with money to spend on improving the squad.

"We plan to prepare and we will see where what we can do over the summer, but obviously we have our plans for what we want to do and hopefully we'll be successful."

Another area of uncertainty at Stamford Bridge is the future of striker Romelu Lukaku, who is being linked with a move back to Inter after a disappointing campaign.

Lukaku signed for Chelsea from Inter last year for a reported fee of £97.5million (€113.58m), but only managed 15 goals in 44 appearances (29 starts).

"I think he started very strongly and unfortunately had a long-term injury and then COVID, which obviously stopped the momentum for him," Cech said about the Belgium striker. 

"When you go through a long-term injury and then COVID, it takes some time before you go back. So you could see how strong he was at the end of the season when he was back fit.

"I think if he remains with this whole pre-season, then I believe he will have a strong season."

Another player who had an underwhelming campaign for Chelsea was Spanish midfielder Saul Niguez, who said goodbye to the club at the end of his loan spell from Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

"He's still a great player and he has a great personality and it's been great to have him, but at the same time, he had quite a difficult start before he adapted to English football and in a team where there's so much competition for places that he didn't play as much as he would like to," Cech said of Saul. 

"But we've been really happy to have him because, as I said, he's a great personality and a great player. 

"We obviously wish him well now wherever his next steps will go. But I think English football and the Premier League is a particular competition.

"Sometimes you need a bit of time to adapt. Some people adapt faster, some slower but as I said, he had a slower start and then the competition for places was tough so he didn't play as much as we'd like, but it still doesn't take away the qualities he has."

Darwin Nunez can be a hybrid of fellow Uruguayan strikers Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, according to a former coach of the 22-year-old.

Nunez has been heavily linked with a big-money move from Benfica to Liverpool or Manchester United ahead of next season, with a reported fee of up to €100million (£85m) being touted.

The young forward produced electric form for Benfica in 2021-22, scoring 34 goals in 41 games in all competitions, including six Champions League goals against Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Ajax and Liverpool.

Leonardo Ramos coached Nunez during his time at Penarol in Uruguay and told Stats Perform of his belief that, while the player still has a lot to learn, he is showing similar traits to legendary La Celeste strikers Suarez and Cavani.

"Everyone compares him a lot to Cavani," Ramos said. "They have a similar style. It seems to me that Darwin is faster and more powerful than Cavani. Cavani, maybe now he is a more experienced player and knows the moments where to press, when to attack, when to go back, when to be able to play and associate with his team-mates.

"Today, Darwin seems to me to be much more explosive, but apart from that explosiveness, he obviously has already shown unbelievable a scoring ability. 

"It is the same scoring ability that we saw in Uruguay when he was in the bases of Penarol because he scored many goals there. And the truth is that if you ask me about a player who looks quite similar to him, I would say Cavani."

When asked if there were any similarities to former Liverpool and Barcelona star Suarez, Ramos said: "I think he has two parts, it's half-and-half.

"He has the power that Suarez had to go for everything, to go to the clash, to be a fighter with the rival. And he also has the part of Cavani, of being a much more athletic player, more physical, more intelligent, and I think it's a union of those two things that are important.

"Let's see, Darwin is still a very young boy, he has to learn a lot. It is not to discredit the Portuguese league, but [he will be judged] playing in Spain or Italy, which along with England, are the places where he will surely need much more of his characteristics and his strength to perform much better."

Reports suggest that Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp sees Nunez as an ideal replacement for Sadio Mane, who is being linked with a move to Bayern Munich, and Ramos can see why the Reds are interested, though does think it could be a bit early for the player to move to such a club.

"Darwin is a player who can help a lot in the recovery of the ball," he said. "With Uruguay, he does it and does it very well.

"Yes, he is a player who has to play near the area because there he is lethal, he has no regard for the opponent, he knows in advance where the ball is going to fall and where the goal is, [but] I don't know if it's time for him to go to Liverpool now. Not because of his conditions, but because [Liverpool] is a very big club.

"There have been players who have been very important in world football who have gone to play for Liverpool and they have failed.

"I think it would suit Darwin, and I have to say that this is just my opinion, it does not mean I am right, but I think that it would be better for him to go to a lower team to gain experience and explode at another time.

"Although the moments are now and Darwin's time is now, so if he goes to Liverpool, it seems to me that if Liverpool takes him it's because they really believe he can work in their team."

Jack Grealish has "learned a huge amount" at Manchester City, according to England manager Gareth Southgate.

Grealish became the most expensive player in British football history last year when he moved to City from boyhood club Aston Villa for £100million, but only recorded 10 goal involvements in his first season at the Etihad Stadium (six goals, four assists).

He made 39 appearances in all competitions (31 starts) for Pep Guardiola's side, but did create more chances from open play (76) than every other City player apart from Kevin De Bruyne (94).

The 26-year-old came off the bench for England on Tuesday and impressed as the Three Lions were able to force a late 1-1 draw against Germany in Munich.

Speaking ahead of his team's next Nations League clash with Italy, Southgate told a news conference he has seen improvements in Grealish since his big money move to City, where he won the Premier League title.

"It's important for all of our players that they feel that they understand how we want to play," Southgate said. 

"We give them a structure and we prepare them for the games, but within that, with their own talents and their own, we want them to come out. That's what makes the difference in the games.

"Jack had a fabulous impact on the game when he came on [against Germany]. I know he enjoys his football with us, but he also enjoys his football with his club, so I think it's important to say that. He has learned a huge amount being part of a team that has won the Premier League, which is massively important to him.

"He's a player we love working with. He's got a great mentality, a great character and I think he is a really good guy to have around the group. He has that joy having a football at his feet, which adds so much when you see players in training every day."

England will face Italy in a rematch of the Euro 2020 final on Saturday, and Southgate said the fact the game will be played behind closed doors at Molineux thanks to a ban imposed by UEFA after crowd trouble at Wembley before last year's final is an "embarrassment".

"If it is an embarrassment, it is for England as a country," he said. "A lot of the people that caused the problems I'm not certain were football fans.

"We spoke enough about it, we spoke about it after the final and when the punishment was first given, what I will say is the vast majority of our fans who travelled to Germany on Tuesday behaved brilliantly, a big thank you to them because maybe people were thinking something different but there were a huge majority who were a credit."

The England boss is expected to rotate his team as he looks for his first win of the Nations League campaign, and Southampton midfielder James Ward-Prowse is hoping he can take his chance if he is one of those fringe players selected.

"The manager highlighted before about seeing certain types of players in different types of games and hopefully if that opportunity comes then it's a good opportunity for me to showcase what I can do against a high level of opposition," the free-kick specialist said. "It will be a good opportunity to hopefully get some minutes.

"Everybody here is in the squad because they perform well for their club - and you can see that in training. The level is so, so high and having missed out on the European Championship squad, that was a big hurdle for me to overcome.

"I see this as a new challenge now, a new opportunity and I think that has given me a bit more of an incentive heading into this World Cup announcement that I want to be there, I want to be part of this fantastic group and hopefully replicate the success we had."

Chelsea have confirmed that defender Andreas Christensen will leave the club at the end of his contract later this month.

The Denmark international has been linked with a move to Barcelona, and the writing appeared to be on the wall when he recently ruled himself out of Chelsea's FA Cup final defeat to Liverpool for "private" reasons.

The Premier League side have also confirmed the imminent departures of Danny Drinkwater, Charly Musonda and Jake Clarke-Salter, in addition to Antonio Rudiger who had already been announced to be signing for Real Madrid at the start of next month.

Christensen joined Chelsea as a youth player from Brondby in 2012, before spending two seasons on loan at Borussia Monchengladbach between 2015 and 2017.

He made 161 appearances for the Blues, winning the Europa League, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup in his time at Stamford Bridge.

Drinkwater also leaves Chelsea after an underwhelming five years at the club, having signed for a reported £35million in 2017 from Leicester City.

The midfielder made just 23 appearances in all, while also being sent on loan moves to Burnley, Aston Villa, Kasimpasa and Reading.

Arsenal remain in contract talks with striker Eddie Nketiah.

Nketiah's deal expires at the end of this month and the 23-year-old has been linked with London rivals Crystal Palace.

Arsenal released their retained list on Friday, revealing the Premier League club are in "ongoing discussions" with academy graduate Nketiah after offering him fresh terms.

Nketiah, who spent a loan spell with Leeds United in the 2019-20 season, has made it clear he wants regular first-team football.

He forced his way into the side towards the end of last season, scoring doubles against Chelsea and Leeds before finding the back of the net in a 5-1 final-day rout of Everton.

Fellow striker Alexandre Lacazette left the Gunners as a free agent and has rejoined Lyon.

Bernardo Silva did not rule out a move to Barcelona after pulling the strings for Portugal in a Nations League win over the Czech Republic.

The Manchester City midfielder has three years left on his contract with the Premier League champions, but Barca boss Xavi is reportedly keen to lure him to Camp Nou.

City boss Pep Guardiola this week cast doubt over whether Barca can afford the likes or Robert Lewandowski and Silva almost a year after they lost Lionel Messi due to a financial crisis at the club.

A move to Manchester United for Frenkie de Jong could put the Blaugrana in a position to make a move for Silva.

The 27-year-old Silva set up both goals in Portugal's 2-0 Nations League win over the Czech Republic at Estadio Jose Alvalade before being asked about a potential move to LaLiga.

He said: "If Barcelona seduces me? Unfortunately, right now I can't say anything. I'm with the national team and very focused. When the season is over, we'll see what happens."

Portugal boss Fernando Santos lavished praise on Silva after an influential display on Thursday.

"When he's at his best, I'm sure he's among the top 10 in the world," he said. 

"When you talk about these issues, the one who scores a lot of goals has more visibility, but technically he is among the top 10 players in the world."

The 2021-22 season may still be ongoing at international level, but Premier League and Ligue 1 clubs can officially register new signings for the next campaign following the opening of the transfer window on Friday.

Teams in LaLiga, Serie A and the Bundesliga must wait until July 1 for their business to go through – though that is not to say preparations are not already in full swing behind the scenes.

Indeed, a number of big deals are already in place and waiting to get the seal of approval, with Antonio Rudiger heading to Real Madrid and Karim Adeyemi brought in by Borussia Dortmund to replace Manchester City-bound Erling Haaland, while others – Darwin Nunez to Liverpool and Aurelien Tchouameni to Madrid – appear to be all-but complete.

One transfer saga came to an end before the window even officially opened, meanwhile, with Kylian Mbappe confirming that he is staying put at Paris Saint-Germain, despite strong interest from Madrid.

For others, there are weeks of uncertainty ahead. Having already picked out the big-name free agents up for grabs this window, Stats Perform looks at the transfer sagas that are likely to rumble on for a little while longer yet.


Player: Robert Lewandowski
Current club: Bayern Munich
Rumoured suitors: Barcelona, Real Madrid

While the futures of Mbappe and Haaland have already been resolved, arguably the world's best striker in Lewandowski is seeking pastures new after recently declaring that his time at Bayern "has come to an end" – even if the German champions do not quite see it that way.

The Poland international still has 12 months to run on his contract and Bayern are understandably reluctant to sell, even if that means forgoing a transfer fee in a year's time, making things particularly difficult for Barcelona, who are the rumoured frontrunners for his signature.

He was once again the hottest striker across Europe's top five leagues in 2021-22 when taking all competitions into account, the 33-year-old scoring 50 goals in 46 games for Bayern in what was his second-best goalscoring campaign across eight years in Bavaria, behind only the 55 netted in 2019-20.

 

Player: Sadio Mane
Current club: Liverpool
Rumoured suitors: Real Madrid

Whether it is to replace wantaway Lewandowski or to play alongside the prolific striker, Bayern are seemingly intent on bringing Liverpool and Senegal forward Mane to the Allianz Arena.

Bayern are reported to have had a second bid of €35.3million (£30m) turned down by Liverpool earlier this week, with the ball very much in the Reds' court – just like it is with the Bavarians and Lewandowski.

Mane would be a huge loss to Liverpool, having scored 90 goals in 196 Premier League appearances since joining at the start of 2016-17 – only Jamie Vardy (104), team-mate Mohamed Salah (118) and Harry Kane (134) have more – explaining their desire to snap up Nunez from Benfica.

 

Player: Gabriel Jesus
Current club: Manchester City
Rumoured suitors: Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Real Madrid

Manchester City striker Jesus may just about be the most in-demand player up for grabs this window, with his agent confirming as many as seven clubs are interested in signing the Brazil international.

Arsenal are the only known team to be in discussions with Jesus' camp, though they are expected to face interest from the likes of rivals Tottenham and Chelsea, as well as reigning European and Spanish champions Madrid.

The stats reflect exactly why Jesus is so highly regarded – albeit not by City following the arrival of Haaland – as he has scored or assisted in 57 per cent of matches he has started in the Premier League, a figure bettered only by Salah (62 per cent), Thierry Henry (61 per cent) and City legend Sergio Aguero (60 per cent) among those to have started at least 10 games.

 

Player: Frenkie de Jong
Current club: Barcelona
Rumoured suitors: Manchester United

De Jong has not quite been able to match expectations at Barcelona since arriving from Ajax in a big-money deal two years ago, which the midfielder has regularly put down to being used out of position in central midfield.

The arrival of the Netherlands international's former Ajax boss Erik ten Hag at United has only intensified speculation that he could be on his way out of Camp Nou, with Barca themselves needing to offload players if they are to seriously strengthen elsewhere.

De Jong will leave a void to be filled if he does move on, though, as Sergio Busquets (51) was the only Barca outfielder to feature in more games in the 2021-22 campaign than the 25-year-old (47 apps).

 

Player: Christopher Nkunku
Current club: RB Leipzig
Rumoured suitors: Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, Real Madrid

Nkunku well and truly burst onto the scene in the 2021-22 campaign with a combined 51 goals and assists in 52 games for Leipzig across all competitions, meaning he near enough directly contributed to a goal per game.

Only Europe's absolute elite players, Lewandowski (56 goal involvements), Benzema (59) and Mbappe (60), outperformed Nkunku in that regard, making links with Europe's top clubs unsurprising.

Still aged only 24, the four-cap France international may well be a Ballon d'Or winner in waiting if his trajectory over the past couple of seasons is anything to go by. But with two years to run on his Leipzig contract, it will take a huge sum for the Bundesliga side to even consider cashing in. 

 

Irrespective of the result, a lingering sense of change accompanied Liverpool's Champions League final appearance.

Reports on Sadio Mane's departure and Mohamed Salah's reticence over a new deal follow Roberto Firmino's status on the periphery this season.

Following Luis Diaz's arrival in January, it appears another South American star is set to land at Anfield via Portugal.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL AGREE TERMS WITH DARWIN NUNEZ

Liverpool have reached an agreement on personal terms with Benfica striker Darwin Nunez, according to the Athletic.

While reports suggest nothing has yet been signed and no agreement between the clubs is in place, they are closer to finalising the deal.

Discussions are ongoing with regards to the structure of the deal, but it is understood any deal will break the £85.5million (€100m) mark.

Jurgen Klopp is said to be an admirer of the 22-year-old, with the club looking to act in the event of Sadio Mane's reported departure for Bayern Munich.

Erik ten Hag has the coaching qualities needed to succeed as Manchester United manager, according to Matthijs de Ligt.

Former Ajax boss Ten Hag was confirmed as Ralf Rangnick's successor in April and officially took charge last month.

The Dutchman takes over a United side that recorded their lowest points tally in a Premier League season last term when finishing 35 points behind champions Manchester City.

While the size of the rebuild job is clear to see, Juventus centre-back De Ligt – who played under Ten Hag in Amsterdam – believes his compatriot is up to the task.

"He is someone who loves his job and he loves to work," De Ligt said. "He's really into the details. This makes him a really good trainer.

"He has a lot of qualities [to succeed]. We will have to see how he goes."

United have been tipped to make a number of signings ahead of next season, but De Ligt insists Ten Hag can also get more out of United's current squad.

"He definitely improves players. He wants to do everything to make his team play better," the defender said.

Ten Hag, who is United's fifth permanent manager since Alex Ferguson retired in 2013, is reportedly eager to make Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong his first signing.

De Ligt and De Jong played a big part in Ajax's run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2018-19, when also winning a domestic double under the watch of Ten Hag.

However, De Ligt is not sure if his Netherlands team-mate will link up with Ten Hag at Old Trafford.

"He's an amazing player and everybody knows how important he is for the team," De Ligt said. "But he's not said anything [about a transfer]."

Mohamed Salah has been named the PFA Players' Player of the Year, while Phil Foden has successfully defended his Young Player of the Year award.

Manchester City edged out Liverpool by a point in a thrilling Premier League title battle, but Salah again claimed a plethora of the individual awards after another fine campaign.

The Egypt international scored 23 top-flight goals to share the Premier League Golden Boot accolade with Son Heung-min, while also securing the Playmaker of the Season award for most assists.

Salah added the Premier League Goal of the Season trophy to his haul, alongside both the FWA and PFA Fans' Player of the Year awards.

Indeed, no player in the English top flight could match the Liverpool forward's 36 goal involvements (23 goals, 13 assists), setting him a class above his competitors.

Kevin De Bruyne was widely expected to be the frontrunner alongside Salah for the PFA Players' Player of the Year title, but the latter has pipped the Belgium international to yet another personal accolade.

Salah becomes the seventh men's player to win the PFA award twice, along with Mark Hughes, Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry, Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and De Bruyne.

De Bruyne, Harry Kane, Ronaldo and Salah's club-mates Virgil van Dijk and Sadio Mane were also in the running to land the award, with Tottenham's Son surprisingly overlooked.

"It's a great honour to win a trophy, individual or collective and this one is big so, very happy and very proud of that," Salah said after winning the award.

"This one is a really good one to win, especially because it's voted by the players. It show you that you've worked really hard and you get what you have worked for.

"I have my room with trophies in a cabinet and I made sure that I had another space for one more. I always keep space and just try to imagine that the trophies are going to come."

Foden became the fifth men's player to win the PFA Young Player of the Year award in consecutive seasons, meanwhile, joining a list that includes Ryan Giggs, Robbie Fowler, Wayne Rooney and Dele Alli.

The City midfielder played an integral role as Pep Guardiola's side lifted their fourth Premier League title in five seasons under the Catalan coach.

The 22-year-old ended the league campaign with nine goals and five assists from his 28 outings.

"I'm really honoured to be honest, especially to win it back-to-back, it shows that I've come a long way this year with the consistency of my game, and I'm really pleased to win it again," Foden said. 

"All the best players in the world have got to show consistency and keep performing at a higher level, and this year I've just tried to do that and try and help my team as much as possible.

"I've been really happy with my performances this year. Hopefully, I can win the main award in the future, but it's all about taking small steps and improving.

"I always love winning individual awards, it's just nice to look at and how far you've come."

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